Isolation

We sat on the sofa in eager anticipation. There was something on the radio or TV and I was reading Twitter or a book or maybe even doing a puzzle. Liesel was probably reading too and we were both nursing our second or possibly third cup of tea of the day. Suddenly, we heard the knocking, the crashing, bashing and banging of boxes outside. But looking through the window, we couldn’t see the Ocado delivery truck. He’d parked round the corner, which meant he had to carry our groceries a little further to our front door.

Because we’re only being serviced every three weeks or so now, instead of weekly, we had a lot of shopping. Down the stairs we trooped. I thought I could carry up most of the bags in one go, no need for a second trip down and back up. Big mistake. When I got to the top floor, I was puffing and panting and one arm was now much longer than the other. Don’t let me carry that much stuff ever again, please!

The good news is, Ocado’s plastic bags are bio-degradable, but the bad news is, they’re not taking them back any more, so we have quite a backlog in the cupboard.

Liesel stowed most of the items in the kitchen, some in the spare room, and the rest was for Jenny. Yes, we went over to see Jenny with a bag of shopping as requested. Something in the car is making a loud clanging noise. It sounds like it’s coming from the boot, but we can’t see what it is. I looked underneath the car too, but nothing seems to be falling off.

It was lovely to see them all, albeit through the window. But the view was obscured by a lot of drawing on the glass, both inside and out.

Martha through the window

The Sun was out and it was a gorgeous day, what a shame we couldn’t socialise more closely. We’ll have to learn how to hug all over again. It was a joy to hear Martha and William both chattering away, though.

Meanwhile, in Manly, Auntie Helen is keeping busy with her jigsaw puzzles. This is a holiday cottage, but who knows when we’ll be able to visit it in real life! Actually, seeing a Cotswold in the flesh would be quite exciting: certainly something to look forward to.

Helen’s jigsaw puzzle

More walking this week, part of the hour of outdoor exercise we’re allowed each day. I was ambling through Kenworthy Lane Woods, along NCN 62 and in order to keep my distance from other people, I went off piste and discovered a secret encampment. It looks pretty cosy in there, if not entirely waterproof.

Encampment, Roman or Saxon, I think

But this is Northenden, so inevitably it has attracted some fly-tipping.

Feeling tyred

May 8th was the 75th anniversary of V E Day, the day Germany surrendered, ending the second World War in Europe. My Dad was in the Navy at the time, in the Mediterranean Sea, I believe. (To be confirmed when I get around to checking out the records.) He said that as soon as he’d finished off the Germans, they set off to deal with Japan. And that, ladies and gentleman, is all I know.

The day was commemorated locally, not with street parties as originally planned, but a few people put up the flags and some bunting.

Bunting

A couple of days later, we wandered over to Rose Hill Woods. It was another nice sunny day that we took advantage of because cold weather was coming our way. A fallen tree across the path would have deterred lesser mortals than Liesel and me.

The end of the road

We found the golf course but until we checked, we didn’t realise it was part of Didsbury Golf Club, on the other side of the motorway from where we usually find it. Previously, I’d not wanted to walk on this ‘private’, well-groomed lawn, but Liesel had no such scruples. So we walked around and avoided the other walkers, including a pair actually playing golf.

Didsbury Golf Course

With a little imagination, you can see the distant mountains in the background. We did come across a small lake but we didn’t scale the fence for a closer look. Loonts Lake is the site of an old Brussels sprout field where a V1 flying bomb landed during the aforementioned WW2.

Loonts Lake

Elsewhere, we walked across a bed of cotton fluff on the fairways.

Cottonwood tree fluff

A few days later, on another little walk the neighbourhood, it was confirmed that Northenden is the fly-tipping capital of Manchester, if not of the UK. They’ll dump anything except the kitchen sink. Oh, Hang on…

Everything but

But the balance of the universe was restored when I saw the heron halfway up (or halfway down) the ramp below the weir.

Our heron
One customer at a time

This isn’t the place to knock the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, so I’ll just congratulate all those other governments that have performed so much better, especially those with a female leader: New Zealand, Germany, Taiwan, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Anyway, the latest advice in the UK is just as confusing as it always was. Liesel and I will be staying indoors for at least the next few weeks.  One of the local pubs has opened up, but only for one customer at a time. The trouble is, all the customers are meeting up in a group over the road.

Anti-social distancing

Either that, or one customer is buying himself several pints at a time and then not managing to consume them all.

 

 

 

We’re afraid of everyone
Afraid of the Sun
Isolation

As the days go by, more and more mournful, sad songs are coming to mind, such as Isolation by John Lennon, which I haven’t heard for years, possibly decades. Not that we’re afraid of the Sun, we’re just very cautious of going outside with everyone else when the Sun’s out.

Keep on keeping on

We strolled up to the Northern Den to collect our brownies plus the coffee which we enjoyed while sitting on the wooden bench close to St Wilfrid’s Church.

Oreo brownies from Northern Den
Weird sort sequence…

One night, to convince myself I could still focus on something for long periods of time, post Liesel’s retirement to bed, I decided to sort our CD collection. Hercules would be very proud of my nine hours of more or less continuous struggle.

The Sun rose before I went to bed, one welcome, if unexpected bonus.

Sunrise over Northenden

We decided not to invest in this mobile burger business. I’ve hidden the phone number: we might reconsider sometime.

Burger business opportunity

The recycling centre round the corner re-opened but they’re restricting its use is determined by vehicles’ regnos.

Odd numbers only

No queue in sight, but Mr Jobsworth forced one even-numbered vehicle to turn round, go home. Ridiculous.

We’re still seeing weird things in the streets, together with some pretty flowers.

Lost Shoes (not to be confused with the 70s prog rock group correspondingly titled)
Pretty Flowers (not to be confused with the 70s prog rock group correspondingly titled)

It’s quite perilous strolling too close to one of the neighbourhood golf courses. My soft titfer definitely wouldn’t protect the bonce, I confidently predicted.

Golf sign

My new friend, the heron, introduced me to his chum, the crow, before flying off up-river.

The heron with his friend

Most fortuitous sighting of the week? The red growth in our hedge, complemented by the brightness of the Sun.

Red Hedge (not to be confused with Red Wedge)

Thus concludes the newest post. Short, but sweet this time, lovingly typed up without the use of one single letter ‘A’. (Well, just the one.)

Busy doin’ nothin’

We’re busy doin’ nothin’
Workin’ the whole day through
Tryin’ to find lots of things not to do
We’re busy goin’ nowhere…

Another few days locked down and locked in, and we’re still trying to develop some sort of routine, but really, we just busk each day as it comes. Last Friday night, I tried to observe the newly lauched Starlink group of satellites but missed them. I was probably looking in the wrong direction, but as a consolation prize, Venus was looking good in the late evening sky.

Liesel’s been quite busy, phoning some of her new WI friends for a chat, cooking, baking, housework, laundry and I thoroughly enjoyed watching and I appreciating the fruits of her labours. Thanks, Liesel 😉

This week’s news is that we have new neighbours in one of the flats below us. And that’s the end of the news. Good night.

Thank goodness for the Internet, it has been keeping us entertained in so many ways. I can’t wait to visit these places and enjoy these things in real life, but until then, here’s a quick look into our lives this week.

We’ll Meet Again

Dame Vera Lynn with West End Stars performed We’ll Meet Again 2020. We all sang along with Alfie Boe, Gyles Brandreth, Maria Friedman and lots of other folk, some of whom I’m sorry to say we hadn’t heard of before. This message of support for UK theatre can be seen here.

Christian O’Connell doing very well down under

Meanwhile at the other end of the world, ANZAC day was celebrated in New Zealand and Australia with a Concert from the Home Front for the fight against Covid-19. When I played the show back, I thought my phone was ringing. Yes, I still have the kookaburra as my ringtone from last year in Australia. The music was all home-performed: it was especially good to see Crowded House and Bic Runga performing at home. Here it is.

Rachel Unthank

This morning, we watched Rachel Unthank perform a couple of songs from home, via Facebook. We’ll get songs from a different Unthank every morning for a short while. Here they are. Liesel and I agreed that to support these artists, we need to buy more of their records. That’s the sort of online shopping I quite enjoy!

Thanks for coming to watch Twelfth Night

I watched a fantastic version of Twelfth Night from the National Theatre. It featured Tamsin Greig as Malvolia: I wonder what Miss ‘Ma’ Abbott, my old English teacher, would think of that? Sadly, we missed Treasure Island, a recent performance in the series, but we are looking forward to watching Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch this week. Highly recommended.

We have enjoyed our online visits to Chester Zoo and Taronga Zoo, with their talks and videos and if watching elephants wallowing in mud following a rainstorm doesn’t cheer you up, there’ll almost certainly be something else to make you laugh.

Dandelion clock in the sunshine

We haven’t seen much of the outside world of course, but it’s always nice to get out and see nice, pretty things, signs of Spring slowly turning to Summer. I had to get down low to take these pictures of dandelion seeds. I no longer consider them my enemy, but instead, a photo opportunity. Crouching down low is one thing, getting up again afterwards without going ‘Ooh, ahh’, like a really, really old person, is another. Thank goodness only one bloke walked by giving me a funny look, but at least he kept his distance.

 

 

 

The good …
… the bad …
… and the ugly

Yes, not everything is very nice to look at. But I did see some wildlife which is always exciting.

Concrete fox

Again, this fox took me by surprise as I walked by. We haven’t seen any actual, live, wild foxes since we moved here to Northenden, so all the discarded chicken bones and pizza boxes were probably dropped by humans. And of course, we do miss the eerie screech and howl that accompanies nocturnal vulpine coital activity, honest.

Wild horses

The horses are probably wondering why there are fewer people around at the moment. This one was watching, but didn’t come over for a neighbourly chat.

Meet the ducks

This family of ducks didn’t care about the rain, as they swam up and down and across the river. Four chicks stayed close to mama most of the time, but number 5 was always a bit behind, always playing catch-up. And it caught up really fast when a (presumably strange) mallard swam by.

And, because we can, here is this week’s obligatory photo of the family. Sadly, Helen won’t be joining us from Manly today, as originally planned, which is probably the most heart-breaking single effect of the virus so far, for us.

William, Jenny, Martha

Stay safe, stay in, #stayathome, stay connected, stay healthy, ♫ stay, that’s what I meant to say or do something, but what I never say is stay this time ♫ Yes, time for a David Bowie record, I think.

Life goes on day after day

Life goes on day after day
Hearts torn in every way
So ferry ‘cross the Mersey
’cause this land’s the place I love
and here I’ll stay.

Yes, there’s a lot of sadness around at the moment, a nasty virus and a government that’s doing OK but could be doing so much better for us. On the other hand, we don’t have a leader suggesting we mainline Dettol while sitting under an ultraviolet lamp.

We’re doing our best to continue looking up, up, up while being locked in, in, in. For example, last week, I decided to go for a new look. I combed my hair back instead of forward for the first time since 1971.

A couple of Mars bars

I tweeted (twat?) a joke and it became my most popular tweet ever: I think it went viral, in modern parlance, but I’m trying to avoid using the V word too much at the moment. Obviously, I’m pleased that so many people got the pun, and retwat (retweeted?) it. Here is a list of people who asked for an explanation: (no, not really, that wouldn’t be very nice).

A very nice offer but no thanks

Needless to say, I won’t be taking up this kind offer from Royal Mail. The postmen and women who are still out on delivery are all heroes. Unless things have changed a lot since I worked there, there is just no way the workers can ‘socially distance’ while preparing their walks in the delivery office. We know the company isn’t supplying protective clothing. So every day, each postie is potentially touching 500+ gates and 500+ front doors while delivering mail. This includes all the junk mail, the pizza menus, even though many of the pizza shops are now closed. Meanwhile, the boss, Rico, is living the life of riley in his Swiss eyrie.

We’re still going out for a walk every couple of days.

Northenden Superstore

Thank goodness we now have a new shop in the village. I don’t think it even opened before the lockdown, but it’s nice to see some competition for Tesco, the Co-op, Nisa, the corner shop just up the road and the Spar at the nearby service station. A song came to mind as I was waiting to cross the road.

Northenden Superstore
Sells booze and fags
And a whole lot more.

I wanted Andrew Lloyd-Webber to write the music, but I realised, he’s already done so.

What else have we been up to?

Sydney Harbour

Liesel completed this jigsaw puzzle in just a few days.

Rainbow fish

Martha coloured in this rainbow fish for her nursery class.

Isolation

This bloke was enjoying some solitude in the sunshine on Didsbury Golf Course.

The river, in fact it’s the Mersey as mentioned in today’s introductory song, albeit much further upstream and away from the eponymous ferry, is always a good place to walk. Except on those occasions when there are just too many people to keep away from.

Flowers by the Mersey
Sofa in the Mersey

Yes, we have a different class of fly-tipper here.

Tyre in the Mersey

I wonder if the rest of the vehicle has been deposited somewhere in the river?

Heron in the Mersey

At last, months after my first sighting of this elusive bird, I managed to take some pictures before he flew away. In fact, he was so still, I did suggest to Liesel that he was just a cardboard cut-out, like the one we saw at Hampton Court all those years ago.

Construction by the Mersey

This is where the M60 crosses the Mersey and its supports are being reinforced, a long-term project. The path on that side of the river is closed to pedestrians while the work is undertaken, showing how determined someone was on the day they decided to throw their old furniture into the river.

Chocolate London
Selfie of the day

One of my birthday presents arrived late (a nice surprise, thanks, Pauline), but I had a fun afternoon in the kitchen, melting chocolate and modelling a London taxi, a London bus and the Queen Elizabeth II Tower, sometimes known as Big Ben. The first instruction was to put on the chef’s hat, which protected my new coiffure. The chocolate London was of course consumed within two days of its construction: we didn’t want it to melt in what is rumoured to be the hottest April since records began in 1659.

Meanwhile, in another universe, but just a few miles away…

Martha
William

Keep on the Sunny Side

This year’s Easter Sunday featured no eggses for Liesel and me, but we did enjoy watching William and Martha playing with bubbles! Yes, of course, we would love to have been with them in their garden, but we’re all still in lockdown thanks to Covid-19. And it looks like we’ll be here for several more weeks, too.

Martha floating after a bubble
William chasing a bubble

We’re not getting out very often, in fact. I go out every two or three days for a walk and Liesel comes out less often. It’s nice to see so much support for the NHS. We clap for the nurses and doctors and porters and cleaners and all NHS workers every Thursday night, some people bang pots and pans, some let fireworks off, some blow vuvuzelas, but Liesel and I are just happy to lean out of a window and politely applaud. There is more support and gratitude expressed out on the pavements of Northenden too.

Awesome NHS

Stay at home, says the wall, but if I had followed the instruction, I wouldn’t have been able to read the instruction and it’s this sort of paradox that leads to rifts in the spacetime continuum.

Colourful leaves

As Spring progresses, we’re seeing more and more colour, hooray! Even the oak tree outside our flat is now showing some foliage: I was beginning to think it was a deceased deciduous but no, it’s doing alright! I wonder how the baby oak tree is doing in our old garden in Chessington?

Wall flower

Sit down with a cup of tea, because here comes a story about a potentially risky and ultimately pointless adventure. Regular visitors will know that I go to donate blood every twelve weeks or so. My appointment loomed and they kept sending me reminders, telling me it was still safe, that they were taking extra precautions to protect the staff and us donors from coronavirus, and it all looked ok for me to go along as normal. However, travelling by bus into Manchester didn’t seem to be such a good idea given the current isolation regime. So Liesel kindly offered to drive me in, despite the fact that she, as a more vulnerable person, is definitely meant to stay indoors. Well, I suggested, if you’re driving into Manchester anyway, why don’t you offer to give blood as well? That’s a good idea, said Liesel, and she proceeded to register online.

Everyone she told said it probably wasn’t such a good idea, really, but the messages we were now both receiving from blood.co.uk gave us confidence that this would be one of the safest, cleanest places we could possibly visit, outside our own home. Dear reader, if you can, please consider giving blood, you never know, you might need it back one day!

Blood day arrived, and we drove along almost empty roads to the Blood Donor Centre in Manchester. The man in the booth raised the barrier and we parked in a surprisingly crowded car park. Liesel went first, answered a few questions, and when she went in, I was requested to go and wait in the car: they didn’t want too many people inside at the same time. Well, of course, Liesel had the car key, so I couldn’t sit in the car. Instead, I took some exercise, walking round and round the car park, taking photos, enjoying the sunshine and changing direction whenever I saw another person within about 50 feet.

Scenes from a Blood Donor Centre car park

The time of my appointment arrived and I went in, answering a few basic questions. I didn’t see Liesel, so I assumed she was either still being processed or was in a back room somewhere. The nurse did the usual finger prick test and asked a few more questions. Since my last session, I’ve seen the GP about my shortness of breath issue, which has resulted in a number of medical tests. My next appointment has been postponed, because of The ‘Rona. Because it’s my heart that’s being investigated, they said they wouldn’t take my blood today. Well, that was very disappointing, but understandable: they don’t want me keeling over and having to visit the hospital over the road. They’ll be in touch in six months. I left with my tail between my legs. The receptionist nurse said that Liesel had donated, so that was good. It was also wrong. They’d tried, but they couldn’t find a vein, told Liesel she was too dehydrated and sent her away.

What a palaver! All that time and effort: giving blood, we thought, is one of the few things we can do at the moment for the benefit of other people. Oh well, it was a day out.

The empty field near Northenden’s Rosehill Community Farm and Garden
Bug box

Yes, I was daft enough to watch this Bug Box for a few minutes but saw nothing more interesting than a couple of flies.

Dead hedge? Or not dead?

The hedge around our apartment block is still covered in brown leaves that we feel should have fallen off last Autumn. But, for the first time, this week, there are signs of life. The new leaves are red rather than green, but a few days sunshine should sort that out. Looking forward to a lush, green barrier very soon.

Queen Anna from Frozen 2

Again, we have to enjoy the children’s activities from afar. Here is Queen Anna and apart from reluctantly taking off this costume at bedtime, Martha has been living in it for days!

On Liam’s birthday, we had another Zoom session, I won’t say how old he is but it’s the same age as Martha, just with a zero afterwards.

Daisies and dandelions

People have asked and yes, we do sometimes miss our garden in Chessington. I don’t miss my 30-year war with bindweed and dandelions, they were always going to win. But I would like to apologise to all the bees and butterflies that could have enjoyed the dandelions in my garden, if only my preference wasn’t always for other flowers (or weeds).

There’s not enough Martha in our lives at the moment, so we watched a different one perform from home on t’internet. Martha Tilston has been one of our favourite singer/songwriters since the early 2000s: I think I first saw her at Kingston’s Rose Theatre before it even acquired that name! Liesel and I have seen her live several times and we look forward to doing so again. But this online show was fantastic, we really enjoyed it, she sang many of our favourite songs.

Martha Tilston at home in Cornwall online on Facebook on Liesel’s phone

We even had a glass of whisky to accompany the show. It was only fitting then that we have a music session the following day. Liesel and I took it in turns to play some long neglected CDs:

      • Wynton Marsalis
      • Brave, the Disney film soundtrack
      • Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
      • Martha Tilston, Bimbling
      • (some of) D#rty F#n M#l# (which, correctly, Liesel described as gross)
      • Beatles, Let it Be Naked
      • Nilsson, Harry
      • O Brother, Where Art Thou? film soundtrack
From the last of these, one song in particular struck a chord:
Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way
If we keep on the sunny side of life.
PS As I write Sanny has just played this very song on Radio Northenden, at my request, so I shall add that mention to my 15 minutes of fame as predicted by Andy Warhol. And by coincidence, Andy Warhol by David Bowie was the first song played on today’s show, the penultimate one. You can listen to all 14 shows here.

Here we are, now entertain us

We’re still in lockdown, self-isolating, embedded in the frontline at home, finding new and interesting ways to keep ourselves occupied and entertained. The weather certainly lifts the mood, now it’s warmer and sunnier, but we’re not allowed out more than once a day for a quick spot of exercise. It’s disconcerting when you see so many shops closed for business, with the shutters down. Some have displayed notices, but not all. Any plans we had to acquire tattoos for instance have been put on hold for the time being. Oh well.

Closed for the next few weeks

There is a lot of community spirit, but what a pity we can’t socialise more: it just feels wrong to ‘chat’ with a neighbour by shouting across the road, just to preserve social distancing. There’s plenty of colour to enjoy. When you’re restricted to a short perambulation around the local area, you do appreciate any splashes of colour.

More rainbows
Daffodils
Forget-me-nots and tulips

There are many fewer people walking and cycling and running, so it’s quite easy to maintain social distancing. But it is weird to see one of the busiest local roads all but deserted. One beneficial side effect of there being less traffic is that we can more easily hear the birds singing their songs of joy.

An unusually empty Princess Parkway, looking towards Manchester city centre

Wythenshawe Park was pleasant too. Not too many people, and all keeping away from each other. It hasn’t rained for a while, so I was surprised to see the last puddle in the north-west of England catching the Sun.

Sun puddle-jumping
Wythenshawe Park

This week, Martha celebrated her 4th birthday with her immediate family at home where, sadly, there was no party. We couldn’t join her in person, but we did join other family members online using Zoom, video-conferencing software that is usually used for long, boring and probably unnecessary business meetings!

Zoom with: part of William, Martha and Liam; Liesel and Mick; Andrea, Emily and Paul; Adam and Helen in Australia; Alan and Una
Jenny and Birthday Girl balancing on Daddy’s head
The big 4

But if we couldn’t celebrate Martha’s big day properly, the wider universe did. It chose tonight to reveal the year’s biggest full Moon, a Supermoon, a Pink Moon: the Moon very nearly at its closest to the Earth, appearing 14% larger than usual. It would have been a terrific sight if it wasn’t for the clouds that appeared during the course of the evening. Other people managed to get some decent photos though so I captured this one from TV the next day.

Local News programme showed viewers’ photos of the Moon
Nearly a whole one

The following night, I did see the 99%-full Moon and took this picture, with my phone camera, through the bathroom window. This reminds me how much I am looking forward to using my real camera again at some point, when things get back to normal. In fact, I was going to investigate the latest technology and look into maybe buying a new camera this year.

Indoors, we’re still doing lots of stuff. We miss going to the theatre so it was nice to see the National Theatre’s production of One Man, Two Guvnors streaming on YouTube. We saw the show in real life a few years ago and we enjoyed it just as much the second time around. On TV, we’ve started watching Star Trek: Discovery and after the first of two series, I think we can safely say it’s engaging, moral and much more intense than the original series half a century ago!

We have a new radio station for a couple of weeks: Radio Northenden. It’s our local, parochial, isolation station! Sanny Rudravajhala is broadcasting from the spare room in his house round the corner from where we live. Listen here, every day until Sunday 19th, 4pm.

Radio Northenden

Just a couple of hours a day, but he and his wife Katie are playing some good music, there’s plenty of chat, guests and nonsense. Best of all, of course, he played my choice of music: Ain’t Bin to no Music School by Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds. This band hails from nearby Wythenshawe, and when I bought the 7″ single in 1976 or ’77, it never occurred to me that I’d be moving to the area a mere 42 years later!

Another day, another walk.

Thank you, keyworkers
Blossoming tree

We’ve passed these pollarded trees many times, but at last, they’re blossoming, showing signs of life, which is lovely.

Spam, spam, spam, spam

This spammer couldn’t decide whether to increase my level of concern over CoViD-19 or to make me panic about potentially losing my Netflix account. In the end, he just put both messages in the one email. I don’t like to generalise but spammers can be a bit thick sometimes.

Like many other folks, I’ve noticed my dreams have been much more vivid during this period of isolation. I haven’t worked for over four years now, yet work is still the subject of many dreams. For instance, I turned up early one morning but couldn’t get into the delivery office because there was too much mail inside. It had all been sorted into bags (nice blue bags, not the red ones they use in real life) but they were all over the tables and all over the floor, stacked high. Then there’s the road where the house numbers aren’t at all in the right order. Dreams are also taking me back to school and college and shopping centres where I leave and can’t find my way back in so I wind up getting further and further away, on the North Downs walking towards Guildford, until I wake up with a great sense of relief.

Release Me

Well that was challenge alright. I started Walking All Over Cancer in Malta, aiming to walk 10,000 steps every day in March. Looking at the detailed statistics, I can confirm that I walked a total of more than 332,438 steps. I know it’s more than that because once, I somehow reset the pedometer so it gave me a total of only 261 steps at the end of the day. I wonder how often I’ve reset it to zero without realising? Technology, eh?

Congratulations, me

Looking at the daily counts, it’s fairly obvious on which days I had to make up numbers at the end of the day by pacing up and down the hall, or running on the spot for a few minutes! 10,009 steps! Once again, a million thanks to all my sponsors and supporters, I am very grateful.

As I write, we’re still allowed out once a day for exercise, but that privilege might be revoked if too many people keep going out in large groups or having barbecues in the parks.

Horses

It’s always good to see wildlife when we’re out and about, but until that happens, we’ll just have to make do with these local horses.

Do not press this button

Every time I pass this pedestrian crossing, whatever time of day it is, I have been preceded by fifty other people. How do they know? In any case, there’s so little traffic these days, you can usually just walk straight over the road.

Messing about by the river

It’s usually easy to keep your distance from other people, runners, cyclists, walkers, but I was a tad disgruntled when I saw other people in the woods, coming towards me. We never see anyone else there, that’s why we like it, despite the thrumble from the nearby motorway. I couldn’t see any way to avoid them, so I turned round and retraced my steps.

Blossom
Camellias

Liesel’s been very busy in the kitchen too. We’ve had cookies, birthday cake, cherry dump cake, corn chowder, ch-ch-ch-cheesey chilli on chips and we loved Liesel’s first loaf of soda bread.

Liesel’s soda bread

Meanwhile, (it might as well be) fifty thousand miles away, Martha and William were taken out on a bear hunt, something Liesel and I look forward to joining in with once this new régime is done and dusted. I know we went travelling for ten months, so we didn’t see them for a long time, but that was our choice. This enforced isolation feels much, much worse and we really do miss spending time with them.

William and Martha in a deep, dark cave

It’s easy to spend too much time reading Twitter. One really useful piece of information came up though. The record that was number 1 in the charts on your twelfth birthday is your isolation song. Mine is Release Me by Englebert Humperdinck. Quite apt, under the circumstances, as well as being a favourite of my Mum’s. She went to see him in concert in Aldershot, where he was supported by Lance Percival, actor, comedian, calypso writer. Yes, we have plenty of time for reminiscing right now too!

That’s Entertainment

Locked in, we get our entertainment where we can. Radio and TV of course but also puzzles, crochet, exercise, books and food. Yes, even the vegetables are keeping us amused at this strange time.

A carrot with a face

I wonder how many books there’ll be, ‘when this is all over’ titled something like Life in the Time of CoViD-19. How are we all coping? What lessons have we learned? How will life change from now on? You want more entertainment? The man over the road doesn’t have a car (as far as we know) but he objected to the cat sitting right in the middle of his drive. So he opened his living room window, attempted to squirt water at the cat, missed, spilt water indoors and knocked some pot plants off his window sill.

We’re still allowed out for exercise each day, but we’re limited to the local neighbourhood for our strolls. I don’t know why graveyards are so appealing, somewhere different, I suppose. Someone pulled back the layer of grass, the turf, from a hidden grave stone. I think this could be a new artform.

Here resteth the body of

It’s good to see that in general, people are avoiding each other out in the streets, by stepping out into the road where necessary, or crossing over where possible.

Not quite deserted street

It’s not always possible to keep six feet, or two metres from the next person. The worst offenders are runners who won’t deviate from their puffing and panting and sweaty course for anyone. And when you’re walking slowly along a narrow path, keeping several yards behind another walker, it doesn’t help when they decide to turn round and walk back towards you, passing within inches as you struggle to hold your breath for the next ten minutes.

Some good news though: we managed to place an order on Ocado as they consider Liesel a special case. We won’t get the delivery for a couple of weeks, but at least we got to the front of the queue.

On what would have been my parents’ 66th wedding anniversary, I looked out to watch the ISS, International Space Station, fly overhead, finding its way between a thin crescent Moon and Venus. Sorry, my photos were all nbg.

Reflections of my life

As can be seen here, the weather was gorgeous. But just a couple of days later, we adjusted the clocks for British Summer Time and this was the cue for cold north winds to return. It’s easier to stay indoors when it’s not so warm outside, but I think we were hoping for a longer Spring this year!

Selfie of the day

The local children are keeping us entertained with gorgeous rainbows in their windows.

Stay strong our kid

Liesel was messing about one morning, maybe a bit fed-up with just the two of us being confined together, so she decided to get a pet.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

Speaking of tigers, one documentry series I enjoyed on TV was Tiger King. Spoiler alert: there are some strange people in America. Actually, ‘enjoyed’ probably isn’t the right word, but it is a fascinating and scary story.

We often find lost gloves and shoes on our walks, but hats are rarer.

Flat cap

Yes, we’re all waiting until ‘this is all over’ after which we will go through a long period of recovery.

Recovery

Meanwhile, I’ll occasionally be on the bike, going nowhere fast.

Mick on a bike

Yes, it does look like the aspect ratio is wrong but that’s because I’m pedalling so fast, the effects of relativity are coming into play.

Thanks again to all the generous sponsors for my Walk All Over Cancer challenge, which only has a couple of days to go. If you are the Anonymous donor, thank you very much and please reveal yourself to me in private so I can lace daisies in your hair. I am very grateful, thank you.

Grounded and Ghost Towns

Yesterday, the UK finally went into almost full lockdown. We’re not allowed to leave our homes except for a few very specific reasons. We knew this was coming so the last week was full of last opportunities. We’ll probably still go out for a (permitted) walk most days but we’ll also be riding the bike indoors. Yes, we retrieved my bike from the storage unit and it’s now on the wind trainer.

We didn’t have much shopping to buy at the Co-op but we had a nice walk by the river, staying the mandatory two metres away from passers-by.

Neeed a rest?

Our one big day out was to Dunham Massey. National Trust properties have opened their grounds to everyone, member or not, but the houses, cafés and gift shops are all closed.

The oldest oak at Dunham Massey

That was then. Subsequently, even the grounds have been closed because too many people were visiting. On the day we visited, it was easy enough to keep away from everyone else. And it was good to see some wildlife too.

Deer
Albino deer
Easy to miss this birdbox
Coot
Deer and non-socially distancing humans
Lion

I rescued a tired bumble bee from the pavement near home. My idea to go back to the shop to buy sugar and water for it was vetoed: fair enough.

Then, later in the day, Liesel asked me to remove a bee from our bedroom. It really looks like Spring is happening, with bees, blooms and blossoms brightening our lives.

We tried to place our regular Ocado order but unfortunately, everyone else is too.

The population of Rawtenstall ahead of us in the queue

Who knows when we’ll be able to get back online? We don’t want to go to the local shops more often than necessary.

All we can do is enjoy whatever nature throws our way (novel viruses excepted), especially the gorgeous and random splashes of colour.

Sunset over Northenden
Cherry blossom
Please let me know what this is
Two Suns in our window

Our weekly wander into Didsbury was weird. There seemed to be more people than usual to avoid on the path by the river but the town itself wasn’t as busy as usual.

Didsbury is coming like a ghost town

We visited Cidsin for a takeaway coffee and a brownie. They’re also selling some basic groceries such as bread, eggs and milk. Well, they were that day, but they’ve since decided to close completely.

Cidsin, Didsbury

This is the place where plain-clothed police officers go for their coffee and doughnuts. How do we know? The clue is in its name: CID’s in.

Rays of sunshine

I have had some strange birthdays but this year’s was arguably the most unusual. No birthday kisses or hugs. We went over to see the family and maintained social distancing by speaking to the children through the window.

I got a message from Martha
Happy birthday
Selfie of the day

I took advantage of the sunshine and walked most of the way home, enjoying the solitude and again the blooming marvellous colours of nature.

More blossom
Cheadle is coming like a ghost town
Even more blossom
Yellow tulips
Red tulips

So, Happy Birthday to me! Thanks for the delicious cake, Liesel.

Birthday cake: we’ll keep a slice for you

And how’s the Walking All Over Cancer thing going? So far, so good, thanks for asking. Only a week to go! Looking at my copious records, you can tell which days I’ve had to pace up and down the hall just to get the step count over the target of 10,000. Many thanks to those who have sponsored me already! And to those who may be in lockdown, stuck at home, with not much to do: you can sponsor me here, thank you very much 😉

While we’re stuck indoors, we’ll try to keep to some sort of routine, we’ll keep busy, alternating between doing something useful and having lots of fun. Online courses all seem to take more than the 3 hours a week they tell you and there are plenty to choose from. I’ve subscribed to more podcasts and radio shows than before. Plus, we have hundreds of CDs to sort, catalogue, file and even to listen to. I have a huge ‘To do’ list to address, as a last resort. My ‘recommended books’ list will keep me going for years. For now, we can go out for a walk each day, plus, we can cycle indoors so we have no excuse not to keep up a basic level of fitness. We hope everyone else in lockdown is keeping calm and carrying on too.

Isolating and Walking

It is the worst of times, it is the worst of times. Coronavirus, Covid-19, coronapocalyse, it’s all over the news. The government advises this, the health experts say that, the response to this global disaster is different in different countries, definitely do this, preferably do that, so much advice, and why isn’t the UK following WHO guidelines and testing, testing, testing? So it’s not the ideal time to visit hospital on two separate occasions for different examinations, unrelated to the current contagion. Did I pick up the virus? Or did I leave it behind for someone else to avoid? We’ll never know.

Somewhere over the rainbow

I waited for the bus home after my echocardiogram and was enormously cheered up by this rainbow. Not so much by the bus that rolled in declaring ‘Sorry Out Of Service’. Only after opening the door for a microsecond and then driving off did the driver decide to change the display, confirming that this was, in fact, the bus I’d been waiting for.

Things were better the day we took William to the zoo. He was interested in seeing the newborn Asian elephant, Riva Hi Way, of course but in a surprise move, he also asked to go to the Zipline. Literally. He rode the Zipline once before taking off the harness, he wasn’t bothered about walking and climbing the rest of the Treetop Challenge!

But he does like going into the forest, to explore and to hide and to pick up sticks.

William hiding in the forest

When I saw this graphic from a distance, I thought, Chester Zoo haven’t really got this human evolution thing quite right, have they?

Bear necessities

But it’s just showing all the different species of bear compared with a human. Very educational. The other mistake I made was when I saw a sign for ‘Beermats’ through the bushes. Not being a tegestologist, I wasn’t that interested. Only on closer inspection did I realise it was the sign for ‘Meerkats’. I resolved to clean my glasses.

Pretty little orange flowers

And if that’s not orange enough, what about this frog?

Golden mantella

Initially, William had asked to see the blue, poison-dart frogs, but we couldn’t see any in their tank. The volunteer suggested they’d been taken away for some reason.

Camel 1: I’m bored.
Camel 2: Me too.
Camel 3: Me three.
Camel 1: What shall we do?
Camel 2: I know, let’s have a game of noughts and crosses.
Camel 3: That’s a great idea. Have we got any paper and a pencil?
Camel 1: No, but I have some duct tape.
Camel 2: How will that help?
Camel 3: We could make up a noughts and crosses grid somewhere.
Camel 1: But where?
Camel 2: Well it was your idea, 3, so let’s use your hump.
Camel 3: Oh, alright then.

Like a camel with a sore hump

The other thing William specifically asked for was to see the lady who cleans up the elephant poo. Well, he saw the lady and he thoroughly investigated the poo.

William investigating a big dump

Don’t worry, we all washed our hands several times during the day and when we got back home.

We picked Martha up from Nursery and then, back home, she and William built and demolished several towers.

In this time of Covid-19, it’s harder than usual to make a GP appointment, even when they’ve sent a message asking us to do so. They answered my call after 20 minutes, I made my appointment and so did Liesel who hijacked my phone after listening to the ringing on her own for the same amount of time. But as the GP surgery doesn’t want potentially infected bodies turning up, we just each had a 20-minute phone consultation. Marvellous.

After admitting to our newly acquired cough, we’re now self-isolating. We think it’s just a post-holiday cold, and I’m a few days behind Liesel with the tickly and sore throat and cough, but here we are.

We’re allowed out for walks as long as we don’t socialise. The recent storms must have weakened this tree which appeared on the pavement between walking one way and walking back maybe twenty minutes later.

A recently fallen tree

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, goes the famous saying. But sometimes they spontaneously go and stand in a puddle while drinking the water.

A horse enjoying the water

The river is always a good place to see people doing silly things, such as jogging. But trying to row these canoes without putting them in the water seems a bit bizarre.

Wannabe canoeists

Another bit of a tree, a dead one, fell in and drifted towards the bridge.

Tree in the Mersey

When Liesel and I walked along the river, towards but not all the way to Didsbury, we passed fewer people than usual. Again, we noted the rough path, not ideal for walking on and definitely not much fun cycling on it, although we saw a couple of people try. One lady was pushing her bike. But if she’d been cycling on the other side of the river, along which we returned, she too would have had to negotiate the puddle that straddled the width of the road. We managed to get by without falling in.

A challenging wide puddle

It would be so easy to fall into gloom and despair while in isolation, so it’s good to see the Spring flowers are making an effort to cheer us up.

A very pretty roadside bed

While stuck indoors, I’m sure we’ll be doing a lot of reading, writing, TV and film watching, radio and podcast listening as well as puzzles. In fact, this weekend, for the first time, I successfully completed a Sandwich Sudoku in the Guardian. I was beginning to think these were a spoof, a hoax perpetrated by naughty work experience teenagers at the newspaper, as I have messed up every single one. Until this weekend, hooray! Here’s the grid if you want to have a go:

Place the digits from 1-9 in each row, column and 3×3 block. The clues outside the grid show the sum of the numbers between the 1 and the 9 in that row or column.