We’re about to be locked down again, so our world isn’t going to broaden any time soon. But we still enjoy our almost daily walks in and around Northenden. And we did have a proper day out, just once, this week.
We walked over to Fletcher Moss Park where Liesel again met up with her WI ladies.
The river was flowing slowly on this occasion, so the kayakers couldn’t just drift along. They probably needed the exercise.
We haven’t seen swans on the Mersey for a long time, so this was a rare treat.
In the park, one of the memorial benches received some love, presumably from the family.
While Liesel chatted with her friends, I took my coffee to the rockery, found a bench in the Sun and read my book. What I didn’t anticipate was having company of my own.
The robin and I had a good chat. I couldn’t apologise enough for not having any food, certainly no mealworm, about my person.
I have a few books on the go at the moment: poems, short stories, non-fiction but no novel, and that is very unusual. So I was pleased when Jyoti recommended a science fiction book that I might enjoy. Thank you!
Walking back home through the park, we passed a crocus, which is unusual this time of year. It’s jolly lucky we didn’t stomp on it by mistake.
We’re told this is a wild Autumn crocus, new to both of us.
Something else I didn’t expect to see in the park was a bat. Neither a cricket bat nor a vampire bat.
Later on, we saw the herons, two of them, flying up and down the river. Maybe they hadn’t migrated after all. Or maybe they had but didn’t like it there and came home. Anyway, one stopped, waited, watched and finally grabbed for a juicy titbit in the water. He shook his head, but who knows whether he was swallowing a small fish, or just stunned from bashing his beak on the river bed.
We had a good day at Chester Zoo, which I don’t think was as busy as last time. The temperature was perfect. But the animals were not at all cooperative, turning away as soon as they knew I was about to take their picture.
Here are just a few of the animals that we saw, some more easily than others.
The beautifully iridescent Himalayan monal is the national bird of Nepal, and one of the few inmates to turn round and pose for a photo.
Liesel finished her second crochet blanket this week, and it’s a wonderful work of art. It has been exported to Chessington where I hope it lives happily ever after.
While Liesel’s busy crocheting, I can usually be found pursuing one of my interests on the computer. For instance, this week, I completed the ‘How to Read Poetry’ course. It was interesting but very intense and I learned a lot of new words and concepts.
Here’s a pretty leaf It fell out of a tree If I’d been there at the wrong time It might have fell on me.
Yes, I should probably do a ‘How to Write Poetry’ course too.
We wandered over to Gatley under a blue sky. Mostly. Big grey clouds appeared ominously, the temperature dropped a few degrees and we were convinced we’d be rained on before we returned home. But no, our luck held.
We went for another walk, this time through Kenworthy Woods. The apples that we’d planned on sampling have long gone, and the few that remain are a bit moth-eaten, or squirrel-eaten. I left Liesel at the hairdresser where she kept her mask on, and enjoyed her first haircut in over six months.
I’ll never be a big fan of snails, but now that I am not growing plants that they find very nice and very tasty, I can almost admire their beauty.
This week on Radio Northenden, we went to the zoo: a couple of hours of music about zoos, zoo animals or some songs with a very tenuous link to the above. Listen here. Thanks again to Martha and William for helping out. Nobody could ask for better broadcast assistants.
Martha was VIP in her class one day at school, this week. This was because she turned up at school bearing a huge smile. Mummy said she was very proud of Martha. Martha said, ‘I’m proud of me, too. I’m proud of my mouth.’
A big week in mickandlieselsanticsland – it was a big birthday for Liesel. We celebrated by going to the seaside, not once, but twice.
The car park was full, but the beach is huge, so although there were pockets of people, it was easy enough to find our own space. Luckily, we’d arrived early, because by the time we left, there was a very long queue of cars waiting to get into the car park. The final Sunday before the ‘Rule of 6’ restrictions kick in, maybe. Or just a Sunday.
These shapes are a result of small stones and fragments of shell on the beach, combined with the angle of the Sun and the wind direction. At first glance, it reminded me of some old Babylonian cuneiform writing, all those little triangles.
We had a nice long walk along the beach. The wind was borderline acceptable, quite strong but not cold. Nonetheless, for protection, I was walking along the beach with a finger in my ear like a really intense folk singer.
On Monday, lots of flowers arrived, so I was up and down stairs like an old, wheezing yoyo [edited]. The bell rang, I ran downstairs, thought it was weird because I’d ordered flowers from Interflora, not M&S, then I thought maybe Interflora uses M&S round these strange northern parts. Plus when Liesel opened the box, I thought, those don’t look like the flowers I’d ordered! The attached card revealed that this bouquet was actually from Helen and Steve. My flowers arrived a couple of hours later, I’m glad to say. And a third one from Pauline, Andrew and Rob in New Zealand arrived a little later. So far, my birthday card hasn’t arrived, which is embarrassing and very disappointing: I should have just handed an old one over in the first place. but I didn’t want to go into a shop and buy one, so I ordered it online. Oh well, there’ll be another birthday next year.
Early on birthday morning, we had a Zoom call with Jenny, Liam, Martha and William here in UK, and Helen and Adam in Australia. Martha and William sang Happy Birthday, blew out candles and ate cake. (Later in the day, William wanted to sing Happy Birthday again, but I think the main attraction was more cake.) Liesel opened her presents and it looks as though she’ll be busy for the next several weeks doing a 2000-piece jigsaw puzzle (a collage of photos of our grandchildren and our adventures, put together by Helen), and making cheese (a great idea, Jenny)!
Later on, it was good to have an online chat with Sarah in Exeter too.
We returned to Formby, and even though it was much later in the day this time, it was far less busy. Everyone’s back at work and at school now, hastening the second wave of Covid infection, presumably
We had a fantastic picnic lunch of samosas and veggie sausage rolls. The wind was less strong today, too, so overall, we had a very pleasant time. The tide was a long way out, so if there were any jellyfish around, we didn’t see them.
It was a hot day, and possibly the last really hot day of the year, if the forecast is anything to go by.
I could have made a cake, I could have gone out and bought a cake, but Liesel made her own cake, a small but perfectly formed chocolate cake. Somehow, we made it last three days. Very nice, very tasty.
We walked around the local area again a few times, visiting the river, and Fletcher Moss Park. We don’t know if our herons have migrated at all, but we haven’t seen them all week.
The Autumn colours are really coming out now.
We talked about these tall trees. Are they conifer? Or are they dancer? Answers on a postcard please!
One morning, we went out really early, the ground was covered in dew, our feet got wet, but we saw some beautiful sights.
So, the title, Mandelbrot Extinction. Any ideas? No, nor me. I woke up one day with the phrase buzzing around my head like a fly trying to get out of a room with no windows. I assume it’s the only remnant from what must have been a very interesting dream. I googled the phrase, of course I did, and there is nothing. My strange nocturnal mind has invented something brand new. At least I have a name the next time I form a rock band.There used to be a game to play on the internet: enter two random words into Google and try to get exactly one result. Googlewhacking! Well, once this blog has been published and the web crawlers have done their job, maybe Mandelbrot Extinction will be a successful Googlewhack, bringing you right back here!
Friday in Northenden was big. Up Your Street was an opportunity for local businesses to highlight their wares. Thankfully, the weather was kind, and Palatine Road and the surrounding area was very busy. Dan McDwyer and a couple of singers from his Youth Choir, part of The Choir Project, provided the entertainment outside Salutem.
As well as playing keyboards, singing and conducting his singers, he was broadcasting on Radio Northenden. And yes, it was good to see Radio Northenden in the list of participants.
Liesel and I had a fantastic breaded halloumi burger in The Northern Den, highly recommended! We met Sanny and Katie from Radio Northenden there, with (baby) Byron: he sometimes gatecrashes his Mum and Dad’s shows. It felt strange talking to people, in a restaurant, outside, because after six months of lockdown, of course, it is strange.
Before walking up the road to Up Your Street, I presented my own regular show on Radio Northenden. Because it was her birthday this week, Liesel picked all the music and there were some lovely messages from family and friends too. Due to bad planning on my part, I had to leave out a couple of the songs, and many of the stories I’d planned ended up on the cutting room floor. And now, they’ve ended up here, in this very blog. Here comes a tarted up version of the ‘script’ for Liesel’s Birthday show. Tarted up? I’ve fixed the many typographical, grammatical and punctuational errors and I’ve left out all the adverts for, and references to, Up Your Street – if you missed it, you missed it! Listen here for two hours of fab and groovy music.
Mort Stevens and his Orchestra – Theme from Hawaii Five-O Dave Matthews – American Baby
We’ve seen Dave Matthews Band in concert a few times, with Liesel’s cousin Andrea, and Steve. And just like Whispering Bob Harris, we can’t understand why they’re not bigger here in the UK. At one show, Liesel was approached by a stranger. Liesel thought he was a ne’er-do-well, a random stranger. But no. He was only Dave Matthews’ guitar player, and he was here, at Andrea’s behest, to give Liesel a guitar pick.
Queen – Radio Gaga
I saw Queen support Mott the Hoople at Hammersmith Odeon. Liesel didn’t, on account of being a mere toddler at the time. Embarrassing. Mott the Hoople played a long set, they wouldn’t leave the stage, and the curtain came down in front of them.
U2 – Bullet the Blue Sky Dolly Parton – Coat of Many Colours
Nope, neither of us have seen U2 nor Dolly, live.
Delighted that Liesel chose a David Bowie song, almost without prompting. You may remember the video for China Girl ends with a passionate embrace on a beach. Well, Liesel and I spent part of her birthday at Formby [see above], walking and picnicking, rather than rolling around in the surf: the tide was too far out.
David Bowie – China Girl
Liesel’s celebratory birthday meal this year, after our day at the seaside, was fish and chips from the Church Road Chippy. Sadly, they had no cheese and onion pies for me this time, so a bit of a let-down.
Unthanks – Magpie
We’ve seen them just once in concert, at the newly renovated Roundhouse in London.
Martha Tilston – Survival Guide
We’ve seen Martha probably more often than any other single artist, at various venues around the country. [Most recently]
Billy Joel – Piano Man
We’ve seen him in concert once, great show, Piano Man, Uptown Girl, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. He invited his guitar player Mike del Guidice to sing a song. He performed Nessun Dorma and of course we sang along. Well, until security intervened.
Neil Diamond – I am I said
We wanted to see him in concert a few years ago, but the tickets were far too expensive.
Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto – Desafinado
That’s another song that I murdered while learning to play the saxophone.
Shanukh Khan and Sapna Awasthi – Chaiyya Chaiyya
I was doing all the Bollywood moves there, screwing in light bulbs, picking cherries from trees. I can’t do the pigeon head movement though. From the 1998 film Dil Se.
Adele – Skyfall
One of those songs that took a while to grow on me after being played on autorepeat on a radio station that I couldn’t switch off, when I was at work. [Chessington Delivery Office]
Gordon Lightfoot – Rainy Day People
We saw him on his first visit to the UK after a 30-year absence. He still has a great voice and some timeless songs
Bill Withers – Ain’t no Sunshine
One of Liesel’s favourite songs. Bill Withers’ first job was making toilet seats for Boeing airlines. He wrote this song during that time.
Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the wall
We haven’t seen Pink Floyd but we’ve been close. We once cycled from Bakewell to Buxton, along the A6, in the rain, as it was getting dark, an experience that Liesel doesn’t need to repeat. The reward was seeing a Pink Floyd tribute band at the Opera House. We only had time for a bag of crisps for dinner that evening. [We’d been told that buses between Bakewell and Buxton have bike racks on the front. They don’t.]
A better experience was watching Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, in Hyde Park in London. He performed Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. I found it it incredibly moving. I don’t think Liesel quite understood why me and other fans of a certain age were in tears. That’s how powerful music can be.
Sister Sledge – We are Family Simon and Garfunkel – 59th Bridge Street Song
We saw them at a reunion gig in Hyde Park, our first outdoor show together. Liesel was slightly intimidated by the size of the crowd, so much so, that she wouldn’t even let me go to the toilet by myself. The show was good but I don’t think Paul and Art made eye contact once, which is quite sad. The support act was The Everly Brothers.
We saw Wynton Marsalis at a late night concert many years ago, maybe it was one of the Proms that year. And we can hear a version of that song on Amy Lamé’s 6 Music show each week as she tells us what delights we can look forward to. Amy is also big fan of Christine and the Queens. During a recent interview, I wondered whether they shouldn’t just get a room.
Christine and the Queens – Christine [Baz Luhrmann (Quinson Tarver speaking)- Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen – not played because I was running out of time] Duran Duran – Ordinary World
We nearly saw Duran Duran in concert several years ago, we had tickets, but sadly illness overtook us.
Rick Braun – Nightwalk
We saw him in concert at Pizza Express in London. We had a table right at the front. Rick left his trumpet on the stage, easily within reach. Tempted to have a go? Of course I was, but Liesel said No.
Bic Runga – When I see you Smile
We were lucky enough to see her in concert a couple of years ago, in a vineyard on an island off Auckland, New Zealand, what a beautiful day, she really made us smile.
James Taylor – Steam roller [Swear word beautifully edited out, if I do say so myself]
Of course we’ve seen James Taylor on stage! Just the once.
We’ve also seen REM: at Twickenham Stadium. They played their music, not rugby, of course.
REM – Man on the Moon Frank Sinatra – Young at Heart
Have we seen Frank in concert? Yes, if a holographic projection counts. ‘He’ was accompanied by a live orchestra.
[Dave Matthews – What would you say? – not played, no time] Elbow – Grounds for Divorce PS Yes, I was surprised at how many of these artists we’ve seen perform in concert over the last 16 years or so together. What an adventure! We can’t wait for live shows to start up again.
Liesel and I are both happy about going out for a walk most days. There’s usually something interesting or funny to see in our local neighbourhood. But, equally, we can’t wait to go further afield. New York. London. Paris. Munich. Everybody talk about pop music. Our one trip out of the area this week was to Dunham Massey, the National Trust venue. Last time we went, it was far too crowded, so we were quite prepared to take a look at the car park and leave straightaway if necessary. But no: our luck was in.
As usual, we await corrections from our botanical correspondents.
Thanks go to Sally who identified these beauties as cyclamen. Of course, deep down, I knew that all along. I remember being told off as a youngster for trampling on my parents’ cyclamen in the garden, whilst retrieving an errant ball.
It really was a much more pleasant walk today than last time, we never felt there were too many people, too close to us. Schools are back and many people are now back at work, so that probably helped.
It was nice to see so many butterflies, especially in the garden. But I am old enough to remember when, on a nature walk, we asked each other how many species of butterfly we’d seen, not just how many individual specimens.
This is a good view, other people, far, far away in the distance. Yes, of course we came across groups of five, walking slowly, side by side, occupying the full width of the path, but really, we were very relaxed about the situation today.
Regular viewers may recall my several failed attempts to take a decent photograph of a dragonfly, when we were in Alaska a couple of years ago. And other places, subsequently. Well, I think this is my most successful shot so far. Yes, I would prefer a more natural background, not the fence post, but that’s where he decided to settle.
We were able to walk around the deer park on this visit, an area that was restricted last time. And we saw quite a few deer. These two young males were having a pretend fight. The clatter of the clashing antlers resonated around the park. They scared a little fawn, who ran back to its mother, but there was no real malice in their sparring. Liesel was (rightly) concerned that I wouldn’t get too close, but none of the deer even twitched an ear in my direction.
We chose to walk to Fletcher Moss Park on what must have been National Dog-Walking Day. We saw at least three people, each with four or five dogs, of various shapes and sizes, the larger ones bounding about like jacks in boxes, the little ones with their little legs whizzing round and round like cartoon characters.
In the park, we admired the way the grass cutting operative had, literally, cut the corner.
We walked through the rockery and rewarded ourselves with a coffee at the Alpine Tea Rooms.
Our early-morning weekly walk to Didsbury was very pleasant.
This thing looks like a wasp rather than a bee, but it has a silver back, like an elderly male gorilla. But I didn’t think wasps were bothered about pollinating. We await further information from our entomological correspondents.
The sky was blue and the contrails were out in force this morning.
This young lady was enjoying herself, bonding with the ducks.
We’ve seen a lot of heron activity during the week: one seems to hang about by a particular spot on the riverbank, maybe there’s a colony of tasty frogs there, or something.
We’ve seen far fewer geese this week: I wonder if they’ve started to fly south for the Winter? Another missed photo opp was a pair of squirrels, both standing upright on their hind legs, each holding an acorn in their front paws. A very cute pair of bookends.
We saw a very long worm on the path. I don’t know if we saved it from being consumed, but the robin wouldn’t return after we’d inadvertently scared it away. I’d like to say we saw a couple of chickens this week too, but no, just empty boxes from the local fried chicken emporia. A couple of horses thought about coming over the see us for a chat, but in the end, they changed their minds.
Apart from our perambulations, what have we been up to? Three weeks ago, we started studying poetry online. It’s a Future Learn course, of which I’ve completed quite a few now. How to read a Poem is very interesting, very detailed, very technical and very time-consuming. The funniest comment I’ve seen so far on the poetry course: “I do struggle with the idea that anything can be poetry but then I’m not a big fan of Tracy Eminem’s work either so I’m possibly just too old school.”
Online, I always try to catch Jessica Lee Morgan’s shows. If you want to hear her music, visit her YouTube channel, she’s performing live every Tuesday evening, 8pm, during September.
Or, listen to my latest Radio Northenden Show. I’ve played one of her songs every week so far, and I’m not apologising for that. This week’s theme was ‘Time Travel’, an excuse to play songs that I wouldn’t otherwise choose. Please bookmark this link and join me next Friday at 2pm to help celebrate Liesel’s birthday!
In other news: following my haircut last week, I am pleased to report a fantastic return on my investment. Yep: my shampoo bill has been more than halved.
We stayed within the local area this week, no trips abroad, to Yorkshire nor Chester for instance. The poor old car feels neglected, out there in the car park, all by itself, unloved except by passing birds.
August Bank Holiday weekend was different, this year: no Notting Hill Carnival in London and no Manchester Pride in, well, anywhere. Instead, we started watching the Tour de France on TV, taking place a few months later than usual, is this year of the Virus. On YouTube, we watched Jessica Lee Morgan perform a couple more shows from home, one to mark the release of her mother, Mary Hopkin’s, fantastic new album, Another Road. Buy your copy here. Highly recommended ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐, lovely songs and still a beautiful voice after all these years.
Also on TV, we completed our ‘binge-watch’ of the modern Doctor Who series. I can’t believe the Doctor is now in prison, in solitary confinement, between series, after the Judoon managed to materialise inside the Tardis, normally the safest place you can be. Sorry. Spoilers.
Also on YouTube, we watched the Folk on Foot’s third Festival in our Front Room. Forty musicians from around the UK got together with their respective bandmates and entertained us from their own homes, socially distanced where necessary. Watch it here, 7 hours of fabulous folk music.
We walked back to Didsbury on Bank Holiday Monday, specifically to Fletcher Moss Park, where Liesel met up with a group of ladies from her WI group for ‘muffins and mugs’: bring your own coffee and refreshments. While they were wagging their chins, I walked around the park, visiting the rockery, the rose pergola garden and the grass tennis courts which are in as much need of a haircut as I was at the time. I ended up, of course, buying myself a coffee in the little family-owned café.
After several hours, I gave up trying to untangle this mess.
🎼 Sun is in the sky, oh why oh why would I wanna be anywhere else? 🎵
There’s not a lot of wildlife round our way, so imagine our excitement when we saw this one morning by our oak tree.
Liesel thinks it looks more like a dog’s toy and, sure enough, it disappeared a few days later.
Another day, another walk by the river. In fact, we walked along the river several times this week. The level of the water varies quite a lot each day, almost regardless of the amount of rainfall. The depth of the puddles on the road and footpath fluctuates too: we have to do a funny little dance sometimes to avoid them all.
For the first time ever, we saw two herons in the same place at the same time. They flew off together before going their separate ways.
Martha started school. Yep, that short sentence makes me feel old. She went for an hour on the first ‘settling in’ day and she now wants to walk to school on her own. She loved it and can’t wait to go full time next week.
The jacket says CHPS: I think that’s California Highway Patrol, whose remit is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security. Sarah and I used to love watching CHiPs on TV on a Sunday afternoon BC, before children!
Almost as momentous, on the same day, I had a spontaneous haircut. As we walked by Massimo on Palatine Road, we noticed there were no customers. So we deliberated. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Yes, this long lockdown hair had to go. The barber wore a mask, the customers’ seats were separated by plastic sheets, so it was as Covid-safe as they could manage. The clippings were knee-deep by the time he finished. My reward was a cup of coffee on the way home after my second visit to Massimo. I had to return in order to pay: they only accept cash and I haven’t carried anything other than my phone to pay, contactlessly, for months, now.
Even the flowers in the Palatine Road planters smiled when they saw my newly shorn bonce: they said I looked ten years younger.
The Tatton Arms, our local riverside pub, was probably a very nice place once, but it’s been closed and derelict since 2007. We’ve heard that the site is, maybe, possibly, going to be redeveloped. But we’ve never seen any activity there. Until now. We noticed people behind the fence that protects the building. There was a van, a few cars, and several Important Looking Men standing around in Important hi-visibility vests, with Important hands in Important pockets and all with Important clipboards. Let’s see what happens.
I successfully broadcast a second show on Radio Northenden, and I was asked to keep going for an extra half hour after the usual two hour-long stint. No problem, I just played more of my favourite records! Catch up here and forgive the odd mistake. And if you can, please feel free to join me ‘live’ next Friday at 2pm. (Thanks Helen for pointing the type: Friday or Friyay indeed!!)
Liesel took this picture of Mick the DJ in the stygian depths of his Studio, formerly known as the Office, earlier known as a Storage Facility and laughingly described by the estate agent as a Third Bedroom.
Early this morning, we again walked into Didsbury, the village itself this time, not just the park. There were very few other people around, which made for a pleasant walk, no need to avoid anyone.
We were lucky enough to see two herons again, on the way to Didsbury (us, not them), and yes, the photo’s a bit blurred, but it was very satisfying to capture one in flight, after so many failed attempts. Their call is something between a honk and a screech, not very attractive, except maybe to other herons.
We were lucky enough to see a wine glass in Didsbury, out in the wild, presumably after a fun night out.
We were lucky enough to see a splash of colour in Didsbury, in an otherwise drab little side street, nice and bright on this early, sunny morning.
We were lucky enough to see a professional footballer in Didsbury, but what a shame he was only in an advert for shoes.
We were lucky enough to see a fox, on the walk home from Didsbury. This is the first one we’ve seen since we moved here to Northenden, and he looks pretty healthy too.
We couldn’t join them, sadly, but Martha and William went swimming in a pool for the first time since the lockdown started in March. We did enjoy watching the videos of them playing in the water, swimming, jumping in and even diving to the bottom to pick up objects, something I’ve never been able to do.
Martha and William weren’t the only ones to get wet this week. We all did. It rained. And it rained. A lot. Storm Francis got the blame, it brought strong winds and a lot of rain. So we didn’t go out every single day this week. Which was OK, we had plenty to do indoors, but it’s just so disheartening when every time you look out of the window, it’s grey and rainy: early onset November. Liesel finished her first crochet blanket and it looks really good.
I was especially impressed with the fringe around the edges, a very professional finish. Liesel has now started on a second one, with a different combination of yarn colours.
We visited Lyme Park despite the threat of rain. It held off mostly on this occasion, and we had a very pleasant walk, if a little shorter than usual.
No doubt, if William had been with us, he would have been up this ladder like a shot.
We have no idea what these flowers are, but when our botanical expert lets us know, I’ll amend this caption.
This fella’s fish was spouting a very weak column of water. We have no idea who he is or what he represents, but as soon as our ornamental fountain expert lets us know, I’ll amend this caption.
Unexpectedly, as we bought our coffees just before leaving, a lovely patch of blue sky appeared. It didn’t last long, but it cheered us up.
Our next trip was to Biddulph Grange Gardens, a National Trust property that we’d not visited previously. By coincidence, Jenny and Liam had been a few days earlier, with Martha and William. Today, it rained on us pretty much all the time.
There’s a one-way system in place around the grounds, but one couple were backtracking in a hurry, presumably some sort of biological emergency.
Obviously, even monkey puzzle trees have to start life as a seed, but I’d never seen one this small before. Very cute and I’m sure we’ll be back in 70 years time to see it fully grown.
These tiles probably look very attractive on a dry, sunny day, but thery’re not as pretty covered in wet, muddy footprints.
This bridge reminded us of those we’d seen in Japan, but in fact, it’s part of the Chinese area here. I think the one-way system meant that we couldn’t see all the various gardens at their best. But we had a very pleasant walk, and it’s easy to see why Martha and William thought it was a big adventure playground, with lots of steps and other obstacles to climb.
The funny (?) thing is that by following the correct route, and choosing not to go into and through the house, we found ourselves at the exit with no way to go back and invest in a nice warming beverage.
Back in Northenden this very morning, we did go for a walk locally. It was unexpectedly cold and we could tell from the puddles and the very high, fast-flowing river, it must have been raining a lot lately. You don’t say! The canoeists weren’t deterred though, but they had combined two vessels together for stability, as they drifted downstream: not a lot of paddling going on today, it really wasn’t necessary.
As we walked along the river on the high bank, an Indian lady was walking fast on the lower bank. I tried to capture her speed in a photo but it didn’t really work out, did it?
Presumably this gathering by the riverside was illegal, but even so, that’s no excuse for not taking your empties home.
Fifty years and nine days after Whispering Bob Harris first took to the airwaves on BBC Radio 1, Mick here took to the airwaves of our local, community, isolation station, Radio Northenden. It was also, by chance, the 100th show broadcast on this wonderful little station, and you can listen to them all here. Specifically, if you would like to hear my first show, listen here.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been busy learning new software, talking to myself, choosing music, practicing, rehearsing, reading books, talking to professionals, compiling pre-flight check-lists, trying to soak it all up. So here I am, broadcasting to a small but perfectly formed audience. During the first show, of course there were a couple of mistakes, but nothing too embarrassing, and, at the time of writing, no complaints have been made to Ofcom.
I look forward to next week’s difficult second show, and if you’d like to join me on Friday between 2 and 4pm, please do, from here, or download the Mixlr app on your phone or other device, and search for Radio Northenden. If you register, I’ll see your name on the list of visitors and I might even say hello.
It was good fun, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: I did write to a Hospital Radio station 25 years ago, but they never got back to me.
For the first time in a long while, we had three days out in quick succession this week. First up, another nice long walk at Lyme Park where we noticed the first signs of Autumn.
The sky was monochrome today, thirty-seven shades of grey, but at least the rain kept away this time.
Here’s the famous Lyme Park folly – I am referring to The Cage in the background, of course. Yes, I know, I know, I need a new hat.
Meanwhile, back home on the Mersey, the birds are having fun.
This heron was, unusually, sitting up on the grassy bank. The first time we saw it there, before I had time to get my camera out, it was chased away by someone’s loose dog.
Again, later on, we saw a second heron by the weir, giving a lecture to the geese, on this occasion.
We spoke about never having seen otters or water rats in our section of the Mersey, so it was a bonus when we caught up with a giant otter a couple of days later. Not in the wild, but at Chester Zoo.
Usually, we just miss feeding time, but today, luck was on our side. As we were peering at the otter way over there in the distance, a zookeeper came up and called his name. I wasn’t fast enough to capture the giant otter’s belly flop on film, of course, but he swam over to accept the fish that was thrown his way. Shame about the fence, I’ll photoshop it out one day.
It rained quite a lot today, but Liesel persevered and we had a jolly good time. The elephants were playing in the mud, in the rain. The rhinos were outside enjoying the lack of sunshine. Liesel asked someone about the duct tape on one of the camels’ humps. The poor old thing has a lesion and the tape is to prevent birds from pecking at it. I asked Liesel why she hadn’t asked whether it was a British Lesion or, since camels live in the desert, a French Foreign Lesion. Liesel wondered why I hadn’t asked the question. I said I didn’t want to look daft.
Someone had seemingly gone to a lot of trouble, dressing a mouse up to look like a miniature meerkat. Or meerkitten, I suppose. Very cute, though.
Our third major expedition this week was in an easterly direction, to Yorkshire. We visited another National Trust property, Wentworth Castle Gardens, near Barnsley.
The artichoke flowers drew our attention, but the bumble bees they attracted were probably more useful. We had a good walk here too. But: hills. We aren’t used to these hills, and we felt sorry for people pushing buggies, never mind those with wheelchairs. The views towards Leeds are spectacular though. We’d enjoyed the views all the way there, really, but there were far too many cars parked on what was the main road through some of the villages. They all need a decent bypass! More roads, please!!
Stainborough Castle isn’t really a castle, but the edifice does have some castle-like features, lots of castellations and battlements. And a good view all round, of course.
The Sun monument is an obelisk with a golden orb on top. The actual Sun was too high in the sky to get a good shot of the two together. But, hey, the Sun was out, and we’re not complaining about that!
There seemed to be no reason for this gate to be located where it is. But it frames another stunning view over Yorkshire.
Regular viewers will welcome this rare occurrence of a second self-portrait this week. Yes, sorry, I know: the hat. Wentworth Castle isn’t open to the public, it is one of the Northern College buildings.
You wouldn’t believe me if I said we had a peacock in the flat, would you? But we did. Oh, alright, it was a peacock butterfly, and when it first fluttered in through the window, I thought it was a moth. I apologised for my mistake as I helped it fly out again. It was the first one I’ve seen all year. What a pity it was indoors.
We’ve had a few days of very high temperatures, approaching the 30s. One day, Liesel took her crochet outside. Read to the bottom to see how well she’s progressing. But here’s a tip: you don’t want the full weight of a crocheted blanket on your lap, indoors, in a heatwave! Not even with the windows open, letting all sorts of fantastic beasts in, mostly not as pretty as a peacock butterfly.
Too hot to cook, so one night, we chose an Indian takeaway. There’s a vegan Indian restaurant in Gatley, that we’ve been been meaning to try since well before the lockdown. It’s open again for business, and while we’re still a bit wary of sitting inside places with other people, we’re happy to take food away. All the staff in Bhaji Pala were wearing masks and when I went in, only two tables were occupied. The food was delicious, I just heaped it up on the plate which doesn’t make for a good, appealing photo but we’ll definitely go there again sometime.
We hadn’t planned to go shopping either, but we had to return something to John Lewis in Cheadle. The car park was half empty, an unusual sight and a good sign that the shop wasn’t too crowded. Staff at the doors were monitoring how many people were inside the shop. Liesel wore her mask as required whereas I’d stupidly left mine at home by mistake. Not all was lost though. I got some steps in wandering around the car park and I even found some blackberries.
Very juicy, very sweet and warmed by the Sun, these blackberries tasted of my childhood. We used to pick them from fields on the other side of the railway line from where we lived, in Guildford. Stop, look, listen, before we walked across the tracks. Those blackberry bushes disappeared when Bannister’s playing field was created. Later on, a large Tesco landed there. Progress, huh. I was spitting seeds out for the rest of the day, but that’s a price worth paying for being transported several decades back in time.
The highlight of the week was, without doubt, another day at the seaside.
Again, the tide was out and this time, we walked down the beach, to see the sea, close up. The sand was quite hard to walk on in some places, the ridges could provide a nice massaging feeling for a while, but it was equally pleasant finding a smooth patch to walk on.
The real highlight though was being joined by Jenny, Liam, William and Martha. It was lovely to spend so much time with them, still at a distance (mostly) on such a nice, warm, sunny day.
William and Martha were both excited to see the sea and the sand. They’ve missed their swimming lessons for several months now of course, but both were very happy to go into the sea, which was pleasantly warm. William followed the stream quite a long way towards the sea itself, he just kept going, like a Duracell bunny. I would have picked him up if necessary to run in the opposite direction, but that wasn’t necessary in the end.
There were lots of jellyfish on the beach, a few different species, and there were even some swimming in the sea. I only waded in up to my ankles, so I was surprised to see so many. They’re not lethal like those in Australia, but the sting can be quite painful. The advice here, now, is not to pee on a sting or use vinegar, but to rinse in warm seawater. The beach wasn’t at all crowded, a nice surprise, but there were far more people bathing than there were on our recent visit to Formby.
We found a nice spot to sit down to have our picnic lunches, separating our blankets by the requisite two metres! Well, nearly. The lifeguard drove up on his quad bike and when he turned the engine off, William said ‘Hello’. ‘Hello, you have a yellow t-shirt just like mine,’ said the lifeguard, ‘do you want my job?’ ‘Yes,’ said William, enthusiastically.
Martha made some sandcastles and decorated them with her new collection of seashells.
Martha wanted to spend another night outside, in the tent, in the garden.
She found a way out in the morning!
As mentioned before, here is the blanket so far. There are just a few more rows to go and some edging to do, literally tying up all the loose ends.
As the old folk song goes, Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the street. Some of our neighbours are not at all inhibited, and on a couple of late, warm evenings recently, while Darby and Joan here were throwing the duvet off, we were entertained by the merriment outside. It’s been a bit of a heatwave, not as hot as London and the south-east, but still, phew, truly swullocking and no mistake.
We’re still trying to get out every day but there are times when staying indoors in the (relative) cool is quite attractive. And there’s always plenty to do, even if we’re not getting fresh air.
But it was perfect weather for gongoozling and we did some of that on the Mersey. One day, we think for the first time with near certainty, we saw two different herons.
This one, by the weir, was teaching some ducks how to fly.
I did talk to a binoculars-bearing bird-watching lady about the herons, at a reasonable distance of course. She said there are two pairs of herons along this stretch of the river. Old old male has dark chest markings that look like a long beard from a distance. There is a fluffy youngster that likes to spend time in the bushes on the island, so we’ve almost certainly seen him too, on occasion. The lady agreed that one thing we don’t like seeing is a heron bend over and pluck a ducklet from the water. One day, maybe we’ll see two or more herons in the same spot at the same time.
There are plenty of geese and ducks of course, they like spending time together in herds, flocks, gaggles or skeins.
The latest local attraction is a beer keg, held in place by an enormous tree branch that has been caught by the weir for a few days now.
It’s been a while, but we’re catching up on medical matters. I visited the dentist for the first time since March, the longest gap I can remember. That’s the gap between visits, not the gaps between some teeth although they were a topic of conversation.
I walked home from the hospital after the test I’d been waiting for was deemed to be the wrong one. Oh well, I took advantage of the steamy sunshine.
These things come in threes of course, and my third medical mission this time round was an unexciting visit to the pharmacist where I saw me on the CCTV. There was a queue inside but worse were the people squeezing by as they left, not following the one-way system.
Liesel and I have been wary of booking tickets for anything, indoors or outside, any entertainment, anything. But we did go to a local comedy event that was outdoors, socially distanced, and would involve as little interaction with people as possible. It was a bit of an experiment really: we knew that if either of us felt un-Covid-safe for any reason, we could just go home.
But there were just 100 people in the audience. The venue was The Albert Bowling and Tennis Club in Didsbury. We were sitting on the bowling green, in a marked out grid. We plonked ourselves down right at the back. A photographer took our picture. He said it was because the background was so nice, but I think it was because we were so attractive. We took our own picture too, so you decide:
I am very proud of my luxuriant lockdown locks but I think it will still be a while before I visit a hairdresser: that seems an unnecessary risk at the moment. Plus, the mask I wear is held on around the back of my head rather than around my ears, and I can just visualise it flying out the door as the barber cuts through the elastic.
This foreshortened picture of the stage is misleading, the people were spread out far more than it looks, in accordance with the latest guidelines.
Kev Rook organised this Comedy Outsiders event, and he introduced the MC, Russell Kane. He was brilliant, talked for over half an hour, mainly about some people’s reactions to having to follow simple guidelines in the face of a lethal contagion.
A Welsh comedian, Anna Thomas came on next, and she was funny too, and I’m sure one day, she’ll be allowed on for longer.
Top of the bill was Boothby Graffoe. As he told us, one of his reviews claims that he is under-rehearsed, but (I’m pretty sure) that is all part of the act.
It was the right thing to do, from a healthy point of view, to sit at the back, but as for taking photos, from that distance, as it became darker, meh.
We ordered drinks on an app, and they were delivered in due course by one of a small team of masked servers.
For the second half of the show, we sat at a table, on chairs to be clear: we’d assumed initially that they were reserved for club members or something, but Kev assured us that this was not the case. It was nice to meet him at last, after having bothered him on his Radio Northenden show so often.
There are two more comedy nights here, so if you’re local to Northenden, Didsbury, south Manchester, please think about coming along for a great night’s entertainment. Buy tickets here: Nodding Dog Comedy is Kev Rook’s other name.
Northenden as I’ve mentioned before is a place of contrasts. On the same walk, almost on the same street, you can see something really pretty and something really nasty.
I’m sure there’s a correct term for this kind of decoration: it’s outside a fairly modern building. I look forward to receiving information from my architectural, construction and botanical correspondents!
And then, just along the road, someone had a nasty accident.
Where’s that flock of seagulls when you need them? Not the 1980s group, obviously, they can buy their own refreshments.
Recently, Manchester Central Convention Complex was converted to a Nightingale Hospital, in case the Covid pandemic was even worse in England than it has turned out to be. Thirty years earlier, one of my favourite bands from the 1990s played a gig there. Being a Londoner, I was of course oblivious to this at the time. The venue, formerly known as G-Mex, hosted the Inspiral Carpets and their performance, recorded by Granada TV, has gone down in history as one of the greats. I watched
a recording on YouTube along with about 650 other people on the anniversary, many of whom were at the show all those years ago. I was reminded again just how many great songs the band recorded. And then there’s Tom Hingley’s soaring vocals. I can’t wait to see him perform live again, either solo or with his new(-ish), tribute band, the Kar-pets.
We enjoyed a few days out, including a couple of longer trips in the car. The poor old thing doesn’t know what’s going on. But we still spent some time down by the Mersey.
Sorry, I borrowed that caption from the 1970s.
Meanwhile, some of the path in the woods is becoming overgrown. William would love it in this jungle.
One day, I’ll be taking a picture of someone’s flowers, and they’ll take offence and I’ll have to beg forgiveness while convincing them I wasn’t casing the joint, honest.
The shops are beginning to open, as the lockdown is relaxed. Well, until the recently implemented tighter lockdown in Greater Manchester. There are some pretty planters in Palatine Road.
I sat outside Salutem and enjoyed a lovely cup of coffee while watching people going by, all at a safe distance. It felt so civilised, such a simple pleasure, long denied.
In another first for a long time, we drove to the seaside. It’s a long beach at Formby, and as the tide was very far out, we had plenty of space. As advised by the sign, we tried swimming between the flags but to be honest, it’s so much easier to move through water than it is through sand.
It was the hottest day of the year so far, we had a marvellous walk along the beach before enjoying our picnic lunch. Luckily, we checked for sharp, pointy plants before sitting down on the dunes. Again, very civilised. Anything like this that can induce a holiday feeling has to be good for a general sense of well-being.
The kite-flyer was having fun, although I wanted her to run faster so the kite flew higher. In my photos, the kite is a mere three pixels in size.
To the south, we could see what we think was the city of Liverpool. Out at sea there is a massive wind farm. Liesel asked why not all the turbines were turning. I said, don’t worry, it’s probably windy enough already.
We haven’t walked to Didsbury for a long time either, but we took advantage of another warm day. There were more people having fun on the river.
We bought a coffee at Cidsin, and a slice of pear and walnut cake. While I was carefully carrying the goodies back to Liesel, looking down, making sure the coffee wasn’t slopping around in the cups, I walked between two posts and bashed my bonce on the sign that they held up. Liesel stopped laughing eventually.
A bright yellow front door always takes me back to my childhood. Our yellow front door at home was a more conventional rectangular shape, and it had a window, but whenever I see a yellow front door, it’s guaranteed to give me that Proustian rush that many authors write about.
We walked home through Marie Louise Gardens. There, we enjoyed watching a squirrel sitting at the bottom of a tree, pretending to be a lost, stuffed toy. After a few minutes, it ran up the tree and then had a rest on top of the birdbox. I don’t think there are any inhabitants. But I did enjoy watching a blackbird sitting in the tree, mostly in the shade, but with its yellow bill glowing in the sunshine.
We didn’t visit our family this week, but here’s the obligatory photo, and they’re all looking pretty good!
Many years ago, the aerial on our car was wrapped with tinsel, left over from Christmas. It too was easy to spot in a busy car park.
We walked to Wythenshawe Park, another site with plenty of space, easy to stay away from other people.
This litter bin is pretending to be some kind of alien invader. I’m not sure whether it appeals to young children in the nearby playground, encouraging them to deposit their rubbish here, or if it just scares them away.
Yes, of course we ate some blackberries.
At home, Liesel’s tapestry project is still going well. But she took time out to decorate a small stone that Martha picked up somewhere a few weeks ago.
Of course, now we have the kit to decorate stones, I thought we’d collect a couple of pebbles at Formby. Nope. It’s all sand, and shells, and dead jellyfish, none of which we wanted to bring home to paint.
We returned to Lyme Park for another fun, socially-distanced, walk. Well, it was fun, despite the rain. Look at this lovely blue sky. At the time, behind us, the clouds were grey and angry and, although we didn’t realise, coming our way.
We passed a raspberry bush in the woods, and I thought I’d eat one. I tried to pick it, but it wasn’t coming away. In fact, I suspect I wasn’t the first to try and pick it, it was already squashed and squishy. While we took shelter from the rain under the trees, I did use some of the rain water to wash my sticky fingers.
Berries? We have blueberries at home with our breakfast most days, and the question is: whose job is it to put one, just one, mouldy blueberry into every single punnet? If you leave them too long, others will become infected, but there’s always one, and always with the mould underneath so you don’t see it straightaway.
While hiding from the rain, I suggested to Liesel that we dismantle the wall and build a more sturdy, reliable shelter using its bricks. It seemed like a good use of resources, and it would keep us busy for a while. Plus, future visitors would be extremely grateful for the new facility. Reader: Liesel said ‘No’.
We couldn’t believe the size of this kite, being flown from the top of a hill that we didn’t walk up. We never saw the people run with it, so we never saw it fly any higher off the ground.
We’ve been enjoying some walks by the river while the Sun shines; and even when it rains, sometimes. No trips further afield this week, though.
I called it a rowan tree, Liesel said it’s a mountain ash. Who knew those two were the same thing? Probably everybody except me.
Our old friend, the heron, has returned after a few days’ absence. He tends to stand in the same spot by the weir, not bothered by the other water-loving birds.
Sometimes, the simplicity of an ivy leaf draws the eye. I suspect the owner of the garden behind this fence is desperately trying to cut back the ivy as it spreads.
We didn’t see our gorgeous grandchildren this week, but they had a lot of fun in the garden, and visiting Lyme Park and Quarry Bank Mill. Thanks to Jenny and Liam for these photos. Here’s William insisting that the sunglasses are on his ears. He might just have a point.
And here’s Martha rehearsing her rôle as Sister Maria. The hills are alive, with the Sound of Music.
Meanwhile, in a perfect example of rôle reversal, here is a big stick picking up a William.
One day, we picked and enjoyed the first blackberries of the season. There will be a glut very soon. I think that’s the technical word. Unfortunately, we failed to locate the raspberries we’d seen a couple of weeks ago. Maybe we were mistaken, or maybe we were just too late. The apples in the woods aren’t quite ready for picking yet.
It’s fun and funny watching the geese walk up the weir, against the strong flow of water. Just as I’m vocalising this thought, one chap decided to show his wings off, after all. I’ll show you, Mick, he seems to be saying.
I’m no botanist but we think this might be an orchid*. Liesel didn’t believe me when I told her where the word ‘orchid’ comes from, nor what an orchidectomy is. The trouble is, when she doesn’t believe me, I can’t help but laugh even more, convincing her even moreso that I am making it all up. Which makes me laugh even more!
* This is not an orchid, after all. “It’s Himalayan balsam, an invasive plant that can take over river banks. It’s got explosive seed pods that send the seeds far and wide. As a conservation volunteer I’ve spent a few weeks pulling it up before it sets seed.” Thanks for your hard work, Ruth, and thanks for the information.
It was a lovely day to take a boat out. So somebody did. Not us.
Liesel spotted this heron on the golf course. Is it the same one? Or do we have at least two living in the area? As I told Liesel, a heron in golf terms means a score of 5 under par, but I’m not sure she believed me, to be perfectly honest with you.
There have been some fabulous innovations here in Northenden recently. We have a lot of rain, as I may have mentioned once or twice, so it’s good to see that, at last, the local authorities are installing bus shelters for very short, single passengers.
Liesel is making good progress with her crocheted blanket. Next time you see it, the last few rows may have changed. I think she quite enjoys unravelling a row or three and having another go, with different colour yarns.
I really hope this apple tree growing behind St Wilfrid’s Church is bearing Bramleys. Because then, it would be a bit like old man Steptoe: Wilfrid Brambelly. This old character was again brought to mind by a return visit from the local rag’n’bone man.
In other local news: our green, food waste bin wasn’t emptied this week. The new washing machine is doing a great job, and much more quietly than its predecessor. The 24-hour rainstorm proved too much for the gutters, again. The motion-sensored communal lights are again totally insensitive to any movement, staying on all day and all night. Radio Northenden has a shiny new website: watch this space.