Pink things and other colours

And all of a sudden, we’re halfway through March. Considering we’re not really doing much, time is certainly flying by. Liesel has been here in the UK for 15 years and in that time, several World War 2 bombs have been unearthed around the country and, in most cases, safely detonated. Nobody’s been injured, but some buildings were damaged recently in Exeter during a (badly) controlled explosion.

In more local news, Samosa Box is closing for a couple of months so we enjoyed our last box of Samosas for a while. Aloo aloo, very tasty and so, so spicy. While waiting to collect my order, I thought about working for the BBC.

A different BBC

It was also announced this week that Salutem will close at the end of the month. Oh no, that’s one of one top venues for coffee and cake and bagels within walking distance. Let’s hope the replacement coffee shop will be just as good.

While wandering around, I found this creature in the graveyard. Angel? Fairy? Bumble bee?

Another BBC, a Big Bee by the Church

We had over 24 hours of continuous rain, and this was enough to raise the river level by over a metre. The island is once again under water. Then 40 mph winds accompanied by more rain, so I think it’s fair to say, the weather wasn’t conducive to long walks outside this week. And pacing up and down our own hallway is a bit boring and repetitive, just not the same.

But we did go out, and we showed appreciation for the new sign by the woods, installed only a year late.

Sign o’ the Times
Pink Pixie

While wandering through the woods, we found the Pink Pixie’s residence, but she wasn’t in. She? We had a long discussion about whether fairies can be male and female. Similarly, angels: the ones we know with names are all male, Michael, Gabriel. And what about pixies? As if the debate about human gender isn’t complicated enough right now!

We’ve had some pretty sunsets, when the rotten weather permits. And it certainly lifts the spirits to watch the Sun set later and later each day as we approach the Spring equinox.

Pink skies

In admin news, I completed our 2021 Census form this week and took great delight in declaring my National Identity as European. Not sure what difference this will make in the long-term planning of the government and local authorities but, from the heart, it’s a big raspberry to all the brexiteers. There are 101 problems in society and there’s not much we can do about many of them. Signing petitions makes us feel better but I don’t know how many result in the desired outcomes. One thing we can do is pick up litter, so that’s what we do. Four bags this week. A total of over 3,600 so far this year in Northenden and Wythenshawe by a growing team of Wythenshawe Waste Warriors.

In family news, Martha returned to school this week and was very happy to do so. William attended one day at Nursery in January before it was closed following a last minute change of government guidelines. He happily returned this week as if nothing had happened.

Have I mentioned the wind this week? There we were, wandering through the woods when we came across an obstruction.

A fallen tree

There were two fallen trees in this area, which is a shame for the birds nesting and making babies.

Despite whingeing about the weather, it is good to see Spring in all its colourful glory.

Pink camellias

Another pink thing was in the news this week. An angry, gammony bully to young (and not so young) women everywhere flounced off the set of the TV show he was presenting. I blocked him on Twitter years ago yet he still appears and annoys me thanks to other people’s interest in the bloated old ham. Or at least in their descriptions of him, which are often very imaginative.

An unexpected splash of colour was to be found outside Northenden Superstore this week, I think for the first time, but we don’t always walk past this emporium. A glorious display of vegetable including okra and white aubergines.

Vegetable display

Liesel continues to make progress with not one, not two but three crochet blankets. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the patterns nor the yarn. We certainly don’t want people to get the wrong colours.

In really exciting news, my Radio Northenden show will be re-played on Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2 next Wednesday evening at 7pm. The show this week was dedicated to Carers, a large but largely unrecognised group of lovely people.

 

Flowered News

The government announced a roadmap telling us when things would be opened up after this long period of lockdown. They said decisions would be governed by data, not by dates. So, of course, we now know the dates when we’ll be able to go out, go places, go to a pub, go and see our grandchildren in their garden and maybe even go to a concert and eventually, go on holiday. But for us, this week was very similar to last week. Some weather, some walks, a radio show, some crocheting, a jigsaw puzzle or two, some looking through old photographs but mainly, just sitting at home, looking through the window, watching nothing much happen outside. Our road was re-surfaced and we took it in turns providing the running commentary. Yes, of course we could have done the job much more efficiently than they did.

But we really hope things aren’t opened up again too quickly: I don’t think a fourth lockdown would be welcomed by anybody.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, they’re pretty much living a normal life, although a short lockdown has just been announced following a case of Covid. It’s ten years since the devastating earthquake, and my sister Pauline sent photos of some damage that is still visible close to Christchurch.

A crack in the rock

The whole area is still quite dangerous and the Summit Road will be closed for quite some time.

Damaged crash barrier

When you see this sort of destruction, it puts our little problems into perspective. This week, for instance, I’ve been thinking about blister packs. What a waste of resources. All our prescription drugs come in blister packs. Why? And why is there not a common size? I have packs of 10, 28, 14 and sometimes the pharmacist cuts up packs so I receive the correct total amount, usually 56 days worth but sometimes 60. You can’t recycle them because they’re a mix of plastic and aluminium foil. And when they’re cold, they’re very brittle. The blister pack snaps and you have to chase your pill across the room.

That was my moan of the week.

We found this old school on one of our walks.

The Boys’ entrance

I think the only reason we’ve not seen it before is that we’ve somehow never walked along this particular road. There’s also an entrance for ‘Girls’ and ‘Laundry’.

Towards Northern Moor and I was reminded that a good pun is the only way to name your hairdresser’s shop.

Ali’s Barber

I also found not one, not two, but three further hairdressers whose names each contain all five vowels. You may remember I provided a long list of such words several posts ago. A small part of my mind with nothing better to do is still on the lookout for these delightful pentavowelled words. Or phrases. I think Sienna Guillory is still my favourite in so many ways.

Three more hairdressers

It was lovely walking through Wythenshawe Park without having to avoid big puddles and ice. Someone at the café is very positive and uplifting.

Everything will be OK

Martha’s been painting her bedroom.

Martha v paint

It’s a darker colour than we anticipated but I think Mummy and Daddy probably finished off the decorating.

Then there was the day we went out litter-picking and we found this phone-recharging station on an old telegraph pole.

20,000 volts

The connector was incompatible with either of our phones, though, being the barest of bare wires. But another three bags collected adding to the total so far in Wythenshawe of 2780 this year, at the time of writing. What a load of rubbish! Plus another bag this morning before our longer proper walk in the sunshine.

And during the course of our very pleasant walk by the river today, even if there were too many other people, we realised that we haven’t seen the herons for a while. So, this one in Riverside Park will have to do.

Riverside Park heron

And look at this gorgeous blue sky.

Mr Blue Sky

How is the village green looking? Absolutely stunning. We feel we should plant bulbs and sow seeds all over the place now.

Northenden Village Green

Of course, one of the reasons it looks so good there is that other litter-pickers have been at work.

I mentioned the radio show earlier: it was Brothers and Sisters this week, and you can listen to it here.

And if you’ve stuck with it this far, you may be curious about the title of this post. It’s a David Bowie lyric. Make of it what you will.

The Princess and the Martian

We’ve had lots of weather this week. A temperature range of about fifteen degrees. It’s warmer now and there are more signs of Spring. Even the village green is showing some more colour.

Northenden Village Green

One day, when the pandemic’s all over, and things are getting back to normal, there will be a Festival of Northenden on this village green. It’s only a small space, so we’ll have to attend in shifts. I’m sure that can be arranged, and it’s always good to have something to look forward to.

Princess Aurora

We found a princess in the woods. Very familiar but in the heat of the moment, we couldn’t identify her.

Thanks to Helen, we now know this is Princess Aurora. It’s always good to encounter real stars in our neighbourhood. Readers of a nervous disposition might want to look away now. We are sorry to report that just a couple of days later, Aurora had been decapitated.

Luigi, a friend of Mario


And if we ever need a plumber, we now know where Luigi lives.

Liesel and I celebrated our Crystal Wedding Anniversary this week. But a day late. This was so that we could have a meal from Greens in Didsbury and dessert from The Northern Den, both of which were closed on the actual day. Beautiful meal though, accompanied by the last of the wine from our visit to Heiffer Station two years ago.

Heiffer Station Merlot

It was a nice of drop of wine, too, thanks for asking: we’re going to have to go back and get some more one day.

Another highlight of the week was visiting the children (and their parents). We still find it very sad that we have to maintain a safe distance, and we can’t really interact.

William and Martha, scooterers

It was half-term so the home-schooling was taking a break.

Martha stripping the wallpaper

Martha’s been helping decorate her own room. First, draw on the walls, then rip the wallpaper off. Then leave the hard bit to Mum and Dad, removing several layers of paint hiding all sorts of defects and flaws in the plasterwork. And then, evenually, the exciting, interesting part of the job: the actual painting and decorating.

2,000 pieces, count them

Liesel finished the 2,000-piece jigsaw in double-quick time. I think I contributed about 5 pieces, but they made all the difference. It’s a collage of family photos from the last few years. Lots of sky and lots of grass all adding to the complexity.

More blankets

After concentrating on the puzzle for a while, Liesel has returned to her crochet project, a blanket each for William and Martha, but please don’t tell them and spoil the surprise.

William (left) and gingerbread man

Martha and William made gingerbread men but sadly, none for Grandad nor Oma. One day…

William supervising the decorating

William loves supervising the decorating project, it’s a bit of a mess in there at the moment, but he’s following all the health and safety guidelines.

Somebody worked really hard to dump this wooden pallet in the bushes in a park a long way from any residential or industrial property.

Let’s carry this pallet half a mile through the park

That was just one of the strange items Liesel and I came across during our litter-picking walk this week. We couldn’t fit it into our green bag of course, but we did take away the semi-deflated football and a trainer amongst all the usual litter discarded by rude and lazy people.

Wythenshawe Waste Warriors was the inspiration behind my radio show this week, which was Rubbish. All things rubbish, garbage, waste and litter, not to mention some Dirty characters. Martha’s contributions were absolutely fabulous, thank you. Listen back here.

We’re still consuming lots of TV and radio and podcasts of course, but we had some unusual online viewing this week too.

We attended the online funeral of Myra Jean Waring, Sarah’s mother, who died last month. Like everything during the pandemic, it was very different. The people attending in person wore masks and weren’t allowed to sing the hymns. The vicar Fiona conducted a good service and I think we all appreciated (Sarah’s brother) Michael’s eulogy. Afterwards, we family members had a chat online, just as we’d met up on Myra’s 90th birthday only a couple of months ago. But there was no post-funeral standing around eating sandwiches. These are strange times.

The following day, online, I watched NASA Live as Perseverance landed safely on the surface of Mars. You could feel the excitement from JPL and from all the contributors to the broadcast.

Mars

This is my picture of the first picture taken by the rover on Mars. Someone commented that Mars looks like their cheesecake. Well, they might have a point.

There is now a helicopter on Mars too, Ingenuity, and it will be interesting to see how that flies in the very thin Martian atmosphere.

At the risk of being overtly political, our government has spent ten times the cost of the Perseverance mission on a Covid Track and Trace system that has never worked properly.

On Valentine’s Day, we watched  was six hours of folk music. The Folk on Foot LOVEFest was a pretty good substitute for a live music performance.

More than twenty top folkies

Also on Valentine’s Day, we welcomed the launch of a brand new radio station, Boom Radio, aimed at us baby boomers who feel driven away from Radio 2 other stations who no longer play our sort of music.

We can’t visit Chester Zoo in person right now, but sometimes we enjoy watching their YouTube live broadcasts and videos.

Giraffes and their lunch

We probably watched the giraffes chomping for a bit too long, but it was interesting to see the sun bears and the tigers a bit more closely than if we were there in person, with too many other visitors. How will we cope with the crowds when that time comes back?

The deep dark woods

For example, in the woods, we feel violated and grossly inconvenienced when we see one or two other people. It’s wrong to feel that the place belongs to us, and us alone, but that’s what happens after being isolated for so long.

Twigs and sticks

We have no idea what this green twiggy knitting is, but it’s a very pretty colour. Just a shame about all the cans and bottles nestling within, but we’ll get in there one day.

At the risk of confirming my role as Grumpy Old Mick, can I just say that sometimes the internet is infuriating? I went to sign into a site that, admittedly, I’ve not used for a very long time. Over a decade, in fact. It says ‘There’s no such username, email address or password.’ Oh well, quite right, they probably deleted my details after a period of inactivity. So I clicked on ‘Sign Up’, as if for the first time. Why not use the same details as before? Because it then says ‘An account already exists for this username / email address’. I detect a slight discrepancy here. I do have another email address that I can use, and I can easily concoct a new username. But why should I have to? I tried to sign in again and this time, I clicked on the ‘Forgotten Password’ option. They sent me a link to ‘change my password’. So I did. I came up with a lovely new password. And, unbelievably, I was able to sign in, no problem, this time. And, as a bonus, I was able to access my activity from all those years ago. The trouble is, after all this faffing about, I’d forgotten what I wanted to do in the first place.

Vaccine and Maxine

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’.

Vaccination and bonus biscuits

‘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.

Absolute rubbish

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

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.

Karen, the host from Hosmans; Maggie Gee; Maxine Peake

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.

Little biddy crocus

On the other hand, here’s a sign that really, we’re still in the depths of Winter.

I see icy fields

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.

Block of ice

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.

Mergansers – or are they?

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.

Fire on the golf course (not to be confused with the latest single by Sophie Ellis-Bextor)

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.

Offenbach? No, it’s Haydn

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.

Tyre Island

Northenden is proud to announce that it has become the new headquarters for NATO.

NATO HQ – or is it?

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):

Our very own busker

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.

Palestine+100 published by CommaPress.

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.

Highly recommended! Mrs Death Misses Death published by Canongate.

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 are still friends.

 

Floods and food

This was another wet week, extremely so later on. Another week of not doing much, really. But another week closer to the end of lockdown and returning to some sort of normality. We’re still pounding the local beat, and I think the furthest away from home I’ve been is to the medical centre in Benchill for my annual MOT.

Flooded field

Often, we have a chat with the horses in this field, but I think they must have migrated to the nearby shelter.

The heron is becoming braver. I was fully prepared for him to take flight, he doesn’t usually let humans approach this closely, never mind dogs.

A very brave heron

But it did remind me that in order to get decent, sharp, photos of the heron on the other side of the river, I really do need to take my proper camera.

We had an unexpected visitor one day this week, in the pouring rain. Yes, the window cleaner turned up. He was using a long pole to reach the higher windows, squirting water from a reservoir in the back of his van. Or maybe he was just making use of the free rainwater. A box ticked, no doubt, but what a wasted effort.

Liesel and I managed one nice long walk by the river this week, but maintaining a safe distance from everybody can be difficult.

Seems like a coach party walking towards us

I know there’s a foreshortening effect, but by any standards at the present time, that is a lot of people walking towards us. We decided on this occasion to take the low road, closer to the river, even though it does tend to be more muddy there.

It’s the middle of January and yet there are already signs of Spring.

Over-exposed bulbs

We couldn’t work out whether somebody had planted these bulbs and forgot to fill in the hole afterwards, or whether someone or some animal had tried to dig them up. I assume they didn’t survive events later in the week.

Selfie of the day

Some exciting local news. The Northern Den has had a makeover. The windows have been redecorated. We treated ourselves to something sweet this week to go with the coffee.

The Northern Den

As I came to life one morning, I noticed a pink glow in the sky. Straightaway, I took a couple of pictures before crawling back into my nest. The pictures were nothing special, the sky appeared washed out, so I made some adjustments.

A Northenden sunrise

And the sky came out more orange than pink.

Some exciting local news. Salutem has had a makeover. The windows have been redecorated. We treated ourselves to some bagels this week to go with the coffee.

Salutem
UFO

I have no idea what this object is but it’s very well protected. I suspect the rest of the rocket or nuclear power plant or whatever will be delivered soon.

But never mind local news. This week, Northenden made the national news. And not for a good reason. We’d noticed the Mersey rising and falling but this week, it threatened to overflow and flood the area. Several people were evacuated as a precaution. The sluice gates were opened, and the flood basins filled to capacity. In the end, Northenden and Didsbury were OK, but people in other place such as Lymm and Northwich weren’t so fortunate.

As if the threat of floods wasn’t bad enough, the prime minister decided to come and pester the Environment Agency workers in Didsbury.

The new wellington boots are great, very comfortable: the rim at the top doesn’t dig into my shin bones, sheer luxury. Let me know if you want my old boots, size 10, probably best worn with wicket keepers’ pads.

These boots are made for wading
Bridge over troubled water

Sometime, we walk along this path under the main road, going towards Chorlton. Well, not today. Not even with the new wellies. The following day, this whole stretch of path had been fenced off.

Even away from the river, the ground is very saturated. Any dip or indentation is filled with water. Storm Christoph came with a lot of rain, a months’ worth in a couple of days.

Sign o’ the times

That big puddle is in Kenworthy Lane Woods. The gate is telling the truth.

Here is Ford Lane, probably our most-often visited walking route, as seen on BBC News at Six.

Six O’Clock News

Yes, we obviously couldn’t walk along here this week. But there is one benefit of this road being flooded: there won’t have been so much fly-tipping!

Floods? In the middle of the night, we had a blizzard too, wind and snow, just what the police officers needed while knocking on people’s doors, advising them to evacuate.

Receding river

Later in the day, the river had subsided significantly. This fence had been totally submerged the previous day.

Liesel has been learning a new skill this week: quilling: curling or rolling up thin strips of paper to make very pretty designs.

Quilling

I wish I could say I was being creative in some way, but my pastimes all involve using the PC, in the studio. When I’m not preparing a radio show, or throwing together a blog post, I’m still processing the thousands of photos from our travels. There are a couple of other projects on the go as well, and these too require acces to the PC.

I woke up this morning and was shocked, shocked I tell ya, to see it was snowing. Heavy, massive snowflakes, but the storm didn’t last long, and it soon started to melt. Then we had a second snowstorm, and so far, at the time of writing, it seems to have settled more permanently.

Let it snow

Yes, the snow’s quite pretty when it falls, but the background in my picture isn’t so attractive. Maybe I’ll photoshop in a mountain scene or something.

We’ve been watching more of the Celtic Connections shows online this week, and this gave me the idea for my radio show: lots of songs by Scottish singers. You can catch up here if you want to enjoy some old and some modern Scottish songs.

What a strange week. Another one bites the dust.

Repairs

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.

Italian Garden at Lyme Park

We had a very pleasant walk around the gardens, admiring the plants and the views.

Selfie of the day

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.

Squirrel

We were just a little too far away, so I didn’t manage to get pictures of the robin, various tits and other birds.

Raindrops keep falling on the leaves

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.

Some colour on a gloomy day
Grain store? Meat store? Tardis?

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.

Lone tree
Useless cow

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.

Dragonfly

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.

Bent fork

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.

The world famous Northenden heron
The world famous Northenden heron against a gllomy grey sky

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.

Fingerless Mitts (not to be confused with the 1980s group of the same name)

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.

Martha reading her Granny’s book

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.

Lockdown week 10

Welcome to Week 10 of the official Lockdown. Liesel and I had been isolating for a while beforehand but that seems a long time ago, now. And now, despite the UK still experiencing hundreds of Covid-related deaths every day, HM Goverment want to relax the restrictions next week. Yes, even though many scientists are saying it’s still too early. Then there’s the whole Dominic Cummings (government advisor) thing last weekend: he broke the rules that he helped implement, because he feels very special and entitled. He managed to unite the country, ironically against himself. Then there was the murder of George Floyd in America, another black man killed by a police officer pretty much because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of these news stories, whether they affect us directly or not, slowly, slowly erode any sense of well-being. This isn’t the place for a commentary into current affairs, but if you, dear reader, detect a slight undercurrent of dismay in this post, that’s why, and I apologise. But I’ll try to keep looking up, not down.

We miss going to all the music festivals this year, like everyone else. Well, we sometimes go to one in Hyde Park. Instead, we watched the Folk on Foot Front Room Festival from the comfort of our homes. It was a wonderful, uplifting day of music. I produced a list of performers who we would like to see live in concert at some point and whose music we need to buy more of:

O’Hooley and Tidow
      • Chris Wood (he was sitting in a wheelbarrow while performing)
      • O’Hooley and Tidow (with baby Flynn) (we’ve seen them once live)
      • Gwilym Bowen Rhys (lovely Welsh songs)
      • Kathryn Tickell (Northumbrian pipes)
      • Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman (we’ve seen these two too)
      • Duncan Chisholm (fiddle)
      • Kitty Macfarlane (guitar)
      • Rioghnach Connolly and Ellis Davies (Antrim girl now lives in Manchester)
      • John Smith (guitars)
      • The Unthanks (presented their film “As We Go”) (we’ve seen them!)
      • Frank Turner and Jess Guise (The time of my life)
      • Kate Rusby and Damien O’Kane (the voice of England)
      • Johnny Flynn (guitars)
      • Eliza Carthy (you know Eliza)
      • Richard Thompson and Zara Phillips (you know Richard)
All of the performers

I would recommend any of these and if you wish to enjoy the festival too, it’s still up here on YouTube.

The Sun set as the show ended and I realised that we haven’t seen nearly as many vapour trails in the sky as we usually do.

Pink con trail

We did go out a couple of times to walk around the area, for some fresh air, for some exercise and to enjoy a hot, hot late May. It should be peaceful, but there was a lot of noise. Just up the road from us, someone was trimming a hedge and their friend was blowing the trimmings off the road and back into the hedge. Round the corner, someone was washing a car with a powerful powered hose. Up the road, there were men at work. Except they weren’t, they had downed tools for a welcome break.

A man with a leaf-blower
A robin

The robin often appears when we walk along this path. A bit later, we were walking by the river and we heard the sound of a creaky gate approaching. It was our old friend, the heron flying by and, if the passer-by (socially distanced of course) is to be believed, it nearly gave her a heart attack.

Yes, it’s much hotter now, and there are many more insects about. Of course, I always feel obliged to count the spirals on a daisy, just to confirm they are Fibonacci numbers!

Fly on a daisy

On different days, one or both of walked on and around the golf course, just for a different point of view, really. One day, a player asked if I’d seen where his ball went. I hadn’t, and I didn’t feel comfortable lying that it had ended up in the river, either.

A path through the golf course

I walked on this side of the river, adjacent to the golf course, because there was nobody else here. There were many groups of people on the other side, some of whom were having a picnic on a small ‘beach’ that I’d previously been unaware of.

To the left, the golf course; to the right, the Mersey

There’s more to golf than walking around and bashing a ball until it falls into a rabbit hole, it seems. Staircases and bells are involved too.

Stairway to Heaven
You can ring my bell

The duck family were nowhere to be seen, the geese have moved in instead.

Goose family

Hot, hot, hot, and a good enough excuse for some folks to go out sunbathing.We just go out for a walk, keep going, however far, avoiding everyone, go home and check for mail.

Soaking up the rays

We walked along the river, to Stenner Woods, then Fletcher Moss Park, on to Didsbury.

View from the Rockery

One thing you don’t expect to see in Didsbury is a squat: I apologise if this isn’t a squat, but that’s what we both thought.

Homes for people, not for profit

We wandered through Marie Louise Gardens then back home. One thing you don’t expect to see in the Mersey is people sunbathing.

Soaking up the rays

We visited The Northern Den for more coffee and Viennese whirls. The local council seem to be deterring people from sitting outside on park benches, sadly. They’d squirted tomato ketchup over them, and nobody wants to sit on that, thank you very much.

A moment of excitement soon evaporated when I realised this wasn’t a real Tardis.

Not the Tardis

In between our trips outside, what have we been doing?

I watched ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ from the National Theatre. Gillian Anderson was in it, and the play itself was good and well performed, if a little long. But that might be because I was fully aware of and distracted by the camera work. Yes, the play was performed ‘in the round’, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch while walking round and round the stage.

We’ve been listening to lots of radio, BBC Radio 2, 6 Music, Classic FM and even local Radio Northenden is back this week!

We’ve watched a lot of TV, a lot of lot of TV. Current favourites include Killing Eve, series 3 and we’ve  watched 8½ series of Spooks so far, but we have avoided news most of the time.

I’ve been watching YouTube a lot, not just folk festivals. On the Cracking the Cryptic channel, you can watch Simon solving sudoku puzzles, some of which are ridiculously complicated, but his enthusiasm and enjoyment are infectious.

We’re listening to ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers’ Stone’ being read by a series of actors and others who have links with the Harry Potter world. Harry Potter at Home.

Simon Callow reading chapter 5

If that’s not enough good stuff from JK Rowling, I can recommend her latest, being published as a serial online for now, 2 or 3 chapters a day. The Ickabog shouldn’t give you nightmares, but, so far, it’s a good old fashioned fairy tale!

Many museums and galleries have put their exhibitions up online too. As ever, we can’t wait until we can visit these places in real life.

This morning, I played the album Young Americans from my phone. It was on shuffle mode, which I had a little whinge about. ‘Why does it matter?’ asked Liesel. Because it messes with my expectations, I said. And then, of course, it repeats one track and another while some tracks remain unplayed at all. To make it funnier, Liesel misheard the lyrics to Fascination as vaccination!

(Fascination) Your soul is calling
Like when I’m walking
Seems that everywhere I turn
I hope you’re waiting for me
I know that people think
That I’m a little crazy

Well, we’re trying not to go crazy in these crazy times, there’s certainly plenty of good stuff out there, but it doesn’t take much bad news to rock the boat. Stay safe, stay alert, stay at home!

Walkin’ to New Orleans

This time I’m walkin’ to New Orleans
I’m walkin’ to New Orleans
I’m going to need two pair of shoes

Well, obviously, I’m not really walkin’ to New Orleans, not with a whole ocean being in the way. Plus, I don’t much fancy going shoe-shopping either, that’s definitely not my favourite pastime. But we are walkin’ around Northenden a lot. Summer’s here and time is right for dancing in the street. No, not that. Time maybe right, but such behaviour is totally inappropriate.

The two main local attractions are the river that way and Wythenshawe Park in the opposite direction. Any splash of colour is welcome: in fact, anything that produces whatever chemicals in the brain to make us feel good. It’s all about mental health during the current crisis.

Pretty blue flowers
Pretty yellow weeds concealing the river

There were a few people in Wythenshawe Park but everyone was keeping their distance from each other.

Rhododendrons (I think)
Blossom

There were a few dogs out for their walk, a squirrel, some horses in a field and best of all, more bees than we’ve seen all year so far. Thus concludes our wildlife inventory.

Buzzy busy bumble bee on a buttercup

‘Wow! That bee is sooooo big!’ said Martha when she saw this picture. Well, it was quite big but mostly, I was just really close to it!

There’s a wildflower meadow that was, ironically, overgrown, so we didn’t fight our way through that. We did find an enchanted forest which we hope to take little William to ‘when this is all over’. He likes going into the ‘forest’ at the zoo, I’m sure he’ll love it here.

A little bridge over a little stream

I chose not to leap across the stream at the point when the path became impassable. William might have other ideas, though! We’ll see.

The end of the path

There is no truth in the rumour that I nearly fell in the river while trying to take a picture of this swan: the bank of the river was a bit less solid than it appeared.

Swan

The new kid in town. There were lots of ducks and geese on or by the river, but I don’t think we’ve seen this chap before.

Black-headed gull (my bird expert thinks)
Our heron, still playing on the weir

It’s hard to avoid the local golf courses, and there were a few people playing here today, so we stayed clear of the low-flying golf balls.

Didsbury Golf Club

At home, I wandered into the kitchen to be greeted by the sight of a man outside the window. We’re on the second floor. He was in a cherry-picker, painting the outside of the premises.

Painting the exterior

And here’s an external shot. It’s so easy to forget that other people have jobs to go to, that not everyone is locked in, staying at home and staying alert.

Cherry-picking good

Sadly, not everything is uplifting around here. There is a lot of rubbish being dumped outside the local charity shops. All they’ll be able to do is throw it all away.

Don’t leave donations outside the shop

But we do have a different class of park bench to rest on as we pound the local highways and byways.

Rest a while

Of course, it might not have been fly-tipped, maybe it’s on its way to a new forever home. At least it didn’t join its sibling in the river. Yes, that one’s still there, slowly, slowly, nudging down towards the weir.

My Dad isn’t responsible for this graffiti but it did remind me of him.

Bad mash

His mashed potato was more lumpy than a bed at a cheap motel. And don’t ask about his gravy and his porridge.

It’s not all gloom and doom, and sometimes even the most pessimistic of messages brings a smile to the face.

Abandon all hope

 

Keep on the Sunny Side

This year’s Easter Sunday featured no eggses for Liesel and me, but we did enjoy watching William and Martha playing with bubbles! Yes, of course, we would love to have been with them in their garden, but we’re all still in lockdown thanks to Covid-19. And it looks like we’ll be here for several more weeks, too.

Martha floating after a bubble

William chasing a bubble

We’re not getting out very often, in fact. I go out every two or three days for a walk and Liesel comes out less often. It’s nice to see so much support for the NHS. We clap for the nurses and doctors and porters and cleaners and all NHS workers every Thursday night, some people bang pots and pans, some let fireworks off, some blow vuvuzelas, but Liesel and I are just happy to lean out of a window and politely applaud. There is more support and gratitude expressed out on the pavements of Northenden too.

Awesome NHS

Stay at home, says the wall, but if I had followed the instruction, I wouldn’t have been able to read the instruction and it’s this sort of paradox that leads to rifts in the spacetime continuum.

Colourful leaves

As Spring progresses, we’re seeing more and more colour, hooray! Even the oak tree outside our flat is now showing some foliage: I was beginning to think it was a deceased deciduous but no, it’s doing alright! I wonder how the baby oak tree is doing in our old garden in Chessington?

Wall flower

Sit down with a cup of tea, because here comes a story about a potentially risky and ultimately pointless adventure. Regular visitors will know that I go to donate blood every twelve weeks or so. My appointment loomed and they kept sending me reminders, telling me it was still safe, that they were taking extra precautions to protect the staff and us donors from coronavirus, and it all looked ok for me to go along as normal. However, travelling by bus into Manchester didn’t seem to be such a good idea given the current isolation regime. So Liesel kindly offered to drive me in, despite the fact that she, as a more vulnerable person, is definitely meant to stay indoors. Well, I suggested, if you’re driving into Manchester anyway, why don’t you offer to give blood as well? That’s a good idea, said Liesel, and she proceeded to register online.

Everyone she told said it probably wasn’t such a good idea, really, but the messages we were now both receiving from blood.co.uk gave us confidence that this would be one of the safest, cleanest places we could possibly visit, outside our own home. Dear reader, if you can, please consider giving blood, you never know, you might need it back one day!

Blood day arrived, and we drove along almost empty roads to the Blood Donor Centre in Manchester. The man in the booth raised the barrier and we parked in a surprisingly crowded car park. Liesel went first, answered a few questions, and when she went in, I was requested to go and wait in the car: they didn’t want too many people inside at the same time. Well, of course, Liesel had the car key, so I couldn’t sit in the car. Instead, I took some exercise, walking round and round the car park, taking photos, enjoying the sunshine and changing direction whenever I saw another person within about 50 feet.

Scenes from a Blood Donor Centre car park

The time of my appointment arrived and I went in, answering a few basic questions. I didn’t see Liesel, so I assumed she was either still being processed or was in a back room somewhere. The nurse did the usual finger prick test and asked a few more questions. Since my last session, I’ve seen the GP about my shortness of breath issue, which has resulted in a number of medical tests. My next appointment has been postponed, because of The ‘Rona. Because it’s my heart that’s being investigated, they said they wouldn’t take my blood today. Well, that was very disappointing, but understandable: they don’t want me keeling over and having to visit the hospital over the road. They’ll be in touch in six months. I left with my tail between my legs. The receptionist nurse said that Liesel had donated, so that was good. It was also wrong. They’d tried, but they couldn’t find a vein, told Liesel she was too dehydrated and sent her away.

What a palaver! All that time and effort: giving blood, we thought, is one of the few things we can do at the moment for the benefit of other people. Oh well, it was a day out.

The empty field near Northenden’s Rosehill Community Farm and Garden

Bug box

Yes, I was daft enough to watch this Bug Box for a few minutes but saw nothing more interesting than a couple of flies.

Dead hedge? Or not dead?

The hedge around our apartment block is still covered in brown leaves that we feel should have fallen off last Autumn. But, for the first time, this week, there are signs of life. The new leaves are red rather than green, but a few days sunshine should sort that out. Looking forward to a lush, green barrier very soon.

Queen Anna from Frozen 2

Again, we have to enjoy the children’s activities from afar. Here is Queen Anna and apart from reluctantly taking off this costume at bedtime, Martha has been living in it for days!

On Liam’s birthday, we had another Zoom session, I won’t say how old he is but it’s the same age as Martha, just with a zero afterwards.

Daisies and dandelions

People have asked and yes, we do sometimes miss our garden in Chessington. I don’t miss my 30-year war with bindweed and dandelions, they were always going to win. But I would like to apologise to all the bees and butterflies that could have enjoyed the dandelions in my garden, if only my preference wasn’t always for other flowers (or weeds).

There’s not enough Martha in our lives at the moment, so we watched a different one perform from home on t’internet. Martha Tilston has been one of our favourite singer/songwriters since the early 2000s: I think I first saw her at Kingston’s Rose Theatre before it even acquired that name! Liesel and I have seen her live several times and we look forward to doing so again. But this online show was fantastic, we really enjoyed it, she sang many of our favourite songs.

Martha Tilston at home in Cornwall online on Facebook on Liesel’s phone

We even had a glass of whisky to accompany the show. It was only fitting then that we have a music session the following day. Liesel and I took it in turns to play some long neglected CDs:

      • Wynton Marsalis
      • Brave, the Disney film soundtrack
      • Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
      • Martha Tilston, Bimbling
      • (some of) D#rty F#n M#l# (which, correctly, Liesel described as gross)
      • Beatles, Let it Be Naked
      • Nilsson, Harry
      • O Brother, Where Art Thou? film soundtrack
From the last of these, one song in particular struck a chord:
Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way
If we keep on the sunny side of life.
PS As I write Sanny has just played this very song on Radio Northenden, at my request, so I shall add that mention to my 15 minutes of fame as predicted by Andy Warhol. And by coincidence, Andy Warhol by David Bowie was the first song played on today’s show, the penultimate one. You can listen to all 14 shows here.

Release Me

Well that was challenge alright. I started Walking All Over Cancer in Malta, aiming to walk 10,000 steps every day in March. Looking at the detailed statistics, I can confirm that I walked a total of more than 332,438 steps. I know it’s more than that because once, I somehow reset the pedometer so it gave me a total of only 261 steps at the end of the day. I wonder how often I’ve reset it to zero without realising? Technology, eh?

Congratulations, me

Looking at the daily counts, it’s fairly obvious on which days I had to make up numbers at the end of the day by pacing up and down the hall, or running on the spot for a few minutes! 10,009 steps! Once again, a million thanks to all my sponsors and supporters, I am very grateful.

As I write, we’re still allowed out once a day for exercise, but that privilege might be revoked if too many people keep going out in large groups or having barbecues in the parks.

Horses

It’s always good to see wildlife when we’re out and about, but until that happens, we’ll just have to make do with these local horses.

Do not press this button

Every time I pass this pedestrian crossing, whatever time of day it is, I have been preceded by fifty other people. How do they know? In any case, there’s so little traffic these days, you can usually just walk straight over the road.

Messing about by the river

It’s usually easy to keep your distance from other people, runners, cyclists, walkers, but I was a tad disgruntled when I saw other people in the woods, coming towards me. We never see anyone else there, that’s why we like it, despite the thrumble from the nearby motorway. I couldn’t see any way to avoid them, so I turned round and retraced my steps.

Blossom

Camellias

Liesel’s been very busy in the kitchen too. We’ve had cookies, birthday cake, cherry dump cake, corn chowder, ch-ch-ch-cheesey chilli on chips and we loved Liesel’s first loaf of soda bread.

Liesel’s soda bread

Meanwhile, (it might as well be) fifty thousand miles away, Martha and William were taken out on a bear hunt, something Liesel and I look forward to joining in with once this new régime is done and dusted. I know we went travelling for ten months, so we didn’t see them for a long time, but that was our choice. This enforced isolation feels much, much worse and we really do miss spending time with them.

William and Martha in a deep, dark cave

It’s easy to spend too much time reading Twitter. One really useful piece of information came up though. The record that was number 1 in the charts on your twelfth birthday is your isolation song. Mine is Release Me by Englebert Humperdinck. Quite apt, under the circumstances, as well as being a favourite of my Mum’s. She went to see him in concert in Aldershot, where he was supported by Lance Percival, actor, comedian, calypso writer. Yes, we have plenty of time for reminiscing right now too!