Agatha Christie is a very popular writer, famous for stories featuring Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. In 1926, following the death of her mother and marital problems, her husband said he wanted a divorce, she disappeared for eleven days. Her car was found at Newlands Corner, near Guildford, and it looked for a while as though she might have drowned in the nearby Silent Pool. Both of these venues have been visited during my bike rides, all those years ago. And of course, I grew up in Guildford. But, while doing research for this paragraph, I discovered something really interesting. Agatha Christie shares her birthday with Liesel. That is arguably more exciting than the discovery that my daughter Jenny has the same birthday as Kylie Minogue.
Most Saturday mornings, Liesel goes out for a coffee with the ladies of the WI, at a nice place in Didsbury. This week, I didn’t walk with her. Instead, I took a bus into Manchester. What a busy, thriving city Manchester is on a Saturday morning. Lots of entertainment in the form of buskers.
This chap playing drums was quite loud, but the others seemed to have located themselves just the right distance apart, so that none interfered with the music of others. There was a pair of saxophone players, there was a tenor belting out an aria that I didn’t recognise and I briefly accompanied the group singing UB40 songs. No photos of these because I didn’t have any more coins to throw into their respective hats or guitar cases, but they were all good.
I’d come into Manchester specifically to see Tom Hingley and Gordon MacKay perform at HMV, to mark the release of their new album, Decades. Which, of course, I had to purchase. And of course, Tom signed it!
The songs are pretty good, especially the one celebrating a visit of Muhammad Ali to Abingdon, Tom and Gordon’s home town. The champion boxer visited several times, keeping in touch with a local man who’d campaigned to have his boxing titles reinstated after they’d been taken away for his refusal to fight in the Vietnam war.
While in HMV, of course I looked at the records. I have no intention of buying any vinyl again, but I was intrigued to see a double album of David Bowie’s concert at St Monica in 1972. £49.99. Blimey O’Crikey! Fifty quid? I bought that record as a bootleg from Kensington Market nearly half a century ago, for a lot less than half a ton!
My plan was to go home afterwards and knit some words together in the form of a blog post. But an invitation arrived to join the family for dinner, an offer that I couldn’t refuse.
I went home, and later, Liesel and I drove over the Cheadle Hulme where we met Jenny, Liam, Martha and William at Gusto for a very enjoyable meal. On this occasion, I made sure not to order too much food. In fact, I paced myself so well, I was able to indulge in a dessert.
You’re looking at that photo and thinking it’s not very good, right? Let me have a whinge. The camera app on my phone recently updated, and it works differently. I used to be able to adjust the brightness of a picture easily and quickly, now it’s almost impossibly difficult. Touching that part of the screen now does something totally different. So, by the time I press the shutter, the composition is totally different. When looking at a potential picture, I see a yellow square, a white circle as well as the two shutter buttons. In the great scheme of things, this is still as wonderful technology of course, but why do ‘they’ have to keep ‘improving’ things?
So last week’s post was a day late because when I arrived home that night, I didn’t feel like doing anything else! I was too full and, well, lazy.
I enjoyed another bus ride into Manchester just a couple of days later. It was time again to go and donate another armful of blood.
For some reason, the trek from the bus stop in Oxford Road to the donation centre took me through the grounds of Manchester Royal Infirmary on this occasion. Of course, as soon as I saw this sign, I looked up. No helicopter in sight, but I suspect I would have heard one before I saw it, if there had been one.
As I was a few minutes early, I wandered around aimlessly and came across this graffti. I’m not sure whether it’s promoting the popular sitcom from the 1970s, or the Tony Bennett song, or maybe the graffiti artist was just having an excellent day.
Giving blood was no problem, apart from I was only allowed one packet of biscuits afterwards. I am composing a letter of complaint to the authorities.
Liesel had some work to do, so she missed out on the regular midweek walk around Northenden. I enjoyed it though, along with my coffee afterwards, plus, it was warm enough to sit outside the café on this occasion.
Later in the day, we collected Martha and William from school and brought them home, where they both finished decorating their scallop shells.
These beautiful works of art are now enhancing the children’s rooms at home, to the detriment of our own shelves… There was plenty of cutting paper and gluing and pipe-cleaner wrangling as well.
We had tacos for dinner plus pear crumble which the children didn’t even try. Uh? Oh well: more for me!
To celebrate our wedding anniversary, we drove over to Harrogate for afternoon tea and to spend the night. It took over two and a half hours to drive there, much longer than anticipated. I’m blaming technology. Why? Let me have a whinge. The Google Maps app on my phone recently updated, and it seems to have reset some settings without my intervention. Liesel asked why we were following country roads all the way. When I checked, I discovered that ‘Avoid Freeways’ was ticked. Well, first, we call them ‘Motorways’ in this country. And while I have used the option to avoid motorways in the past, the last time we went anywhere, we were definitely using motorways. In the great scheme of things, this is still wonderful technology of course, but why do ‘they’ have to keep ‘improving’ things?
Even though it was a long drive, we did admire the countryside, especially when it stopped raining and we weren’t being sprayed by passing big lorries. We parked up and checked in, then went downstairs for our delicious tea, thank you very much Pauline and Andrew for sending us the voucher for Christmas!
We filled up but agreed that we would have liked more sandwiches and fewer cakes, but the tea kept coming, and we were sitting close but not too close to the fire. It was a real fire too, to the point that coal or a log or something nearly fell out of the fireplace onto the rug, thereby potentially burning the whole place down.
We were at the Old Swan Hotel on Harrogate, and this is where Agatha Christie was staying when she went ‘missing’ that time. She had no memory of those eleven days afterwards, so it will probably always remain a mystery, how did she get from Surrey to Yorkshire?
After tea, we had no desire to eat anything else for the rest of the day, so we had a nice quiet evening in our room. The view wasn’t much, and my plans to do some writing while Liesel was working came to nought. Well, so did Liesel’s plans do do some work, if you must know. But I am enjoying my latest book, Wolf by Mo Hayder.
I’m not having much luck with technology lately, and there is more bad news to come. The battery in my Kindle needs replacing. I’ve done that before, it’s a slow, pernickety job, but I know I can do it. So, a new battery has been ordered.
In the morning, we enjoyed a big breakfast, a bit of continental and a small cooked breakfast each too. Plus coffee from a pot that loved dribbling all over the pristine table cloth. Just can’t get decent spouts these days.
The rest of the morning, we wandered around the town of Harrogate. It’s hilly. I would love to show you pictures of trees that had blown down in the strong winds overnight. And some of the local buildings. And Betty’s, the famous tea rooms. We didn’t go in because, as my photo would have shown, there was a very long queue, even at 11 in the morning. And the selfie of the day.
I’m not having much luck with technology lately, and there is more bad news to come. While writing this and uploading photos, my phone decided to turn itself off. Its battery had gone from 15% charge to zero in a very short space of time. Yes, the phone too probably needs a new battery. Yes, alright, I should have acted on the warning message it gave me a while ago.
But, in the process of powering down, the SD card got zapped(*) and I have lost all the photos stored on it. Most have been backed up of course, but not for a couple of weeks. So, there is no photographic evidence that we walked around Harrogate. Well, there might be on the local CCTV cameras and we might have inadvertently photobombed other people’s pictures, but all the wonderfully composed and exposed photos of mine are but bits of dust on the SD card. (*) I assume this is the reason I can no longer access those photos, I can’t think of any other reason, and all the music on that SD card is still accessible.
And while I am happy to change the battery in the Kindle, I’ll have to get a professional to replace the battery in the phone.
The drive back home was much faster. We used motorways. And we saw the long, long queue heading in the opposite direction towards Leeds. So glad we weren’t part of that!
We have a guest for the weekend. Liesel collected Rosie from Stockport station around 10pm, by which time, I was asleep in bed.
On this week’s radio show, I had a chat with Dave from Thrive Manchester, and the songs were mostly lists of things, people, dances, events, not forgetting the Compleat Works of Shakespeare. Catch up here.