Trivial pursuits

Hot on the heels of Dudley and Eunice came Franklin. Three named storms in quick succession wreaking havoc. Howling wind and driving rain is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, in my recent experience. Then, to add insult to injury, while searching for a podcast to listen to on my phone, up popped a message telling me to go to bed, my bedtime was 5 hours ago.

My breakfast view was obscured:

Rain on window

The rain was relentless, I felt certain I wouldn’t leave the house all day. But just as I was finishing writing last week’s blog post, Jenny called and invited me to join them for a walk in Fletcher Moss Gardens. By then, the rain had stopped and I decided to risk a walk over to Didsbury. As a last resort, I could always catch a bus, I suppose.

Ford Lane

A stretch of Ford Lane was flooded, so I had to cling to the railings at this point. The river was noticeably high too. Fletcher Moss had quite a few puddles, which proved useful later on when it came to keeping children entertained.

Flooded path to the rockery

I met up with Jenny, Liam, Martha and William, and sensibly the children were wearing Wellington boots. I think William walked or ran or jumped in every puddle we encountered on our walk. But at leat, on this occasion, he didn’t go into puddles so deep that his boots filled with water, like he’d done a few days earlier!

For half term, there’s a Broad Oak Hearts Train in the park, a series of 20 hearts for children to find, each depicting a popular children’s book or character. It provided structure to the walk. William ticked the numbers off on his sheet, while Martha wrote down all the characters on her self-made crib sheet. Why did she make her own? Because outrageously, the coffee shop was closed and that’s where you get the sheets from.

Rainbow fish
Water babies

Did I mention it was a bit wet in places?

William nearly in the Mersey
Water babies

As you can see, the Sun came out and that certainly lifts the spirits, even when it’s not particularly warm. But this was the lull before the storm.

The following day, the river Mersey was so high, that the flood gates were opened. The flooded area included Fletcher Moss and the golf courses. I don’t think it stopped raining all day, I certainly didn’t leave the house on this occasion.

River Mersey

But if I had, this is what I would have witnessed. The river now at its highest ever level in Stockport, and very close to record highs in Northenden and Didsbury. As a precaution, a few hundred houses were evacuated, but in the end, the Environment Agency and local councils controlled the situation very well.

In Anchorage, they’re still enjoying the snow. This is a speed-skating circuit as seen from Amrit’s office where Liesel is working.

Speed-skating in Anchorage

With the mountains in the background, it does look much more interesting than what we were experiencing.

The Winter Olympics have come to a close and I’m glad I watched the women’s curling final, live, from the comfort of my bed, very early in the morning. The men’s team had won silver, and this was GB’s last opportunity to win a gold medal.

Eve Muirhead

It was a good game and in the end I felt that I’d contributed to GB’s gold medal win, merely by staying awake long enough to watch the whole thing!

That was the weekend. The rest of the week was spent in the pursuit of trivial matters. Lots of five- or ten-minute jobs that I’ve been putting off. Putting tea in the tea caddy. Checking the toilet roll situation. Watering the plants. Emptying the bins. A bit of tidying up here, a spot of sorting out there. Paying bills. And of course, a quick walk to check up on things.

Where’s the weir?

I ventured into Manchester by bus in order to visit the blood shop, as Jenny and Helen used to call it. I donated and in return, I enjoyed some biscuits.

A not very convincing Disney castle in Manchester

During the week, the wind kept up and it was as cold and unpleasant as ever, just not as strong. One of the casualties of the latest storm was the estate agents sign outside our premises.

Estate agent’s sign – missing

Oh well, never mind. Maybe they should just take them away when they’ve outlived their usefulness.

Northenden Players Theatre Club put on a performance of Educating Rita this week, at the little theatre just up the road. It was a two-hander, and very well done. Both characters, Frank and Rita, were very convincing, and I realise I’d forgotten just how grumpy Frank can be. It was good to see a full house.

Martin Hulme and Freya Fulton as Frank and Rita

As I was walking home afterwards, I just fancied a bag of chips, with plenty of salt and vinegar, I’ve not done that for years. Alas, the chip shop was shut.

Child-minding day. As I was driving over, I was engulfed in a hail storm. It only lasted a couple of minutes but it was a reminder of just how exciting / unpredictable our weather systems are.

While watching Encanto, again, I helped Martha decorate her hairbands with various adornments, ribbons, bows, ties. I also managed to keep William awake until dinner time: he’s always so tired at the end of his school week!

This week on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2, I played pop songs that are based on or inspired by classical music.

Dudley and Eunice

Dudley and Eunice paid a visit this week. Not a nice, benevolent old couple with stories to tell of better times, but two violent, named storms, one from the north and one from the south, with destruction on their minds. The canvas canopy on London’s Millenium Dome was torn off, trees have been uprooted, trampolines have been lost and found. I just stayed indoors whingeing about the wind and the rain, happy that I had been out for a long walk the previous day. For entertainment, I watched TV. I was flip-flopping between the Winter Olympics, watching the GB women’s curling team in the semi-final match, and watching BigJetTV, planes landing at Heathrow Airport in horrendously windy conditions. And to be honest, I’m not sure which of these two streams was the more stressful.

A group of three of us walked to Wythenshawe Park where we met up with a couple of others. When I first left the flat, the wind was quite cold and I thought I would have to contend with my nemesis: cold wind in the earholes giving me earache. But it soon calmed down. Over the next few hours, we had a couple of short, sharp showers and even hail a couple of times. There are still parts of Wythenshawe Park that I hadn’t explored until this visit.

Circus Funtasia

There’s a new circus in town, well, in the park, just setting up for halfterm. I don’t want to think what state the grass will be in afterwards, especially after all the rain.

Lake Wythenshawe

Things are looking up though. Signs of Spring poking through.

Snowdrops
Parrot just out of hibernation
An early daffodil

After walking back to Northenden, we enjoyed a coffee in Quirky Misfits. A place not to leave your little ones!

Look after your children

It is quite funny watching other people as they come in, maybe for the first time, when they suddenly realise that one of the coffee tables is, in fact, a coffin.

Since the weather hadn’t deteriorated as much as we’s anticipated, Steve and I walked along the river to Didsbury.

River high

The Mersey was high, covering the island, and flowing fast. I realised I hadn’t seen the heron for a while, but then, it had gone on holiday this time last year too.

The river bank wasn’t too muddy, Didsbury was busy, Steve left to take the tram home, and following a downpour, I decided to walk home again.

Drainage on Ford Lane hasn’t improved and I’m so glad I kept up my long jump skills so that I could leap over this road-wide puddle.

Ford Lane puddle

What’s nice about this puddle is that when people are driving by on their way home from the golf course, they slow down at this point so they don’t splash unsuspecting pedestrians. No, of course they don’t.

This week marked our wedding anniversary. Liesel sent me some chocolate truffles and I’m glad to say that the flowers I sent her arrived safely.

Happy anniversary Liesel

I sent them to Liesel’s parents’ house, hoping and assuming that Liesel would be there for at least some of the day. But the weather in Anchorage has been a bit challenging too. Eight inches of snow overnight is bad enough. But when it rains and turns all the roads into ice rinks, you just don’t want to drive anywhere. Liesel’s staying at a friend’s place so that she can do lots of work.

Dudley and Eunice came along and apart from keeping me indoors for the day, they manged to knock off a few branches from our oak tree.

Chip off the old block

Earlier in the week, I’d joined Jenny and Liam and the grandchildren for a meal, thank you for having me!

Martha as Jessie from Toy Story

I’m so pleased that Martha and William enjoy gymnastics and swimming, but they must be tired after such a busy day.

Meanwhile, in Anchorage, Liesel has been skating on a frozen lake. This is just 16 years after she and I were married on a jetty above a frozen lake.

Frozen lake

On my radio show this week, I spoke to Andrew again from Northenden Players Theatre Group. The next play is Educating Rita which I’m looking forward to. The music was mostly Medleys and there’s an extended version of the show here:

ow

Mindblowing

For some reason, I had to go to Brighton and deliver mail there. Or was it Portsmouth? Anyway, I don’t know my way around either place. And the addresses on the mail consisted solely of just one cryptic word. How am I supposed to deliver mail to places when I don’t know where they are? I just had to keep asking the locals. I must have managed ok in the end though, because when I got back to the office, someone pointed out that I’d forgotten to take all the packets and parcels out with me. The sense of relief that engulfed me when I woke up was almost overwhelming. Why am I still having anxiety dreams about the last job I had? Usually, at a certain point in the dream, I realise that I’m retired and actually, I don’t have to be here at all. Sometimes I’m aware that I haven’t been taking my days off for a few weeks, to the point that I’ve lost track of which day is my day off. I think I’d rather have a proper scary nightmare than these dreams about Royal Mail and the many, many ways in which they can make a straightforward job so stressful. InĀ  my dreamworld, because of problems in the Chessington Delivery Office, I’ve been variously despatched to the basement, to New Malden and to Waterloo Station to prepare the mail for delivery. I’ve been unable to enter the Office because it’s so full of mail and parcels, that there’s no room for actual people to go in and do anything with it. I’ve never had anxiety dreams about exams or moving house or other stressful events, nor indeed about any other jobs. So I’m hoping that by telling you about this recent, horrible, nighttime experience, the scenario will be expunged from the repertoire in my dreamworld mechanism.

In the real world, things just plod on normally, uneventfully. Except that this week I succumbed to the games Wordle and Nerdle. I wasn’t convinced at first, not sure about what I was meant to be doing, but after a couple of days, I quite enjoy a few minutes of mental exercise each day. This is in addition to my daily allowance of an hour attempting a Slitherlink puzzle, which is ridiculously addictive. It’s always a disappointment when the app timer tells me ‘time’s up’ and it takes immense willpower not to extend the time for today, but sometimes I just have to eat etc.

Jenny invited me over to share some of the three tonnes of spaghetti bolognese she’d prepared in her cauldron. It was fun to spend time with the children, Martha fresh from her swimming lesson.

Martha and William enjoying a cold dessert

It was wet and windy and we were issued with flood warnings, but on this occasion, the level of the river went down quite quickly. Our local councillors were on the case, monitoring the situation, and there was no need to open the flood gates. One victim of the strong winds was our oak tree. It lost a few digits, bigger than the twigs that usually blow off.

Chips off the old block

We’ve been advised to wear hard hats when we leave the block of luxury apartments. By the river, the birds are clinging on tight so they don’t get blown into orbit.

Partridge in a pear tree

There are signs of Spring approaching though. Our local village green is gradually turning purple as the crocuses make an appearance.

Northenden Village Green

I haven’t been for a long time but I was amazed to see how much Kingston station has changed over the last couple of years.

Kingston Station

No, this is Kingston in the south of New Zealand’s South Island, which is a bit more remote than The Royal Borough of course. Thank you Pauline for sending the pictures, and glad you’re having a nice break.

Northenden welcomes careful drivers
Boxx 2 Boxx in a puddle

Walks around Northenden and the local area are always fun but the cold, biting wind really did get on my nerves this week. I told it to go back where it came from. To no avail. The contrast between that and the intermittent warmth of the Sun was striking.

Dayglo plants

There are splashes of colour, especially when the Sun’s at the right angle. And Fletcher Moss Park is also showing early signs of Spring.

Fletcher Moss
Tree-lined avenue

On the way to school to pick up William and Martha, the clouds put on a good show. I wasn’t the only (grand-) parent taking pictures.

Here comes the Sun

While waiting for Martha to come out of her class, William decided he was a caterpillar, crawling under the climbing apparatus.

William the caterpillar

We played at their house for a while before setting off for mine.The plan had been to bring them back here and have takeaway pizza for dinner. But Jenny had forgotten. The pizza was good, so good in fact, that I ate the leftovers the following day.

I battled the cold wind again as I walked around Wythenshawe with the group, once I dragged myself out of bed, that is.

This was the first week of the Winter Olympics and I’ve enjoyed some of the sports, especially the curling, which is very slow and methodical. The ice hockey is far too fast, I can’t see what’s going on. I suggest using a much bigger, heavier puck, to slow it down a bit. And as for the skiers and snowboarders doing multiple twists and turns in the big air, well, it probably isn’t as easy as they make it look.

Liesel continues to bounds out of bed very early every morning over there in Anchorage. She continues to work hard, doing legal work. (She’s probably having more fun doing illegal work, but she’s not telling me about that.) This week, her Dad, Klaus, had his heart surgery and is doing very well. Liesel’s been chauffeuring Klaus and her Mom Leslie to hospitals and shops. Good to see she’s staying out of trouble, so far, at least.

While Klaus had heart surgery, I visited the dental hygienist just to show solidarity.

This week’s radio show was about Art and Artists It’ll be repeated on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 next Wednesday at 7pm, but for your convenience, it is available here:

Dragon and umbrellas

Liesel’s still in Alaska, enjoying the extremely cold Winter there and spending time with her family and friends. It does look beautiful there, but I know I’d be fairly unhappy having to don seventeen layers of clothing to go outside. Only to return to a very well heated house. Plus, I can’t ski, no, not even on the flat. It’s a toss up whether I fall over to the left or right or forwards or backwards.

Monica, Neha, Liesel and Una
Narnia

Meanwhile, the excitement in Northenden builds. The pavements in Royle Green Road, just round the corner, are being resurfaced so that they’re more comfortable for the cars that park there. Plus, several months ago, I reported a hole in the pavement in Cinnamon Close. It was a small hole, but might have been indicative of something more menacing, such as a disused old mine underneath, about to subside. Well, the hole was filled in this week. It took four men in hi-visibility jackets to watch a fifth man doing all the work with a very loud lorry engine running in the background. If the council had asked, I could have plugged that hole myself with some old congealed porridge.

An ex-hole

The patch is much bigger than the hole was, so it should last a while.

The wind has brought down a few trees again. The path in Kenworthy Lane Woods was blocked, but not impassable. And as a guide, nowhere near as bad as the damage caused by that infamous storm in 1986.

Timber!

It was a pleasure to collect William and Martha from school this week. In an unprecedented move, William was second out of his class and Martha was first out of hers! They’re usually a bit later, so, bonus!

School field

Next to the football pitches, there’s a small area which looks disused, apart from collecting litter. I wonder if this is part of Forest School, that all the children visit at some point during the school year?

On this occasion, I took them back to their house where we played in the garden for a short while. Glad it was light enough, even if it was a bit cold still.

Martha and a swing

Inside, we played games, drew dinosaurs, and for dinner we had fish and chips. Well, I had a pie, thank you very much.

And when I returned home, I finished editing and uploading the radio show. It took longer than usual this week, because I had a nice chat on the phone with Jessica Lee Morgan. You can hear the show here, it’s called Bits and Pieces. Album of the Week is Pieces by Mary Hopkin which is gorgeous and you should buy it straightaway here or here.

I braved the bus and went into Manchester for a walk in a slightly different place. Chinese New Year is being celebrated his week and Manchester’s Chinatown was very festive. Because of Covid, there was no parade, but it was good to see a tiger (it’s the Year of the Tiger) and a dragon. Plus, I lost count of the Chinese lanterns all around Chinatown, zillions of them.

Year of the tiger
Dragon and lanterns

It was raining all day but maybe I shouldn’t complain too much, it hasn’t rained persistently all day for quite a while. Actually, I am going to whinge. It was raining all day. Not very nice at all. You can probably see the rain topping up Rochdale Canal.

Rochdale Canal in the rain

In the library, there is also a display of black and white photos from 1980s China.

Rainy Day in the Hutongs (alleys), Beijing, 1985

Actually, that picture could well have ben taken in Manchester today, the weather conditions were identical.

But what was I doing in Manchester Central Library in the first place? Other than sheltering from the rain? I was having a quick look at the newly released 1921 Census. It’s not a reliable source of information: many of the names I entered turned out not to exist. So even my limited knowledge of family history turns out to be wrong. For example, my cousin Susan, who is a few years older than me? Her parents, my aunt and uncle, emigrated to Australia in 1956. So it seems my memory of meeting my Aunt Pauline at that time is wrong. Susan? Turns out her name is Suzanne. Oh well. I was just playing around today, really, getting a feel for how the whole thing works. But with this and earlier censuses and all the other online records, I’m hoping to track down all my ancestors. One day, I’ll return with a proper plan of action.

Umbrella in the bin in the rain

When I left the library, of course it was still raining. Even the umbrella had had enough by this point.