We’re about to be locked down again, so our world isn’t going to broaden any time soon. But we still enjoy our almost daily walks in and around Northenden. And we did have a proper day out, just once, this week.
We walked over to Fletcher Moss Park where Liesel again met up with her WI ladies.
The river was flowing slowly on this occasion, so the kayakers couldn’t just drift along. They probably needed the exercise.
We haven’t seen swans on the Mersey for a long time, so this was a rare treat.
In the park, one of the memorial benches received some love, presumably from the family.
While Liesel chatted with her friends, I took my coffee to the rockery, found a bench in the Sun and read my book. What I didn’t anticipate was having company of my own.
The robin and I had a good chat. I couldn’t apologise enough for not having any food, certainly no mealworm, about my person.
I have a few books on the go at the moment: poems, short stories, non-fiction but no novel, and that is very unusual. So I was pleased when Jyoti recommended a science fiction book that I might enjoy. Thank you!
Walking back home through the park, we passed a crocus, which is unusual this time of year. It’s jolly lucky we didn’t stomp on it by mistake.
We’re told this is a wild Autumn crocus, new to both of us.
Something else I didn’t expect to see in the park was a bat. Neither a cricket bat nor a vampire bat.
Later on, we saw the herons, two of them, flying up and down the river. Maybe they hadn’t migrated after all. Or maybe they had but didn’t like it there and came home. Anyway, one stopped, waited, watched and finally grabbed for a juicy titbit in the water. He shook his head, but who knows whether he was swallowing a small fish, or just stunned from bashing his beak on the river bed.
We had a good day at Chester Zoo, which I don’t think was as busy as last time. The temperature was perfect. But the animals were not at all cooperative, turning away as soon as they knew I was about to take their picture.
Here are just a few of the animals that we saw, some more easily than others.
The beautifully iridescent Himalayan monal is the national bird of Nepal, and one of the few inmates to turn round and pose for a photo.
Liesel finished her second crochet blanket this week, and it’s a wonderful work of art. It has been exported to Chessington where I hope it lives happily ever after.
While Liesel’s busy crocheting, I can usually be found pursuing one of my interests on the computer. For instance, this week, I completed the ‘How to Read Poetry’ course. It was interesting but very intense and I learned a lot of new words and concepts.
Here’s a pretty leaf It fell out of a tree If I’d been there at the wrong time It might have fell on me.
Yes, I should probably do a ‘How to Write Poetry’ course too.
We wandered over to Gatley under a blue sky. Mostly. Big grey clouds appeared ominously, the temperature dropped a few degrees and we were convinced we’d be rained on before we returned home. But no, our luck held.
We went for another walk, this time through Kenworthy Woods. The apples that we’d planned on sampling have long gone, and the few that remain are a bit moth-eaten, or squirrel-eaten. I left Liesel at the hairdresser where she kept her mask on, and enjoyed her first haircut in over six months.
I’ll never be a big fan of snails, but now that I am not growing plants that they find very nice and very tasty, I can almost admire their beauty.
This week on Radio Northenden, we went to the zoo: a couple of hours of music about zoos, zoo animals or some songs with a very tenuous link to the above. Listen here. Thanks again to Martha and William for helping out. Nobody could ask for better broadcast assistants.
Martha was VIP in her class one day at school, this week. This was because she turned up at school bearing a huge smile. Mummy said she was very proud of Martha. Martha said, ‘I’m proud of me, too. I’m proud of my mouth.’
For the first time in a long while, we had three days out in quick succession this week. First up, another nice long walk at Lyme Park where we noticed the first signs of Autumn.
The sky was monochrome today, thirty-seven shades of grey, but at least the rain kept away this time.
Here’s the famous Lyme Park folly – I am referring to The Cage in the background, of course. Yes, I know, I know, I need a new hat.
Meanwhile, back home on the Mersey, the birds are having fun.
This heron was, unusually, sitting up on the grassy bank. The first time we saw it there, before I had time to get my camera out, it was chased away by someone’s loose dog.
Again, later on, we saw a second heron by the weir, giving a lecture to the geese, on this occasion.
We spoke about never having seen otters or water rats in our section of the Mersey, so it was a bonus when we caught up with a giant otter a couple of days later. Not in the wild, but at Chester Zoo.
Usually, we just miss feeding time, but today, luck was on our side. As we were peering at the otter way over there in the distance, a zookeeper came up and called his name. I wasn’t fast enough to capture the giant otter’s belly flop on film, of course, but he swam over to accept the fish that was thrown his way. Shame about the fence, I’ll photoshop it out one day.
It rained quite a lot today, but Liesel persevered and we had a jolly good time. The elephants were playing in the mud, in the rain. The rhinos were outside enjoying the lack of sunshine. Liesel asked someone about the duct tape on one of the camels’ humps. The poor old thing has a lesion and the tape is to prevent birds from pecking at it. I asked Liesel why she hadn’t asked whether it was a British Lesion or, since camels live in the desert, a French Foreign Lesion. Liesel wondered why I hadn’t asked the question. I said I didn’t want to look daft.
Someone had seemingly gone to a lot of trouble, dressing a mouse up to look like a miniature meerkat. Or meerkitten, I suppose. Very cute, though.
Our third major expedition this week was in an easterly direction, to Yorkshire. We visited another National Trust property, Wentworth Castle Gardens, near Barnsley.
The artichoke flowers drew our attention, but the bumble bees they attracted were probably more useful. We had a good walk here too. But: hills. We aren’t used to these hills, and we felt sorry for people pushing buggies, never mind those with wheelchairs. The views towards Leeds are spectacular though. We’d enjoyed the views all the way there, really, but there were far too many cars parked on what was the main road through some of the villages. They all need a decent bypass! More roads, please!!
Stainborough Castle isn’t really a castle, but the edifice does have some castle-like features, lots of castellations and battlements. And a good view all round, of course.
The Sun monument is an obelisk with a golden orb on top. The actual Sun was too high in the sky to get a good shot of the two together. But, hey, the Sun was out, and we’re not complaining about that!
There seemed to be no reason for this gate to be located where it is. But it frames another stunning view over Yorkshire.
Regular viewers will welcome this rare occurrence of a second self-portrait this week. Yes, sorry, I know: the hat. Wentworth Castle isn’t open to the public, it is one of the Northern College buildings.
We bade a sad farewell to a wonderfully entertaining old friend this week. The book of Sudoku puzzles we purchased in Japan over a year and a half ago is now propping up the world’s recycled paper mountain. All the puzzles were attempted, most were completed successfully and some remain not correctly solved, probably due to misprints in the given numbers, rather then our incompetence. Sayonara!
We witnessed some unusual activity down on the river. A group of kayakers passed through Northenden on their way from Stockport to Liverpool. I doubt they were paddling all the way, but I’m sure the highlight of the trip was gliding down the weir, without falling out
Most of them carried on towards the Irish Sea but a couple decided to have a break on the island.
One thing we don’t miss from Chessington is the eyesore that is Tolworth Tower. Sometimes, a setting Sun would illuminate it. We have our own version here too. A shorter block is visible from our luxury apartment, and it too is a blot on the landscape. But again, when the Sun sets, it almost glows and doesn’t look so bad, after all.
We went over to see the family again. Liesel had made some face coverings for Jenny and Liam, as we’ll all be compelled to wear masks inside shops from next week. We timed it so that we could spend time with William too, albeit at a safe distance.
From one William to another. This building is close to where we live. Liesel and I learned a lot about William Morris and the British Arts and Crafts Movement some years ago, during the course of one of out Bicycle Beano holidays in Shropshire. Ah, Shropshire, oh to be that far away from home!
It’s a nice memorial, but what a shame the building is now a carpet showroom. That’s progress, I suppose.
So there I was, ambling around the sordid streets of Northenden, when I came across this Royal Mail van.
Why did I did a picture of a boring old Royal Mail van? Because it’s foreign. Post Brenhinol tells me it’s Welsh. Why do we have Welsh vans in Manchester? According to the postal worker, they just supplied the wrong vans to our local delivery office. Can’t even rely on Royal Mail to deliver their own vans to their own offices, how ironic!
As I was taking the picture, a young man on a bicycle asked what I was doing. He seemed quite upset that I was taking a picture of a van. I said I thought it was interesting. He said it was like him taking a picture of my house. I thought, no it’s not, but never mind. The driver returned, I engaged in conversation with my (sort of former) colleague, and the interfering busybody cycled off. A couple of minutes later, I realised I should have told him that as a share-holder, I actually own the van. Several hours later I realised that what I should really have said was that I was off duty at the moment, but if he wanted to come down to the station later on to argue the toss, I’d be happy to see him there.
Northenden, especially the Mersey, is fast becoming the bird-watching capital of Manchester. Not that we know for certain, rarely going anywhere else at the moment!
One, day I’ll go with a proper camera and get, better, closer-up shots of the heron and the cormorants, if they hang around for a while longer.
We did go further afield. Hello, outside world! We booked a visit to Chester Zoo, having not been since early March. And yes, of course there were roadworks and hold-ups on the motorway. The car park was quite full, which was disappointing. This was by far the furthest we’d travelled since the lockdown and we hoped for a good day, but from the first moment, we worried that it would be too busy to keep safely distanced.
We stayed for a couple of hours and left just in time before the rain arrived. There were a lot of people there, and despite the zoo’s best efforts, with one-way routes, and Keep Left signs, far too many people just weren’t even attempting to maintain a safe distance. There are loads of hand-sanitising stations, though, which is good.
This little chap joined us while we ate our picnic lunch. Yeah, we found a picnic table away from the maddening crowd and felt comfortable and safe for the first time, really.
We found a part of the zoo that was new to us, on this visit. A sunken garden with a magnificent sculpture. How come we’ve never seen this before? Probably because today, more than on any other occasion, we were deliberately walking away from and trying to avoid the larger groups of people.
As we were leaving, walking past the elephants, I spotted a large aeroplane. I thought it might be Boeing 747, a jumbo jet. I thought this was a great photo opportunity: a jumbo jet and an actual jumbo in the same shot.
But, no, it was just an Airbus pretending to be a whale, an Airbus Beluga.
Back in Northenden, guess what? Yep: more flytipping outside Barnado’s, despite the wooden hoarding.
On the other hand, there are some pretty flowers around.
And if the zoo, the Mersey, TV, radio, podcasts, books and puzzles aren’t entertaining enough, some of my dreams recently have been absolutely amazing. I’d love to share them, but nobody needs to know that much about the inner workings of my psyche.
PS Thanks again to our aeronautical and botanical correspondent, Helen, for the informative comment below!
It is the worst of times, it is the worst of times. Coronavirus, Covid-19, coronapocalyse, it’s all over the news. The government advises this, the health experts say that, the response to this global disaster is different in different countries, definitely do this, preferably do that, so much advice, and why isn’t the UK following WHO guidelines and testing, testing, testing? So it’s not the ideal time to visit hospital on two separate occasions for different examinations, unrelated to the current contagion. Did I pick up the virus? Or did I leave it behind for someone else to avoid? We’ll never know.
I waited for the bus home after my echocardiogram and was enormously cheered up by this rainbow. Not so much by the bus that rolled in declaring ‘Sorry Out Of Service’. Only after opening the door for a microsecond and then driving off did the driver decide to change the display, confirming that this was, in fact, the bus I’d been waiting for.
Things were better the day we took William to the zoo. He was interested in seeing the newborn Asian elephant, Riva Hi Way, of course but in a surprise move, he also asked to go to the Zipline. Literally. He rode the Zipline once before taking off the harness, he wasn’t bothered about walking and climbing the rest of the Treetop Challenge!
But he does like going into the forest, to explore and to hide and to pick up sticks.
When I saw this graphic from a distance, I thought, Chester Zoo haven’t really got this human evolution thing quite right, have they?
But it’s just showing all the different species of bear compared with a human. Very educational. The other mistake I made was when I saw a sign for ‘Beermats’ through the bushes. Not being a tegestologist, I wasn’t that interested. Only on closer inspection did I realise it was the sign for ‘Meerkats’. I resolved to clean my glasses.
And if that’s not orange enough, what about this frog?
Initially, William had asked to see the blue, poison-dart frogs, but we couldn’t see any in their tank. The volunteer suggested they’d been taken away for some reason.
Camel 1: I’m bored.
Camel 2: Me too.
Camel 3: Me three.
Camel 1: What shall we do?
Camel 2: I know, let’s have a game of noughts and crosses.
Camel 3: That’s a great idea. Have we got any paper and a pencil?
Camel 1: No, but I have some duct tape.
Camel 2: How will that help?
Camel 3: We could make up a noughts and crosses grid somewhere.
Camel 1: But where?
Camel 2: Well it was your idea, 3, so let’s use your hump.
Camel 3: Oh, alright then.
The other thing William specifically asked for was to see the lady who cleans up the elephant poo. Well, he saw the lady and he thoroughly investigated the poo.
Don’t worry, we all washed our hands several times during the day and when we got back home.
We picked Martha up from Nursery and then, back home, she and William built and demolished several towers.
In this time of Covid-19, it’s harder than usual to make a GP appointment, even when they’ve sent a message asking us to do so. They answered my call after 20 minutes, I made my appointment and so did Liesel who hijacked my phone after listening to the ringing on her own for the same amount of time. But as the GP surgery doesn’t want potentially infected bodies turning up, we just each had a 20-minute phone consultation. Marvellous.
After admitting to our newly acquired cough, we’re now self-isolating. We think it’s just a post-holiday cold, and I’m a few days behind Liesel with the tickly and sore throat and cough, but here we are.
We’re allowed out for walks as long as we don’t socialise. The recent storms must have weakened this tree which appeared on the pavement between walking one way and walking back maybe twenty minutes later.
You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, goes the famous saying. But sometimes they spontaneously go and stand in a puddle while drinking the water.
The river is always a good place to see people doing silly things, such as jogging. But trying to row these canoes without putting them in the water seems a bit bizarre.
Another bit of a tree, a dead one, fell in and drifted towards the bridge.
When Liesel and I walked along the river, towards but not all the way to Didsbury, we passed fewer people than usual. Again, we noted the rough path, not ideal for walking on and definitely not much fun cycling on it, although we saw a couple of people try. One lady was pushing her bike. But if she’d been cycling on the other side of the river, along which we returned, she too would have had to negotiate the puddle that straddled the width of the road. We managed to get by without falling in.
It would be so easy to fall into gloom and despair while in isolation, so it’s good to see the Spring flowers are making an effort to cheer us up.
While stuck indoors, I’m sure we’ll be doing a lot of reading, writing, TV and film watching, radio and podcast listening as well as puzzles. In fact, this weekend, for the first time, I successfully completed a Sandwich Sudoku in the Guardian. I was beginning to think these were a spoof, a hoax perpetrated by naughty work experience teenagers at the newspaper, as I have messed up every single one. Until this weekend, hooray! Here’s the grid if you want to have a go:
Place the digits from 1-9 in each row, column and 3×3 block. The clues outside the grid show the sum of the numbers between the 1 and the 9 in that row or column.
A Mermaid greeted us when we went to look after William this week. Of course, it was Martha, not a real mermaid, and it was a shame she had to change into her uniform to go to nursery!
We endured a foggy drive to Chester Zoo this time, but unusually, on arrival, there wasn’t a cold wind in the car park. William set the pace as we walked around, often hanging around in the same area, especially when it entailed standing in the mud. He was as excited to watch a squirrel scurry by on the fence as he was to see the elephants.
The monorail is now being demolished, which is a shame: that was always a good way to pass some time, queueing up for a ride.
We did feel sorry for the penguins, though: someone’s taken the plug out of their pool and they were plodding around, looking a bit forlorn.
William slept in the car in both directions and as soon as we dropped him off at home, Liesel and I went home. We had plans, things to do, places to be.
After waiting for a bus for too long and witnessing several going by in the wrong direction, we decided to drive into Manchester instead. We’d like to use public transport but it’s just not a good or reliable enough service in Manchester.
We enjoyed a burrito at Listo Burrito, infamous for its burritos, apparently.
A Bowie Celebration brings together several musicians who have worked with David Bowie at some point, whether playing live or on record. The Bowie Alumni Band was brought together by Mike Garson, who performed with Bowie over a thousand times. Tonight, the band played at Manchester’s O2 Ritz. Doors opened at 7pm. We arrived in very good time, to join a long line of even more eager people, all hoping to snare one of the few seats available. It’s an old dance hall, really, so it’s pretty much all standing around.
O2, the telcommunication company, obviously provide the wifi at this venue. But I got a better signal from Gorilla, a place over the road. We tried not to stare too much at the fellow audience members, some even older than me, many wearing Bowie t-shirts from his numerous incarnations. There were a few young people too but we saw nobody with the red Ziggy hairstyle or the Aladdin Sane lightning flash on their face.
Inside, we went upstairs and stood at the front of the balcony, overlooking the stage and the dancefloor below. We watched as the venue filled while listening to a Mike Garson record: Bowie Variations, which I can highly recommend.
Even though we were standing, we were able to lean on the barrier and we resisted being squeezed out by other people. Sadly, we’ll never see David Bowie live in concert again, but this would be a good second best. We’ll never see Beethoven in action either, but we still enjoy his music being played live, though not necessarily by people he actually performed with.
Tonight, the band played the whole of the Diamond Dogs album, sharing the vocals between three great but very different vocalists: Mr Hudson, Corey Glover and Sass Jordan.
It was loud, but very faithful to the original album. I sang along of course, and noticed a couple of faux pas on the part of the professionals. It should be ‘fleas the size of rats sucked on rats the size of cats’, even I know that!
I remember buying and playing Diamond Dogs for the very first time, in 1974, amazed that after Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, Bowie could still come up with some fantastic lyrics and wonderful tunes. Tonight we were both reminded just how much his music has a jazz influence, especially with Mike Garson in the mix.
What a shame George Orwell’s widow didn’t allow Bowie to turn 1984 into a musical, the original idea. Diamond Dogs is a mix between that and his own perception of some future dystopia: but not too far in the future.
We thought there’d be an interval after Diamond Dogs, but no, they kept going. Space Oddity next. By now, I had a slightly sore throat from singing along and my tinnitus had been turned up to 11, but it was worth it, such an emotional show for me, and for many others, no doubt.
Suffragette City was very exciting, and if you’ve never heard 1500 people in unison shriek ‘wham bam, thank you ma’am’, well, it’s very therapeutic!
Rock’n’roll Suicide always brings a tear to the eye.
Everyone sang along to Heroes, another opportunity for the lacrimal glands to kick into gear.
Two hours and twenty minutes of wallowing in the past, fantastic. A good review and more photos can be seen here.
It was a most enjoyable show. But for the sake of us old codgers: a seated venue might be better. And please turn down the bass a tad because we’re already losing the higher frequencies, thanks!
I don’t know. We don’t go out in the evening for a while and then we go out twice within a few days! The 2020 HSBC UK National Track Cycling Championships finals took place at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester this weekend. We attended one session, on Saturday evening, and we undoubtedly witnessed some cycling stars of the future. My favourite cycling team is now Team Terminator: they’ll be back.
The commentary was pretty good, if a little cheesey at times. But there was no ‘turning the screw’, nor ‘putting down the hammer’, nor ‘ lighting the afterburners’ but as Liesel pointed out, these clichés usually apply to road races. One of tonight’s races did ‘go down to the wire’, so anyone playing ‘cycling commentary bingo’ didn’t totally waste their time. Proud to have been part of an ‘awsome audience’, though.
In years to come, we’ll be looking out for the new British Men’s Points Race Champion, ‘the Welshman from Wales’, Rhys Britton. I don’t know the name of the model sporting this rather delightful bobble hat, quite a distraction from the racing, to be honest.
Other names to look out for are Lauren Bell who won the Keirin, Hamish Turnbull, the new Sprint champ and Ella Barnwell, the new Scratch Race champion, taking over from Laura Kenny, who wasn’t here to defend her title on this occasion. I was watching the Derny bike rider leading the Keirin races and I thought, I could do that. If I were looking for a job.
It was an exciting night but next time, I think I’ll take my real camera, the medal ceremonies were just too far away for good pics. The music and the roar of the crowd weren’t too loud today and the tinnitus was not affected, you’ll be pleased to know.
In a change to normal programming, we looked after Martha and William on Sunday while their parents went on a secret mission.
The Ice Cream Farm was very busy today, the water was in full flow thanks to the numerous older children ready and eager to turn on the taps, use the Archimedes screw, open the sluices and generally send water to places it’s not supposed to be.
We played in the sand for a while too. Not ‘we’, I mean ‘they’, of course. Any sandcastle I might have built was soon demolished by William.
The children wore themselves out in the softplay area. Here is Martha carrying the balls to some small cannons, from which she was able to shoot across the play area, trying to hit the targets while missing the other children, mostly.
We drove home and despite the extreme state of exhaustion, sleep eluded us all. And indoors, Martha used Liesel’s crochet hook to demolish a skein of yarn.
Jenny and Liam joined us for dinner on their return, and afterwards, Liesel and I spent over 12 hours untangling the yarn. Next time, we’ll make sure Martha untangles her own tangles.
Two bits of good news. My replacement bluetooth keyboard has arrived, and it works perfectly so, once again, I’ll be able to write blogs and other nonsense while away from home and not in a library or internet café! Plus, my first toad-in-the-hole in the new luxury apartment came out very well. Very nice, very tasty, as they say.
But it didn’t prepare us for what occurred the following morning. There I was, still in bed, Liesel came in, threw back the curtains and said I had to see this.
‘What, rain?’ I asked.
‘No, snow,’ she replied. Lo and behold, it was snowing. I said I wasn’t going anywhere today, thank you very much. Well, the snow didn’t last long and didn’t settle, but when I did go out for a walk later on in the sunshine, I was surprised at how cold it still was outside. I didn’t walk very far today. Brrr.
Another year over and a new one just begun. I’ve lost count of the number of jokes about 2020 Vision and this being the only year named after a popular cricket format. MMXX. As a residential speed limit sign might say, 2020 is plenty plenty. I resisted the temptation to show π to 2020 decimal places, sorry, Liesel. Before the new year started we were in a period apparently known as Twixmas, a term I’ve never heard before, and I hope never to hear again. Oh well, this is why we love the English language, I suppose: anything goes.
If I were commuting, I would welcome this safe cycle parking facility that I came across by a Metro station. The Bike Locker Users’ Club is the sort of club I’d like to join, if I were a bike locker user.
While I was out on a long stroll, via the GP (don’t worry, it was just to take in a prescription request) and the bank, Liesel was at home completing the jigsaw puzzle she received for Christmas, just five days earlier. What a star!
There is still a lot to learn about our neighbourhood. Wythenshawe is, according to the sign, one of the greenest places in Manchester. What the sign doesn’t say is that it is also one of the most littered places in Manchester. Probably. You’re never more than three feet away from a discarded can or coffee cup or lolly wrapper. We must make more use of our litter picker-uppers. If David Sedaris and Ian McMillan can do it, then so can we!
Presumably, this sort of support from the European Community will stop when the UK leaves the EU at the end of January. But still: blue passports, hooray!
I was listening to Serenade Radio in bed late on New Year’s Eve, some nice, relaxing, easy listening. The feed online was a bit delayed so I leapt a mile when all the local fireworks went off at what I thought was well before midnight! Liesel got out of bed to look at them, I couldn’t be bothered. Hello 2020, and Happy New Year.
Meanwhile, in NZ, Helen and Adam enjoyed these fireworks in Queenstown, but despite the temptation, neither of them did a bungy jump. They’ve been in 2020 slightly longer than the rest of us and other than the smoke from the Aussie bush fires drifting across the Tasman Sea, there is nothing bad to report.
Liesel and I joined the wider family for a New Year’s meal at Alan and Una’s house. There were fourteen of us on this occasion: the same bunch of ne’er-do-wells from last week plus John and Geri, Paul’s parents. Geri, aka Nana Strawberry as far as William’s concerned!
For the first time in ages, I think I may have eaten too much. Usually I stop as soon as I’ve had enough, but there was so much lovely food, thanks, Una!
Several mega-calories to burn off then, which I did the following day, walking to the GP (it’s alright, I was just collecting the prescription that I’d requested a few days ago), then to a pharmacy. Boy, was I glad I wasn’t on my bike when I saw this sign.
The gradient is greater than 1:29, it was hard enough walking up it, never mind cycling. Actually, to be honest, I didn’t even notice the very slight incline and wouldn’t have given it a first, never mind a second, thought, if I hadn’t seen the warning sign.
I was taken back to my childhood for a moment as I stood on a bridge and watched a very long train pass by underneath, on its way to Gatley.
This time, though, it wasn’t a steam train and my Mum and I didn’t have a coughing fit as we were enveloped in clouds of smoke, and we weren’t picking off smuts for the rest of the day.
Liesel and I accepted the invitation to look after the children for a day while Jenny ‘filled in her tax form’. At first, I thought this was a euphemism for ‘have a nice relaxing massage without those pesky kids ruining the peaceful atmosphere’, but I think she really was filling in forms, judging by the ink blots on her fingers.
So we took William and Martha to the zoo where, as usual, we emerged from the car to a much colder wind than we had at home. Should have worn a thicker coat, said Liesel. As she always does. Only to forget on our next visit.
Puddles, elephants, bats, and the Treetop Challenge were today’s big hits. We saw just one lion in the new enclosure.
Unusually, we timed it right, and saw the penguins at feeding time. But the most entertaining aspect was watching one of the zookeepers waving his fish net around, trying to keep the seagulls away.
I’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again, they are delightful children to spend time with, great fun, and very interested in the world. Their only fault is not appreciating good music when it’s on offer. “What song do you want me to sing?” I ask from the front of the car. “No song”, comes the chorus from the back. Oh well, their loss.
The first Saturday of the year found us walking to Didsbury, along the river, past the golf course.
As Liesel noted, all the runners and joggers seemed to be scowling today. Maybe they were carrying a bit too much extra flab after the Christmas feasting. Or maybe they were regretting their New Year’s Resolutions!
“Edgar?” I commented, “That’s a funny name for a dog.”
“No”, said Liesel, “He said ‘good girl’.”
Nothing wrong with my hearing.
Here are a few more of our new acquaintances.
Liesel couldn’t watch it all but I enjoyed the first episode (of 3) of the new TV drama based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Did someone say it was a bit scary? They did indeed. It is. Fantastic. And the only nightmare I had was another work-based dream, in which I was ‘invited’ to work for a few hours on a Sunday so I’d be ahead of the game on Monday. Trouble is, this is just the sort of nonsense Royal Mail might come up with in real life. It’s four years almost to the day since I last had to go to work, so why I still dream about it is a total mystery.
It wouldn’t be a trip back to our old neck of the woods unless there was a medical appointment involved. On this occasion, I spent an uncomfortable half hour in the company of my periodontist, Emily, mouth open and full of instruments of torture. Not much fun, but the alternative, no teeth stuck in my cake-hole would be far, far worse.
We visited Garson’s Farm in Esher, and I think we were both impressed by how much the shop and restaurant have expanded since the last time we visited. Oh, it’s now known as Garson’s Garden Centre and Farm Shop, sorry. Maybe it always has been!
There was a lot of Christmas tat on sale, I think that’s the technical term, but we resisted the not very strong temptation to buy any of it. We stuck to our guns and just bought the few items of food on our notional list.
Back in Chessington, we visited Peter and Janet and their son Jonathan. For the second time in 5 days, we ate out at the North Star pub. My mouth regained consciousness, slowly, and I managed to eat, slowly.
The other day, I was disappointed that the Christmas tree had not yet been erected at Trafalgar Square. Today, we found it, maybe, at the Rose Theatre in Kingston.
Sadly, there was no performance at the Rose today, so what else could we do for the rest of the day? Walk around Kingston, of course, and maybe go to the cinema. So that’s what we did. We saw Knives Out which, after a bit of a slow start (I thought) turned out to be most enjoyable, with a good plot and some good actors.
Our entertainment started well before the main feature, though. We were presented with a trail for the new Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker. “Oh no, not another one,” commented an audience member just a few seats away, “they must be in double figures by now!” Our main complaint was that the adverts and trails were too loud. Luckily the film was presented at a more reasonable volume. On the other hand, the people behind played Pass the Parcel with their snacks, rustle, rustle, just to remind us why we don’t visit cinemas very often!
Two meals out on the same day? Why not! Liesel fancied going to Stein’s, Kingston’s top Bavarian beer and food emporium. The bowl of lentil soup I had will keep me going for days. Likewise, Liesel’s goulash was remarkably filling.
Liesel had planned to meet up with another old friend, Chris, in Dorking, and I was expelled from the car at the Mickleham turning off the A24. It was a bit cold and frosty and misty today, ideal for a spot of mountaineering. For the first time ever, I was going to scale Box Hill on foot.
Box Hill School is still being developed: I don’t think I’ve ever seen it without some sort of building work taking place. It was useful one day though, some years ago, when I had to change a tyre on my bike: I made use of a very conveniently located bench on the grounds.
St Michael and All the Angels’ Church stood out in the misty sunshine with a soldier from The Great War silhouetted perfectly and movingly.
I’d never walked this way before, I anticipated having to walk along the road. So it was a relief find a path behind the hedge, running parallel to the road. But there wasn’t much traffic anyway, just a few cars and a couple of buses.
I had a beany hat on to protect the lugs but despite the mist and the frost, the exercise was keeping me warm. The dripping water was not rain but melting ice, also looking glorious.
After a while, I looked back and realised I’d climbed above the cloud level. I swapped hats: now, I needed a wide brim for protection from from the glare of the Sun. Solitude can be a wonderful thing, but I was really surprised not to see anyone else on the path, walking up or down.
A small group of cyclists set off up the Zig Zag Road as I began my climb. I was soon puffing and panting a bit. Northenden and Manchester are great for walking but they’re both flat, so today’s incline was a bit of a challenge. Oh to have my legs back from 2014 when, on one famous day, I cycled up Box Hill three times as part of a long training ride.
The bridleway was a bit muddy in places, but the leaf cover provided protection. The plan was to meet Liesel at the National Trust Café at midday. The path I was following crossed the road and I had to choose between the Happy Valley Walk, Box Hill Hike and the Natural Play Trail. I knew the Café was roughly over there but when I found the road again, I realised I’d overshot by quite a distance. That was OK, I was able to backtrack, avoiding the loggers, and I found Salomons’ Memorial.
Leopold Salomons is memorialised for donating 230 acres of land to the National Trust in 1914.
Loggers, tree surgeons, whatever: the sound of power saws was totally at odds with the peace and quiet. And a reminder that real life continues.
Usually you can look out over the valley below, admire the fields, compare the people with ants and literally look down on Dorking. Not today. Pearlescent cloud filled the valley. In the distance, Leith Hill peeked out.
A white, empty universe in one direction, but turn around 180° to be rewarded with a magnificent, proper, sky blue sky.
Outside the National Trust Café, patches of frost survived but the Sun erased those as it moved alowly round the heavens. Plans to do some typing on a table outside were thwarted because they and the benches were still wet from the dew. Inside, I shared a table with a couple of strangers and a cup of coffee. My typing drove them away after a very patient half hour.
It was great: I’d enjoyed the exercise and the fresh air, and the sight of so many happy people hanging around at the top of the hill. Even the soft Christmas music added to the atmosphere. I eavesdropped on a conversation between a couple of cyclists. One had just cycled up and the other was about to ride down. He was warned to be careful as there was still ice on the road, and three cyclists had come off. My earlier cycle envy somehow evaporated at this news.
I mooched about while waiting for Liesel, watching the last of the frost melt. She collected me and we set off for home. We survived the M25 again, stopping at Cobham Services for a natural break. I bought my first ever Gregg’s vegan sausage roll which was enjoyable but I also take great pleasure from knowing that if Piers Morgan found out, he’d go apoplectic!
We went straight to Jenny and Liam’s house, where as well as the usual suspects, we were greeted by Uncle Adam, all the way from Manly. It was good to see him, even his bad influence on his young nephew.
Grandchildren’s day delightfully rolls around once a week. It was time for a return visit to Chester Zoo. William had a lot of fun, and, to be fair, so did we. There were many school parties here today, so it was an educational visit. We learned, for example, that donkeys are baby giraffes. We managed not to get stomped by the herds of school children but some puddles did get stomped by William.
Even the Zoo is gearing up for Christmas. There are lanterns and balloons everywhere, and a snow-covered paddock where all the animals get on very well.
And on the next day, the heavens opened, it rained all day, we did very little: we didn’t leave the flat and I’m not even sure either of us went downstairs to collect the mail. A lazy, lazy day. We looked out of the window, we looked at weather apps that confirmed, yes, it was raining and would never, ever stop. I might go out for a quick walk, I lied. I didn’t even bother to get a picture of some tumbleweed tumbling by. We just sat there, looking at each other, and out of the windows, and at the TV, and at books. Lazy. I suppose it has to be done sometimes.
We moved to Northenden thirteen months ago but have only lived here for three. Our gap year adventures are still at the forefront of our mindss but we are now, slowly, building up some sort of routine.
Despite our best efforts in Chessington, we managed to move house with things that we now realise we don’t need. In the process of unpacking, we are finding items surplus to requirements. So, we are making use of Facebook’s local marketplace, eBay and eventually, charity shops, Freegle and any other likely looking outlets.
Any excuse to leave the confines of our flat is more then welcome. We were invited to look after William one morning so we took him for a walk. We visited Oak Meadow, a small park in Cheadle Hulme.
William kept to the path, which was unexpected, he usually darts off in all directions. But he was our little David Attenborough for a few minutes pointing out ‘dog’, ‘squirrel’, ‘birdie’ and ‘pigeon’.
He fell asleep in the buggy so Liesel and I had our coffee in peace.
We’ll never use the padded cooler/picnic bag again, so that was added to the list of things to pass on to a more appreciative home. Jenny was interested so I took it into Manchester where we met up for coffee. I had another reason for being in the big city though. Last week, Sean from the Blood Transfusion Service called asking if I would like to make an appointment. If you’ll still have my blood, I said, after I’ve been overseas, visiting many exotic locations in the tropics and beyond. A long conversation later, I made an appointment, and here I was, about to give blood again, for the first time in over a year.
I met a Rebecca, a Becky and a Rob, scar tissue from previous blood-lettings was admired. Some of my plasma will be used to make drops for people with dry eyes. Who thinks up these things?
A cup of Yorkshire tea, a Mint Club biscuit and a packet of Mini Cheddars gave me enough energy to walk down the road to the Whitworth Gallery. I had a quick walk round, but Liesel and I need to spend more time here.
Thursday is grandchildren day and this week, we took Martha and William to the Ice Cream Farm, near Chester.
Martha and William had a lot of fun in the sand and water play area, limited to one hour because there were so many other children around.
Yes, it’s the Ice Cream Farm but in the end, we didn’t have any ice cream. I remember ICQ being some sort of messaging service in the olden days, but now when we’re talking about the IC queue, we are referring to the hundreds of people waiting in line to buy an ice cream. We left the park just in time, missing the rain by just a few minutes!
Martha wanted to play in the bath at our place, so we took them there. They insisted on having water in the bath, too, quite reasonable, we thought.
After a longer wait than anticipated, we collected our re-framed pictures from The Framery in Gatley. While Liesel drove them home slowly, I walked back. I followed the signs to and through Gatley Carrs, a nature reserve.
One squirrel and one magpie isn’t much of a tally, and the only other humans I saw were a Mum with two children having a picnic. It was a pleasant walk marred only by the rumble from the nearby motorway. The path was muddy and impassable in places.
I was pleased to see a notice board listing all the water birds that must have been hiding quietly in the bushes. Maybe I’ll see them another day.
Just as I was thinking how devoid of souls this park was, I found some. Well, memorials to loved, lost souls. A pet cemetery.
The walk home took me across the motorway that borders the park. I was surprised where the path joined Longley Lane, I knew exactly where I was, and would never have taken any notice of that path if I’d approached from the opposite direction. I passed lots of nettles, an apple tree, some blackberry bushes and a supermarket trolley.
I am so easily transported back to my childhood, and today was no exception.
This signal box is, as far as I can recall, exactly the same as the one I had with my train set when I was very young. Well, it’s a real one here, whereas mine was OO/HO scale.
Also, I can easily burst into laughter as I walk along the local roads.
The local speed limit is 20 mph but everyone thinks this is the minimum rather than a maximum speed. I couldn’t stifle the chuckles as a number 43 bus took off at one road hump and landed beyond the next. I’m guessing 90mph, but he may have slowed down a bit because of a slight bend in the road where it approached the next bus stop.
This sign in FFS brings a smile to the old fizzog too, but it’s a little close to the bone, maybe. We didn’t walk to or from Didsbury on this occasion, due to lateness, laziness, idleness and lethargy. Not to be confused with the law firm of that name.
At home, I did install the new toilet seat. It’s one that has an extra, smaller seat for smaller botties such as those of grandchildren. It means we don’t have to hold them up while they do what needs to be done.
A straightforward, ten-minute job, you’d think. And it really was. I spent far too long trying to get it perfectly straight. But that was impossible. You’d think the cistern and the toilet itself would be in some sort of alignment. Oh no. If the back of the seat is parallel to the cistern, it doesn’t sit square on the bowl. It turns out, the toilet has been installed at a slightly jaunty angle. And, now we’ve realised, we’ll notice the imperfection every time we go into that room. Still, it’s one more thing ticked off the list.
Sunday is swimming day, always a joy to see William and Martha enjoying the water, once the spectacles have demisted in the warm, humid pool room.
From swimming in Hyde, we drove to Chorlton-cum-Hardy for breakfast and a walk. It felt muggy, rain and thunderstorms possibly on the way, but we had a nice stroll through the graveyard and along the banks of Chorlton Brook, which isn’t a law firm either.
As we walked through the woods, I said to Liesel that we just don’t see enough Chinese lanterns caught in trees any more. More fallout from the failed brexit negotiations, presumably.
But look, it’s our lucky day!
And just as we were thinking how drab and dreary some of the shops look in Chorlton, we came across this pair, necessitating the wearing of sunglasses for a moment.
The Pun of the Day award goes to this estate agent
So in the space of a week, we’ve visited Cheadle Hulme, Manchester, the Chester area, Gatley, Didsbury and Chorlton cum Hardy. There are plenty more places to visit, other towns, villages and suburbs, but it’s good to see this list as it shows that we haven’t just been sitting at home all week, looking at four walls. The adventure continues!
Liesel and Mick spent a lovely long weekend in the company of granddaughter Martha as she celebrated her second birthday. She, her Mummy, Daddy and baby brother William are also in the throes of moving house. No date for moving yet, but such is the uncertainty, we weren’t sure that Martha would be having her birthday at the proper time (but don’t tell her).
We grandparents took Martha to Chester Zoo one day which was good fun. No, we didn’t tick many animals off the mental list because most of them seemed to be taking shelter from the cold weather. It’s April, and it should be warming up a bit but the cold spell is going on a bit.
The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester is probably too old for Martha, really, but there is an area where she can play with things: move magnets, turn whees, press buttons, interact with the exhibits. She can also hide in the lockers which may have been a highlight.
Back home, Martha was having fun chalking on her blackboard.
Oma, Liesel, drew this:
“What’s that, Martha?”
Rounds of applause.
Grandad, Mick, drew this:
“What’s that, Martha?”
Howls of laughter, and a whip-round so Mick can go back to art school.