Surprise, Surprise

If all goes to plan, this post should be published on Christmas Day. So let me be the four hundred and ninety first person to wish you and yours the merriest of Christmases. You have many better things to do than read this, I know, but there are some surprises within, but probably nothing as exciting as your new socks.

I don’t think I’d heard of knafah cake before, but I was pleased to meet The Knafah Girl at Boxx 2 Boxx. I could have had a cake and a coffee and kept quiet about it, but instead, I bought a larger cake to take home. And it was delicious. Liesel and I agreed that we will repeat this experience. Pistachio and rose, since you ask. Did I take a picture of the very pretty middle eastern inspired dessert? No, sorry, but their website is very interesting.

Whenever I’m accused of playing a game on my phone, my response is that it’s not a game, it’s a puzzle. I’m still attempting slitherlinks and taking far too long to solve them. But I’m getting there. Just look at this one.

Finished at last

A supposedly easy puzzle that should take five minutes to solve. It took me well over two hours, on and off. But it passes the time, keeps the brain ticking over and makes a change from sudokus. And as for it being a puzzle rather than a game? Well, the app describes itself as a game, so I think I’ve lost that argument.

It looked like a nice day outside, so we thought we’d go and pick litter in the industrial estate, which we thought was particularly disgusting a few days earlier. Eight bags collected, a record for us in one day. There are no litter bins in one particular road, not that that would necessarily help with the problem, there are just too many lazy litterbugs.

What a mess

And then look at this. These bins haven’t been emptied for weeks, maybe months, and I’m sure this doesn’t help with the litter problem in the area. Just one windy day is all you need, and we’ve had a few of those lately. I hope that image hasn’t put you off your Christmas dinner.

But you’re not here for rubbish content. We enjoyed more pleasant walks along the river to Fletcher Moss Park and to Didsbury, under battleship grey skies.


Some people are leaving the purchase of their Christmas trees very late. Not sure about the one shrouded in spiders’ webs, but £20 is quite a bargain really.


The thought occurred: if someone offered me roses, would I expect a bunch of colourful flowers or a plastic tin of chocolates?

So, what’s this slitherlink thing, Mick? According to Wikipedia, “Slitherlink is played on a rectangular lattice of dots. Some of the squares formed by the dots have numbers inside them. The objective is to connect horizontally and vertically adjacent dots so that the lines form a simple loop with no loose ends. The number inside a square represents how many of its four sides are segments in the loop.” Other patterns are available too, and there is no limit to the size of the puzzle. Here’s one I completed later in the week to my delight and to Liesel’s shake of the head.


Only four times the expected solution time on this occasion, so yes, I think I’m getting there! The people over the road have been more gainfully, and seasonally, employed. Their front garden is beginning to look a bit like Christmas.

It’s Christmas!

Jenny sent a message inviting us over to try the cakes that Martha and William had made. Well, it would be rude not to. I was just putting the finishing touches to this week’s show and Liesel was playing with glue and cookie dough, although I am assured these were two separate projects.

We drove over to Jenny’s and rang the bell. I was all for singing carols on the doorstep but that idea was vetoed. William opened the door and close behind was a very excited Martha. Once inside, Jenny greeted us too, then a strange apparition appeared. Father Christmas, was here. Well, someone in an inflatable Santa outfit at least. I thought I recognised the face behind the beard. It took a minute for the cogs to engage but eventually, it clicked. This was Helen. My Helen. Here from Australia. What’s she doing here? How did she get here? I was stunned, almost speechless, my mind was blown and my gob was smacked. Really? Helen? Here? What a lovely surprise! But, really? I gave fat Santa a hug and expressed my surprise, a secret that she and Jenny had kept very well. I didn’t have a clue. A video was made of our arrival so my reaction is preserved for posterity. We also watched the video of Martha and William opening the door to Father Christmas earlier in the day, and within a second, Martha identified Auntie Helen!

I’d been led to believe that Helen was working right up until Christmas and then, Covid restrictions permitting, going off to Queensland, camping, or, I thought, more likely glamping. But no, here she was, in England, Plague Island. Yes, there wll be Covid tests and isolation but wow, what a lovely Christmas surprise for me. I couldn’t think of the words to express my delight. Still can’t, to be honest. We’ve seen Helen since that first meeting, so I know she really is here, and it wasn’t a dream, but still, at a deep level, it’s unbelievable.

William and Martha with Auntie Helen

What a strange feeling. Surprised that Helen’s here but, at the same time, it seemed perfectly normal to be in her company at Jenny’s place. As someone remarked, it’s a good job I hadn’t planned to go and surprise Helen down under!

As a bonus, the cakes baked and decorated by the children were very nice.

By comparison, the news that Greater Manchester is to get a Clean Air Zone seems pretty mundane.

Clean Air Zone

Liesel and I had a nice walk but we avoided the muddy woods. We kept to residential roads, even at the risk of being splashed as cars ploughed through the puddles.

Later on in the afternoon, we had visitors: Helen and her hosts Jenny, Liam, Martha and William. We gave the children an early present, because we thought they’d enjoy playing skittles in our long hallway.


Liam was a good backstop, the balls were returned with remarkable efficiency.

Somehow the seven of us sat around our dining table without too much jostling of the elbows. Liesel’s home-made Indian food, since you ask, and very nice too. Followed by cookies which we all enjoyed decorating.

Cookie pride

There were some works of art here, such a shame that they’d all be consumed within a day or two. Some didn’t even survive a whole minute.

Jenny, William, Liesel, Martha, Liam, Mick, Helen

Thanks to Helen for taking this group picture, which is far, far better than my attempts.

And so the Big Day is looming over the horizon. But my penultimate show on radio Northenden went pretty well, I think. Listen to another two hours of Christmas music here. Or if you can bear to wait, it’ll be reapeated on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 next Wednesday at 7pm.

Merry Christmas, chaps and chappesses.

Author: mickandlieselsantics

We are a married couple, one American, one Brit, one male, one female, neither of us as fit as we would like to be, well over 100 years old altogether.

One thought on “Surprise, Surprise”

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