Wild Life

Five weeks until the Summer solstice, and we’re still waiting for some prolonged warmer weather. Liesel and I have decided that the next time we install windows (apertures that reveal the world to us, not the operating system), we’re going to get orange-tinted glass, so it’ll always look nicer and brighter outside than it really is.

Sadly, I have to start this week with some sad news. I found a lost, sad, pining Peppa Pig near the local playground.

Poor Peppa Pig

I hope she is reunited with her sad child very soon. The other thing I saw near the river was a ‘vole’. It ran out from the grass, grabbed a lump of bread that someone had thrown at the ducks, and took it back to its den. I say ‘vole’ because I hoped it was something more interesting than what it probably really was, scurrying at 60mph for a quick snack.

Our most recent attempt to visit Biddulph Grange Gardens was curtailed because of roadworks and diversion signs that didn’t really help much. This time though, we arrived safely and just a few minutes before Jenny and William. We had a nice walk together, following the one-way system.

Strawberries and cream

William bought a bucket of fish food which we shared. Well, we fed the fish and kept our fingers crossed that he wouldn’t slide down the grassy slope into the pond.

William on a slippery slope

Although, to be honest, he might have enjoyed jumping into such a large puddle.

There are climbing opportunities as you wander along the path, and William had a go at everything.

William up a greasy pole

Martha was at school. In fact, she’s been cycling to school every day, which is great, she really enjoys it. One day she even cycled to William’s nursery to bring him home, a total of two miles that day.

Back at Biddulph, we tried some bird-watching. I think the smudge in the middle of the lawn is a yellow wagtail.

Yellow wagtail, but you might need a magnifying glass

Walking along one long straight path, we asked William to count the shadows cast by the line of trees. He was getting tired and we thought this would help keep him interested and moving. And it probably would have worked if the Sun didn’t keep going behind the clouds. ‘The shadows have gone,’ he announced.

William likes to be scared and he likes to scare his Grandad, so we had fun scaring each other. Then we turned a corner and saw this.

Sphinx

Eek. Scary.

And who could resist going on a seesaw with their grandson?

Seesaw

Of course, the flowers are fabulous, a beautiful display of colour.

Tulips

Liesel and I had another day out this week, we know how to have a good time. A leisurely walk at Lyme Park where it threatened to rain, but it waited until we were on our way home. We felt just a few spits and spots, I think that’s the technical term.

There were quite a few geese in the lake, including one family of very cute fluffy babies.

Italianate Garden
Rhododendron Island in the lake, plus bonus daffodils
Selfie of the day

So, what do you think of the new hat? It’s managed to deflect a few raindrops so far, plus it’s SPF 50, which I think means the Sun doesn’t come out much when I’m wearing it. I admit, it does look better than my old faithful, much loved but well-worn and floppier sunhat.

Acer or maple

I tried to get a picture of a sheep and a lamb, but they just turned their backs on me. I have plenty of photos of animals’ bottoms already, thank you.

And the birds at the feeders were just too fast for me. Not sure if they were blue tits or coal tits, but they certainly didn’t want to sit still and pose for us. Likewise, a fat robin, straight from a Christmas card, flew off as soon as I even thought about taking its picture. I think they’re telepathic.

There’s plenty of deer spoor around the park, but the only deer we saw was located inside the coffee shop.

Isn’t venison dear?

Thank you Helen for the brilliant caption!

My hair is quite long and on Sunday while out for a walk around Northenden, I thought I’d surprise Liesel by having it cut. When I reached the barbershop, the one I last visited in September, it was closed. I was a little disappointed, but mostly relieved that I didn’t have to go inside a small space with some total strangers. I think it will be a while before we feel totally comfortable doing normal things. But later in the week, Liesel did visit the big Sainsbury’s in Cheadle and felt OK, even though it was quite busy. 

We have been thinking about travelling further afield too, maybe even going away for a week or two. We’re not going overseas this year, so it will be somewhere between Cornwall and John o’Groats, between Norfolk and Pembrokeshire. With that in mind, the radio show this week had the theme of Cities. I played records about or featuring some of the world’s great cities. You can listen here and enjoy DJ William helping out a bit, thank you.

Farewell Facebook

In the last couple of weeks, Liesel has thrown in the Facebook towel. While she didn’t whinge and moan about the platform as much as I used to, she too has decided it’s outlived its usefulness. One recent event in particular didn’t help. A message received, apparently from a friend, contained a dodgy link. When Liesel clicked on it, it sent the same dodgy link to all her friends on Facebook. Surely a platform as big and popular as Facebook should have some basic checking of these messages? If it can filter out the slightest hint of a naked body, we know the technology exists. Fortunately, no damage seems to have been caused by the virus, other than annoyance and embrrassment, but it doesn’t instil confidence in Facebook.

I left Facebook nearly two years ago now and I have no regrets. Yes, I continue to miss some of the people and some of the groups, and I’m sure Liesel will too. But I don’t think she’ll miss the overall experience much . When most of the local news is crime-related, it does nothing to make us feel safe.

And yes, there are some events and concerts that only take place on Facebook, and we’ll miss those. But organisers should be aware that while many people still use it, quite a lot of us don’t.

Over the last month or so, a few people have casually asked whether I’ll ever re-join Facebook? Well, never say ‘never’, but it’s highly unlikely. Whenever Facebook turns up in the news, I invariably come away with a feeling of, ‘thank goodness I got out of that when I did.’ Similar to the way I feel whenever a negative story about the meat production industry appears. Thank goodness I stopped eating meat thirty years ago and don’t have to make that decision now.

No, I’ve seen nothing new about Facebook that is tempting me back. I came across an essay I wrote soon after I left. I suspect there are even more ‘features’ and bugs to whinge about now.

This is what I wrote in July 2019:

Why I decided to leave Facebook

After being a member of the Facebook community for an unlucky 13 years, it was time to move on. I certainly can’t compare the experience with that of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave, but at times, I resented being trapped, being almost forced to waste so much time on such a fruitless enterprise while my data was making stacks of money for other people.

Facebook has been fun at times, informative and useful. Most of my Facebook friends are friends in real life too: there are only a couple whom I know solely through this online medium.

But, there were many, many times when I felt so frustrated by the platform that I thought about leaving, and even threatened to once or twice in public. There were many final straws over the years. But the real, final, final straw was one day a couple of weeks ago when I was seeing one advert for every post from a friend or message from one of the groups to which I’d signed up.

Looking back over thirteen years of my own Facebook posts, I realise there is one common, perpetual thread. I have had a moan and a whinge about Facebook on numerous occasions. It just doesn’t do what I would expect it to. Yes, it works for Mark Zuckerberg, making him lots of money and it’s ‘free’ to use so why do I have the right to complain? Because it’s sold and portrayed as being a wonderful community, a way to bring people closer together, to keep people in touch with each other, to share ideas in groups with other like-minded people.

Here’s an early ‘Note’ that I made. What makes a Note different from a Post is still beyond my understanding.

Hahaha just going through my emails and found this one: Hi Mick, You haven’t been on Facebook for a few days, and a lot happened while you were away. 3 notifications Mary, Ian, Jon and 4 other friends have posted statuses, photos and more on Facebook. Go to Facebook: See all notifications

But, Dear Facebook, I can’t see all of these messages because you’ve decided what’s relevant and what isn’t. I shouldn’t have to go through all of my Friends and tell you that I wish to see ‘All’ of their Updates rather than ‘Most Updates’ or ‘Only Important’. Facebook philosophy: if it ain’t broke, break it. (2/9/11)

Yes, one of the things that annoyed me very quickly was that out of all my friends’ posts, I would only see a small subset, selected by Facebook. If I wanted to see everything someone else wrote, I had to visit their individual page. Facebook could never understand that if I felt overwhelmed by the amount of information being presented, it was my problem, to deal with in my own way. But I don’t think that’s the issue at all. They just like to exercise control. After all, there seems to be no limit to the amount of advertising I have to scroll through. Maybe they just want to make the ads more prominent by reducing the amount of what they think of as ‘background noise’.

Facebook says “Top comments is selected, so some comments may have been filtered out.”

I would like to see them all, please, then I can decide what I think the top comments is. (17/4/18)

I accept that adverts are how they make their money, and that’s how the service can be ‘free’ at the point of use. But why do they pretend the adverts are targeted? That I’ll only see those that are of interest to me?

Yes, Facebook, I really really DO want to hide EVERYTHING from Ray Ban bloody sunglasses. Really. (1/6/14)

It’s been an ongoing battle trying to make Facebook more user-friendly, so, as they requested, I passed on some of my thoughts. To no avail.

Good old Facebook (an on-going rant, I know). On the left-hand side, under ‘Messages’ there’s an ‘Other’ button. It contains dozens of messages that I never saw when they might have been of some interest. They’re well out of date now. Research shows that Facebook puts messages there from people I’m not ‘friends’ with. Such as from my daughter who was probably Friend number 1. FB. It can stand for ‘Facebook’, ‘Full of Bugs’, or ‘██████ up Beyond all usefulness’. (30/9/12)

Got to love Facebook: the more you complain about their ‘Suggested Posts’ (adverts, often verging on the fraudulent), the more they send you. (9/2/16)

Yes, Ok, let there be adverts. But why are they so irrelevant? And bad?

“The Best Gift You’ve Never Heard Of” – you might want to change that strap line since I see your advert on Facebook nearly every damn day! (1/9/17)

No software is 100% perfect. And something like Facebook doesn’t stand a chance.

<a href=”evalInSandbox:Error: Permission denied for evalInSandbox:Error: Permission denied for <https://facebook.com/&gt; to create wrapper for object of class UnnamedClass
I beg your pardon? Not another Facebook bug, surely? (9/7/13)

And it’s not just bugs. They’ve introduced many ‘features’ that just don’t work properly or, if they do, are just plain annoying. I’m not alone in thinking Facebook was turning into bloatware and some people even tried to address the issue. An add-on initially named ‘Better Facebook’ helped tidy up the screen but, because Facebook changes its underlying code to ‘improve’ its software at least weekly, it was very difficult for this one part-time guy to keep up. Then the Facebook lawyers came along and forced him to change his software’s name anyway.

http://socialfixer.com/blog/2013/06/21/4-reasons-why-facebooks-user-interface-is-a-nightmare/

Reassuring to note that it’s not just me who thinks Facebook is a PITA these days. (21/6/13)

Full of bugs, did I say?

Holy moly, I’m locked in. Can’t log out of Facebook. Oh well, ‘Close tab’ it is. (6/8/12)

That ‘recent activity’ of mine: ‘Mick liked St John Ambulance’? It’s a lie. I wasn’t even online 30 minutes ago. I was watching Doctor Who. Facebook really is pants. (Nothing against St John Ambulance, by the way.) (22/9/12)

Good old Facebook. It’s now repeating items in the Newsfeed as I scroll down. So, Suzanne’s watched a YouTube video several times and Marko has several painful shoulders. And Baylen keeps talking about Madonna. (17/7/12)

It tried hard to be my friend, reacting to my interests and concerns. But even here, I just don’t understand why it would send me some football news and trivia when I have never shown any interest in the sport and probably only mentioned it a couple of times in passing. Unexpected pun there.

Apparently West Ham have beaten Liverpool at Anfield for the first time since September 1963! And if my Facebook feed is to be believed, nothing else happened today! (29/8/15)

It used to notice when I disappeared for a few days, or even a few minutes, and it tried to bring me up to date with lots of stuff of no interest to me.

Facebook sent an email saying:
A lot has happened on Facebook since you last logged in. Here are some notifications you’ve missed from your friends.
There are zero notifications from my friends. I only logged in 5 minutes ago. And with 1.5 billion users, I’m sure a lot has happened, but 99.99999% is of no interest to me, thanks! Just as this status is of no interest to anyone but me. (23/8/15)

Another recent complaint of mine:

Last week, Facebook was giving me one ad for every other post. (20/1/19)

Earlier today, it accused me of ticking the box that said Facebook could track my location, even when I’m not using Facebook. No I didn’t. It might be your default setting but if asked, I would never have said that was ok. Go to settings and check everything, they’re sneaky bastards. (13/4/19)

Dear Facebook, I ticked all the boxes telling you not to follow me, look at my location, track my movements. Yet you still suggest restaurants near to me wherever I am. Just stop lying about any concerns you have for my privacy. Apart from anything else, it’s Sunday and most of them are closed. Useless piece of crapp. (2/6/19)

In response to other peoples’ problems, I responded with my own tuppence-worth.

Facebook is full of bugs, each update fixes some and introduces new ones. That’s why we love it so much… (9/9/14)

To be honest, I find most Facebook ‘features’ a PITR but I’m not allowed to whinge about it any more! (27/11/17)

No, that didn’t stop me whingeing of course, although it may have slowed down the flow. Slightly. I tried to help fellow users when they had something negative to say.

I use Social Fixer. It fixes a lot of Facebook’s ‘features’, but it can’t do anything about the different subsets of posts that appear on different devices. Worth what we pay for it, I guess. (29/12/15)

This one’s almost prophetic.

There’s a very thick book waiting to be written about the ways in which Facebook manages to pis people off. So glad it’s free. Worth what we pay for it. (8/2/16)

Well, if not a thick book, this might well become a very long blog post. And what an embarrassing typo that was. More of my profound responses:

Yep, totally agree. Especially annoying when you’re seeing stuff that you don’t want, while other posts from people that you would love to see never appear due to Facebook’s ‘I know best’ algorithms. Grrr. (25/2/16)

Yes: also can’t post photos to other groups… it amazes me how Facebook can come up with a new bug every week… (12/4/17)

Don’t think so! But I have noticed a couple of other groups I appear to have dropped out of, so I’m leaning towards the Facebook bug theory (16/4/17)

It’s likely to be a Facebook problem: they release ‘upgrades’ every Tuesday. (28/2/19)

Sorry I can’t help. My GLW rolls her eyes every time I moan about Facebook’s bugs, inadequacies, inconsistencies. Sadly I have had to disable Social Fixer because that was screwing things up too. Still, it’s worth what we pay for it … (2/6/17)

There are so many ‘privacy options’ now, but I don’t trust them. I’m fairly confident with these internetty type things but if, say, I’ve not, in fact, ticked all the boxes to say ‘Don’t track my location’ and all its variants, then how is a less computer literate person going to get it right? I think they’ve been forced to make a show of concern for our privacy, but either they’re deliberately misleading us, or their algorithms just don’t work. As I mentioned before, if, as required and requested, it’s not tracking my location, how can it possibly suggest ‘nearby’ restaurants that I might be interested in?

There has been a lot in the news over the last few years about ‘fake news and the role that ‘social media’ plays in its promulgation. In November, 2018. I was asked whether I was voting in the General Election. My response?

Go away Facebook. It’s not the 2018 General Election. I’m not American so I can’t vote, anyway. I’m not even in America so I couldn’t vote even if I were allowed to. Which I’m not. But apart from that, congratulations on your political astuteness and your targetting algorithms. (11/18)

Why was I bothered about the location thing anyway? Because Facebook kept giving me duff information based on the wrong location.

Facebook hasn’t any idea where I am yet it keeps alerting me that friends are nearby when they’re really not! (28/3/13)

Buy and sell groups near you
Dagenham, Barking, Romford Selling & Advertising
16,564 members
No it ain’t, Facebook, it’s nowhere near me. Just stop it. (2/8/17)

This particular bugbear hasn’t bugged this particular bear for the whole time, though.

Since when did Facebook start telling me where it thinks I am? (4/12/16)

I think the first time was when it suggested, at a very early hour on a Sunday, that I was at the nearby boxing gym. I was still in bed at home.

Facebook has plenty of other things to comment on too. It spent a lot of time inveigling itself into my life.

Facebook keeps nagging me to wish you a belated happy birthday. So. Happy belated bleedin’ birthday, Pauline. (Alright, Facebook? You interfering festering pile of bloatware.) (8/11/16)

Just another example of it doing stuff I don’t need it to, when I would prefer it to just show me my friends’ posts.

It’s been a long time since I even thought about this feature. Now I’m no longer a member, I can’t check whether it’s still a thing.

OMFG (as the young people might say) Facebook comes up with another winning idea: couples’ pages eg https://www.facebook.com/adam?and=eve (15/11/12)

Another daft idea:

Sorry Facebook but I won’t be paying so that my nonsense can be read by more of my friends and subscribers. But if it’s this earth-shattering, I might reconsider: http://www.messengernewspapers.co.uk/news/whereyoulive/timperleynews/9960209.Saucepan_fire_in_Timperley/?ref=mr (4/10/12)

Sometimes, other people’s comments chimed with my own thoughts.

Blimey, wish I knew how to find my way back to the old facebook layout. Not that I ever seem to have the time to use it much! (19/9/11)

I think I promised a while ago to stop whingeing about Facebook’s bugs and ‘features’ that mean I don’t get to see everything I’d like to. Well, I am not alone: read this exchange between George Takei and a Facebook spokesman… and especially the comments that follow. https://www.facebook.com/georgehtakei/posts/475040805858711
I know, I know, Facebook is worth exactly what I pay for it, but it could be so much better. (14/6/12)

I blocked them too. Wish Facebook could do something but “freedom of speech” bla bla (17/6/16)

So, even in the early days, Facebook was changing things unnecessarily and annoying people. I’ve finally bitten the bullet and deserted a ship that is, surprisingly, not yet sinking. It’s been a long, long process of attrition. Sometimes I went literally minutes without having a whinge and a moan about Facebook.

Remember when you had to type a post into a box preceded by your own name? How quaint!

…is going to try “The New Facebook” … Whooppeeeee…. (6/8/8)

…can’t find anything on this dog’s dinner of a new facebook (15/9/8)

…is an old fart of a technophobic luddite and so is happy to have found a way back to the old facebook layout! (17/9/8)

…can’t send message in Facebook . I’ll respond to your messages just as soon as Facebook works again. Grrr. (1/11/8)

Publisher? Box? Wall? Posts? Streams? What’s on my mind? It’s a lovely sunny day and I’m sitting indoors fighting Facebook… (16/3/9)

…wants to know how he can possibly ‘Like’ everyone’s Status when he hasn’t even been on Facebook for nearly 24 hours. (1/5/9)

…is glad Facebook fixed the bug whereby I like every status. Now they just need to fix all the other bugs. (1/5/9)

Now I can have a username for my Facebook Profile. So it says. Only I can’t. It’s been “Checking Availability” for a million years and it still won’t give me my username. (20/6/9)

Why does Facebook keep telling me there are several new posts and then give me the same ones again? And again. And again. (15/7/9)

My Facebook no longer works in Firefox. Keeps telling me: “Cookies required Cookies are not enabled on your browser. Please adjust this in your security preferences before continuing.” It doesn’t tell me how often I have to enable cookies, though. Bloody computers. (16/10/9)

Oh, Mick, why didn’t you just give up on Facebook? Well, better late than never.

I see Facebook is playing up again; giving a random and different selection of ‘news’ items each time the button’s pressed. (11/12/9)

“A guide to Facebook’s home page: A simplified design provides easy access to your entire Facebook experience.” If this is ‘simplified’ then I am eternally grateful that Facebook isn’t becoming far too complicated and over-burdened with way too many ‘features’. (5/2/10)

Nice to see Facebook have introduced anti-time-wasting enhancements. Most of the ‘buttons’ no longer work. (15/3/10)

Thanks for all the birthday greetings… but where, oh where, on this latest version of Facebook, can I find the list of my friends’ imminent birthdays? It used to be on the front page, but it’s well hidden now. Or is it cos I is too old? (23/3/10)

Facebook and Adblock Plus and Firefox – major incompatibility issues. My money’s on the bugs all being Facebook’s, since I have no other problems with Firefox nor Adblock Plus. (IANAG) (17/8/10)

“People who aren’t friends with David only see some of David’s profile information. If you know David personally, Add David as a friend? on Facebook..” But unless I can see more of David’s information, how can I be sure it’s the correct David? (16/1/11)

Oh I’ve been given the new Facebook profile. Now with more ways to show and tell my story. Well, it can’t be any more bug-ridden than it was before. Can it? (18/1/11)

Did you know that from Friday, Facebook will start using your information – your ‘likes’ etc. in ads that will appear on the profile page of your contacts. It’s legal and is mentioned in the fine print when you create your account. To stop this do the following: Account, Account Settings, Then click on Facebook Ads ( tab…), choose “No one” on the drop-down menu and save changes (18/3/11)

Facebook gets on my thrupennies sometimes. Where I had a link to ‘Groups’ on my Homepage, I now have an option to ‘Create group’. I want to access my old groups, not create new ones. Any ideas? Facebook’s help is useless. Cheers. (10/4/11)

Ooh another Facebook bug. I ‘recommended’ a link a few minutes ago and on the ‘Home’ page it’s telling me I’m recommending the link I actually recommended yesterday. (4/5/11)

Facebook has changed its user settings without telling us again. Face recognition for photo tagging auto-enabled. Disable at will! http://tinyurl/&#8230; (7/6/11)

Don’t think much of this new idea from Facebook, Fred Bloggs and two other friends posted about BBC. So what? Let me decide if those posts are in any way connected. Facebook’s going the same way as MySpace did, getting too damn ‘clever’, by which I mean ‘impossible to use’. (8/8/11)

<rant> So now Facebook tells me about every new friendship one at a time instead of summarising, thus forcing other potentially interesting news items well off the bottom of the screen. Royal Mail would call this ‘modernisation’ or ‘the way forward’. I won’t say what I call it.</rant> (17/8/11)

Oh wow Facebook have actually fixed something. “Fred Bloggs is now friends with Jane Doe and 43 other people.” That’s all I need to know. There was no need to list every one individually. I’m sure there are more Facebook bugs/features on the way. (22/8/11)

Dear Facebook, please can I decide what are my ‘Top Stories’? Also, please fix the ‘Older Posts’ link at the bottom so that I can find any Posts / Stories that you’ve incorrectly relegated. Thanks. (16/9/11)

As far as I can see, in Facebook, if I subscribe to somebody, it’s like they’re my friend but I’m not theirs. I can’t see the point. Is Facebook trying to be Twitter? (3/10/11)

Just below this status box, Facebook says “19 RECENT STORIES, 2 MARKED AS TOP HIGHLIGHTED STORIES FIRST · SORT BY RECENCY”. Recency??? Never seen that word outside psychology text books. So, thanks, Facebook, for broadening my vocabulary. Now go away and fix some bugs. Please. (22/10/11)

Oh FFFFFacebook snafu stop it. (23/11/11)

Haven’t had a moan about Facebook for a while, so I’ll rectify that right now. “Tom Friendlyperson and 5 others posted about Christmas” it says, then displays these 6 postings in a clump, with no regard to the ‘Sort: Recent Stories First’ legend at the top of the screen. Funny thing is, there are other statuses that mention Christmas too, but Facebook has arbitrarily ignored those. Guess it’s worth what I paid for it. (17/12/11)

Exception in createSidebarSection: Error: Permission denied for <moz-safe-about:neterror?e=netReset&u=https%3A//www.facebook.com/%3Fsk%3Dh_chr&c=ISO-8859-1&d=The%20connection%20to%20the%20server%20was%20reset%20while%20the%20page%20was%20loading.> to call method HTMLDocument.createElement
Even if it was, why do I need to know? And what am I supposed to do about it? Oh, you need me to log in again. Good old Facebook, always thinking about my security. (31/1/12)

What’s on my mind, Facebook asks. I’m staring at a Facebook page which my browser thinks is ‘done’ but which is (apart from the header and the left hand column of Favourites, Groups and Apps) totally empty. Devoid of content. Bereft of reading matter. Depleted. Blank. (20/2/12)

Good old Facebook number 462: You signed up to be one of the first to get Timeline (no I didn’t) and now it’s ready to go. Learn more, watch this video. The video you requested could not be loaded. Try again later. (Thanks, I’ll give it a miss, then.) (23/2/12)

Groan. Facebook. Trending articles. (21/5/12)

Oh F-F-F-Facebook! When did it start popping up with little tabs at the bottom of the screen? And how do I stop it? If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: I wish they’d spend more time fixing bugs and giving us what we want rather than introducing new ‘features’ that we don’t want. (11/2/17)

Since my acquisition of a smart phone, I’ve been able to enjoy Facebook on two devices, on the PC and on the phone. I expected to see the same things in both places, even if what was carefully selected by Facebook’s algorithms was a mere portion of the whole. But no. The subset of posts I see on the phone is different to the subset of posts I see on the PC. So the notion that FB’s algorithm determining what is and isn’t important to me is demonstrably rubbish. It just randomly picks a few posts to throw my way. The alternative theory, that FB is deciding what to show me depending on whether I’m on a phone or on a PC is just too creepy to contemplate, and surely even Facebook wouldn’t do that?

Also, why does it bother to tell me about a post that it doesn’t want to or can’t show me? What am I supposed to do about a message like this:

This content isn’t available at the moment. When this happens, it’s usually because the owner only shared it with a small group of people or changed who can see it or it’s been deleted.

But it’s not just Facebook that annoys me. Sometimes the whole internet is ganging up on paranoid little old me.

I’m sure I used to be able to compose more than one email at a time, without the drafts being deleted. Thanks, Yahoo. So that’s Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, AVG all ‘improving things’ and adding features that make them harder to use. (26/11/13)

And.

The internet is breaking up before my eyes. Facebook displays a different collection of statuses every time I refresh. Twitter is displaying some tweets twice. Flickr claims to be uploading my photos but is blatantly lying. Radio Downloader is taking over 30 minutes to download a 15-minute long programme. Yahoo won’t even retrieve emails I’ve just sent to myself. Yes, I could turn it off and on again – but where’s the fun in that? (1/6/14)

In my experience, if my browser, Firefox, stops working, it’s usually Facebook causing the problem. “Firefox is not responding” crops up every now and then, for a variety of reasons. Too many tabs open, or a sudden loss of internet connection, they’re reasonable excuses. But usually, deleting the Facebook tab gets things moving again like some electronic laxative.

I’ve always been concerned about Facebook’s inconsistencies in what it deems acceptable. It seems to love right-wing hatred being perpetrated on its platform. Yet it censors photos with the slightest hint of a female nipple.

There are a few good features that I like, such as the ability to hide all those annoying games and apps that peppered the site in the early days. That’s a setting that seems to work. Not to mention the option of muting users whose posts would otherwise monopolise the Facebook page, or ‘timeline’ as my ‘wall’ is now called, at the expense of other people’s more interesting offerings.

But the best way by far to improve the look of Facebook was by implementing an add-on, ‘Social Fixer’. This gives you the ability to hide the adverts, to conceal some areas of the screen so it appears less cluttered and to more easily change some of the settings. You can even change the overall look of Facebook: for a while, I enjoyed a pink Facebook rather than the drab, default blue.

Frequent bugs, hiding stuff I’d like to see, too many ads, inappropriate ads, security settings being too difficult and dishonest, it’s just not worth my time any more.

Since leaving Facebook, I’ve seen nothing to make me regret the decision. According to various news items, it’s going to become even more bloaty and ambitious. It’s likely to implement its own e- or crypto-currency. So not only will they know where you are, they’ll know what you’re spending your money on.

The moderators who have to sit and view hundreds of disturbing videos and images every day are not employed by Facebook, but by a firm sub-contracted by them. They are badly treated and they can’t remove much of what they see because Facebook’s rules aren’t stringent enough.

When I downloaded ‘my’ Facebook content before closing the account, one of the things I saw was a list of adverts that I’d clicked on. Haha. I didn’t click on any of them out of interest, I just clicked so that I could ‘hide’ uninteresting, repetitive and dodgy adverts. If they count those clicks as a sign of interest, then they’re misleading the advertisers. Surely I’m not the only one who hides adverts?

I’m sure I’ll miss some of the groups I belonged to, especially the funny ones, and I’ll miss the people. Some of whom I interact with mainly on Facebook. But as I write this, three weeks on, I am glad to have thrown it away like a tatty old sock. One of the unintended side-effects is that I now have to look for other things to whinge about and that’s got to be a good thing.

—– The end —

Well, that’s the essay what I wrote, just to get it out of my system. I agree, it needs a bit of editting, but other than reformatting for this blog post, to be honest, I can’t be bothered.

I knew it was the time to leave when we returned from our travels. During that 10 months away, I’d rarely looked at Facebook, so I knew I could live without it. That’s 10 months of far more interesting posts than this one, by the way.

That last sentence though: “One of the unintended side-effects is that I now have to look for other things to whinge about and that’s got to be a good thing.” Actually, I have been trying really hard not to whinge about anything and everything. Live and let live, so to speak. But then along comes an incompetent government, full of self-serving no-good-niks, so what am I supposed to do?

 

 

 

 

The Wall

It’s Quiz Time! Yes, however long it takes you to read this post, that’s how long you have in which to guess what I did today for the first time since about 1996/7. So, not really a quiz at all, just a guessing game. And there are no prizes either. If you scroll straight to the bottom, then you are a rogue and a vagabond.

Most of the country were looking forward to the final episode of Line of Duty on TV. I even rustled up a snack for me and Liesel.

Cheers!

I broke into the bottle of whisky that Liesel bought for my birthday. Sorry to say my birthday chocolate was nowhere to be found, long sinced enjoyed secretly in my secret lair aka my studio.

A lot of viewers thought this final episode was an anti-climax, but I’m not so sure. There are still a lot of unanswered questions and loose threads. No spoilers here, but having watched all, yes all, of the preceding episodes during the week, it does make sense, there were clues.

Whinge of the week can be summed up in two words: the weather. Meanwhile, in NSW, they’re backburning in the bush, so Sydney catches the smoke and residents can’t breathe. On the plus side though, all that muck in the atmosphere makes for some pretty sunsets.

Sunset in Manly NSW

This is what Helen has to look at from her flat every evening. The bad news is that there are now a couple of Covid cases in NSW, with all that that implies: visits to other states may be prohibited.

Northenden continues to surprise me. I’ve been walking the same streets for a couple of years, but I’m still seeing things I’ve not noticed before. Often for the simple reason that I’ve been on the other side of the road.

Sorry Protection Sells

The outside wall of this house has been beautifully(?) decorated, I can only imagine how glamorous it is inside.

As Spring (sort of) makes progress, the leaves on the bushes on the island in the river are nicely hiding all the plastic rubbish that was caught up during the floods a few months ago. The heron has been a bit elusive this week, but he knows how to tease: I can just see him lurking behind the fence!

Foliage hiding the rubbish

Liesel was having problems with her laptop this week. It spontaneously reboots for no obvious reason. I had some ideas and so did Liam, thank you, Liam. Part of the diagnosis involved leaving a Zoom call open while doing something else on the laptop: not quite testing to destruction but trying to see if it was over-heating or something. I had installed a program to show us the temperature of the innards (sorry about the technical language). I was the other participant in Liesel’s Zoom call and I was messing around with different backgrounds.

Selfie of the day

I wasn’t really Zooming on the beach. And my hair isn’t really in a cloud of candyfloss. Have you guessed yet what did I do today for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century?

The other thing I did was turn off the laptop’s option to automatically reboot. So, if something does go wrong from now on, we should have a chance to see any error message that might pop up. And yes, of course we’ve done the first thing any decent IT support person would suggest: we’ve given the computer a jolly good talking to.

We had a lovely walk at Quarry Bank again this week, and I won’t mention the weather.

Fluffy clouds

Except to say, blue sky and fluffy clouds in one direction were very pretty. The solid grey lumps of lead in the opposite direction not so much! We felt a few spots of rain and even hail, but nothing too horrible.

Azaleas and rhododendrons

As I’ve mentioned before, we love a splash of colour, that always lifts the mood.

Pink rhododendrons

As Liesel pointed out, this rhododendron is more of a tree than a bush.

Yellow rhododendrons

And as Liesel reminded me, I don’t think we ever saw Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park at the real height of its flowering rhododendron gorgeousness. Just before and just after, yes, but not on the actual day.

It was that time again: I visited the dental hygienist. Meanwhile, Liesel visited  her beautician way over there in Gatley. But then she drove to CostCo, a trip that I missed out on. After loading up the trolley, queueing at the checkout and being invited to pay, Liesel realised that her debit card was out of date. It’s so long since we’ve been to proper shops and she’d forgotten to put the new card, received a few weeks ago, into her wallet. Fortunately, CostCo now accepts credit cards, so they didn’t force her to replace everything on the shelves.

Here’s a tip: when you go shopping for the first time after a long lockdown, make sure your payment cards have not expired.

I was feeling quite relieved about having dodged a trip to that place. But Liesel realised she’d forgotten one important item, something we can’t find anywhere else. So, as we were driving away from Quarry Bank, she asked, would I mind if we went back to CostCo to pick up the missing item? I was so shocked by this unexpected invitation, I couldn’t immediately think of a good enough reason to say ‘no way, José’. And off we went. Things are getting back to normal. I know this because we both whinged about the amount of traffic near the Trafford Centre and also the quality of some of the driving.

I thought I might as well have a quick look at the DVD players while I was there in a big warehouse, but we couldn’t find any. Neither could we find what Liesel had forgotten earlier in the week. There was none on the shelf. Yes, we were looking in the right place, there was plenty of similar stuff, but not specifically what we needed. Instead, we just bought baked potatoes for lunch, which we ate in the car, since the restaurant seating has all been removed, presumably because of Covid restrictions.

We have made a guest appearance on someone else’s blog this week. Thank you Jacob for inviting us. So here is another small contribution to our Warholian fifteen minutes of fame.

This week’s Radio Northenden show was all about The Letter Z. Jazz, pizza, ZZ Top and Iz. Catch up here if you mizzed it!

So, here it is. Did you manage to guess what I did today for the first time in nearly 25 years? Well, here’s a clue:

Long-haired yeti

Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. Then I spotted some new hair ties that Liesel had bought the other day. I couldn’t resist the temptation to tie my long lockdown locks into a pony tail. It won’t last long, though. The pony tail is, as I’m sure you’ll agree, a total delight, but the large ill-defined bald patch on top is just embarrassing. Sometime during the next couple of weeks, I should visit a barbershop and have a slight trim.

Obscured by Clouds

That light at the end of that Covid tunnel? It’s a bit brighter now, we are getting there. I decided to walk to the venue, it was a nice day after all, plus I would see parts of Wythenshawe I’d not seen close-up before. Woodhouse Park Lifestyle Centre was the destination. Yes, I was excited to be receiving the second of my two Pfizer vaccinations. I was also looking forward to accepting another chocolate biscuit, of course.

Front end of a tram

As the tram passed by, I mentally celebrated impending increased freedom. My Senior Bus Pass has arrived too, and in three weeks time, when my immunity is at its best, I’ll at least be thinking about taking a bus somewhere. Plus, trams and trains are a possibility. Our world is growing wider.

Street Market

The street market is obviously not as extensive as it used to be (yet), and again, the possibility of visiting markets outside, followed by shops indoors, is quite attractive. And I am by no means a big shopping fan, as any female in my life will confirm.

Bee in the city: Wythenshawe

I haven’t mentioned coffee for a while, but a cappuccino is a very nice cup of coffee. And for children, you can buy a babyccino, which is just warm, frothy milk. Our new coffee shop Boxx2Boxx offers beverages for dogs, a puppyccino. And you’d think that would be it. Oh no. I saw this advert and did a double take.

Carpuccino’s

Carpuccino’s? I like a good pun, but this is off the scale, the wrong end of the scale. It’s not even a drink, just a daft name for a car-washing service. I know our vehicle deperately needs a clean, especially since people began asking us whether they could borrow it to grow potatoes on, but washing a car in old coffee dregs doesn’t seem right.

I arrived at the Lifestyle Centre fifteen minutes early: yes, I still walk faster than Google Maps gives me credit for. The volunteer outside said to go straight in. I was processed very quickly, being passed from volunteer to direction-giving volunteer like an extremely valuable pass-the-parcel, only instead of removing a layer of clothing each time, all I did in the end was roll up a sleeve to receive the jab. The small scratch was more noticeable this time. I’m not complaining, but I did have this image of the needle being screwed into the muscle rather than being pushed in, this time. No chocolate biscuit, but that’s alright. I now feel even more invincible than I was before.

While sitting for the required fifteen minutes in case of sudden, unexpected problems, I spoke to both Jenny and Liesel. My initial plan to walk home again was changed. Instead, Liesel collected me and we drove straight over to Jenny’s with the millionaire’s shortbread that Liesel had baked. Well, most of it.

As soon as I got out of the car, I was attacked by William and Martha. In a well-planned ambush, they both got me with their water pistols. Pistols? Water blasters, each of which semingly holds several gallons of ammunition, most of which got me with pinpoint accuracy.

William the water blaster

Yes, of course I ran away down the road like the cowardly wimp I am,  but that didn’t stop them. No, I didn’t mind getting soaked, it was a warm day, and I was feeling quite buoyant from the jab.

Martha, another water blaster

We spent some time in the garden with the children, which is always a delight. Liam was working in the shop, serving his customers, answering the helpline, taking orders and everything.

Two coffees and six doughnuts, please, Daddy

It was ridiculously nice being in a garden, lying on the grass, chewing the fat, not quite nodding off in the Sun, listening to the children playing and laughing and chatting. Still no physical contact, of course, but there is a bit more flexibility in our social distancing and interactions.

Unexpectedly, I had some annoying side-effects following the second jab. I couldn’t sleep that night, but certainly made up for it the following night. And in between, I was lethargic, achy and stiff and I had to force myself to eat. 24-hour flu? Something like that, and yes, just for one day, thank goodness. The site of the jab was sore for a few days too, compared with exactly 4 hours for the first one. 

Back in Northenden, there is colour in unexpected places. The planters on Palatine Road are a blaze of colour.

Tulips in Northenden

And the aforementioned Boxx2Boxx seems to be doing well, attracting visitors from far and wide, including one day, most of the Manchester City women’s football team. Whom I instantly recognised, of course. No. not really.

I drank water…

We had a so-called Pink Moon this week, when the Moon is closer to Earth while full. Well, as usual, we didn’t see it, too much cloud cover for a few nights.

We drove to Dunham Massey on what turned out to be a cooler day than anticipated. The wind was chilly but that didn’t put us off walking nearly 5 miles. It threatened to rain, too, but we kept going. Another visitor was feeding a deer, no idea what the food item was, but it reminded us of Nara in Japan, where the deer bow to people in expectation of being fed.

My new app, the one that tells me what birdsong I can hear, is remarkable. It listens to the sound, then tells me all the possible birds it might be, mostly ones I’ve already thought of. It’s certainly not as slick nor as accurate as Shazam is for music.

On our long walk around this National Trust venue, we witnessed young children playing football and one little girl jumping in a ‘puddle’, only there was no water in it. So not really a puddle at all, I suppose, but what do you call the muddy indentation where a puddle might form when it rains? Another one for the philosophers of the world. We saw a couple of white deer in the distance, which just goes to show how well camouflaged conventionally coloured deer are. Even those whose bottoms look like badgers’ faces.

Flower bed

In domestic news, our shower blocks up fairly often, especially with our copious, long, lockdown hair falling out. So I recently acquired a gadget which I can put down the drainage hole to grab the offending blockage and pull it out. There’s a gripper that opens when you press the button at the other end. Does it work? Not with our shower drain, no. Because of some clever design, two inches down, there’s a flat surface which covers most of the width of the pipe, so water has to drain around this disc’s edge. My new gadget isn’t flexible enough to go down and round this tight corner. So, back to chemicals it is.

Have we tried a plunger? A plunger would possibly work if we could get a good enough seal, which we can’t because of the carefully installed nobbles that hold the drainage cover in place! Stupid design details that just aren’t practical. Put the nobbles on the underside of the cover and recesses in the shower floor, then we could at least try to use a plunger.

Also, we now need a new DVD player. The old one has been reluctant to open its drawer for some time. So after threatening it yet again with replacement if it didn’t cooperate, we had to resort to violence. I inserted a plastic tool to force the drawer open. That worked, but in the process some ratchetty noise told us, or at least strongly implied, that the drawer would never again close properly. RIP, not so faithful DVD player.

Other than that, we need a new dishwasher because the old one has a door whose springs have snapped so it no longer glides gently open. When we forget, it drops to the floor and one day, the hinges are gonna snap, the door will crash on the floor, possibly with such force that it will fall off and crash through into the luxury apartment below. We’re hoping to hold out until we can afford to get the whole kitchen done, but we’ve already had to replace the washing machine.

So much for not being a fan of shopping: there are several expeditions in the pipeline by the looks of it.

I was pleased to have a guest on my Radio Northenden show this week: Rizwana from Bluebird Care here in South Manchester told us about what they do from day to day. Other than that, I played some fabulous charity records. Catch up here, or listen here on Wythenshawe Radio Wednesday at 7pm.

Wish You Were Here

As life slowly begins to return to normal in our local area, we have to remember that for other people in more enlightened parts of the world, the disruption hasn’t been nearly as great. Take my sister in New Zealand, for example. Please, take her! No, she’s a good egg and all through the pandemic, she’s been carrying on pretty much as normal. Last weekend, she and Andrew were out walking, spotting butterflies and bees and enjoying some nice views. A couple of weeks ago, they even went away on holiday, they stayed in a different town. Luxury. For some reason, New Zealanders don’t want to swap prime ministers with us.

A very blue day near Christchurch

This is a beautiful blue view over the water. But, have no fear, we too saw some big water, later in the week. Watch this space. Actually, don’t watch this space, it’ll be more enlightening if you just scroll down. Alternatively, just carry on reading. Forget this interruption. Pretend it doesn’t exist.

Also, Helen in Manly is allowed out and about much more than we’ve been. No idea when we’ll see her again, what with travel restrictions plus the requirement to isolate on arriving in the UK and/or back in Australia. Last week, she and Adam went to see Hamilton, the musical, in Sydney.

Adam and Helen

Well, I think this is Helen and Adam, behind the masks, and it’s good to see the theatres open.

Meanwhile, back at home, it’s always exciting to see Bob Marley…

Bob Marley

…even if it is just his image on a small plastic bag which presumably, earlier, contained a few grammes of ganja. Do you buy that stuff in grammes? Or does it still come in eighths of an ounce? Anyway, this is just one example of the drug paraphernalia we find littering the otherwise pristine streets of Northenden. Nitrous oxide gas canisters are probably the most popular item around here.

We visited Quarry Bank Mill, again for the first time in several months. And by chance, we bumped into Jenny and Liam and Martha and William. Coincidence? No, a carefully coordinated meeting, I think because we all (cynically?) want to take advantage of the limited freedom before the third wave of Covid forces a further period of lockdown.

We all enjoyed a nice, warm sunny walk here, including a picnic lunch. The venue wasn’t too busy either, we never felt intimidated by the presence of too many other people. I suspect that venturing into a busy city centre on a Saturday afternoon might be more challenging, when that opportunity presents itself.

Where’s Martha?

Martha and William climbed a tree, it had very low branches. Martha and I discussed the nature of branches and sticks, and what is the cut-off point?

Martha up a tree

William has a marvellous sense of adventure. We were following a path that took us slowly down towards the river, on a slight gradient with very-nearly hairpin bends. That wasn’t good enough for William. He wanted to climb down the steepest possible slope.

William looking for his roots

Online entertainment this week included a Manchester Literature Festival event, a fascinating chat between Kazuo Ishiguro and Jackie Kay. I enjoyed hearing Kazuo’s latest novel, Klara and the Sun, serialised on radio recently, so it was interesting to hear him speaking about it.

Kazuo Ishiguro and Jackie Kay

Here is the latest in our occasional series of strange things found on the pavement in Northenden.

Severed phone line

Someone over the road will be wondering why their landline isn’t working any more. It looks like the phone cable may have been severed from its anchoring point by the crew working on the roof.

Liesel and I went to the seaside, again, our first visit for a very long time. Formby was very pleasant. The tide was miles out, possibly literally. I walked towards the water’s edge but it still appeared miles away when I encountered too much wet sand with too many puddles to negotiate. So, a very long beach and a very wide beach and, being a weekday, a very empty beach. So what did we do? We picked a couple of bags of litter and received a couple of supportive comments from passers-by. But a couple of dog-walkers seemed surprised that their charges had done something entirely natural ‘while they weren’t watching’.

Selfie of the day

We had our second picnic lunch of the week, on the dunes. Why can we never go hungry on a beach? Because of all the sand which is there. I went for a longer walk than Liesel and leapt a few inches in the air when a horse galloped past suddenly and very close.

Where is Liesel?

Liesel: Why are you stomping?
Mick: To make sure my pedometer counts every step. Sometimes it doesn’t register if I just walk normally, and it definitely doesn’t count when I’m just dawdling, like when we’re picking up litter or when we’re moving slowly through a museum or gallery, very, very slowly studying all the exhibits.
Liesel: Oh.

Yes, we were in Formby on St George’s Day. Someone on Twitter asked whether I’d been leaning on a lamppost. And, yes, I had! I had to lean against something while I shook the sand from my sandals.

This week’s radio show was entitled ‘Same Title, Different Song’. I didn’t play all ten songs that I found called Tonight but I did play a few. You can listen back here to those and many other songs that have the same titles as each other.

Sorry to say, we were so engrossed by the latest series of Keeping Faith on TV, that we just couldn’t wait for a whole week, so we binge-watched the last few episodes on the BBC iPlayer. Unfortunately, Line of Duty is not available on the iPlayer, so we have to wait seven very long days for each new episode. We’ve also started re-watching Torchwood. Yes, even when we do stay in, we know how to have a good time!

Animals

Well that was a good week. We’re allowed out a bit more, now. The government’s roadmap to a return to normal life turned a corner this week with shops, pubs and other venues opening. So we went out for a walk and picked up a couple more bags of litter.

In other, totally separate and unrelated news, we have come into possession of several facemasks which we are prepared to sell at mates’ rates. Please send a message if you’re interested.

I bumped into Mary and Dave, fellow litter-picker-uppers, who gave us some more bin bags as we’re in danger of running out. I treated myself to a coffee and a blondie from The Northern Den and sat by the river for a while. It started snowing again. It was a lovely day, not too cold, really, but it snowed. Not nice, pretty, six-pointed snowflakes, but the small lumps of ice that looked like polystyrene.

Unexpected snow shower

There’s a new warning sign now, telling me not to jump in the river. Well, Liesel and I had no imminent plans to do so, but once hot Summer days come along, who knows what madness might overtake us?

Never jump into open water

Most of the colour in our world is provided by flowers, but sometimes, we see something a little bit different.

Magpie feather

I think this is a magpie feather but in any case, the photo doesn’t quite capture the vibrancy of the iridescence.

There was an horrific accident on Palatine Road this week. An Audi, by the looks of it, crashed into one of the posts that is supposed to deter motorists from parking on the pavement. An horrific use of the indefinite article at the start of this paragraph too.

Palatine Road RTA

And so to the first of our proper days out for a long, long time. We returned to Lyme Park and had a very pleasant walk, if shorter than usual, not being sure of our respective states of health and stamina. Don’t want to push things too hard, too soon. But never mind Lyme Park itself, in the farm next door, all the livestock came to see us.

Hielan coo

It’s always good to see highland cattle, although how they can see anything themselves through all that lockdown hair beats me. There were some sheep too and Liesel especially enjoyed watching the lambs gambolling up and down the hill.

Hielan coo too

These cows do need to have a meeting one day, and decide which is the correct direction of travel for their horns.

Big house at Lyme Park

Bug house at Lyme Park

We saw a few of these little bug hotels dotted around the various flower beds. At least, we think they’re bug hotels and not something more sinister.

The good news is that, on the way home, I remembered to take a photo of some grafitti that we’ve passed many, many times before. I ususally forget to have my phone ready. Today though, was different. Success. Mission accomplished. Game very much oveer.

Game oveer

While following a motorway maintenance vehicle, I though its warning lights looked familiar.

Warning lights channelling Thomas

Maybe it’s just me, but don’t they look like a collection of yellow Thomas the Tank Engine faces?

It was delightful to see our heron again this week. He does like playing games with me, though.

Heron

He stands in the same spot on the other side of the weir for ages. Then, as soon as I look away, he flies over to this side of the river. And, as if by magic, as soon as I make a move to take my phone out for a closer-up photo, he flies back to where he came from. You can tell he’s having a good time by his laughter lines.

And so to our second proper day out this week. We visited Chester Zoo and so did Martha and William along with Jenny and Liam, and we had a very nice day, thanks for asking. Usually, it’s colder here than at home, but today it was very pleasant.

It was the first time we’d been out with the children without a buggy. So yes, we’re at the zoo ostensibly to see the animals but really, I think Liesel and I were really here just to spend time with the children.

William standing proudly

I don’t think he’s in the cabinet, but William seems to have adopted the Conservative Ministers’ default power stance.

Martha sitting pinkly

Martha’s favourite colours are purple and pink, and here she is with matching heather.

The indoor venues at the zoo are still closed to the public, but there’s a nice little tunnel near the red river hogs (not pigs, as Martha corrected me) where Martha and William enjoyed making Grandad jump.

Booo!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a day at the zoo without at least one photo of captive wildlife.

The mane, if not the main, attraction

The lion was wandering around his territory while the two lionesses were resting their eyes in the warmth of the Sun.

One side effect of planning to go to the zoo was that I had to pre-record the radio show earlier in the week and then ask for someone to push the button and sent it out to the world, well, to Northenden, at 2pm on Friday. Thanks, Sanny, and we can all catch up on two hours of records about the weather right here.

I think it’s fair to say that our spirits have been lifted this week, by going out and by spending time with Martha and William. Plus, the Sun’s out, we’ve had blue skies, it’s warmer, Liesel’s projects are making good progress, I reached a significant stage in one of my own undertakings, Liesel’s had her second Covid jab and mine is booked for next week. Yep, things are certainly looking up, hooray!

As I write, it’s Liam’s birthday, and we’ve already paid them a quick visit, and watched Martha on her new bike. Yes, Liam’s birthday but seeing Martha on a bike is so much more exciting, sorry, Liam!

Martha pedalling like Billy-o

Both William and Martha were brandishing water pistols, not filled, but I’m sure one day we’ll feel the benefits of their cool, refreshing ammunition.

I will chew and spit tobacco like my grandfather Jones


We went for a quick drive, all the way over to Cheadle Hulme. And we realised our car is filthy, it really does need a clean. If only we weren’t living on the second floor, we could wash it ourselves, but neither of us wants to be lugging buckets of water up and downstairs. I think in a parallel universe, life probably oozed from and evolved on a car very much like ours.

We enjoyed spending time in the garden with Martha and William and Jenny and Liam. It was a nice sunny day, too.

Martha’s thinking


We were still being careful not to get too close to each other. William and Martha opened a shop and took it in turns to serve the grown-ups. Interestingly, everything I wanted to buy was in stock.

William’s escaping


In fact, you could say, William’s sales are through the roof. As is he.
It was Easter weekend and straightaway, they bit the ears off the chocolate bunnies. But they did save the bodies for later on and for the next day.

Easter bunnies


I think it’s fair to say this was the highlight of the week, for us. A couple of days later, the temperature was right down, and snow was forecast. Yes, it is April. We had the warmest March day for decades recently, and now we’re experiencing unseasonally cold weather. This doesn’t enhance our overall sense of well-being, to be honest. Oh how we yearn for good, old-fashioned April showers.

So, let’s go back to the garden. There is now a goal net and both Martha and William have been taking and attempting to save penalties. William likes playing in goal. Literally.

William’s in goal


Northenden is a good place to live, but it does need some TLC. This map-of-the-UK-shaped defect has been marked up for as long as I can remember:

202569 (scheduled to be repaired in the year 202569?)


Just think, there are at least 202,568 such holes that might be repaired one day. But, what’s the point? Most of this damage is caused by cars being parked on the pavements, and there doesn’t seem to be any real effort to prevent this anti-social behaviour. There’s nothing as entertaining as watching people in wheelchairs rolling up the middle of the road* because they can’t squeeze by the numerous, inappropriately parked vehicles. There you go, that’s my whinge of the week. (*Actually there is: Mums pushing buggies and their young children up the middle of the road.)

Online, I watched Wall to Wall Bowie again, ‘a celebration of one of our greatest pop icons’! Janette Mason chatted with Sam Obernik as they celebrate the release of their new single, Wild is the Wind.

But, while the show itself was fabulous, I was knocked for six by ‘meeting’ not one, but two of my old buddies from many, many years ago. Out of an audience of about 40, that’s not bad. Patrick was a guy I met on a writing retreat I joined in 2002, and haven’t met in real life since a few years afterwards. And I don’t think I’ve met Miles since 2008. What are the chances? It’s been a while, but whenever Liesel and I go to a show, I always look around to see if there’s someone I know. It rarely happens, though.

So, did it snow? Yes, 2 days later, as predicted. Was it cold? Yes.

It was a big week for birthdays. Radio Northenden turned 1 but more excitingly, Martha turned 5. (Plus, it should have been my Mum’s birthday: 89.)
We had a family Zoom chat for Martha’s birthday. I think we all hope that next year, we’ll be there in person. This is Martha’s second birthday in lockdown, that’s 40% of all the birthdays she’s ever had.

Meet the family
Martha’s going wheelie fast


Martha loves her new, purple bike, and already she’s in the maillot jaune. Allez, Martha!

Martha’s having a good time

In lieu of a proper party with proper children in the same room, Martha and her friends and family were joined by magician Olly G online. I think she was thoroughly well entertained!

One motto that I try to live up to is ‘do something scary every day’. Well, obviously I don’t every single day, but an opportunity presented itself this week. Claire was unable to do her weekly show on Radio Northenden, so I thought I’d step in at the last minute, to see if I could do something more spontaneous, without the hours of preparation that I usually put in. Just a couple of outbreaks of cold sweat when I did something wrong, but other that that, it was OK. You can of course catch up with this and my regular show on the Mixlr Showreel. This week’s theme was Smith and Jones. Of course, I played a record for Martha, David Bowie’s When I’m Five, some lyrics from which I borrowed for this week’s title. I don’t think Martha will do that though, she doesn’t have a grandfather Jones. Maybe her teacher, Mrs Jones, chews and spits tobacco?

I thought it was raining hard against the windows this morning, But no, it was hailstones. It turned to snow after a while, and so again the thought crossed my mind: hibernation would be a wonderful thing.

Precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals formed directly from the water vapour of the air at a temperature of less than 0°C


If only the view from our luxury apartment were a bit more interesting. The little patch of grass over the road? Now covered in snow? Last week, the girl who lives in one of those flats was sunbathing on that very spot. Yes, it really was that warm that day.

Heron is an anagram of Horne

Well, the world really is a carousel of colour. Especially our little corner of Northenden. Just look at this. A splash of green, a dash of white, a hint of blue (a waste paper collection bag, unused) and one solitary red berry.

Where’s the berry?

The trees around our block are slowly turning green, or white if the blossom is taking over. More cherry blossom had appeared overnight in one front garden, totally at odds with all the rubbish and detritus dumped there.

I don’t know where the nearest McDonalds is, so I think some people must travel a long way to Northenden especially to dump their burger packaging and coffee cups. We ‘enjoy’ picking it all up for you, along with all the drugs paraphernalia. And I have a suggestion for Viz Magazine too.

Dear Dog Owners: Use green dog-poo bags, so they blend in better when, after use, you toss them into the bushes or hang them in a tree: obviously check nobody’s watching, first.

Looking up, not down, though, Liesel is still bringing colour into our lives, making good progress with her crochet blankets. One ball of yarn caught our attention  in the sunshine this week.

Orange yarn just waiting for a kitten or a Martha to unravel

What do these blankets look like, I hear you ask? Well, here’s a quick look at one of them. Not a bobble out of place.

Sneak preview of one of the blankets

OK, let’s go back outside now. We’re very proud of our potholes in Northenden. In fact, some of them are so deep, we have to put sandbags in them, we don’t want animals or small children falling in.

Sandbag in a pothole

And if you think that’s bonkers, do you want to know what’s Proper Nutty? Our latest peanut butter is presented in a tin.

Proper Nutty Smunchy Peanut Butter

Someone in Yorkshire thought it would be a good idea to use an old paint pot for peanut butter. We even had to lever the lid off with an old screwdriver. And, as with paint, the layer of oil on top had to be stirred in. But, actually, this Yorkshire peanut butter is delicious spread on Yorkshire pudding and dunked in a mug of Yorkshire tea.

Back in the outside world, magnolia trees are beginning to blossom. So many colours to spot here, I wonder which one most closely matches the paint colour known as ‘magnolia’?

Magnolia

Sometimes when we’re out walking around the local neighbourhood, we find oursleves talking to the wall. Well, it would be rude not to.

Hello, wall

Liesel and I had a long discussion about how long it would take the chalk to disappear, given the amount of rain we get in this part of the world, bearing in mind this is a vertical wall and the force of the falling raindrops might not be enough to dislodge the chalk particles. Equally, now that someone’s set the precedent, it might encourage even more grafitti. If it’s a decent mural, that would cheer the place up, but it’ll probably be a tag of no significance to anyone other than the perpetrator. In which case, I think we’d probably just have to demolish the wall as it’s become an eyesore, and then we’d be able to see just what a mess the garden behind is. All that, and we only said a quick hello to the wall.

Some good news this week: he’s back! Yes, we haven’t seen him for a while, but here’s the heron, by the weir.

Heron on the weir

He then flew downstream to spend some time on the island. Other people have been on the island too, they even left a chair behind, which is very thoughtful, because we all need somewhere to sit when we’ve waded over.

Chair on the island
Peacock butterfly

It’s a long time ago, but I can remember when we used to say that today, we saw 12 peacocks, 20 cabbage whites, several red admirals, and too many commas to count. Now, we’re excited when we see a single butterfly on a walk. Two in one day is very rare. But it was nice to see this chap sunning himself this week. What a shame about the piece of plain wood he was sitting on, not a very good background for the photo. Plus, there was a fence in the way so I couldn’t get any closer.

 

In local news, farewell Salutem and hello Boxx 2 Boxx.

Boxx 2 Boxx

The new coffee shop will open in a couple of weeks and the new people are working very hard in there by the looks of it.

On a sunny but cold day, we visited The Northern Den and treated ourselves to a coffee and an Easter-themed mini egg blondie each. A blondie is like a brownie, only made with white chocolate. Earlier in the week, we’d experienced the hottest March day for 30, or 50, or 100 years, depending on which news source you believe. But the nasty old Arctic Maritime Air Mass moved in, it’s definitely colder, and unbelievably, snow has been forecast for next week. We certainly have interesting weather here in the UK!

Back indoors for more online entertainment. I watched Jessica Lee Morgan not once but twice. She performed Mary Hopkin’s album Recollections, to perfection, some great songs including some by Jim Croce. Then a couple of days later, I watched her again, this time singing some of her own delightful songs while poor old Liesel attended a WI committee meeting online: I know who got the better deal!

We first saw The Horne Section during the recording of a radio show many years ago. This week, we watched them online: they’re all very talented musicians but they are also very funny and entertaining.

The Hornes Section plus Robbie

There was a guest appearance by Robbie Williams, performing a much more upbeat version of Angels than the one we’re usually subjected to, which was refreshing.

Radio Northenden was set up one year ago, so my show this week celebrated the anniversary and, in passing, mentioned a few other favourite radio stations. You can listen back here or on Wythenshawe Radio WFM97.2 and online on Wednesday at 7pm. Some great music (I may be biased) and some wonderful old radio jingles.

Birds, birthday and blossom

I was delighted to see William and Martha when they visited, along with Jenny and Liam, of course, since neither of the children can drive yet, on account of their legs being too short, they can’t reach the pedals. They brought me a big gift box for my birthday, which was a few days later.

We all stayed outside, Covid restrictions still apply of course. Liesel and I played hide and seek with the children, which was fun, even if the only real hiding place was behind the oak tree growing outside our block of flats.

Mature oak tree, with a wide girth
The old oak tree

We also played tag, or ‘it’ as I used to call it, but that’s a strange game to play too when you can’t actually get close enough to tag someone. Good to see both William and Martha are learning new skills.

It won’t be long before Martha is skipping as adeptly as her Grandad (used to). And William’s counting skills are phenomenal. He knows his sums very well, and at one point, he was counting in 10s. He’s only 3 years old. Yes, we are very proud and boastful of our grandchildren. We can’t wait until we can sit down together and read a book or even watch something on TV. How we long to be able to pick them up spontaneously for a hug.

The oak tree is still quite bare, but that’s OK, it gave us an opportunity to watch the little birds for a while. We’re not sure whether they were great tits or blue tits, they just wouldn’t sit still long enough.

And of course, my attempt to capture them on film was a complete and utter failure.

As I mentioned, it was my special day this week. Helen sent me this photo of my birthday present all the way from New South Wales.

Well, it’s a terrific number plate, but as it turns out, the vehicle isn’t mine at all, just the picture. Still, thanks Helen, it’s the thought that counts.

Actually, my big box of goodies was epic. Oh look, I’ve used a word that young people use, even though I am suddenly a year older. Beer, chocolates, Smarties, TimTams, a huge coffee mug from Sydney, a Nespresso Aeroccino 3, a fab gadget for heating and frothing milk. I can make my own cappuccinos and lattés at home. No need to visit coffee shops ever again. Thank you very much for everything, Helen and Adam and Jenny and Liam and Martha and William. And thank you Pauline for my Double Choc Brownie making kit!

Speaking of coffee shops, it was a very sad day in Northenden today. Everyone was wearing black in honour of it being Salutem’s final day of business. Black arm bands, black face masks and in my case, black trousers, black t-shirt and an all black (apart from the silver fern) windcheater from New Zealand. Just one final visit to this delightful little coffee shop on Palatine Road. So, farewell then, Rachel, Ceilidh and Andie.

In other local news, Northenden’s Post Office has been closed all week. An in-depth and thorough investigation has failed to ascertain exactly what is going on here. Actually, I had a quick look on Twitter to see if there was an explanation, but no, there wasn’t.

Liesel and I picked another couple of bags of litter one day this week, and we moved some fly-tipped items to the pick-up point by the litter bin. It’s a thankless task to a certain extent, but the odd passer-by who expresses gratitude makes the exercise less disheartening, and in any case, it’s all worthwhile.

William paid a surprise return visit, bearing gifts: cakes that he’d baked, with Jenny’s help.

I’m sorry we tucked in before I was able to take a picture: the tray was full to start with!

It was lovely to have an online chat with Jenny and Helen and Liam and Adam on my birthday. Adam’s still in quarantine having returned to Sydney from the UK.

And then later on, I saw William and Martha online too. Thay sang Happy Birthday to me, blew candles out and I’m sure, enjoyed their cakes too.

I watched Jessica Lee Morgan’s 66th online show on my birthday, and she was kind enough to send me birthday greetings and perform some of my requested songs, with her partner, Chris.

Here’s a short excerpt, which I’d watch more often but I don’t want to wear it out.

Any more online entertainment this week? Well, yes, actually. We watched a comedy show that featured my Radio Northenden friend and co-presenter Dan Tiernan, live from the Frog and Bucket Comedy Club in Manchester.

Dan said it was strange performing only to a virtual audience, but I think he was glad to be performing at all. I just checked and the show is still up here.

On my big day, I walked all the way into Didsbury for the first time since, ooh, I don’t know when. Nothing much has changed there, apart from many of the flowers in the planters are blooming.

The golf courses are still being well maintained, even if we’re not allowed to play right now. And even if we were allowed, I probably wouldn’t, following my GP’s advice from about 10 years ago when I was having really bad back issues.

Marie Louise Gardens was nice and quiet. A good place to sit down and watch the world and the squirrels go by.

Sometimes, it does feel that time is flying by, but equally, sometimes it passes really slowly. I think Liesel and I are both happy with our current workloads: projects and hobbies that keep us occupied each day. But, we can’t wait to be able to go out and do something different, somewhere different. Like everyone else, I imagine.

When I was young, the only Cherry Blossom I was aware of was the shoe polish that bears that name. I can’t help but remember this fact every year when I see actual, proper, real-life cherry blossom making the place look more colourful.

On this week’s Radio Northenden show, I played some very long songs and some very short ones. This will be edited for Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2, when it will be broadcast on 97.2 FM on Wednesday at 7pm, so please tune in if you’re in the area. Or, you can listen online of course. Or play the unedited version from the Mixlr Showreel.

Senior moment of the week. I got up as usual, had a shower and got dressed, which included of course, putting on a clean pair of underdaks. I went for a walk (as described above, to Salutem) and on returning home, I visited the lavatory, as I usually have to do. It was a ridiculously difficult task to perform on this occasion, so eventually, I had to look down to see what was occurring. Well, it turns out, that instead of adding yesterday’s dirty underwear to the laundry basket, I’d put them back on, on top of today’s clean pair. I was so embarrassed, I didn’t even tell Liesel about my faux pas. And I would appreciate it if you kept schtum too, thank you very much.

Spring is sprung

It is now well over six months since I last had a haircut. The advantage of having long hair is that I now have a variety of styles to choose from. I can drag it forward, so that the fringe impedes my vision. Or, I can comb it back like my Dad used to do, and like I did until about the age of 16. So far, it’s not so long that I step on it as I’m walking along. Somehow, Liesel with her long, equally long-uncut hair, manages to keep it looking nice and tidy. When people have asked if there’s anything I’d like for my birthday, this year the response has been ‘a hairnet’.

There I was, walking innocently through Northern Moor, when I made a momentous discovery.

St Aidan’s Church, Northern Moor

We are living in, or at least very close to, the Diocese of Shrewsbury. That is a huge diocese. I remember the last (and only) time Liesel and I visited Shrewsbury. We were on a bike ride through the town. We passed by a bowling green and agreed that yes, that was a sport we might take up one day. A few yards further on, Liesel fell off her bike. In front of a policeman. I still don’t know how that happened, but I do know I got the blame. I’m so glad we’ve both forgotten that incident.

Liesel: I’m not going to order as much milk this week.
Mick: Why not?
Liesel: We still have a lot of that UTH milk, and we should use it up before it expires.
Mick: UTH?
Liesel: UTH, UHT, whatever it’s called.
Mick: UTI.
Liesel: That’s it, UTI milk.

On the whole, it was a grey week. Grey and miserable. The Sun peeped through occasionally, but on the whole, it was solid grey sky, sometimes different shades of grey, but whichever window we looked through, there it was, hovering over us like a dreaded exam.

Wythenshawe Park was busy in places, not helped by the fact that the main path was still flooded from the torrential rain last week.

Lonely bench

I didn’t buy a coffee in the café here on this occasion, but if I had, I would have got very wet feet sitting on the only unoccupied bench. While it was exciting to see some sky lurking in the grass, it did make the task of walking from one side to the other quite challenging.

Reflections of my life

Here is one attempt at blue sky breaking through the clouds, during the week.

Not enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers

This week takes us to the Spring equinox, so while some things are looking bright and beautiful, the sky isn’t firing on all cylinders yet. But then, in New South Wales there are floods: compare that with the horrendous bush fires they’ve had in recent dry, hot Summers. 

Sometimes I feel the world imitates art.

Mark Rothko maybe

The highlight of the week for me was driving into Manchester. This is the first time I’ve been outside my local postcode area for months. Manchester, the big city, a whole six and a bit miles away. It was less than a half-hour drive, but it felt much longer. How will I cope when we go a really long way? Chester Zoo? Formby? London?

There was a moment when I realised that yes, I can remember how to drive. I knew the way to my destination but I still set up my phone to guide me, just in case. The lady on my phone was very loud, but I couldn’t adjust the volume while gripping the steering wheel so tightly.

So, what prompted this venture into the almost unknown? A year since the last visit, it was time to give blood. We’ve both been vaccinated against Covid now, and I knew the venue would be as safe as possible. Because it’s been a year since I last went, I had to undergo a very long and thorough interrogation investigation into my recent health situation.

My blood flowed out as quickly as ever, but I’m so disappointed that none of the medics have referred to me as a ‘fast bleeder’ since the very early days, nearly half a century ago.

And, as a bonus, while resting afterwards, a beautiful nurse brought over the trolley for me, from which I selected a KitKat and a packet of Mini Cheddars. They’re still not offering hot beverages but I was delighted with my haul. I’ll be back!

Sky blue

And another bonus as I skipped out of the donation centre: proper blue sky with fluffy clouds.

The drive back home was interesting. I followed Google Maps’ suggested route, which seemed counter-intuitive, but at least it remembered to keep away from the motorway.

A window cleaner made us both jump when his brush suddenly appeared, spreading the dirt outside our windows. He was using one of those long poles with a supply of running water, and you can’t really scrub hard when you’re two floors down, holding a pole that long, but it’s the thought that counts.

A different window cleaner turned up a few days later and all he did was top up his water tank from a standpipe in the pavement. The following picture is not safe for work, for children, nor for people of a nervous disposition.

X-rated

My Radio Northenden show from last week was played out this week on Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2. I listened for a short while on FM. Nobody’s complained so far, so I’ll be editing this week’s show for them too. Despite the grey skies, I thought it was only fair to celebrate Spring. So that’s what I did. Two hours of lovely, happy, Springtime music. And a couple of poems.

Spring is sprung, da grass is ris
I wonder where dem boidies is?
Dey say da boid is on da wing
But dat’s absoid
Da wing is on da boid.