Wish You Were Here

As life slowly begins to return to normal in our local area, we have to remember that for other people in more enlightened parts of the world, the disruption hasn’t been nearly as great. Take my sister in New Zealand, for example. Please, take her! No, she’s a good egg and all through the pandemic, she’s been carrying on pretty much as normal. Last weekend, she and Andrew were out walking, spotting butterflies and bees and enjoying some nice views. A couple of weeks ago, they even went away on holiday, they stayed in a different town. Luxury. For some reason, New Zealanders don’t want to swap prime ministers with us.

A very blue day near Christchurch

This is a beautiful blue view over the water. But, have no fear, we too saw some big water, later in the week. Watch this space. Actually, don’t watch this space, it’ll be more enlightening if you just scroll down. Alternatively, just carry on reading. Forget this interruption. Pretend it doesn’t exist.

Also, Helen in Manly is allowed out and about much more than we’ve been. No idea when we’ll see her again, what with travel restrictions plus the requirement to isolate on arriving in the UK and/or back in Australia. Last week, she and Adam went to see Hamilton, the musical, in Sydney.

Adam and Helen

Well, I think this is Helen and Adam, behind the masks, and it’s good to see the theatres open.

Meanwhile, back at home, it’s always exciting to see Bob Marley…

Bob Marley

…even if it is just his image on a small plastic bag which presumably, earlier, contained a few grammes of ganja. Do you buy that stuff in grammes? Or does it still come in eighths of an ounce? Anyway, this is just one example of the drug paraphernalia we find littering the otherwise pristine streets of Northenden. Nitrous oxide gas canisters are probably the most popular item around here.

We visited Quarry Bank Mill, again for the first time in several months. And by chance, we bumped into Jenny and Liam and Martha and William. Coincidence? No, a carefully coordinated meeting, I think because we all (cynically?) want to take advantage of the limited freedom before the third wave of Covid forces a further period of lockdown.

We all enjoyed a nice, warm sunny walk here, including a picnic lunch. The venue wasn’t too busy either, we never felt intimidated by the presence of too many other people. I suspect that venturing into a busy city centre on a Saturday afternoon might be more challenging, when that opportunity presents itself.

Where’s Martha?

Martha and William climbed a tree, it had very low branches. Martha and I discussed the nature of branches and sticks, and what is the cut-off point?

Martha up a tree

William has a marvellous sense of adventure. We were following a path that took us slowly down towards the river, on a slight gradient with very-nearly hairpin bends. That wasn’t good enough for William. He wanted to climb down the steepest possible slope.

William looking for his roots

Online entertainment this week included a Manchester Literature Festival event, a fascinating chat between Kazuo Ishiguro and Jackie Kay. I enjoyed hearing Kazuo’s latest novel, Klara and the Sun, serialised on radio recently, so it was interesting to hear him speaking about it.

Kazuo Ishiguro and Jackie Kay

Here is the latest in our occasional series of strange things found on the pavement in Northenden.

Severed phone line

Someone over the road will be wondering why their landline isn’t working any more. It looks like the phone cable may have been severed from its anchoring point by the crew working on the roof.

Liesel and I went to the seaside, again, our first visit for a very long time. Formby was very pleasant. The tide was miles out, possibly literally. I walked towards the water’s edge but it still appeared miles away when I encountered too much wet sand with too many puddles to negotiate. So, a very long beach and a very wide beach and, being a weekday, a very empty beach. So what did we do? We picked a couple of bags of litter and received a couple of supportive comments from passers-by. But a couple of dog-walkers seemed surprised that their charges had done something entirely natural ‘while they weren’t watching’.

Selfie of the day

We had our second picnic lunch of the week, on the dunes. Why can we never go hungry on a beach? Because of all the sand which is there. I went for a longer walk than Liesel and leapt a few inches in the air when a horse galloped past suddenly and very close.

Where is Liesel?

Liesel: Why are you stomping?
Mick: To make sure my pedometer counts every step. Sometimes it doesn’t register if I just walk normally, and it definitely doesn’t count when I’m just dawdling, like when we’re picking up litter or when we’re moving slowly through a museum or gallery, very, very slowly studying all the exhibits.
Liesel: Oh.

Yes, we were in Formby on St George’s Day. Someone on Twitter asked whether I’d been leaning on a lamppost. And, yes, I had! I had to lean against something while I shook the sand from my sandals.

This week’s radio show was entitled ‘Same Title, Different Song’. I didn’t play all ten songs that I found called Tonight but I did play a few. You can listen back here to those and many other songs that have the same titles as each other.

Sorry to say, we were so engrossed by the latest series of Keeping Faith on TV, that we just couldn’t wait for a whole week, so we binge-watched the last few episodes on the BBC iPlayer. Unfortunately, Line of Duty is not available on the iPlayer, so we have to wait seven very long days for each new episode. We’ve also started re-watching Torchwood. Yes, even when we do stay in, we know how to have a good time!

Animals

Well that was a good week. We’re allowed out a bit more, now. The government’s roadmap to a return to normal life turned a corner this week with shops, pubs and other venues opening. So we went out for a walk and picked up a couple more bags of litter.

In other, totally separate and unrelated news, we have come into possession of several facemasks which we are prepared to sell at mates’ rates. Please send a message if you’re interested.

I bumped into Mary and Dave, fellow litter-picker-uppers, who gave us some more bin bags as we’re in danger of running out. I treated myself to a coffee and a blondie from The Northern Den and sat by the river for a while. It started snowing again. It was a lovely day, not too cold, really, but it snowed. Not nice, pretty, six-pointed snowflakes, but the small lumps of ice that looked like polystyrene.

Unexpected snow shower

There’s a new warning sign now, telling me not to jump in the river. Well, Liesel and I had no imminent plans to do so, but once hot Summer days come along, who knows what madness might overtake us?

Never jump into open water

Most of the colour in our world is provided by flowers, but sometimes, we see something a little bit different.

Magpie feather

I think this is a magpie feather but in any case, the photo doesn’t quite capture the vibrancy of the iridescence.

There was an horrific accident on Palatine Road this week. An Audi, by the looks of it, crashed into one of the posts that is supposed to deter motorists from parking on the pavement. An horrific use of the indefinite article at the start of this paragraph too.

Palatine Road RTA

And so to the first of our proper days out for a long, long time. We returned to Lyme Park and had a very pleasant walk, if shorter than usual, not being sure of our respective states of health and stamina. Don’t want to push things too hard, too soon. But never mind Lyme Park itself, in the farm next door, all the livestock came to see us.

Hielan coo

It’s always good to see highland cattle, although how they can see anything themselves through all that lockdown hair beats me. There were some sheep too and Liesel especially enjoyed watching the lambs gambolling up and down the hill.

Hielan coo too

These cows do need to have a meeting one day, and decide which is the correct direction of travel for their horns.

Big house at Lyme Park

Bug house at Lyme Park

We saw a few of these little bug hotels dotted around the various flower beds. At least, we think they’re bug hotels and not something more sinister.

The good news is that, on the way home, I remembered to take a photo of some grafitti that we’ve passed many, many times before. I ususally forget to have my phone ready. Today though, was different. Success. Mission accomplished. Game very much oveer.

Game oveer

While following a motorway maintenance vehicle, I though its warning lights looked familiar.

Warning lights channelling Thomas

Maybe it’s just me, but don’t they look like a collection of yellow Thomas the Tank Engine faces?

It was delightful to see our heron again this week. He does like playing games with me, though.

Heron

He stands in the same spot on the other side of the weir for ages. Then, as soon as I look away, he flies over to this side of the river. And, as if by magic, as soon as I make a move to take my phone out for a closer-up photo, he flies back to where he came from. You can tell he’s having a good time by his laughter lines.

And so to our second proper day out this week. We visited Chester Zoo and so did Martha and William along with Jenny and Liam, and we had a very nice day, thanks for asking. Usually, it’s colder here than at home, but today it was very pleasant.

It was the first time we’d been out with the children without a buggy. So yes, we’re at the zoo ostensibly to see the animals but really, I think Liesel and I were really here just to spend time with the children.

William standing proudly

I don’t think he’s in the cabinet, but William seems to have adopted the Conservative Ministers’ default power stance.

Martha sitting pinkly

Martha’s favourite colours are purple and pink, and here she is with matching heather.

The indoor venues at the zoo are still closed to the public, but there’s a nice little tunnel near the red river hogs (not pigs, as Martha corrected me) where Martha and William enjoyed making Grandad jump.

Booo!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a day at the zoo without at least one photo of captive wildlife.

The mane, if not the main, attraction

The lion was wandering around his territory while the two lionesses were resting their eyes in the warmth of the Sun.

One side effect of planning to go to the zoo was that I had to pre-record the radio show earlier in the week and then ask for someone to push the button and sent it out to the world, well, to Northenden, at 2pm on Friday. Thanks, Sanny, and we can all catch up on two hours of records about the weather right here.

I think it’s fair to say that our spirits have been lifted this week, by going out and by spending time with Martha and William. Plus, the Sun’s out, we’ve had blue skies, it’s warmer, Liesel’s projects are making good progress, I reached a significant stage in one of my own undertakings, Liesel’s had her second Covid jab and mine is booked for next week. Yep, things are certainly looking up, hooray!

As I write, it’s Liam’s birthday, and we’ve already paid them a quick visit, and watched Martha on her new bike. Yes, Liam’s birthday but seeing Martha on a bike is so much more exciting, sorry, Liam!

Martha pedalling like Billy-o

Both William and Martha were brandishing water pistols, not filled, but I’m sure one day we’ll feel the benefits of their cool, refreshing ammunition.

I will chew and spit tobacco like my grandfather Jones


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

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

Martha’s thinking


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

William’s escaping


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

Easter bunnies


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

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

William’s in goal


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Meet the family
Martha’s going wheelie fast


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

Martha’s having a good time

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

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

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

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


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

Heron is an anagram of Horne

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

Where’s the berry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sneak preview of one of the blankets

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

Sandbag in a pothole

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

Proper Nutty Smunchy Peanut Butter

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

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

Magnolia

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

Hello, wall

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

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

Heron on the weir

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

Chair on the island
Peacock butterfly

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

 

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

Boxx 2 Boxx

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

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

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

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

The Hornes Section plus Robbie

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

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