White lines and a white cat

We’re all looking forward to the end of Covid-related restrictions. We’re trying not to look back to 2020 too much. And this graffiti artist agrees.

2020 Still don’t look back

The tag is very well done, but I can’t read it. Maybe it’s a secret message for young people, maybe it’s not meant for us oldies.

On the other hand, we enjoyed three online concerts within 17 hours over the weekend.

Seth Lakeman celebrated the 15th anniversary of the release of his album, Freedom Fields.

Seth Lakeman

Bic Runga was, I think it’s fair to say, the main attraction at the Ōtautahi Together concert in Christchurch’s Botanic Gardens, to mark the tenth anniversary of the earthquake. There was meant to be a real audience in the gardens, but due to last minute Covid restrictions, it was streamed online. Ideal for me as I fought insomnia at 4 o’clock in the morning!

Bic Runga

Every Tuesday evening, Jessica Lee Morgan performs online, singing her own songs as well as covers of other peoples’. She also now performs online on the last Sunday of each month, singing the songs of her Ma, Mary Hopkin. This time, Jessica performed the whole of Mary’s album Valentine.

Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

Well, I enjoyed watching and listening to all the music, but if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice before, we can’t wait to see live music, performed live, in real life, in a theatre, concert venue or even in a park.

We don’t quite manage to get out for a walk every day. I’m sure we would if we were allowed to venture further afield, to National Trust properties for example, but we are limited right now. Litter picking isn’t the best way to keep the step count up. If we’re walking at a reasonable pace, we can achieve 10,000 steps in one and a half hours. But after two hours of litter picking at a slow, dawdling pace, stopping and starting, the pedometer said we’d only walked 5,900 steps. We certainly used as much, if not more, energy, but we don’t have a gadget to confirm this. Four bags collected this week, for those of you keeping a record.

As we passed by some houses, we were on the other side of the fence at the bottom of their gardens, we heard of chorus of people saying to each other, ‘You alright?’ ‘You alright?’ ‘You alright?’ ‘You alright?’ Honestly, it was like a live performance of The Royle Family.

Who remembers the old Pink Floyd song, Two Suns in the Sunset? Well, that’s what happens in Northenden when you take a late afternoon picture through the window.

Two Suns in the window

We spotted the lesser-spotted cup-and-saucer plant growing in somebody’s garden.

Cup-and-saucer plant

Again, we saw no herons this week, but it was good to make my acquaintance with this raven.

Raven

He was wandering around the beach by the Mersey. There’s always been a stretch of sand there, but the strand is much longer now, since the floods a few weeks ago.

I wandered by Old Bedians Sports Ground where the rugby pitches are used by dog-walkers, as recommended by the nearby sign.

Rugby pitch

The pitches are used to store flood water when necessary and I think this must be the sluice-gates control room, well-decorated on all four sides.

Control room

Fletcher Moss Gardens was also flooded a few weeks ago, and is now recovering well. There’s a warning though because it seems not everyone stood well back.

Careful, now

Still, I had a nice cup of coffee and a nice slice of carrot cake at the café here, thanks for asking.

I’d rather be in Whitby

They’ve taken away many of the benches in order to stop people congregating. So, instead, they were standing around in groups not really socially distanced. I sat in the rockery, watching the robin, and thinking about how one day, it would be nice to visit Whitby. No idea what planted that seed in my mind.

Last week our road was resurfaced and this week, the painting crew came to re-paint the white lines.

White line painters

Yes, we spend a lot of time watching people through our windows. But I did like the fact that in order to mark a straight line, they used a length of string covered in chalk dust, held tight between two points and pinged against the road. Old technology is sometimes the best.

I drove over to see the children and we tried to rescue a bumble bee with sugar water but I think we were too late. William liked standing close to it as it lay dormant on the drive, and jumping over it. Both he and Martha rode their pedal-less bikes and scootered and laughed. But all at a safe distance.

Martha’s still being schooled at home, and she dressed up for International Book Day, along with her classmates. That must have ben a fun Zoom call.

Martha as the little girl in the book

She’s going back to school on Monday, and William will return to Nursery on Wednesday. He’s only been for one day so far, before the government rules changed. He still enjoys a good ice cream though.

William missing his mouth

Otherwise, nothing much going on here: jigsaw puzzles, crochet, radio show, photos, writing, reading, podcasts, radio, turning on the TV and groaning because inevitably it’s a food programme, watching the white cat watching the squirrel but not chasing it until the squirrel’s right next to the tree.

Weatherwise it’s been a bit colder this week. This always happens when I blow the dust off my shorts for the first time as Spring begins.

For the sake of completeness, here is this week’s Radio Northenden show, the theme is Opposites. Why is there a Highway to Hell but only a Stairway to Heaven? Once again, Martha is the star of the show, thank you!

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.

Ice rink and Inspiral Carpet

Well, the good news this week is that Liesel wasn’t arrested after all. I would have visited her in jail of course, if the Covid restrictions allowed me to. The unsolicited phone call from ‘HMRC’ was a computer-generated voice, threatening arrest if she didn’t press button 1 straightaway to resolve some fictitious tax issue.

Is that the most exciting event of the week? Not quite. We went for a drive in the car for the first time since before Christmas. We still remember how to drive, always a bonus, but one of the tyres was flat. We got that fixed before setting off. Where did we go? We visited the Dark Lands beyond our own postcode.

After a snowy start last Saturday, it was my turn to cook our evening meal. I love a good non sequitur, don’t you? I have two selections in my repertoire and this time it was toad-in-the-hole. The rest of the week we enjoyed Liesel’s culinary delights, thank you, Liesel, much more skilful and with a much more varied menu!

We went for a walk and came across a fire engine near Northenden’s Riverside Park.

Fire appliance

The river was flowing fast but it was much lower than at the height of the floods last week. Lots of detritus had flowed downstream of course, plenty of trees and branches and so on deposited by the high water. But the ugliest sight probably is all the plastic caught in the trees on the island and tangled in the vegetation on the river banks.

Real plastic in trees

There is a large group of litter pickers in the area, Wythenshawe Waste Warriors, and one day, when we’re no longer shielding, we’ll join them. So far this year, they have collected nearly 900 bags of litter in Wythenshawe, Northenden and the general area. One day, someone will wade over to the island and collect all the rubbish from the trees there.

It was a good decision to wear my new wellington boots when I walked through Wythenshawe Park. The path was still flooded: in fact, half of its puddle was frozen too. The grass either side of the path was waterlogged to the point that one side resembled an ice rink. I was joined on this particular walk by Tina in Coventry. From a very safe distance, I hasten to add. Whatsapp was the means of communication.

Mick: I’m out for a walk! Just tried to break the ice in a puddle. Useless!
Tina: OMG 😮 Glad I went food shopping so I don’t need to go out!!
Mick: Yes I’m sure!

Mick: I found the ice rink! A big frozen puddle on the grass
Tina: Oh wow 🤩
Tina: Poor birds
Mick: It’s very quiet. Spooky- apart from the rumble of the motorway over there…
Tina: Looks dangerous
Mick: It is. Very thin
Tina: Well, stay on the paths

Mick: This is the path!!
Tina: Oh you can’t pass
Mick: Yes 👍
Tina: Oh you’ll have to find another route, don’t get lost!!!
Mick: I’m back on the path… I can see how deep it is here!

Tina: Gosh be careful
Mick: Made it 🙌 to the other side. Dry!
Tina: Well done but be cautious
Mick: My mate Oliver

Tina: He’s not covered in snow!
Mick: No and he’s not covered in graffiti any more, either!
Tina: That’s good.. graffiti would def ruin the monument
Mick: And the good news is, I can get a coffee!

Tina: Oh really that’s great 😀 will warm you up? Is Liesel with you on your walk? Which coffee shop is that? Bit of a queue
Mick: Liesel came out with me but I wanted to go further.
Tina: Oh trust you
Mick: Not sure what it’s called. It’s in the park!
Tina: That’s great it’s open during these times
Mick: The dog bowls are frozen!

Tina: Awwww
Tina: Oh dear there doesn’t seem to be much snow there anymore
Mick: It’s The Courtyard
Tina: Oh you got your coffee?
Mick: Patchy, still on the roof

Mick: In the queue still…
Tina: Oh yeah
Tina: Ha lol 😂
Mick: Decisions, decisions

Tina: Hot Vimto lol yes lots to choose from! They do food as well or just drinks? It’s not bad prices. What’s a barm? A batch or bread roll?
Mick: I have my coffee and chocolate orange brownie! Yes a barm is a plain bap, burger bun type thing. Usually. I have been given a sandwich before made with sliced white bread!
Tina: Ooh the brownie sounds lovely 😊 it’ll give you an energy boost 😂 Oh I see… I’ve never heard it being called a barm before
Mick: Yes, I’m still learning the language. I’m walking the long way home, trying to avoid all the people
Tina: That’s understandable, you’re having a good walk Mick, lots to see
Mick: Lots of snow on the grass. And more ice

Tina: Your coffee got me making a coffee too. It’s freezing can’t believe it’s snowed but it’s going to rain next week so hopefully it’ll clear up. Hope it doesn’t get icy and slippery though!
Mick: So far, I haven’t slipped, but it will happen sometime
Tina: That’s good hopefully not!
Mick: Once when I was a postman, all the snow and ice had gone, or so I thought, but I found the last square inch of ice and went arse over tit. Bashed my elbow. Kept hold of the bloody mail though!
Tina: Oh no that’s sounds hilarious 😂 but I bet it hurt! Typical
Mick: Look what I just did

Tina: Looks good but graffiti is a shame, ruins the buildings. Oh my you’re having some walk
Mick: It is an eyesore yes
Tina: How was your brownie? Coffee any good?
Mick: Very nice it had a segment of Terry’s Chocolate Orange on top! Coffee ok but not the best, but at least the place was open
Tina: Oh that would be really nice. True and it kept you going
Mick: Look what I just made!

Mick: Should be home by 2.30 then it’ll be time for a coffee 😉
Tina: Ha lol 😂 looks like you’re back to where houses are!
Tina: Good timing
Mick: Yes far fewer people this way
Tina: Oh that’s good
Mick: Nearly home
Tina: Oh good I’ve just made a sandwich 🥪
Tina: You home ? 🏡
Tina: With your coffee ☕️
Mick: Yes I am, now with a coffee, thanks for joining me on my 5 mile walk!!
Tina: It’s quite alright was fun! There is nothing on tv so I’ll listen to the radio for a bit!
Mick: Me too in a minute, probably Radio 2 Sounds of the 70s
Tina: Well enjoy. I’m listening to Capital fm
Mick: Ah, Capital Radio in the 70s was terrific, it’s not really my taste in music now, enjoy, sing along, dance!!

Another day, another walk, another stop for coffee. You can pick up the feel-good vibes in Salutem.

Be stronger than the storm

I invited Rachel from Salutem to join me on my Radio Northenden show this week. And she very generously agreed. You can hear our chat plus two hours of music loosely themed around Shopping right here.

Martha telling a story

Martha told a wonderful story about a Witch and Gnome and a dragon that morphed into a dinosaur! We watched online of course.

Heron of the week – on the opposite bank, of course
Men at work

Some highly visible men working by the sluice gates, after the deluge last week.

And so we come to the real highlight of the week. Salutem and snowman and spammy phone calls are all well and good, but nothing beats spending time with our grandchildren, William and Martha. Yes, SK8 was the destination for our first road trip for a long time.  We still have to maintain a safe distance of course, hugs are out of the question, we saw them from the end of the drive.

Martha

Martha knows that she only needs to dress the top half for her online schoolwork. Truly, a member of the Zoom generation.

 

 

 

William

And William insisted on wearing his backpack while scootering outside the house: maybe he thought he’d be going further away from home. He was doing sums. Just turned three years of age and he can do simple arithmetic. And he loves saying two and two equals four rather than just plain old ‘is‘.

We’ve been entertained this week by more online content, which is a horrible term, but covers everything from Netflix to gigs to Twitter and Instagram as well as videos of Martha and William. In fact, if you want to hear Martha’s sensational new hit single, please listen to this week’s Radio Northenden show.

We watched all 8 episodes of Bridgerton, and not just because it was described as Regency porn. I think we both enjoyed it on the whole, but I found the use of some Americanisms in the very English setting a bit grating. Liesel wondered about my sudden gasps of exasperation when a character said, ‘I’ll be with you momentarily’, or something was done ‘differently than’ something else.

We watched more of the Celtic Connections festival. I loved the Kinnaris Quintet especially, and enjoyed the very different Indian group, Jodhpur RIFF. Jessica Lee Morgan is still doing a weekly show on YouTube and from this Sunday, once a month also on Mary Hopkin’s YouTube channel.

Tom Hingley, lead singer of Inspiral Carpets and the Kar-pets

Someone I haven’t seen live in concert for far too long is Tom Hingley, so it was good to catch him online performing in aid of the John Peel Centre in Suffolk, a small venue that we’re unlikely to attend in real life, but it was good to hear some of the old songs performed live from his home. His camera was cunningly placed to reveal a nice warm fire plus the gold disc on his wall. Well done, Tom!

And finally, some more good news: Liesel received her first Covid vaccination this week. I’m not expecting mine until March but the roll-out of the vaccine seems to be going well, so far. A second day out for the car this week. Maybe we’ll start venturing out a bit more often, if anything, just to keep the poor old thing ticking over and to stop the mould from growing on the outside!

Liesel also completed another blanket, her crochet skills are improving by the minute.

Crochetted blanket
This really is a labour of love, I don’t know how many times Liesel counted the stitches in each row, just to make sure… and how pretty is it?

Locked down, locked in

In lockdown, we’re allowed out for exercise and for food shopping and to collect medication. As requested, the GP sends our prescriptions electronically, directly to the pharmacy. One day this week, we got extra steps in by visiting one pharamcy, walking to the other branch then all the way back to the first, where we finally collected what we’d been in for in the first place.

The occasional coffee to take away is fundamental to our mental well-being, as well, of course. All our shopping is done online, it’s all delivered by some very nice young men and, last week, by a very nice young lady.

Northenden’s very own mermaid

When you’re lurking inside a pharmacy while the staff are failing to find what you came for, all you can do is admire the tat on sale, such as this little ladyfish.

I was in danger of succumbing to a full-on panic attack when my PC lost touch with the internet.

Scary, misleading, error message

After failing to fix it by turning the PC off and on again, I went for a walk to breathe and to calm down and to try and think of possible solutions that didn’t involve a sledge hammer.

24 hours later, everything was back to normal. I have no idea what it was that I did but I tried to set things up as if for the first time. And tried again. Plugging and unplugging everything that I could think of. And tried again. Then it was all working again. So I don’t know what went wrong and I don’t know how it was fixed.

St Wilfrid’s Church in the sunshine

We enjoyed a few local walks this week, in the cold but sometimes in bright sunshine. Quite rightly I suppose, Liesel’s Mom queried why I went for a walk in the graveyard. Well, it was somewhere different to go. The gravestones were very slippery though, like a field of miniature ice rinks.
In the sunshine, the distant stones resembled a rather sophisticated stoney toast rack.

Graveyard
Artwork of the week

That picture was a mistake, phone in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some people in the family are a bit better at taking pictures though. Just look at this one taken by Helen during a storm in Manly.

Lightning in Manly

This week marks what should have been David Bowie’s 74th birthday. Jessica Lee Morgan kicked off the celebrations on her regular Tuesday night online show.

I continued celebrating the great man on my own radio show on Friday afternoon . Listen back here: songs that David Bowie covered plus several of his songs covered mostly by female singers.

Another day, another walk and we have a new visitor, or maybe a new inhabitant, on the river. Is it a cormorant?

Cormorant

He didn’t move from his stone, despite quite a few people walking by on both sides of the river. Stone? Actually, it looks more like an old Roman plate, when you zoom in.

Shutters

Nice to see the cheeky grin on the shutters outside this closed beauty parlour. But hooray, the coffee shop next door, Salutem, was open.

The new year started off with some sad news for us. Sarah’s mother Myra passed away in her sleep. We saw her online last month on the occasion of her 90th birthday, and she was looking forward to celebrating in real life later on. We’ll miss our occasional visits to London with her, to the National Theatre, to the British Museum, to Pizza Express. And her occasional visits to Manchester. Martha and William love saying the words ‘Great Granny’. Yes, even when she was locked in her room at Premier Inn, hanging out of the window asking for help, she remained positive and upbeat.

When will I see you again?

There’s a new word to describe the no-man’s land between Christmas and New Year: Merryneum. The time of year when even more than usual, we don’t know what day of the week it is. And it still doesn’t matter really. Except when we miss Doctor Who because they showed it on a Friday, which is just bizarre.

It was much colder here in Northenden* and we took a break from our (not quite) daily strolls. *I know, it was colder everywhere, but Northenden is our universe for now.

Blue sky after rain

Blue skies are always welcome of course, along with bright sunshine. The Sun’s low, just above the horizon, even at noon, this time of year. So sun-hats are no good, the brim will never be wide enough. I am now wearing my beanie hat, to keep my the ears warm.

Following all the recent rain, the river is really high. The weir is totally submerged, its location given away only by surface turbulence.

The site of the weir

And what a shock to wake up one morning to the sight of snow. Yes, it was forecast, but it was still a surprise.

Fresh snow of Northenden

It soon melted, only to be replaced the following night. The clatter of the snowflakes pounding against the window disturbed my slumber.

More snow in Northenden

I took some pictures and crawled back into my pit.

Martha and William built a superb Snowman and Snowdog way over there in Cheadle. Sorry we couldn’t help out on this occasion.

William, Snowdog, Martha, Snowman

When William was asked why he’d put a glove on the side of the Snowdog, he pointed out that that’s what a Snowdog looks like. And, sure enough, Raymond Briggs’s Snowdog does have this embellishment.

I don’t know who built a snowman in our car park, but the next day, all that was left was his nose.

Snowman’s nose

We did come across this little chap on one of our walks. If we’d known, we would have brought the discarded nose with us and performed a transplant.

Snowman in Northenden

We felt it was probably too slippery and muddy on the river banks, so we gave them a miss this week. (Translation: we are wimps.) Looking down from the bridge, that was a wise move, I think.

The River Mersey

So, a pretty lazy week, really. Every noise outside is an invitation to look through the window. ‘What’s goin’ on?’ we ask, like some freak from EastEnders. Someone in the flats over the road received a delivery. When she answered the door:
Liesel: Is that the girl who goes out sunbathing sometimes?
Mick: I don’t know, I don’t recognise her with her clothes on.

What did we achieve this week? Well, Liesel completed her jigsaw puzzle, thank you Helen and Jenny.

Liesel’s 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle

And my New Year’s Day radio show is here.

As a special treat, we enjoyed our first Samosa Box. The food was delivered, still hot from the oven and the samosas were delicious. Support your local business!

Samosas and chips

Here are some statistics from 2020.

The good news is, I read more books this year than previously, thanks to the opportunity presented by lockdown. 41 books, 21 of which were by female writers. This is probably the first time I’ve read more books by women than by men, a conscious effort on my part. (2019: 33 books, 13 by women.)

On the other hand, I walked only 1530 miles in 2020 compared with 1748 in 2019, but we were on our Travels for half of that year. And, walking locally, it’s so easy to think, ‘oh that’ll do, I’m going home now’.

It was a funny old year, but I think we got by OK. We are looking forward to 2021. Happy New Year and thank you for joining Liesel and me on our antics. When will we see you again? Sometime soon, we hope. Why did that song come to mind this week? Because the temperature was Three Degrees.

Yes, we’re looking forward to the new year, but I can’t help but look back on decades past.

I always listen to Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70s and last week’s episode was especially good. Johnnie’s wife Tiggy talked to him about his broadcasting career during the 1970s, and they played some of his favourite songs from that decade. Listen again here before it falls off BBC Sounds.

Out of the 16 tracks played, I’ve seen most of the artists either in concert or in passing.

1 Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

Liesel and I saw them at a reunion gig in Hyde Park, one of the first shows we saw together. Liesel was intimidated by the large crowd, she wasn’t used to that sort of thing. It was a great show, of course, all their songs are wonderful. But sadly, there was no chemistry between them, no eye-contact at all. The support act was The Everly Brothers.

In a previous life, I saw Simon and Garfunkel at Wembley Stadium, in about 1982, with Sarah and my sister Pauline and her then boyfriend John. Jobsworth Security Man wanted to take my camera away, no photos in those days. I followed him a short way to wherever he was leading, chose my moment, ran off, took off my jacket, and joined the others in the auditorium. My photos were of course rubbish. But the show was great.

2 Derek and the Dominos – Layla

Sarah and I saw Eric Clapton on the same bill as Elton John and Bonnie Raitt, at Wembley Stadium in 1992. The performance was good but maybe a bit subdued. It was a year after the tragic death of his 4-year old son Conor. He performed his very moving song Tears in Heaven, written in memory of Conor. We saw him again at Masters of Music in 1996.

3 Neil Diamond – I Am… I Said

Sadly no.

4 The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again

As part of Masters of Music for The Prince’s Trust, The Who performed Quadrophenia on a cold June day in Hyde Park in 1996. It was so cold, I bought myself an extra t-shirt to keep warm. I know. Sarah, me, Jenny and Helen were here for a full day of music. We also saw Alanis Morissette and Eric Clapton again. But it was so cold, we, along with many hundreds of other people, left as Bob Dylan took to the stage.

5 Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side

Sarah and I saw Lou Reed at Hammersmith Odeon around the time of his Magic and Loss album, March 1992. A great show but when on arrival, we saw him sitting at a bar, having a quiet drink, we were too intimidated scared to walk up and say ‘Hello’.

6 The Steve Miller Band – The Joker

Sadly no.

7 David Bowie – Life On Mars?

Sarah and I saw David Bowie five times in concert: Wembley Arena twice, Earls Court, Milton Keynes Bowl (with baby Jenny, 1983) and at the awful short-lived London Arena (with Jenny, 1990, and yes, she fell asleep again). We saw him again at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley Stadium. But the only time I met him was outside the gallery hosting his art exhibition in 1995. He was coming out just as Sarah and I arrived. I shook his hand and thanked him for the music and asked for an autograph. ‘I’m gasping for a cuppa,’ he said, ‘I’ll be back in ten minutes’, he said, walking away with his assistant. Two hours is plenty of time to feign interest in wallpaper designs and other weird paintings. I’m still waiting for my man to return.

8 Cockney Rebel – Judy Teen

I saw Steve Harley, the lead singer, as a guest at a David Bowie Celebration in 2017. The band was put together by Mike Garson, Bowie’s long-time piano player, along with many other musicians who have played with Bowie. Steve Harley sang his own song Sebastian as well as a David Bowie song. I have a photo of the setlist. The woman was holding on to it really tightly, fearing I might run off with it.

9 John Lennon – Stand By Me

Sadly no.

10 Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

Sadly no.

11 Elton John & Kiki Dee – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

We saw Elton once with Eric Clapton (see above) and once before then at the Royal Festival Hall. The night before had been a Gala performance for a Royal personage which he must have found challenging, because he told us that tonight he could relax. The percussionist Ray Cooper stole the show.

Sarah and I also saw Kiki Dee at the Royal Albert Hall. She performed Don’t Go Breaking My Heart as a solo, despite the fact that from our lofty seats, we could see Elton lurking backstage. Good for him for not stealing the limelight.

12 The Eagles – The Last Resort

Sadly no.

13 Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK

Definitely no, I’m not even going to say I was at the famous 100 Club gig with 20,000 other people who were there in the tiny 350 capacity, iconic venue.

14 The Undertones – Teenage Kicks

Sadly no.

15 Patti Smith Group – Because The Night

I haven’t seen Patti Smith in concert, but I have had a deep and meaningless conversation with her. She curated the Meltdown Festival in London, 2005. As well as putting on several shows, she did some work with students from local schools. One lunchtime at the Royal Festival Hall, our paths crossed. I said ‘Hello’. She said ‘Hello’.

16 Jackson Browne – Running On Empty

Sadly no.

Liesel and I are looking forward to more live shows later in the year, as I’ve said before. Until then, radio and online gigs will have to do!

 

Christmas Crackers

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house, nothing was stirring, no, not even us. Our movements were confined to Northenden. Much excitement to be had on bin day when I only had to take out five wheelie bins instead of the usual nine. We think we’re one of only two flats occupied in our block at the moment.

I fancied a quick snack, as is often the case at Christmastime. Well, not just Christmas, of course, but this was a particularly Christmaslike desire for a snack. I thought about some ridiculously delicious delights, since I’m one of those people who doesn’t have time for the mediocre. Scrumptious somethings for me, a double-or-nothing food lover, because my fancies are tickled by serious baking. I found some crackers, savoury biscuits in the cupboard. I topped them with a range of cheeses so outrageously indulgent, I couldn’t help but giggle in blissful, unbridled merriment.

There is some sad news though. We said goodbye to our old toaster this week. Its left-hand slot hasn’t worked well for quite some time. But at least, we can dispose of it safely. The bonus is, I didn’t have to get rid of all its crumbs, an exercise guaranteed to leave us walking on crunch in the kitchen for days afterwards, no matter how careful I am and no matter how diligent I am in sweeping up the mess. In the old days, cleaning the toaster was an exercise conducted out in the garden, much to the birds’ delight.

Local strolls took us to the river and through the woods, along our High Street, Palatine Road and very slightly beyond.

Brinkmanship

As described a couple of weeks ago, the seagulls are still playing brinkmanship by the weir.

Liesel – the bollard relief service

Traffic is no longer allowed along this little road. But someone decided to take shortcut. This is why Liesel volunteered to join the bollard replacement scheme. Conversely, the bollard was lying down in the road a few yards away, where Liesel often takes a nap.

In the great ongoing war between trees and fences, this tree recently won a minor battle.

Tree 1 Fence 0

The big astronomical event of the week was the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, appearing close to each other in the night sky. Usually we can’t see anything interesting in the sky because of the thick layers of cloud, but on the day before the closest approach, we were met with clear blue skies. So, just after sunset I looked southwest and saw the two planets. It took a while to convince myself that it wasn’t just the headlights from a passing aeroplane, but hooray, I saw the two largest planets in the solar system. I tried to take a picture with my phone, it’s obviously not the best picture taken of the event.

Conjunction photo – fisrt attempt

Next time, I hope to be better prepared, and maybe my photo too will show the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter, like this one I saw on Twitter.
[I would like to credit whoever took this picture, but aarrgghh, I can’t find it]

Someone else’s photo of the conjunction

On Christmas eve, I was surprised by and delighted to see a nice sunset again, with clear blue skies once the orange red tints faded. I used binoculars to see the two planets, now a bit further apart, but ours aren’t strong enough to show any features. I did manage to take a clearer picture with my phone, through the binoculars.

Phone through bins

Liesel did a fabulous job of putting up our Christmas lights again. There’s no space really for a tree in our luxury apartment, but the shelves in our living room will do.

Christmas decorations

We’ve enjoyed a lot of online enetrtainment this week, all of which we would prefer to see in real life, in the flesh. But then, we wouldn’t go out three or more nights in a row.

Phil Cunningham holds a Christmas Concert every year but this, the 15th, was online only. In fact, there were two shows in the end. During one, Eddi Reader performed In The Bleak Midwinter, my favourite Christmas tune, I think. And in the other, she sang Scarlet Ribbons, my first ever favourite song, and one that always reminds me of my Mum.

Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson, Phil Cunningham and many others

Tuesday evening is Jessica Lee Morgan evening. She and her partner Chris keep us entertained for an hour while those of us watching exchange pleasantries and bad jokes in the chat box.

Jessica lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

Christmas eve, after dark, we were entertained by O’Hooley and Tidow singing songs for us, along with their little one, Flynn, who joined in a bit.

Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow with baby Flynn

I think the consensus amongst all these performers and audience members is, we can’t wait to get back to live gigs again. Until then, we’ll be walking around the highways and byways of Northenden, commenting on high the river is, how fast it’s flowing, enjoying the sunshine on our backs once in a while.

Every time we walk through the woods, I regret not bringing my tools. This fence has been broken for as long as I can remember, and I reckon I can fix it with a few nails and a couple of cable ties. Oops, I just remembered, I’ve passed on most of my tools. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.

The fence keeled over

The Christmassy tree is looking better and better. There’s even a parcel or two there now.

The Kenworthy Lane Woods Christmassy tree

We passed the Winter solstice this week, so in theory, the days are getting longer again. But this week was also the first time we went for a walk while it was still frosty. I was persuaded to wear trousers. Trousers: they’re like shorts, but they cover whole legs, all the way down to the shoes. They also feel very strange.

Frosty
9½ hours I’ll never get back!

My achievement of the week was completing the biggest crossword I’ve ever attempted: 1284 clues. It was an app, with a few annoying adverts but good fun and quite challenging at times.

Yes, I sent off for and received a magnificent certificate!

If you want to have a go, and I would highly recommend it, here’s the link to download it.

Christmas isn’t the same without children, is it? I can still remember the sense of electric excitement I felt leading up to Christmas day. I relived it with Jenny and Helen growing up and now we see it in William and Martha.

The night before Christmas with Martha and William

On Christmas day, we all got together, online. So much fun, but definitely not as good as actually meeting up, playing with the children’s new toys and reading their new books.

Martha, Oma, Grandad and Auntie Helen

We were watching something on TV on Christmas day afternoon when Liesel suddenly exclaimed ‘It’s snowing!’ And it was. Everso slightly. Everso lightly.

Mick! It’s snowing!

And then, within five minutes, it had stopped. Hardly a white Christmas. Maybe next year. Or, if meteorologists are to be believed, it’s more likely to snow at Easter time.

Oh, the cheese and crackers mentioned above? We now have more outrageously indulgent cheeses from the Cheese Hamlet in Didsbury to enjoy with the scrumptious quartet of biscuits.

In the end, I didn’t do a radio show this week. But all the others are still available if you would like to catch up. And look out for a major re-launch of radio Northenden soon!

We’ll be back next week. Next year! Cheers!

Birds and buses

Liesel and I usually go for our strolls in the morning but every now and then, we venture out later in the day. The danger with this is, there are usually many more people out and about. This makes it more difficult to maintain social distancing, of course, but being out in the Sun is good, you can feel the vitamin D fizzing away while it’s being manufactured beneath your skin.

Bed of leaves

Of course, the delight of walking in the sunshine has to be balanced by the sight of flytipped rubbish, including a mattress, in the middle of the road. Yes, actually on the road, as if they’d just opened the back door of a moving van and kicked out all their rubbish. What a shame that personal details were clearly visible on some of the items.

More Northenden flytippery

Passing vehicles had to bump up onto the pavement to get past.

William the carrot-muncher

On a lighter, happier note, William grabbed his Mum’s phone and called his Grandad while eating his lunch, in the car, after his swimming lesson.

Unprompted, he told me the carrot stick was a triangle. In the pool, he had dived to retrieve a (plastic) fish, something that I could never manage to do.

 

Mincemeat scone

Liesel baked some scones, using mincemeat rather than plain ordinary dried fruit, and of course, they didn’t last very long. All the flavour of, but not as strong as, traditional mince pies.

 

 

 

There is a universe beyond Northenden. We proved that to be the case by breaking out the passports and venturing as far afield as Lyme Park this week. It’s been a while, but it was good to be out walking somewhere other than our local ‘hood.

There was evidence that deer had been roaming, but we didn’t see any. Not real ones, anyway.

Lyme deer

Time for some bird spotting, I think.

Corkbill egrets

Amongst the fallen leaves of Autumn, behold, young ferns.

Baby ferns
Selfie of the day
Mushroom

As you can(‘t quite) see, it was a very clear day. You can see the metropolis that is Manchester from Lyme Park, and today was the clearest that particular view has ever been.

 

Back in Northenden and we’re still finding new roads to explore. We took it into our heads to walk a bit further, buy some lunch and then walk home.

Britannia Country House Hotel

We had been walking along the river but the path was so muddy, we detoured at the first opportunity, not really knowing where the stone steps would lead. It’s a bit of a dilapidated hotel, with its run-down car parks, set back from the main road.

We found our destination in West Didsbury but were immediately disappointed.

Bad news at Greens

Yes, you guessed, it was Tuesday. Oh well, nothing for it, but to walk home, hungry. Well, not strictly true. We stopped off at La Chouquette in Didsbury for coffee and cake. La Chouquette has taken over from Cidsin, a coffee shop that we had frequented in the past.

Time for some more bird spotting, I think.

Wooden sculpture
Kingfisher

Spring is coming up fast, even though we probably have the worst of Winter to come, yet. I thought the baby fern at Lyme Park was a freak, but we also saw some very early daffodils near one of our local golf courses.

Baby daffodils

On the other foot, I did find a pair of shoes on one walk. Well, not exactly a pair, but I guess these folks had a good time at their illegal parties before hopping home.

Lost shoes

I was so glad I’d decided not to walk by the river on this occasion. Looking down at the path from the road above reveals how muddy it still was after all that rain. Plus, the river is a few feet higher than normal.

More muddy than Mudsville, Mudshire

Our food deliveries this week included the biggest Brussels sprouts we’ve ever seen.

Big sprouts

There is not a lot of spare room in the fridge, right now! But the sprouts are delicious, oh yes.

Here’s William on his last day at Busy Bees. He’ll start at his new nursery after Christmas.

William the former Busy Bee

And here’s Martha on the last day at school before the Christmas break.

Martha in mufti

It’s wonderful to see them both doing so well, and I’ll say it again: the worst thing about the pandemic is that we aren’t able to spend time with our beautiful grandchildren.

Brandy balls

What’s this? Another foodie photo? Are you alright, Mick? Yes, I’m fine, thanks. But you need to see Liesel’s bourbon balls, made with, not bourbon, but French brandy. Brandy balls. Liesel also baked cookies and included crème de cassis. We’ve had a bottle of that particular poison for many, many years too and it’s time to finish it all off. With white wine, it makes a cocktail called kir, something Sarah and I used to enjoy during our brief cocktail-making period.

My radio show this week was full of Christmas cheer, and you are welcome to listen to two hours of fun and frolics here.

And so, the first of the Christmas snacks have been opened. Liesel’s justification is that we are now on the first day of the Christmas Radio Times. Salt and pepper cashew nuts. M&S salted pretzel sticks. All very tasty of course. Liesel’s career as a food critic is slowly taking off. ‘These pretzel sticks are long, they’re like covid tests.’ I don’t know why M&S feel the need to straighten out pretzels, to be honest.

As this is the last post before the big day, Liesel and I would like to wish a very merry Christmas to all our readers, visitors, viewers and other passers-by. Thanks for joining us during a period of antics not quite as exciting as our gap-year travels a couple of years ago, but we’re looking forward to a much more adventurous 2021.

Ahh, gap-year travels, the good old pre-covid days! Here’s something I wrote that wasn’t published at the time, for some reason. Imagine we’re in Fiji, late 2018, mostly taking buses here and there…

Suva bus station is organised chaos. There are several different bus companies, there are several bays, there are hundreds of people, and to move around you have to walk between moving buses. Yes, there are signs saying not to cross over except at the designated places, but those designated places are never where you actually need them.

On the first bus, we bought $15 cards which was enough to cover the fare from Nadi to Pacific Harbour. Each card now has $3.50 credit. Can we use this towards another fare? No.

The second bus, we paid a man at the bus station, he wrote out a ticket which we then had to present to the driver when we got off the bus at our destination.

On one occasion we paid the driver when we got on but didn’t receive a ticket, so we’re glad nobody, no inspector, asked to see it.

On the ride from Pacific Harbour back to Nadi, we paid a man halfway back. He took my last $50 bill and got off the bus when it stopped for a break at a market. I thought I would never see him again. But he did eventually reappear with my change, but again, no tickets.

Seagulls playing chicken

And so, as the days become shorter but at a slower rate than before, and the radio waves are filled with more and more seasonal music, I realise that it’s very nearly the end of the year. But before we go, there will be a couple more posts here. Yes, even when nothing much happens. Some days are rounded off nicely with a half-decent sunset. I say ‘half-decent’ because it would be even better without those roofs in the view.

Sunset over Northenden

The highlight of the week for Liesel was a Zoom call with Martha in which they made some Christmas decorations together. Both girls did very well.

Martha did very well

The highlight for me I think was taking a really good picture of our heron, in flight, coming towards me. It was good timing, really, he was flying away from someone on the opposite bank of the river.

Heron on the Mersey

Yes, we’re still going out for walks in the local area, it’s been quite a while since we ventured outside our own postcode.

Here’s another picture of the heron. He’s looking at me as if to say, ‘I know, I usually fly off when you get your camera out, but honestly, I can’t be bothered right now.’

Heron by the Mersey

One thing we don’t like about being out for a walk these days is those nasty, irritating clouds, swarms, of very small flies, or midges, whatever they are. I hate to think how many we’ve inhaled over the last few weeks. I wonder if they’re just breeding fast thanks to the large number of muddy puddles available right now?

The first Covid-19 vaccine has arrived in the UK and is being given to the most vulnerable people first. So, a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. As more people are vaccinated, things might get back to more normal. We’ll be able to make plans again, hooray! We’ll be able to visit Martha and William again, even bigger hooray! (Oh and Jenny and Liam, I suppose.) (And Helen and Adam but that’s a little further ahead in time.)

Phwoar, that smells like a coal fire. Then we turned the corner and gasped at the sight of this.

Holy smoke, Batman

We don’t see smoking chimneys very much any more, thank goodness, so this one, near Didsbury, took us by surprise. I feel sorry for anyone who had their washing hanging outside to dry. (In this weather?) And to think within my lifetime, this was every house in the neighbourhood. I’m surprised I still have a functioning pair of lungs, to be honest. Thank goodness things are getting better. Oh, apart from new-build houses being sold with wood-burning stoves, ffs.

Something equally surprising but much nicer to see was this tree in the park, blossoming. Maybe it thinks we’re past the worst of Winter this year.

Blossom

Sometimes when you’re walking by the river, you just fancy a sit-down and a foot-bath. Thank goodness someone has provided such facilities.

Rest your feet here

This week saw the 60th anniversary of the TV serial Coronavirus Street. No, Coronation Street. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whole episode, but it’s good to see Northenden joining in with the celebrations, big style.

You’ve been Barlowed

The fairies are taking over the woods. This time when we walked through, we saw many more fairy doors on the trees. So far, we’ve not seen any of the inhabitants, but we do like the bright and cheerful designs.

Lots and lots of fairy doors

Also in Kenworthy Woods, decorations on the ad hoc Christmas tree have spread out a bit further.

The world-famous tree that isn’t really a Christmas tree

One of the most entertaining five minutes of the week was spent by the river, just above the weir. The seagulls were playing chicken. They’d fly around for a bit, land on the water by the bridge, then drift downstream with the water. The last one to take flight before plummeting over the weir itself was declared the winner.

Chicken

The person we felt most sorry for this week was someone, presumably fairly local, who went shopping and left their toilet rolls in the trolley afterwards. I hope it wasn’t an emergency visit.

Lost pooperty

Our online entertainment this week included Artists Against War: A Stop the War Online Xmas Fundraiser. We were entertained by various poets, actors and activists for over two hours. There was an auction too for Stop The War, but (a) we don’t need any more clutter and (b) thank goodness other people had pockets deeper than we were prepared to dig.

Alexei Sayle, Tariq Ali, Brian Eno, Jeremy Corbyn, Salena Godden and Mark Rylance

I wish I’d had the foresight to record Mark Rylance singing the Irish folk song Arthur McBride, a capella, it was very moving.

On the radio show this week, I spoke with Ciro from the online band Daphne Did It. Their new single Black Rose was released on the same day. Watch the Black Rose video here. The show otherwise was a bit of a mish-mash: some Christmas songs, some requests, some songs left over from previous themed shows. You can listen here. Just one more show before Christmas, and it will be mostly Christmas tunes of course. I am happy to receive any requests and suggestions, please use the Contact page, somewhere near the top of this page, I think!

10,000 steps a day

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


Fairy door

Colourful graffiti

Didsbury Mosque

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.


Birthday balloon on a bridge

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 loitering within tent

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.

50 Shades of Grey

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.

Martha and William with their tree

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.