Terrific Pacific

After a relaxing day, we drove into Manchester. Time for a gig. We throughly enjoyed the performance by O’Hooley and Tidow at a fantastic venue, new to us, Hallé St Peters. The show was to promote their new record, Cloudheads, but of course, we’re special, and we received our CD, signed, a couple of weeks ago.

Hallé St Peters

We found seats just four rows from the front and before the show proper began, we were digging the music, man, songs by Rodriguez, whose story is interesting but quite sad, really.

Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow sang songs old and new, told funny stories, and the audience was spellbound. Nobody was chatting and apart from a couple of glasses being kicked over after the interval, there was no disruption.

I had a quick chat with Belinda in the interval, told her I’d played their records on my show, and when I told her my name, Mick, she knew my surname straightaway. I’m not quite on the A-list, but getting there!

O’Hooley and Tidow with a young fan

I received my postal vote: there are local elections in May. I knew who I was going to vote for, and, given all the election literature I’ve seen so far, I was beginning to think there was only one candidate standing. So what a surprise to see some others on the ballot paper. I was tempted but in the end, I didn’t vote for Sir Oink A-Lot, of The Official Monster Raving Loony Party, because, well, I’m not entirely sure he’s taking it very seriously.

In our local church, St Wilfrid’s, there was another celebration of Sir Edward Watkin. I paid Geoff for the book of his I’d bought a few nights ago and he told me about a painting that had hung at Rose Hill for many years. Someone wanted to sell it for charity, expecting to raise about  £100. In the end, it was valued at £4 million.

Sir Edward funded some of the stain glass windows in the church, and they are indeed very bright, even on a cloudy grey day such as this was.

St Wilfrid’s

The Millennium Banner was obviously a labour of love. The wall hanging which stretches along one side of the church was made in 1999, mostly by members of the Women’s Group, to mark the turning of the millennium. It shows scenes and motifs from the history of the previous 2000 years, some very local, others national, global or even cosmic. Spoiler alert: this is how it ends:

Millennium Banner

I’d gone along because The Edward Watkin Society, also known as WatSoc, had organised the week of events. On display here today were several letter sent from or to Sir Edward. The handwriting was beautiful, and neat, but very hard to read.

While talking to someone, my phone went off. “Is that your phone?” “I think it’s everyone’s phone” I replied, because all of a sudden, the room was full of alarms.

Severe Alert, said my phone

This is a test of Emergency Alerts, a new UK government service that will warn you if there’s a life-threatening emergency nearby.

In a real emergency, follow the instructions in the alert to keep yourself and others safe.

This is a test. You do not need to take any action.

Needless to say, I took no action. But, being Brits, we all rolled our eyes and tutted at the inconvenience.

So why was I here at the church by myself? Because Liesel and Leslie were travelling south to visit cousin Andi and Steve in Richmond. Andi I think particularly wanted to catch up with her Auntie Leslie.

One morning, Liesel got up early and went for a long solitary walk taking in Richmond Hill, Petersham Common and Richmond Park.

Terrace Gardens, Richmond, overlooking the river

They all visited Bushy Park too one day, where the deer wandered over to say hello.

Let’s return to the saga of my phone. To recap: I took my phone in to have its battery changed. That worked out OK. But, the fingerprint sensor no longer worked. I went back to the shop, he couldn’t get it to work, so ordered a new sensor. A couple of days later, the new sensor didn’t work either. I would have to leave my phone with him overnight so that some internal connection could be soldered. Couldn’t do it over the weekend because it was Eid.

So, as requested, I took my phone in on Monday with a view to collecting it the following day. It wasn’t ready. In fact, it wouldn’t be back until the next day. My doubts were now growing. I insisted I needed my phone that day. Tell me where it is, and I’ll go and collect it if necessary. He didn’t want to do that. He called someone and then told me to return in the afternoon. Good thing I didn’t have a job to go back to. He said if it wasn’t back by about 3pm, he’d deliver it to my address after closing time.

I felt a wave of relief when I picked up my phone in the afternoon. Fixed. The fingerprint sensor was now working. Where’s my case? I asked. What case? The protective case that I always keep my phone in. He couldn’t find it of course. I suspect it’s still at the other, top secret venue. So he gave me case off the shelf.

I didn’t pay for anything. By now, I was so peeved, I resolved never to darken his doors again. Whether incompetent or criminal, I don’t think I can trust him again. So much so, back at home, I checked the phone for malware. I also checked that no cash had been taken from any of the online bank accounts. He wouldn’t know my passwords, and he didn’t have my fingerprint, but, I have no idea how dodgy or technically agile he and his brother-in-law are.

Later, I realised the volume controls were no longer working. I use those to take screenshots and to take photos as well as adjusting the volume. I’ll be taking my device to a proper, qualified Samsung repair facility, where I’ll have to recite this whole sorry tale, probably.

Liesel and Mom returned but they didn’t join me for the the long Thursday walk. After which, at The Forum, I saw my mugshot on the noticeboard outside the radio studio.

Wythenshawe FM presenters

At least one member of my family asked if this was a Wanted poster? Is there a reward?

And the excitement is building in the area as we approach Coronation Day.

Flying the red, white and blue

I’ll probably tweet this nearer the time but when people ask whether I’ll be watching the Coronation on TV, I usually say “No, because, by coincidence, I’m going out to get a new hat that day too.”

The three of us did join the walking group on Friday though, for one final forced march, as Klaus would have said.

And, as it was Great Oma’s final day here in England, she treated us to a meal at a Japanese restaurant over there in Cheadle Hulme. Jenny and Liam brought a very excited but tired Martha and William. The children had been introduced to Japanese cuisine while in Australia over Christmas. Today, we all enjoyed our meals, even though for a long time, Martha and I were sitting in actual warm sunshine. Even Liesel was beginning to turn pink.

William and Martha

Once William got going, he demolished his plate of food, and both he and Martha are very happy with sticky rice, because it’s easier to eat with chopsticks!

This week, they celebrated ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, and, by coincidence, that was the theme of my Wythenshawe Radio show this week. If you would like to catch up on two hours of Aussies and Kiwis singing for your pleasure, you are very welcome to listen here.

The Moon and Liverpool

Jodrell Bank is always good for a visit, and the grandchildren, astronauts of the future, had a great time there.

Martha and William on the Moon

Martha later commented that the spacesuit wasn’t particularly comfortable. So let’s hope that when they do pay a visit to the Moon, the attire is more cosy.

Meanwhile, Liesel took her Mom to the coffee morning over in Didsbury. I met up with them at the pub after a very pleasant walk along the fast-flowing river. In the sunshine.

A spot of colour at Northenden Golf Club

The birds were enjoying the day, but there was no sign of a heron today. I had a cup of coffee before Liesel kindly drove me home again.

What else has Liesel been up to at home? Making bees via the medium of crochet. Sometimes, the colour of the yarn available doesn’t match the instructions, so she invents brand new species.

Fish bee

Or so we thought. Just a few days later, I happened to see this online and I thought, Liesel’s well ahead of the game.

Northern blue-banded bee

Of course, these blue-banded bees are native to Australia and all I want to do now is go to Australia to see them in the flesh, in the wild.

Early one morning, Liesel and I wandered over to Fletcher Moss where we were the first customers at the café. Halfway through April and Spring still hasn’t come in fully. Its foot is in the door, but the cold wind from the north is still a reminder that Winter just doesn’t want to end.

In technical news, I took my phone to the local tech shop to have its battery replaced. That went well, my phone no longer goes from 15% charge to 0% in a few seconds. But, the fingerprint sensor no longer works. I returned to the shop and it seems the problem can only be resolved by soldering something deep in the bowels of the phone. Meanwhile, I have to type in a 4-digit passcode every time I want to use the phone, wasting almost a whole second on each occasion. Nightmare.

Northenden probably isn’t the most exciting place in the world, but one day, Palatine Road ground to a halt when it was blocked by a crane from the local building site.


There aren’t many puffins in Northenden, so it was a delight to see this one. I confess, it wasn’t here in real life, it was on the screen where I watched an Open University presentation and discussion about the TV series Wild Isles. This was the reason I didn’t go to the choir rehearsal this week. Actually, I’m not sure it’s for me, so I’m still thinking about whether to pursue that particular activity.

In another minor contribution to my fifteen minutes of fame, I appeared on Instagram in an advert for Boxx2Boxx.


This is the Wednesday walking group and Lois brought us our coffees and teas with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. And no spillages.

Liesel and I last visited Liverpool in 2009, I know, we should go more often. Well, we paid a visit this week, not to the city centre, but to Speke. We parked up at Speke Hall and joined a group for a tour of the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. I was hoping for a Magical Mystery Tour bus, but it was just an everyday 12-seater.

Tour bus

Both houses are presented as they would have been experienced by the young Beatles-to-be, including candlewick bedspreads very similar to what my sister and I were brought up with. The guides were very informative and, I assume, have to be a bit of a Beatles fan to go for those jobs.

John’s house, with blue plaque
Old crockery

We weren’t really allowed to take pictures inside the houses, but I couldn’t resist this crockery. It took me back to my first Saturday job at the Co-op, when amongst other duties, it was my job to unpack crockery from the crates it was delivered in. This was before the days of bubble-wrap, and the packing material was straw. Can you imagine the sneezing fits I had unpacking the plates and cups and saucers?

Paul’s house

Paul’s house doesn’t have a blue plaque because he’s still alive. And, apparently, in any case, the blue plaque scheme has been discontinued in Liverpool, which is a shame. Nobody was brave enough to have a go on the piano in Paul’s front room, the room in which he and John wrote some of their first songs.

The bus took us back to Speke Hall and after a quick coffee and lunch, we had a look around the old house. There was an informative guide in each room, and some, in costume, haunted the house and told their own stories.

Speke Hall

The ceiling ornamentation in some rooms reminded us of just how dull and boring the ceiling is in our luxury apartment.

The drive back home in the sunshine was uneventful, though we did have to cross back over the Mersey Gateway Bridge. The signs told us that we had until midnight the following day to pay the tolls. We didn’t know there were any tolls in England other than the M6, so that was a revelation. And lots of pressure not to forget to pay the fee in a timely manner.

Mersey Gateway Bridgeee

Liesel and Leslie went off to the WI knitting group in the evening while I supported our local theatre here in Northenden. The presentation on Edward Watkin was good, the local lad did well for the people of Manchester, he was behind the Great Central Railway and he had a hand in establishing modern day Canada. He started digging the first channel tunnel, but didn’t get far.

Edward Watkin as played by Geoff Scargill
Children from local schools

I couldn’t resist buying the book, written by Geoff Scargill so I’ve added that to the TBR pile.

The radio show this week featured songs that include at least an element of Whistling. So, if you like whistling along to songs, catch up here.

Seven is a magical number

We all have one every year and some of us have had way too many but when you’re turning 7, your birthday is still very special. And so it was with Martha. Liesel, Leslie and I had a wonderful time celebrating with Martha, her immediate family, her cousins, aunt, uncle and the other grandparents. Thirteen people in all, but not at all unlucky.

There was a bit of running about and it was warm enough to go into the garden for a while. One thing I never expected to see was Papa, the other grandfather, standing on his head in the garden. Such poise, such strength, and of course, I didn’t have a go.


Neither did I take part in the head-over-heels competition. Or roly-polys. Or somersaults.

William was especially pleased that Papa John pizza  was the main food item for this party. Although the cake was pretty good too.

Blowing out the candles
A rather handsome family

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Helen was spending her Easter weekend laying new decking outside her apartment.

Helen’s decking

If you want decking, let us know and we’ll put you in touch. Well done Helen!

On Easter Sunday, we went for a walk along the river and again bemoaned the fact that the Sun was out but the cold wind was winning. For the first time since about November, we saw the heron. In fact, we saw two or three herons. Not sure because numbers 2 and 3 might have been the same one, they do look very similar.

1,2 or 3 herons

We don’t really like the cold wind and by this time of year, it really should be a bit warmer. But at least it’s not snowing here like it is in Anchorage. Yes, Leslie is missing out on what must surely be the largest ever Winter in the lrgaest state in the union.

At home, our evening meal was enhanced by the presence of a bipedal carrot. Very nice, very tasty.


Another day, another walk, this time to Chorlton Water Park, partially along the river.

Chorlton Water Park
Where ya bin?

The bin seemed happy to see us, as well as the joggers and dog walkers and jog walkers and doggers, not to mention the cyclists on the path. Next time, if we’re up and about that early in the morning, we’ll be taking a picnic breakfast with us.

Week 2 as a member of the choir, and when I was about to leave home, the rain was torrential. Not wanting to sit and sing looking like a drowned rat, I drove to the Social Club. And I’m glad I did, because when I left, it was bitterly cold outside, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed walking home in that! As for the singing itself, I was much more conscious this week of my drone not quite being in tune with the other tenors.

The last time I appeared on a podcast was December 2019, so it was a joy to join Danny Baker and Louise Pepper again this week for the Treehouse Podcast episode 324.

Because of the Zoom call, I was late for the walk on Wednesday but I eventually caught up with the other walkers. Back at Boxx2Boxx, it was nice to see Jill back, I don’t think I’ve seen her since before she went into the jungle for I’m a Celebrity. As usual, she was very generous with her time, and was happy to share her Euros medal with the children.

Jill Scott making some children very happy

Don’t talk to us about the Thursday walk. Liesel and I went along but nobody else did. So we followed the route to the best of our memory, but it’s surprising how most woods look alike and Wythenshawe’s residential roads are all very similar too. I suppose the lesson here is, when someone takes you for a walk in a new area, pay closer attention to where you’re going.

And don’t mention the Friday walk, it was cancelled this week.

But despite getting in a few tens of thousands of steps this week, I did spend some time on the computer, trying to get a bit ahead with the radio shows. This week’s theme was Puns, Parodies and Spoofs, two hours of wonderful music not to be taken too seriously. Be the first on your block to listen to it here.

The Long and Winding Road

The three of us drove over to Jenny’s on a beautiful Saturday morning. After William’s success last week, we thought it would be nice to watch William and Martha swimming again. We all walked down the road to the pool  and were entertained by two young but very competent swimmers for half an hour. I feel good in a special way, I’m in love and it’s a sunny day. Walking back afterwards, we passed some really lovely gardens, well-tended and for a brief moment, I wished we still had a garden.

A host of golden daffodils

A lot of daffodils are now past their best-before date, but there are still a few bright patches here and there. Little darlin’, it’s been a long cold lonely Winter, little darlin’, it feels like years since it’s been here. It really is uplifting to be out and about in the sunshine, even if it’s not that warm. It is strange to be walking along, feeling the heat of the Sun on your back while feeling a cold wind on your face.

Later in the day, we met up with the family at Quarry Bank Mill for a quick walk. Martha and William followed the trail which entailed some fun activities such as doing star jumps and even a wheelbarrow race. Desmond has a barrow in the market place, as they say.

Wheelbarrow race

The really exciting part, though was at the end. On completion of the nine tasks, they received an Easter egg. I wish I’d picked up an instruction sheet, now. I am the egg-man, they are the egg-men, I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.

Trip-trapping over the bridge

At this point, Martha and William were miles ahead of us so-called grown-ups. They were heading for the playground. We’d had coffee and they’d had ice-cream so the energy levels were high. I get high with a little help from my friends.

Martha up the pole

In the evening, Liesel, Leslie and I visited our local theatre to watch Northenden Players Theatre Club’s production of Ladies Down Under. It was a full house, well, the capacity is 60 I think, and the play was very well performed. She’s got a ticket to ride. The action mainly takes place near Uluru, and mention was made of staying underground at Coober Pedy, bringing back memories of my trip there in 2002. The set was very clever too, very atmospheric.

Uluru at Northenden Theatre

Its been a long time, so I paid a visit to Rose Hill Woods, one of Northenden’s best kept secrets. There’s no getting away from the hum of the motorway, but it’s a very peaceful place. Especially when there are no other people about. And I did wonder whether the proximity of the M56 and its noise was responsible for the birds seemingly singing more loudly than usual. And your bird can sing. I’d forgotten how well made the path was too.

Watkin Memorial Stone

This is a memorial to Absalom Watkin who campaigned for electoral reform and for the repeal of the corn laws. It’s amazing to think that a UK government would bring in laws that result in food shortages, huge profits for wealthy landowners along with widespread poverty. It would never happen in the 21st century, of course. Baby you’re a rich man.

Absalom’s Bridge

Liesel’s a fantastic cook and so it was, she prepared some Indian dishes which we took over to Jenny’s. Don’t worry, we had been invited, it wasn’t a case of just turning up and thrusting our food upon them. It was of course delicious. All together now, all together now. And we had a lot of fun with the children and their marble run. I suspect there are still some marbles under the sofa.

William and Martha

As we’re ‘in training’ for a long walk next month, Liesel and I wandered over to Wythenshawe Park, and walked the boundaries. This Park isn’t as hilly as the long trek we’re planning, but it’s better than nothing. The long and winding road, that leads to your door, will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before. It’s good the see the path being used by cyclists, not so good to see piles of evidence that horses also use it.

Wythenshawe Park

We stopped for coffee just before closing time and as we were leaving the park, we saw smoke over by the field with the horses. We think it was probably someone with a disposable barbecue and we suspect the evidence will still be there. Good job there are litter pickers in the park, eh? Help! You know I need someone! Help!

I joined the choir. Yes, I know I can’t sing for toffee but, ‘do something scary every day’. I met Dan last week, had a chat, he kept a straight face as he said I should come along, so I went along. There were far more people than expected, between 50 and 60, and about 10 of us tenors. I’m a tenor! Fortunately, Roger and Nick are very loud tenors and my warblings are nicely drowned out. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.

Sadly, here is some sad news. I’m too emotional to write my own words, so here are details straight from the source.

The old oak tree

Over 500 years old, this is the oldest oak in the Dunham Massey deer park: it even predates the historic buildings!

As you can see this special oak is starting to lean towards the moat, this is due to a variety of factors from root compaction to recent storms, as well as the sheer age of this veteran tree.

The Rangers started work in Autumn 2022, thinning some of the older, more ridged branches from the crown of the tree to reduce the sail area, working to prevent the wind from catching it as much as possible. Thinning the top branches has also helped to take some of the weight off, lessening pressure on the root system

Next, in February 2023, they installed a prop to help support the weight of the oak, as this section of the tree will get heavier as the top foliage starts to grow. Help! You know I need someone! Help!

The propped up oak tree

It was another very pleasant walk, again with cold wind in one direction and warm Sun in the other. And I say it’s alright.

Liesel, Leslie and cherry blossom
Snake’s head fritillary

Leslie, Liesel and I joined the walks on Wednesday and Thursday, warm Sun, cold wind, not as cold maybe but noticeable. I can’t measure it scientifically, but it seems to me that ever since I had Covid last year, I have noticed the cold much sooner than I used to, even the slightest of cold draughts. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind, possessing and caressing me.

Sale isn’t that far away, but we’ve seldom been there. We had a lunch date with some folks from the choir, and their spouses. Spouses? Spice? And all the people that come and go stop and say hello. Alanya in Sale was very nice and before we went in, we had a wander around the town. Lots of charity shops and betting shops, even a games arcade.

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Liesel and I left Mom at home while we went for an early evening walk along the river. It was very pleasant, mainly because there were so few other people around! Not even on the golf course. In fact, more than pleasant. In fact, it was so warm, we took our coats off, and that’s a first for this year. I also should have worn shorts. Let’s hope for a nice, long, warm Summer. Here comes the sun king, everybody’s laughing, everybody’s happy, here comes the sun king.

Selfie of the day

That was the week leading up to Easter, so guess what the radio show was about this week? That’s right: Japan. Some Japanese music, plus songs about Japan or that mention the land of the rising Sun. If you missed the Wythenshawe Radio transmission, you can catch up here.

One major disappontment this week. One day, I went out for a walk and left the pedometer at home so there is no step count available. Not once, but twice that day. This will severely affect any statistical analysis that may ensue.


The highlight of the week was the first classical concert I’ve been to for a very long time. My friend and fellow Wythenshawe Radio presenter Hayley is a professional soprano and she was a guest soloist with St George’s Singers. The choir performed Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonnelle.

St George’s Singers

No, I didn’t sing along, not being entirely familiar with the tunes. There is more about this piece of music at the end of this post. But I was listening and watching the performers closely. Some of the choir kept their eyes on the conductor more or less all the time. Others were focused on their manuscript, just glancing up every now and then.

It was a delight, after all this time, to see Hayley in her natural habitat. The venue was St Michael and All Angels Church, Bramhall, so not too far away from home.

Terence Ayebare, Alexander Grainger, Jessica Conway and Hayley Swanton, soloists

I suppose one highlight of the week was the start of British Summertime. We put the clocks forward, giving us an extra hour of daylight in the evenings. Which means of course, we can see the gloomy, dark, menacing, grey clouds for a little longer before bedtime each night. We are surprised by the odd, pretty sunset, but not this week.

Blossoming tree sneaking up on a telegraph pole

Well done William! He earned his 5m backstroke swimming badge this week, and that must qualify as the highlight of the week.

William with badge

The highlight of the week was of course the radio show. The theme this week was Cats, even though most of the cats being sung about are actually people. Three cool cats, what’s new pussycat and that sort of thing. I didn’t forget lions, tigers or panthers. If you’re feline so inclined, catch up with the show here.

I am, of course, teasing. The actual, real, biggest highlight of the week was the return of Liesel from Alaska, hooray! I say ‘from Alaska’ but in fact, much of the state came back with her. In fact, she had so much stuff from Anchorage in her bags, that she and her Mom had to return home to Northenden, from the airport,  in an industrial sized taxi. And yes, sometimes I wish our little block of flats had a lift.

Liesel and Leslie about to depart from Anchorage

A couple of days of jetlag and everything’s right with the world. I am once again enjoying Liesel’s culinary expertise which makes a change from the glorified snacks that I’ve been preparing for myself. Welcome home Liesel and welcome to our humble abode, Leslie!

Liesel missed the dentist so much, she just had to pay a visit at the earliest opportunity. Hopefully the pearly whites will last a long, long time.

Walking around Northenden this week was uneventful. The river’s still quite high but the really bad and sad news is that we haven’t seen our heron for quite a while. I hope he’s having a good time upstream with a nice lady heron.

Liesel and Leslie went along but I missed the Friday walk this week, and it wasn’t because I needed time away from them! No, I had another meeting with Dave from Thrive Manchester and Mary at Boxx 2 Boxx. Afterwards, I had a quick chat with Dan the choir-master and I think I said I might go along next week and join the choir. I know, I should probably take along a box of earplugs for the other members, but, like I often say, I’ll try anything once.

Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle is a musical composition written by the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini in 1863, later in his life. Despite its name (which translates to “little solemn mass”), the piece is quite grand and complex, requiring two pianos and a harmonium, and is known for its intricate harmonies and melodic beauty.

The piece was originally written for private performance and was not intended for public performance. However, Rossini later authorized a public performance of the work in 1864, which was received with great success.

The Petite Messe Solennelle is considered one of Rossini’s most important works and is regarded as a masterpiece of sacred music. It has been performed and recorded numerous times by various orchestras, choirs, and soloists around the world.