Windows and ducks

We’ve been engrossed by all the sport on TV this week, the Paralympics and La Vuelta a España. Our contribution is to scour the schedules, record and watch as much as possible, cheer on all the superstars and try to find time to go out for some fresh air once in a while.

Landslip by the Mersey

It looks like there’s been a bit of a landslip here, by the river. Probably caused by the rain a couple of weeks ago. Either that, or somebody has flytipped  some fencing and the extra weight has caused the earth beneath to move.

It’s always good to see a splash of colour in unexpected places, and St Hilda’s RC Church is no exception.

St Mary’s Malankara at St Hilda’s

The golfers are back, you can just see them through the overgrown grass.

Duck

We didn’t find any golf balls this week. Either the players are better now, or we just can’t see them in the overgrown grass.

I thought this was a nice thing to do.

Happy Anniversary

But reading the card was quite poignant, and personal: it looks like someone has left us far too soon.

Love lasted very short

There were no names, but it’s another indication that when you lose a loved one, you can do some crazy things, anything to take away the pain for a moment. Thoughts are with the family, whoever they are.

On another walk, we found these windfalls. But, like everyone else, we didn’t pick up any of the apples because the local tip is on the other side of the fence and, well, the stench was almost overpowering.

Duck

We walked over eight miles on this day, mostly along unpleasantly busy roads but we had a job to do. Jenny and Liam have taken Martha and William to the Lake District for a week, and our mission, which we chose to accept, was to put their bins out.

On the way, we found a hole in the wall. Not a cash machine, a literal hole in the wall.

Hole in the wall

This, plus the nearby bent, mangled and now sawn-off lamppost are testament to the quality of driving in the area.

We walked back home via Gatley Carrs where we enjoyed some wild blackberries. It was obvious that many people had been here before, the pickings were very slim.

It’s a very green park, but this very tall yet deceased tree certainly stands out.

Sore thumb

Something else that stands out is, when you’re in The Northern Den coffee shop, you see another customer drinking coffee from a rival shop.

Costa coffee in Northern Den

I’m sure Northern Den’s David didn’t put any unwanted fillings in the sandwiches ‘by mistake’. I don’t want to embarrass the offending customer, so I’ve slightly altered his appearance.

The heron’s been here a lot this week, he seems to like standing in the fast flowing waters of the weir, but he also made a guest appearance on the bridge near the old Tatton Arms.

Heron

We visited a new (to us) venue, Little Moreton Hall, a fascinating Tudor House.

Selfie of the day
Wonky wall or wonky window?
Stain glass window

The house is in pretty good nick for its age (aren’t we all?), although it’s a bit strange walking round inside, on floor that isn’t quite horozontal, but it was built on land reclaimed from marshes all those years ago. We had coffee and a scone, and we would have enjoyed the snack more if we hadn’t had to fight the wasps off. Some ducks came sniffing round too, and I tried not to laugh when one tried to take a chunk out of Liesel’s leg.

Duck

The house is the main attraction here, but we fancied a longer walk, so we went down the road a bit to Biddulph Grange Gardens. The Covid-inspired one-way system has now been dispensed with, so it was up to us to avoid all those other pesky people. It was very colourful in the gardens today.

Begonias
Nice reflection

We even saw things that we don’t recall noticing before, such as this old frog. Or is it a toad?

Frog

Well, it’s just sitting there, minding its own business, guarding the garden.

It was good to see so many bees and butterflies here too.

Insects
Dahlia
Another dahlia

But of course the highlight of the day was visiting Lakeland. The shop, that is, not the mountainous, wet area a bit further north. It was a good opportunity for me to wander around while Liesel did some shopping, and in this not very photogenic part of the world, I took this picture.

Mick in a window

But even that creature isn’t as strange as this one:

Lakeland car park

This week on Radio Northenden, I was Losing My Religion in a show entitled Mick’s Messianic Music Mix. Listen to the whole two hours here, if you fancy something a bit different.

I often listen to podcasts or radio shows in bed at night while waiting to nod off. When I feel myself drifting away, I put the earbuds under the pillow for easy access later on.

One morning this week, I noticed that one of the silicone in-ear tips had fallen off. I looked all over the place for it. Not under the pillow, not under the duvet. I even moved the bed out for a good look underneath, but it had totally disappeared. So, the last resort of the scoundrel, I went straight online to look for a replacement. In the end, I ordered a whole replacement headset for £3.95 rather than 4 replacement tips for £10, especially since I only needed one.

That evening, we watched some TV. As I stood up, I noticed a small black object where I’d been siting, and straightaway assumed I’d been sitting on a dead fly or something. But no, it was the missing earbud tip. How did it get here?

The only rational explanation is that when it became detached, it fell off the bed and onto my shorts which were hanging on the floor. When I dressed, it must have dropped into a pocket. I now realise I probably walked around with it all day. It reappeared in the evening when I pulled out a tissue or something.

It survived me getting dressed, visiting the dentist where I lay back in the chair for some treatment, a long, slow walk through the woods, a cup of coffee at the Northern Den (as mentioned before), a few hours in front of the PC and a couple of exciting hours watching action from the Paralympics.

Is this a miracle? I’m glad it turned up because if it hadn’t, the only other explanation is that it slipped through a wormhole into an alternative universe where it would have joined all our odd lost socks.

A Sandwich

This week was a sandwich. An unusual sandwich in that the bread is absolutely delicious, full of nutrition and fun while the filling was a bit more mundane, mouldy cheese, rotten tomatoes and limp lettuce. Nothing wrong with some mundanity of course, but it’s funny the way things work out.

Saturday, we joined in with Tim’s Listening party online, a good reason to listen to Bic Runga’s Beautiful Collision album in its entirety. After which, while writing, I just let Bic Runga sing away for the next hour or so, until Jenny, Liam, Martha and William arrived.

We all went for a walk along the river, our usual route, to Simon’s Bridge and back, a total of over four miles, which I think both impressed and surprised Liam.

Paddleboarders

We were all impressed by the paddleboarders, and I’m sure we all thought we’d like to try that one day. They were spooked by the weir though. They had to remove the fins from the boards if they wanted to skate (is that the word?) down the slope of the weir, but one of the board’s fins was screwed in, and I think the whole of Northenden heard the call for the yellow bag with the screwdrivers.

Liam and Martha
Jenny and William

Martha and William had a good time, finding two golf balls in the process. The second one was dropped into the river by mistake, I think William was surprised at re-discovering gravity, but no amount of peering into the Mersey was going to bring that ball back. Still, we’re one golf ball up on the deal. 

I called Liesel ‘Liesel’ and William asked why. Liesel explained about our real, given names, and what other people call us. Then Martha joined in too, telling William that when he’s a Daddy, she’ll still call him William but his children will call him Daddy. He’ll still call her Martha but his children will call her Auntie. As Liesel said later on, we should have recorded that dialogue, because our grandchildren are the best.

When we got home, Martha again had to investigate Oma’s jewellery and try some of it on.

Precious things

So that’s one slice of bread, a lovely day with our grandchildren. I’m sure you’re ahead of me. Here comes the filling, not as bad as I suggested, but comparatively plain and ordinary.

We walked into Didsbury. Liesel joined the ladies of the WI in Fletcher Moss Gardens for a chinwag while I wandered around almost aimlessly. I did sit in the rockery for a while, reading one of the seven books I’m in the middle of right now. My mid-August resolution is to finish (most of) those books before I allow myself to start a new one.

World famous Didsbury cobbles

My wander wasn’t totally aimless, the final destination being the optician who adjusted my new spectacles very slightly. I’ll now give it another couple of weeks to get used to them again.

Didsbury mural

The walk to Didsbury includes Ford Lane. This is the only route to the golf course. Ford Lane is being resurfaced. How we laughed at the golfers driving to the golf course as we walked towards Didsbury. And how we laughed on the walk back home when we passed by the empty car park. Someone must have told them that they were about to be boxed in.

Ford Lane roadworks

Most of the construction workers were, correctly, wearing hi-visibility clothing, but one of them must have been too warm.

Hi-vis cardigan

Wednesday is Well-being Walk day in Northenden, organised by Thrive Manchester, and led by Chantel, who was on my radio show a couple of weeks ago. This week, there were about eight of us, walking slowly through the woods, glad that the drizzle remained slight. A cup of coffee at the Northern Den rounded off a pleasant morning.

Walk in the woods

I then walked home the long way, at a faster, for me more comfortable pace, and as I passed the barber, I noticed there was only one customer inside. Why not? So I did. I have never had such a short haircut, an all-over number five. I have never had such a cold head for so long. I sought professional help from Helen, what can I use to speed up the regrowth? Still, on the plus side, I don’t need to use as much shampoo, I don’t need to spend time combing what’s left of my crowning glory, and my hair won’t block up the shower any time soon. Liesel looks over from time to time and very kindly tries not to laugh too much.

Walking in the opposite direction, I really didn’t expect to see a mouse in Wythenshawe Park.

Mickey Mouse

But worse than the rodent infestation was seeing the mess that the dinosaurs left behind. Dino Kingdom has packed up and is now presumably setting up elsewhere. But the churned up grass and the mud-covered paths are very sad to see. I hope the relevant authorities are being suitably remunerated for tidying up Wythenshawe Park.

Wythenshawe wastelands

So there’s your limp lettuce. And here comes the other slice of delicious bread in this ridiculous sandwich metaphor.

Chester Zoo was as busy as we’ve ever seen it. I think if Liesel and I had been on our own, we might have just turned around and gone straight back home. But with Martha and William, that would be a horrible thing to do. Thankfully, they weren’t perturbed by the hordes of visitors to the zoo. And maybe Liesel and I are just more sensitive because it’s been so long since we’ve been so close to so many strangers. With children, we’re walking along quite slowly, and I found it so intimidating when somebody was walking so close behind me. Tailgating.

Whinges apart, we had a great time, although animals were definitely not a priority for the children on this occasion. Top of the wish-list was the Treetop Challenge which I kept referring to as Treetop Adventure, much to Martha’s amusement. They were strapped in, walked around, enjoyed the rides down, and then, just as suddenly, William had had enough and Martha followed him off.

Treetop Challenge accepted

Next up: ice cream. Thankfully the queue wasn’t too long. Q: ‘Which animals would you like to see?’ A: ‘Is it lunchtime yet?’ And so, at 11.30, we sat down to eat lunch.

Baby giraffe

The baby giraffe was deserving of the oohs and aahs from so many families, while we sat there and consumed our lunch. Next on our agenda though was the playground, a water feature with rocks and a nightmare for people in charge of other people’s children. William and Martha enjoyed opening sluices and operating the Archimedes screw and lifting the ‘anchor’ which was in fact the plug that allowed all the water to drain away.

Martha and William back, back, back

William fell asleep in the back of the car pretty much before we’d left the car park. Martha stayed awake the whole way home and, big surprise, so did I.

I turned on the PC as soon as I got in because I had a radio show to do. The theme this week was Chemical Elements, if you would like to listen back.

Jenny took William and Martha home but by the time I finished at 6.06, they were back, with Liam this time. Pizza was delivered, Jenny brought cake and we dined together. The toys were liberally distributed all over the floor, and I don’t think we’d have it any other way!

Pastoral

You know I’m not the biggest sports fan in the world, but on the final day of the Olympics, I got up before 2 o’clock in the morning to watch the last session of Track Cycling. There were ups and downs of course, but I enjoyed the spectacle. Laura and Jason Kenny now have more gold medals between them than many countries.

The future Dame Laura Kenny

Laura was involved in a crash, meaning she was very unlikely to win the Omnium event, so it was good to see her smiling face a little later. And Jason’s Keirin win was out of this world, you should look it up on YouTube!

After the cycling, I thought about going for a nice early morning walk. But the rain was torrential. So I went back to bed instead, getting up in time for the Closing Ceremony later on.

The rain eased so I went for a potter and as if we needed reminding about the quantity of rainfall, the river was flowing fast and high. The island was totally submerged, no sign of a heron and all the geese have flown to higher ground.

Not an island

A longer walk took me to Route 66.

Historic Route 66

No, don’t be silly, of course I didn’t go all the way to America. I can’t, partly because my passport is about to expire but mainly because we won’t be flying anywhere for a little while yet thanks to Covid restrictions. This plaque is actually inside the gents toilet near The Courtyard Café in Wythenshawe Park.

While in the park, I thought I’d go and say hello to the wild farm animals: goats, pigs and cows ‘guaranteed to be BSE-free’ according to the sign.

Hello goat

Meanwhile, it’s all change in Northenden. The milkshake place It Shake, or more likely Shake It has changed its name to The Dessert Café.

Must pay a visit one day

When on a solo walk, it’s always nice to be welcomed back home.

Hello squirrel

The squirrel was delighted to see me over the hedge, but as soon as I appeared on the drive, he was away and up the tree in less than a microsecond.

Dunham Massey was the venue and for the second time, we went for a walk away from the National Trust property, through the village and along the canal. I missed the opportunity of taking pictures of the cows but I did capture a horse! The canal was busier today too, with barges or narrow boats, all going in the same direction. We wondered whether there’s a one-way system in place?

By the canal

We saw a very handsome heron on the towpath too, and I thanked him sincerely for being more cooperative than his relations in Northenden.

Hello heron

Amongst the other wildlife we saw were a pretty blue but very fast dragonfly, a caterpillar and a butterfly that might be moth really, even though they’re supposed to be nocturnal.

Hello butterfly or moth

At one point, close to a golf course, we had a chat with a very pleasant young family. Mother said that her little boy had eaten enough blackberries by now. Father said that the field we were standing next to, now full of some kind of cereal, was full of sunflowers a couple of years ago. Well, we missed that. But it reminds us that even when we go on the same walk, we can see different, exciting things, as long as we time it right.

After the long and very pleasant walk, we found ourselves back in the deer park, where the natives were having their lunch.

Hello deers

But the funniest wildlife antics were displayed by a few strange specimens of homo sapiens. They’d come along to a National Trust place with their own table, chairs and the wherewithal for a very civilised picnic.

Picnickers

We just sat on a bench and enjoyed our white chocolate ice creams, since you ask.

Alderley Edge was the venue of another day out. The place makes me feel cold. I was working for a small software company at the time. One drizzly October day in 1986, I think it was, a colleague drove me to meet with someone in Alderley Edge. I can’t remember now if he was a potential customer or what, but all I do remember about him was, he had a huge CD collection, when such things were relatively new. The drive was fast, the weather atrocious, his house hard to find, and I felt cold, miserable and totally out of place. On the drive back, flashing blue lights in the rear-view mirror were the cue for my colleague to pull the handbrake on, hoping to slow the car down without brake lights giving the game away. A stern talking to was the result. But ever since that day, whenever I’ve seen a sign for Alderley Edge, I’ve broken out in a cold sweat. Thirty-five years on, and it was time for a return visit. On a much nicer day, with blue skies, a comfortable temperature and a fascinating new place to explore.

There’s a sandstone escarpment and in the past, there were copper mines here, hinted at by the green stains on some of the rock faces.

Stained sandstone

We enjoyed our walk through the woods, but it’s much more hilly than we’re used to. The views are spectacular, ruined only by people taking selfies in front of them.

Selfie of the day
Crack in the rock

We followed the Valley Walk, which meant of course that, after the recent rain, we would have to contend with some mud.

Muddy footpath

Liesel’s not a big fan of walking through fields with cattle but we had to go that way. I soothed the animals with my rendition of Oh what a beautiful morning, but I was glad to climb over the stile in the end.

On the way home, I noticed the bollard reflecting the sunlight and I thought, how colourful. I took its picture. Liesel said I was nuts. You decide.

Bollard in the sunlight

It had to be done but this week, I said goodbye to a dear old friend. It’s been on the to-do list for a few years but at last, I closed a defunct bank account. They were good enough to give Sarah and me a mortgage all those years ago, but sentiment isn’t a good enough reason to keep an empty bank account and a credit card account that we no longer use. It should be a simple process, you’d think. I spoke to four different agents on the phone, assuring them that I really did know my own date of birth, that I would have to guess my credit limit since I haven’t used the card for years, and all the time at the back of my mind was, am I actually talking to people who work at the bank? Did I call the right number? Still, I can tick another box, hooray!

In additional medical news, I still have what in modern parlance should be called long midge bite. Old wounds that are taking ages to heal. I got bitten by something else this week. I thought I’d brushed against nettles or something, but the pain was too intense. I looked at my elbow and brushed off some sort of mega fly, called it a rude name, and I’ve had an itchy elbow ever since.

Round the Bend

We’ve had an exhausting week at the Olympics. If sitting on the futon watching one and sometimes two screens were an Olympic sport, we’d have loads of medals. We really admire the skills of the skate-boarders and BMX riders, doing tricks that seemingly defy the laws of physics. The best trick though was the BMX cyclist who finished his routine then drop-kicked his helmet into the crowd.

Track cycling is always exciting, but at home, we are entertained almost as much by some of the commentary. I won’t name the guy who compared the Dutch cyclists to a fleet from the Netherlands sailing up the Thames to defeat the British and French fleets.

Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald

I think it’s fair to say that our favourite GB victors are Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald, winners of the inaugural women’s Madison at the Olympics. I very nearly put my cycling jersey on, you know, the one signed by Laura Trott. But I was too lazy to go and look for it.

The newly implemented Climbing event was the one that made my palms sweat the most. Liesel has a lot of wall-climbing experience, I’ve tried just the once.

One of our main discussion points revolves around the athletes’ outfits. They usually display the name of the vountry they’re representing. So: Great Britain, USA, Australia, all the English-speaking nations. Then there are Italia, España and others that display the name in their own language. But why do so many show their name in English? We’re looking at you Germany, Ethiopia, Czech Republic and Norway for example. I hope there’s a good reason, and I hope that it’s not because they’re catering to an American TV audience. After all, some event times were changed to suit them.

But we have moved away from our sofa from time to time, honest. There’s always something new to find in the woods. No teddy bears having picnics though.

Fallen tree, splitting the difference

You don’t have to venture far off the main path to find some entertainment.

Tyre swing

We didn’t test the strength of the rope but it’s good to see an old tyre being put to good use rather than dumped in the river.

Guess who we bumped into at Quarry Bank Mill? Only Jenny, Martha and William, that’s who. We had arranged to meet and we had a nice time including a very early lunch. I think that was so that we’d have time for an ice cream too.

Do not climb

This sign was by a tree that William wanted to climb, of course, but I think I’ll make a badge out of this image to wear next time they want to climb their ancient grandfather.

Oma and Martha, botanists

They playground has reopened and that was the perfect place for both children to demonstrate their climbing skills. And swinging skills.

William climbing

Maybe William will be climbing at the Olympics in Brisbane in 2032 while his sister takes the BMX medals.

William and Martha, swingers
William’s tyres

What can possibly be better than two grandchildren?

Four grandchildren

Another day, another potter around Northenden and it was good to see Jill Scott back from Tokyo. The GB football team lost out to Australia and the competitors have to go home as soon as they’ve finished, all part of the Covid precautions.

Jill Scott MBE

Swinging a baby isn’t really part of the training regime, but what a cute photo. As featured later in a Boxx 2 Boxx advert on Instagram.

Someone’s been busy cutting the grass on the river bank.

Short grass

Very good yes, but on the other hand, it would be nice to cut back the nettles overgrowing the upper path while you’re there!

On the other other hand, how nice that they’re turning the children’s playground in Riverside Park into an art gallery.

Art gallery

We were surprised to see a pair of ring-necked pararkeets flying by the river one day. The heron was around too, but he kept flying off along the river to escape the canoes and kayaks that he found so threatening.

I did something recently that is very ordinary but felt very strange. We ordered a pizza to be delivered and thought we should tip the delivery operative. I haven’t handle coins for nearly eighteen months. I emptied my tin of coins and had to scrutinise them very carefully: I didn’t want to hand over one of the old, circular pound coins by mistake. Even everyday British coins look exotic and foreign when you haven’t seen them for a long time. And the smell of dirty, metallic fingers when you’ve been counting those coins is so evocative. Anyway, the pizza girl got her tip, the pizzas were delicious and I’m sure we’ll be going back.

The radio show this week: what a disaster. I was doing my thing, playing records and talking to myself, but potential listeners were disappointed (!) to see the message ‘Off Air’. There was a problem with the server, and only the last 20 minutes of the show went out live. But if you want to listen to a couple of hours of songs based on books and literature, it can be found here.

I chatted with Ann, a volunteer from Northenden Community Library too, but the sound quality of the recorded phone conversation is embarrassing.

In medical news: I’m still suffering from the assaults I was victim to in Scotland. Every couple of days, I scratch a minor itch and realise, it’s the site of a midge bite. Some of the wounds are now quite big. The gits that keep on giving, as they say.