Setting off for a long drive is quite an adventure. Finding the I-5 and being told to stay on it for 267 miles before the first turning brings it into perspective. That’s longer than the drive from Northenden to Chessington when all sorts of ‘interesting’ roads are involved.
We crossed the border from Oregon to Washington across one of many truss bridges. The first stop was for coffee and scones in Vancouver WA at a place called Thatcher’s, a name I’m not usually fond of.
On the journey north, we received some devastating news from home. Helen checked in on our flat and, holding her nose against the pervading stench, made the discovery that we’d turned our fridge and freezer off at the mains before our departure.
The food was no good, the freezer had defrosted but at least there was no major flood. High-five from the I-5, Helen, glad you were able to help!
There was a bit of a traffic jam before Seattle, but the queue of traffic on the other side, heading south, was much worse. We ignored plenty of rest stops as we enjoyed music from my phone, played on the car’s speakers via bluetooth.
I think I’ve commented on Samsung Music’s shuffle feature before: it’s not very intelligent. Today for instance, every 4th or 5th track was by David Bowie. And hardly any songs by female artists were played. To the point that Liesel even cheered when Björk turned up, and Liesel isn’t the biggest fan in the world!
This was a surprise too, seeing a sign for Vancouver BC so early. Have no fear, we’ll be there in a couple of days time!
A few spots of rain surprised us, but an even bigger surprise was finding the windscreen washer bottle was empty. So now, we wanted it to rain even harder to clean the windscreen a bit better.
Apparently, this is Mount Vernon, through the murk. Well, there hasn’t been a mountain picture for a while.
We arrived in Ferndale and it was great to see Holly again after all this time. If it weren’t for Covid, I think she and Jaxon would have come our way in 2020. So hello Holly, Pat, Jaxon, Damon and Kira. Newly-weds Tove and Sam weren’t around unfortunately.
After eating, all I wanted to do was sleep, really, so I can only imagine how tired Liesel felt after driving all day.
As is often the case, after completing my puzzles in the morning, I nodded off for a bit before getting up for breakfast. Pat went out for a walk with a friend while Holly took me and Liesel out for a bit of a drive.
Holly showed us the local High School which is huge, several buildings. There was a nice view of the mountains though. And, speaking of spectacular views, how about this? Chuckanut Drive was built in 1896 to connect Whatcom County wth places to the south, journeys previously taken by canoe, steamboat, sailing ship or train.
What a peaceful place this is, Samish Bay. Only enhanced really by meeting a couple of cyclists who live in White Rock, BC, but who hail from Glasgow. I admitted to living in Manchester to which the guy asked ‘Manchester United?’ I replied that I was aware of their existence. They support rival teams in Glasgow, Celtic and Rangers, but seem to get on alright, out on the bikes.
Back in Bellingham, we walked along the boardwalk to Boulevard Park. We stopped for a coffee at Woods and I probably made a mistake by ordering such a large one. Especially when I had two more coffees later in the day, all non-decaffeinated.
We spent a long time in Colophon Bookshop. I have so many book recommendations on my list, yet I can browse a bookshop and find dozens more that look interesting, intriguing or just fun. But I can’t keep adding to my list. In fact, I think there are enough books and people should stop writing them, give us a chance to catch up.
Here I am with Daniel Jefferson Harris, founder of Fairhaven, the part of Bellingham that we found ourselves in. We ate lunch at Colophon Café, and I think it’s fair to say I ate too much.
Naturally, I knew this was honeysuckle just as soon as Liesel and Holly reminded me.
Fairhaven has a very good toy shop too. I wanted to buy some of the jokes for myself but no, in the end, we just bought something for Martha and William.
Back at home, we ate salads for supper, solved the world’s problems, wrote some stuff and watched a Netflix show about a man and his octopus. Liesel couldn’t watch it all, but I’ll certainly watch it in full on another occasion.
I forgot that today marked the 49th anniversary of the removal of my appendix (and as a side effect, falling in love with a nurse). Right in the middle of ‘A’-level exams, and I even sat a couple of papers while in hospital. Maybe I’ll have a party for the 50th anniversary!
As I should have anticipated, I took a while to get to sleep after all that coffee in one day. I won’t make that mistake again.
Nonetheless, we got up early to say goodbye to Holly: some folks still have to go to work, unfortunately.
After breakfast and a nice chat with Pat, Liesel and I left to continue our trip northwards to Canada, land of the free, and of legal weed. On the way out of Ferndale, Liesel pointed out Mount Baker, 25 miles or so away.
Of course I had to stop for another mountain picture. They’re still a novelty – especially when you live in Northenden, flat as a pancake.
The border guard was terse but efficient., asking whether we were carrying guns, alcohol or tobacco. Of course, the correct answer is, ‘I didn’t know we were supposed to be’, but common sense prevailed and I kept quiet.
So here we are in the best place on Earth, Beautiful British Columbia. Onto highway BC-99 to Vancouver, a relatively short drive away. They’re all short drives for me, Liesel does all the driving. I do the navigating and we usually end up in the right place.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’d said to me that I would see somebody fishing in the river, from a wheelchair, I would have said, good for them. I never expected to see such a spectacle, especially at this particular location.
If he rolls forward just a couple of inches, he will be on a steep slope heading for the Mersey. Who knew that angling could be such a dangerous occupation?
It’s funny the way things work out. We don’t go out much but here we are, going out three nights in a row, to vastly different shows.
First, to see The Blow Monkeys in Manchester, supported by Jessica Lee Morgan, who, yes, we only saw a couple of weeks ago.
The venue was called ‘Club Academy’. It’s very hard to find. There is ‘Manchester Academy’, which was deserted. There is ‘The Academy’, ‘Academy 1’, ‘Academy 2’ and ‘Academy 3’. As we were looking for our venue, we were approached by a couple of other equally confused concert-goers. But we got there in the end and enjoyed a great night’s music. We wore masks but most people didn’t. We’re not too enamoured of standing gigs any more, but we found a counter to lean on. Then, later on, when most people huddled in front of the stage, we went to the back of the auditorium and sat down, trying not to slide off a sofa that was built for people with much longer legs than ours. We felt positively Lilliputian.
From our original vantage point, Chris was mostly behind a pillar, but we knew he was there, top bass playing.
We’re not as familiar with The Blow Monkeys and their music, but we recognised some of their songs. I only wish the saxophone had been a bit louder in the mix.
Before leaving, we had a quick chat with Jess and Chris and, unless something changes, we’ll next see them in March, in York, playing with Holy Holy.
The second show we saw was at The Lowry in Salford. Danny Baker and Bob Harris Backstage Pass: a couple of old rock’n’rollers swapping rock’n’roll stories. This show was postponed from last year, and was a birthday present from a year before that, I think. Well worth waiting for, and as it turns out, this was the first night of their rescheduled tour.
We went into Salford a bit early, not having been there for a long time. It was good to walk around a different city. It’s very modern looking, with its Media City, new blocks of (no doubt luxury) apartments, nothing at all like it’s portrayed in the Ewan MacColl song Dirty Old Town.
Lots of people were proudly wearing their medals, having completed the Manchester Marathon. Some looked like they could do it all over again. Others really needed a lie-down, and fast.
This blue bee was designed and decorated by Jodie Silverman and the sponsors are BBC Radio Manchester, Blue Peter and Peel Media Ltd. Blue Peter, Blue Bee-ter, what are the chances! The new Blue Peter garden is nearby, but we didn’t pay a visit.
As recommended by Jenny, we dined at Prezzo, although Wagamama was spotted nearby and we were very nearly tempted away.
The show was ‘sold out’ but there were plenty of empty seats. Whether this was because the audience was thinned out due to Covid, or because many people just forgot to turn up, we don’t know.
But it was a fabulous couple of hours of entertainment. Lots of stories from Bob and Dan, some of which we’d heard before, but that’s alright.
During the interval, we, the audience members, were invited to write a question down for them to answer in the second half. Bob Harris sings in the chorus of David Bowie’s Memory of a Free Festival, so I asked whether Danny Baker had appeared on any records. Well, at the start of the second half, Danny announced that his solo gig in Blackheath in January was sold out. He said that tickets sold quickly after he’d announced that every guest would be given one of his old 7-inch singles. Danny said that of course, these records might not be any good, he wouldn’t be giving away Memory of a Free Festival, would he? To which Bob replied, I’m on that record. ‘Are you?’ exclaimed Danny. So Bob told the story of how he and his then wife Sue, and some others, happened to be in the studio when David was recording the song. Producer Tony Visconti invited them up to sing along with the chorus. Bob asked if Dan had been on a record, and the only one he named was by Sham 69, and he told us some things about Jimmy Pursey, their lead singer. So, even though my question wasn’t picked out and read, it was answered.
I was hoping there’d be a meet & greet afterwards, but no. I have a photo of me with Danny Baker from a previous occasion but I do need to add Whispering Bob to my rogues gallery.
Hand-brake turn here. Key change. Nature really shouldn’t get involved in politics.
The third in our trilogy of nights out was an event in the Manchester Literature Festival. We saw Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo in conversation with with old chum Jackie Kay. Liesel and I both loved Bernardine’s book Girl, Woman, Other and, having heard her talking about her new book, we’re now looking forward to reading it, Manifesto.
And as she Tweeted: MANIFESTO is the @BBC’s ‘Book of the Week’ starting this Monday 18th Oct at 09.45, as narrated by the authoress herself. Listen here.
I joined the queue afterwards to have our copy of the book signed, but I felt bad for Liesel standing all alone outside in the rain, so I gave up waiting and joined her to go home. In fact, she’d been sitting down inside, in comfort and warmth. Ms Evaristo will have to wait until next time to meet me.
She is a very special lady, sharing her birthday with daughter Jenny and with Kylie Minogue.
So, a very entertaining, educational and informative few days overall. Three nights in a row: it was a daunting prospect but we don’t need to make a habit of it. Having been in the presence of so many strangers in such a short period, we both tested ourselves for the plague covid, and we both came up negative.
Which meant that we felt comfortable picking up William and Martha from school on Thursday. The other grandparents provide childminding on a Tuesday. Liesel and I had filled in for them the previous Tuesday. William was aware of this iniquity. ‘Oma and Grandad have picked us up twice and Nana and Papa only once. After today, it will be 3-1’.
At home, this basic unfairness in how the universe operates was forgotten as snacks, fruit and vegetables were on offer. Martha and Oma made spiders from pipecleaners while William completed a new jigsaw puzzle with my assistance.
Martha told us about her meeting today, the School Parliament. But having (I assume) signed the Official Secrets Act, she didn’t divulge any of the details.
And, sorry, William, I don’t mind watching CoComelon on TV with you, with their nursery rhymes, both ancient and modern, but all I can think of is that an anagram of CoComelon is ComeColon.
Jenny and Liam joined us for dinner before taking their babies home.
This is one of the very colourful but otherwise very scary spiders.
Autumn colours are slowly enveloping the trees as the temperature drops. Fallen leaves make the path a bit slippery too, especially when it’s been raining or there’s been a heavy dew. So to make things even more challenging, the grass verges are being cut and the trimmings liberally distributed over the pavements. But the colours are glorious.
Yes, the sky is blue, the Sun feels nice on our backs as we wander around Northenden and Wythenshawe. Both well-being walks were well-attended this week, Liesel joined us in Wythenshawe, around Painswick Park and beyond.
Earlier in the week, I spoke to Andrew Foulkes from Northenden Players Theatre Club and to Dan Tiernan, comedian, about the upcoming Northenden Arts Festival. These chats formed the backbone of this week’s Radio Northenden Show. Hear all about it here. I know you’re wondering and yes, I did play David Bowie’s Memory of a Free Festival to illustrate Northenden Arts Festival. Find out more about the Festival and about Northenden Players here.
I can announce that in a very real way, there is light at the end of this very long, dark, isolated tunnel. The end is indeed nigher. I received my first Covid vaccination this week and it was quite an emotional experience. I floated out of the centre singing about my invincibility! Well, not really, but I am a very happy and grateful bunny.
This event took place on the 42nd anniversary of the day Sarah and I married in Headcorn. And, as if to remind me just how cold it was on that February day, I had to scrape ice and snow off the car before driving to the vaccination centre. I can’t remember the last time I did that. Not because the weather’s been really warm of course, but because we just haven’t been anywhere.
My appointment was at exactly the right time too. As I sat down, one of the volunteers brought in hot chocolate and biscuits for the staff. ‘Perfect timing’, I uttered. She gave me a biscuit and then said ‘You might as well have one of these as well’.
‘Don’t flash them about, otherwise they’ll all want one!’ So please don’t tell anybody.
Liesel and I went out for our first litter picking walk this week, too. We didn’t go too far from home, but did we collect much? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
It was chilly but thankfully the cold east wind wasn’t too strong today.
We watched some more online entertainment this week, of a political nature, unusual for us, but fascinating just the same.
Christopher Eccleston read a story about the 1984 miners’ strike which was very moving, about how one family had fallen apart. There followed a discussion which reminded me of a lot of the goings-on at the time.
The following evening, we watched the always delightful Maxine Peake read a story about the night cleaners’ strike of 1972. The ensuing discussion included Maggie Gee, an author whom I met several years ago at Kingston Readers’ Festival.
These two events were hosted by Housmans bookshop in London. Won’t it be lovely when we can visit in real life? Any bookshop. Anywhere, really.
Despite the baltic conditions, Liesel and I did venture out for a wander by the river, which has receded to its previous, low, safe levels. And here’s an early sign of Spring.
On the other hand, here’s a sign that really, we’re still in the depths of Winter.
This is the field where we sometimes have a chat with the horses, but they were out of sight today, hopefully indoors, sitting round a nice warm fire, watching daytime TV.
Liesel spotted a block of ice on top of a fence post.
Well, not really on top. It looks like the pole filled with water which then froze, and as it expanded the ice escaped through the top. I haven’t seen anything like this since the really olden days when we had milk delivered in bottles. The milk and cream would freeze, expand, push the top off the bottle, and reach for the sky.
We didn’t see our heron today, but we did see this happy couple gliding by.
You can win a bonus point by telling us what these birds really are.
There was a slight smell of smoke in the air and we finally tracked down the culprits. They were burning some wood on the golf course which, a couple of weeks ago, had been the flood relief plain.
When you see that much wood deposited, you realise just how powerful the river must have been during those few days.
One of the funniest things we saw was this dog.
It was down by the river, hiding form its owners who were delighted to be playing the game.
The island has been revealed for the first time in a while. And, with the grim inevitablity of Paul McCartney performing Hey Jude with far too much audience participation at one of his concerts, there is already a car tyre lying there.
Northenden is proud to announce that it has become the new headquarters for NATO.
I don’t want to breach their security or anything, but this compass is on the pavement outside Boho Tanning and Beauty and Himalayas Tea in Palatine Road. And yet I don’t think I’ve noticed it before.
Something else new to Northenden (well, new to me in Northenden):
He didn’t mind me taking his picture, even though I had no cash on me to put in the hat that he didn’t take off. I offered him a coffee instead but he declined, saying it was too cold for this game and that he was going home. I next saw him at the bus stop.
On a palindromic date, 12/2/21 or 12022021, I presented a show on Radio Northenden posing the question, What is Love? Two hours of silly love songs. This is in honour of my 42nd anniversary with Sarah, mentioned above, my 15th with Liesel next Tuesday and it being Valentine’s Day on Sunday. Love is in the air, everywhere I look around. Love is in the air, every sight and every sound. Oh, I just realised, I didn’t actually play that particular song. But please listen if you want some of that love thang.
Slightly further afield, there was excitement on Mars too. The first ever spacecraft from a middle eastern country, the United Arab Emirates, has gone into orbit around the red planet. And this is quite a coincidence because also this week, I started reading my first ever book of Palestinian science fiction! Who knew there was such a thing? It’s a collection of short stories, looking forward to 2048, a hundred years after the Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestians fled or were expelled from their homes. Thought-provoking to say the least.
The most recent book I finished was Salena Godden’s Mrs Death Misses Death. I wrote a review, not as eloquent as all the others I’ve seen, but it’s from the heart:
This book turned up on my Kindle on the day of publication, and I started reading it straightaway. I’ve been a fan of Salena and her poetry for a long time so I knew this would be good. And it really was. It’s happy and sad and funny and thought-provoking all the way through, not at all maudlin as you might expect from a book about Death. I was torn between reading it quickly to see how it ends and reading it slowly to soak up and appreciate the whole story. I know film and TV rights have been acquired and I am intrigued to see how that develops. But I also know I’ll be re-reading this book very soon, and I very rarely do that. I can’t get over how clever some of the sections (chapters?) are, with their use of language.
Here’s a blast from the past, probably about eleven years ago. And another coincidence: remember the UAE spacecraft is named ‘Hope’.
We were in a small town in Alaska called Hope, with some friends. The plan was to go for a walk, or hike, through the woods.
The trail was very pleasant, it meandered and undulated a bit and after a while, I was offered a pair of walking poles, to ‘help’. Why would I need them, I can trip over my own feet quite well, thank you.
‘Try just one then’, someone suggested. Oh all right.
So now I had three things to guide safely to ground level: two feet and a stick. And, inevitably, I put the pole down just off the edge of the path, expecting it to meet a solid surface, but it didn’t: it was like finding an extra step when you think you’ve reached the bottom of the stairs. Yes, of course I tripped and fell over. I was aware of being close to the edge of a bluff, a drop of several dozen feet.
Well, I wasn’t worried for myself. I was more concerned about 3-year old Neha to whom I was giving a piggy-back at the time. I successfully rolled over to protect her, blamed the stupid stick that I didn’t want in the first place and couldn’t apologise enough to Neha’s Mom*.
Walking poles? Portable trip hazards if you ask me.
We paid a return visit to Lyme Park, where the gardens are now open too, but not the house. Again, it wasn’t too busy: maybe the rain kept some people away.
We had a very pleasant walk around the gardens, admiring the plants and the views.
Yes, I am still wearing that tatty old titfer that travelled with me a couple of years ago, much to Liesel’s consternation. One day, I’ll go shopping and buy a new one. One day. When this is all over. When it’s safe to go shopping. Meanwhile, we spent some time watching the squirrel. It made no attempt to climb up for the bird food. Instead, it waited nearby for birds to come along and shake the feeders, then it would pick some food up from the ground.
We were just a little too far away, so I didn’t manage to get pictures of the robin, various tits and other birds.
It was raining very lightly, not enough to be uncomfortable. But the Park suffered from huge floods a few years ago, and parts of the park are still recovering.
If I’m going to get Lyme Disease, I suppose it makes sense to pick it up at Lyme Park. I felt a pin prick on my leg, saw a black thing, brushed it off before I had time to interrogate it. Apparently, depending on what you believe, you can only catch Lyme disease from female ticks, and only if they’ve recently been on board a deer, and only if they stay attached for three days. As I didn’t ascertain its gender nor its recent history, I just hope that Germoline does the trick. But I shall be taking pictures every day to see whether the bite mark is getting worse.
We followed a track that we thought would take us back to the car park. Unfortunately it didn’t. This cow and nocow else in the herd bothered to tell us that we were on a road to nowhere. And, by the time we reluctantly turned around, to retrace our steps, my phone had died and we couldn’t even look at a map. On the way back, several cows were blocking the road, so we climbed over them to get by.
Liesel’s becoming more crafty as the (now voluntary for us) lockdown continues. This week, she did some fabulous needlework.
I like this, because it looks as though it’s floating.
On one of my local walks, I had a close encounter with Uri Geller.
As you can tell, there has been a lot of rain recently. Liesel woke me and asked me to take the car in for its MOT. ‘Of course, darling,’ I said. It was raining again and Liesel quite rightly didn’t want to walk home in it. So I took the car in, but there was nobody at reception. Our time was 9.00 but another man there was booked in at 8.30. The car-wash people next door told us the car mechanics are usually in by this time.
Someone did eventually roll in. He took down all our details in very slow hand-writing and I thought, this doesn’t seem like the nice helpful mechanic Liesel had spoken to a few days earlier, when he’d repaired something on the car.
I walked home in light drizzle, not bothering to go via any of the local coffee shops, as they weren’t yet open. At home I said that the guy wasn’t very helpful, I shouldn’t have had to give him all the details all over again. My reward was sausages in a baguette with lashings of English mustard, thanks Liesel. After further discussion, we realised that I’d only gone and taken the car to the wrong place. I should have gone to a garage a bit further along the road. Liesel phoned the correct place, apologised for her husband’s incompetence and admitted she didn’t know where the car was currently located. I asked Liesel why she’d chosen Oakfield Autos. ‘Because it contains every vowel, of course.’ ‘Oh, don’t start that nonsense again,’ I said.
I walked back to retrieve the car from the, as it turns out, nameless place where I’d left it. With profuse apologies, I got the key back and drove the car about 30 feet to the correct venue. The guy behind the counter here tried very hard not to laugh and yes, this place did seem much more professional, and he was very helpful.
Again, I walked home in the rain, again choosing not to visit a café. Later in the afternoon, the mechanic called, the car was ready, so I traipsed back, in the rain, and brought the car back home.
In a wonderful government initiative, pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen on 4th July, a Saturday. Locally, the light rain seems to have kept most people away, and I was pleased to see there was no large crowd outside our local pub, as I’d expected. Even the main road was deserted, although there was a pre-lockdown volume of traffic. Liesel and I have no desire to visit such places until we feel the coronavirus is much more under control.
Liesel’s at it again. This morning, she knitted (knat?) a pair of fingerless mitts. Any colour you like as long as it’s white, at least until yarns of other colours are delivered.
This was lovely to see, our Martha making up a story based on a book sewn together by her talented Granny, Sarah, over 30 years ago.
Today’s highlight, after Martha? The dishwasher repair man. He couldn’t fix the broken parts, but we will get a whole new tray, which seems an unnecessary waste of resources when a couple of little plastic wheels would do. So that’s the car and the dishwasher that required repairs. What’s the third item? Well, sadly the washing machine is beyond repair, so we’ll be investing in a new one soon.
Oh and as I write, of course it’s still raining! Sideways, the wind is so strong.
We enjoyed a mini-heatwave, a few days when the temperature approached 30°C. So we went for a walk one evening when it was just a little cooler. We kept to shade as much as possible, avoiding the worst of the ultraviolet (there’s one) rays.
We found some blackberries in full bloom so I’m sure we’ll be back later in the year to enjoy the fruits. And, just a little further along the road (please don’t tell anybody where), we found some wild raspberries too, just a bit too far back through the thistles and brambles to approach in our besandalled feet.
Liesel pointed out the fireweed and explained that when this flower blooms, it will snow six weeks later. Quite an education (there’s one)! I suspect this is just Alaskan folklore, but, as a precaution (another one), I’m keeping my snow shoes handy.
The evening presented us with the first of the week’s technical faults that could have developed into an immensely vexacious (boom) affair. My Kindle displayed an error message that I’ve never seen before. Fortunately a hard reboot fixed it, which meant that I could continue my struggle with ‘Middlemarch’. After trudging through 11% of the text though, I’m sorry to say, I was so discouraged (aha), I gave up. I very rarely give up on a book once I’ve started. On the other hand, How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford is very readable.
Standing outside our luxury block of luxury apartments, looking up at the blue sky through the oak tree’s foliage, in a slight breeze on a hot day, is delightful. One branch is dead and bits of it fall down now and then. Maybe it was malnourished (oof) when it was younger.
Now that things are slowly opening up again, we enjoyed a couple of days out at National Trust properties. For the first time since the lockdown was implemented, we went to Dunham Massey. This is usually a very busy, popular place, but on this occasion, we had little problem keeping a safe distance away from people. We try to keep our levels of anxiousness (da-dah) down, but when you’re breathing the same air, the risk is always at the back of your mind.
I always investigate the sundial near the main entrance but it has never occurred to me before that the statue supporting it might be offensive: a ‘Blackamoor’ with white bulging eyes. There’s white privilege for you.
The deer were very prominent today: I suspect they’ve become used to people not being around, recently. Other visitors were indulging in the questionable (badoom) activity of approaching the deer and stroking them.
We paid a quick visit to Jenny to drop off some food items. It was an ideal day to deliver butter: 30° or so! We had a quick chat with Martha and William through the window, and I managed to get a good photo this time!
Technical issue number 2. My PC still runs Windows 7, which has not been supported by Microsoft since January. So I was surprised one night when turning it off, it said it was installing an update. My heart sank. This was not authorised (ooh) by me. Next time I booted up, it gleefully told me that Microsoft Edge had been installed. Ever since, it’s been nagging me to accept its terms and conditions. Why? I didn’t want it in the first place! I’ve been uninstalling a lot of unused software recently, and this is another candidate for the chop. But why am I worried? Because once when I uninstalled iTunes from a PC, it also took away that machine’s ability to play CDs. Technology’s great, when it works.
I can’t remember the last time I had a twelve hour sleep with only one interruption. But this happened at the weekend and I can only say I felt fantastic afterwards. Even the smell of freshly baked scones didn’t disturb my slumbers. Thanks, Liesel! We drove to Quarry Bank Mill, the second of the week’s National Trust venues, under changeable skies. Sunny and blue for a while, then cloudy and grey. We mostly avoided the rain and enjoyed a fabulous walk around the gardens. The mill itself is still closed, but we were able to buy a coffee, so that’s encouraging (bazinga).
At one point, we could look down and see the rain in the valley. We felt just a few spots but took shelter under one of the rocks, which strangely, was reminiscent of the painted rocks in the Kakadu, albeit much cooler. Growing out of the cliff-like rock, was this tree, just clinging on by its finger-nails.
As well as all the pretty flowers, they grow a lot of food here, but I was dissuaded from scrumping an apple.
The third of our technical issues was on TV. BBC iPlayer usually just plods along and does its thing, once you’ve navigated to the programme you want to watch. But again, our hearts sank when we saw this. Could our Freeview box be on its last legs? Was a transmitter struck by lightning in one of the ongoing storms? Anyway, it was soon rectified and hasn’t recurred. It briefly interrupted our enjoyment of the Glastonbury Festival. This year’s 50th anniversary festival has been cancelled due to Covid, but the BBC are showing several performances from previous years.
So far this year, we’ve watched or re-watched quite a few of our favourites, most of whom we’ve never actually seen in real life. So, thanks to David Bowie, REM, Florence and the Machine, Christine and the Queens, Adele and her potty mouth. Coldplay persuaded the Glasonbury King, Michael Eavis, to sing My Way and sang a couple of Bee Gees songs with Barry Gibb. Dolly Parton is always good value too. As well as many of her greatest songs, she performed Yakety Sax on her saxophone. Elbow’s songs are often pretty straightforward, but Guy Garvey’s voice and his magnificent instrumentation (ooh, another one) always make the performance something special. Even from the comfort of our own living room.
What? You’re wondering how I can just briefly mention David Bowie at Glastonbury and not dwell a little longer on the subject? At the time of writing, I have watched this programme twice. It’s the first time the full performance has been broadcast on normal TV. He enjoyed it, we fell in love with his bass player, Gail Ann Dorsey all over again, the band was all together.
The set list:
Wild is the Wind
Little China Girl
Life on Mars
Ashes to Ashes
All the Young Dudes
The Man Who Sold the World
Station to Station
I’m Afraid of Americans
We still miss Mr Bowie, and many of us think that the equilibrium of the world was upset by his early death in 2016. So happy we still have his music.
The heatwave came to an end and the rain returned.
It was a quiet Sunday, but I was definitely wabbit by the end of the day: wish I could justify my state of exhaustion (yes).
Liesel’s been busy knitting a beautiful hat.
Radio Northenden broadcast its 50th show today, Monday, and I, Mick the Knife, was invited to take part, have a chat and pick three songs on lock, three tracks that I like to listen to while on lockdown. Thanks for the opportunity, Sanny, and I hope I’m not too embarrassed when I listen back later!
So there’s a 50th, and here’s a 300th. Yup, you are reading the 300th post on this blog so as a bonus, to celebrate, here is a list of 300 words, each of which contains all 5 vowels. I’ve been collecting these for several years. In fact, the first one I was aware of was while still in education (ding). A teacher at school accused me of being facetious (dong). I very nearly said, “Did you realise that ‘facetious’ contains all five vowels?” But luckily I realised just in time that that would just be confirming her ridiculous opinion.
I’ve been adding to the list pretty much ever since then, moreso recently, as I know how fascinated Liesel is(n’t) when I announce a new discovery. Most of them are from books, some from subtitles or dialogue (ooh) from TV shows and, this week, in the space of ten minutes, I spotted a few on my Twitter feed.
In (more or less) the order I noted them down, here are 300 words all containing at least one incidence each of A, E, I, O and U:
We’ve been to the Green Note, London’s favourite music venue (Time Out, 2015) a few times. My last visit was with Esther a few years ago and we enjoyed watching and listening to Erin McKeown perform live. Well, the venue’s not open right now so they too are putting out shows online. We watched Erin McKeown, Dar Williams and Cara Luft at virtually at Green Note and it was really enjoyable. We sat on our own sofa rather then the beer kegs that you get in real life, if you’re a bit late to the party. Of course, at the end of a virtual gig, there’s no point hanging around for a selfie or an autograph.
We’d recommend watching and buying Erin’s latest single, The Escape, which reflects what many of us are thinking about right now. And there can’t be too many songs that namecheck ‘Hydrochloroquine’!
For some reason, the video won’t load or play here, but here’s William at home, laughing at a cartoon called Bing about feeding ducks that he finds hilarious. We miss his laugh in real life.
We took a couple of nice walks by the river this week too, still avoiding people even if they don’t always try to avoid us. Joggers are the worst culprits in this respect.
Hmm, I don’t know whether we have more than one heron in Northenden, or whether this is the same one having taken a short flight.
Three girls daring each other to get into the water which was absolutely freezing apparently. It looks deeper here than I’d realised, making me reconsider my plan one day to wade over to the gravel island.
Thanks, bin, we did enjoy our walk and he had no rubbish to take home. One day, we’ll go out with litter pickers and pick up the litter that litter bugs have littered all over our little village.
Some other highlights this week. Bin day: it was the turn of all the landfill bins, the food waste bin and the paper and cardboard recycling bins. I disposed of more of the oak tree. there’s one or two dead branches and every few days, another big, dead lump falls down.
As I was putting out the bins, overhead honking alerted me to a skein of geese flying south. They weren’t in a V-formation, though. Something went wrong with the organisation, there was just one leg of the V: a /-formation, so to speak.
Ocado came and delivered again, as they do about every three weeks now. The driver said if we keep ordering that much, he’s gonna need a bigger lorry. Liesel wonders whether we have more food her now than we ever had in Chessington. I don’t think so because we have so much less storage space.
Car insurance. Every year, we have to buy car insurance but it seems to some round much faster. After a bit of searching, I found a policy that was less than half the price quoted by our broker of several years. They couldn’t match the new quote, so we jumped ship. Oh yuss.
These things really shouldn’t be the highlight of the week, should they! It’s funny how every day, trivial matters have acquired greater significance and importance and even entertainment value.
We’ve just started watching the whole of Doctor Who, starting with series 1 from 2005. It’s amazing how much of it I remember when I see it again, but if, out of the blue, you asked me to jot down the story lines, I don’t think I’d be able to write much. Funny how memory works. I would love to watch the classic series from the ’60s and ’70s, of course, but I’m happy to save those for the next pandemic lockdown.
We’ve both read last year’s Booker prize winning novel, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’, by Bernardine Evaristo. We both gave it five stars out of five, making ten altogether.
Next on the list is a virtual visit to Manchester Museum to see Egyptology in Lockdown, at 3pm BST, every Thursday.
Apropos of absolutely nothing, here is a short list of notable people who have all five vowels in their name.
And that was it. All that anticipation and suddenly, Christmas is over. Just a few days of sitting around, eating, drinking, visiting, socialising, perambulating, being entertained and generally over-indulging. We’re now feeling bloated, we need some exercise, we’re making resolutions for the new year most of which will be forgotten or broken fairly quickly. I try not to make resolutions at this time of year for that very reason. I resolve to do better at any time of the year, even if it’s only for a brief period. Such as the time I chose to give up chocolate for the whole of February. Next time I give up my favourite confection for a while, it won’t be during the month that includes Valentine’s day and a wedding anniversary or two. Which, in a way, is itself a resolution.
Christmas Day, we visited the grandchildren of course, bearing gifts and food. Liesel was very busy in the kitchen, baking cinnamon rolls and scones, building a Christmas tree from fruit, making American-style fudge.
And of course, Jenny made us ‘eggs’, a frittata-like dish from a recipe(*) passed down from Liesel’s grandmother.
The other grandparents, Nana and Papa, Una and Alan, were here too.
Elsa might look a bit uncomfortable here in her new bed. But don’t worry. Liesel had made her a nice soft mattress, a duvet and a pillow which Elsa and Martha were both very pleased with.
It’s fun watching the children ripping the wrapping and then ignoring the contents in favour of something older and more familiar. Martha was very keen to help William open his parcels, but he was happy to ignore her pleas and proceed at his own pace. Martha pulled most of the crackers, with different people at the other end, and was suitably excited about winning the toys and she laughed at all of the jokes!
Meanwhile, Helen and Adam spent Christmas with Pauline and Andrew in Christchurch, prior to their adventure touring the beautiful South Island of New Zealand.
We gathered again at Jenny’s on Boxing Day’s Boxing Day. Again, we were joined by Nana and Papa and this time, Liam’s sister Andrea, her husband Paul and their daughters Annabel and Emily joined us too. Certainly a full, and at times noisy, house! Great fun, though.
Playmobil is much more detailed than I remember it being when Jenny and Helen were little. It’s a good way to keep parents occupied for several hours, putting the hundreds, if not thousands, of components together to make a zoo or a farmyard, or both.
I know it breaks all laws of nature, but this Christmas cake was very nice.
This cake was the prize in a competition to guess how many used 4-pint plastic milk cartons were used to build an igloo. I saw the picture, guessed 212, but the real answer was 490, I think. Jenny’s guess was the closest at 485.
Speaking of igloos, the best programme I saw on TV over the Christmas period was The Last Igloo, slow TV at its best, good music and a fascinating insight into the life of one man in east Greenland. Catch it while you can!
After a few days of slouching, not moving much, it was time to engage in some gentle exercise, walking around the streets of Northenden, spying on the natives. One man’s ringtone was the theme from the old TV series, The Prisoner. I watched the joggers not really enjoying their run along the river. There was a business conference taking place in Costa, apparently: a queue out of the door, and all the well-dressed ladies and gentlemen wearing illegible name badges. It’s nice of people to give their old stuff to charity shops, but such a shame to see so much dumped outside, in the elements, when the shop’s not going to be open for a few more days. Ooh, I think I’ll go fly-tipping but it’s OK, look, I’m giving it to chariddy.
My soundtrack while writing today has been Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the ’70s, on BBC Radio 2. If you fancy a music quiz courtesy of his guest, David Hepworth, follow this link.
One of my favourite Christmas songs is Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You. I’m not usually a fan of her singing style: why sing one note when 120 will do, all hovering around the target note? Warbling, I call it. And so does a character in the book I’m reading right now, Thirst, by Kerry Hudson.
(*) Liesel’s grandmother’s eggs recipe:
½ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 pint cottage cheese
1 lb jack cheese
½ cube butter, melted
2 cans ortega chilies, 4 oz each
Beat the eggs, stir in the rest of the ingredients.
Pour into well-buttered 9/12 inch glass dish.
Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until brown.
The following paragraphs are not suitable for persons of a nervous disposition.
I’m not one to complain as you know (!) but lately, everything’s been giving up in despair. It’s a conspiracy. Everything went wrong when we put our last house up for sale. The inanimate sitting tenants revolted. I have no idea what we’ve done to upset our present cohabitants.
We bought a new set-top Freeview box because the old one was no good at connecting to the internet and it was always displaying subtitles before the characters spoke their words, more than a little disconcerting, a perpetual spoiler alert.
The dishwasher was repaired after the door-lowering mechanism snapped allowing the door to crash to the ground. These things happen in threes, right? No. More than three.
The keyboard with which I travelled and blogged for 10 months forgot how to transmit a bluetooth signal. It no longer connects to my phone, so I’m temporarily writing this stuff on the old PC. Logitech offered to send a replacement, but only to my US address, since that’s where I bought the keyboard in the first place.
Now, a few days later, my Fitbit Zip appears to have caught the same malady. It no longer syncs on my PC. Nor with Liesel’s phone, which I used for a while when the Fitbit lost contact with the app on my own phone. Nightmare. All those thousands of steps being walked and no way to prove it afterwards.
The latest appliance to cause major disgruntlement in Mick and Liesel’s luxury apartment is the kettle. Press a button and the lid opens so you can fill from the tap. Nope, not any more. You need three hands: one to hold the kettle, one to manually lift the lid and another to turn the tap on.
Good night, everyone, sleep well, don’t have nightmares.