Wedding Weekend

Sometimes you go to bed at the end of the day and you have no recollection of anything that happened. One day this week passed in such a manner. It was a Thursday. We did some more tidying up, we started packing for the weekend ahead, and that’s about it. I took zero photographs, which is very unusual. A busy, productive day but totally unmemorable. I don’t know why I mentioned it really. I’m sorry I wasted your time on this paragraph.

Jump to Friday. Pauline and Andrew drove to the airport to pick up Robert, who’d flown in from Vancouver. Yes, Liesel and I only saw him fairly recently, but this was the first reunion with his mother, my sister Pauline, since he moved to Canada all those years ago.

Now we are six. For the first time, there are six people staying in our flat overnight, which seems to have shrunk in size. Rob drew the short straw (we drew it for him) and he slept on an inflatable bed in the office/studio, curled around the legs of the desk.

Before settling down for the night though, we had fish and chips from the local chippy. We bought far too many chips. Which is why, for breakfast the following day, we had egg and chips.

And so, after years of anticipation and planning, the Wedding Weekend began. I am pleased to announce that my daughter Jenny was marrying Liam at an event postponed for a couple of years because of the pandemic.

We woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning. After our stodgy breakfast, Pauline, Andrew, Rob and I drove to the venue, Knockerdown Cottages, near Ashbourne, on the cusp of the Peak District National Park in the Derbyshire Dales. Yes, what a beautiful part of the country. Just look at the view!

The view from Knockerdown

After a lovely drive, despite a couple of diversions, we arrived and parked at the venue at about 11.45. I saw Liam and walked over to say hello. I was immediately told to go to the back of the line over there, to join Jenny, as they were timing the walk up the aisle. Well, a trail of hessian mats on the grass, that led to a gazebo in front of which the ceremony would be conducted. I felt bad that the others were unloading the car without my help. (Afterwards, not at the time, I was in a whirlwind out of my control.) We had a lot of stuff. For the weekend and for a couple of weeks afterwards too. We spent much of the weekend meeting old friends. Danielle, Louise, Katie and Sarah, Jenny’s friends from school, along with the leader of the gang, Helen, were all there leading the procession, followed by Martha and William, with Jenny and myself walking slowly behind. This wasn’t really a full-blown rehearsal. Another long-time friend, Ross, took us through the ceremony, advising us who stands and sits where and when and of course all I can think of is how I can possibly will probably mess the whole thing up.

Meanwhile, back at home, Liesel and Leslie drove to the airport to pick up Michael (Sarah’s brother) and Astrid, visiting from Norway. After a quick trip to Quarry Bank Mill, they joined us at Knockerdown later in the afternoon.

I was glad our car was amongst the first to arrive in the morning, we could be useful for a bit. We moved bottles of wine and fizz from one cottage to another, we moved some furniture. As a former postie, I was given the task of delivering the Welcome letters to each of the cottages.

Most of the guests arrived soon after 3pm, as did the groceries we’d ordered. Ours came from Ocado as usual, but during the course of the afternoon, Tesco and Sainsbury were represented.

The venue includes a games room and a swimming pool. I confirmed at various times over the weekend that I am still no good at pool (it was a manky table, but I don’t think it made much difference), table tennis (the table seemed much smaller than I remember from my youth) and table football (despite spending too much time on the game while at university).

With about 75 guests in one place for the weekend, there had to be a disaster. And the first one sadly fell to Martha.

Rescuing a mermaid from the tree

For some reason, she threw her mermaid into a tree. It took several people, several sticks, a ball, a pool cue and a broom to finally dislodge the doll from the arboreal resting place.

Pizza Pi turned up and set up his wood stove in the courtyard, right outside our cottage. Nice and convenient and we wondered, unnecessarily, would our cottage be filled with smoke? The pizzas were very tasty, and were accompanied by a variety of leaves and salad.

It was good to see Michael and Astrid again after all these years. Also here were several members from Liam’s wider family including Una’s sisters and Alan’s brother Lawrence.

In the evening, everyone sat down and ate more pizza and snacks and drank copious amounts of alcohol and non-alcohol. Matt, a very entertaining friend of Jenny and Liam, took us through a number of fun party games.

People playing silly games

Modesty prevents me from saying that our team, number 10, won. After each task, someone had to run up to Matt and declare their team number. Our table was the closest. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t the best! Obviously.

After a busy, exciting and fun day, of course it was quite hard to get to sleep that night. Finally, after all this time, I was within hours of delivering the Father of the Bride speech. Those who know me know I am not a natural extrovert, I don’t enjoy being the centre of attention and I certainly don’t perform in front of more than four people at a time. So the butterflies were slowly gathering together in my stomach.

When I emerged from my pit on Sunday morning, the kitchen was a hive of industry. Liesel and Pauline were making sandwiches for the children’s lunchboxes, and Leslie was making use of her origami skills, folding and sealing the lunch boxes with all the other lovely components.

I ate a hearty breakfast, spent some time alone going through the speech for the hundredth time. I’d been working on it for nearly three years, on and off, so of course, by now, it made no sense, it was absolute rubbish. Fortunately my secret proofreader/editor has helped out recently, thank you, Helen!

Another disaster. Someone gave me some cash with which to pay the bar staff when they arrived. Liesel saw me put it in my pocket. Later on, I couldn’t find it. I asked around, I retraced all my steps, but no. People agreed with me that this new-fangled plastic money is so easy to lose, when you pull something out of your pocket, for instance. The bar staff were paid, so don’t worry about that.

Three days later, in a place a long way, away, I bent down to put my trainers on. There was some sort of obstruction in my left shoe. Yes, you’re ahead of me. It was the cash I now remember putting there for safe keeping. I think it’s fair to say, pre-speech nerves adversely affect the memory.

Back to Sunday. The children had a Hearts Trail to follow, a series of 18 heart-shaped wooden plaques carefully hidden by adults.

Wooden heart (not the Elvis song)

William started well but later, I witnessed one of Liam’s aunts completing his sheet on his behalf. Shh, don’t tell anyone.

Another disaster, oh no. William was stung by a wasp. He soon got over the shock but that was something else we could do without.

While chatting with Uncle Lawrence by the pool, I saw Pauline walk by with a couple of the lunch boxes. I was going to help deliver them, but alas, I’d missed my opportunity.

The weather couldn’t have been better for an outdoor event. A bit cloudy but sunny and with bright blue skies.

I wandered around the site for a while, and even though I knew Jenny and Liam wouldn’t be going anywhere soon, I wondered whether I should attach a ‘Just Married’ sign to the back of this old vehicle, for their post-ceremony departure.

Mouldy old plough

My moment arrived. Time to have a shower and put my wedding attire on. I’d picked up my suit from Best Man in Stockport on Thursday: one of the tasks that I seem to have performed on autopilot.

I was pleased that my clothes all fitted well, even though they felt unusually tight.

Guests made their way to the gazebo where seats had been placed. I was pacing up and down in my cottage, waiting to be summoned.

Someone gave me a pretty little boutonniere to wear. Another potential calamity. In my nervous state, I was bound to prick my finger on the pin and get blood all over my pristine, new, white shirt. But no: this particular disaster was averted and I continued to wait.

Gazing longingly towards Jenny’s cottage, waiting, waiting

Forlornly, I looked through the window towards the bride’s cottage while waiting for the call. Many other people were coming and going but all I could do was walk around the living room again. And again.

I obtained some new spectacles recently. Same prescription as my everyday ones, but these don’t turn dark in sunlight. I remembered to wear them. I would not be ruining photographs today by having shades in front of my eyes.

I paced up and down a bit more. This was like waiting for a baby to be born or something. Exciting, but nerve-wracking.

The bridesmaids all looked gorgeous, the guests all looked splendid, my family all looked very smart and well-turned out. I probably looked OK but as I wore out the carpet in our cottage, of course I had my doubts.

At last, I was called to meet the bride. She looked stunning. I knew she would, but even so, I had to swallow something hard and jagged.

Father seeing the bride in all her bridal gorgeousness for the first time

Thanks to Ross, the celebrant, for taking this picture. I’d left my phone behind in the cottage. Mainly because I wouldn’t be able to take pictures for the next hour or two, but also because the pockets in my hired jacket had been sewn shut.

I accompanied Jenny from her cottage all the way to the gazebo without once tripping over my own feet, despite wearing brogues, which I’m not used to and which are longer than my trainers. In addition, I didn’t stand on Jenny’s dress while various girls tried to keep the train under control. Jenny and I followed William at a distance. He was behind Martha who was keeping a good distance behind the bridesmaids.

Other potential faux pas were avoided. My trousers didn’t fall down. I did not have a coughing nor a sneezing fit. And I think I was in the right place at all times.

After turning past a certain tree, Jenny and I heard the processional music, an instrumental version of Elton John’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight, from The Lion King.

After delivering Jenny safely to Liam, and shaking his hand, I went to stand next to Liesel in the front row. Ross soon told us all to sit down, and I breathed a sigh of relief: so far, I had not messed up.

The Humanist ceremony was really nice, and I look forward to reading Ross’s words at leisure later on. They were delivered beautifully at the time, but half my mind was elsewhere. Martha performed her reading really well, and so did Liam’s Mum, Una.

During the slow walk back, we each picked up a small bag of (biodegradable) confetti with which to shower the newly married couple and their children, mainly for the benefit of the photographer, Marc.

(I’ll post one or two of Marc’s photos at a later date, but as mentioned above, my phone wasn’t with me during these events.)

Between the wedding ceremony and the Breakfast, we enjoyed drinks and snacks in the courtyard again, conveniently close to our cottage. I collected my speech, printed out in a large font and glued to a set of seven cards. I checked I had this set of cards in my pocket a dozen times. I checked they were in the right order another dozen times.

Guests gathered for the Wedding Breakfast in, what felt to me at the time, the hottest room in all of England. The Sun was pouring in, I was still wearing my suit and I was trying to suppress my state of nervousness.

I looked around and reminded myself, as Chris had said, that these hundreds of people are on my side, that they’ll listen politely while looking forward to the other speeches. Writing this now, a few days later, I realise that my lack of confidence is really showing through. Hundreds of people? Well, seventy-five including about twenty-five children.

Chris’s entrance into the room was quite flamboyant. Jenny and Liam followed with a little more dignity.

I was introduced by Matt, I stood up and read from my crib cards for four of the longest and quickest minutes of my life. It went very well. I’m glad I raised a toast to Jenny’s Mum, Sarah. I was delighted when people laughed at the right time, at the jokes. Again, I’m pleased to say my worst fears were not fulfilled: I didn’t drop the cards, I didn’t read them in the wrong order, I didn’t move away from the microphone and my trousers didn’t fall down.

Modesty forbids me from mentioning how many people came up to me afterwards and the following day to say how much they’d enjoyed my speech, that I’d hit the right tone, the right mix of seriousness and humour, that my nerves hadn’t shown at all.

Helen gave a speech too, with a little help from Martha. She was followed by Liam and by Chris himself.

We guests had selected our meals some months ago, and like most other people, I’d forgotten what I’d opted for, so thank goodness for the personalised menu on the table in front of us. The food was very good, prepared and served by some friendly, helpful caterers. I enjoyed my spinach and artichoke pie and mash with a parmesan crisp served with various beans and peas. This was followed by Bakewell tart with ginger cream which I ate before I had a chance to take its picture.

An ex-Bakewell tart with ginger cream

Yes, I had retrieved my phone by this point. So of course, I shot Jenny and Liam too.

Jenny and Liam

Between the end of the Breakfast and the evening activities, I think I just socialised, and enjoyed having successfully delivered a Father of the Bride’s speech.

Jenny threw the bouquet over her shoulder towards all the single ladies.

Martha with her bouquet

Martha was delighted to pick (some of) it up but I’m not sure whether she knows the significance.

The Sun was beginning to set and this was a great photo opportunity for Marc and for the rest of us.

Sunset, Jenny and her supporters

I’d forgotten there were so many formalities at a wedding. I was quite happy to grab a slice of cake and tuck in. But there was the matter of the official Cutting of the Cake.

Cutting the cake

Martha was on the scene and very quickly announced ‘I want that bit’.

A little later, Jenny and Liam took to the floor for the first dance. The first song I remember the band, Funtime Frankies, playing was Summer of ’69. The dancefloor soon filled but my feet kept themselves to themselves, at least until a pint of beer later. The band were really good, performing old songs with great skill, and I know it’s an old-farty thing to say, but they were really quite loud.

Jenny and Liam dancing

During the evening, we made several visits to the bar for a wide range of beverages. And water.

As darkness settled on Knockerdown, I think we were all still a bit high from the emotion if not from the alcohol. More food was available and I feel sorry for those folks who mistook the jalapeños for mushrooms. Hello Andrew!

Michael and I had a nice chat about Sarah and the wider family. He and Astrid went to bed and I moseyed on over to the After Party, much to Helen’s surprise, I think. I had a bottte of beer, very rare for me at around midnight, before hitting the sack myself. I said good night to the new Mr and Mrs W.

Breakfast for me on the day after consisted of veggie sausage roll, although bacon butties were available for the carnivores. This plus a few cups of tea were very welcome. But I think one of the most memorable sights this day was seeing that Martha didn’t change out of her pyjamas all day. She and all the bridesmaids and Jenny and Helen were wearing personalised robes and I think Martha just didn’t want to take hers off.

We had fun and games in the field including a 9-hole Crazy Golf course that materialised early in the morning. I played two rounds. Once against Pauline and Andrew and once with Martha, Emily and Papa. On both occasions, I got the highest score so I think that makes me the winner.

Crazy Jenny and Liam playing Golf (*words to be rearranged)
William captured by rogue space hoppers

William played tag with me and Emily for a while. There was a short race course for space hopppering around. The track itself was William’s safe ‘base’ while the island in the middle was ‘super-base’. William’s other job, which he took upon himself, was to carry a crate of bubble mix around. Bubbles were blown.

William bearing bubbles

There wasn’t enough food here this weekend, thought absolutely nobody at all. So it was lovely to welcome the barbecue in the afternoon. At this point, the wind got up and blew one of the gazebos across the patio. I ran over to unload the children from the bouncy castle, just in case, and the rain followed soon after. I’m glad I had my ice cream before the rain set in, since the freezers were outside, exposed to the weather: and wet weather and electricity are not a good pairing.

Weddings are of course mainly about the people, so there will follow a few mug shots, just some of the guests. I hope they don’t put you off your next meal.

Rob, Pauline and Andrew
Martha
Michael and Astrid

Shortly after this picture was taken, so were the subjects. Liesel and Leslie drove them back to Manchester Airport for their return flight to Bergen.

Liam and Matt

They missed some of the early evening entertainment which included children’s Pass the Parcel and a Pub Quiz. Liesel returned just as the last question was being posed, which is the only reason our team didn’t win. In fact, the winners were the team led by Liam and Jenny which seems only fair. The prize consisted of a few items of old tut previously donated by Liam and Jenny.

Annabel, Martha, Emily and William

The end of the day meant lots of goodbyes of course and I for one was glad of a slightly earlier night in bed.

In the morning, we had to vacate the cottages by 10am. We then hung around a bit to help Jenny and Liam load up their van and Helen and a couple of others to take their stuff out. I think we finally hit the road at about 11 o’clock, having agreed to meet up with Pauline, Andrew and Robert in Bakewell. But that story’s for another day.

Several days later, I can still feel the positive vibes from this wedding weekend, and I mean no disrespect to those who organised and attended my own weddings when I say that I think this was the best, most enjoyable wedding I’ve ever been to. So well planned by Jenny and Liam. Thanks a million to them and thanks to everyone else for making it all so much fun. I can’t wait to see Marc’s professional photos and share one or two here, such as:

Beautiful

Birds, flowers and bees

A message appeared in my Gmail inbox telling me that I could receive no further emails because I’d used up my free allocation of 15GB cloud storage. I would have to clear out whatever’s there, or pay for more storage. I don’t use that account much, so it’s no big deal, but <<something>> now keeps nagging me to either delete those files or pay for more storage. To be honest, I wasn’t aware that I was using any cloud space belonging to Google. But it seems that, until April this year, <<something>> had been uploading my photos to Google’s cloud storage. I probably ticked the wrong box at some point. So, my task was to delete those photos so that I could continue to enjoy whatever else Gmail has to offer.

And yes, I am aware, nobody really likes Gmail, for a variety of different reasons.

My first concern was that, if I deleted photos from the cloud, would <<something>> also delete them from my phone? In the mistaken belief that I didn’t want them at all? (It’s not such a crazy idea. I remember when Apple told me that if I wanted to add some specific music to my iTunes library, it would have to delete everything that was already there. Because, obviously, when I buy a new book, I have to burn all my old ones.)

So, I decided to download whatever was in the cloud. And this is not straightforward. I was doing this at leisure. But if I were downloading everything, my backup, because I’d lost my phone, I would be really annoyed. There should be a big red button saying ‘Download everything’  and it would do the job, even if it were to take several hours. But no. I could download one item at a time. Or I could select up to 500 at a time and it would, eventually, download a .zip file. But there were tens of thousands of pictures. I want them all in one go.

After a lot of Googling (ironic, I know), I found a tool called Google Takeout. This allows you to download everything, but if there’s too much (there was) it will break it up into smaller chunks.

It would prepare these files for downloading and then send an email with the relevant link, which would actually download those files.

But, I refer you to the first line. I can’t receive any emails right now because I’ve used up all my storage.

So that’s my silly-old-fart technophobe Luddite whinge of the week.

Other whinges here over the years include rants against fly-tipping. So I felt bad dragging the old futon downstairs and leaving it out on the pavement. It had to be done, we need the space.

Farewell, faithful old futon

But have no fear. I had arranged for it to be taken away and sure enough, a couple of hours later, a brace of strong young men arrived with a van full of other people’s dead mattresses, and they took it away. They took photos of it and our front door, so someone, somewhere, has a very interesting photo album.

I drove to the airport and collected Liesel and her Mom after their mammoth flights from Anchorage via Frankfurt. It was good to see them again after all this time (2 weeks), so to celebrate, when we got home, we went straight to bed! Well, it was nearly midnight by this point.

Two days later, I returned to the airport to collected Pauline and Andrew after their mammoth flights from Christchurch via Singapore. It was good to see them again after all this time (4 years) and to celebrate, when we got home, we all went for a walk.

These few days were very hot, so it was no real surprise to see a couple of people messing about in the river. And I don’t mean in a boat.

Man in the Mersey

The gate to the local allotments was open, unusually, so we wandered in for a quick look. We got caught though, as the Committee were having an Important Meeting and we Unauthorised People were not at all welcome. So glad we didn’t pick a couple of pears from the tree near the entrance.

Blackberries are out, some very nice and some quite bitter, but the only way to tell is to eat them. Andrew and I scrumped apples from the churchyard. Mine was delicious, Andrew’s was mouldy. Luck o’ the draw.

We walked around a bit, relaxed, and reorganised the flat to now accommodate 5 people, for a short while. Phew, it was hot!

Liesel drove her Mom to Fletcher Moss Gardens for coffee with the ladies of the WI while Pauline, Andrew and I walked over, along the river, to join them. The banks of the Mersey are being mown, because it’s that time of year, and I think it helps later on with any flooding issues, should there be any.

The best thing about Fletcher Moss? The public toilet is now open again after being closed due to Covid. Proof that the pandemic is, indeed, over. If only it were, if only it were.

The five of us drove over to Bridgewater Gardens, the RHS property, that Liesel’s seen, but only once. And what a delightful place to wander around. It’s only been there for a couple of years or so

Cardoon or artichoke thistle

There are some unusual plants, but all very well presented. We were hoping that the fresh air and especially the sunlight might help the travellers regain their natural circadian rhythm: there’s a lot of sleep going missing somewhere!

Vervena
Liesel and Leslie
Green wall

This Green Wall was interesting. I thought maybe we could do something like this at home, grow some plants up the walls of the block, since we don’t have a garden, but two things: I would probably lose interest soon after its implementation, leaving all the work to Liesel. And the Management Company would almost certainly object.

Sunflower with bees

There were plenty of bees around, which is always good to see. Wasps, not so much of course. And despite the signs advertising butterflies, I didn’t see any on this occasion. I’m sure that when some of the old farm fields have recovered, and they’ve reverted to being wild meadows, it will be a great place for insect spotting.

The location of this RHS site is Worsley. We’d been here before, but I didn’t recognise the name. Other than it bringing to mind Lucy, of that ilk. On the way home, we took a small detour to show Pauline and Andrew Worsley Delph, a local monument. Near the water was a heron, which I videoed because it looked like it was about to take flight. So of course, it didn’t.

Andrew spotted something, with Pauline

How many attempts do you think it takes before I manage to get a picture containing my own image plus a specific object? Far too many. All for the sake of a lame pun too. Remember the sweet counter at English Woolworths all those years ago?

Pick and Mick

No, you’re right, it really wasn’t worth all that effort. But a lot of the artefacts here remind us that it once was a very intensive, industrial area.

Another place we haven’t been for a while is Chester Zoo. Time to rectify that. And in the process, take advantage of the opportunity for all our overseas visitors to meet up with some young children, but not in an enclosed space, like someone’s house.

Helen (from Australia) took Martha and William to the zoo. Liesel (from Northenden) drove there with her Mom, Leslie (from Anchorage). And I accompanied Pauline and Andrew (visiting from New Zealand) after they’d picked up their rental vehicle. It’s up to one of them to document the actual shenanigans surrounding the collection of their vehicle, but in summary: what a palaver! We’d gone to the drop-off point rather then reception at first. I can blame the GPS, or the bus parked right in front of the Reception sign, which, to be honest, wasn’t all that prominent even without buses blocking the view. For more details, contact Pauline or Andrew. But we got there in the end.

Martha and William were in good form, meeting several people new to them in one go must be a bit daunting for a young child. Crumbs, I find it hard meeting lots of new people all in one go.

I didn’t know whether we’d see any animals or not, we often don’t with Martha and William, so I was pleased to snap this bird soon after we entered the zoo.

Starling

I had to stand on tiptoes and hold the phone up high, but I captured these giant otters having a nap in the sunshine.

Giant otters
Ibis

How strange, to see a pair of bright red ibises hiding amongst the flamingoes, we thought.

In the end, we saw plenty of animals today, we stopped for a picnic lunch, we played in the playground and, best of all, we avoided the shop and the bat cave, being indoor venues. Martha and William now have new cuddlies from Alaska, a sea otter and a mammoth respectively. Sadly, the mammoth has a fractured incisor. That’s what happens when you swing a mammoth round by its tusk!

After Helen took the children home, Liesel and Mom left too, leaving me and my sister and brother-in-law to have some fun our own. We found the aviaries and managed to get quite close to some of the birds.

Bali myna

I don’t know if they expected to be fed, but if so, they were disappointed by us three.

Java sparrow

While wandering around the Islands, a part of the zoo that we seldom reach, we noticed slow boats passing by underneath. Let’s go for a boat ride, we all said in unsion, with harmonies very similar to the Bee Gees. So we did. A nice 20-minute, slow journey, along the Lazy River.

Lazy River boat

From the boat, we caught sight of the orang utans but we saw them more clearly afterwards.

Orang utans

But what a lovely family day that was, if a little tiring.

Helen, Mick, Andrew, Liesel, Leslie, Pauline,Martha, William

And what a treat supper was: bangers and mash.

I hope you get a chance to listen to Mick’s Matrimonial Music Mix, two hours of songs about Love and Marriage. Visit Mixcloud and the new shows will appear here. It’s on Wythenshawe Radio WFM at 2pm Friday.

So, why that particular theme? Because my baby girl, Jenny, is getting married at the weekend. So it’s a very exciting time, we’re all busy preparing for a long weekend of jollity and fun and a wedding ceremony. Aha, you’re thinking, this is why people are arriving from all around the planet. Stay tuned for wedding antics and everything!

Adventures with hair

I don’t think I’d even heard of Clifton Country Park before being invited to join the family there. It’s in Stockport which I thought was just a dirty old town with a Media City to brighten it up. But no, there is green space and a wonderful playground.

It’s easy to find, unlike the pay stations. But that’s because they don’t actually exist: very unusually, there’s no charge to park here. Don’t tell anyone, they might get ideas.

It was lovely to see Jenny and Liam and the children and their Auntie Helen and it was really nice to see Amy again after all this time too. Amy is one of Helen’s school chums and I haven’t seen her since her now 13-year old was a wee toddler. 

Amy and Helen

Here’s the latest school photograph and I apologise for the flasher in the background, I didn’t notice him at the time.

As you can see, it was a gorgeous day and Martha and William made good use of most of the play equipment.

Martha the swinger

Well, we all did.

Martha, William, Helen, Jenny, Mick, Liam on the rope swing

Helen is still plying her trade as a hairdresser and at home, she was more than happy to shear us all. Anyone would think there’s a big family event coming up, or something.

Meanwhile in Anchorage, Liesel is trying to do too much in the time left before she returns home to the UK.

Liesel and Jyoti : Ladies of leisure lounging about but just for a moment

The first blackberry of the year was disappointingly bitter. I think other people may have picked the best ones.

A blackberry

The apples growing in the church yard looked good though, but I did not go scrumping on this occasion. I left them for the people who turn up each week to tidy up the church yard and cemetery.

St Wilfrid’s apples
A goose washing his hair in the river

I didn’t get my 10,000 steps in one day this week, but I certainly burnt some calories. I walked up and down the stairs probably a dozen times, mostly carrying heavy, bulky stuff to take to the storage unit. Anyone would think I’m trying to make space in our luxury apartment for visitors or something. During this heatwave, any form of activity is really difficult. But then, sitting around doing nothing in this heat is quite exhaustng too!

The walking group on Wednesday was very popular this week, with far more participants then usual and, unusual for me, I had an iced coffee back at the café. Yes, it was a hot day.

In the afternoon, I spent some time with Martha and William, blowing bubbles, in their garden.

William’s back and Martha’s bubbles

Their blackberries looked much nicer than the ones in the woods. But for some reason, I didn’t actually pick any.

Mostly this week though, I was ticking things off the ‘to-do’ list. I’ll never get to the end though, because part-way through some projects, I’ll think of one or two other things I need to do. Or, I’d like to do. One day, I must go back to the ‘big to-do’ list that has been going since about 2006, when I very successfully collated all my then on-going lists into one single mega-list. Well, it seemed important at the time.

Recording the WFM radio show this week was a bit quicker than last week, only interrupted by a couple of phone calls, which is unusual. The theme this week is ‘Doubles’, by which I mean musicians who have the same name as another. Or groups with duplicate names.

Evil peas

On my final full day in Anchorage, Liesel and I spent some quality time together in Klaus’s office. I used his Mac to determine what was on each of the CDs and DVDs in quite a large pile. One CD had photos from 2012, including our trip to Hawaii. Everyone was there, including Liesel’s parents, Aaron’s family, Liesel’s Aunt Buzz and family, my sister Pauline and Andrew, my daughters Jenny and Helen and her boyfriend Adam. That trip coincided with a visit from President Barack Obama which disrupted a couple of shopping trips and a game of golf played by Adam and Liesel’s cousin Andi’s bloke Steve. It was nice to see the old photos again of course but I forced myself not to be distracted. The other CDs and DVDs were all, as expected, but still disappointingly, blank.

Meanwhile, Liesel was working on her own laptop. Or maybe paying Tetris, I don’t really know, we were sitting back to back.

The plan was to have an Ethiopian meal in the evening with friends. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed and they didn’t return calls, so we resorted to Plan B: Pizza from Moose’s Tooth.

We drove over to Una and Phil’s house and later we were joined by Pam and Owen. Jyoti brought her friend Bill, the first time the rest of us had met him.

It was nice enough to sit outside and eat, so that’s what we did. It’s a bit disconcerting when you’re sitting there, soaking up the Sun, drinking some beer, chatting away and otherwise minding your own business, when a cat leaps up onto the table right in front of you.

The cat sat on the table

We left at about 10, and I bade farewell to everyone, knowing I wouldn’t see most of them again probably until next year. I couldn’t believe how busy the roads were on the way back home, it was like Piccadilly Circus out there.

Not really: empty roads

As we approached home, we saw a moose cross the road a couple of cars in front of us. I tried to get a picture as we passed, but the moose’s bum is just a blur in front of the sunset.

Blurry moose

The most recent post here details my horrendously stressful trip back home. I won’t dwell on it here other than to say it was three days before I felt normal again. Jetlag and lack of sleep don’t help of course, but that was the longest lasting attack of stress, anxiety, panic, that I’ve had for years. I was very conscious on arrival at home to do things that would help me recover. I wasn’t going to do anything that mattered for a while, I certainly wasn’t going to make any important decisions.

So, in no particular order, here are some things that cheered me up over the next few days:
🔴 Watching the last week of the Tour de France, even if the Freeview box decided it wasn’t worth recording the final two days. Oh well, I know who won.
🟠 Watching the England women’s football team beat Germany in the final of the Euros, if for no other reason than we might stop hearing about 1966 now.
🟡 Witnessing Jill Scott swear on the pitch during the game.
🟢 I didn’t see the race, but I was pleased to see that Laura Kenny won a gold medal for the track cycling scratch race at the Commonwealth Games.
🔵 Lying in bed a few times, drifting in and out of sleep, listening to the sound of seagulls outside, imagining I was at the seaside.
🟣 Seeing pictures of Martha and William playing on a beach for real, in the company of the other grandparents.
⚫ Walking by the river Mersey, yet wondering why there weren’t more people out and about: surely they’re not all away on holiday?

Jill Scott being congratulated by the President of the Football Association
Martha, the other Prince William and Papa
Ducks in a row

Oh, and I went for a massage and collected my new spectacles from the optician: Didsbury has everything.

Well, maybe not everything. As far as I know, it doesn’t have a football champion. Northenden does, and I was pleased to meet her in her natural home, Boxx2Boxx.

Jill Scott MBE and Mick

A few days later, Jill appeared on the TV show Football Focus. She talked about working in the café this week and how lots of children had come along to see her and wear the medal…

But Jill wasn’t the only superstar I met this week. Later in the day, I went over to Jenny’s where Martha and William were excited because Auntie Helen had arrived from Australia. She’ll be here for a few weeks, making a few side-trips to exotic places such as Surrey and Greece.

After our evening meal, Martha engaged me in a game, which she made up as she went along. It was based on a drawing she’d made.

Martha’s drawing

The sad faces are Carrot and Fish Finger. The large character is SuperTato or maybe SuePotato. I was chastised for calling him/her/it SuperPotato. In retrospect, that was a ridiculous suggestion. The task was to kill the evil peas: they’re the little chaps in the top right hand corner. When killed, the evil peas miraculously grow hair, which Martha drew in with much force. The one that looks like a rocket isn’t in fact lettuce, it’s Celery. The one with the crown is Broccoli. Or Tomato, depending. If you want more details about this game, please ask Martha, I found it quite hard to keep up with all the rules!

This radio show this week was very tasty, all about food, glorious food.

I had to re-record the voice track because the first attempt had an annoying high-pitched whistle throughout. Now you might think it probably sounded better that way, but no, it really didn’t! The source of the whistle took some tracking down. I turned off all the other electric and electronic equipment, in case something was emitting a whistle that the microphone could pick up even if my ears didn’t. I tried recording with different software, and this was perfect, so the problem was within my preferred sound recorder. And after digging deep through the options, I found the culprit. An inadvertent twitch of the mouse or rogue keystrokes had, at some point, changed one of the settings. You can hear the results of this chicanery here:

Wows and woes

You’ve probably seen this picture before, but it was undoubtedly the best photo I saw this week, the first taken by the James Webb Space Telescope and released to the public.

Gaze in awe

Galaxies 13.5 billion years old with gravitational lens effects, I couldn’t stop gawping at this picture for a very long time.  It reminds me, I still want to be a spaceman.

Closer to home, these poppies brighten up an otherwise dreary part of Northenden.

Poppies

So where else have I been this week? The dentist where again the hygienist asked the same questions about my oral hygiene regime and I reminded her that I am 145 years old and I will continue to look after my teeth and gums as well as I can.

Not sure if it’s more exciting or not, but I took the car in to have a light bulb replaced. Not a 5-minute job as you’d expect, because they had to take out the wheel arch to access it. Why do they design cars that way?

What is definitely more exciting and interesting is that the heron was not in his usual spot this week, on the weir. He was in the river, halfway to Didsbury.

Heron

I went with Jenny and William and Liam to a suit hire shop, funnily enough to hire a suit, for a future event. Later in the week, I went clothes shopping, by myself, not my favourite pastime, and came home with a pair of shirts and a pair of shoes. Not trainers but actual, Italian leather shoes.

Martha and William both enjoyed their sports day at school, and not only because all the children got an ice lolly afterwards. It was a very nice day for the event.

Liesel reported a couple of earthquakes from Anchorage. At home, three pictures fell off the walls within 24 hours. Now, I’m not saying the earthquakes caused this, but what a coincidence. One frame broke and by luck, the glass remained in tact. Another one, I think the Blu Tack just melted in the heat, same as the rest of us.

I may have mentioned my very long to-do list from a few weeks ago. Mostly quick jobs that weren’t so quick in the end for one reason or another, mostly ticked off now, and this week I succeeded in preparing, recording and editing three radio shows. That was quite a feat, and I probably won’t repeat it.

In Anchorage, Liesel has been working with Amrit and Suvan again, staying out of the scorching Alaskan sunshine. There’s a heatwave here in the UK, but Anchorage was much hotter for a while.

I enjoyed a few walks locally this week, including a couple with the well-being walking groups. And in a repeat performance from two months ago, I got up ridiculously early on Saturday morning, to take a taxi to the airport for my flight to Frankfurt and then onwards to Anchorage for a couple of weeks.

This week’s radio show is all adverts. Well, a few actual adverts but mostly songs that have been used in commercials over the years. Sing along to a couple of old favourites!

Gathering in Gatley

As regular readers will be aware, I didn’t quite make it to Glastonbury Festival this year. But I did venture out to Gatley Festival. This has the advantage of being within walking distance. And a lot smaller. Just one performance area, rather than 96 stages. Lots of food stalls and some fairground attractions too. Perfect! Extra points if you noticed the musical allusion.

Eclipse Parade Band

The parade through Gatley consisted of a few bands, some school parties and other local groups. Those of us watching from the pavement (just outside a coffee shop, in my case, unbelievably) then followed the parade to the Festival ground itself, Gatley Hill.

Colin and Hayley from Wythenshawe FM were compèring, although the event wasn’t being broadcast live on the radio. I made up for it: see below.

Just one of many gymnasts plus Hayley talking to the tutor

We were able to enjoy some music and a gymnastics display, we could play rugby and lacrosse, we could have our faces painted and hair coiffed, we could splat the rat and ride a donkey. We could even drink and drive.

Gatley Driving School

There was a very long queue at the beer tent but it was good to see the vegan Indian stall, Bhaji Pala, being well attended too.  We’ve had meals from the restaurant a few times and can highly recommend it.

I met Neil, who will be rowing across the Atlantic later in the year for Alzheimer’s.

Neil’s boat

This isn’t the actual boat they’ll use but very similar. Follow his progress here and if you can, show your support!

Gatley Hill House

This is a new building to me, normally rooms are available for hire, but given the fencing all around it right now, I think it’ll be a while before we’re allowed back in.

The omelette I made for myself was very nice, but I’m no good at cooking, and rather than being one solid piece of food, it came out of the pan in several lumps. I’ll try again in another five years or so.

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to watch either of the children swimming, but I did take Martha for her lesson this week. She’s so confident in the water, swimming below the surface and later, treading water for a whole minute. As she explained, this is because if she falls out of a boat she might have to tread water for a minute, or ten minutes, an hour or ten hours or even longer.

Similarly, it’s been a while since I picked the children up from school.

Wild flowers

But I did this week and at home, we watched a YouTube video in which a couple of men dug a big hole in the ground to make a swimming pool, with a couple of slides and an underground house. Impressive work, as Martha said. We wondered where in the world this was taking place. When they began to chop down bamboo for making a fence and other decoration, Martha suggested it was China. Why? Because that’s bamboo, pandas eat bamboo and pandas live in China. Can’t fault the logic, there!

Meanwhile, in Anchorage, Liesel is enjoying a heatwave. There she was, relaxing in the Sun at Carrie’s house, when a visitor appeared.

Water moose

I think Liesel’s been walking a lot, probably more than I have here in Northenden, but she has also been in to work a couple of times.

On another occasion, she saw a baby moose with his big momma. And in an unexpected turn of events, Liesel has been bitten by a mosquito. Usually they go for me, but I’m several thousand miles away, out of sniffing range, so I guess even in the mosquito world, beggars can’t be choosers.

Didsbury in bloom

A nice explosion of colour here with the flowers and the bins. This is in Didsbury where I went for my annual visit to the opticians and while I was in the village, I went for a very welcome massage too. After which I wanted to sleep for the rest of the day.

But I didn’t.

This week’s radio show theme is Festivals. Glastonbury and Gatley, to be precise. Listen here on on WFM 97.2 next Wednesday at 10pm. A wonderful way to nod off at the end of the day.

Now it’s time for a whinge. The email says:

We look forward to welcoming you on board soon.

To start your journey well-prepared, we have compiled the most important information relating to travel during the pandemic

But they haven’t compiled the most important information at all. They just told me to check this and check that and in the process, introduced an unnecessary level of anxiety. Grrr. Yes, you read my palms correctly: I am going on a journey.

Here, there and everywhere

Never say never of course, but it’s very unlikely we’ll ever visit the Glastonbury Festival. The biggest and best festival in the world returned for the first time since the pandemic. And the thought of sharing a space with nearly a quarter of a million strangers is just too daunting. On the other hand, the site, Worthy Farm, is vast. See just how big compared with your neighbourhood here: just enter your postcode. (Thanks for this link, Jenny.)

I watched on TV from the comfort of my own sofa, enjoying beer from my birthday and from Fathers Day. The highlight for me was of course was Sir Paul McCartney. Seeing him live at the O2 a few years ago was the best Beatles concert I’ll ever experience.

Sir Paul McCartney

I was on my own at home so I sang along to all the songs: I had a wonderful little party, by myself! It’s mostly a young audience at Glastonbury and it was fantastic to see they knew the words to all the old Beatles’ songs, and to Diana Ross’s old hits, the next day.

Last time, I left you with the image of a small car parked badly on the island in the river. Well, someone waded in, retrieved and relocated it.

Rubbish parking

I went over to visit the grandchildren (and their parents) and their new pet.

Incey Wincey

This brought back unhappy memories of my time as a postman, walking through cobwebs at face height.

It was a joy to see William and Martha again after such a long time away.

Meanwhile, over in Alaska, Liesel went away for a quick break, visiting the little town of Hope, with her Mom and brother.

Aaron, Liesel and Leslie

On another occasion, Liesel reported seeing a porcupine walking along the road. Well, that puts the Northenden heron into perspective.

I couldn’t refuse the offer to look after William for a couple of hours one day, while Jenny and long-time friend Danielle had their hair done.

William and Grandad

I think this picture shows how absorbed William was and how bemused I was after watching several episodes and a full-length movie of Pokémon on TV. After a while though, William did get up and have a walk/slide around in his new footwear.

William’s new slippers

Slippers have never been more slippery.

In Anchorage, Liesel enjoyed a nice long hike up in the hills with Jyoti and Una.

Jyoti, Una and Liesel

If pushed, I’d probably have to admit that the scenery here is slightly more spectacular than anything Northenden has to offer.

This week I had reason to access Facebook, for a very specific purpose. And it annoyed me within two minutes. So no, I won’t be creating a new account for myself.

A much more uplifting experience was to be had on the two well-being walks I joined this week, one in Northenden and one in Wythenshawe.

Just a random garden in Northenden

This week’s photographic assignment was to capture a heavily laden bumble bee on this gorgeous hydrangea.

Hydrangea

But it would not keep still, flitting from flower to flower, and especially when I lifted up my phone to take the picture. Some beasties are intrinsically more cooperative, and stationary,  I’m pleased to report.

Snail

In sports news, local barista Jill Scott scored the fourth goal for England’s victorious football team, against Switzerland, in their final warm-up game before the Women’s Euro 2022 competition. A great advertising opportunity, of course!

Jill Scott
Boxx 2 Boxx

As I was walking through Wythenshawe, I noticed a plain concrete pillar in the middle of a fairly large area of lawn. I wondered if it might be an old milestone, it had that sort of shape to it. I couldn’t see any legible engraving, so I walked round to see what was on the other side.

No ball games

Well, we won’t be seeing any future Jill Scotts around here, I guess.

In Anchorage, Liesel and her Mom sat outside Carrie’s house, by the lake, enjoying the view and sitting in the Sun a little too long. This set them up nicely for a weekend camping trip to Willow, with Aaron and a group of friends. The last I heard, they were still partying well after midnight.

This week, I dedicated my radio show to the memory of Liesel’s Dad, Klaus, playing some of his favourite songs as well as some others in German.

Goodbyes

Going to bed late after a delayed flight, you think you’d go to sleep fairly quickly. Oh no, not me, not with my brain. I spent far too long counting, not just sheep, but the number of animals we’d seen in various airports: bears (polar and brown), moose and horses. Well, one horse.

Horse

This is Blackleaf, by Deborah Butterfield, 2017, taking pride of place at Seattle Airport.

Dall sheep

The glass cage at Anchorage Airport is not the Dall sheep’s natural habitat, they’re more commonly found in the mountains of Alaska.

So if I were counting sheep as an aid to sleep, I would have reached a grand total of one. But I got there in the end.

A bit of a lie-in was followed by a reasonably lazy day. The three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. And it was a delight to go back to bed at a more reasonable hour.

Sadly, in an almost repeat performance from a few weeks ago, in the middle of the night, Klaus fell out of bed on his way to the toilet. Three of us couldn’t help him climb back in so again, we called the paramedics. I think this one incident really confirmed to us just how ill he is now. No strength at all.

After breakfast, I wrote some more before Liesel took us over to Pam and Owen’s place for a barbecue. Well, we went to see Una and she drove us over to Pams’, with Monica. On this occasion, on meeting her, I did not give Monica a bear hug exacerbating her shoulder injury.

My eyes were watering and I put this down to hay fever. But no, it’s more likely to be smoke from bush fires quite a long way off, Una was suffering as well. And, sure enough, the mountains were all but invisible through the haze.

Mountains through the haze

From AP News: High winds have pushed a wildfire to within miles of an Alaska Native village in western Alaska, officials said Thursday.

No evacuation orders were issued for St. Mary’s though the East Fork Fire was within 8 miles (12.9 kilometers), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service said in a statement. No structures have been burned.

The 78-square-mile (202-square-kilometer) fire was started May 31 by lightning…

Meanwhile, back at the barbecue, burgers were the order of the day. Liesel enjoyed her first burger for six years or something. And I enjoyed the salads on offer plus possibly my favourite comfort food: cheese and tomato sandwiches, albeit in burger buns.

Thanks Pam and Owen for a nice afternoon: I think it’s fair to say the ladies managed to solve the problems of the world while Owen and I sat quietly in the background!

While we were driving home, Monica received a call from her husband Gregg saying that a tree behind their house had been set on fire. That’s pretty scary, especially when you have lithium batteries in the garage that don’t mix with heat nor with water that might used to put the fire out.

On Monday morning, Klaus visited his family doctor. Straightaway, because he looked so jaundiced, she sent him to hospital, where he spent the next few days. While he was there, we tried to make the house more accommodating for him on his return. With this in mind, Liesel, Jodi and I went to Bailey’s Furniture shop to buy a new chair for Klaus, a powered one that would help him to stand up, that massages and reclines to nearly horizontal.

But what a fascinating shop. Never mind the wonderful range of furniture, the place is decorated in style.

A plane in Bailey’s

And I’m sure a little girl I know would love this chair.

Not Klaus’s chair

Liesel uses some software to be able to work from home accessing Amrit’s computer. She got a bill claiming she hadn’t paid. Which she had. Prove it. So I looked at the relevant account on my phone and tried to screenshot the payment. Oh no. For security reasons, I can’t screenshot from a banking app. If Liesel had been around at the time, I would have used her phone take a picture of my phone’s screen. But she wasn’t. Instead, I had to use an elaborate system of mirrors, a split screen with the required data in one half and the camera in the other half and take a picture using the timer, then reversing the image. I say ‘elaborate’ and it would have worked if only I could have held the phone perfectly still for a split second. Technology, eh?

Liesel and her Mom spent most of the next day in hospital with Klaus. My task at home, on Klaus’s computer, was to make sure we knew his passwords: bills need paying and he’s usually responsible. Klaus uses an Apple Mac, so that was an interesting learning curve having been using Windows for decades! Fortunately, my daughter Helen was able to provide some technical support. Thanks Helen!

Jodi brought her friend, realtor Andrea, around to look at Leslie and Klaus’s house, with a view to selling it after thirty years. It needs some work but it’s not in too bad a condition.

After they left, I started walking towards Jyoti’s house intending to go for a longer walk with her.

Mountains again

It was reassuring to see the mountains more clearly today. And I had the pleasure of gently pursuing a dragonfly for a minute. Last time I was here in Anchorage, I was notoriously unlucky in trying to photograph these flighty beasts. But today, I took a series of pictures, each one a little closer.

Dragonfly

I am very pleased with this picture, although I would have preferred the background to be a leaf rather then the pavement!

I thought I was on a roll. But no, that was the extent of my success. Attempts to capture a beetle in all its glory failed abysmally.

Did we have a nice long walk? Not today. Instead, we got coffee at Kaladi and took it to Sand Lake, traipsing through the grounds of the Elementary School. Sitting in the shade by the water was so peaceful. Thanks for the time-out, Jyoti.

Sand Lake

We collected Liesel from the hospital and went home for a short while. We spent the evening back at Catherine and Hans’ again, enjoying good food, outside, watching the Sun go down. We talked about Klaus of course and music and radio.

Sunset over Turnagain Arm

Jyoti and I did go for a nice long hike the next day. She took me to Kincaid Park and we followed one of the trails. Well, maybe: we might have missed a turn somewhere, but it was still a very pleasant walk.

Basil

The only wildlife we saw was Jyoti’s dog Basil who probably walked and ran twice as far as we did and on little legs too. And how green is that vegetation? So lush. It’s hard to believe that it hasn’t rained here since the snow melted a couple of months ago, but further out of the city, as we’ve seen, there is a real risk of fire.

I’m sure Margaux was a wonderful person

On the way out, we saw this little chap just mooching along the pavement, minding his own bees wax.

Moose

At Fire Island, we bought some high-calorie content cupcakes for ourselves and for Liesel and Leslie who again had stayed with Klaus in hospital. And coffee again from Kaladi Brothers for us. Again, we collected Liesel and took her home.

Leslie returned a little later, after which we all went out to view an apartment that would suit Klaus and Leslie, should they decide to move.

We met Andrea and Jodi there and had a good look round. It seemed ideal, to me. If we’d seen such an apartment when we were looking four years ago, I think we would have seriously considered it. My job was to walk around with the walker to make sure it fits through all the doorways. In my head was Bill Withers: Lean on me. One selling point is that it’s quite close to Aaron and Jod’s house, as well as just over the road from New Sagaya, a supermarket and coffee shop.

We were told that Klaus was to be discharged. The house isn’t ready. So, in a rush, with the help of Asa, Gideon and their friends Addie and Alec, we moved the dresser out of the bedroom, lowered the bed and rotated it 90° to make it easier for Klaus to get up in the night.

Later, it emerged, he wasn’t coming home today, after all. Communication failure.

Still with a view to maybe selling this house, the next morning, Liesel, Jyoti and I threw away loads of food. Now, none of us like throwing away food, but this was all out of date. I don’t mean just a couple of weeks old.

Old, old, old food

Oh no. Some of it was years old. Even decades. The oldest items had no best before date, they were that old. But the record goes to Liesel who threw away something from 1992.

The plan is, eventually, to empty the pantry and move the washing machine and dryer to that space, up from the garage. This should be more attractive for any potential buyer.

Sorting through old food and disposing of it is ridiculously hard work. Luckily it was bin day, so much of it was taken away, leaving a nice empty bear-proof wheelie bin for the next few bags of old food.

I had a bit of a break by continuing with the passwords project on the Mac.

Liesel and I went to Walmart to collect some prescription drugs for Klaus, because he really was being discharged today. Good to see the pandemic’s over in the city. Very few other people were wearing masks.

Klaus came home, and sat in his new chair for a short while before going upstairs to bed.

And so, my time in Anchorage comes to an end. After saying goodbye to Klaus and Leslie, Liesel dropped me off at the airport. She was originally going to fly back with me but is staying on for a couple more weeks to help and support her Mom.

I went through security. That’s it. No trauma today. I had a middle seat so I looked around trying to predict which two fatties I’d be wedged between. But no. Both my seat-mates were skinnies. And,the young lady to my left moved to a different seat, leaving me her aisle seat.

Transit at Frankfurt was a doddle. A ten-minute walk from one gate to the next. It makes you wonder why USA has to make such a big deal out of these things. It certainly doesn’t make  us feel any more secure.

Clouds over Germany

As we flew past Cheadle, I took some pictures, hoping to be able to pinpoint Jenny’s house from the sky. This is still a work in progress.

I kept mine on, but just about everyone else removed their masks on disembarkation. Even when entering the overheated, windowless depths of Manchester Airport to go through security, which was a slow process.

I took a taxi home, and immediately felt very welcome. Jenny and Helen had left Fathers Day cards for me as well as a box of Maltesers and some beer. Cheers! I slumped for most of the day and went to bed really early. I never seem to get a proper sleep on an aeroplane.

And of course, I woke early, listened to a couple of podcasts and did my usual three puzzles, Wordle, Worldle and Nerdle. Horror of horrors: I lost my winning streak on the first two. I’d forgotten to play in the short ‘day’ between leaving Anchorage and landing in Manchester.

On my first full day back at home, I waited in for a grocery delivery from Ocado, ate Maltesers, wiped out the now empty fridge, after its inadvertent defrosting while we were away, and wrote for a while while listening to old, recorded radio shows. And, in an effort to convince myself I was doing something useful, I gathered together all the to-do lists.

On my second full day back at home, I ticked a few items off the to-do list. Don’t worry, I did them first. And there is still plenty to keep me occupied. I’m lucky to have the freedom to nap whenever the urge takes me.

At 4.50 in the morning, I answered the phone. It was Liesel telling me that her Dad had died. Just three days after I’d left. I really had said goodbye to him. Very sad, but not totally unexpected. We didn’t like seeing him in such distress and discomfort, and we’ll certainly miss him and his humour.

The rest of the day was taken up with mundane chores, nothing that required too much thought. In a bit of a daze, to be honest. I started putting this week’s radio show together and finished it the following day. I think this one took longer to prepare than any, since the very early days when the whole process was new to me.

You can listen to my Postcard from Alaska here. Or catch the repeat on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 at 10pm on Wednesday.

Some exciting, good news to end on. After completing enough tasks (an arbitrary target, I admit), my reward was to visit the local coffee shop here in Northenden. The latté art made me smile.

Very arty, very tasty

It’s reassuring to see that some things never change. I don’t think our heron has moved from this spot for at least five weeks.

Heron on the weir

On the other hand, car parking skills in Northenden haven’t improved since I’ve been away.

How did they end up here?

Packing and stacking

Well that was a strange week that was a strange week for the 1st time in many years we watched the Eurovision song contest well I didn’t watch it but it was on a didn’t watch it but it was on in the background I was doing something else had my nose in a puzzle I’ve had my nose in a puzzle roller book or something and looked up at the TV screen and I saw a Spanish singer’s bottom and I thought she’s getting my vote but I didn’t vote for anyone I didn’t vote for anyone in the end Ukraine one and the uk came 2nd for the 1st time in a 143 years.

That’s how good the dictation option is on my phone. It doesn’t seem too concerned with punctuation. And I’m sure I didn’t recite all those things twice all those things twice. But it is interesting to see how the screen changes as the phone tries to work out what I actually said. I’ll mostly edit the rest of this post, so it more closely resembles what I meant in the first place, in better English.

Liesel and I went for walk around around Northern Ireland (no, it was Northenden). We couldn’t believe the number of ladybirds we saw on the bushes, literally hundreds: it must be the ladybird mating season by the looks of it.

Ladybird giving another ladybird a piggy-back

The heron was on the island, cowering: I think he was hiding from the swarms of ladybirds, maybe he felt under threat.

Spot the heron

We also caught sight of that other occasional visitor to the river Mersey in Northenden: an old car tyre. Lovely to see him sitting near the island.

Tyres

And what’s this lurking in the bushes near Riverside Park? Somebody’s parked their scooter in a good place. I hope they can remember where they left it.

Where’s my scooter?
Artistic shot of the week

The day after I took this picture of the daisies on the lawn by our communal car park, the mowing crew came along and cut the grass, moss, dandelion stems and, sadly, the daisies.

My regular brain exercise each morning is to play Worldle, Wordle and Nerdle. This week I managed to achieve a winning streak of a hundred games. Except on the actual day, I forgot to grab a screenshot, so here it is from the following day! I was so proud, I even tweeted this image!

Liesel and I had a nice walk with the Northenden group, along the river to Simon’s Bridge and back. We sat outside for coffee at Box 2 Boxx, Shelly took a picture and it looks like I’ll appear in another advert soon, hooray!

And so it came to pass that we collected the children from school. Instead of taking them home, we took them to Bruntwood Park, through the woods behind their school. En route, William looked at a puddle, then looked at me, I slowly shook my head, he walked on by. We spent a lot of time in the fabulous playground, which was quite busy. Children were there from three or four different schools, going by their uniforms. William is definitely a climber.

William the mountaineer

We had a picnic on the glassy nose Yeah sausage rolls cumbers tomatoes and Victoria sponge cakes from a shop. In English: We had a picnic on the grassy knoll (just a raised mound of grass, really). We had pizza, sausage rolls, cucumbers, tomatoes and Victoria sponge cakes from a shop (ie, not home-made).

Martha the runner

There’s a great game there where the children have to run around and tap each post as the lights come on. It’s all electronic and they both found it great fun. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Martha run so far, so fast and for so long. Thank goodness this was before we sat down for our picnic!

The different arrangements today for looking after the children were for a very special reason. We took them home at about 5.30 and then after going home to our place to get raedy, we drove into Manchester for a concert that we’d first booked in September 2019. It had been postponed twice because of the pandemic and Covid restrictions, but at last, tonight was the night.

We’d never been to the Band on the Wall venue before but it’s a good little place. Mostly it’s standing only, but I asked for a couple of seats for us old farts and they were very obliging. We were here to see Tom Robinson. The show was meant to celebrate his 70th birthday but that was two ago now. Before the support act, Lee Forsyth-Griffiths, appeared, Tom himself came out on stage and sang a couple of songs for us early birds, those of us who had bothered to turn up in time to see the support act. He performed a revised version of his old hit What if we live to be 50? This remixed, remastered, updated version What if we live to be 80? was quite funny, especially since it still referred to carrying a packet of three.

Lee sang a few songs and the presence of his Mam and his sister in the audience didn’t affect his potty mouth at all!

It was a pretty good atmosphere all night although there was one scuffle right in front of us because of one man who was very drunk, so he was escorted off the premises.

Oops, Tom, electric guitar, Tom as PM

The Hong-Kong… hahaha… The encore was Power in the Darkness during which Tom always does a skit on some contemporary issue. This time of course of course, he channeled Boris Johnson and as he said afterwards, it’s all beyond parody now.

As we left the venue, we walked through the bar, and at the back was another performer whose name I missed, a lovely soul singer. So we stood around and listened while she sang Dancing in the Street. Twice! This was a nice surprise and a good way to to end the evening

Not Martha Reeves

The rest of this sort of in-between a week was in between a week was taken up with packing and checking all the paperwork and checking all the paperwork and everything that we need to do for we need to do for our trip to Alaska next week next week yes we are going away for 4 weeks and all these last minute and all these last minute jobs it all take 5 all these last minute jobs that should just take 5 minutes take a long time and then you find something’s gone wrong now when anyone finds something’s gone wrong or what a nightmare but we’re getting there we’re getting there. I hope you get the gist. Basically, we prepared for a few weeks away in Alaska.

We visited Windermere last week, so this week’s radio show was about lakes and other bodies of water, lots of songs about rivers, oceans and a couple of lakes. Enjoy it, it’s the last one for a few weeks…

What’s that, the last one for a while? Yes, while we’re in sunny Anchorage to visit Liesel’s family and friends, I won’t be making more shows. I would have to take so much extra stuff with me and even then, I might not find the time. But if you really want to listen to some earlier radio (and non-radio) shows, this link gives you the full list available so far.

I also uploaded a special one this week, and that was the tribute to Sarah first put together last year. Unbelievably, it’s now 21 years since we lost Sarah and she is still much missed and loved.

Black tulips and babies

Sadly, no space is deemed too small for the application of graffiti. Even the fairy doors in the local woods aren’t safe from such desecration.

Fairy door needs attention

It is now No Mow May in which we are invited to leave the lawn alone for the benefit of the very few pollinating insects left alive in this country. A lot of people are indeed not mowing, but sadly, the local council’s grass-cutters are out in force, cutting the grass and shredding the litter embedded therein. Ooh, I do like a whinge, don’t I?

We took Martha and William to Lyme Park for a nice, long, brisk walk in the sunshine. Well, that was the plan. After confirming the adventure playground was indeed open, we decided to play there for a while, then walk up to the folly known as The Cage, at the top of the hill, then return to the playground.

William is very adventurous and despite many pleas from us, he decided to cross the small stream via stepping stones and a log. Not the most stable of logs.

William and the wobbly log

He jumped onto the opposite bank, and gave a victory salute at the top. But oops, on the return trip, he slightly overbalanced and had to step into the water. He wasn’t too keen on wet shoes, socks and feet. And he momentarily sat down on a wet stone.

A few minutes later, when Liesel was helping him change his shorts, he apologised for ignoring her when she’d told him not to cross the water, which was very sweet.

Martha and William on a table top

They enjoyed many adventures and we hadn’t even reached the playground yet. Yes, you’re right. Martha is indeed wearing odd socks and, at this point, William is wearing no socks at all.

It was fun watching Martha going round and round on this strange little thing, with her ponytail flying.

Martha spinning

As she was spinning, I asked her what happens when she pulls herself in? Oh, it goes faster, she observed. And in this way, Martha discovered the law of Conservation of Angular Momentum.

The playground was great fun, so in the end, we didn’t make it as far as The Cage. Later, when Liesel and I fancied a cup of coffee, we parked the children up on the branch of a tree.

Martha and William sitting in a tree

Yes, again, you are very observant. Martha is indeed crossing her eyes, a trick that she’d learned from her cousin Emily!

Liesel and I didn’t really go to the café by ourselves, that would be irresponsible and we’d probably lose our jobs. We had coffee and we treated the children to an ice cream. Of course we did!

Our challenge now was to keep them awake on the drive back home, which I did quite successfully, even if one of the games was to kick my arm as quickly and as often as possible. The bruises weren’t too bad.

William enjoys his weekly dance class, and although we didn’t see him at his terpsichorean activituies, we did pick him up from the venue to take him to the zoo. We’ll miss these odd days out with William when he starts going to school 5 days a week, with his sister.

Where’s William?

He’s wearing his hoodie in this manner to keep the cold draught out. He did eventually succumb to sleep on the long drive to Chester Zoo.

As is often the case, it was a bit cooler here than at home, but that didn’t stop us from having a really nice day. Treetop Challenge is always number one on his list and today was no exception. Apart from seeing the elephants first.

William on the zipline

He now needs no assistance in finding his way around this Challenge, and he really has conquered the ziplines.

William (l) and Boris the Gorilla (r)

The Bird Flu crisis is now over and the flamingoes’ aviary was open for business. By which I mean we humans are now allowed inside and we can see these gorgeous pink creatures other than through a close wire mesh.

Flamingoes
William with an otter

We were so pleased that William was interested in seeing so many animals on this visit. He did want to visit the shop so we made a deal: we’ll go to the shop at the end but only if you don’t mention it again. And that worked pretty much all day. But then “You know that place I’m not allowed to talk about? Are we still going there?”

We went. But we also passed by the elephants one more time.

Baby elephant

Our challenge now was to keep him awake on the drive back home, which I did quite successfully, even if one of the games was to kick my arm as quickly and as often as possible. The bruises weren’t too bad.

Liesel had an appointment near home with a pair of physiotherapists’ very strong hands, so William and I visited Riverside Park playground back in Northenden. On the way, we picked litter, a job he really seems to enjoy. But of course, the playground was more fun. He made friends with Misha, a 6-, nearly 7-year old from Ukraine.

William and Misha

I had a nice chat with Misha’s Mum while his younger sister played with a doll and followed the boys around. Her husband is still in Ukraine and of course we hope the war ends soon so he can come and join his family.

Soon, everyone else had left the playground: just me and William left, waiting for Liesel to collect us and take him home.

After two days with a varying number of grandchildren it was time to move on and see some grown-up people. Late in the day, after I’d attended my medical appointments, we drove north to Windermere. By coincidence, we were staying in the same place as Helen and Steve from Chessington. We’d not seen them on our recent trip down south for various reasons, so it was good to catch up now.

We dined in a greasy spoon just down the road from the hotel, you know, the sort of place that sells all kinds of food: chips, pizza, kebabs, burgers. It was alright though.

Helen pointed out this picture in a shop window.

David Bowie

Well, we haven’t seen a David Bowie in a shop window for a couple of weeks, but this is a good one. The artist is Don Pearce and the artwork is outside our price range.

Liesel and I shared a four-poster bed and at first, we thought the mattress was too hard. But actually, it was alright and we both had a reasonable night’s sleep.

Breakfast was served by a lovely Scottish lady whose name I never did catch, after which we set off for Beatrix Potter’s old home, Hill Top, on the other side of the lake itself. Last time Liesel and I visited, many years ago, we took the ferry across and walked up the hill.

Many of the roads are very narrow and in some places, I couldn’t see what to do if we encountered another vehicle coming towards us. But we were very lucky in that respect.

The scenery is of course gorgeous, but this is also a good time of year to enjoy the azaleas and the rhododendrons as well. And the garden behind Hill Top is a very peaceful and pretty place to pass some time. The gardener, Pete, is doing a very good job.

Baby azalea

How do we know the gardener’s name is Pete? Well:

Gardener Pete

The parts of the garden that he’s not responsible for are totally Pete-free.

Black Tulips

When I first read The Black Tulip by Alexander Dumas, as a school-boy, I thought it was a made-up flower. But no, they really exist and there are some here at Hill Top. One day, I might read the book again because I can’t remember the story at all.

Even though our tickets were timed, the house was still quite busy, just on the borderline of what we find uncomfortably crowded vis-à-vis Covid. Beatrix Potter had some cool stuff, including a doll’s house with furniture and other items that really aren’t made to scale.

Beatrix’s doll’s house
Selfie of the day

Bizarrely, I think of all the photos I took today, this is my favourite.

Watering can

It is so reminiscent of the Peter Rabbit stories, and I can only surmise that this is the original watering can from Beatrix Potter’s time.

Did I mention Peter Rabbit?

Warning: Peter Rabbit

We drove Helen and Steve back to Ambleside. Funny place, Ambleside: all the shops are named after mild exclamations.

Shops in Ambleside

We took Helen back to the guest house for a nap leaving Steve to enjoy a bus ride in peace and quiet.

The drive home was uneventful. But you can never go on the M6 without there being a traffic jam somewhere!

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one week, Liesel dragged me to asked me if I wanted to accompany her to Ikea. We haven’t been for a while and the thought of those juicy tender 50p veggieballs, well, how could I refuse?

In a strange case of pareidolia, here’s one of the machines in the café looking particularly grumpy with that thing in its eye.

Smiley tea machine

And back in Wythenshawe, there were more goslings near the path in Painswick Park.

Baby geese on land

And as if they’re not cute enough, there was again another family in the pond.

Baby geese on water

I just hope they stayed safe from the fishing lines on the opposite side.

There was a park bench on which I decided not to rest awhile, because of the nettles growing underneath and up through the gaps. I didn’t want to give my arsenic.

Uncomfortably numb, potentially

Here is evidence of Liesel’s latest craftwork.

This cross-stitch was a labour of love, and will be part of a collection being put together by the ladies of the WI to commemorate the 1948 London Olympics. No further details are available at this time. But jolly well done, Liesel!

Last week’s Wythenshawe Radio show was Girls, Girls, Girls, so this week it had to be Boys, Boys, Boys. Catch up here. Or don’t.