Three walks and a ski

Yes, of course I miss Liesel, but I don’t miss the sub-zero temperatures she’s enduring over there in Anchorage. But all the fresh snow at least makes it more fun to go skiing. I don’t think Liesel’s been on skis for 16 years so she did well on the first day to fall over just a couple of times. This is cross-country, Nordic, skiing. I don’t know whether she’s planning to hurtle down a mountain any time soon.

Jyoti and Liesel

Yes, the facemask is a Covid defence measure but it keeps the cold wind off the face too. A bit. Liesel’s testing for the contagion every couple of days and, quite rightly, is being very cautious while visiting friends and family.

Meanwhile, what have I been up to at home? One of my main tasks is to watch and delete all the TV shows that Liesel has no interest in. Things such as nature shows where animals eat each other. I have many, many old music shows and some drama that Liesel finds too intense.

Northenden is a bit of a hole. No, that’s not right. But there is a big hole in Northenden, where some shops have been demolished to make way for, presumably, more luxury apartments.

A big hole

Jenny is performing her civic duty, having been called up for jury service, so my civic duty was to look after William for the day. I’d planned to take him to the zoo but as he wasn’t feeling 100%, we just spent the day in my own luxury apartment. We played and did puzzles and he beat me at snap by cheating. The day started well though when I had to scrape ice off the car.

Frost on the car windscreen

It did look pretty from inside the car, I have to admit. But I did realise that there’s a different pattern at work here too. If the car needs de-icing, it’s because we’ve planned to drive somewhere. If it’s a frost-free early morning, it’s probably because I have no plans to drive anywhere. And so it proved to be the case all week. The next time the car was frosted up was on Thursday, our usual child-minding day. Never mind, I thought, the ice will melt by the time I have to leave, at half past two. Oh no. I had to scrape the car that late in the afternoon too. I hope I’m not being unduly paranoid, but this is the very definition of sod’s law.

Anyway, I guess I did an OK job with William.

Selfie of the day

He awarded me an orange star and a number 1 sticker. But he certainly didn’t win any prizes for his skittles skills.

William and skittles

After taking him home, we all had some soup and Martha dressed very colourfully for Rainbows.

Martha the Rainbow

As I reminded Jenny, we’re still waiting to hear whether she has a place in Woodland Folk. We applied many decades ago, but I think the fact that we’ve moved house since then means we’ve missed the response.

Ice, ice, baby

I have to admit, this is Alaska, not Northenden. It’s been cold here too, but doesn’t this look pretty?

I completed a hat-trick of well-being walks this week: the usual Northenden and Wythenshawe ones but a group of five of us also embarked on the much longer trek to Chorlton Water Park. Liesel and I have walked there before but along the river. This time, our route took us through Kenworthy Woods. We heard more birds than we saw, but it’s always good to be out in nature.

Mersey, Mersey, me

It was a cold and frosty day. but a very pleasant walk. Some of the puddles were solid ice, and the lake itself had icy patches. What a shame I forgot to take my ice skates.

Chorlton Water Park

And then next day at Painswick Park, it was like being in an Alfred Hitchcock film.

A herd of geese

The geese were grazing as we walked by but something startled them and they all took to the air, flying over our heads and into the lake. This was the most scary moment of the day but we all came away with clean heads and shoulders.

WFM 97.2 at 2pm on a Friday is now the place to hear my show each week. It’ll be repeated on Wednesdays at 7pm but you can catch the latest show here. This week, the theme is ‘Beginnings’.

Two departures and a birthday

One day, I look forward to walking the length of the Transpennine Trail, but for now, I’ll just be happy to come across the short section that passes through Northenden. No doubt, a highlight for many a long distance walker from Southport to Hull.

Transpennine Trail sign

But that’s in the future. This week, as usual, we stayed pretty local. Out on a walk one day, Liesel sent a message asking me to pick up some painkillers from the pharmacy. Both the pharmacies in Northenden were closed, so I jumped on a bus that stopped at exactly the right time, thinking that wherever I ended up, I’d find one that was open for business. And yes, of course, I realised I should do more of these mystery tours, it’s a good way to get to know the wider area.

On this occasion, I was taken to Sale where indeed I was able to buy what I needed. I also saw a massive bee.

Bee Tree

Two of them lovingly carved from an old tree. And by coincidence, the same bus driver took me back to Northenden.

Liesel and I went over to see the family between gym and swimming. No, not us, it was Martha at the gym and William who went swimming later.

Yee-hah

Martha would make a good cowboy and I can’t help feeling most westerns would be improved if they rode unicorns rather than horses.

Jenny and Helen took me out for a couple of hours to go shopping. I haven’t worn a suit for many years, probably decades, but the time has come to find one that fits. We visited a place called Peter Posh where I expected to be served by someone like Mr Grainger from Are You Being Served? with a tape measure draped around his shoulders. But no, a very helpful, and patient, young lady helped out. I tried on two suits and a waistcoat. In my mind, I’d built suits up to being the uncomfortable uniform of office work, of business men making things worse for the rest of us. So I was surprised to find that these ones at least were actually quite comfortable, and nobody laughed as they said I didn’t look too shabby.

The lesser spotted Mick in a suit and proper shoes

So, good luck, Mick, at the next job interview.

Helen’s birthday rolled up as it always does just after Christmas, and how fabulous it was that she was here to celebrate with us this year. She and I went for a nice walk at Dunham Massey. We found some footwear here and there,  just part of an activity designed presumably for children.

Beautiful boot by a bench

The rose garden was spoiled by the stench of bonfire.

Bonfire grrr

How disappointing. I know the gardeners are all volunteers and we’re very grateful for all their hard work, but there better ways to dispose of stuff you don’t need, especially green waste. We said hello to the robins as we wandered round. Or was it the same robin following us? I keep forgetting to take a bag of mealworms with which to feed them.

On one path, we passed someone familiar to me. I didn’t pester him. But Count Arthur Strong later confirmed that he had indeed been at the same venue. As he said, he’s like the Scarlet Pimple, here, there and everywhere!

Liesel and I attended Helen’s party in the evening but I think, on the available evidence, Martha and William were more excited than she was. We all enjoyed the party food and I can now reveal Helen’s best present.

A few snacks

Let’s hope these snacks all make it through customs when she goes home. In other words, let’s hope the customs officials aren’t hungry.

Helen, William and Martha with the cake

Liesel and I drove to Heald Green where, for the second week in a row, she took a PCR test for Covid. A negative result means that she can fly to Alaska. While waiting, I found a couple of frogs. I didn’t realise these amphibians were still adorning the streets of Stockport.

The frogs in Heald Green

The weekly Wednesday well-being walk in Northenden has resumed, and nine of us had a very pleasant stroll through the woods and around the streets. We stood outside the café with our coffees: sitting inside in a large group didn’t seem a good idea.

In the evening: pizzas again. A second opportunity to wish bon voyage to Liesel. In the morning, I jumped on the boxes to squash them before putting them in the bin.

It was so cold on Thursday morning, we had to scrape ice off the car. I took Liesel to the airport. She’s off to Anchorage to see her parents and her friends and to enjoy all that a deep Alaskan Winter can throw at her. For the rest of the day, I donned my chauffeur’s cap as I was quite happy to help Helen with her various errands.

Helen and I drove to Heald Green where she took a PCR test for Covid. A negative result means that she can fly back to Australia. While waiting, I renewed my acquaintance with a couple of frogs.

Next stop was Lester and Brown jewellers in Poynton where the High Street looks very slippery. The jeweller had taken an old brooch that neither Jenny nor Helen will wear, and made a pair of earrings for each of them, and as far as I can tell, he’s done a very good job.

Slick High Street

Next: Next in Handforth Dean where Helen returned a dress and picked up a new one for Martha to try on.

Next: Create-It in Cheadle to pick up  some mugs designed by the the children.

Next: Greens in Didsbury for lunch. Just a couple of other parties here in the restaurant and the food was, as usual, delicious.

And finally: Card Factory back in Cheadle where a couple of balloons were inflated: a dinosaur for William and a Unicorn for Martha.

New pets

Even though we’ve been living here in Northenden for over three years, I still used Google Maps all day. I don’t yet have a comprehensive mental map of Greater Manchester in my head. I’m sure it will come.

If I’m saying goodbye to one of the ladies in my life, it’s only fitting that we have pizzas. And so it was that we all met up at Pizza Express for a farewell meal. I won’t be having the hot jalapeño dough balls again. Steam blasted from my ears, and my nose didn’t stop running for ages. Incredibly hot and spicy. Helen was due to fly out from Manchester early in the morning so we said our goodbyes here.

I still can’t get over the wonderful surprise of actually seeing her here for Christmas.

Sisters are doing it for themselves

To lose one woman in my life, Mr Worthing, maybe regarded as misfortune. To lose two in the space of two days looks like carelessness. I think that’s from The Important of Being Earnest.

Liesel arrived safely in Anchorage and is already taking advantage of the very slightly different weather. Flying with Covid regulations and face masks adds an extra layer of anxiety to the whole travelling thing, but that’s something we’ll have to live with for a while.

Welcome to Alaska, Liesel

Earlier in the week, I’d pre-recorded and sent off the first radio show for Wythenshawe Radio in its own right. Unfortunately, due to events outside my control, on Wednesday evening, the previous week’s show was broadcast instead. Which is a shame, because it was a special one for Helen’s birthday. The correct show was released into the world on Friday afternoon. And I’ve uploaded a copy here if you’d like to catch up. There’s a news bulletin at the halfway point, but I left that out: nobody needs to hear the news more than absolutely necessary.

It’s a start

While Helen’s here, obviously we want to see her as much as possible. On the other hand, we don’t want her to catch some nasty contagious disease and take it back home. So we’re all doing Covid Lateral Flow Tests much more often now. And my daily sneezing fit is now more often caused by sticking a pipe cleaner swab up my hooter. But the negative tests give us enough confidence to be able to spend time together. It was a full house at Jenny’s and it was lovely to witness the antics of two very excited grandchildren on Christmas Day. The other grandparents, Alan and Una were there too. So with Helen, that was nine in the house. I think we’ll get away with it if we call it a business meeting. Yes, one of the talking points was the government’s flagrant breaking of rules that they themselves had put in place. Oh well. It’s Christmas, we were there to have fun and plenty of food.

It’s Christmas!

So many parcels, so many presents, books, and toys, so much food. And lots of photos.

Excitement

Thoughts of a late afternoon walk were soon discarded, but at least Liesel and I had made the effort earlier in the day. And we did burn off a few Christmas calories at Daddy’s disco later in the day. Lots of dancing and playing musical bumps and musical statues.

Daddy’s disco lights

Thanks Jenny for putting up with us all! And thanks for inviting us back a couple of days later, I guess we didn’t embarrass ourselves, or you, too much. We played a game of Junior Cluedo with Martha and William, and it was interesting watching them play well, concentrate and interact.

Princess of Wales and Colonel Mustard
Another photo

More food of course: Christmas cake, cheesecake, peanut butter and chocolate fudge, chocolates, oh and lots of real, proper food too.

And yes, we pulled Christmas crackers. The jokes don’t improve over the years, do they?

Guess who?

Spending time with the family was of course the highlight of the week, we didn’t go far from home, otherwise. A surprise bonus of some mild weather finished off 2021 nicely and the sunsets were a little unusual too.

Sunset over Northenden

One thing I’ve always wanted to see is a two-headed skeletal dog, and my wish came true this week.

Woof woof

I came across this monstrosity in Quirky Misfits where I bumped into a friend so we had a coffee. Yes, there’s a sign on the door saying dogs are welcome, but there are limits: skeletal bicephalids?

The river is rising again after a lot of rain. So much so, that the Mersey is bringing trees down from its upper reaches, in Stockport.

Trees and logs

The roiling river didn’t look very inviting, to be honest. But why the short post last week? Because we were invited over to spend some time in a hot tub. Helen rented it for a few days, a most unusual Christmas gift, but I hadn’t been in a hot bath like this since we were in Japan. Time for a wash.

In the hot tub: William, Helen, Martha, Jenny

A good way to start the new year, I think you’ll agree. But that feeling of well-being can so easily be squished by industrial levels of incompetence.

When I need my prescription renewed, I send a message to my GP, they send it to the pharmacy, the pharmacy sends me a message when the meds are ready for collection. Not this time. In other news, both Liesel and I have received the Collection Codes that we now need to pick up Lateral Flow Tests from the pharmacy. So, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and pay a visit, even though I hadn’t received the expected message after several days. I queued for over half an hour.

On CCTV waiting to get over the threshold

They’re short-staffed due to Covid. They’d run of of Lateral Flow Tests, which many other people in the queue were also waiting for. But had they put a notice up in the window to save people time? Nope. Never mind, I can still get my prescription. Oh no I couldn’t. Despite there being a pharmacist behind the scenes, they weren’t fulfilling prescriptions either. Was there a sign in the window to this effect? Nope. Instead, the assistant gave me a printed copy of my prescription to take somewhere else. I asked why they hadn’t sent a message telling me that they were unable to help on this occasion? I got a funny look and directions to the nearest other pharmacy. Where, after a short walk along the road, I was given my drugs within ten minutes of arrival. Fantastic service. Unfortunately, they too had no LFTs in stock. Luckily, Liesel and I have also been ordering them online. Most often the site says none are available, but we have hit the jackpot a few times. We’re now testing after we’ve been in crowded places, which hasn’t happened recently, and each time before we see the family. We don’t want to give anyone Covid, especially Helen. But, in another quirk of misfortune, Helen has succumbed to a nasty bug leaving her hoarse and coughing and just not feeling very well. What she needs is some of that New South Wales sunshine. I think we all do.

Actually, waiting in that queue for half an hour wasn’t really a big deal. Liesel brought us coffees from a nearby emporium. And we would have been loitering for at least half an hour anyway, because we were waiting for Liesel’s iPhone battery to be replaced in the local electronics shop.

My insomnia isn’t helped by the fact that I’m not going out as much as I should. The weather’s just horrible. So much rain, sleet, snow, thundersnow, cold wind. Oh stop moaning about the weather, Mick. Unlikely.

One night, instead of podcasts, I started listening to CBeebies Radio. Between 9pm and 6am, they play Calming Sounds. I thought this might help the old brain to switch off. One night it was birdsong, and it was lovely, very relaxing. Another night, it was the sound of ocean waves. A lovely background noise, it relaxed my brain beautifully, but my bladder reacted in a totally different, and unhelpful, manner.

We had a couple of nice, local walks recently. One day was quite windy and there were crocodiles floating by on the river.

Not really a crocodile

And I did walk over to Jenny’s one day, too, making a detour by Micker Brook.

Micker Brook

The original plan was to meet Jenny and Helen and all by the Brook, but in the end, we all went for a walk in their neighbourhood, Martha on her bike and William on his scooter.

Back home, Martha continued with her project of mixing a potion.. What’s it for? Well, it’s poisonous but it also makes you invisible.

Martha and her potion

Liesel drove over and we later collected a takeaway from Bhaji Pala in Gatley. Why did we go all the way over there for our meal? Because it was Monday, Bank Holiday, so all the fish and chip shops were closed. The food was delicious. And a little bit late, maybe, but we had Christmas pudding too.

Flaming pudding

Liam drowned the pud in brandy and set it alight, much to the bemusement of the children. When I was a child, there would have been a thrupenny bit or even a sixpence inside, but we don’t do that sort of thing any more, apparently.

A couple of days later, I went over to babysit while Jenny and Helen went to the shops.

Green Goblin

William is now The Green Goblin thanks to some temporary hair colour that Helen applied. Martha’s hair was more variegated. I allowed my hair to be coloured a striped orange and yellow, but all this did was to highlight my bald patch. The photos have now been locked away in a vault somewhere.

I am working on what will be the first radio show to be broadcast solely on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2. But one afternoon I was distracted by the urge to tidy up the Studio, the Office, the so-called third bedroom. I say I got the urge, but in reality, the urge was imposed upon me by Liesel. Who shouldn’t even be here*! Yes, everything’s been put in its new location, plenty of stuff has been disposed of, and over the next weeks and months, it will undoubtedly once again revert to its status of ‘tip’. Sorry, there are no before and after photos. But we did come across tonnes more paperwork that we’re not sure we need to keep. So, add this to the list, Mick: go through each of those boxes again, again, again.

*Yeah, what do I mean, Liesel shouldn’t even be here? Well, she’d planned to fly off to Anchorage to see her family on January 6th. Iceland Air would take her via Reykjavik and Seattle. Unfortunately, the flight was cancelled due to expected bad weather in Iceland and by the time Liesel spoke to someone, the next flight was a week away. So that’s all rebooked now. But If you want to reminisce about bad quality 1970s style phone lines, feel free to call Iceland Air in London. Even the hold music sounds like the old Björk tape has been stretched a bit too much.

And again today, I awoke to the sound of rain being hurled at the windows. I don’t know if the glass in our windows is just intrinsically louder than what we had in Chessington, or if it really does rain harder sideways here in Manchester, but, man it’s loud!  

Happy New Year

We wish you a happy and prosperous and a very healthy 2022.

This is the sort of thing Twitter was invented for. Thank you @fermatslibrary

Normal service will be resumed very soon. But I have probably spent too much time fighting this puzzle:

Slitherlink

Nearly ten hours including a few false starts.

My final Radio Northenden show is here. But be quick, the Mixlr account will be closing very soon. I’ll be back on Wythenshawe Radio from next week.