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