Later in the day than usual, we went for a walk. There was a small window of opportunity between the forecast rain, darkness and the always threatening lethargy. It’s colder now too, but I am, to Liesel’s consternation, still sporting my shorts. I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of the sight of my legs, especially the joggers and dog-walkers of Northenden.
Christmas tree in the woods
Some sad news. Our antepenultimate incandesecent light bulb blew this week, causing the circuit breaker to, well, break. We were plunged into darkness for a few minutes.
Olde worlde light bulbs
This is a very old box. Made in the EEC, an ancestor of the EU. I know that so-called ‘energy saving’ light bulbs are better than they used to be, but it’s still nice to flick a switch and see light straightaway!
In other light-related news… well, bear with me.
We’re still part-time de-cluttering. So, this week, I passed on most of my tools, because I haven’t used them for years, and somebody else might be able to make use of them. I won’t be doing any more big DIY projects.
But of course, something needed doing almost straightaway. I installed the pretty glass lightshade that survived a journey all the way from Malta. If I’d used its accompanying cord, it would have been hanging at about chest level in the hall. So we had to use the much shorter cord that was, after all, already attached in position. Unfortunately, the hole in the top of the glass shade was too big. So I fashioned a large washer, an annulus, from an old tin lid using my remaining, iron age tools. It seems to have worked.
Lightshade or lampshade?
Here’s the newly installed shade, and you can see the old one, a gourd from Mexico, complete with newly replaced incandescent, light bulb in the distance.
While in the process of doing it myself, I became aware that every time I do a such a job, I end up apologising to Liesel in advance, in case it falls over, falls down, falls off or falls apart.
Another day, another walk. Nice to see some blue sky with some fluffy clouds, even if that means a few degrees lower in temperature.
Pylon of the day
Scarecrow in the allotments
We had a big family celebration as Myra turned 90 years of age. Mother to Sarah and Granny to Jenny and Helen. Mick’s mother-in-law number 1.
Myra’s first-ever Google Meet call
Top row: Henrik, Astrid, Michael (Norway), Jenny, Richard (Philadelphia) (Mick and Liesel in a little box in the top corner). Bottom row: Myra (Kent) and Helen (Australia). (Michael and Richard are Sarah’s brothers, Astrid is Michael’s wife, Henrik is their son.)
Here’s another picture from Helen’s point of view a little earlier.
Google Meet, but I think generically referred to as a Zoom call
It includes Liam and Hanna (Henrik’s sister) who both had to go back to work. Real life gets in the way of so much fun.
I wonder what I’ll do for the first time in my life on my 90th birthday?
Another day, another walk.
We don’t know whose birthday was being celebrated (not Myra’s) but having a party on the bridge over the Mersey is a bit strange. You think that’s strange? Well, wait ’til you see what we saw in the woods just over the bridge.
Someone has apparently taken up residence here in a small and what must be very cold tent. Of course, it might just be normal day-to-day Northenden fly-tipping.
The sky wasn’t as bright today. In fact, I said to Liesel that this week’s blog should be called ’50 Shades of Grey’, but I changed my mind.
On another walk, we heard a honk from the other side of the river. Liesel: Crumbs, someone blew their nose louder than you. Mick: We’ll see about that. Liesel: Don’t you dare. So I didn’t. I know my place.
On another occasion, while walking by the river, a runner stopped to let us pass along the path first, losing his rhythm. This is a first, after 8 months of social distance restrictions. Usually runners and joggers just carry on regardless, breathing heavily in our direction, unless we jump into the bushes out of their way.
Our walks have changed a lot during the course of the last few weeks. We used to walk on a nice, crisp bed of fallen leaves. But this has slowly turned to mush, so basically we’re walking on slushy, slippery, semi-composted vegetation.
Yes, Christmas is coming along fast. We’ve not put up our decorations yet, but we know someone who has started.
William and Martha helped decorate the tree, and a good job they made of it too.
This week’s Radio Northenden show was based around the theme of Connection. This was inspired by the Connection Festival taking place this month in Manchester. Festival coordinator Ali Davenport joined me on the show, by telephone. Yes, for the first time, I had a guest. Another exciting learning experience for me. Listen again here.
You can download Ali’s Soul Survival Guide and other inspiring books free here. And this is the first official listing I’ve ever been listed on, so that’s quite exciting! Another small contribution to my fifteen minutes of fame.
Newsflash: Local Northenden news. George has been found. The dog went missing a couple of weeks ago and posters have appeared on lampposts and fences all over town. We can rest easy now.
The weeks are tumbling by like dominoes, each one a little different from the week before, but, more importantly, we’re a week closer to the end of this strange disruption to our lives. The good news is that the development of a couple of anti-Covid-19 vaccines has been announced so that looks promising.
Liesel made a carrot cake but objected to the size of the slice I cut for myself. I sent the photo out and asked the wider family whether it was too big. The consensus was, well, it depends on the size of the fork.
Anyway, subsequent slices were smaller (more normal), and it was delicious but we managed to make it last several days. We would have saved some for you but, you know, social distancing…
The Christmas cactus is still doing very well, the colour of the flowers is delightful.
This is probably the pinkest pink I’ve ever seen. More buds are appearing on a daily basis.
Sixteen months ago, we hired a storage unit near where we live. This was a temporary measure until we were more settled in our (now not so) new luxury apartment. The kick up the bum we needed to vacate the facility arrived this week. An email telling us that the rental price was rising by over 150%. Yes, I couldn’t believe it either., That’s a steep price rise in one go. So far we’ve made three trips to bring back the stored items, and one more trip should see it empty. We have to time the visits to avoid the worst of the dodgy weather. Again, we’re in the middle of a rainy season. Jenny has kindly taken the empty crates to store in her loft, and Liesel and I have decided, gulp, at last, to sell our old bicycles, gulp. It’s always sad to say farewell to a faithful old friend.
The inclement weather also meant that this week, we didn’t make it to any National Trust properties for a walk. So we stayed local, in Northenden.
The Mersey was very high and flowing fast this week. The eddies and whirlpools are quite mesmeric, and it’s interesting to see the ducks and mergansers avoiding the turbulence.
The second plaque was attached to this bench a couple of weeks ago, and later a note appeared from The Authorities asking the perpetrator to get in touch as it was unauthorised. The note has now gone but the second plaque remains.
We cross this bridge on maybe half of our walks and very often we have to wait for other people to cross before we can. Sometimes we get the impression that we’re the only ones who walk single file in order to maintain a safe social distance while passing other walkers. It’s almost like we’re sending out a signal telling people ‘don’t worry, we’ll move over to one side of the path so you don’t have to’.
Sometimes, there are birds sitting on these power lines, and I try to hum the tune that’s written on the stave in the sky.
This bank (levée?) separates the golf course from the ravages of the river. This is one of a few minor(?) landslips that have occurred recently. Hopefully this is as bad as things will get, but if it keeps precipitating this much, who know what will happen?
We saw some extreme Pooh sticks floating by, well, more like branches that had blown off trees. Plus, a football. But no furniture on this occasion.
As I was perusing these photos, I noticed they had something in common. They are all dominated by horizontal lines. That’s where this post’s title comes from. Not, as you undoubtedly suspected, from the fact that I probably spend more than half my time lying in the comfort of my bed.
In our neck of the woods, Wednesday is bin day. Well, it’s Thursday, really, but we put the bins out on Wednesday because the first couple of times, the refuse collectors arrived way too early on a Thursday morning with their very loud lorries. So, each Wednesday, I get up with a bounce in my step because it’s bin day.
It’s a fortnightly cycle. One week, it’s the grey (landfill), green (food waste and garden waste) and blue (paper and cardboard recycling) wheelie bins. The other week it’s just the brown (glass, plastic and metal recycling bins). It’s taken a year for me to get this division settled in my mind. Not helped when the system was tampered with during the first lockdown. I even came up with a mnemonic. All the bins go out together, apart the brown ones. Brown goes out on its own. Br-own. Geddit?
I waited until the rain eased off before hauling our week’s waste downstairs and distributing it amongst the various bins. The plan was to take the bins out and then go for a longer walk. It was quite mild, and I don’t mind a bit of light rain. I took one bin at a time out onto the pavement. That’s 6 grey bins, 2 blue ones and the green one. Why so many grey bins? One for each flat in the block plus a spare. And this week, we got our money’s worth by filling the spare one ourselves, hooray. It’s such a good feeling to throw out stuff that we don’t need any more.
And on every return trip, I noticed the rain was becoming harder. I was determined to finish the chore though. After about half of the bins were succssfully lined up on the pavement, I decided I didn’t need to go for a long walk in this much rain after all. It got even harder. It was so hard in the end, that my waterproof hat, the one I’d bought in the Lake District, where they ought to know about waterproof clothing, all those years ago, proved inadequate. The rain just penetrated the fabric of the hat much like gamma rays penetrate thick sheets of lead. For the first time ever, the rainproof hat let me down.
Once back inside, I had to shake the water off all my clothes before entering our flat. It was time for a shower, no need to keep those wet clothes on.
The next day was proper bin day. We expect to be visited by three separate trucks. We had plans for later in the day, so we went for our walk at about 10 o’clock. I noticed that everyone else had put the wrong bins out. Everyone had left their brown (glass, plastic, tins) bins on the pavement. I guessed what had happened: somebody got the wrong week and put their brown bin out, and everyone else had looked out the window and copied them.
No. Of course not. You’ve guessed: it was me that was a week out of sync with the schedule. I distinctly remember taking out just one brown bin last week, though. Hmmm. Maybe it wasn’t last week, but the week before. Yes, that’s it, someone else must have taken out the 7 or 8 or 9 bins last week. So I got soaked yeserday for no good reason at all. It’s a 50-50 chance, and I got it wrong. Not for the first time. Another reminder that this is why I steer well clear of betting shops.
So before we could set off on our walk properly on Bin Day, I added one of the three brown bins to the line-up on the pavement. The other two were empty, always a bonus. On our return, we lugged all of them back to the bin cupboard. I look forward to taking the wrong bin(s) out again next week.
As I write, we are celebrating William’s 3rd birthday. We had a family Zoom meeting this morning (meeting!): sadly, there’ll be no party for William this year. But it was nice to see Aunty Helen and Uncle Adam in Australia, Nana and Papa, Aunty Andrea, Uncle Paul, Emily and Annabel as well as Jenny, Liam, Martha and the birthday boy.
The cake is based on characters from PJ Masks, a show that I’d never even heard of until quite recently. I probably shouldn’t have laughed when William told us about one of the characters, Night Minja. On the other hand, I felt quite sad that Hey Duggee! might now be out of favour.
If you’re interested in hearing the theme tunes from those two TV shows, please listen to my lastest radio show on Radio Northenden. The theme this week is Toys and Games and it’s geared towards the little chap’s birthday. William even makes a guest appearance.
Here’s a bonus photo because you’ve read (or scrolled) all the way to the bottom, thank you!
A week later, and just look at this gorgeous display of almost luminescent pinky goodness.
Our days are filled with cream and jam and chocolate chips. No, actually, that’s cakes, isn’t it? Our days are filled with music, radio, puzzles, TV, books, twitter and trying to avoid as much news as possible. We’re allowed out for exercise but some days it’s hard to get motivated. We always feel better for going out, but why we both feel so lethargic sometimes is strange. If we’re both affected by the malaise at the same time, it’s really bad, man.
But we had a very pleasant walk at Quarry Bank Mill. It falls between Lyme Park and Dunham Massey in terms of hilliness of the terrain. If hilliness is a word. Well, it is now.
I do like a sign that rhymes. Sometimes, it’s called ‘found poetry’. There aren’t enough of them in the world.
Another example, that we look forward to driving by again one day, on the M40: Historic Warwick.
If you squint and maybe inhale or consume some illegal pharmaceuticals, you might see a skull wearing a green wig. Or maybe that’s just me. Really, it’s just a bare rock with a bush on top.
This isn’t a real badger, as the little chap told his mother.
We returned to Fletcher Moss Gardens, not Fletcher Moss Park as I think I’ve always called it. We sat on a bench in the rockery while we drunk our coffee. Our old friend came by to say hello.
Actually, he didn’t say anything at all, he was very polite. Sadly we had no bugs with which to feed him.
In other news this week, I suppose I ought to mention the recent exciting election results. We are all very proud of Martha who has been elected to her primary school’s parliament, the ministry of justice.
When asked what this meant in practice, Martha replied ‘I’m in charge of the whole school.’ She’ll go far.
In local news, the derelict Tatton Arms is at last being redeveloped. There’ll be 28 new residences but at least the riverside footpath is being retained.
The local churchyard is looking much tidier than a few weeks ago: the volunteers have done a really good job. What they couldn’t stop is all those leaves falling off the tree.
In wildlife news, we have been invaded by snails. I saw two on this wall just along the road in Northenden. I think October’s rainfall has helped with the population explosion.
We enjoyed a sunny day by the river. Apricity. We could feel the warmth of the Sun on our backs while feeling the cold wind on our faces. I’m sure there must be a way of utilising this temperature differential to produce energy, but I’ll leave that project for a real scientist or a real engineer.
Golf courses are closed for business right now, so we were able to take a short-cut on one of our (not quite) daily walks.
The other advantage (for us) of the golf courses being closed is that it is much safer walking along Ford Lane, by the river. There are far fewer golf players bombing along this narrow lane, desperate to splash us as they drive through the road-wide puddles.
At home, Liesel continues to be creative. Say hello to our new lodger, our tomte, similar to a garden gnome but Scandinavian.
As well as needle felting, Liesel has been busy crocheting and knitting. Oh and baking cookies that have a very short shelf-life. I just can’t stop eating them.
This week, my Radio Northenden show was about America, now that it might be on the road to being great again. There were two slices of American Pie and four different songs called America. Please listen here.
Nothing ever changes, nothing changes at all. Those song lyrics popped into my head on one of our walks this week. But as I later realised, the actual lyrics in the Del Amitri song are: Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all. Both versions are correct at the moment, we’re living a very straightforward, unexciting lifestyle, thanks to the pandemic and the lockdowns and rules and regulations and guidelines and mainly, concern for our own safety.
But there are of course variations on a theme. Sometimes we walk that way instead of this way. We walked to Wythenshawe Park and home again, around a big loop.
It makes a change to walk on grass rather than footpaths and muddy tracks, but it was, let’s say, a bit damp in places. Our very own, local Grimpen Mire: plenty of well-hidden puddles to catch us out and some a bit easier to spot.
We haven’t been to the zoo for a while, but I was delighted to see a Hippo in Northenden.
Online, we watched a couple of events from Manchester Literature Festival. A tribute to Nina Simone, and an interview with Tori Amos, who is currently locked down in Cornwall.
Also online this week, some rascal started a rumour that Woolworths was coming back to our High Streets. This is the good news we Brits have been waiting for, so what a shame it turned out to be a hoax. I still have my faithful Woolies notebooks though, and if your offer is high enough, you could own it!
Walking by the river is always a pleasure, though sometimes tempered by the concern that it might start raining before we get home. The Sun tried hard to make itself visible through the 99% cloud cover, and I did catch it in the river, briefly.
I found these skulls in the window of the tattoo parlour next to Church Lane Chippy, not sure if they’re always there or just for Halloween. I don’t often look in windows of tattoo parlours, but I was waiting for my chips!
We trudged through the Autumn leaves in the woods, and again mourned the fact that William wasn’t with us, exploring the jungle.
The bed of wet leaves on the ground at this time of year always reminds me of cross-country running at school. It was only ever an Autumn and Winter activity, because in the Summer term, we did proper athletics instead. And yes, I have manipulated the colours in that picture. ‘Don’t take that picture, Mick, they’ll think you’re a burglar casing the joint,’ said Liesel. ‘Well, if they don’t want me to take a picture of their house, they shouldn’t put a pretty, red bush in front of it.’
In other news, one day, Liesel baked 48 cookies. What an achievement! We rose to the challenge and consumed them all within three days: well, no need to let them to go stale! As I write, it’s Halloween and our much-loved and much-missed grandchildren are having a great time in their suitably, spookily decorated house.
As a tangential nod to Halloween, in my radio show this week, I built a body from spare parts found in song titles and song lyrics. After last week’s ‘dreams’ theme, I had a bit of a nightmare this week, when the PC refused to accept that the microphone was connected. The only solution was to reboot. Which meant the show began uncomfortably late. Listen here and listen out for Martha!
You just can’t find a bulldog clip when you need one.
We enjoyed a few local walks this week, by the river, and beyond. It’s colder, especially when wind fresh from the Arctic comes along.
Of course, it’s not really a croc. We’re not in the Northern Territory any more, sadly, but we’re still on the look-out for dangerous animals. I wonder how far this log travelled? Is it now lodged on the part-time island in Northenden? Or is it a potential threat to shipping in the Irish Sea?
It wouldn’t be a proper walk without encountering mushrooms. Are these liberty caps? Magic mushrooms? We now need a mycologist on our panel of experts, along with the botanist, arborist, architect and historian who can help out with my embarrassing lack of knowledge in those fields.
Liesel went to bed, but as the loyal fan I am, I stayed up until midnight to watch Erin McKeown online. She was performing outside her home in New England, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of her first album, Distillation. It was a fun show, and I slept well when I eventually turned in.
Sometimes, we glimpse a half-decent sunset from our living room, it’s just a shame about the intervening buildings.
We wandered over to Fletcher Moss Park and enjoyed a coffee under The Joshua Tree. ‘Not the Joshua Tree’, said Liesel, but I disagreed, pointing out the commemorative sign attached. I never knew Josh of course, but I was moved by seeing the lyrics from an Oasis song.
Elsewhere in the park, tree surgeons were at work. I say ‘surgeons’, but another word came to mind. This was a very nice tree, it didn’t harm anybody.
If it’s Tuesday, it must be time to watch Jessica Lee Morgan online again. So I did.
We don’t see our herons every time we go out, but it’s always a delight to be the first to spot him. Or her. This one was sitting there, surveilling his territory. Sometimes, we see one rooting about in the grass, maybe tracking something, but definitely treading quietly and carefully.
Indoors, Liesel is busy with her crochet and now, some more needle-felting with the WI. This chap with a big hat is very cute on our bookshelves. While Liesel was busy with this, I continued my search for a bulldog clip.
For the first time in a very long time, we walked over to Cheadle Hulme and back. Just because we can’t see William and Martha in the flesh doesn’t mean we can’t give them books from time to time.
This was by far the longest walk of the week, and we both felt much better for it. As we walked over a stream, I looked it up. It’s called Micker Brook, and, look, according to Google Maps, just over there a bit, there’s a bagpiper for hire.
What a shame that so much of our road system is geared up to cater for the worst of the bad drivers. This barrier makes it ridiculously difficult for pedestrians to cross the side road at this point. I wouldn’t want somebody driving into my house either, but that’s what speed limits are meant to be for.
This is the ever evolving ricketty fence in Gatley. The elderly gentleman can often be seen repairing it, introducing new branches, planks and, as you can see here, a couple of wooden pallets on this occasion. Apparently he’s always refused any help in repairing the fence properly, once and for all.
As we wandered through Gatley, I spotted this shop. Hooray! I went inside and asked for a bulldog clip. ‘Sorry,’ was the reply, ‘we don’t sell bulldog clips.’ But you have loads in your window, I pointed out. I was glared at, so I still don’t have a bulldog clip. Oh well.
Ah, this fence looks much better, especially now with its new Autumn colours.
And, sorry, but here’s the oblogatory weekly photo of fly-tipping here in Northenden. This time, a carpet and lots of garden waste.
Anyway, never mind that, here is some much more uplifting (I hope) family news.
Helen and Adam have been together now for fifteen years, and it don’t seem a day too long. To celebrate, they went for a balloon trip over the vineyards and the curious kangaroos of New South Wales. What an adventure!
Nearer home, Martha is doing very well at school. The first parents’ evening revealed nothing embarrassing, and the teacher is very happy to have Martha in her class, very interested, very observant, even to the point of noticing something that’s lined up for a surprise later on.
William told his Mummy one morning ‘I can’t get the puff out of my nose.’ A wheat puff, a vital component of his breakfast. Mummy and Daddy looked up the orifice but couldn’t see anything. Was he joshing? Hovering between laughing and sheer panic, a solution was found. I’d never heard of a ‘mother’s kiss’ or ‘parent’s kiss’ before but it’s very effective. So here’s a tip for parents of little ones with foreign objects rammed up the hooter:
Tell the child they will be given a ‘big kiss’
Place your mouth over the child’s open mouth, forming a firm seal as if performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
Close the unaffected nostril with a finger
Blow until you feel resistance caused by the closure of the child’s glottis
Give a sharp exhalation to deliver a short puff of air into the child’s mouth, which passes through the nasopharynx and out through the unoccluded nostril
Repeat if necessary
In William’s case, the wheat puff shot out and ricocheted around the room. But if not, you might shift the object enough for it to become visible.
The following morning, at breakfast: ‘Mummy, I can’t get the Rice Krispie out of my nose.’
And finally, if you’d like to hear two hours of fabulous music about my desires to be a spaceman, listen to the show here on Radio Northenden.
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.’
A big week in mickandlieselsanticsland – it was a big birthday for Liesel. We celebrated by going to the seaside, not once, but twice.
The car park was full, but the beach is huge, so although there were pockets of people, it was easy enough to find our own space. Luckily, we’d arrived early, because by the time we left, there was a very long queue of cars waiting to get into the car park. The final Sunday before the ‘Rule of 6’ restrictions kick in, maybe. Or just a Sunday.
These shapes are a result of small stones and fragments of shell on the beach, combined with the angle of the Sun and the wind direction. At first glance, it reminded me of some old Babylonian cuneiform writing, all those little triangles.
We had a nice long walk along the beach. The wind was borderline acceptable, quite strong but not cold. Nonetheless, for protection, I was walking along the beach with a finger in my ear like a really intense folk singer.
On Monday, lots of flowers arrived, so I was up and down stairs like an old, wheezing yoyo [edited]. The bell rang, I ran downstairs, thought it was weird because I’d ordered flowers from Interflora, not M&S, then I thought maybe Interflora uses M&S round these strange northern parts. Plus when Liesel opened the box, I thought, those don’t look like the flowers I’d ordered! The attached card revealed that this bouquet was actually from Helen and Steve. My flowers arrived a couple of hours later, I’m glad to say. And a third one from Pauline, Andrew and Rob in New Zealand arrived a little later. So far, my birthday card hasn’t arrived, which is embarrassing and very disappointing: I should have just handed an old one over in the first place. but I didn’t want to go into a shop and buy one, so I ordered it online. Oh well, there’ll be another birthday next year.
Early on birthday morning, we had a Zoom call with Jenny, Liam, Martha and William here in UK, and Helen and Adam in Australia. Martha and William sang Happy Birthday, blew out candles and ate cake. (Later in the day, William wanted to sing Happy Birthday again, but I think the main attraction was more cake.) Liesel opened her presents and it looks as though she’ll be busy for the next several weeks doing a 2000-piece jigsaw puzzle (a collage of photos of our grandchildren and our adventures, put together by Helen), and making cheese (a great idea, Jenny)!
Later on, it was good to have an online chat with Sarah in Exeter too.
We returned to Formby, and even though it was much later in the day this time, it was far less busy. Everyone’s back at work and at school now, hastening the second wave of Covid infection, presumably
We had a fantastic picnic lunch of samosas and veggie sausage rolls. The wind was less strong today, too, so overall, we had a very pleasant time. The tide was a long way out, so if there were any jellyfish around, we didn’t see them.
It was a hot day, and possibly the last really hot day of the year, if the forecast is anything to go by.
I could have made a cake, I could have gone out and bought a cake, but Liesel made her own cake, a small but perfectly formed chocolate cake. Somehow, we made it last three days. Very nice, very tasty.
We walked around the local area again a few times, visiting the river, and Fletcher Moss Park. We don’t know if our herons have migrated at all, but we haven’t seen them all week.
The Autumn colours are really coming out now.
We talked about these tall trees. Are they conifer? Or are they dancer? Answers on a postcard please!
One morning, we went out really early, the ground was covered in dew, our feet got wet, but we saw some beautiful sights.
So, the title, Mandelbrot Extinction. Any ideas? No, nor me. I woke up one day with the phrase buzzing around my head like a fly trying to get out of a room with no windows. I assume it’s the only remnant from what must have been a very interesting dream. I googled the phrase, of course I did, and there is nothing. My strange nocturnal mind has invented something brand new. At least I have a name the next time I form a rock band.There used to be a game to play on the internet: enter two random words into Google and try to get exactly one result. Googlewhacking! Well, once this blog has been published and the web crawlers have done their job, maybe Mandelbrot Extinction will be a successful Googlewhack, bringing you right back here!
Friday in Northenden was big. Up Your Street was an opportunity for local businesses to highlight their wares. Thankfully, the weather was kind, and Palatine Road and the surrounding area was very busy. Dan McDwyer and a couple of singers from his Youth Choir, part of The Choir Project, provided the entertainment outside Salutem.
As well as playing keyboards, singing and conducting his singers, he was broadcasting on Radio Northenden. And yes, it was good to see Radio Northenden in the list of participants.
Liesel and I had a fantastic breaded halloumi burger in The Northern Den, highly recommended! We met Sanny and Katie from Radio Northenden there, with (baby) Byron: he sometimes gatecrashes his Mum and Dad’s shows. It felt strange talking to people, in a restaurant, outside, because after six months of lockdown, of course, it is strange.
Before walking up the road to Up Your Street, I presented my own regular show on Radio Northenden. Because it was her birthday this week, Liesel picked all the music and there were some lovely messages from family and friends too. Due to bad planning on my part, I had to leave out a couple of the songs, and many of the stories I’d planned ended up on the cutting room floor. And now, they’ve ended up here, in this very blog. Here comes a tarted up version of the ‘script’ for Liesel’s Birthday show. Tarted up? I’ve fixed the many typographical, grammatical and punctuational errors and I’ve left out all the adverts for, and references to, Up Your Street – if you missed it, you missed it! Listen here for two hours of fab and groovy music.
Mort Stevens and his Orchestra – Theme from Hawaii Five-O Dave Matthews – American Baby
We’ve seen Dave Matthews Band in concert a few times, with Liesel’s cousin Andrea, and Steve. And just like Whispering Bob Harris, we can’t understand why they’re not bigger here in the UK. At one show, Liesel was approached by a stranger. Liesel thought he was a ne’er-do-well, a random stranger. But no. He was only Dave Matthews’ guitar player, and he was here, at Andrea’s behest, to give Liesel a guitar pick.
Queen – Radio Gaga
I saw Queen support Mott the Hoople at Hammersmith Odeon. Liesel didn’t, on account of being a mere toddler at the time. Embarrassing. Mott the Hoople played a long set, they wouldn’t leave the stage, and the curtain came down in front of them.
U2 – Bullet the Blue Sky Dolly Parton – Coat of Many Colours
Nope, neither of us have seen U2 nor Dolly, live.
Delighted that Liesel chose a David Bowie song, almost without prompting. You may remember the video for China Girl ends with a passionate embrace on a beach. Well, Liesel and I spent part of her birthday at Formby [see above], walking and picnicking, rather than rolling around in the surf: the tide was too far out.
David Bowie – China Girl
Liesel’s celebratory birthday meal this year, after our day at the seaside, was fish and chips from the Church Road Chippy. Sadly, they had no cheese and onion pies for me this time, so a bit of a let-down.
Unthanks – Magpie
We’ve seen them just once in concert, at the newly renovated Roundhouse in London.
Martha Tilston – Survival Guide
We’ve seen Martha probably more often than any other single artist, at various venues around the country. [Most recently]
Billy Joel – Piano Man
We’ve seen him in concert once, great show, Piano Man, Uptown Girl, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. He invited his guitar player Mike del Guidice to sing a song. He performed Nessun Dorma and of course we sang along. Well, until security intervened.
Neil Diamond – I am I said
We wanted to see him in concert a few years ago, but the tickets were far too expensive.
Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto – Desafinado
That’s another song that I murdered while learning to play the saxophone.
Shanukh Khan and Sapna Awasthi – Chaiyya Chaiyya
I was doing all the Bollywood moves there, screwing in light bulbs, picking cherries from trees. I can’t do the pigeon head movement though. From the 1998 film Dil Se.
Adele – Skyfall
One of those songs that took a while to grow on me after being played on autorepeat on a radio station that I couldn’t switch off, when I was at work. [Chessington Delivery Office]
Gordon Lightfoot – Rainy Day People
We saw him on his first visit to the UK after a 30-year absence. He still has a great voice and some timeless songs
Bill Withers – Ain’t no Sunshine
One of Liesel’s favourite songs. Bill Withers’ first job was making toilet seats for Boeing airlines. He wrote this song during that time.
Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the wall
We haven’t seen Pink Floyd but we’ve been close. We once cycled from Bakewell to Buxton, along the A6, in the rain, as it was getting dark, an experience that Liesel doesn’t need to repeat. The reward was seeing a Pink Floyd tribute band at the Opera House. We only had time for a bag of crisps for dinner that evening. [We’d been told that buses between Bakewell and Buxton have bike racks on the front. They don’t.]
A better experience was watching Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, in Hyde Park in London. He performed Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. I found it it incredibly moving. I don’t think Liesel quite understood why me and other fans of a certain age were in tears. That’s how powerful music can be.
Sister Sledge – We are Family Simon and Garfunkel – 59th Bridge Street Song
We saw them at a reunion gig in Hyde Park, our first outdoor show together. Liesel was slightly intimidated by the size of the crowd, so much so, that she wouldn’t even let me go to the toilet by myself. The show was good but I don’t think Paul and Art made eye contact once, which is quite sad. The support act was The Everly Brothers.
We saw Wynton Marsalis at a late night concert many years ago, maybe it was one of the Proms that year. And we can hear a version of that song on Amy Lamé’s 6 Music show each week as she tells us what delights we can look forward to. Amy is also big fan of Christine and the Queens. During a recent interview, I wondered whether they shouldn’t just get a room.
Christine and the Queens – Christine [Baz Luhrmann (Quinson Tarver speaking)- Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen – not played because I was running out of time] Duran Duran – Ordinary World
We nearly saw Duran Duran in concert several years ago, we had tickets, but sadly illness overtook us.
Rick Braun – Nightwalk
We saw him in concert at Pizza Express in London. We had a table right at the front. Rick left his trumpet on the stage, easily within reach. Tempted to have a go? Of course I was, but Liesel said No.
Bic Runga – When I see you Smile
We were lucky enough to see her in concert a couple of years ago, in a vineyard on an island off Auckland, New Zealand, what a beautiful day, she really made us smile.
James Taylor – Steam roller [Swear word beautifully edited out, if I do say so myself]
Of course we’ve seen James Taylor on stage! Just the once.
We’ve also seen REM: at Twickenham Stadium. They played their music, not rugby, of course.
REM – Man on the Moon Frank Sinatra – Young at Heart
Have we seen Frank in concert? Yes, if a holographic projection counts. ‘He’ was accompanied by a live orchestra.
[Dave Matthews – What would you say? – not played, no time] Elbow – Grounds for Divorce PS Yes, I was surprised at how many of these artists we’ve seen perform in concert over the last 16 years or so together. What an adventure! We can’t wait for live shows to start up again.
We stayed within the local area this week, no trips abroad, to Yorkshire nor Chester for instance. The poor old car feels neglected, out there in the car park, all by itself, unloved except by passing birds.
August Bank Holiday weekend was different, this year: no Notting Hill Carnival in London and no Manchester Pride in, well, anywhere. Instead, we started watching the Tour de France on TV, taking place a few months later than usual, is this year of the Virus. On YouTube, we watched Jessica Lee Morgan perform a couple more shows from home, one to mark the release of her mother, Mary Hopkin’s, fantastic new album, Another Road. Buy your copy here. Highly recommended ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐, lovely songs and still a beautiful voice after all these years.
Also on TV, we completed our ‘binge-watch’ of the modern Doctor Who series. I can’t believe the Doctor is now in prison, in solitary confinement, between series, after the Judoon managed to materialise inside the Tardis, normally the safest place you can be. Sorry. Spoilers.
Also on YouTube, we watched the Folk on Foot’s third Festival in our Front Room. Forty musicians from around the UK got together with their respective bandmates and entertained us from their own homes, socially distanced where necessary. Watch it here, 7 hours of fabulous folk music.
We walked back to Didsbury on Bank Holiday Monday, specifically to Fletcher Moss Park, where Liesel met up with a group of ladies from her WI group for ‘muffins and mugs’: bring your own coffee and refreshments. While they were wagging their chins, I walked around the park, visiting the rockery, the rose pergola garden and the grass tennis courts which are in as much need of a haircut as I was at the time. I ended up, of course, buying myself a coffee in the little family-owned café.
After several hours, I gave up trying to untangle this mess.
🎼 Sun is in the sky, oh why oh why would I wanna be anywhere else? 🎵
There’s not a lot of wildlife round our way, so imagine our excitement when we saw this one morning by our oak tree.
Liesel thinks it looks more like a dog’s toy and, sure enough, it disappeared a few days later.
Another day, another walk by the river. In fact, we walked along the river several times this week. The level of the water varies quite a lot each day, almost regardless of the amount of rainfall. The depth of the puddles on the road and footpath fluctuates too: we have to do a funny little dance sometimes to avoid them all.
For the first time ever, we saw two herons in the same place at the same time. They flew off together before going their separate ways.
Martha started school. Yep, that short sentence makes me feel old. She went for an hour on the first ‘settling in’ day and she now wants to walk to school on her own. She loved it and can’t wait to go full time next week.
The jacket says CHPS: I think that’s California Highway Patrol, whose remit is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security. Sarah and I used to love watching CHiPs on TV on a Sunday afternoon BC, before children!
Almost as momentous, on the same day, I had a spontaneous haircut. As we walked by Massimo on Palatine Road, we noticed there were no customers. So we deliberated. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Yes, this long lockdown hair had to go. The barber wore a mask, the customers’ seats were separated by plastic sheets, so it was as Covid-safe as they could manage. The clippings were knee-deep by the time he finished. My reward was a cup of coffee on the way home after my second visit to Massimo. I had to return in order to pay: they only accept cash and I haven’t carried anything other than my phone to pay, contactlessly, for months, now.
Even the flowers in the Palatine Road planters smiled when they saw my newly shorn bonce: they said I looked ten years younger.
The Tatton Arms, our local riverside pub, was probably a very nice place once, but it’s been closed and derelict since 2007. We’ve heard that the site is, maybe, possibly, going to be redeveloped. But we’ve never seen any activity there. Until now. We noticed people behind the fence that protects the building. There was a van, a few cars, and several Important Looking Men standing around in Important hi-visibility vests, with Important hands in Important pockets and all with Important clipboards. Let’s see what happens.
I successfully broadcast a second show on Radio Northenden, and I was asked to keep going for an extra half hour after the usual two hour-long stint. No problem, I just played more of my favourite records! Catch up here and forgive the odd mistake. And if you can, please feel free to join me ‘live’ next Friday at 2pm. (Thanks Helen for pointing the type: Friday or Friyay indeed!!)
Liesel took this picture of Mick the DJ in the stygian depths of his Studio, formerly known as the Office, earlier known as a Storage Facility and laughingly described by the estate agent as a Third Bedroom.
Early this morning, we again walked into Didsbury, the village itself this time, not just the park. There were very few other people around, which made for a pleasant walk, no need to avoid anyone.
We were lucky enough to see two herons again, on the way to Didsbury (us, not them), and yes, the photo’s a bit blurred, but it was very satisfying to capture one in flight, after so many failed attempts. Their call is something between a honk and a screech, not very attractive, except maybe to other herons.
We were lucky enough to see a wine glass in Didsbury, out in the wild, presumably after a fun night out.
We were lucky enough to see a splash of colour in Didsbury, in an otherwise drab little side street, nice and bright on this early, sunny morning.
We were lucky enough to see a professional footballer in Didsbury, but what a shame he was only in an advert for shoes.
We were lucky enough to see a fox, on the walk home from Didsbury. This is the first one we’ve seen since we moved here to Northenden, and he looks pretty healthy too.
We couldn’t join them, sadly, but Martha and William went swimming in a pool for the first time since the lockdown started in March. We did enjoy watching the videos of them playing in the water, swimming, jumping in and even diving to the bottom to pick up objects, something I’ve never been able to do.
Martha and William weren’t the only ones to get wet this week. We all did. It rained. And it rained. A lot. Storm Francis got the blame, it brought strong winds and a lot of rain. So we didn’t go out every single day this week. Which was OK, we had plenty to do indoors, but it’s just so disheartening when every time you look out of the window, it’s grey and rainy: early onset November. Liesel finished her first crochet blanket and it looks really good.
I was especially impressed with the fringe around the edges, a very professional finish. Liesel has now started on a second one, with a different combination of yarn colours.
We visited Lyme Park despite the threat of rain. It held off mostly on this occasion, and we had a very pleasant walk, if a little shorter than usual.
No doubt, if William had been with us, he would have been up this ladder like a shot.
We have no idea what these flowers are, but when our botanical expert lets us know, I’ll amend this caption.
This fella’s fish was spouting a very weak column of water. We have no idea who he is or what he represents, but as soon as our ornamental fountain expert lets us know, I’ll amend this caption.
Unexpectedly, as we bought our coffees just before leaving, a lovely patch of blue sky appeared. It didn’t last long, but it cheered us up.
Our next trip was to Biddulph Grange Gardens, a National Trust property that we’d not visited previously. By coincidence, Jenny and Liam had been a few days earlier, with Martha and William. Today, it rained on us pretty much all the time.
There’s a one-way system in place around the grounds, but one couple were backtracking in a hurry, presumably some sort of biological emergency.
Obviously, even monkey puzzle trees have to start life as a seed, but I’d never seen one this small before. Very cute and I’m sure we’ll be back in 70 years time to see it fully grown.
These tiles probably look very attractive on a dry, sunny day, but thery’re not as pretty covered in wet, muddy footprints.
This bridge reminded us of those we’d seen in Japan, but in fact, it’s part of the Chinese area here. I think the one-way system meant that we couldn’t see all the various gardens at their best. But we had a very pleasant walk, and it’s easy to see why Martha and William thought it was a big adventure playground, with lots of steps and other obstacles to climb.
The funny (?) thing is that by following the correct route, and choosing not to go into and through the house, we found ourselves at the exit with no way to go back and invest in a nice warming beverage.
Back in Northenden this very morning, we did go for a walk locally. It was unexpectedly cold and we could tell from the puddles and the very high, fast-flowing river, it must have been raining a lot lately. You don’t say! The canoeists weren’t deterred though, but they had combined two vessels together for stability, as they drifted downstream: not a lot of paddling going on today, it really wasn’t necessary.
As we walked along the river on the high bank, an Indian lady was walking fast on the lower bank. I tried to capture her speed in a photo but it didn’t really work out, did it?
Presumably this gathering by the riverside was illegal, but even so, that’s no excuse for not taking your empties home.
Fifty years and nine days after Whispering Bob Harris first took to the airwaves on BBC Radio 1, Mick here took to the airwaves of our local, community, isolation station, Radio Northenden. It was also, by chance, the 100th show broadcast on this wonderful little station, and you can listen to them all here. Specifically, if you would like to hear my first show, listen here.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been busy learning new software, talking to myself, choosing music, practicing, rehearsing, reading books, talking to professionals, compiling pre-flight check-lists, trying to soak it all up. So here I am, broadcasting to a small but perfectly formed audience. During the first show, of course there were a couple of mistakes, but nothing too embarrassing, and, at the time of writing, no complaints have been made to Ofcom.
I look forward to next week’s difficult second show, and if you’d like to join me on Friday between 2 and 4pm, please do, from here, or download the Mixlr app on your phone or other device, and search for Radio Northenden. If you register, I’ll see your name on the list of visitors and I might even say hello.
It was good fun, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: I did write to a Hospital Radio station 25 years ago, but they never got back to me.
You wouldn’t believe me if I said we had a peacock in the flat, would you? But we did. Oh, alright, it was a peacock butterfly, and when it first fluttered in through the window, I thought it was a moth. I apologised for my mistake as I helped it fly out again. It was the first one I’ve seen all year. What a pity it was indoors.
We’ve had a few days of very high temperatures, approaching the 30s. One day, Liesel took her crochet outside. Read to the bottom to see how well she’s progressing. But here’s a tip: you don’t want the full weight of a crocheted blanket on your lap, indoors, in a heatwave! Not even with the windows open, letting all sorts of fantastic beasts in, mostly not as pretty as a peacock butterfly.
Too hot to cook, so one night, we chose an Indian takeaway. There’s a vegan Indian restaurant in Gatley, that we’ve been been meaning to try since well before the lockdown. It’s open again for business, and while we’re still a bit wary of sitting inside places with other people, we’re happy to take food away. All the staff in Bhaji Pala were wearing masks and when I went in, only two tables were occupied. The food was delicious, I just heaped it up on the plate which doesn’t make for a good, appealing photo but we’ll definitely go there again sometime.
We hadn’t planned to go shopping either, but we had to return something to John Lewis in Cheadle. The car park was half empty, an unusual sight and a good sign that the shop wasn’t too crowded. Staff at the doors were monitoring how many people were inside the shop. Liesel wore her mask as required whereas I’d stupidly left mine at home by mistake. Not all was lost though. I got some steps in wandering around the car park and I even found some blackberries.
Very juicy, very sweet and warmed by the Sun, these blackberries tasted of my childhood. We used to pick them from fields on the other side of the railway line from where we lived, in Guildford. Stop, look, listen, before we walked across the tracks. Those blackberry bushes disappeared when Bannister’s playing field was created. Later on, a large Tesco landed there. Progress, huh. I was spitting seeds out for the rest of the day, but that’s a price worth paying for being transported several decades back in time.
The highlight of the week was, without doubt, another day at the seaside.
Again, the tide was out and this time, we walked down the beach, to see the sea, close up. The sand was quite hard to walk on in some places, the ridges could provide a nice massaging feeling for a while, but it was equally pleasant finding a smooth patch to walk on.
The real highlight though was being joined by Jenny, Liam, William and Martha. It was lovely to spend so much time with them, still at a distance (mostly) on such a nice, warm, sunny day.
William and Martha were both excited to see the sea and the sand. They’ve missed their swimming lessons for several months now of course, but both were very happy to go into the sea, which was pleasantly warm. William followed the stream quite a long way towards the sea itself, he just kept going, like a Duracell bunny. I would have picked him up if necessary to run in the opposite direction, but that wasn’t necessary in the end.
There were lots of jellyfish on the beach, a few different species, and there were even some swimming in the sea. I only waded in up to my ankles, so I was surprised to see so many. They’re not lethal like those in Australia, but the sting can be quite painful. The advice here, now, is not to pee on a sting or use vinegar, but to rinse in warm seawater. The beach wasn’t at all crowded, a nice surprise, but there were far more people bathing than there were on our recent visit to Formby.
We found a nice spot to sit down to have our picnic lunches, separating our blankets by the requisite two metres! Well, nearly. The lifeguard drove up on his quad bike and when he turned the engine off, William said ‘Hello’. ‘Hello, you have a yellow t-shirt just like mine,’ said the lifeguard, ‘do you want my job?’ ‘Yes,’ said William, enthusiastically.
Martha made some sandcastles and decorated them with her new collection of seashells.
Martha wanted to spend another night outside, in the tent, in the garden.
She found a way out in the morning!
As mentioned before, here is the blanket so far. There are just a few more rows to go and some edging to do, literally tying up all the loose ends.