We need to talk about Juneau

Jyoti picked us up, me and Liesel that is. Not physically, but in her car. We spent some time at her place and went for a short walk in the woods nearby, overlooking the bluff. We sat outside her condo for a while, admiring the tree that’s been chopped down (for some unknown reason) but is slowly trying to come back to life.

Jyoti’s regenerating tree

It was entertaining to watch the relationship between the dog, Basil, and the cat. Don’t ask who’s in charge, because it’s very hard to tell.

Jyoti kindly drove us to the airport and then back home so that Liesel could pick up her passport. Then back again to the airport. Did you know, Ted Stevens Airport at Anchorage is the fourth largest cargo airport in the world? At least, according to the mural inside.

We were flying to Juneau, the isolated state capital, only accessible by air and by sea.

My pedometer caused grief as we went through security: just because you never walk anywhere, doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t keep records of our daily perambulations, Sir, I thought but didn’t say out loud.

The flight was delightfully short: everywhere should be this close. As the plane started its descent, we saw Southeast Alaskan mountains for the first time. You can never have too many pictures of mountains. (Oh yes you can.)

Mountains (southeast Alaska)

Michael drove the shuttle bus to our hotel. Entertainment here was provided by an Indian lady berating her husband. Sadly, not in English. The ingratitude of the wife rose an octave when she saw the fairly dilapidated state of the Driftwood Hotel. It really does need some TLC. It’s supposed to be a completely smoke-free environment, but our room had the faint tinge of cigarettes from years past, which almost but not quite concealed the aroma of cleaning chemicals.

Having said that, our room was clean and comfortable and secure enough. We were on the top floor. Our friend Monica was staying here too while working in Juneau for a week. The staircase closest to her room was taped off. I don’t think it was long for this world.

It was lovely to see Monica, and she really didn’t deserve the extreme pain and grief I caused while hugging her and squeezing the shoulder injured a few weeks ago when she slipped on ice. I was mortified. There was no way I could undo the damage. If you’re reading this, Monica: once again, I am truly, truly sorry.

We drove to Auke Bay where we ate at the Forbidden Peak Brewery. At these breweries, each person is only allowed to consume 32 oz per day of alcoholic beverages. None of us reached this target. I ate salad and chips, which is my default option at these meat-heavy places. Very nice, very tasty.

On the way back to Juneau, we stopped off at Mendenhall Glacier for a few minutes.

Mendenhall Glacier

It was too late to walk to and around the glacier on this occasion, but it’s been added to the ever-growing list of places to return to, one day.

A nearby hut displayed copious information about the glacier and the surrounding area. This hut had been invaded by a couple of families of swallows, we saw them nesting in the rafters.

Mountains (the view from our hotel window)

We slept well and as Monica was working, we rose quite early for breakfast. Needless to say, I was the slowest to get ready, but I soon caught up with Liesel and Monica at The Rookery. Even if Google Maps took me the really long way.

The barista drew a wonderful fern on my latté. I complimented him on his artwork, he said he’d give it a C. The second cup (yes, yes, I had a second cup, so what?) he thought he decorated better. C+.

Northern lights

The atmosphere is enhanced by photographs displayed on the walls. We won’t see the northern lights at this time of year in Alaska, so this is a good second best. Yes, I should have made a note of the photographer’s name, sorry.

Monica went to work, leaving Liesel and me to visit the museum. Which, strangely, is where Monica was working.

It covers the whole history of Alaska, from its first settlement from across the then Bering land bridge, the Russians, the Americans. Again, we were embarrassed by the white Europeans mission seemingly to disrupt and destroy any other culture that had survived for thousands of years.

Thunderbird screen

Xeitl X’een Thunderbird screen

In southeast Alaska, Tlingit clan history was preserved in precise detail between generations. Stories of their origins and early activities were passed orally over thousands of years. Elders coached young people to commit to memory these histories. Accuracy was very important. These histories are also represented in songs, personal and place names, and as symbolic crests on regalia, totemic carvings, and other decorated objects, To this day, clan history, tangible and intangible, is considered sacred property. This screen documents the history of the Thunderbird House of the Yakutat Tlingit. In the early 20th century, clan leader Frank Italio, Kuchein, commissioned the screen from artist Woochjix’oo Eesh (In Everybody’s Arms-Father), a L’uknax.ádi man. The Shangookeidi clan claims the thunderbird crest through their ancestors’ contact with the creature. At the center of the screen is the sculptural carving of the Thunderbird, and painted below this figure are two Shangookeidi ancestors. These figures may be young men, whose fatal encounter with a thunderbird’s feather is memorialized in a clan song. Four stylized raindrops fall down the sides of the screen, and two long black clouds float above the thunderbird’s wings. The faces all around represent hailstones, falling on the Thunderbird’s mountain home.

[Xeitl X’een Thunderbird Screen Thunderbird House (Xeiti Hit), Shangookeidi clan, Yakutat Tlingit, 11-3-845]

I’m glad I committed this story, from the museum, to memory: I just wish I knew what the Tlingit words all actually meant.

The focus was on south and southeastern Alaskan natives, which Liesel found particularly interesting since her previous knowlecge focused on the northern peoples.

Totem pole fragment of the first white man

This totem pole fragment marks the local people’s first encounter with a white man. You may think he looks familiar. The wood carver, over 100 years later, based his design on Abraham Lincoln, probably the most famous white person known at the time. The local Indians were considered a problem for the invaders. ‘The only solution of the problem of the Indian is found, it seems, in the simple theory that there are no good Indians except dead ones’. No, this isn’t from a current edition of The Daily Mail, it’s from Douglas Island News, December 1900.

Well, to cleanse our palates from the interesting, if sometimes disturbing, exhibits in the museum, we walked around Juneau, making our slow way towards the tram. There’s a map of the world marked out in studs on the boardwalk.

Map on the boardwalk (down by the sea…)

I wonder how many of the thousands of passengers from the cruise ships actually notice it?

Tram

This tram took us 1800 feet up Mount Roberts from where we enjoyed a terrific view of the town and the inlet. It’s a very popular destination for cruise ships, of which we saw four docked today, and a few different ones later on.

Cruise ships visiting Juneau

Disney Wonder: 2,400 passengers.
Viking Orion: 930 passengers.
Quantum of the Sea: 4,905 passengers.
Zuiderdam: 1,916 passengers.
That’s a substantial increase on the city’s resident population, about 32,000 people.

Up at 1800 feet, the last of the snow is melting. Liesel wasn’t interested in a snowball fight so, like a tourist, I just posed.

Mick v snow
So many restrictions!

Many towns have a surplus of pigeons. Not Juneau. No, here, ravens rule the roost, and I think their song (if it can be called a song) might well be my next ringtone.

Raven

Back down in town, our late lunch was a shared plate of nachos, nothing special, but with a nose-eye view of one of those ocean-going liners.

Take a bow

Our wandering continued, upwards. Inside the Russian Orthodox Church, we weren’t allowed to light candles in remembrance of our lost loved ones. It’s very dry here right now, and people are very conscious of the risk of fire.

Russian Orthodox Church

Cope Park marked the summit of our ascent on this occasion, nice and peaceful, with a river running through.

Did I mention how steep some of the roads are?
Cope Park

Given how much it snows here, I was surprised to see that most of the roofs aren’t as steep as this place.

Steep roofs (or is it rooves?)

There are stories of rooves (or is it roofs?) caving in under the weight of so much snow and ice. Yet we at home in England begin to worry when there’s more than half an inch of snow!

We found the Whale Fountain and sat there for a while. Monica set out to meet us but didn’t quite make it. Well, you wouldn’t, if you walk in exactly the wrong direction!

Takhu the whale
Takhu with bonus rainbow

I calculated the best place to stand in order to see rainbow colours in the water spray. Spherical geometry, trigonometry and knowledge of the refractive index of water all played a part. Really? No, I just stood with the Sun behind me, that worked.

We were delighted to see our hotel bedecked in bunting for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. Nope, it was for America’s Memorial Day this weekend. Monica was back from work now, and we walked over to a restaurant called Salt for dinner. Several of Monica’s colleagues joined us: Ellen, Sarah (from the UK), James and there I’m afraid my memory runs out. James’s partner is one of a set of identical triplets. By an amazing coincidence, Monica has met with another identical triplet, from a different family, all interested in the field of restoration and preservation

Thinking I might have dessert, I had a so-called starter as my main course, a salad in fact. But: American portions, no dessert for me.

It had been a busy old day, lovely to meet some new people of course, but I was glad to find myself horizontal in bed, with no desire to read nor listen to a podcast. Zzz.

Sandpiper ravens

Next door to our hotel is The Sandpiper, probably so-called because of the ravens that have taken up residence here. This is where we broke our fast before another day of sightseeing.

I think Liesel and I very quickly came to realise how much we liked Juneau. And how we would like to spend more time here. But the weather was gorgeous, warm and sunny on this occasion. It’s famous for its rain and occasional very strong winds, I wonder if we’d be so keen in such conditions? I commented on how nice it was not to see the the usual suspects, McDonalds and Starbucks, anywhere. Liesel said she had seen a McD, but it was much closer to the airport.

Impulse buying doesn’t only apply in supermarkets, when you grab a bar of chocolate at the check-out desk. Native gift shops are quite attractive too. There’s a lot here that we couldn’t buy, because we can’t take it out of Alaska, or into the UK, such as seal fur, walrus and mammoth ivory. But that didn’t stop Liesel buying a pair of earrings. Or me buying a tie. Yes. me, Mick, bought a new tie for the first time since I had long hair and a full beard. What on earth is going on?

Monica drove us to Jensen-Olsen Arboretum, where we enjoyed looking at and sniffing the flowers. Plus, a quick walk on the beach.

Jensen-Olsen Arboretum
Japanese wood poppy

A short drive away is the Shrine of St Thérèse. For someone who only lived to the age of 24, she seems like a good sort, and is very popular. The shrine did bring back a memory that I long ago buried though. When my Mum was dying, I wondered whether, as a lapsed Catholic, she might take some comfort from being visited by a priest. When I suggested this to Dad, the look of horror, fear, defiance, even hatred, on his face, told me that that was never going to happen. So sad.

National Shrine of St Thérèse
Merciful Love Labyrinth

No, we didn’t walk through the labyrinth: too risky, we might get lost. Or leapt upon by a hidden wild animal.

Driving back towards Juneau.
‘Why are those people letting their dog go to the other side of the road? And why are they taking pictures of it?’
‘That’s not a dog, it’s a bear.’

And it was, a black bear minding its own business noshing on something. Those people had stopped for the photo opp, but by the time we realised, we were too far away. Still, I can tick ‘black bear’ off the list, now!

There’s just one bridge between Juneau and neighbouring Douglas Island, and that’s where we spent the rest of the afternoon.

I’m so insecure in my cultural awareness, I had to make sure it’s still ok to call this thing a totem pole.

Totem pole

It is, and this bright colourful one is right by Savikko Park, which is partly a nice sandy beach. We watched some people having fun in the sea, which I assumed would be quite cold because over the other side, you can see freshly melted snow running down the mountains.

Mountain (from Savikko Park) > snow > ice > water

Further along, there’s a nice trail on and around the old Treadmill mine. If you want to set up a mine of your own, there is plenty of discarded old (and sometimes rusty) equipment just left lying around.

Flange (used for flangeing, I think)

Actually, just leave it all where it is. Some of the mines are nearly half a mile deep, and I am reminded how lucky I am to be around in a time and place where I didn’t have to work in such places.

Wharf

This is what’s left of the wharf where all the equipment and supplies were delivered.

For a late lunch, we had pizza at The Island Pub, as recommended by a couple of people.

Back in Juneau, we rested by the whale fountain for a while. I noticed how prickly the grass was, but maybe it’s for walking on, not lying on.

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, people of Japanese ancestry living on America’s West Coast were forcibly removed and incarcerated in isolated government internment camps.

In May 1942, the seniors at Juneau High School left an empty chair during their graduation ceremony to underscore the absence of their Japanese-American valedictorian, John Tanaka. By extension, this empty chair honors all of the Japanese uprooted from their homes and communities.

The Empty Chair Memorial represents the void the people of Juneau felt for their missing friends and neighbors impacted by this injustice. The names of those interned are etched on the bronze floor.

A time may come when these names will be forgotten, but the symbol of the empty chair will remind future generations of the lessons learned from this compelling and poignant story.

Yes, we made the pilgrimage.

Empty Chair Memorial

Monica literally drove us to the end of the road. This was south, along Thane Road, through a place called Thane, to the signs saying ‘This is the end of the road, turn around, go back, here be dragons’, or something. A reminder that Juneau can only be reached by sea and air.

Speaking of which, we returned to the airport where Monica dropped off the rental car, and we went through security before our flight back to Anchorage. And, in another first-time-ever scenario, my hat was searched. I was too, but my hat looks big, so, do you mind if I have a look at it?

Note to self: when smuggling contraband, the hat is no longer a safe hiding place

In and around Anchorage

After a relatively long walk yesterday, we thought we’d take it easy and just walk up to the coffee shop and back. I say ‘just’ but even that little jaunt helps us achieve our daily target of 10,000 steps.

Our eyes were of course peeled for moose and bears. But in the end, the most exciting wildlife we saw on this occasion was a family of bald eagles. When we first saw the chick in flight, we thought it was a crow or something. Then, seeing it pursued by an eagle, we thought it was dinner. Then we realised: both parents were showing their chick the ropes.

Bald eagles

This was our first visit to Kaladi Brothers Coffee this visit and, since it wasn’t too busy, we enjoyed our coffee inside.

On the walk back home, Liesel pointed out a mound of snow that hasn’t yet melted. I didn’t recognise it as such, it was covered in so much debris.

Dirty snow

This is a typical Alaskan scene. Cooler boxes airing outside the garage, while a pair of waders is taking the air on the washing line.

Coolers and Waders (not to be confused with the 1970s prog rock combo)

It is a very outdoorsy place, and when the weather’s this good, it’s easy to see why. But the weather isn’t always this kind of course. When it snows, it snows. You can easily lose a fire hydrant in the snow. So to make it easier to find, they attach a red and white pole to it. This shows how deep the snow can be at its worst. You could bury an entire upright Liesel in it.

Hydrant, hi Liesel

As suspected, I starred in this week’s advert for Boxx 2 Boxx back at home.

Boxx 2 Boxx ad

Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary is a lovely nature reserve, and we can enjoy walking on its extensive boardwalk. Again, the Sun was out, the sky was blue and the temperature was perfect. And again, you can’t escape seeing mountains way over there in the distance.

Boardwalk

There are several species of bird here, although we only saw a few flitting here and there, too fast to identify. Another family of eagles owned the sky while very pretty blue tree swallows stayed nearer our level.

Swallows

Another first for this visit was seeing a moose.

Moose

It seemed to be enjoying what it was eating. But we’d noticed the water here was a bit oily. This is effluent from residential and industrial premises. But the vegetation here prevents the nasty chemicals from entering the main body of water, so it all seems under control. I just hope the moose aren’t ingesting something really nasty.

We collected Jyoti from the airport. Her journey back from wherever she’d been was delayed by a food truck crashing into her aeroplane. They hadn’t boarded yet, but I can imagine the groan running around a planeful of disappointed passengers. So, we collected Jyoti but no luggage. This didn’t appear until late the following day.

In the evening, Liesel and I met up with Aaron and Jodi for a meal at a place called Ginger. The food was great, very flavourful, but I’d forgotten how large American meals are, and I couldn’t finish my curry.

I’d also forgotten that American toilets are different. I washed my hands and stood there for ages waiting for the air dryer to come on, only to realise it was in fact a paper dispenser. I’m glad nobody was there to witness my incompetence.

It hasn’t rained here for a long, long time, which means everything is dry, and it’s very easy for bush fires to take hold. As at home, these are often started by people lighting fires and barbecues in inappropriate places.

Liesel got up early, ridulously early, to visit the Strech Zone. I thought she’d come back about 6 feet tall, but apparently it’s not that kind of stretching. Just the muscles, and just enough to make you feel uncomfortable afterwards.

After breakfast, we drove over to Jyoti’s place where Liesel swapped me for Suvan, Jyoti’s son. Liesel drove him to Amrit’s office where he now works, at least part time, and I went for a nice long walk with Jyoti.

A small 7-petalled wonderflower

There are some small flowers, including this one with an unusual number of petals. Someone will tell us what it’s called!

The terrain was hilly in the forest over the way, something I’m not really used to any more. Basil the dog carried the bear bells so we didn’t have to. On the way back, a motorist stopped to tell us that there was a bear the other side of the roundabout: the roundabout that we’d just walked around. Yes, I’d like to see a bear in the wild but no, I don’t want to be that close!

We returned to Jyoti’s condo and then proceeded to drink coffee on a friend’s porch. That’s a bit presumptuous, I thought, but hey-ho, I’m sure she knows what she’s doing. We picked up our coffees from Kaladi Bros and yes, we really did go and plonk ourselves in someone else’s back yard.

Jetty on Sand Lake

Back yard? Patio? Jetty? I didn’t want to admit to my ignorance by asking, but what a vista to gaze upon each morning.

Carrie (sp? not sure) is a paediatrician and now lives right next to Sand Lake. She has a couple of little dogs.

Dog or Yoda?

What a lovely, peaceful place she has here,  well back from the main road.

Meanwhile, Liesel was at work with Amrit and Suvan. Before going out for dinner, Liesel had some errands to run. As she drove us round, I became more and more disoriented. Yes, I know the mountains are in that direction, but I would have struggled to find my way back if I’d needed to.

Catherine and Hans live in a fabulous house up the hill in the Golden View area. And the view is spectacular, looking out over most of the city.

Sunset over Anchorage

Catherine baked quiche and we ate outside, watching the Sun set. This picture was taken just before 10pm, although neither of us realised it was quite that late. It stays light here for most of the night!

They told us about a house fire that had recently taken place close by, down the hill a bit, and they watched the helicopters flying by at the height of their deck as they brought in large buckets of water to douse the flames.

What a long day that was, and I’m sure we both fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows!

Touchdown in Anchorage

What a strange couple of days. Helen arrived from Australia one day, then Liesel and I went to Alaska the next. Oops, sorry: spoiler alert. Yes, it’s strange the way things worked out, but we’ll definitely spend more time with Helen later in the year.

Let’s start again. Helen was met at the airport by Jenny and William. We’d arranged to meet them later on, and William wanted to surprise us. When we arrived at their house, William was stomping about in his new Spidey shoes. The lights in the heels were flashing and he really wanted us to admire them. He invited me up to his bedroom which was darker, so easier to see the flashing lights. Then he pulled the bed covers back to reveal…
“Oh, a new cuddly toy?”
“No, it’s Auntie Helen!”

Helen’s plans this visit include a trip down south to see some friends. Today, we drove over to Bramall Hall, where we had lunch and spent some time feeding ducks and in the playground.

Liesel and Helen
William the duck feeder
Rhododendron

Back at home, Liesel and I did some more packing and I spent a long, long on hold on the phone before adding Helen to our car insurance policy. It didn’t cost anything in the end, but something as simple as that should be possible via the website. That would take some pressure off the under-staffed call centre.

Back at Jenny’s we had an Indian takeaway for our last meal before heading for Anchorage. Both William and Martha were in top form, very funny and engaging. Very happy to see Auntie Helen, and not just because she always comes bearing gifts. I was pleased to receive gifts of chocolate and TimTams, thank you Helen!

Helen, Martha and William with Jenny and Liam way over there

Liam drove us home in his car. We left our old jalopy for Helen to use. We went via the pharmacy to pick up the last of Liesel’s prescription. From the pharmacy where, at 8 o’clock that morning, we’d gone for the Covid test required before entering the USA.

Back at home, we finished the packing, prepared the flat to be deserted for a while and went to bed for a short sleep. The taxi picked us up at 4 in the morning. We thought we’d catch up on sleep on the long flight later on. Hah!

Manchester Airport was ridiculously busy that early in the morning, mostly for Easy Jet flights as far as we could see. We were off to Frankfurt on Lufthansa in the first place. It was good to be in the air, in my case, for the first time in over two years.

The myth of German efficiency was blown at Frankfurt Airport. We needed proof that we’d been vaccinated against Covid and a negative Covid test from within 24 hours. Without these documents, one uploaded at home yesterday and one stored on our phones and printed out, we would have had to complete a 7-page form supplied by the US authorities.

But at the first desk, the clerk didn’t even have a computer. So he couldn’t see our vax documents, nor my ESTA. Go to a second desk. The clerk here was busy chatting. Go to a third desk. At last, someone fully equipped to see that we were allowed to travel.

In the end, our flight was nearly an hour late taking off. Only at landing in Anchorage did we find out that some of the passengers were refugees from Ukraine. This ‘special’ group of people were allowed to disembark first. We didn’t know why: a sports team? A secret military operation? Nope, refugees, greeted by at least a couple of TV crews. I suspect if you see this footage, you’ll see me and Liesel at the back, gurning behind our masks.

Thomas Cook cup

The flight itself was uneventful, but this water cup brought back many happy memories of when I worked at this wonderful travel agents’ HQ in Peterborough. I wonder whether that horrible Cobol program IPP06 ever worked properly? Good to see the old stock being used and not just thrown away.

There be mountains

On seeing the first snow-covered mountain from the aeroplane, we knew we were very nearly at our destination.

On the Customs form, Liesel declared the chutney that we’d bought for a friend. This triggered a full search of all of our bags. They found an apple in mine, one that I’d forgotten to eat on the flight. I try not to commit crimes in the USA, yet here I am.

Going through immigration, the official asked to take a photograph of Liesel, something not previously required of an American citizen. When he asked to take my picture, I stood where Liesel had been standing. “Oh no sir, please stand over there, in front of the camera.” We suspect he didn’t get a picture of Liesel, but just didn’t want to admit that he’d asked for one in error. Welcome to the USA say the signs, and I always say to myself, I’ve never been made to feel so unwelcome anywhere.

Liesel’s Mom drove us home from the airport, and I think I just slumped for the rest of the day. I dozed off a couple of times in flight, but I didn’t have a long, satisfying sleep.

It was good to see Mom and Dad, Leslie and Klaus again: Liesel has of course been here quite recently, helping them both through various medical interventions.

Our first night’s sleep here was interrupted when Klaus had a diabetic hypo, and required assistance from 6 absolutely gorgeous paramedics. Liesel’s words, not mine: they were all wearing masks so I couldn’t gauge how attractive they were. But they were all very supportive, attentive, informative and helpful. And they arrived within a few minutes of the 911 call.

Our first full day in sunny Anchorage was taken up by walking in the great outdoors. And it really was sunny, and very warm. Liesel and I walked along part of the coastal trail starting near Westchester Lagoon.

Kayaking in the lagoon

It’s very picturesque with the snow-covered mountains in the background, and thank goodness all the snow has thawed in the city itself.

Sandhill cranes

The sandhill cranes were on the mud flats, where we are advised not to walk. We followed a railway line for a while and I though I heard the hoot of a train approaching, but we never saw one.

The cargo ship being towed to the Port of Alaska was huge. Apparently 80% of everything that comes into the state is imported through this port.

We walked back to the car through a nice, quiet neighbourhood. The New Sagaya supplied our first coffee of this trip and my first bagel.

We drove to Una and Phil’s house, about half an hour away.

Old, old, old, old car

We followed this old banger for a while and I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine whether it’s a Ford, a Daimler, a Buick, a Plymouth, a Chrysler or something else. Oh and look, there are mountains in the background.

Una’s parents are visiting from Florida too. Liesel and I haven’t seen them since Una’s investiture as a Judge nearly four years ago. Mom Lalita has written another book, this one about her family in India over several generations, and she kindly gave us a copy which we’re looking forward to reading.

Una, Phil, Liesel and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood: I think it’s fair to say it was a bit more affluent than where we’d been earlier in the day.

Just a small plane

There’s an airstrip just down the road, and later on, I filmed a small plane landing here.

Helicopter

Liesel turned down my invitation to sit on the chopper so I could take her picture. But here it is parked, or docked by the strip.

Just a small boat

There’s a new estate, or subdivision, here built in what looks like a big hole, just below the airstrip. I think these house are quite close together, given the amount of space there is in the largest state in the union. But you’re never too far from the sight of mountains.

New houses

Well that was a great walk, slightly hilly, hot and sweaty, but did I feel short of breath? Not at all. Not until I carried a bag of shopping up the short, steep drive back at home.

In the evening, Aaron, Jodi, Asa and Gideon came over for dinner. While everyone else tucked into their marinaded steaks, I enjoyed my Quorn nuggets.

I think we both slept much better this second night. This, despite the fact that it’s only properly dark overnight for a couple of hours at this time of year. 

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
Слава Україні!

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