Wasting time

Some people have too much time on their hands. Not only do they do pointless stuff that takes up a large proportion of the day, but they film it and upload it to Tik-Tok or Instagram for the rest of the world to see. I watched a guy (I’m sure it was a guy) sharpen a pencil with a knife, then sculpt something from just the point. There was someone who drew a very sophisticated doodle, freehand but with remarkable geometrical accuracy. Then there was the man who walked to the front of a queue of obviously desperate gentlemen. After a while, the man at the head of the line let the newcomer in. He then proceeded to pick up the Gents’ door, which was just leaning against the wall, and walk away with it. Whoever devised the advert depicting a Q-tip being forced to compress the wax in someone’s ear just created something that I spent less than half a second on. Still don’t know what the ad was for. I don’t know how long it took that bloke (I’m sure it was a bloke) to slightly bend and stand up playing cards from several packs so that they topple over like dominoes when the fisrt one is pushed over. It’s a marvellous effect, very entertaining and, apart from videos of cats, exactly what the internet was designed for. All those illegal websites that they don’t want you to know about. I’m not going to risk visiting any of those potential virus-mongers, thank you. An oblivious pedestrian being hit by a tram wasn’t something we need to see. No, if I solve your ridiculous puzzle, it doesn’t mean I have an IQ of 190. No, I still don’t understand NFTs and I still have no interest in cryptocurrency. Those facts you guarantee I did not know? Yes I did. Or you’re wrong. I wonder how many attempts it took the golfer before she got that hole in one? I really doubt anyone is owed thousands of pounds if they worked in Sainsbury’s or Morrison’s during the last six or seven years. Out of context clips from Friends aren’t really that funny. And thanks but I’ll be saving 100% on Black Friday since I won’t be taking up any of your ridiculous offers at all. Yes, it’s so easy to laugh at the people making these short videos. Then I realise I’ve wasted hours and hours just watching them. No wonder I have such a long list of things to do.

A leaf

Sad to report that the weather is becoming more normal for the time of year. That is, colder and with lots and lots of rain, to the point where we’ve already had the first flood warnings here in Manchester.

Despite this, Liesel and I had a very enjoyable walk along a stretch of the Mersey that I’d not been to before, near Heaton Mersey. We parked by the Riverside Gym, crossed a dangerous road by a bridge and commented on the well-made path by the river, part of the Trans-Pennine Trail.

Cheadle Bridge
Dog in the river

I am very grateful that this dog didn’t shake itself over me. It has happened before, so now when I see a pooch having a dip, I keep a very cautious eye on it so that I can make a hasty retreat, if necessary.

Speaking of floods, I wondered if this couple knew something we didn’t?

People in a tree

We spotted a fully laden apple tree but the pickable fruit was gone, and I was dissuaded from climbing the fence to reach the more challenging apples.

The thought occurred that at least an apple scrumped from a wild tree won’t contain any plam oil, which seems to be ubiquitous, in just about every other food item. Even when they claim it’s from a sustainable source.

A local lady was walking her dog and while we were looking at the map, she asked if we were lost. We weren’t, but just making sure we weren’t going too far off course, so soon before sunset. Hearing Liesel’s accent, she asked where she was from. Alaska. Oh, I have a niece in Wisconsin, she said. Then, looking towards me, what about you? I’m a southerner, I said proudly, happy to elaborate on being asked a follow-up question, but all she said was, ‘Oh’.

I’m sure we’ll revisit Mersey Vale Nature Park on another occasion. Possibly on the day we walk all the way from home, long the river, to Stockport. But not any time soon if this rain keeps on coming like this.

Our regular Wednesday walk took us through the woods which I think we expected to be much more muddy. The bed of fallen leaves was quite nice to walk on. The other day when I walked that way, I saw a young lady picking up golden leaves, the more pristine ones, unsullied by human footfall. I wondered whether she was going to create some wonderful work of art. What a shame that I, an old bloke, feel awkward about engaging a young lady on her own, out and about, in conversation.

Back at Boxx 2 Boxx, the café has been decked out to resemble the jungle. Our absent host Jill is taking part in the ITV game show I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

Crocodile in a hammock

I don’t know whether the crocodile is in honour of Jill falling out of her hammock on her first day in the Australian jungle, where the show is filmed.

It is now less than forty days to Christmas. It comes round quicker every year doesn’t it?

Christmas balls

This tree is fenced off in Wythenshawe Forum which I visited one evening for a meeting with many other Wythenshawe Radio volunteers. It was nice to put faces to the various voices: some matched my preconceptions, some didn’t look anything like I’d imagined. Did it occur to me take pictures of these new real-life friends? Nope. Sorry.

In medical news, Liesel had a bionic tooth fitted. She had to rest for the rest of the day, so it was down to me to visit John Lewis to buy a couple of crochet hooks. Mission accomplished. As I passed by the north pole, I decided not to visit Santa.

John Lewis’s bear

I was still half asleep when Liesel left to visit her crochet class. Half? More like 90%. But when I did eventually stir, I made haste to the bus stop where I waited a mere 30 seconds for the bus to take me into Manchester. This never happens. I usually see the back of the bus disappear up the road as I turn the corner.

Manchester rising

It was seasonably cool as I walked to the Museum of Science and Industry, following a less than optimum route. One day, I will know Manchester like the back of my hand. One day. Straight to the café at the museum, of course.

I enjoyed my Middle Eastern Meze Wrap but I checked the ingredients and yes, of course, as expected, there was plam oil.

Meze wrap

It’s been here for a while, but it’s still shocking to see something that I once owned in a museum.

BBC Microcomputer

My BBC Microcomputer was delivered on April 1st 1982. It finally gave up the ghost about fifteen years later in the middle of a ten-pin bowling game that Helen was playing. I tried to fix it with spares from another machine. However my soldering skills were and are rubbish, so I ended up with two totally useless computers. Who would have guessed that less than thirty years later, we would be wasting hours gazing at the small computer screens that are our smart phones? Smart phones, not-so-smart users.

Visit to Manchester to be continued next time. Will it rain? Will I meet anyone I know? Tune in next week for another exciting episode!

On this week’s radio show, I played some foreign language covers of popular English songs including a few suggested by the listener, for which I am very grateful. Catch up on over two hours of Mick’s Music Mix here:

In other news, I am pleased to report that our Michaelmas or Thanksgiving cactus (formerly thought to be a Christmas cactus) is blooming at exactly the right time again.

Michaelmas cactus

Time Travel

I haven’t fully investigated the physics and the maths behind the phenomenon but I know from experience that time does not pass at the same rate for everyone. In the morning after I wake up and can’t be bothered to get up straightaway, I close my eyes for ten minutes. Yet when I open them, a full hour and a half has passed by in the rest of the world. Somehow during that ten minutes, I must have been travelling somewhere at very nearly the speed of light, yet I have no recollection of the journey. From which I can only deduce that travelling at such high velocities has a deleterious affect on ones memory.

Let’s go back in time. A couple of weeks ago, we visited Quarry Bank Mill. At the time, I wasn’t allowed to post this photo of a two-headed Liesel.

Two heads are better than one

But this week, I didn’t bother asking 😉

We went for a walk along the river towards Didsbury, after some torrential rain, so I thought I’d go for an arty shot of my wife in a puddle.

Liesel in a puddle

After crouching down for the shot, which admittedly isn’t all that good, I oohed and ahhed as I stood back up. Clicked the knees back into place and carried on. It was getting dark as we returned home.

Probably the most exciting event this week was our acquisition of a new, smart TV set. It has about as small a screen as you can get these days, but it’s still bigger than our previous set. The only thing wrong with that one is that, for the last 15 years or so, we haven’t had reliable stereo. The left speaker doesn’t make a sound most of the time, but occasionally leaps into action, making both of us jump.

But now, we have an up to date TV, with access to thousands of TV and radio channels via several applications. It was easy enough to connect and set up. But just a few days later, it displayed an error message that made no sense at all. Technology’s great when it works.

I can now send pictures from my phone to the TV, so I took advantage of this feature in another attempt at an arty photo, this one, a picture of the TV showing what the phone sees as it looks at the TV ad inf.

The new TV set

Martha and William enjoyed a fireworks display and a funfair recently. I think the dodgems was a highlight.

Dodgy characters

More driving madness ensued on the day we collected them from school. Loads of traffic, roadworks and all the traffic lights were against us.

Rainbow over Gatley

Fortunately, Liam was able to nip down the road so that the children weren’t left stranded, alone, at school, sitting in the middle of the playground. Back at home, for some reason, both William and Martha wanted to have a bath. It’s been a while and it’s interesting to see how much bigger they are now, in the tub, and how seldom we had to request them to try and keep most of the water inside.

William the Coiffeur

William was playing with and styling his hair, monitoring progress in his reflection.

The third largest shopping centre in the UK is the Trafford Centre in Manchester. You might think we’d be there on a regular basis, for all our retail needs. But no. We paid our first visit since well before the first lockdown, in order to pick up a book from Waterstones.

Trafford Centre

After taking a bag of old CDs to Oxfam in Didsbury, I had a nice breakfast while Liesel went off for coffee with the ladies of the WI.

Oh no, what’s occurring? This week’s radio show was entitled Oh, Oh, Oh! Two hours of songs that include the word Oh! With help from Martha, William, the Two Ronnies and George Takei.

Or if you’re close enough to the transmitter in Wythenshawe, listen to the repeat broadcast on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 at 10pm Wednesday.

The Other Side

We booked tickets for a show in London quite a while ago. Since then, we’ve been planning a whole weekend. For various reasons, we decided not to go by train nor to drive. Instead, we travelled by National Express coach. This was a first for Liesel, and I’ve not used their services since well before Liesel came on the scene. We took a bus into Manchester and found the coach station easily enough.

Stickmen escaping Manchester

This shows how long it is since I’ve travelled by coach. In the coach station, I was expecting to be engulfed in a miasma of cigarette smoke and diesel fumes from coaches with the engines left running unnecessarily. But no, it was quite a pleasant atmosphere.

The coach stopped a couple of times on the way to London, but we still arrived at Victoria Coach Station 20 minutes early. A real bonus after being on board for over five hours.

From Victoria to Putney was quite easy and we checked into our accommodation.

The gig was at The Half Moon, Putney, and I knew exactly where it was. Just a short walk from our hotel, over Putney Bridge and along the road.

Thames from Putney Bridge

On the way, we bumped into Helen and Steve. What are the chances? A little further along the road and there it was. The Half Moon. On the wrong side of the street. Yep, I knew exactly where it was, so why it’s crossed the road, I don’t know.

We dined here before the show. And I met Alan in real life, someone I was friends with online until I left Facebook.

When we took our place at the table right in front of the stage, I also saw Sue, although we have met before.

So what was the show? ‘Those Were The Days’ as performed by Jessica Lee Morgan with Chris on bass and Paul Cuddeford on guitar.

Jessica at the keyboards

Jessica covered songs written by or made famous by female musicians from 1968 to 1976. Two hours of brilliant songs, beautifully performed. Yes, of course I sang along but I wasn’t pelted with too many rotten tomatoes.

We enjoyed the late night walk back over he bridge  and had a purple night’s sleep, as advertised.

Meeting someone at Liverpool Street Station is hard, we just don’t know it well enough, and certainly not the meeting points. So we agreed to meet Elakshi at a Starbucks. While waiting, we went next door to Pickwick’s for a nicer coffee.

Selfie of the day

Our friend Monica in Anchorage has a niece who’s studying here in the UK for a few months. We showed Elakshi round some of the more quirky sites in the city of London, including the Sculpture in the City trail.

No 8: Cosmos by Eva Rothschild

Cosmos, 2018 is composed of three 3.5 metre-high slatted structures which lean into and support each other, painted black on the exterior and sprayed in a coloured gradient within. An imposing physical structure, the work encourages both a physical and aesthetic response. Says Rothschild: “The external piece is quite forbidding. Its black shiny surface is like a set of disruptive gates.”

This was number 8 on the trail, but we managed to miss a few. All were interesting in their own way, even if it was easy to walk by and miss some without realising.

Leadenhall Market was looking quite tentacular today, and not just because of the stars painted on the ceiling.

Tentacles at Leadenhall Market

Our walk took us to Spitalfields Market where I just about resisted the temptation to look at the vinyl records on sale. We had lunch here in the crowded market before Elakshi had to head off for some proper study.

Elakshi, Liesel, Mick

Liesel and I then made our way to Covent Garden, yes, another market, where we planned to buy absolutely nothing. Except Liesel was thinking of a particular clothes shop she wanted to visit. In one of the art shops, there was a portrait of David Bowie. One that moved as you walk by. Spooky.

The Man Who Sold The World

On to Leicester Square and beyond to Trafalgar Square where I was pleased to see a new item on the 4th plinth.

Antelope by Samson Kambalu b. 1975, Malawi

Antelope restages a photograph of Baptist preacher and pan-Africanist John Chilembwe and European missionary John Chorley as a sculpture.

The photograph was taken in 1914 at the opening of Chilembwe’s new church in Nyasaland, now Malawi. Chilembwe has his hat on, defying the colonial rule that forbade Africans from wearing hats in front of white people. A year later, he led an uprising against colonial rule. Chilembwe was killed and his church was destroyed by the colonial police.

On the plinth, Chilembwe is larger than life, while Chorley is life-size. By increasing his scale, the artist elevates Chilembwe and his story, revealing the hidden narratives of underrepresented peoples in the history of the British Empire in Africa, and beyond.

At this point, we still hadn’t decided what to do in the evening. A film? A play? A musical? Another gig? In the end, we thought a comedy show would go down well and we spent a funny couple of hours in the company of Maisie Adam at Leicester Square Theatre.

Maisie Adam
Thames from Jubilee Bridge

The show finished early-ish so we decided to wander over to the South Bank for something to eat. You can’t go wrong at Wagamama. Oh yes you can. I chose a dish that I’ve had many times before but boy was it hot. Hot in the sense that it really stung my windburnt lips. And hot as in much more spicy than is usually the case. Phew. Once the steam stopped puffing out of my ears, I cooled my head down with a nice bowl of coconut ice cream. Phew indeed!

We went our separate ways on the Saturday. Liesel went south to spend the day with Rosie, walking from Surbiton via Kingston to Hampton Court along the towpath and having some giggly girly time together. Was I at all jealous? Well no, not at all, because I’d decided to pay a long overdue visit to the National Maritime Museam at Greenwich and then up the hill to the Observatory.

But as soon as I went outside, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was lovely and warm, verging on the muggy even, and the thought of sitting on buses and/or tube trains for hours to travel to Greenwich just wasn’t as attractive. Instead, I thought I’d walk part of the way and then maybe complete the journey on public transport. I headed in the direction of King’s Road and took in the sights and brought back some memories.

I passed by Parson’s Green, close to where I used to work in the mid-1980s. It hasn’t changed much. But another little patch of green is encouraging insects.

Rewilding Rave

It’s always good to see birds of prey, especially in the middle of a large city.

Church’s of Cheaney Famous English Shoes

I do feel sorry for this one though, tethered as it is to the roof of a glorified shoe shop.

Not all quirky sculptures are in the City of London.

Book Bench in King’s Road

It’s been nearly five decades since I downed a pint of beer in The World’s End pub. I decided not to revisit today, even though a small part of me wondered whether I’d bump into my old work colleague and drinking buddy Clive. But suppose I owed him money?

The World’s End second-hand book shop on King’s Road hasn’t changed much either. If anything, it’s even more crammed with stock so that potential customers have to move around one at a time, like chess pieces on a very crowded board. I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t have a copy of a book that I’ve been looking for for many years: The Nabob’s Garden by Frederica Bennett. I read it several times as a child but can remember nothing about it other than it had a green cover and no dust jacket.

I knew I was taking too much time ambling along King’s Road but I knew something was really wrong with the spacetime continuum when I looked at the clock over the road. The hands were spinning round very fast.

Clockhouse

This place looked very different in the olden days…

430 King’s Road in about 1975
Yarn-bombing in King’s Road

Dave the artist still exhibits his own paintings on King’s Road in the Open Air Gallery. He’s very friendly, go and have a chat if you’re passing by.

Dave the artist

I wandered by the old Chelsea Hospital and onto a street market, close to the Saatchi Gallery, where I had some lunch.

I thought I’d make use of the facilities at Peter Jones. But no. The Gents toilet was out of order and the nearest one was the accessible toilets. Downstairs.

Downstairs to the accessible toilet

I hope there’s another route to the accessible toilets, I wouldn’t want to bump down those stairs in my wheelchair.

And so to Sloane Square, where, a few days after she died, I saw the Princess of Wales standing outside the underground station. No dead people today, but a throbbing mass of living ones.

Do I get a train towards Greenwich? No. I decided to continue walking until I stopped. Through Eaton Square and onto the side entrances to Buckingham Palace. I know King Charles isn’t planning to live here for at least a few years, so it was good to see that services to the palace were being discommected.

Doscommection

Millions of people were loitering by the front gates of the palace on this cloudy afternoon but I was surprised by the brightness of the Victoria Monument’s golden angel.

Golden Angel

Time for some birdwatching in St James’s Park. Don’t feed or touch the pelicans, says the sign. Well, I didn’t even see any, just Egyptians, pigeons, ducks, geese, swans (black and white) and squirrels. And more pigeons. With whom I did not share by cinnamon doughnut and coffee.

Birds of St James’s Park

After leaving the park, I realised I ought to head back. I took a bus back to Putney, changed my clothes, then took another bus into Kingston.

Did I regret not making it to Greenwich? No, I had a fantastic walk and Greenwich and the museum will still be there next time. I also didn’t see much of the South Bank on this occasion, just Wagamama. Apart from a slight sense of disloyalty, I didn’t mind walking on the other side of the river this time.

The Thames and Kingston Bridge

I perambulated through Kingston, mostly familiar, but there have been some changes here, towards the river. The plan was to meet up with Liesel and Liesel’s cousin. Yes, her cousin Andi with her husband of just a few months Steve have moved to the UK, specifically to Richmond upon Thames.

I first met Andi and Steve on holiday in Hawaii ten or so years ago, when Helen and Adam and Jenny came too, not to mention Liesel’s extended family. We’ve also been with them to a few Dave Matthews concerts.

The waiters in the restaurant must have been rolling their eyes when after several attempts at taking our order, we still hadn’t stopped talking long enough to look at the menu.

In the end, we had a very pleasant and enjoyable meal, at Comptoir Libanais since you ask, after which they invited us back to their pad, a quick 65 bus ride away. I’m old enough to remember when the 65 went all the way to Chessington.

Steve, Andi, Mick, Liesel
Pomegranate tree

Their house is located in a very desirable location, close to the river, close to shops, close to the railway station. The pomegranate tree, as far as we know, is the only one in Richmond and it needs a bit of a trim, to be honest. Liesel and I left quite late but it was easy enough to get back to Putney, via Earls Court on the District Line.

And so our short stay in London comes to an end. At Victoria, we visited The Shakespeare for a late breakfast. Do you have a menu, I asked? We’ll bring a menu over when we’re open for food at twelve o’clock. I felt suitably chastised. No nut roast today so we settled for very disappointing nachos. I couldn’t drink too much beer knowing we’d be on the coach for five hours. Another long journey that passed quickly thanks to some podcasts and a book and some puzzles.

Somehow, the 43 bus from Manchester back to Northenden seemed really slow, stopping every thirty seconds…

Back to normal then? Well, nearly. I have picked up the cold that Liesel’s had for a few days. I hope I didn’t pass it on to Martha and William when we met up at Quarry Bank Mill.

Quarry Bank fungi
William and Martha sitting in a tree

In between climbing trees, and playing in the playground and walking and running through the woods and climbing muddy slopes, we didn’t do much here today.

William climbing

During the week, we went for our usual walks, noticing it become cooler as time went on. We walked to Didsbury and noticed that at last, after far too long, we are now able to walk on the other side of the Mersey between Palatine Road and Northenden Bridge. That path has been off limits while they jack up the motorway, or something.

The view from the other side

The radio show this week was based on Jessica’s show, Those Were The Days. I’d picked up the set list, asked all three musicians to sign it for me, and I used it for my own show. I played (mostly) the original versions of the songs plus a couple of extras.

And if you’re interested, here is the playlist from the gig:

Turn Turn Turn
At Seventeen
Big Yellow Taxi
New York
Both Sides Now
Who Knows Where the Time Goes
Natural Woman
Songbird
Make Hay
It’s Too Late
Killing me Softly with his Song
You’re so Vain

Mercedez Benz
Me and Bobby McGee
The Man Who Sold the World
Ocean Song
You’ve Got a Friend
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Hope Is
River
Texas Angel
Brand New Key
Jolene
Those Were The Days
This Wheel’s On Fire
Goodbye

I think my cold is receding, I feel less tired, less cold, less lethargic than I did yesterday, at least I was able to concentrate on this stuff for a while. The Covid tests have all come up negative.

And here we are: November already. Who knows where the time goes?

Goodbye.