Welcome Home

Well that was an exciting week. Liesel came home from Anchorage and what a celebration. I tied not one, not two, but a hundred yellow ribbons round the old oak tree. The brass band played welcoming tunes while the dancing girls’ performance was immaculate. Someone suggesting bringing on the dancing horses, but that seemed a bit over the top.

Sorry if you weren’t invited to the ‘Welcome Home’ party, but you should receive a slice of cake in the post any day now.  The flowers that bedeck our luxury apartment are beautiful and the aroma is almost overpowering. I didn’t know whether the smell of fresh coffee or toast would be best, but I think the natural scent of roses, jasmine and frangipani was spot on.

Mainly, though, I am very proud of the large banner I embroidered saying ‘Welcome home, my lovely wife, Liesel’. Sorry about the blood stains, but I kept stabbing my fingers with the needle.

Sadly, in all the excitement, I forgot to take any pictures of this remarkable reunion. Oh well. Sorry.

Earlier in the week, we celebrated Mothers’ Day.

Cheers, Mummy!

I find it hard to believe that it’s now 31 years since I last bought a Mothers’ Day card for my own Mum. I have to re-calculate every year and then sadly shake my head.

People’s gardens are brightening up now that Spring is here.

Primroses

Oh, did I say that Spring is here? Well, it was. But this week we were treated to Winter 2.0, a surprise few days withe a cold, northerly wind, timed perfectly to kill off all the newly blooming flowers. It even snowed in places: we had a few flakes. We shouldn’t really blame Liesel for bringing the snow back with her from Alaska, but who knows how the universe really works?

I made a mistake. I went to Wythenshawe by bus to attend a meeting about a potential opportunity to start cycling again. Yes, I went by bus. And arrived 15 minutes late. It was a good meeting and as I was wandering around aimlessly, I found this churc.

Saint Richard’s

Yes, I’m still taking photos of signs with missing letters.

And so the time came for Liesel to say goodbye to her family and friends.

Una, Liesel, Jyoti and Monica

After 10 (or is it 11?) weeks in Anchorage, I think the parting was made easier by the knowledge that Liesel and I would be going back in May.

I managed to tidy up most of the flat in time before collecting Liesel from the airport. There is no evidence of any of the debauched parties I enjoyed in her absence.

Jetlag and fear of Covid infection following the long flights meant that we didn’t have the children this week. Instead, they had a disco at school, and posed for some pictures beforehand, in the very light and barely visible snow.

William and Martha

William aspires to be Spiderman, as you can see. What’s that, Skippy? There aren’t enough photos of nature here today? Well, let’s rectify that. These are from a walk in and around Wythenshawe’s Painswick Park, with the regular Friday group.

Geese in the haze
Bare tree

This tree keeps an eye on the weather, it knows what’s happening. It knew we’d have another Winter so it hasn’t bothered to blossom yet. Look at the contrast between the blue sky and white clouds here and the battleship grey clouds over there…

Grey cloud

There are a few Christmas trees now incarcerated probably because of their anti-social behaviour.

The caged Christmas tree

Liesel’s been out with the WI a couple of times since her return, giving me the ideal opportunity to visit the coffee shop.

Selfie of the day
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Last week I started preparing a radio show about Spring. Post-Covid, I couldn’t complete the project, so I repeated last year’s Spring show. But the exciting all-new Spring celebration was, finally, aired this week.

Again, welcome home, Liesel, it’s lovely to have you back!

Blossom and birthday

Liesel is in Alaska until the end of the month, working from home and sometimes in an office, and spending time with her Mom and Dad both of whom are recovering well from recent surgery. But mainly, she’s enjoying the snow and the spectacular scenery while walking and hiking with friends.

Jyoti and Liesel and the mountains

Nearer home, I’m now Covid free but I did have a few days of extreme lethargy. Yes, I know I can be a bit lazy sometimes, but this was a totally different feeling. I listened to my body and did very little. And when I did do something, I became fatigued very quickly. But slowly, slowly, things are getting better.  All helped by the much more pleasant weather of course, blue skies and sunshine, even if I couldn’t take full advantage for a while.

But when I did go out for a quick walk, it’s all change in Northenden. The island in the Mersey has had a Brazilian.

The bush has gone

The vegetation on this island was quite useful: it used to catch some of the plastic whenever the river was in flood. Well, this bush has now been well and truly trimmed. And, inevitably, you can see an old discarded tyre.

The village green continues to evolve. Where there were crocuses and snowdrops just a couple of weeks ago, the daffodils are now taking over.

Daffodils

So, having taken the plunge, I decided to join the regular organised walk in Northenden. About 10 of us walked through the woods and round the block before enjoying a coffee at a coffee shop. So this was my first time mixing with people since my Covid. Chantel had succumbed recently too, so we compared notes and symptoms.

The walking group

It was my birthday this week too. Happy birthday to me. Jenny invited me over for supper and, of course, this was the first time I’d seen the family for nearly three weeks. We had an Indian takeaway and Jenny baked a beautiful big cake for me, thank you!

Martha, William and the cake

And thank you Jenny and Helen and everyone too for my pressies: chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and beer! And a walk around the Manchester music scene.

Not only that, but the laptop I ordered has arrived. It’s a refurbished Acer with all new components, built to my specifications. So at last, I’m going to have to wean myself off Windows 7 (and Windows XP) which I still use on my old desktop PC, and get to grips with Windows 11. The laptop came fully loaded with Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Works and Yahoo GeoCities. I don’t need to take advantage of the offer from AOL of 999 free hours of internet access this month.

After a quick visit to the hospital to be wired up with a heart monitor, I thought I’d go for a walk in Wythenshawe Park.

Young jockey

I still remember the first and only time I’ve been on board a horse. I was six years old, we went to the Epsom races, and I was lifted up onto what may have been one of the actual race horses. It was very high up and it didn’t move, thank goodness, but that experience has meant that I’ve never since mounted a horse. These young people seemed to be enjoying the experience, though.

Some trees are now blossoming: I was surprised how much has changed in the 10 days that I didn’t really venture outside.

Blossom

I was sitting on the bench listening to the birds when I was chucked out. Yes, I was in the horticultural centre and they close at 4.30. I think that’s the first time I’ve been kicked out of a park. So, a quick drive home and then supper? Well, no. I couldn’t go directly home because police vehicles were blocking Church Road. I drove the long way round and decided to go for another quick walk just to see what the excitement was.

A whole section of Church Road was closed, buses were on diversion, and a white-van man was remonstrating with a PCSO because he couldn’t make his delivery. The PCSO said there had been a fatality and later on, I overheard a conversation in which it was revealed that a hit-and-run driver had killed an elderly lady. I’ve not been able to verify this. Neither have I seen anything in the news about a collision between a cyclist and a vehicle which again delayed my drive home after joining the organised walk in Wythenshawe the following day. That completes this weeks tragic news from Northenden.

It was a very pleasant walk in Wythenshawe, but whether it gave my portable ECG device anything to get excited about, I don’t know.

A nice, friendly looking tree

As I was walking through Kirkup Gardens (I think it was Kirkup Gardens) a young lady gave me something to plant in my garden. What a nice thought. She’s from Manchester Forever, the only charity that raises money to fund and support community activity right here in the Wythenshawe area. So that might be an organsation to find out more about later on.

As seen from the bathroom window

I mentioned my post-Covid lethargy earlier. This is the reason why my Wythenshawe Radio show this week was a repeat from last year. There’ll be a brand new one next time. A celebration of Spring.

As I sit here on the sofa writing, listening to last week’s Cerys Matthews show, the Sun is streaming in through the window and I’m thinking I can’t wait to post this so I can go out for a quick walk! A great sign I think that the lethargy really has gone and I just need to slowly build up my stamina again after a week or so of not doing very much at all. The lesson from this is, avoid Covid if at all possible. I’ll be wearing a mask when necessary, and keeping social gatherings to a minimum. And I’ll be getting any vaccines on offer at the earliest opportunity. The government might be acting like the pandemic’s over, but we should all carry on being cautious. Stay safe!

Not much

The title sums it up. Not a lot happened this week. So, I was feeling a bit under the weather and lo, on the third day, I tested positive for Covid. Yes, after two years of being incredibly cautious, I picked it up. Whether from York, or public transport, or the streets of Notrthenden, or medical facilities, I’ll never know for certain. But at least I have it while Liesel’s 4,500 miles away in Anchorage.

One NHS site said I had to isolate for 10 days, another said 5 days and until I test negative two days in a row, while the governemnt’s advice is to do absolutely nothing to protect other people.

My symptoms did not include the classic loss of sense of smell and taste. No, it was more like a really bad cold, headache, earache, mucous glands working overtime, some fatigue and even more lethargy than usual. But mainly, it was coughing. It started with a tickly throat, turned to a sore throat, that eased and I’m still left with a niggly cough that won’t quite let go.

Covid testing centre

Help slow the spread of #COVID19 and identify at risk cases sooner by self-reporting your symptoms daily, even if you feel well 🙏. Download the app https://covid.joinzoe.com/

I joined Zoe two years ago and I’ve been reporting Liesel’s and my Covid status every day, all our tests, all our vaccinationss and lately for me, all the symptoms. Zoe told me to go for a PCR test, just to confirm my positive LFT results and this involved a walk to the test centre in Wythenshawe. Which was hard to find, but really obvious once I got there. Maybe being geographically challenged is a symptom. And this was my last visit to the outside world for several days. The result came through a lot more quickly than they’d predicted.

Another beneficial side-effect, if I can call it that, is that I was able to take part in a trial of an antiviral drug which may or may not speed up my recovery. Remember licorice comfits? I had to take four capsules bigger than those twice a day for five days. And as I said, I still have a cough, though nowhere near as frequently as a few days ago.

I think I was unlucky to catch Covid but I think I was pretty lucky that I only had it mildly. At least I’m still around to talk about it.

How did I keep myself occupied whilst confined to quarters? Radio, podcasts, TV, puzzles, books and eating and sleeping. Oh, and spending far too much time falling down rabbit holes on the internet. There’s some good stuff there, but there’s an awful lot of crap as well. Still, it passes the time. No matter how I try, I can’t get up to 10,000 steps a day pacing up and down our hallway.

Meanwhile, in another time and place, William became Gymnast of the week.

Flamingo of the week

I think the award was for forward rolls and other stunts rather than for standing on one leg, but we are all very proud of him.

And much further away, Liesel was greeted by a visitor lurking in the bushes.

Moose

Now if I’d planned this thing properly, that moose would have been standing on one leg as well. As would this little chickadee, enjoy the offerings in Liesel’s parents’ garden.

Chickadee

In Anchorage and here right outside our apartment in Northenden, the squirrels know that Spring is very nearly here and they’ve been playing kiss-chase up and down the trees and all over the place. Very entertaining.

The weather has improved a lot this week. In fact, it was so nice, I opened windows. Yes, fresh air blowing through the flat for the first time this year felt pretty good. Hopefully, the miasma of coronavirus has been well and truly smited. Smote. Smitten? Got rid of.

I did go out for a walk in the sunshine, a short walk, but it was nice to pay a quick visit to Quarry Bank Mill. I avoided people as much as I could, of course.

Greenhouses

In a couple of weeks, I think more flowers will be out and it will look quite pretty.

No, not beavers

I need a better map so I’m not sure whether this is the River Bollin or one of its tributaries, but it was flowing pretty fast. No, I don’t think this blockage is the result of beaver activity. It’s more likely to be the accumulated woodwork from the many times William and Martha have played Pooh sticks here.

This week’s Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 radio show was a bit more challenging, as I had to record it between coughing fits. Still, you can listen to it here:

So, to summarise: not much.

York

The excitement mounted as I prepared for an adventure. Two years ago, we bought tickets for a gig in York for April 2021. Due to Covid restrictions, along with many other shows, it was postponed. But its time has come. Liesel and I planned to make a weekend of it in York, a city that we’ve only visited once in the past.

Well, Liesel is still in Anchorage of course, and I didn’t want to miss the show. I also decided to go by train rather than by car. I haven’t been on a train for well over two years and I thought I’d see what it’s like these days: how many other passengers would be wearing masks? How crowded would it be?

Blue skies over Northenden

The blue sky was a welcome sight as I waited for the bus to take me into Manchester. The bus wasn’t too busy, and about a third of passengers were masked up. One hundred percent of the driver was not, which I found surprising.

In another first, I caught the train at Oxford Road Station. Despite the cold wind blowing through the station, I did not wait in this rather cute little waiting room.

Waiting room

It reminds me of Thomas Newton’s home planet inThe Man Who fell to Earth, which is strange. That’s today’s first reference to David Bowie.

I read a book during the 90-minute journey to York. Again, about a 33% success rate with face coverings, which is disappointingly low, I feel. Already, I felt I was mentally ticking the box that says ‘don’t travel by train again any time soon’. Which is a shame.

So I’m by myself, but of course I still had Liesel’s ticket. One of my online mates, George, agreed to use the ticket. And George met me in the forecourt of York Station, from where we walked all the way to the concert venue, The Barbican. This was handy because the hotel I’d booked for myself was right next door. Very convenient: almost as if I’d planned it that way. But that was only because all the Airbnb places that I found in York city centre turned out to be actually located in a suburb much further out of town!

George and I ‘met’ online while watching the one time regular Tuesday evening YouTube performances by Jessica Lee Morgan. And, by coincidence, it was Jess that we were here to see tonight, supporting and performing with Tony Visconti’s Best of Bowie. Yes, David Bowie. Sadly, Woody Woodmansey’s not with the band on this occasion, but I knew we’d have a good time anyway.

I checked into my hotel, and we had a coffee before walking back into York Centre. George had pre-booked a ‘meal deal’ at his accommodation, so I wandered around for a while, looking for somewhere nice to dine myself.

I’d forgotten what a pretty little city York is.

Micklegate

The wall surrounds much of the city, and you do feel like you’re entering another realm when you walk through one of these gates. And you sense you might just be under surveillance.

The Eye of Sauron

The Sun was still out and it was quite warm, the cold wind had dwindled, but even so, I was surprised to come across some ice sculptures.

Find Dick at the York Dungeon

Later on, I read up about it here. It says there were 40 exhibits, but over two days, I didn’t find nearly that many. Someone more organised would have looked at a map.

I just happened to glance into this shop window.

Metrobolist

The album that we all know as The Man Who Sold the World being sold at last under the name it was meant to have. No, I didn’t seriously consider starting a new vinyl collection. This might be a new remix by Tony Visconti, but I’m not sure my ears could tell the difference! Still, nice to see David Bowie referenced again.

As I walked over the fast-flowing and high River Ouse, I found this old place on the east bank.

Lendal Tower

Dating from about 1300, Lendal Tower was originally part of the City’s defences, with a defensive chains stretching from here to the Tower on the opposite bank. In 1677 it was leased to the predecessors of The York Waterworks Plc for five hundred years, at an annual rent of one peppercorn for use as a water tower. During the 18th century it housed a steam pumping engine modified to the design of John Smeaton FRS, then a proprietor of the Waterworks. It ceased to be used for those purposes in 1850. In 1932 it was refurbished and now houses the Company’s Board Rooms. So says a plaque on the side of the building.

I dined at The Orchid, a vegan restaurant. Of course, I hadn’t booked, so when I turned up at one minute past opening time, I was told I could eat there as long as I vacated my table by 7.30. I thought, well, if I can’t finish my meal in an hour and a half, then there’s something wrong. Plus, I didn’t want to miss any of the show of course.

And the food was lovely, very well presented and with very friendly service.

Very nice, very tasty

Unusually, I took photos before the dishes were empty.

I enjoyed a leisurely walk back to The Barbican where the scanner successfully scanned my ticket barcode on the first attempt. Things are looking up: maybe I should buy a lottery ticket. As I said, it is a very cute little place.

Scenes from York

Inside, there were hundreds of people, some wearing t-shirts depicting David Bowie from various eras. And, speaking of David Bowie, one thing I never expected to see was a portrait of him in monochrome Lego.

Lego Bowie

Jessica’s partner Chris was working behind the merch stall. I met up with George again as well as Sue, another regular at JLM’s Tuesday night online shows. Nice to see people in real life, isn’t it?

Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

Jessica and Chris performed some new songs for about half hour including one which involved audience participation. I don’t think the quality of my singing was improved by the presence of a face covering.

After a break, Tony Visconti’s Best of Bowie took to the stage for two hours of Bowie hits and some surprises. The whole band was spot on, although on a couple of occasions, either the singer, Glenn Gregory, or I, misremembered the lyrics. Jessica played guitar and alto sax, though not at the same time, even she’s not that talented. I am very conscious of not taking too many photos during a show: I used to be quite obsessed with capturing every possible lighting arrangement and every available location of all the musicians. From where I was sitting, and from where George was sitting in Liesel’s seat we couldn’t really see Janette Mason on keyboards, but she did a great job.

The band

Actually, I think most of the audience was singing along to most of the songs. I wasn’t the oldest person there, and there were some teenagers too. So do I have a set list? It’s in my head and I should try and write it down before I forget but then it might already be too late.

Tony Visconti told the story of when they were playing, as Holy Holy, in New York on David Bowie’s birthday. He phoned David up and the whole audience then sang ‘Happy birthday’ to him. Just a couple of days later, they were in Toronto when they heard the news of his passing. They carried on the tour, but I’m sure the atmosphere was very different.

Thank you and good night

I hung around for a while and had a chat with Jessica and Smiley the drummer before setting off for the comfort of my suite, a whole five minute walk away.

Looks familiar

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who did a double-take on seeing this thin blue-suited duke hanging around like the rest of us.

What a great night, and I’m pretty sure Liesel would have enjoyed it too. Next time. Anyway, it took a while to wind down and get to sleep.

After breakfast, I set off for my day as a tourist in York. Of course, I had to walk along the wall for a while. Last time Liesel and I did this, it was drizzling lightly, but today, the Sun was out, the sky was blue and the spirits were well and truly lifted.

York City wall

I admit that sometimes I mess about with my photos for comedic effect. But this photo of Sir Thomas Herbert’s House has not been tampered with.

Sir Thomas Herbert’s House

This old, old, old building really does look that happy.

And, yes, of course I kept a lookout for more ice sculptures.

More ice sulptures

Sadly, a few had melted by the time I found them, as they’d been placed on the sunnier side of the street .

I quite enjoyed wandering around, but not surprisingly I suppose, the most uncomfortable I felt was at the market near The Shambles, which was really crowded. Other prople were having a good time out on the river.

Messing about on the river

The only place I visited properly was the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall. In fact, I had lunch here before walking around looking a lots of old stuff. Funny how old buildings like this have the same sort of old smell, despite presumably being cleaned with modern chemicals with modern scents.

Merchant Adventurers’ Hall

The place has been flooded a few times over the centuries, and the high levels have all (I assume all) have been marked.

High Water Lines

I can’t imagine how much water is needed to reach that high from the river that far away. But I must say, I was pleased to have this place almost to myself on this occasion. I suspect that the art galleries and museums would have been far busier. Liesel and I will return sometime, I’m sure.

Something else that is guaranteed to make me feel good is the sight of a perfect reflection in the water. 

Reflections of my life

In Northenden, we have planters in the main street with flowers and they look delightful. In York, they’ve gone one step further and are growing food for the community.

Edible York 2013

Sadly, there wasn’t much to pick today apart from a couple of weeds, but it’s the thought that counts.

There is one landmark in York that I’ve nor mentioned yet. Well, here it is: Cliffords Tower.

Clifford’s Tower

I was going to bound up the slope like a gazelle but, er, I had my luggage, that’s it. Oh, and there was a fence that I couldn’t climb over.

The train back to Manchester was a bit more crowded as was the bus back to Northenden. Oh well.

Meanwhile, our Alaska correspondent has reported more snowfall in Anchorage. Liesel sent this picture which, it has to be said, made me shiver a bit.

Snow

I’ve mentioned my issue with intermittent unjustified shortness of breath before. This week, I visited the GP again and attended hospital for a chest X-ray. I really want to get to the bottom of this now.

Later that day, I started feeling a bit manky. Tickly throat. Cough. Headache. Rough sleep. I didn’t feel up to going out for any of the organised walks and sadly, neither did I feel up to looking after the children this week. Fortunately, I had recorded most of the radio show before I came down with this lurgy. It’s about Communication and an extended mix is available here:

Just when I thought I was getting over whatever the ailment is, the duvet decided to pick a fight with me. I realised I was lying under nothing but empty duvet cover. The duvet itself had somehow migrated to Liesel’s side of the bed leaving the empty husk behind. I tried shaking the duvet back into place but I think I’m going to have to start from scratch. Did I say ‘scratch’? Well, yes. There are in fact two thin duvets at work here, held together with a safety pin in each corner. Except it seems the one in my corner has undone itself and it poked through, threatening to stab me. A small scratch on the arm is bad enough but I don’t need this sort of adventure in the middle of the night, thank you very much. When it comes to battles with inanimate objects, there is no guarantee of victory.

Blue and yellow

Well again there’s not much going on in real life in Northenden. But in my dreamworld, it’s all going on: I’m getting lost, I’m losing my bike, and sometimes I wake up feeling really good but I can’t remember why. In Anchorage, Liesel’s being arty and finding some colour.

Paint pouring

This paint pouring looks fun but very messy. We can’t wait to get the children involved. Ideally at their house of course, not ours 😉

It was rare this week, but always a joy to see the Sun even if we couldn’t really feel it. But it was cold enough for this pigeon to be frozen to the spot.

Falcon

Actually, I think this is the first falcon I’ve seen in Northenden, what a shame it’s not a real one. Maybe the buildings aren’t tall enough.

The river’s subsided significantly, but it has left a lot of debris behind, mainly trees, logs and of course the ubiquitous plastic.

Tree debris

I had an unexpected road trip. Jenny asked if I could pick her up from work as Liam was busy. Of course, I said, expecting to have to fight the rush hour at about 5 o’clock, maybe 5.30. But no, it was about 8 o’clock when I got the call. I don’t think I’ve ever driven into Mancheter in the dark before. Yes, we’ve driven home after a show but I can’t remember the last time either of us have actually set off anywhere that late in the day. What an adventure! See, I can have a good time now and then!

This Tuesday was pancake day. So I made pancakes for myself. I made the usual quantity, intending to keep some for the next day. Well, that didn’t happen. I just stuffed myself with all of them. All topped them off with the traditional fresh lemon juice and sugar.

Pancakes, first course

But, in a moment of madness, I ate them in a stack rather than rolled up. Two stacks, as it happens. I should go and consult the doctor and see if there’s anything they can do about me slowly turning American. Maybe it’s Liesel’s long-distance influence.

I didn’t visit Fletcher Moss Gardens this week, but I did start reading a book about the venue.

Fletcher Moss Gardens: Its History and Plants

It’s very informative, telling us about the plants there, some of which are quite rare. Which makes one wonder if they’re OK being inundated with flood water every year or so. I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

Child-minding day. William was dressed as the Gruffalo and Martha as Isadora Moon.

Gruffalo and Isadora Moon

When William came out of his class, I asked if he’d enjoyed International Book Day. “World Book Day” he replied, putting me in my place. It was fun seeing all the children, and teachers, dressed as some favourite literary characters.

There’s a tragedy unfolding in Ukraine right now and I’m seeing the flag everywhere I look.

School playground

Even the school playground is showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people. As usual, I’m wondering what I can do to help and I end up sending money to whichever organisations or individuals are offering practical help to the refugees.

Playroom

This week’s radio show celebrates World Women’s Day. Yes, I did that on purpose, because I can just hear William correcting me again: “International Women’s Day”. An all-female cast of performers of course. And thanks to Jenny for providing some brand new feminine jingles!

There was a power cut during the show’s first outing on Wythenshawe Radio so it dropped out for a couple of minutes. It’s being repeated on Tuesday 8th March at midday, that’s International Women’s Day, as well as on Wednesday at the exciting, brand new time of 10pm.

Northenden Village Green

And just a reminder that we are in meteorological Spring now, looking forward to the Spring equinox and Easter and we can finally forget the long, cold, wet and windy Winter.

Слава Україні!

Trivial pursuits

Hot on the heels of Dudley and Eunice came Franklin. Three named storms in quick succession wreaking havoc. Howling wind and driving rain is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, in my recent experience. Then, to add insult to injury, while searching for a podcast to listen to on my phone, up popped a message telling me to go to bed, my bedtime was 5 hours ago.

My breakfast view was obscured:

Rain on window

The rain was relentless, I felt certain I wouldn’t leave the house all day. But just as I was finishing writing last week’s blog post, Jenny called and invited me to join them for a walk in Fletcher Moss Gardens. By then, the rain had stopped and I decided to risk a walk over to Didsbury. As a last resort, I could always catch a bus, I suppose.

Ford Lane

A stretch of Ford Lane was flooded, so I had to cling to the railings at this point. The river was noticeably high too. Fletcher Moss had quite a few puddles, which proved useful later on when it came to keeping children entertained.

Flooded path to the rockery

I met up with Jenny, Liam, Martha and William, and sensibly the children were wearing Wellington boots. I think William walked or ran or jumped in every puddle we encountered on our walk. But at leat, on this occasion, he didn’t go into puddles so deep that his boots filled with water, like he’d done a few days earlier!

For half term, there’s a Broad Oak Hearts Train in the park, a series of 20 hearts for children to find, each depicting a popular children’s book or character. It provided structure to the walk. William ticked the numbers off on his sheet, while Martha wrote down all the characters on her self-made crib sheet. Why did she make her own? Because outrageously, the coffee shop was closed and that’s where you get the sheets from.

Rainbow fish
Water babies

Did I mention it was a bit wet in places?

William nearly in the Mersey
Water babies

As you can see, the Sun came out and that certainly lifts the spirits, even when it’s not particularly warm. But this was the lull before the storm.

The following day, the river Mersey was so high, that the flood gates were opened. The flooded area included Fletcher Moss and the golf courses. I don’t think it stopped raining all day, I certainly didn’t leave the house on this occasion.

River Mersey

But if I had, this is what I would have witnessed. The river now at its highest ever level in Stockport, and very close to record highs in Northenden and Didsbury. As a precaution, a few hundred houses were evacuated, but in the end, the Environment Agency and local councils controlled the situation very well.

In Anchorage, they’re still enjoying the snow. This is a speed-skating circuit as seen from Amrit’s office where Liesel is working.

Speed-skating in Anchorage

With the mountains in the background, it does look much more interesting than what we were experiencing.

The Winter Olympics have come to a close and I’m glad I watched the women’s curling final, live, from the comfort of my bed, very early in the morning. The men’s team had won silver, and this was GB’s last opportunity to win a gold medal.

Eve Muirhead

It was a good game and in the end I felt that I’d contributed to GB’s gold medal win, merely by staying awake long enough to watch the whole thing!

That was the weekend. The rest of the week was spent in the pursuit of trivial matters. Lots of five- or ten-minute jobs that I’ve been putting off. Putting tea in the tea caddy. Checking the toilet roll situation. Watering the plants. Emptying the bins. A bit of tidying up here, a spot of sorting out there. Paying bills. And of course, a quick walk to check up on things.

Where’s the weir?

I ventured into Manchester by bus in order to visit the blood shop, as Jenny and Helen used to call it. I donated and in return, I enjoyed some biscuits.

A not very convincing Disney castle in Manchester

During the week, the wind kept up and it was as cold and unpleasant as ever, just not as strong. One of the casualties of the latest storm was the estate agents sign outside our premises.

Estate agent’s sign – missing

Oh well, never mind. Maybe they should just take them away when they’ve outlived their usefulness.

Northenden Players Theatre Club put on a performance of Educating Rita this week, at the little theatre just up the road. It was a two-hander, and very well done. Both characters, Frank and Rita, were very convincing, and I realise I’d forgotten just how grumpy Frank can be. It was good to see a full house.

Martin Hulme and Freya Fulton as Frank and Rita

As I was walking home afterwards, I just fancied a bag of chips, with plenty of salt and vinegar, I’ve not done that for years. Alas, the chip shop was shut.

Child-minding day. As I was driving over, I was engulfed in a hail storm. It only lasted a couple of minutes but it was a reminder of just how exciting / unpredictable our weather systems are.

While watching Encanto, again, I helped Martha decorate her hairbands with various adornments, ribbons, bows, ties. I also managed to keep William awake until dinner time: he’s always so tired at the end of his school week!

This week on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2, I played pop songs that are based on or inspired by classical music.

Dudley and Eunice

Dudley and Eunice paid a visit this week. Not a nice, benevolent old couple with stories to tell of better times, but two violent, named storms, one from the north and one from the south, with destruction on their minds. The canvas canopy on London’s Millenium Dome was torn off, trees have been uprooted, trampolines have been lost and found. I just stayed indoors whingeing about the wind and the rain, happy that I had been out for a long walk the previous day. For entertainment, I watched TV. I was flip-flopping between the Winter Olympics, watching the GB women’s curling team in the semi-final match, and watching BigJetTV, planes landing at Heathrow Airport in horrendously windy conditions. And to be honest, I’m not sure which of these two streams was the more stressful.

A group of three of us walked to Wythenshawe Park where we met up with a couple of others. When I first left the flat, the wind was quite cold and I thought I would have to contend with my nemesis: cold wind in the earholes giving me earache. But it soon calmed down. Over the next few hours, we had a couple of short, sharp showers and even hail a couple of times. There are still parts of Wythenshawe Park that I hadn’t explored until this visit.

Circus Funtasia

There’s a new circus in town, well, in the park, just setting up for halfterm. I don’t want to think what state the grass will be in afterwards, especially after all the rain.

Lake Wythenshawe

Things are looking up though. Signs of Spring poking through.

Snowdrops
Parrot just out of hibernation
An early daffodil

After walking back to Northenden, we enjoyed a coffee in Quirky Misfits. A place not to leave your little ones!

Look after your children

It is quite funny watching other people as they come in, maybe for the first time, when they suddenly realise that one of the coffee tables is, in fact, a coffin.

Since the weather hadn’t deteriorated as much as we’s anticipated, Steve and I walked along the river to Didsbury.

River high

The Mersey was high, covering the island, and flowing fast. I realised I hadn’t seen the heron for a while, but then, it had gone on holiday this time last year too.

The river bank wasn’t too muddy, Didsbury was busy, Steve left to take the tram home, and following a downpour, I decided to walk home again.

Drainage on Ford Lane hasn’t improved and I’m so glad I kept up my long jump skills so that I could leap over this road-wide puddle.

Ford Lane puddle

What’s nice about this puddle is that when people are driving by on their way home from the golf course, they slow down at this point so they don’t splash unsuspecting pedestrians. No, of course they don’t.

This week marked our wedding anniversary. Liesel sent me some chocolate truffles and I’m glad to say that the flowers I sent her arrived safely.

Happy anniversary Liesel

I sent them to Liesel’s parents’ house, hoping and assuming that Liesel would be there for at least some of the day. But the weather in Anchorage has been a bit challenging too. Eight inches of snow overnight is bad enough. But when it rains and turns all the roads into ice rinks, you just don’t want to drive anywhere. Liesel’s staying at a friend’s place so that she can do lots of work.

Dudley and Eunice came along and apart from keeping me indoors for the day, they manged to knock off a few branches from our oak tree.

Chip off the old block

Earlier in the week, I’d joined Jenny and Liam and the grandchildren for a meal, thank you for having me!

Martha as Jessie from Toy Story

I’m so pleased that Martha and William enjoy gymnastics and swimming, but they must be tired after such a busy day.

Meanwhile, in Anchorage, Liesel has been skating on a frozen lake. This is just 16 years after she and I were married on a jetty above a frozen lake.

Frozen lake

On my radio show this week, I spoke to Andrew again from Northenden Players Theatre Group. The next play is Educating Rita which I’m looking forward to. The music was mostly Medleys and there’s an extended version of the show here:

ow

Mindblowing

For some reason, I had to go to Brighton and deliver mail there. Or was it Portsmouth? Anyway, I don’t know my way around either place. And the addresses on the mail consisted solely of just one cryptic word. How am I supposed to deliver mail to places when I don’t know where they are? I just had to keep asking the locals. I must have managed ok in the end though, because when I got back to the office, someone pointed out that I’d forgotten to take all the packets and parcels out with me. The sense of relief that engulfed me when I woke up was almost overwhelming. Why am I still having anxiety dreams about the last job I had? Usually, at a certain point in the dream, I realise that I’m retired and actually, I don’t have to be here at all. Sometimes I’m aware that I haven’t been taking my days off for a few weeks, to the point that I’ve lost track of which day is my day off. I think I’d rather have a proper scary nightmare than these dreams about Royal Mail and the many, many ways in which they can make a straightforward job so stressful. In  my dreamworld, because of problems in the Chessington Delivery Office, I’ve been variously despatched to the basement, to New Malden and to Waterloo Station to prepare the mail for delivery. I’ve been unable to enter the Office because it’s so full of mail and parcels, that there’s no room for actual people to go in and do anything with it. I’ve never had anxiety dreams about exams or moving house or other stressful events, nor indeed about any other jobs. So I’m hoping that by telling you about this recent, horrible, nighttime experience, the scenario will be expunged from the repertoire in my dreamworld mechanism.

In the real world, things just plod on normally, uneventfully. Except that this week I succumbed to the games Wordle and Nerdle. I wasn’t convinced at first, not sure about what I was meant to be doing, but after a couple of days, I quite enjoy a few minutes of mental exercise each day. This is in addition to my daily allowance of an hour attempting a Slitherlink puzzle, which is ridiculously addictive. It’s always a disappointment when the app timer tells me ‘time’s up’ and it takes immense willpower not to extend the time for today, but sometimes I just have to eat etc.

Jenny invited me over to share some of the three tonnes of spaghetti bolognese she’d prepared in her cauldron. It was fun to spend time with the children, Martha fresh from her swimming lesson.

Martha and William enjoying a cold dessert

It was wet and windy and we were issued with flood warnings, but on this occasion, the level of the river went down quite quickly. Our local councillors were on the case, monitoring the situation, and there was no need to open the flood gates. One victim of the strong winds was our oak tree. It lost a few digits, bigger than the twigs that usually blow off.

Chips off the old block

We’ve been advised to wear hard hats when we leave the block of luxury apartments. By the river, the birds are clinging on tight so they don’t get blown into orbit.

Partridge in a pear tree

There are signs of Spring approaching though. Our local village green is gradually turning purple as the crocuses make an appearance.

Northenden Village Green

I haven’t been for a long time but I was amazed to see how much Kingston station has changed over the last couple of years.

Kingston Station

No, this is Kingston in the south of New Zealand’s South Island, which is a bit more remote than The Royal Borough of course. Thank you Pauline for sending the pictures, and glad you’re having a nice break.

Northenden welcomes careful drivers
Boxx 2 Boxx in a puddle

Walks around Northenden and the local area are always fun but the cold, biting wind really did get on my nerves this week. I told it to go back where it came from. To no avail. The contrast between that and the intermittent warmth of the Sun was striking.

Dayglo plants

There are splashes of colour, especially when the Sun’s at the right angle. And Fletcher Moss Park is also showing early signs of Spring.

Fletcher Moss
Tree-lined avenue

On the way to school to pick up William and Martha, the clouds put on a good show. I wasn’t the only (grand-) parent taking pictures.

Here comes the Sun

While waiting for Martha to come out of her class, William decided he was a caterpillar, crawling under the climbing apparatus.

William the caterpillar

We played at their house for a while before setting off for mine.The plan had been to bring them back here and have takeaway pizza for dinner. But Jenny had forgotten. The pizza was good, so good in fact, that I ate the leftovers the following day.

I battled the cold wind again as I walked around Wythenshawe with the group, once I dragged myself out of bed, that is.

This was the first week of the Winter Olympics and I’ve enjoyed some of the sports, especially the curling, which is very slow and methodical. The ice hockey is far too fast, I can’t see what’s going on. I suggest using a much bigger, heavier puck, to slow it down a bit. And as for the skiers and snowboarders doing multiple twists and turns in the big air, well, it probably isn’t as easy as they make it look.

Liesel continues to bounds out of bed very early every morning over there in Anchorage. She continues to work hard, doing legal work. (She’s probably having more fun doing illegal work, but she’s not telling me about that.) This week, her Dad, Klaus, had his heart surgery and is doing very well. Liesel’s been chauffeuring Klaus and her Mom Leslie to hospitals and shops. Good to see she’s staying out of trouble, so far, at least.

While Klaus had heart surgery, I visited the dental hygienist just to show solidarity.

This week’s radio show was about Art and Artists It’ll be repeated on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 next Wednesday at 7pm, but for your convenience, it is available here:

Dragon and umbrellas

Liesel’s still in Alaska, enjoying the extremely cold Winter there and spending time with her family and friends. It does look beautiful there, but I know I’d be fairly unhappy having to don seventeen layers of clothing to go outside. Only to return to a very well heated house. Plus, I can’t ski, no, not even on the flat. It’s a toss up whether I fall over to the left or right or forwards or backwards.

Monica, Neha, Liesel and Una
Narnia

Meanwhile, the excitement in Northenden builds. The pavements in Royle Green Road, just round the corner, are being resurfaced so that they’re more comfortable for the cars that park there. Plus, several months ago, I reported a hole in the pavement in Cinnamon Close. It was a small hole, but might have been indicative of something more menacing, such as a disused old mine underneath, about to subside. Well, the hole was filled in this week. It took four men in hi-visibility jackets to watch a fifth man doing all the work with a very loud lorry engine running in the background. If the council had asked, I could have plugged that hole myself with some old congealed porridge.

An ex-hole

The patch is much bigger than the hole was, so it should last a while.

The wind has brought down a few trees again. The path in Kenworthy Lane Woods was blocked, but not impassable. And as a guide, nowhere near as bad as the damage caused by that infamous storm in 1986.

Timber!

It was a pleasure to collect William and Martha from school this week. In an unprecedented move, William was second out of his class and Martha was first out of hers! They’re usually a bit later, so, bonus!

School field

Next to the football pitches, there’s a small area which looks disused, apart from collecting litter. I wonder if this is part of Forest School, that all the children visit at some point during the school year?

On this occasion, I took them back to their house where we played in the garden for a short while. Glad it was light enough, even if it was a bit cold still.

Martha and a swing

Inside, we played games, drew dinosaurs, and for dinner we had fish and chips. Well, I had a pie, thank you very much.

And when I returned home, I finished editing and uploading the radio show. It took longer than usual this week, because I had a nice chat on the phone with Jessica Lee Morgan. You can hear the show here, it’s called Bits and Pieces. Album of the Week is Pieces by Mary Hopkin which is gorgeous and you should buy it straightaway here or here.

I braved the bus and went into Manchester for a walk in a slightly different place. Chinese New Year is being celebrated his week and Manchester’s Chinatown was very festive. Because of Covid, there was no parade, but it was good to see a tiger (it’s the Year of the Tiger) and a dragon. Plus, I lost count of the Chinese lanterns all around Chinatown, zillions of them.

Year of the tiger
Dragon and lanterns

It was raining all day but maybe I shouldn’t complain too much, it hasn’t rained persistently all day for quite a while. Actually, I am going to whinge. It was raining all day. Not very nice at all. You can probably see the rain topping up Rochdale Canal.

Rochdale Canal in the rain

In the library, there is also a display of black and white photos from 1980s China.

Rainy Day in the Hutongs (alleys), Beijing, 1985

Actually, that picture could well have ben taken in Manchester today, the weather conditions were identical.

But what was I doing in Manchester Central Library in the first place? Other than sheltering from the rain? I was having a quick look at the newly released 1921 Census. It’s not a reliable source of information: many of the names I entered turned out not to exist. So even my limited knowledge of family history turns out to be wrong. For example, my cousin Susan, who is a few years older than me? Her parents, my aunt and uncle, emigrated to Australia in 1956. So it seems my memory of meeting my Aunt Pauline at that time is wrong. Susan? Turns out her name is Suzanne. Oh well. I was just playing around today, really, getting a feel for how the whole thing works. But with this and earlier censuses and all the other online records, I’m hoping to track down all my ancestors. One day, I’ll return with a proper plan of action.

Umbrella in the bin in the rain

When I left the library, of course it was still raining. Even the umbrella had had enough by this point.

Some elephants and a bench

There will be fewer photos than usual this time on account of, basically, the whole world is crashing down around me. A few days ago, my phone told me that it couldn’t write to the SD card but could read from it. Thankfully, I back up its contents on a regular basis, that is, most of the photos. Today, the phone won’t even read the SD card. It just doesn’t recognise it at all. As ever, the internet was very helpful. If your phone can’t recognise an SD card, you might have to reformat it. After spending an hour turning the phone off and on, removing and replacing the memory card, I still can’t see its contents. Imagine the delight then when, after turning the phone on one last time, I was greeted with this notification.

Bad news

As I write, I am waiting for the results of my latest lateral flow test. As I said to someone during the week, I’ll keep taking this test until I get the result I don’t really want. But, to be on the safe side, I’d recommend you don’t start reading this post until you’ve put your FFP3 N95 mask on.

So, where have I been? The only venue I can remember checking into this week was Chester Zoo. I took William there for the day while his Mum was continuing her civic duty in the criminal underworld and his Dad was working.

Adventure playground
Underwater penguin

William had his own ideas about what he wanted to see and I was happy to follow him round as he ran everywhere. I did a very silly walk to keep up. The zoo wasn’t as busy today, I’m glad to say, probably because it wasn’t that warm outside. The Treetop Adventure was closed (for staff training) so that was a little disappointing. One of the zoo keepers told William that this morning, there were 25 penguins in the pond, and could he check they were all still there. He gave up counting after about 30.

As I’d left my packed lunch at home, he sat quietly and ate his while I bought something unsatisfying.

In the shop, he wanted to buy a little gift for his Mum, Dad and sister. Despite my best efforts, he nodded off in the car on the way home. He was great fun, and the mental list of animals he wanted to see evolved during the day. ‘I changed my mind’ was his reason. Although, at home a few days earlier, he was reported as saying ‘I’ve swapped my mind’.

I joined Liam for an organised walk, a guided tour of Manchester’s Southern Cemetery. It was a very pleasant walk over to Didsbury, and I encountered a hero on the way.

Alan Turing mural

There are over 100,000 graves here in this cemetery, which was created because all the graveyards in Manchester were full. The knowledgeable guide told us about just a few of the more notable residents: Manchester Utd manager Sir Matt Busby, corrupt Conservative government minister Ernest Marples, artist LS Lowry and broadcaster and cultural catalyst Tony Wilson. But my sense of discomfort wasn’t helped by seeing this:

Oh no

It was like being in the most frightening episode of Doctor Who, ever. I tried not to blink, but you know how these things work.

Getting closer

I think these weeping angels are probably even more scary than Daleks and they’ve been haunting me since 1963.

Trying to send me back in time so it can make use of my temporal energy

I managed to escape and resume the tour. Phew. There are two chapels in the cemetery, one Anglican, one Catholic, both locked up. They’re listed, but not used. Which means of course that they’re st falling into disrepair.

Dilapidated chapel

We learned about Alcock and Brown at school, the first people to fly non-stop across the Atlantic. A few years later, Sir John Alcock crashed and died on a flight to Paris. That’s sad, but even sadder to me is the fact that this memorial was erected by his Mother.

Sir John Alcock

While I was walking around cemeteries and elsewhere, Liesel was skiing in Anchorage.

Liesel skiing

Or at least, she was, until a mini heatwave melted all the snow, overnight. Liesel’s also been very busy working and spending quality time with her family and friends.

But even though it’s (usually) unbearably cold, it can be extremely pretty too. Thanks for the photos, Jyoti!

Snowdrop

I’ve been watching the latest series of Ricky Gervais’s After Life. It stars Gervais as local journalist Tony. In the show, he deals with extreme grief following the death of his wife Lisa. I re-watched the first two series too: it’s very funny at times, moving and thought-provoking at others, a very well written and performed show. To mark the release of this third series of the hit dark comedy, Netflix has given 25 benches to councils across the UK. The benches were commissioned by the Suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) alongside Netflix in order to raise awareness surrounding mental health issues. CALM is an organisation we have supported in the past. One of the benches is in Wythenshawe Park, so after the regular Wythenshawe walk this week, I made my way over to the park to see if I could find the bench. I expected it to be in pride of place, on one of the main paths. Oh no. It’s well hidden, near the horticultural centre, behind the car park, a part of the Park that I’d never been to before. In fact, there’s a whole little village there, a few cottages, a post office, a phone box and a pillar box.

Hope Is Everything
CALM After Life – scan the QR code

In local news, the fence by the playground in Northenden’s Riverside Park has been repaired. No more sneaking in through the ‘back door’, you have to walk all the way round to the gate, literally dozens of yards away.

The fence without a gap

Just along the river, there’s a caravan park and I was surprised to see that one, possibly two, of the caravans have moved on.

No caravans

In Wythenshawe, I walked past this big colourful sign

Thank you

I’m not convinced I’d recognise Marcus from that image, but I’m sure he and his Mum are very proud to be adorning the shopping centre.

There’s a bathroom on the right. ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy. A Cilla Black fan on a bike. Yes, this week’s radio show was all about misheard song lyrics, mondegreens. Catch up here or listen to the repeat on Wythenshawe FM 97.2 on Wednesday at 7pm.

PS my Covid test was negative. I am probably not infected right now. That’s good news.

PPS My phone / SD card issue is much worse than I thought.

Very bad news indeed

Bad news because I’ve lost some recent photos: good job I WhatsApped a few from the zoo, they’ve all disappeared. And all the music is no longer available. Technology: stuff that doesn’t work properly yet.