Manchester by bus

The weather is very changeable here in Manchester, I may have mentioned this before. This week, we’ve experienced at least two seasons. A couple of days of Summery heat, a nice dose of apricity (a nice word, that) and very welcome. On the other hand, one day, the cold, strong wind, seemingly fresh from Siberia, made for an unexpectedly unpleasant walk. Yes, I could have put on more and warmer clothes, but as I said, the ferocity of the gale was a big surprise. Never mind the weather: as a Brit, I could whinge about it for several hours.

It’s been a while, but after acquiring some new bags, we collected some litter from our local streets. There should be a law against driving over discarded drinks cans because the flattened items are so much harder to pick up with the bespoke litter-picker-upper. But then, I could whinge about the amount of littering for several hours too. Well, it makes a change from moaning about the weather.

We had a coffee break at Boxx2Boxx and that was nice, sitting outside in the Sun. Now if only they’d ban traffic from Palatine Road, it would be even more quiet and pleasant, but that will never happen. Yes, I could whinge about the amount of traffic until the cows come home. In fact, there are so many cars around here, they don’t all fit on the roads, they have to park on the pavements.

We paid a visit to Manchester and we chose to go in by bus. The first bus we’ve been on here, I think, since before the first lockdown. Most of the windows were open, but somebody had managed to close one of the windows that was fitted with a device to prevent it from being closed. It was a long ride into Manchester, over half an hour to travel just six miles or so. We agreed that there should be a fast, non-stopping bus service from outside our front door to the big city. But then, I guess that’s what Uber is for. Could I whinge more about the local bus services? Yep, I sure could.

Unfortunately, we chose a day right in the middle of the Conservative Party Conference, so we witnessed hundreds of police officers from several police forces keeping us all safe from the politicians in the city centre. St Peter’s Square was the venue for several protest groups, but we fought our way through into the Central Library.

Gandhi

Liesel was looking at some specific books, so I wandered around and amongst other things, came across this bust of Mahatma Gandhi. There are hidden, secret passageways in this library: it seems I find something new every time I visit. In 1980, Manchester became Britain’s first nuclear free zone.

Nuclear free Manchester

In the music department, I resisted the temptation to play the piano and to play on the drumkit. One thing that did surprise me was the number of books about David Bowie.

Where the books were found by the golden ones

My plan now is to write a book about David Bowie, and for a title, I can just pick one of his song titles. There can’t be much left to say about him, surely? It’s bad enough that some people play one of his records on each and every single radio show they cobble together. Ahem.

I mentioned the less than ideal bus service before, but very soon, Manchester’s public transport system will be improved. We look forward to the full implementation of The Bee Network, fully integrated mass transportation, and this includes facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.

The Bee Network bus

There is a shortage of lorry drivers and of slaughterhouse workers in the UK right now, so farmers are having to cull 150,000 pigs. What a waste. There was a protest outside the library against this, of course.

Don’t burn the pigs

We walked to a place called The Green Lab for lunch, but I was disappointed that there wasn’t a big green dog sitting outside. It’s a popular place, we were lucky to get seats, really. Another group of people were observed walking towards the library, carrying the Roma flag I think, blue and green with a red wheel. Amongst the delegation was a unicorn with his own security detail.

A rare Manc unicorn

Our first day out in Manchester concluded nicely when we passed these buskers, singing the songs of Bob Marley and doing a very good job.

Buskers

The exciting news this week is that we are resuming our childminding duties. We picked Martha and William up from school one day, so that Jenny could show us where to go. And on Thursday, we collected them both and brought them home to ours for a few hours.

It’ll take a while to get back into the swing of things of course, as they are both very tired at the end of an arduous schoolday.

William earning his snack
Martha fighting a biscuit packet

We’ll get the balance right between satisfying their desire for post-school snacks and not filling them up before dinnertime. We shovelled the coal out of the tub again so that they could have a soak and a play in the bath together and afterwards, we watched something on TV. William knew what he wanted, and our TV setup is different to theirs at home, but he still took charge of the remote control.

Jenny and Liam arrived and we all ate together. Liesel went out to her WI Knitting Group meeting and missed Martha and William getting ready for bed. What an absolute pleasure to spend time with these delightful little people.

Again, my plan was to walk to the well-being walk in Wythenshawe, but once again, I left home too late. Having taken the plunge a few days earlier, I cheated and caught the bus to about the halfway point.

Red and blue

This was a nice, bright day, and I did like the look of the red and the blue here.

We walked through Painswick Park again and back to the main offices of Thrive Manchester. After which I walked all the way home. I’m not one to whinge, as you know, but the weather forecast is not looking good for the next week

The theme for the Radio Northenden show this week was Days. Listen here. And yes, it includes a David Bowie track, something from my Mum and Dad’s record collection as well as Sounds of the ’20s: that is, a song from the 1920s and a brand new release by a (fairly) local artist. Listen back here (in case you missed the link the first time)!

Knitting

After a storm, look out for a rainbow. Or, in our case, after a busy week away, let’s have a quiet week at home.

We welcomed Martha and William and their minders, not for Liesel’s birthday cake, but for home-made cream puffs. William was eaten by a donut while Martha was learning the fine art of French knitting.

William v Donut

This donut was originally made by Liesel’s Grandma, re-stuffed and refurbished by Liesel, so it’s now being enjoyed by the fifth generation.

Martha v knitting

It was lovely to witness the moment when it clicked, when Martha could see what she had to do.

Meanwhile, Liesel has very nearly finished her latest crochet project, another blanket.

A blanket

It won’t be long now until it’s sent off to its new forever home.

We were asked to look after William for a few hours while Liam was working and Jenny was entertaining a friend. I suspect there was a lot of girly talk and girly midday boozing going on. But we got William, so that’s a bonus!

He brought his scooter and scooted around Wythenshawe Park, remembering the way to the playground, even though he’s only been once before.

William v slide

Despite this photographic evidence, he did enjoy going down the slide, several times! He’s a very keen climber too and Liesel and I certainly got our exercise as we chased him around, from one piece of equipment to another.

There’s a small herd of farm animals, so we went over to smell them, I mean to look at them. Another family had a good chuckle as William gave a fairly good impression of the chickens clucking.

Back at home indoors, he wanted a bath, with a small selection of the dinosaurs. A few days ago, Sandra had given me one of her delicious fridge cakes. So chocolatey and tasty and more-ish. Yes, of course I shared it with Liesel and today, we let William try it. Well, it got the thumbs up, so thanks again, Sandra!

But probably his favourite treat was the carrot that he helped scrub clean.

William v carrot

There are some amazing things to see as you wander around Northenden. For example, I was surprised to see these dumped supermarket trolleys. Yes, surprised, because by rights, they should have been thrown into the river by now.

Trolleys

One day, I snapped a rose that was growing well beyond the bounds of its garden. I thought it was quite beautiful, and thought that someone was bound to snip it off for a loved one.

Rose

But then the following day, as we were walking by, Liesel also pointed it out and said this was a beautiful flower. So, as they say, great minds spot the same pretty flowers, sometimes.

Sunflowers

Yes, in Northenden, the sunflowers grow so tall and powerfully, they need scaffolding to hold them up.

To mark the occasion of the Autumnal equinox, nature bestowed upon us the sight of a lovely sunset, the first one for quite a while. (Yes, I know we have a sunset every day, but this is the first colourful one we’ve witnessed for quite a while.)

Sunset over Northenden

We wandered over to Didsbury early one morning. La Chouquette provided the coffees, a pastry and the best loaf of bread that we’ve had for a long time. In fact, we started nibbling it on the way home.

Light of Didsbury

And here’s the world-famous yarn-bombed pillar box.

Pillar box v knitting

No idea who the lady over the road is, holding the coffees. And I hope I’m not betraying any state secrets when I reveal the location of Batman’s residence.

Batman’s mansion

I joined Chantel again for a couple of well-being walks, one in Northenden and one in Wythenshawe, the latter being a new venue. This walk took us into and around Painswick Park but unusually, I took no pictures. You’ll just have to imagine the pond, the geese, the ducks and what looks like another fabulous playground.

As promised, the radio show this week featured London, following our exciting trip there last week. You can listen back here.

In the last couple of weeks, we found out that three of our friends have passed on to the other side. I feel sad that we didn’t find out sooner, but I feel privileged to have had them all in our lives over the years. Farewell Mark, Peter and Gill. And lots of love to your families and friends.

That’s all folks! We’re off out soon so I suppose I’d better get ready…

Travels down south

We went a long way south this week, for the first time since before the first lockdown. What an adventure. But first, here’s Northenden in all its glory.

Yellow flowers

Some flowers manage to escape the confines of their own garden, which brightens up the local roads.

Liesel had some work to do so, sadly, it was down to me to look after Martha and William for a few hours while Liam and Jenny went off somewhere for some peace and quiet. I enjoyed the walk to their house, and back, in ideal weather conditions. Not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, just right, just like Baby Bear’s porridge.

By way of a mental exercise, I decided to count the numbers of cyclists, runners and walkers that I saw on the way over to Cheadle Hulme. In the end, there were 13 cyclists, 17 runners or joggers, some looking happier than others, and 35 people walking. But, there were also two people pushing their bikes. Do I add them to the cyclists’ or to the walkers’ tally? This is the sort of nightmare conundrum that statisticians have to contend with all the time. Oh well. Also, one dog, one cat, one buggy and of course, innumerable cars. More exciting stats later.

Martha and William both had so much to show me, toys, books, puzzles. Martha’s written the first story in her school book. Getting them to pose for selfies was fun: William got into the spirit, training for the new coal mine about to open in Cumbria.

Selfies

There was a visitor in the garden. They weren’t bothered. True, it was only a squirrel, but even so, I thought they’d be more excited than their aged grandfather was! Jenny had prepared lunch for us all, thank you, and they ate very nicely. When it came time for dessert, it was Freddo chocolate bars or animal biscuits.

Later, both were still hungry. What do you want? Freddo? How about some fruit instead? I peeled Martha’s orange for her, while William peeled his own banana and very nearly put the whole thing in, in one go. Try harder, young man!

This dialogue didn’t really happen. I could have asked either, “What would you like to play with right now?” And the answer would be, “Whatever my sibling has, of course!” I’m sure most parents and grandparents have had this experience.

It’s a funny old universe, everything balances out in the end. Mummy and Daddy returned and I walked home. Martha and William were quite tired, but I was buoyed up and happy: what a remarkable demonstration of the law of conservation of energy.

Gnarly old tree

I walked home a different way, a more pleasant route, away from the main road as much as possible. So we’ll remember that for the next time. It was nice to see some young people playing football on the school playing field, it reminded me of watching Asa and Gideon playing three years ago, at the start of our travels.

And so, Monday morning arrived full of expectation, the cue for us to pack for our trip down south. We still weren’t 100% sure it was the right thing to do, given the Covid situation, but it’s been so long, and there has to be a first time some time. It’s a thin line between being cautious and living in fear, after all.

The M6 is a marvellous feat of engineering and construction and I know there’ll be a big, big party on the day it is finished, when there are no roadworks, no improvements, just an unencumbered drive from A to B.

And it’s always good to see this.

The Pies

It reminded me, I must try and find the album released by The Pies many years after the graffiti first appeared.

Rather than going straight to our accommodation in Tolworth, or Surbiton as our hostess would have it, we drove to Richmond Park, probably my favourite of all the London parks. We were mainly going for a walk, but we definitely cheered when we first saw the London skyline in the distance

London from Richmond Park

A couple of sections of road in the park have been closed to motorised vehicles, in order to restrict the amount of rat-running. That was good to see, even if, on this occasion, it meant we had to drive much further to our chosen car park.

We walked through Isabella Plantation, a nice, peaceful haven. I’m sure it’s been affected by the pandemic, much of it is very overgrown. In places, you can’t even see the stream because the vegetation is so lush. Gardeners and volunteers have probably been unable to devote so much time to the usually well-groomed area.

Here be a hidden stream

We wandered over to and around Pen Ponds. We didn’t have the place to ourselves, we shared with a few other people and their dogs, as well as plenty of birds.

Cormorant

We probably have seen cormorants here before, but mainly it’s geese, ducks, coots and even when you can’t see them, you can certainly hear the ring-necked parrakeets.

Walk like an Egyptian

I’d forgotten how much bracken there is in Richmond Park, and recalled how several years ago, there was a big scare about how carcinogenic the spores are.

At this point, we didn’t know why the roads were closed. So I walked down the steep Broomfield Hill and thought about stopping a struggling cyclist halfway up to ask if they knew why the roads were closed. But that would have been cruel. It’s always an achievement to ride up that hill without stopping and who knows, maybe one day I’ll do it again too. It was good to see so many cyclists in Richmond Park, but these weren’t the only ones we saw.

We found our way to our Airbnb in Tolworth Surbiton via Kingston. What’s this? County Hall has been sold? Surrey County Council’s HQ is now in Reigate, not Woking or Guildford as I would have expected. So who bought County Hall? I know when I worked at Kingston University, the then Chancellor wanted to buy it to expand his empire across the road. And the University’s Town House is a brand new building, not the pile of portakabins that it used to be. So many changes in such a short time.

After checking into our place, we set off for Byfleet to meet up with an old friend. Even though it’s been a long time since we’ve been here, it was all familiar. No real danger of getting lost, here.

Rosie took us to a nearby Indian restaurant for a delicious but very spicy meal which left me no room for dessert. It was while walking through the tunnel under the railway station that we saw more cyclists.

West Byfleet Station underpass

How wonderful to witness the reunion between Liesel and Rosie, after all this time!

I think it was Benjamin Frankin who said: “… but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes and roadworks on Leatherhead Road.” And so it proved to be on this occasion as we drove the next day, yes, even further south, to Polesden Lacey. Is Leatherhead Road the most dug up highway ever?

It was raining and, in fact, this turned out to be the only rainy day of the whole week. Here we met up with Helen and Steve for lunch and a quick walk around the grounds. The House itself was closed, so we still haven’t been inside, despite so many visits to Polesden Lacey over the years.

Looking south

In the rain, I started to sing Oh What A Beautiful Morning, but it wasn’t fully appreciated by my other half.

Atmospheric is possibly the word I’m looking for. Even when the rain stopped, you could feel it, on the borderline between drizzle and tropical-style humidity.

Raindrops on leaveses…
Selfie of the day
Beech nut sculpture

This sculpture was created by Iain Crafer, inspired by the local beech trees.

We bade farewell to Helen and Steve and before our evening assignation, we made a detour to Bushy Park, one of our favourite London parks. Here too, the main road through the park, Chestnut Avenue, has been closed to through traffic. How jolly civilised.

We had a very pleasant walk around, finding paths that neither of us remember trampling nor cycling on before.

Stag

If you look closely, you can see stags having a lie down in the long grass.

Another gnarly old tree
Heron

Here’s a heron in Leg of Mutton Pond, so I passed on greetings from his cousin in Northenden. And we probably would have made friends with this moorhen too, if only we’d had some food for him.

Moorhen

We spent two days in London. At the end of our second day, we caught a train to Kingston where we loitered for a while before setting off on another walk.

Party Animal

This sculpture is one of a set, constructed by Alex R T Davies, on display in Kingston. This goat really does have a traffic cone on his back, and we are invited to touch and even sit on him.

The Thames was very busy, with rowing boats with crews of 8 and of 2, paddle-boarders and swans.

Messing about on the river

Walking along the Thames to Surbiton in the early evening is a very pleasant experience, even if looking across the river means glimpsing the bright, setting Sun so, yes, there were moments when I couldn’t see much other than green blobs floating in front of me. Nevertheless, we found our way to one of our old haunts from a few years ago.

It was reassuring to pass another establishment to see that they’re still having trouble keeping the L stuck on. Every generation of vandals probably thinks they’re the first, the original!

Clocktower Café

In Allegro, the proprietor, whose name we ought to know by now, recognised us even though it’s been at least two years since our last visit. During the pandemic, he closed up shop and took advantage of the opportunity to refurbish the place. He only reopened a few weeks ago and very nearly had to close again. Someone driving away from Surbiton Station hit the accelerator instead of the brake, driving into the tree in front of the restaurant. 

We enjoyed a nice meal with Helen and Steve and went back for our final night in Tolworth Surbiton, at least for the time being.

Early Friday, we got up, packed, and departed, stopping in Surbiton, yes, proper Surbiton, at The Press Room for some coffee to take with us. Even the Big Issue lady recognised me from two years ago, so I must have left an impression there.

We were meeting up with another friend on the way back, over in Gloucestershire. Sandra worked with Liesel many years ago, and we’d arranged to meet up for a walk around Sherborne Park Estate, which belongs to the National Trust. And what a pleasant walk it was too, just the sound of insects and birds and two women catching up on several years of gossip. We’d seen deer in Richmond and Bushy Parks of course, but none as spectacular as the one we saw here.

Sherborne deer

Down the road, we had a break outside Sherborne Village Shop and Tea Room. This was the most restrictive venue we’d been to all week. Only two customers at a time, wearing masks, which is fair enough, but you don’t know there’s someone else inside until you’ve crossed the threshold, then you get a good telling off.

There is a fabulous library cum defibrillator storage facility just down the road.

Nice use of an old phone box

Regular visitors will know that I am not very lucky in my attempts to take pictures of dragonflies. But I got one today.

Dragonfly

Oh, alright, I know it’s only a wooden model, but it kept still long enough for me to get my phone out and press the button. Something else I’ve always admired is the skill of the dry stone wall builders, here in the Cotswolds and elsewhere.

Dry stone wall

On the way home, we passed by Bourton on the Water and Stow on the Wold, both places we’d love to revisit properly, as well as Stratford upon Avon, and eventually we were back on the motorway system. We were soon reminded why we should never drive anywhere on a Friday evening. Google Maps was helpful though, telling us where the least worst hold-ups were. In the end, we drove along a section of the M5. I don’t think I’ve been on that motorway since the time Sarah and I were driving to Bristol to meet Ruth, when a thick pea-souper made us slow to a crawl, and we had to give up on that trip.

We successfully arrived at home, got the mail, had a quick gin and tonic, and welcomed the sensation of sleeping in our own bed.

Katie was kind enough to broadcast my pre-recorded radio show this week, thank you, two hours of Earworms, but hopefully not the annoying kind. You can catch up here.

What’s that? What about London? Watch this space…

I promised some more stats. So turn away now if you’re likely to be unimpressed.

The Earth’s circumference is just under 25,000 miles and at some point in the last couple of months, I passed the milestone of walking half that distance since I first using a Fitbit in April 2015. So, 5½ years to walk 12,500 miles, halfway round the world, that’s not bad, is it! That’s at an average of about 12,586 steps per day or an average of 11,413 steps per day since I stopped working as a postie in January 2016, so that just goes to show how far postal workers have to walk each day.

Dinosaurs and bicycles

On our walk to Didsbury, we encountered more fly-tipped rubbish. We didn’t investigate but there may well have been evidence identifying the perpetrator of the crime. I always take a picture of this sort of rubbish with the intention of reporting it to the council. But I invariably forget to do so and then I find the picture a few days later, groan inwardly and tell myself that surely by now, somebody else has reported it.

Unusually for us, we had breakfast in out, by which I mean, we were inside a café, but out, not indoors at home. If you see what I mean. We live in a freedom-loving country of course (I know, I know) but who knew that nearly fifty years ago, it would no longer be legal to do much at all in some locations.

Whatever you do, don’t

We walked back home a slightly longer way because we had errands to run. In Marie Louise Gardens, we collected a bag of sticks and fir cones. This is for a future project in which Liesel will construct some bug hotels with the ladies of the WI. We had some items to buy at the Co-op, and I let Liesel have the pleasure of going inside, masked of course. But most importantly, we collected a parcel from the Post Office, 3 kg of plastic dinosaurs, newly arrived from Liesel’s Mom in Alaska. And as someone suggested on Twitter, plastic dinosaurs are the most realistic replicas possible. Plastic comes from oil. Oil comes from dead, squished dinosaurs. So a plastic dino might easily contain some genuine dino DNA. We could in theory create our own Jurassic Park. We didn’t do that though, oh no. Instead, the following morning we left a trail of dinosaurs up the stairs and leading to our luxury apartment. From above, I watched William as he spotted one. Then another… Then another…

Lille boy climbs to the top of the stairs

William brought his family over for brunch, but don’t worry, they had been invited and were all very welcome, and Liesel cooked up a magnificent banquet which we all throughly enjoyed, thank you.

A heap of dinosaurs

“Do you like dinosaurs, William?”
“Yes, but I couldn’t eat a whole one.”

It was such a nice day, we all went outside and sat in the shade of our old oak tree. The one we usually play hide’n’seek around. Or ‘tag’, even, but without actually touching because of Covid!

Under the oak

And we painted rocks. Well, I say rocks, but they were just small stones that we could find in the the confines of the communal car park. I remember burying some painted pet rocks before we moved away from Chessington. You can read about it here if you like.

Now we have a few more stones for someone to bury in future years.

Painted rocks

We all did very well, didn’t we? And then indoors again, the contents of the toy box were investigated and distributed. Every now and then, William would remember there’s a baby in the flat below ours and try to keep quiet for a while. It’s becoming a habit, but he ate a raw carrot, straight from the fridge and scrubbed under the tap. This, despite the fact that the last time he consumed a whole carrot, it resulted in the production of large orange poo the following day! To protect her identity, I won’t name which one of us two produced purple poo the morning after consuming beetroot salad. Oh and speaking of poo, this is the class of advert we’re seeing at local bus stops:

How do you poo?

OK, I’ll try not to mention poo again. Except to say that I will soon be receiving my bowel cancer testing kit, a biennial event that I always look forward to. Sadly, for me, Liesel provided an old tub to use, so I had no reason to buy a new one, one containing ice cream, for example.

Sometimes on a local walk, we retrace our steps, and that can be rewarding. We did so this week to stay in the shade of the local woods just a little longer on what was a surprisingly hot Summer day. And there’s nothing wrong with this little piece of uplifting philosophy, which I think we’ve probably walked by several times, and missed, as it’s on the other side of the gate post.

#StayStrong

Some medical news, hooray. I went into Manchester to give blood and again, this was no problem, except I had to have a cold drink afterwards, not tea, but I did enjoy my Club biscuit and ginger nuts.

We both received text messages from our GP inviting us in for our flu jabs. Liesel called to make appointments for us, and after being on hold for 45 minutes, was told that there were no more appointments available. And there probably wouldn’t be until November. Hmm. Meanwhile, Liesel had also received an email from a pharmacy also inviting her in for a flu jab. We called their local branch and were able to go along later that same day to be jabbed. A couple of days afterwards, I received an email inviting me to come along for a Covid jab, which was very tempting. Yes, I am fully vaccinated already, but a trip to Manly, New South Wales, even if to visit this particular pharmacy, is very appealing right now!

Well, I don’t know if it was the flu shot or the reduced volume of blood in my system, or a combination of the two, but the following day, I just felt really tired, and breathless. This didn’t prevent us setting off to watch the nearest stage of the Tour of Britain bike race. We drove to Quarry Bank National Trust and then walked for about half an hour to our chosen viewing location on Mobberley Road.

It was another warm day, and I was conscious of walking much more slowly than my usual pace. Along the path, we found some nourishment in the shape of blackberries and damsons.

Damsons

We set up camp by a bus stop and after consulting various sources, realised we had about an hour to wait. Why so early? Well, on one occasion, we just missed a race by a few minutes because roads were closed and we had to park further away than planned. The road closures seem to be better managed these days. We thought we’d have a good view of the cyclists coming towards us, and I took many, many test photos of the many, many police motor bikes as they preceded the race, checking the route and telling car drivers to get out of the way when necessary.

Police bikes

A local man came along and he wondered why the race was on a weekday, not at the weekend. Maybe he didn’t realise it was a stage race, a different route for eight consecutive days. He went home when he realised there was still quite a long wait. But didn’t make it back to join us, probably because one of the police officers was keeping traffic off the road. He also told us that as this very spot a few months ago, two buses had crashed into each other, head on, in the middle of the road. He pointed out the exact spot. He thinks nobody was seriously injured.

And then, suddenly, at 50kph or more, the leading group of five riders appeared, surrounded by cars and more motor bikes.

Breakaway group

This leading, breakaway group, consists of Jacob Scott, in green, current leader in the King of the Mountains and Sprint competitions; Nickolas Zukowsky; Christopher Blevins; Leon Mazzone; and Robin Carpenter, who won the stage in Exeter, three days earlier.

If you think racing on a bike, 152.2 km, from Alderley Park to Warrington is hard, you should try watching the incredibly fast cyclists, taking some photos and applauding and cheering them on, all at the same time. No, actually, just cycling 152.2 km on a day out would be hard enough. That’s about 94 miles, a distance I’ve cycled maybe a dozen times or so, ever, and these guys do it every day as fast as their little legs will carry them. Châpeau, as they say!

Peloton

Just a couple of minutes later came the peloton. 90+ cyclists at full pelt, and I’d forgotten how noisy a large group of cyclists can be. In a flash, they were gone. More motor bikes and cars and a long, long way behind, one lone rider who stopped and asked when the next bus was due. No, he didn’t, but I wonder if it crossed his mind.

A long time away from home for a mere two minutes of entertainment, then! Yes, of course, we watched the whole race on TV when we got home, but we didn’t make it on screen, which may be a blessing.

Global6 support vehicle

The Global6 support team parked up near us, for a natural break. Their bike wheels have green rims, and after the Tour is over, those wheels will be auctioned off to raise funds for Refugee Action.

As we walked back to the car at Quarry Bank, we ate some more damsons. I warned Liesel to watch out for the nettles, just as my shin found a particularly potent nettle bush. Thank goodness for Germolene.

We didn’t wander round the venue, but we did find our way to the restaurant and had a nice cup of National Trust decaff coffee plus a slice of raspberry Bakewell slice. It felt good to be building up my strength again after that relatively short but ridiculously knackering walk.

We were very lucky with the weather, we just felt a few spots of rain. But the cyclists had to contend with much worse on their way to Warrington.

Menacing

This is the view from the comfort of our living room, gorgeous landscape and menacing dark clouds.

Another wander around Northenden was quite good for us wildlife fans.

Northenden menagerie

The Jolly Roger is still flying at The Crown for the boat race a couple of weeks ago. I hope the pink bunny is soon reunited with her child. The squirrel posed beautifully. The heron was in its usual spot and he seemed to be finding things to eat in the very low river.

The shortest duration job I ever had was working on a building site in Notting Hill. I lasted one day and one hour. On the first day, I had to shift a load of toilets from there to over there. The next morning, I was told to move them all back again. Well, what a waste of time that was, I thought. But what drove me away was that is was raining hard all the time, plus the steel toe cap shoes I’d borrowed off my Dad, two sizes too small, had given me so many blisters, I just couldn’t get comfortable. But I did come away from the job with the ambition of being a hod-carrier. Yes, I wanted to be the bloke that carried dozens of house bricks or roof tiles on my shoulder while climbing a high, ricketty old ladder. Sadly, it seems that ambition will never be fulfilled. Local builders have installed a sort of conveyor belt to carry the tiles up to the guy on the roof. So that’s another ancient skill that will be forgotten in time, along with mining and sweeping chimneys.

Builder’s roof tile conveyor

The good news of course is that my real-life ambition of being a radio presenter is being realised, to a certain extent. This week’s show on Radio Northenden was presented from a desert island beach, with very few other people around, the waves crashing and I played lots of sunshiny, laid-back, chilled music, mostly evoking nice, peaceful places we’d all like to be sometimes, away from the hurly-burly and the hustle-bustle of every day life in the city. You can listen here.

And yes, of course we watched the next stage of the Tour of Britain on TV, the one from Carlisle to Gateshead.

Drum and Gratitude

We’ve been engrossed not only by all the sport on TV this week, the Paralympics and La Vuelta a España, but also the world-famous Northenden Boat Race. We witnessed this fund-raising event for the first time since moving to Northenden all those years ago. We thought about entering the race, but you have to bring your own inflatable dinghy or canoe, and we don’t have one. But next year, who knows?

We followed the sound of bagpipes, played by the Northenden Pipe and Drum Band. I think one of the drummers had had enough, look where he left his instrument.

Drum

The car park at Didsbury Golf Club was full of inflatable boats and pumps. But I was more interested in using their facilities and the coffee bar.

Didsbury Golf Course Club Room

The boat race started at Simon’s Bridge, and we watched as innumerable dinghies set off at the same time. It wasn’t long before some of them turned sideways or even started going backwards.

On your marks… get set…
Go!

Out of the blue, I heard a voice. “Are you Mick?” Well, yes, but who are you, I wondered. “I’m Colin.” Colin who? Not Colin Cook who put earthworms down my wellington boots when I was about 6 years old, surely? Ah, Colin. From Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 “I recognised your voice” he said. He’s the guy that takes my (slightly edited) Radio Northenden show and cues it up for broadcast on a Wednesday evening. What are the chances that we would end up standing so close to each other by the river?

As the boats drifted downstream – it would be an exaggeration to say they were being propelled by any serious, competent paddling – we started walking towards the Tatton Arms Bridge, where the race ended.

One vessel started sinking so the bloke got out to push. Fortunately, the river was quite low so he could walk along the river bed.

Get out and push

There were lots of people around, but it didn’t feel as crowded as the zoo did a few days earlier. Well, until we reached the other bridge, which everyone was trying to walk across. Glad it didn’t collapse under the weight of probably more people than it’s known since before the first lockdown.

Backwards

Even those competitors who found themselves facing the wrong way finally made it to the end.

Pipe Band

The pipers played a few tunes for the long queue waiting to cross the bridge. I briefly thought about joining this band. Then I remembered, I can’t actually play any of the instruments.

Drum and Drummer reunited

On the other hand, I haven’t tried this one, the big bass drum, yet. I’m sure our neighbours wouldn’t mind me practicing.

Liesel went straght home but I didn’t want to miss the subsequent action on the Village Green a little later.

Boat on the weir

This is one of the last boats to descend the weir. As far as we know, nobody actually fell into the water.

When the dust settled, the heron returned, scratching its head, wondering what the heck just happened?

Heron on the weir

While waiting for the last of the crowds to disperse, I sat on a bench near the playground. A lady sat at the other end and asked what was going on. She’d missed the boat race, so I showed her my photos. Such a strange situation: trying to maintain a safe distance from a stranger while, at the same time, holding my phone close enough for her to be able to see the images.

On the Village Green, the Lord Mayor of Manchester presented the prizes to all the winners and gave a little speech.

The winners and the Lord Mayor

Lilly decorated the pavement for us. I don’t want to get her into trouble, but she did sign her own work.

Lilly’s lilies

This was outside Samosa Box. Guess what we had for dinner?

Some of the roads around here still have cobble stones along the edges. Unusually, this road had them on display. No cars parked on them, or half on the verge. I very quickly took a photo.

Cobbles

In other news Martha and William returned to school this week, looking very smart and very happy.

Martha and William

Liesel had a day out with her WI ladies, a visit to Manchester Jewish Museum. I dragged myself out of bed and we drove into Manchester together. Parking was no problem, just along the road a bit in a shopping centre. While Liesel was in the Museum, I went for walk into the city centre.

Museum, formerly a Synagogue
Dr Chaim Weizman, first President of the State of Israel
Inside the Museum

As you can probably tell, I take more photos that Liesel does. This is a rare one, taken inside the museum.

I took about half an hour to walk to St Peter’s Square in Manchester, outside the Central Library. It’s my first visit to the city centre for a long time, other than quick trips to donate blood.

I said hello to Robert Owen but he just looked at me stoney faced.

Robert Owen

He is known as ‘the father of Co-operation’ and he stands outside the Co-op Bank’s headquarters.

What was so attractive about St Peter’s Square? The Gratitude exhibition. This is a collection of 51 statues, each decorated by a different artist, and the display is to show gratitude for the wonderful performance by all the NHS and other key workers during the pandemic.

Lots of Gratitude
The Isolation Chronicles

Scattered pages from a square journal, each one a picture of our life in lockdown. The Isolation Chronicles contains snapshots of the pandemic – supermarket checkouts, nurses, vaccinations, deliveries, farming, 3D printers making visors. Designed by Sue Prince from the Peak District.

Good Timber

Inspiration for the design comes from the metaphorical poem ‘Good Timber’ by Douglas Malloch, which suggests that only by struggle can we overcome adversity and reach the other side. The trees in the design have fought and grown together so their uppermost branches can ‘hold counsel with the stars’. The woodland floor is laced with bluebells which are thought to symbolise gratitude. Designed by Gail Stirling Robertson from Scotland.

Faces of Lockdown

Faces of Lockdown depicts a collection of personalities from the last year, featuring politicians, scientists, TV characters and a Welsh goat! Designed by Hammo (Nick Hamilton), an illustrator and mural painter from Manchester.

Stardust; We can be Heroes; Our Teacher Our Hero

You can see all the statues by downloading the Gratitude app for a mere £1.99, this display is here in Manchester until 12 September then it’s off to Edinburgh and London.

I couldn’t resist a visit to the library of course. Hip-hop is an art form that has largely passed me by, but I thought a visit to the Manchester Hip Hop Archive Exhibition might be educational. And it was. Lots of photos and posters and artefacts from the 1980s onwards. I even recognised some of the names, but I wouldn’t have known the context.

Rokin the Stoneage

A lot of the culture revolves around urban art: graffiti and tagging of course, and some of that is very decorative. And the poems are as good as some of the really old ones we had to read at school.

Breakdancing

I was going to try this but the librarian wouldn’t let me.

In the library, I met Erinma Bell MBE DL, Peace activist.

Erinma Bell

This sculpture is made from recycled hand guns, by Karen Lyons in 2016.

Andrew went to prison for 6 years during which time he lost his camera. The big loss though was his collection of 1000 photos of graffiti taken all around Manchester. After release, he sorted himself out, stayed away from drugs and alcohol and has embarked on the graffiti photo project again. There’s a display of hundreds of his pictures in the library in an exhibition called ‘Reds and K1000’.

Reds and K 1000

After a coffee break in the library, I walked back to the Jewish Museum. On the way, I found another wee poem.

Manc made

Liesel and I caught up with each other and I waited outside while she visiting her old friend Dunkin’.

Geometric

One day, we’ll find out what this building is, with its amazing geometric pattern on the outside.

It was a good idea to move my show to 4pm, because today, I would have panicking about not getting back in time. It was Crime and Punishment this week, all harmless murder, shop-lifting and mugging. Listen back here if you have a spare couple of hours.

But mainly this week, it was Paralympic sport and a bike race in Spain. Both finish this weekend, so let’s hope we do a bit more during next week’s hinted-at heat wave.

My regular Tuesday night date with Jessica Lee Morgan reached episode 94 this week, and this will be the last one for a while. She’s out on tour, doing real live shows in front of real live people, and we’re all happy about that.

No. Thank you! Great shows, Jessica and Chris

A Sandwich

This week was a sandwich. An unusual sandwich in that the bread is absolutely delicious, full of nutrition and fun while the filling was a bit more mundane, mouldy cheese, rotten tomatoes and limp lettuce. Nothing wrong with some mundanity of course, but it’s funny the way things work out.

Saturday, we joined in with Tim’s Listening party online, a good reason to listen to Bic Runga’s Beautiful Collision album in its entirety. After which, while writing, I just let Bic Runga sing away for the next hour or so, until Jenny, Liam, Martha and William arrived.

We all went for a walk along the river, our usual route, to Simon’s Bridge and back, a total of over four miles, which I think both impressed and surprised Liam.

Paddleboarders

We were all impressed by the paddleboarders, and I’m sure we all thought we’d like to try that one day. They were spooked by the weir though. They had to remove the fins from the boards if they wanted to skate (is that the word?) down the slope of the weir, but one of the board’s fins was screwed in, and I think the whole of Northenden heard the call for the yellow bag with the screwdrivers.

Liam and Martha
Jenny and William

Martha and William had a good time, finding two golf balls in the process. The second one was dropped into the river by mistake, I think William was surprised at re-discovering gravity, but no amount of peering into the Mersey was going to bring that ball back. Still, we’re one golf ball up on the deal. 

I called Liesel ‘Liesel’ and William asked why. Liesel explained about our real, given names, and what other people call us. Then Martha joined in too, telling William that when he’s a Daddy, she’ll still call him William but his children will call him Daddy. He’ll still call her Martha but his children will call her Auntie. As Liesel said later on, we should have recorded that dialogue, because our grandchildren are the best.

When we got home, Martha again had to investigate Oma’s jewellery and try some of it on.

Precious things

So that’s one slice of bread, a lovely day with our grandchildren. I’m sure you’re ahead of me. Here comes the filling, not as bad as I suggested, but comparatively plain and ordinary.

We walked into Didsbury. Liesel joined the ladies of the WI in Fletcher Moss Gardens for a chinwag while I wandered around almost aimlessly. I did sit in the rockery for a while, reading one of the seven books I’m in the middle of right now. My mid-August resolution is to finish (most of) those books before I allow myself to start a new one.

World famous Didsbury cobbles

My wander wasn’t totally aimless, the final destination being the optician who adjusted my new spectacles very slightly. I’ll now give it another couple of weeks to get used to them again.

Didsbury mural

The walk to Didsbury includes Ford Lane. This is the only route to the golf course. Ford Lane is being resurfaced. How we laughed at the golfers driving to the golf course as we walked towards Didsbury. And how we laughed on the walk back home when we passed by the empty car park. Someone must have told them that they were about to be boxed in.

Ford Lane roadworks

Most of the construction workers were, correctly, wearing hi-visibility clothing, but one of them must have been too warm.

Hi-vis cardigan

Wednesday is Well-being Walk day in Northenden, organised by Thrive Manchester, and led by Chantel, who was on my radio show a couple of weeks ago. This week, there were about eight of us, walking slowly through the woods, glad that the drizzle remained slight. A cup of coffee at the Northern Den rounded off a pleasant morning.

Walk in the woods

I then walked home the long way, at a faster, for me more comfortable pace, and as I passed the barber, I noticed there was only one customer inside. Why not? So I did. I have never had such a short haircut, an all-over number five. I have never had such a cold head for so long. I sought professional help from Helen, what can I use to speed up the regrowth? Still, on the plus side, I don’t need to use as much shampoo, I don’t need to spend time combing what’s left of my crowning glory, and my hair won’t block up the shower any time soon. Liesel looks over from time to time and very kindly tries not to laugh too much.

Walking in the opposite direction, I really didn’t expect to see a mouse in Wythenshawe Park.

Mickey Mouse

But worse than the rodent infestation was seeing the mess that the dinosaurs left behind. Dino Kingdom has packed up and is now presumably setting up elsewhere. But the churned up grass and the mud-covered paths are very sad to see. I hope the relevant authorities are being suitably remunerated for tidying up Wythenshawe Park.

Wythenshawe wastelands

So there’s your limp lettuce. And here comes the other slice of delicious bread in this ridiculous sandwich metaphor.

Chester Zoo was as busy as we’ve ever seen it. I think if Liesel and I had been on our own, we might have just turned around and gone straight back home. But with Martha and William, that would be a horrible thing to do. Thankfully, they weren’t perturbed by the hordes of visitors to the zoo. And maybe Liesel and I are just more sensitive because it’s been so long since we’ve been so close to so many strangers. With children, we’re walking along quite slowly, and I found it so intimidating when somebody was walking so close behind me. Tailgating.

Whinges apart, we had a great time, although animals were definitely not a priority for the children on this occasion. Top of the wish-list was the Treetop Challenge which I kept referring to as Treetop Adventure, much to Martha’s amusement. They were strapped in, walked around, enjoyed the rides down, and then, just as suddenly, William had had enough and Martha followed him off.

Treetop Challenge accepted

Next up: ice cream. Thankfully the queue wasn’t too long. Q: ‘Which animals would you like to see?’ A: ‘Is it lunchtime yet?’ And so, at 11.30, we sat down to eat lunch.

Baby giraffe

The baby giraffe was deserving of the oohs and aahs from so many families, while we sat there and consumed our lunch. Next on our agenda though was the playground, a water feature with rocks and a nightmare for people in charge of other people’s children. William and Martha enjoyed opening sluices and operating the Archimedes screw and lifting the ‘anchor’ which was in fact the plug that allowed all the water to drain away.

Martha and William back, back, back

William fell asleep in the back of the car pretty much before we’d left the car park. Martha stayed awake the whole way home and, big surprise, so did I.

I turned on the PC as soon as I got in because I had a radio show to do. The theme this week was Chemical Elements, if you would like to listen back.

Jenny took William and Martha home but by the time I finished at 6.06, they were back, with Liam this time. Pizza was delivered, Jenny brought cake and we dined together. The toys were liberally distributed all over the floor, and I don’t think we’d have it any other way!

Pastoral

You know I’m not the biggest sports fan in the world, but on the final day of the Olympics, I got up before 2 o’clock in the morning to watch the last session of Track Cycling. There were ups and downs of course, but I enjoyed the spectacle. Laura and Jason Kenny now have more gold medals between them than many countries.

The future Dame Laura Kenny

Laura was involved in a crash, meaning she was very unlikely to win the Omnium event, so it was good to see her smiling face a little later. And Jason’s Keirin win was out of this world, you should look it up on YouTube!

After the cycling, I thought about going for a nice early morning walk. But the rain was torrential. So I went back to bed instead, getting up in time for the Closing Ceremony later on.

The rain eased so I went for a potter and as if we needed reminding about the quantity of rainfall, the river was flowing fast and high. The island was totally submerged, no sign of a heron and all the geese have flown to higher ground.

Not an island

A longer walk took me to Route 66.

Historic Route 66

No, don’t be silly, of course I didn’t go all the way to America. I can’t, partly because my passport is about to expire but mainly because we won’t be flying anywhere for a little while yet thanks to Covid restrictions. This plaque is actually inside the gents toilet near The Courtyard Café in Wythenshawe Park.

While in the park, I thought I’d go and say hello to the wild farm animals: goats, pigs and cows ‘guaranteed to be BSE-free’ according to the sign.

Hello goat

Meanwhile, it’s all change in Northenden. The milkshake place It Shake, or more likely Shake It has changed its name to The Dessert Café.

Must pay a visit one day

When on a solo walk, it’s always nice to be welcomed back home.

Hello squirrel

The squirrel was delighted to see me over the hedge, but as soon as I appeared on the drive, he was away and up the tree in less than a microsecond.

Dunham Massey was the venue and for the second time, we went for a walk away from the National Trust property, through the village and along the canal. I missed the opportunity of taking pictures of the cows but I did capture a horse! The canal was busier today too, with barges or narrow boats, all going in the same direction. We wondered whether there’s a one-way system in place?

By the canal

We saw a very handsome heron on the towpath too, and I thanked him sincerely for being more cooperative than his relations in Northenden.

Hello heron

Amongst the other wildlife we saw were a pretty blue but very fast dragonfly, a caterpillar and a butterfly that might be moth really, even though they’re supposed to be nocturnal.

Hello butterfly or moth

At one point, close to a golf course, we had a chat with a very pleasant young family. Mother said that her little boy had eaten enough blackberries by now. Father said that the field we were standing next to, now full of some kind of cereal, was full of sunflowers a couple of years ago. Well, we missed that. But it reminds us that even when we go on the same walk, we can see different, exciting things, as long as we time it right.

After the long and very pleasant walk, we found ourselves back in the deer park, where the natives were having their lunch.

Hello deers

But the funniest wildlife antics were displayed by a few strange specimens of homo sapiens. They’d come along to a National Trust place with their own table, chairs and the wherewithal for a very civilised picnic.

Picnickers

We just sat on a bench and enjoyed our white chocolate ice creams, since you ask.

Alderley Edge was the venue of another day out. The place makes me feel cold. I was working for a small software company at the time. One drizzly October day in 1986, I think it was, a colleague drove me to meet with someone in Alderley Edge. I can’t remember now if he was a potential customer or what, but all I do remember about him was, he had a huge CD collection, when such things were relatively new. The drive was fast, the weather atrocious, his house hard to find, and I felt cold, miserable and totally out of place. On the drive back, flashing blue lights in the rear-view mirror were the cue for my colleague to pull the handbrake on, hoping to slow the car down without brake lights giving the game away. A stern talking to was the result. But ever since that day, whenever I’ve seen a sign for Alderley Edge, I’ve broken out in a cold sweat. Thirty-five years on, and it was time for a return visit. On a much nicer day, with blue skies, a comfortable temperature and a fascinating new place to explore.

There’s a sandstone escarpment and in the past, there were copper mines here, hinted at by the green stains on some of the rock faces.

Stained sandstone

We enjoyed our walk through the woods, but it’s much more hilly than we’re used to. The views are spectacular, ruined only by people taking selfies in front of them.

Selfie of the day
Crack in the rock

We followed the Valley Walk, which meant of course that, after the recent rain, we would have to contend with some mud.

Muddy footpath

Liesel’s not a big fan of walking through fields with cattle but we had to go that way. I soothed the animals with my rendition of Oh what a beautiful morning, but I was glad to climb over the stile in the end.

On the way home, I noticed the bollard reflecting the sunlight and I thought, how colourful. I took its picture. Liesel said I was nuts. You decide.

Bollard in the sunlight

It had to be done but this week, I said goodbye to a dear old friend. It’s been on the to-do list for a few years but at last, I closed a defunct bank account. They were good enough to give Sarah and me a mortgage all those years ago, but sentiment isn’t a good enough reason to keep an empty bank account and a credit card account that we no longer use. It should be a simple process, you’d think. I spoke to four different agents on the phone, assuring them that I really did know my own date of birth, that I would have to guess my credit limit since I haven’t used the card for years, and all the time at the back of my mind was, am I actually talking to people who work at the bank? Did I call the right number? Still, I can tick another box, hooray!

In additional medical news, I still have what in modern parlance should be called long midge bite. Old wounds that are taking ages to heal. I got bitten by something else this week. I thought I’d brushed against nettles or something, but the pain was too intense. I looked at my elbow and brushed off some sort of mega fly, called it a rude name, and I’ve had an itchy elbow ever since.

Round the Bend

We’ve had an exhausting week at the Olympics. If sitting on the futon watching one and sometimes two screens were an Olympic sport, we’d have loads of medals. We really admire the skills of the skate-boarders and BMX riders, doing tricks that seemingly defy the laws of physics. The best trick though was the BMX cyclist who finished his routine then drop-kicked his helmet into the crowd.

Track cycling is always exciting, but at home, we are entertained almost as much by some of the commentary. I won’t name the guy who compared the Dutch cyclists to a fleet from the Netherlands sailing up the Thames to defeat the British and French fleets.

Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald

I think it’s fair to say that our favourite GB victors are Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald, winners of the inaugural women’s Madison at the Olympics. I very nearly put my cycling jersey on, you know, the one signed by Laura Trott. But I was too lazy to go and look for it.

The newly implemented Climbing event was the one that made my palms sweat the most. Liesel has a lot of wall-climbing experience, I’ve tried just the once.

One of our main discussion points revolves around the athletes’ outfits. They usually display the name of the vountry they’re representing. So: Great Britain, USA, Australia, all the English-speaking nations. Then there are Italia, España and others that display the name in their own language. But why do so many show their name in English? We’re looking at you Germany, Ethiopia, Czech Republic and Norway for example. I hope there’s a good reason, and I hope that it’s not because they’re catering to an American TV audience. After all, some event times were changed to suit them.

But we have moved away from our sofa from time to time, honest. There’s always something new to find in the woods. No teddy bears having picnics though.

Fallen tree, splitting the difference

You don’t have to venture far off the main path to find some entertainment.

Tyre swing

We didn’t test the strength of the rope but it’s good to see an old tyre being put to good use rather than dumped in the river.

Guess who we bumped into at Quarry Bank Mill? Only Jenny, Martha and William, that’s who. We had arranged to meet and we had a nice time including a very early lunch. I think that was so that we’d have time for an ice cream too.

Do not climb

This sign was by a tree that William wanted to climb, of course, but I think I’ll make a badge out of this image to wear next time they want to climb their ancient grandfather.

Oma and Martha, botanists

They playground has reopened and that was the perfect place for both children to demonstrate their climbing skills. And swinging skills.

William climbing

Maybe William will be climbing at the Olympics in Brisbane in 2032 while his sister takes the BMX medals.

William and Martha, swingers
William’s tyres

What can possibly be better than two grandchildren?

Four grandchildren

Another day, another potter around Northenden and it was good to see Jill Scott back from Tokyo. The GB football team lost out to Australia and the competitors have to go home as soon as they’ve finished, all part of the Covid precautions.

Jill Scott MBE

Swinging a baby isn’t really part of the training regime, but what a cute photo. As featured later in a Boxx 2 Boxx advert on Instagram.

Someone’s been busy cutting the grass on the river bank.

Short grass

Very good yes, but on the other hand, it would be nice to cut back the nettles overgrowing the upper path while you’re there!

On the other other hand, how nice that they’re turning the children’s playground in Riverside Park into an art gallery.

Art gallery

We were surprised to see a pair of ring-necked pararkeets flying by the river one day. The heron was around too, but he kept flying off along the river to escape the canoes and kayaks that he found so threatening.

I did something recently that is very ordinary but felt very strange. We ordered a pizza to be delivered and thought we should tip the delivery operative. I haven’t handle coins for nearly eighteen months. I emptied my tin of coins and had to scrutinise them very carefully: I didn’t want to hand over one of the old, circular pound coins by mistake. Even everyday British coins look exotic and foreign when you haven’t seen them for a long time. And the smell of dirty, metallic fingers when you’ve been counting those coins is so evocative. Anyway, the pizza girl got her tip, the pizzas were delicious and I’m sure we’ll be going back.

The radio show this week: what a disaster. I was doing my thing, playing records and talking to myself, but potential listeners were disappointed (!) to see the message ‘Off Air’. There was a problem with the server, and only the last 20 minutes of the show went out live. But if you want to listen to a couple of hours of songs based on books and literature, it can be found here.

I chatted with Ann, a volunteer from Northenden Community Library too, but the sound quality of the recorded phone conversation is embarrassing.

In medical news: I’m still suffering from the assaults I was victim to in Scotland. Every couple of days, I scratch a minor itch and realise, it’s the site of a midge bite. Some of the wounds are now quite big. The gits that keep on giving, as they say.

In the Wet

Art for art’s sake

We don’t know who the artist is, but it’s always a joy to come across a work of art when you least expect to. It’s definitely not a Banksy. Which is good, because this pillar supports a motorway, and it would be a real shame if someone were to cut a hole out in order to preserve the artwork, like they did with the hula-hoop girl in Nottingham. Well, such are the thoughts of insomniac me when it’s hot and sticky indoors. I’ve had some pretty vivid dreams too during the recent heatwave.

Liesel and I like mixing things up a bit, so we walked the other way along the river, towards Chorlton rather then towards Didsbury. Well, it makes a change. There were a few joggers and dog walkers as well, and on the other side of the river, a temporary encampment has been set up by the looks of it. If you need a new tyre for your car, there are plenty in the river here, easily seen when the water level is so low.

Overgrown river bank

After walking home we set out on another adventure. All the way over to Cheadle Hulme where we spent the afternoon in the garden with Martha and William and their Mummy and Daddy. Great fun, a lovely lunch, some fun and games and really, just being in the presence of grandchildren definitely boosts the spirits. Everyone should have some.

They’re easy to come by

They’re probably quite cheap at this site, plus there’s free delivery if you’ve signed up to Prime and you might help fund Bezos’s next trip into space.

Oma’s brownies

Nobody has ever complained about the lack of foodie photos in this space, but just to say, these brownies were very nice, thank you Liesel, very soft, more like a cake. So the question is, what’s the difference between brownies and cake?

On another little jaunt, a little pony came over to say hello. Well, not literally, that would have been incredibly newsworthy. I didn’t have anything to feed him, but neither did I ask ‘Why the long face?’

Neighbour

What could possibly beat an afternoon in the garden with William and Martha? Why, a day at the seaside with them, of course. For the first time in over sixteen months, we had passengers in our car, very important passengers too in the shape of our gorgeous grandchildren. It takes about an hour to drive to Formby, and I think they were as excited as we were!

Martha on the motorway

William told us he doesn’t like it on the motorway because it’s too loud. But he’s a very good backseat driver when it comes to traffic lights.

And then of course, it’s quite a long walk from the car park to the beach itself, but did they complain? They did not! They’re such good sports. And the delight when they finally saw the sea, well, that excitement should be bottled. There were a few other people around, but we had a lot of space to ourselves.

William waving at the waves

Lots of holes were dug, sand castles built, jellyfish poked despite our pleas not to and our picnic lunch was completed just before we had to move higher up the beach to escape the fast incoming tide.

Water lot of fun

Martha wanted to dig a deep hole, deep enough to find water. With a little help from Oma, she succeeded. Of course, then, William wanted to sit in the hole.

William in the hole

It was a very pleasant day on the beach, the Sun was out now and then, we enjoyed a perfect temperature with a slight, refreshing breeze. This was a bonus because it had rained on the way there and of course, we were concerned.

Later in the day, Martha told us that she likes being at the beach, but she doesn’t like going to the beach, because it’s such a long drive. And we thought that for a 5-year old to articulate such a distinction was something special.

We were sitting near the top of the beach and a bloke came by with a metal detector, so we tried to explain what he was doing. One of the funniest things we witnessed was William stalking the detectorist, walking with the gait of a short-armed T Rex. That would have been another £250 from You’ve Been Framed if we’d filmed it.

William v Detectorist
Selfie of the day

Unbelievably, it rained again on the way home, so phew, we were really lucky. They both fell asleep in the back of the car, following a quick snack of a gingerbread biscuit, a punnet of strawberries between them, an orange each and some gummie sweets.

Back at home, the first time they’ve visited for many months, remember, they investigated everything, all the cupboards, all the boxes and crates, all the ornaments, everything. Eventually, we encouraged them to blow the horn more quietly so as not to wake up the brand new baby in the flat below ours.

Martha wanted to have a bath because it’s so relaxing. They both had fun and kept most of the water inside the tub, which seems to have shrunk since the last time they occupied that space.

Dino Kingdom is now open at Wythenshawe Park. There were quite a few visitors there: I sneaked a peek through the gaps in the fence, but don’t tell anybody.

Horse riders

Hang on, those are horses, not dinosaurs. Yes, well spotted, they weren’t inside the confines of Dino Kingdom though, just walking around the park on a nice day.

Doyouthinkhesaurus?

That’s more like it. I reckon if he took a run and jump, he could easily clear that barrier and rampage around the streets of Wythenshawe and Northenden. But, don’t worry: he’s not real, this is no Jurassic Park.

Another dino

From my distance, I couldn’t work out whether these creatures were inflatable or animatronic. While walking from the car park to the entrance, you can’t miss a series of corny jokes. Don’t look at the next image if you don’t like spoilers.

I guessed A Dinosow

I walked home the long way, I’d like to say deliberately but no, my mind was wandering even more than I was. Still, I got home in time to play two hours of fabulous, uplifting songs for Radio Northenden, and you can catch up here.

What can be more exciting than spending a day on the beach with Martha and William? Collecting new spectacles, of course! We walked to Disbury, picked up our new specs, enjoyed a coffee and a snack in Fletcher Moss Park and walked home along the river.

Exercise is good

We saw this young lady attempting to uproot the rugby goal posts, but she didn’t get very far. She has been reported to the authorities so I hope she’ll soon see the error of her ways.

There were a few people having fun in the river, on kayaks and canoes. We didn’t witness any collisions, but their paddling skills were, let’s say, rudimentary.

Messing about on the Mersey

We more or less kept up with them as we approached the weir in Northenden, but we missed their descent into the torrents. They had a short rest on the island before continuing their journey, but we realised we don’t know where the next possible stopping point is.

What could be more exciting than successfully walking home, in new glasses, and not tripping over at all because what we see is now slightly different?

Blackberries

Yes, we enjoyed a few wild blackberries, not too bad, but certainly not the sweetest we’ve ever consumed.

We’ve enjoyed watching a lot of the Olympics this week, including the two medals we (we!) GB won in the BMX.

Future BMX champ

There’s a BMX track locally, so Martha was taken to have a go, with a spot of coaching from her Dad. They went early in the day, before the teenagers who usually occupy the venue have even thought about emerging from their pits. Thus begins her training for the Brisbane 2032 Olympics.

Deers and beers

The good news is that Covid is over! Yes, the news on TV was full of football and that’s terrific: no more pandemic pandemonium. Channel 4 even showed us the 1966 World Cup Final, in colour for the first time on broadcast TV, apparently. We didn’t watch.

Dunham Massey drew our attention. This time, rather than walking around the gardens and deer park that comprise the National Trust property, we went for a walk a bit further afield. By the time we’d completed the 3.5 mile route, we’d walked over 5 miles, according to my pedometer! Maybe my baby footsteps confuse the poor little gadget.

Beware of the bull

Have no fears. We take everything the government says with a large shovel of salt.

The little village of Dunham Massey is very pretty. The Swan With Two Nicks is a strange name for a pub, but certainly memorable.

We passed under the canal, which seemed to be leaking a bit. As flowing water is above us, I assume this is an aqueduct, not just an ordinary bridge?

Happy face

We spotted this happy face on the brickwork, the mark of a master craftsman, no doubt.

The towpath next to the Bridgewater Canal is very well made: if only the path by our stretch of the Mersey were as neat and tidy. This is the place to come for some peace and tranquility. We briefly discussed living here on a houseboat.

Houseboat

The route was described in a book we’ve had for a long time. Today’s wander was by way of an experiment: not too long and, if we were to get lost, we could easily find our way back. But the instructions were very good, we didn’t go wrong at all. This looks good for future, longer hikes in places new to us, a bit further away from home.

Some of the buildings we saw today were a bit old skool. Literally.

Old school

The route did take us to the ‘back door’ of the deer park and we saw more deer today than we did the whole time we were in Scotland! I guess that bloke from Location, Location, Location hasn’t been shooting them so much, here!

Hello my deer
Hello my beer

Actually, this is a pint of cider, but as a caption to the picture, it wouldn’t have rhymed with the previous image. I poured this to enjoy while watching the final of Euros 2020, England v Italy. I have to confess, I didn’t watch avidly, but it was on in the background while I was going round and round in circles with an impossible sudoku puzzle. We went to bed before the end of the match and I listened to the penalty shoot-out on Radio 5 Live. I won’t reveal the result in case you recorded it and haven’t watched yet.

Liesel visited RHS Bridgewater Garden in Salford with the ladies of the WI. A nice day, a nice walk, at least until it started raining.

Thanks to the ladies of the WI for these pictures

Meanwhile, back in Northenden, I looked at the bindweed near the river and realised I don’t have to fight it any more: not my problem!

Bindweed

Yes, that weed was my nemesis in our garden in Chessington. I suspect it’s completely taken over by now.

The heron was standing in his usual spot, on the weir. He stands so still, and then suddenly grabs something from the water. Oh, he will move if he thinks I’m about to take his picture. He’s psychic.

And what are those little things that swarm around your head whenever you sit on the bench by the river? They don’t buzz, bite or sting, they just annoy people. They don’t fly off when I get my phone out to take a picture, but I wish they would.

A swarm of something
The heron

On another occasion, the heron was on the island. I got my phone out. He knew. He took flight straightaway. He laughed. He thinks he’s a kookaburra.

Thrive Manchester organises a well-being walk each week in Northenden. It’s been on our list of things to do and places to go for quite a while, and this week, finally, we made it. Yes, we joined in an activity with half a dozen other people. It was a pleasant day for a walk which on this occasion took us along the river to Simon’s Bridge and back to The Northern Den for a cup of coffee. And we didn’t stay in one group, everyone walked at their own pace.

Single file

In places, the path was narrow, it’s a bit overgrown right now, so we had to walk in single file. Which we used to call Indian file, but I’m not sure when the change occurred. One thing I am sure about though is that in the end, when humanity has exhaled its final gasp of CO₂, nature will regenerate and recover without our meddling ways and without our help.

A miracle

This little plant is showing the way, growing out of a metal railing, possibly relying on nutrients in the mud left behind after those floods a few months ago.

The planters on Palatine Road are once again looking very pretty, thanks to the sponsorship of some local businesses.

Some colours

Lyme Park is probably the place we visit most often for a walk away from our local ‘hood. There was a film crew there today, but they didn’t need any extras. If we’d known, we too might have dressed up in period costume.

Quiet on set

We walked up the hill to The Cage, the folly that has held prisoners and banquets at various times. We must have noticed the sundial before, but today, we realised that there is a sundial on three out of the four faces. Doing the maths to locate these three elements must have been fascinating.

Three-part sundial

The stonemason got fed up with the Roman numerals, II, III, IIII, V so he finished off with Arabic ones instead, 6, 7, 8. Or maybe the gnomon’s shadow announced that it was opening time down at The Swan With Two Nicks.

Walking down the hill, we bumped into a herd of deer. All male as far as we could tell, a proper stag party. They were curious, a few backed off slowly but most held their ground. Which meant that in order to keep our distance, we had to walk all the way off the path and around a tree. Such a to-do.

More deer
Home, home on the range

On the other side of the road, we walked through the woods, over a couple of stiles and passed by very few other people. Which was quite surprising, given how full the car park was. There were some cattle who got quite excited when a tractor turned up. As they ran towards their friends in the next field, we even witnessed one of the cows jumping. What sort of a cow jumps? Well, this one was brown.

Cattle: some roaming free, some shrink-wrapped

We found ourselves at the coffee shop in the 19th century. But they were still charging 21st century prices, fnarr, fnarr!

Exciting new episode of The Bill?

Sorry, no, we didn’t find out what this production this is, and I doubt that we’ll find ourselves in the background of a key scene.

Wythenshawe Park is nice enough, but when you meet up with your daughter and grandson, it’s at least three times as much fun. Jenny and William drove over, while Liesel and I walked. William had a lot of fun, on his scooter, and in the playground. He knew that if there were too many people there, we wouldn’t go in. What a shame we have to issue such warnings.

Wythenshawe Park > Jurassic Park

We’ll bring William back when the dinosaurs have been released into the wilds of Wythenshawe Park.

Who needs steps?
Bentch

We saw some horses at the farm but only managed to smell the goats and cows and their copious output. We had ice cream as it was such a warm day and I would say less than 10% of William’s ended up on his face this time.

Liesel drove to Didsbury for her sight test but my appointment was later so I walked. It was going to be hot day – possibly the hottest of the year so far. I’d already planned to go, so after my appointment at the optician*, I walked to Withington. (*Not gonna mention the expense but, for the money, I would much rather have flown into space.)

It was no Camino de Santiago, but I wanted to make a pilgrimage to the Marcus Rashford Mural. It was defaced last week after he missed a penalty at a football game. Such a shame that after forcing our government to feed children during the school holidays, after being awarded an MBE, after writing an inspirational book for young people, You Are A Champion, after winning however many games playing for Man Utd and England and after having a mural painted in his honour, he’ll probably best be remembered as one of the black players who missed a blinkin’ penalty in a football game. Ooh, a bit of a rant there. But at the site of the mural today, there was a lot of love and appreciation on display.

Marcus Rashford MBE

I think if someone had started singing, we would have all joined in from behind the safety of our face coverings

Some of the fantastic messages

As Radio Northenden’s Sanny reported on BBC 5 Live a few nights ago, as you go higher up the wall, you notice the hand-writing improves.

Selfie of the day

It’s not like me to follow the herd, but I did today. Other families were taking selfies, so I thought, why not?

I had a coffee and a cake before I left for the long walk home. I didn’t have to, I know, but I was running out of water. The walk home was a long trudge, the whole length of Palatine Road, accompanied by the traffic. At every bus stop, I thought, should I? But no, I’ll stay off public transport for as long as I can. At home, I glanced in the mirror and a bloke with a tomato where his face used be said, ‘Been out in the Sun, eh?’ The cold shower was fabulous and very welcome!

This week’s Radio Northenden show celebrated that marvellous pastime: Clothes Shopping. Listen back here for two hours of fine tunes. What’s that, Skippy? You want more from Radio Northenden? Well why not read Katie’s new Radio Northenden blog right here.

The depiction and, usually, misrepresentation of statistical information in the mainstream media is deleterious to the general public’s understanding of scientific research and has undoubtedly led to mis-informed decisions being taken that have resulted in unnecessary suffering and even death. Well, that was the thought that I woke up with this morning, the last and only remnant from what must have been a very deep and meaningful dream. If I were Paul McCartney, I’d make a hit record out of it.