Walk an empty mile

Amidst the fleeting moments of life, the extraction of a tooth, though quick, a mere twenty seconds, proved to be a task of greater import, as the wound persisted in bleeding for twenty minutes past. Anaesthesia had masked the pain, but its fleeting touch had only heightened the senses, leaving the tongue to wander and explore the new contours of the mouth.

And so it was, that in the quest for medical aid, I journeyed to the apothecary once more, to collect the remnants of my prescription. In the waiting, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of knowledge, a library in the heart of Wythenshawe Forum.

Bee in the City: Willow Garden

Surrounded by the buzz of activity, I encountered a mechanical marvel, a robot stationed within the halls. Though its movements were limited, I couldn’t resist greeting it with a warm hello.

Casey the Robot

The library held within its walls a wealth of history, chronicling the rise of Wythenshawe Hospital from humble beginnings, from a piggery next to tuberculosis wards, to one of the finest institutions in the northwest of England. I learned of the famous figures that had passed through Wythenshawe’s halls, from Yuri Gagarin and Gladys Knight, to the legendary Bruce Forsyth, and more. Liesel was especially delighted to hear about Brucie.

Wythenshawe Library Homework Centre

On a day filled with care, we had the pleasure of looking after young Martha, who was off from school due to a teachers’ strike. We embarked on a journey of art and indulgence, visiting a quaint café, the oft-visited Quirky Misfits, for a babyccino, where she savoured the sweetness of cream and marshmallows. Her curious spirit was enticed by a shop filled with rocks, stones, and crystals, leading her to add a new treasure to her collection.

Martha, rocks

With William in tow, we ventured to a playland, where they let loose, danced and played to their hearts’ content. But as can be seen, Cheadle Hulme appears to be in a different timezone to London.

Head Over Heels clock
Martha on the dancefloor
Ball pond

And as the day came to an end, we treated them to a fine dining experience, where they displayed impeccable manners, ordering their meals and making requests with ease.

Martha and William at Gusto

William was very nearly welcomed into the arms of Morpheus, but his revival was achieved by the strange medicaments, chocolate brownie and ice cream.

The week was filled with many adventures, from walks through Wythenshawe…

Creek
Stumped
Snowdrops

… to completing the viewing of a TV series, Dark, and hosting a radio show, centered around the theme of The Archers, archers and archery. I even had the privilege of speaking with the talented folk singer, Frankie Archer, and playing her records for the world to hear.

Though the path ahead may be uncertain, and my steps difficult to retrace, I carry with me the memories of these moments, forever etched in my mind, a reminder of the beauty of life’s journeys.

‘Twas an interesting experiment, making use of Artificial Intelligence to help produce this post. Did it save time? Not really, no. Am I happy with the results? Not entirely, no. It is considered unethical to pass off someone else’s work as your own. It’s important to give credit where credit is due and maintain integrity in all of your actions. So, thanks very much for your help, ChatGPT, and good luck with taking over the world.

Snow and tell

It’s so easy to be critical of the weather here in Manchester. People say I should be more positive. But I am positive. Positive that the weather here can be a little disappointing at times. While we were having a blast in Malta, it was raining a lot here. So much rain that the river Mersey was flowing very high and in danger of flooding. The little island opposite the playground in Riverside Park was still completely submerged when we first walked by.

Submerged island, fast-flowing rivertill

Underneath the motorway, I came across someone sleeping rough. I wanted to report them to Streetlink so that they could be looked after, but this organisation is only interested if the rough sleeper is outdoors at night, not during daylight hours. Mixed feelings here. Sad to see anyone sleeping rough at all like this, but at least it wasn’t just a pile of flytipped rubbish, which is what I thought, from a distance.

Any regrets about going away to the Med for a short break? No, not really. I shouldn’t have taken my sandals though, that was a bit optimistic: I lugged all that extra weight around for nothing.

In other news, Martha and William returned to school a bit later than their peers, having just returned from their adventures with their Mummy and Daddy and Auntie Helen in Australia. What a great time they had.

Martha, Jenny, Helen, Liam and William
Emu and William
Jenny and Martha and broken wrist

A great time, apart from poor Martha fracturing a bone in her wrist, something I didn’t manage until I was 14 years old. She was very philosophical about it though: at least it wasn’t her writing hand.

Liam and Jenny on Hamilton Island

Liam and Jenny managed to get away by themselves on a ‘minimoon’, spending a few days on Hamilton Island while Auntie Helen looked after the children

Helen, Martha, William and King Nyani

King Nyani is the largest bronze gorilla statue in the world and he was very pleased to welcome Helen, Martha and William to Taronga Zoo.

William, Helen, Martha and a giraffe

And here they are, feeding carrots to that well-known native of Australia, a giraffe.

Previously, I may have mentioned the weather forecast that briefly led us to consider the possibility of extending our stay in Malta. The forecast proved correct. It snowed here. Not a lot, admittedly, but overnight for three nights in a row, down it came, leading to a strange reluctance on our part to venture outside.

One morning though, I did get up stupid early to go to the hospital for my long awaited echocardiogram. The gel was cold and my heart produced some weird sound effects, straight out of Doctor Who.

Of course, we did go out for a walk in the snow a couple of times, once with the regular walking group. Well, four of us walked that day, the rest stayed behind at the coffee shop. It wasn’t as slippery in the woods as some folks anticipated.

Snow at Riverside Park

In the afternoon, we collected Martha and William from school. It was lovely to see them again, for the first time since well before Christmas. The sunblock must have worked well, none of them had a particularly strong tan after a month in the sunshine down under.

At home, they both played with and made models from Wikki Stix. These are made of hand-knitting yarn enhanced with a microcrystalline, food-grade non-toxic wax, the kind used in bubble gum and lipstick. And that’s it. (It’s that touch of wax that allows them to stick). Martha declared them the best toy ever, but I’m not sure we agree.

Martha and William slip sliding away

To the delight of the neighbours, I’m sure, Martha and William were taken out for rides on their sledges very early next morning, well before sunrise, lots of screaming and whoops of delight ensued. Dad Liam provided the horsepower, in case you were wondering.

So there I was sitting on the sofa, when Liesel piped up, what a gorgeous sunset. I looked up, and it wasn’t too shabby.

Sunset over Northenden as seen through a mucky window

This week’s radio show is not to be missed. The theme is Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. If you missed its broadcast on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 on Friday afternoon, you can catch up here.

Another year bites the dust

We stayed at Fountains Abbey for a week altogether and for some of that time, we had the whole place, the whole estate, to ourselves. To the point that when, on Boxing Day, we encountered millions upon millions of other visitors, we felt our land was being invaded. Such an outrage.

Fountains Abbey is bigger than I’d anticipted. Other than the roof being missing, it’s been well looked after.

‘Carefully preserved ruins…’
Selfie of the day

And here we are, equally well preserved, in front of the abbey. We spent a lot of time walking up and down its corridors and aisles. It was very special not seeing other people, just pigeons, crows and pheasants.

Fountains Abbey
Sandstone

We have no idea where the building materials came from, but the different colour sandstones look much more vivid in real life than in this picture.

Liesel
Mick

It was quiet and peaceful, just the sounds of the birds. And quite atmospheric too with the  medieval mist rising from the grass.

Moody, misty

We walked along the path by the River Skell enjoying the peace and tranquility. Pheasants were everywhere, many more males than females for some reason. We even saw bits of pheasant here and there, presumably the body parts that the sparrow hawks couldn’t digest. We saw a couple of red kites showing off their soaring and gliding skills in the sunshine.

Odd buildings attracted our attention as we walked to the gate leading to the main car park. We didn’t go through because it wasn’t obvious how to get back. Plus, there were ordinary people on the other side, and we didn’t need to mix with them.

Studley Royal Banqueting Hall

The Serpentine Tunnel was dark and damp and, as the name suggests, sinuous, so you never knew how much further there was to walk. The view from higher up was well worth the effort of the climb. Even if I was a bit puffed out.

Octagon Tower
Looking back towards the Abbey

Back at Fountains Hall, there’s a very moving war memorial

‘…for your tomorrow…’

It’s probably the wrong time of year to see bees, but we found a home for them.

Skeps

Joe Cornish has been taking photographs of the Abbey and the grounds for a few years now, since before the pandemic, and there was a display of his work inside the Mill. Apart from anything else, this was a reminder that I really should break out my real camera again rather than relying on the faithful phone for all my photographic needs.

Strider, by Joe Cornish

We never came across the tree with this gnarly old man striding in its roots. But I’m sure we’ll be back one day, there are several more acres in the grounds to explore.

The bad news is, Liesel wouldn’t let me scratch my name next to this 200-year old graffiti.

Old graffiti

Oh no, more bad news. Inside the Hall, we found this Christmas tree with lots of presents underneath, but Liesel wouldn’t let me open any of them.

Christmas tree

Christmas day was unusual. We spent the day snacking on crackers, cheese, chocolate, cheese and crackers, fruit, bread, crisps, snacks, so that when it was time for the more conventional, official Christmas meal, we both felt full and well, we couldn’t be bothered. So we had our nut loaf and all the trimmings the following day: maybe we’ve started a new tradition. But really, those snacks just shouldn’t be so tasty, filling and more-ish.

Having spent a week on our own, just the two of us, Darby and Joan, it was nice to venture out and meet people. Not just any old people, but an old school-friend. And not even a school-friend of mine. Yvonne was my sister, Pauline’s buddy from school, all those decades ago. Yvonne and Ian met us in Sawley, for a pub lunch. It was nice to catch up, even though we’d only met in August, with Pauline and Andrew.

Mick, Ian, Yvonne, Liesel

Our week in Yorkshire came to an end and we had to check out really early. On the way home, we diverted to Mother Shipton’s Cave but as always, we’d planned well: it was closed. But we did catch a glimpse of Knaresborough Viaduct, even if we didn’t take time to explore. We’ll be back, I’m sure.

It’s always an anti-climax of course going home after a short break. Nothing much to report here. Oh, except my old PC has decided to no longer cooperate. It won’t turn on. Yes, it was plugged in. I even changed the fuse in the plug. I hoovered up 3 cwt of dust from inside the case, wondering if maybe the thing wouldn’t turn on because the fans were stuck. No. I suspect it needs a new power supply unit. Which is annoying, because there are only a few things I need to transfer to my (now not so) new laptop. But the main thing I use the old PC for is to print. We have a very old printer that is not compatible with Windows 11. I spent far too long trying to find a way to get my laptop to connect with the old printer. In the end, I ordered a new printer.

I enjoyed watching the New Year’s fireworks from Sydney, a display probably visible from space.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Of course, we weren’t there in person on this occasion and I couldn’t see Helen and Jenny in the crowd. Mind you, I only have a small TV screen, it was dark there and as it turns out, they were round at a friend’s place anyway.

The radio show this week was entitled Happy New Year! I prepared it before we went away, that was a hectic couple of days! You can catch the show here. If I were to say that my Christmas show was repeated on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 not once, not twice but four times in the end, is that a humble-brag? Should I take that as a vote of confidence?

I didn’t realise that the link to the radio show doesn’t always appear in the emails alerting you to another exciting episode of these Antics, so apologies for that. And a jolly Happy New Year to you.

Meri Kirihimete

Our walk to Didsbury was uneventful, Unless you count the ducks shouting at us from the river.

Christmas quackers

I don’t think they wanted us to walk over the bridge for some reason. Maybe they just wanted some privacy, thinking Spring was on its way. After all, it was 21 degrees warmer today than it was on the coldest day last week: 14° versus -7°.

After walking back to Northenden, Liesel went straight home while I continued along the river. I had two plans in mind. First, a hot chocolate at Quirky Misfits, which was very nice.

Quirky Christmas Hot Chocolate

And second, a visit to the barber. Yes, my barnet was bit untidy and needed sorting out. It does look better, I admit, but boy, does my neck feel cold now! Still, Liesel approved and that’s all that matters really: she has to look at it, I don’t.

Quirky Christmas lizard

Our regular Wednesday walk was uneventful unless you count having to sit outside Boxx2Boxx with our coffees afterwards. As always before going away for a few days, there were 101 things to do at home at the last minute.

But I didn’t start packing until a couple of hours before we left home. Liesel drove us to Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, where we’d rented a cottage for a week.

The drive was OK, it rained a bit and we didn’t need to worry about glare from the Sun. Our only stop was in Colne, for coffee, and to pass some time as we couldn’t check in until 4pm.

Christmas at Colne

It’s a hilly place, is Colne, we could have had a good workout here. We drove past a tree that was still laden with apples. Very bright apples, I thought they were Christmas baubles at first. In one field, a big sheep and a small pony seemed to be great buddies. And they were about the same size.

We saw many pheasants along the way. They’re not the brightest of birds are they? Standing in the middle of the road playing chicken. At least the crows noshing on a squished bunny have the sense to get out of the way when a car approaches.

We got the keys from the lockbox, parked up, and made several journeys between the car and our accommodation. Time for some stats. It’s supposed to be a holiday, but we’re on the second floor, which means climbing 40 stairs, 40!, compared with only 32 at home. Plus, we brought 16, yes, 16!, bags of stuff with us. No, we’re not staying for six months, just a week. Most of it’s food that we won’t be taking back. I brought my laptop too, and that’s a first. I can do all my usual laptoppy things. Liesel brought her laptop too, so she can do some work. I think my laptoppy things might be more fun.

It was nice to be settled and I made some coffee. Instant, of course. A few minutes later, I took a swig and it tasted… different. Have you adulterated my coffee, I asked Liesel? A grin spread across her face like milk expands when spilt on the kitchen floor. She confessed to adding Baileys to my coffee. No, I didn’t complain.

There seems to be an unwritten competition between us to finish reading The Ink Black Heart. The only reason for our haste is that the book will be deleted from our Kindles in less than two weeks time. Why an electronic copy of a book has to be removed at all is a mystery. Surely the library can ‘lend’ out a hundred copies if it wants?

Bread, cheese, crisps and chutney was our Christmas eve eve eve supper of choice. Highly recommended.

It’s a great cottage, nice and warm, but the trek from my side of the bed to the lavatory is quite long. I should take my pedometer with me, it too needs a good work-out. Needless to say, I had to pay many visits overnight. You’ll probably be blaming the Baileys.

Selfie of the day, by Fountains Hall

We’re actually staying in what you might call the North Wing of Fountains Hall. It’s creaky to say the least, but it’s very comfortable inside. Most of the electrics are modern, but there is at least one power point remaining from the 1920s, the plug has round pins.

Chicken just crossed the road

On Friday, much of the estate is closed to the public because that’s when the locals are allowed to go shooting, in an agreement between the former landowners and the National Trust. I was torn between watching the shooters and maybe having a go, and staying well away from them and not being shot. We played safe, and drove over to Brimham Rocks for a quick walk. Last time we were there was in Summer, with the children. Not so warm today, and it started to drizzle too. Or mizzle as I believe the locals call it, something between mist and drizzle.

Another selfie, at Brimham Rocks

We climbed to the top of the hill, where there’s a trig point. I was tempted to ask Liesel to sit on it for a photo, but I think I know how terse the response would have been.

As the guide said in the video we watched (really just an excuse to get inside, out of the wet for a few minutes), the folks who built the very first visitors’ centre knew exactly what visitors to the countryside want: a view, a loo and a brew.

Turtle through the mist

Back home, we read, drank coffee (plus Baileys), snacked, listened to the radio and relaxed. We have a nice view from our second floor pad, but a bit of sunshine would be nice. Like what they have down under. Yes, Jenny, Liam, Martha and William have arrived in Australia and will be spending Christmas with Helen. In Summer. No, not at all envious!

Martha and William released from the baggage at the airport
Santa, Martha, Helen, William, Jenny and Liam in the Sun

For the second of my two Christmas radio shows on Wythenshawe Radio this year, I ‘shuffled’ the Christmas tunes on my PC. I cheated a bit, of course, to avoid duplicates and there were a couple of songs I wanted to play, regardless. Plus, the usual, regular features: a David Bowie song and something from my Mum and Dad’s record collection.

Thank you for following our antics in 2022. Let us wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy holidays, Feliz Navidad, God Jul, Mele Kalikimaka, Joyeux Noël, Fröhliche Weihnachten, Meri Kirimihete and a Blithe Yule, whoever and wherever you are 🎄🎅🏽🎁

Proper Winter

Here is the latest news. The shower has been repaired and so far, it seems to be leak-proof. The trouble is, and this is entirely my own hang-up, I know, but I’ll never be 100% certain that something is, as Klaus would say, tight as a duck’s ass. By which we mean, it is totally watertight.

My cough continues but its nature has changed. I saw the GP, I’m on antibiotics and I had a chest X-ray. I’m not complaining, but the nurse’s hands were really cold. I think, on the whole, slowly, I’m recovering from whatever lurgy it was. Liesel appears to be a few days behind me on this unwelcome journey. But, talking to people, it seems everyone around here has had a cold, a cough, or flu, or covid, or some bug that’s going round.

I know nobody else on the planet will appreciate this historic landmark, but it needs to be documented.

Nerdle stats

I have a winning streak of 300 now, doing a daily Nerdle puzzle. What a shame I was unaware of it for 17 days after its inception. But I am very grateful to Helen for drawing my attention to it. Also, I have now needed just 3 guesses more often than 4 to reach the correct solution. I would therefore also like to thank all the teachers who encouraged me to develop pretty good mental arithmetic abilities.

It’s proper Winter weather now, with a couple of frosty mornings. Our car is parked in the communal car park, and this time of year, it never sees the Sun. So even if we don’t need to drive anywhere until 2.30pm, we still have to scrape ice off the car. Brrr.

There is no photographic evidence of the female pheasant that was wandering around the car park early one morning. Nope, no idea where it came from. But I did manage to capture the albatross, even if I don’t know why it was crossing the road.

Albatross

One morning, I drove over to Stretford to speak to someone for the radio show. What a pretty neighbourhood. Bridgewater Canal seems to get everywhere.

Bridgewater Canal
Stretford Marina

The Marina was very calm, not a ripple on the surface. Who knew such a place existed?

Afterwards, I visited Stretford Mall for the first time. And possibly for the last time. I parked the car but couldn’t immediately find the shops. Somehow, I left the car park via a fire escape door at the back. I made a mental note of the location. But, of course, being a fire escape door, I couldn’t get back in that way. After walking miles around the car park, I found the shops. And after I left, the only way I could find the car again was by walking up the ramp I’d originally driven up. Come on Stretford: nice canal, but your shopping centre needs some more signage for plonkers like me. But never mind, I told myself, at least I’d walked a long way. That’s true, but there’s no step count because my pedometer was still at home. Grrr.

Stretford Mall

Yes, it’s very nice to see Christmas decorations of course, but I think that Christmas tree is upside down.

Northenden sunset

We enjoyed a couple of pretty sunsets this week. Unfortunately I was unable to witness the Moon’s occultation of Mars so again, I relied on the good folks of Twitter to share photos and videos.

Holly: Christmas photo of the week

Despite the cold weather, the frost and the ice, we went for a couple of walks this week, in Northenden and in Wythenshawe. Once I get out there, I don’t mind the low temperature, but to actually get moving in the first place takes a Herculean effort. Oh, but if there’s a cold wind outside, I’m not so keen. Brrr.

We looked after the children after school one day, and brought them home. What’s nice is that they both enjoy doing some sort of craft, mostly with Oma, and now never ask to turn the TV on. Martha made some snowflakes with beads and wire while William made a card for one of his schoolfriends.

Martha’s snowflake

Hannukah begins soon, so we played the dreidel game again. Both Martha and William remember playing last year and still had a good concept of the rules of the game.

William’s horde

Chocolate coins are involved and they change hands many times before the end of the game. At which point, they are shared out evenly.

Usually on a Friday morning, there are a couple of blokes fishing in the pond in Painswick Park. They weren’t there this week though. I wonder if that was because the pond was completely frozen over? The geese and ducks were confused as they displayed their skating skills. Naturally I didn’t go out on the frozen surface, I’d left my skates at home.

Painswick Pond

The radio show this week featured songs about dogs, including some really sad tales. Grrr.

This morning, I woke up to the sight of snow outside. Naturally, straight back to bed where I enjoyed a couple of podcasts before venturing out. Danny Baker’s Treehouse and We Didn’t Start the Fire, since you ask.

And of course, I know it’s not really an albatross!

Disappointment haunted all my dreams

I know there are a hundred and one reasons we should be boycotting Nestlé, but I don’t think any will will match the major disappointment that I’ve suffered recently.

A few years ago, I started keeping the tin foil that wrapped 2-finger KitKats. Every week, I would wrap them together, and the still growing silver orb still takes pride of place on my desk. Martha was fascinated by it, but I had to stop her from unpeeling the dozens of layers.

Silver ball plus old pound coin for scale

Aluminium can be recycled, as can the paper sleeves these KitKats came in. No more. They are now wrapped in plastic foil. And they seem very proud.

Our local council doesn’t recycle this kind of plastic, but, fortunately, we’ve found somewhere else to take it. We just trust that it is being recycled properly, somehow, and isn’t just finding its way to the ocean via a more circuitous route.

In medical news, I’ve had cough which has gone on well past it’s best before date. Normally, I know such an annoying tickly cough will last about a week. This one just won’t let go, very disappointing. 

The baddest news of the week though is that our shower has leaked, so we have wet carpets, and any water-based emergency is my worst nightmare.

[lots of words omitted, p.o.a.]

As recommended, I ordered some drain unpluggers from Amazon. I used to use a bent wire coat hanger to remove hair from the shower drain. But the shower drain here is a strange design. I’m hoping the plastic unplugger is flexible enough to go around the corner.

But on delivery, I was disappointed to see just one, not three, of these devices. Yes, the Amazon description does say “one”, but there are three in the picture and I usually rely on the picture.

And we didn’t win the lottery this week, again, but as Liesel said, maybe we should buy a ticket ourselves rather than relying on the generosity of strangers.

But it hasn’t all been disappointments this week. Oh no. We had a great time at William’s birthday party last weekend, with forty children, at least one parent each, and some with a sibling. The entertainer Chris had the children in the palm of his hand for two hours.

William running around

Even before the party started, William was running round the hall at a hundred miles an hour, and Chris told him to calm down, he’d run out of energy. But he never did.

Bucket heads

What I hadn’t anticipated was that each of William’s forty guests would give him a present. I think he’s now planning to open his own toy shop.

William and Chris entertaining the troops

It was a good, fun afternoon, although I was disappointed not to receive a goody bag at the end of the afternoon. I don’t think any of the grown-ups did, which doesn’t seem right to me.

Liesel and I dined at Greens in Didsbury that night, it’s been a while since we were there last.

One evening, I used Liesel as a guinea pig, to test out my new toy, a pair of small lapel microphones that will allow me to record chats for the radio show. Well, it’s got to be better than holding the phone up to the microphone which doesn’t always give decent results! So I have a quarter of an hour recorded of me and Liesel talking nonsense, but the good news is, the sound quality is great, even if the subject matter isn’t.

Tuesday night on Boom Radio, Diana Luke played some songs for me and Liesel which was lovely, in the post 11pm slot called Luke of Love. Yes, of course I recorded it for posterity and for the grandchildren!

Our weekly Wednesday well-being walk was well attended this week, there were eleven of us traipsing through the woods, and even that big black dog coming the other way looked intimidated. It’s the end of November, but it’s been mild, and the plants are confused.

Raspberries

We left the raspberries for other people to enjoy.

The following day was the day of the great flood, which left me tharn for the day, I didn’t leave the flat, I hardly moved at all.  In the evening, Liesel went out to join her knitting friends while I stayed in to watch a fascinating chat between Jon Ronson and Miranda Sawyer, thanks to the British Library.

Jon Ronson and Miranda Sawyer

Jon spoke about the books he’s written, which I’ve enjoyed over the years, and his podcast series, which are always fascinating.

But I made up for my lazy Thursday by getting up at stupid o’clock the following day to take the car in to be fixed.

An hour later, I walked back to collect the car. I am embarrassed to say that the problem was easily fixed by the turn of a knob on the dashboard. Nothing wrong with the fuses or anything else.

Sunrise over Northenden

The plumber came to look at the shower on Friday and he’ll be back next week to give us a quote and get it fixed.

Liesel and I went for a walk in the afternoon and were surprised and delighted to see that the motorway works by Riverside Park seem to have finished. The fences have gone and, best of all, two picnic tables and benches have been erected when the old bench used to be, a long, long time ago.

New benches in Riverside Park

Late in the afternoon, we drove over to Martha and William’s school for a Christmas fair. We were mainly there to watch Martha and her friends perform. Firstly, in Spanish, there were two songs wishing us Feliz Navidad.

She then took a starring rôle in a short drama, playing the part of Elf number 1. Unfortunately, they were performing outside in a space that wasn’t very well illuminated.

Martha and friends

So the best photo of Martha is this one of she and her co-stars in the Green Room, I mean, in William’s classroom.

Liesel suggested a show of acoustic music so that’s what we have this week, on Mick’s Music Mix.

I’m off now for a jolly good cough, some cough sweets and a packet of 40 Woodbines. I banished myself to the spare bed last night and I’m going straight there tonight. Liesel doesn’t need me coughing up lungs right next to her.

Fruit and five

It wasn’t really much of a cliff-hanger, was it? I was in the middle of a visit to The Museum of Science and Industry last time. The main reason being to buy a birthday present for William. I had a quick look around the museum before walking back to HOME Manchester where I met Liesel. Liesel who had been having another crochet lesson. I think she’s hooked.

Hail hail?

For a moment I thought I’d missed a hailstorm, but this was the only evidence for such a phenomenon on this glorious day. Ice ice baby.

At HOME, I enjoyed the wildlife in the gallery, we’ve very rarely seen foxes since we moved to Manchester.

Fieldnotes by Brigitte Jurack

There are monkeys too, straw bales and all sorts of rustic items. We’re invited to decorate our own twigs too: no, I didn’t do anything rude. The Fieldnotes exhibition lasts until the end of January so if you’re visiting Manchester, go and have a look. The coffee here isn’t too bad either.

It was a good day for a wander around Manchester, so that’s exactly what we did. Next to the Central Library, the huge Santa seemed incongruous towering over the rightly vocal Iranian protestors.

Santa and Iranian protestors

The Christmas Markets are dotted all over the place in the city centre, and they certainly attract a lot of people. A couple of times, we felt so intimidated by the crowds, we took a detour.

A lot of people

After the pandemic (and yes, I’m aware, Covid is still a big deal), it is good to see so many people out and about, but maybe we’re just not used to being hemmed in any more.

Floral mural

Torrential rain greeted us the next day and I played the part of the cat in that Robert Heinlein story, the one that wandered round the house looking through all the windows, seeking out some decent weather. I was looking for a rainbow though. I knew there had to be one, with bright sunshine one way and dark clouds the other. In the end, I tracked it down. From our living room though, it was hidden by the oak tree.

Rainbow

We were a party of twelve in all, at the restaurant chosen by William to celebrate his fifth birthday. William joined Martha and cousins Annabel and Emily walking up and down the ‘cat walk’, the floor adjacent to our long table. Hands on hips, swaying and everything. A model 5-year old.

William v Spiderman

The only negative was when William was attacked by Spiderman, but he took it in his stride. And he was delighted with the cake, baked and decorated by Mummy and Daddy.

Yummy cake

And of course, Martha fully engaged with the cocktails.

Martha v cocktail

Back at home, we think we have sloes growing in the hedge. Maybe we should make sloe gin, but we’re not 100% sure that’s what they are. I should ask our horticultural correspondents.

Sloes

It was our turn again this week to collect the children from school. At home, their Oma helped them make their own pillows. They both operated the sewing machine very well, and the pillows now have pride of place.

Martha on her new pillow

It was the day before Thanksgiving and Liesel cooked up a real feast for us all, nut roast, sprouts, carrots, special mashed potatoes, gravy, apple pie and pecan pie with ice cream plus a bottle of wine. Sorry you weren’t invited as well. And I think we’re all pleased that the US President hasn’t thought to pardon a nut roast along with a turkey every Thanksgiving.

It was such a nice day on Friday that we just had to go for a pasty, I mean, go for a walk at Quarry Bank Mill. Yes, the pasty was very nice, very spicy. And wandering around as we approach the end of November, it was surprising to see the harvest of strawberry.

Strawberry

Some of the trees are beginning to feel the Winter chill though, so the volunteer knitters have dressed them appropriately.

Snug, warm tree

Who else can see ET in this tree?

Selfie of the day in front of the Mill

I’ve glad to say we didn’t get lost as we walked around the grounds. That would have been embarrassing this week especially, since Directions was the theme of the show for Wythenshawe Radio. Not on FM though, on this occasion.

The studio in Wythenshawe Forum is being refurbished and I’m hope to be able to go along and have a go with it sometime.

Time Travel

I haven’t fully investigated the physics and the maths behind the phenomenon but I know from experience that time does not pass at the same rate for everyone. In the morning after I wake up and can’t be bothered to get up straightaway, I close my eyes for ten minutes. Yet when I open them, a full hour and a half has passed by in the rest of the world. Somehow during that ten minutes, I must have been travelling somewhere at very nearly the speed of light, yet I have no recollection of the journey. From which I can only deduce that travelling at such high velocities has a deleterious affect on ones memory.

Let’s go back in time. A couple of weeks ago, we visited Quarry Bank Mill. At the time, I wasn’t allowed to post this photo of a two-headed Liesel.

Two heads are better than one

But this week, I didn’t bother asking 😉

We went for a walk along the river towards Didsbury, after some torrential rain, so I thought I’d go for an arty shot of my wife in a puddle.

Liesel in a puddle

After crouching down for the shot, which admittedly isn’t all that good, I oohed and ahhed as I stood back up. Clicked the knees back into place and carried on. It was getting dark as we returned home.

Probably the most exciting event this week was our acquisition of a new, smart TV set. It has about as small a screen as you can get these days, but it’s still bigger than our previous set. The only thing wrong with that one is that, for the last 15 years or so, we haven’t had reliable stereo. The left speaker doesn’t make a sound most of the time, but occasionally leaps into action, making both of us jump.

But now, we have an up to date TV, with access to thousands of TV and radio channels via several applications. It was easy enough to connect and set up. But just a few days later, it displayed an error message that made no sense at all. Technology’s great when it works.

I can now send pictures from my phone to the TV, so I took advantage of this feature in another attempt at an arty photo, this one, a picture of the TV showing what the phone sees as it looks at the TV ad inf.

The new TV set

Martha and William enjoyed a fireworks display and a funfair recently. I think the dodgems was a highlight.

Dodgy characters

More driving madness ensued on the day we collected them from school. Loads of traffic, roadworks and all the traffic lights were against us.

Rainbow over Gatley

Fortunately, Liam was able to nip down the road so that the children weren’t left stranded, alone, at school, sitting in the middle of the playground. Back at home, for some reason, both William and Martha wanted to have a bath. It’s been a while and it’s interesting to see how much bigger they are now, in the tub, and how seldom we had to request them to try and keep most of the water inside.

William the Coiffeur

William was playing with and styling his hair, monitoring progress in his reflection.

The third largest shopping centre in the UK is the Trafford Centre in Manchester. You might think we’d be there on a regular basis, for all our retail needs. But no. We paid our first visit since well before the first lockdown, in order to pick up a book from Waterstones.

Trafford Centre

After taking a bag of old CDs to Oxfam in Didsbury, I had a nice breakfast while Liesel went off for coffee with the ladies of the WI.

Oh no, what’s occurring? This week’s radio show was entitled Oh, Oh, Oh! Two hours of songs that include the word Oh! With help from Martha, William, the Two Ronnies and George Takei.

Or if you’re close enough to the transmitter in Wythenshawe, listen to the repeat broadcast on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 at 10pm Wednesday.

The Other Side

We booked tickets for a show in London quite a while ago. Since then, we’ve been planning a whole weekend. For various reasons, we decided not to go by train nor to drive. Instead, we travelled by National Express coach. This was a first for Liesel, and I’ve not used their services since well before Liesel came on the scene. We took a bus into Manchester and found the coach station easily enough.

Stickmen escaping Manchester

This shows how long it is since I’ve travelled by coach. In the coach station, I was expecting to be engulfed in a miasma of cigarette smoke and diesel fumes from coaches with the engines left running unnecessarily. But no, it was quite a pleasant atmosphere.

The coach stopped a couple of times on the way to London, but we still arrived at Victoria Coach Station 20 minutes early. A real bonus after being on board for over five hours.

From Victoria to Putney was quite easy and we checked into our accommodation.

The gig was at The Half Moon, Putney, and I knew exactly where it was. Just a short walk from our hotel, over Putney Bridge and along the road.

Thames from Putney Bridge

On the way, we bumped into Helen and Steve. What are the chances? A little further along the road and there it was. The Half Moon. On the wrong side of the street. Yep, I knew exactly where it was, so why it’s crossed the road, I don’t know.

We dined here before the show. And I met Alan in real life, someone I was friends with online until I left Facebook.

When we took our place at the table right in front of the stage, I also saw Sue, although we have met before.

So what was the show? ‘Those Were The Days’ as performed by Jessica Lee Morgan with Chris on bass and Paul Cuddeford on guitar.

Jessica at the keyboards

Jessica covered songs written by or made famous by female musicians from 1968 to 1976. Two hours of brilliant songs, beautifully performed. Yes, of course I sang along but I wasn’t pelted with too many rotten tomatoes.

We enjoyed the late night walk back over he bridge  and had a purple night’s sleep, as advertised.

Meeting someone at Liverpool Street Station is hard, we just don’t know it well enough, and certainly not the meeting points. So we agreed to meet Elakshi at a Starbucks. While waiting, we went next door to Pickwick’s for a nicer coffee.

Selfie of the day

Our friend Monica in Anchorage has a niece who’s studying here in the UK for a few months. We showed Elakshi round some of the more quirky sites in the city of London, including the Sculpture in the City trail.

No 8: Cosmos by Eva Rothschild

Cosmos, 2018 is composed of three 3.5 metre-high slatted structures which lean into and support each other, painted black on the exterior and sprayed in a coloured gradient within. An imposing physical structure, the work encourages both a physical and aesthetic response. Says Rothschild: “The external piece is quite forbidding. Its black shiny surface is like a set of disruptive gates.”

This was number 8 on the trail, but we managed to miss a few. All were interesting in their own way, even if it was easy to walk by and miss some without realising.

Leadenhall Market was looking quite tentacular today, and not just because of the stars painted on the ceiling.

Tentacles at Leadenhall Market

Our walk took us to Spitalfields Market where I just about resisted the temptation to look at the vinyl records on sale. We had lunch here in the crowded market before Elakshi had to head off for some proper study.

Elakshi, Liesel, Mick

Liesel and I then made our way to Covent Garden, yes, another market, where we planned to buy absolutely nothing. Except Liesel was thinking of a particular clothes shop she wanted to visit. In one of the art shops, there was a portrait of David Bowie. One that moved as you walk by. Spooky.

The Man Who Sold The World

On to Leicester Square and beyond to Trafalgar Square where I was pleased to see a new item on the 4th plinth.

Antelope by Samson Kambalu b. 1975, Malawi

Antelope restages a photograph of Baptist preacher and pan-Africanist John Chilembwe and European missionary John Chorley as a sculpture.

The photograph was taken in 1914 at the opening of Chilembwe’s new church in Nyasaland, now Malawi. Chilembwe has his hat on, defying the colonial rule that forbade Africans from wearing hats in front of white people. A year later, he led an uprising against colonial rule. Chilembwe was killed and his church was destroyed by the colonial police.

On the plinth, Chilembwe is larger than life, while Chorley is life-size. By increasing his scale, the artist elevates Chilembwe and his story, revealing the hidden narratives of underrepresented peoples in the history of the British Empire in Africa, and beyond.

At this point, we still hadn’t decided what to do in the evening. A film? A play? A musical? Another gig? In the end, we thought a comedy show would go down well and we spent a funny couple of hours in the company of Maisie Adam at Leicester Square Theatre.

Maisie Adam
Thames from Jubilee Bridge

The show finished early-ish so we decided to wander over to the South Bank for something to eat. You can’t go wrong at Wagamama. Oh yes you can. I chose a dish that I’ve had many times before but boy was it hot. Hot in the sense that it really stung my windburnt lips. And hot as in much more spicy than is usually the case. Phew. Once the steam stopped puffing out of my ears, I cooled my head down with a nice bowl of coconut ice cream. Phew indeed!

We went our separate ways on the Saturday. Liesel went south to spend the day with Rosie, walking from Surbiton via Kingston to Hampton Court along the towpath and having some giggly girly time together. Was I at all jealous? Well no, not at all, because I’d decided to pay a long overdue visit to the National Maritime Museam at Greenwich and then up the hill to the Observatory.

But as soon as I went outside, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was lovely and warm, verging on the muggy even, and the thought of sitting on buses and/or tube trains for hours to travel to Greenwich just wasn’t as attractive. Instead, I thought I’d walk part of the way and then maybe complete the journey on public transport. I headed in the direction of King’s Road and took in the sights and brought back some memories.

I passed by Parson’s Green, close to where I used to work in the mid-1980s. It hasn’t changed much. But another little patch of green is encouraging insects.

Rewilding Rave

It’s always good to see birds of prey, especially in the middle of a large city.

Church’s of Cheaney Famous English Shoes

I do feel sorry for this one though, tethered as it is to the roof of a glorified shoe shop.

Not all quirky sculptures are in the City of London.

Book Bench in King’s Road

It’s been nearly five decades since I downed a pint of beer in The World’s End pub. I decided not to revisit today, even though a small part of me wondered whether I’d bump into my old work colleague and drinking buddy Clive. But suppose I owed him money?

The World’s End second-hand book shop on King’s Road hasn’t changed much either. If anything, it’s even more crammed with stock so that potential customers have to move around one at a time, like chess pieces on a very crowded board. I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t have a copy of a book that I’ve been looking for for many years: The Nabob’s Garden by Frederica Bennett. I read it several times as a child but can remember nothing about it other than it had a green cover and no dust jacket.

I knew I was taking too much time ambling along King’s Road but I knew something was really wrong with the spacetime continuum when I looked at the clock over the road. The hands were spinning round very fast.

Clockhouse

This place looked very different in the olden days…

430 King’s Road in about 1975
Yarn-bombing in King’s Road

Dave the artist still exhibits his own paintings on King’s Road in the Open Air Gallery. He’s very friendly, go and have a chat if you’re passing by.

Dave the artist

I wandered by the old Chelsea Hospital and onto a street market, close to the Saatchi Gallery, where I had some lunch.

I thought I’d make use of the facilities at Peter Jones. But no. The Gents toilet was out of order and the nearest one was the accessible toilets. Downstairs.

Downstairs to the accessible toilet

I hope there’s another route to the accessible toilets, I wouldn’t want to bump down those stairs in my wheelchair.

And so to Sloane Square, where, a few days after she died, I saw the Princess of Wales standing outside the underground station. No dead people today, but a throbbing mass of living ones.

Do I get a train towards Greenwich? No. I decided to continue walking until I stopped. Through Eaton Square and onto the side entrances to Buckingham Palace. I know King Charles isn’t planning to live here for at least a few years, so it was good to see that services to the palace were being discommected.

Doscommection

Millions of people were loitering by the front gates of the palace on this cloudy afternoon but I was surprised by the brightness of the Victoria Monument’s golden angel.

Golden Angel

Time for some birdwatching in St James’s Park. Don’t feed or touch the pelicans, says the sign. Well, I didn’t even see any, just Egyptians, pigeons, ducks, geese, swans (black and white) and squirrels. And more pigeons. With whom I did not share by cinnamon doughnut and coffee.

Birds of St James’s Park

After leaving the park, I realised I ought to head back. I took a bus back to Putney, changed my clothes, then took another bus into Kingston.

Did I regret not making it to Greenwich? No, I had a fantastic walk and Greenwich and the museum will still be there next time. I also didn’t see much of the South Bank on this occasion, just Wagamama. Apart from a slight sense of disloyalty, I didn’t mind walking on the other side of the river this time.

The Thames and Kingston Bridge

I perambulated through Kingston, mostly familiar, but there have been some changes here, towards the river. The plan was to meet up with Liesel and Liesel’s cousin. Yes, her cousin Andi with her husband of just a few months Steve have moved to the UK, specifically to Richmond upon Thames.

I first met Andi and Steve on holiday in Hawaii ten or so years ago, when Helen and Adam and Jenny came too, not to mention Liesel’s extended family. We’ve also been with them to a few Dave Matthews concerts.

The waiters in the restaurant must have been rolling their eyes when after several attempts at taking our order, we still hadn’t stopped talking long enough to look at the menu.

In the end, we had a very pleasant and enjoyable meal, at Comptoir Libanais since you ask, after which they invited us back to their pad, a quick 65 bus ride away. I’m old enough to remember when the 65 went all the way to Chessington.

Steve, Andi, Mick, Liesel
Pomegranate tree

Their house is located in a very desirable location, close to the river, close to shops, close to the railway station. The pomegranate tree, as far as we know, is the only one in Richmond and it needs a bit of a trim, to be honest. Liesel and I left quite late but it was easy enough to get back to Putney, via Earls Court on the District Line.

And so our short stay in London comes to an end. At Victoria, we visited The Shakespeare for a late breakfast. Do you have a menu, I asked? We’ll bring a menu over when we’re open for food at twelve o’clock. I felt suitably chastised. No nut roast today so we settled for very disappointing nachos. I couldn’t drink too much beer knowing we’d be on the coach for five hours. Another long journey that passed quickly thanks to some podcasts and a book and some puzzles.

Somehow, the 43 bus from Manchester back to Northenden seemed really slow, stopping every thirty seconds…

Back to normal then? Well, nearly. I have picked up the cold that Liesel’s had for a few days. I hope I didn’t pass it on to Martha and William when we met up at Quarry Bank Mill.

Quarry Bank fungi
William and Martha sitting in a tree

In between climbing trees, and playing in the playground and walking and running through the woods and climbing muddy slopes, we didn’t do much here today.

William climbing

During the week, we went for our usual walks, noticing it become cooler as time went on. We walked to Didsbury and noticed that at last, after far too long, we are now able to walk on the other side of the Mersey between Palatine Road and Northenden Bridge. That path has been off limits while they jack up the motorway, or something.

The view from the other side

The radio show this week was based on Jessica’s show, Those Were The Days. I’d picked up the set list, asked all three musicians to sign it for me, and I used it for my own show. I played (mostly) the original versions of the songs plus a couple of extras.

And if you’re interested, here is the playlist from the gig:

Turn Turn Turn
At Seventeen
Big Yellow Taxi
New York
Both Sides Now
Who Knows Where the Time Goes
Natural Woman
Songbird
Make Hay
It’s Too Late
Killing me Softly with his Song
You’re so Vain

Mercedez Benz
Me and Bobby McGee
The Man Who Sold the World
Ocean Song
You’ve Got a Friend
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Hope Is
River
Texas Angel
Brand New Key
Jolene
Those Were The Days
This Wheel’s On Fire
Goodbye

I think my cold is receding, I feel less tired, less cold, less lethargic than I did yesterday, at least I was able to concentrate on this stuff for a while. The Covid tests have all come up negative.

And here we are: November already. Who knows where the time goes?

Goodbye.

Complicated

I think Martha enjoyed using the sewing machine. Oma helped her make a skirt using fabric that she likes, featuring Mirabel from the film Encanto.

The skirt’s coming along

While Liesel was sewing the more technically difficult parts, Martha and I played a half-hearted game of skittles in our long hallway.

On taking Martha home, we were invited in for a minute. We left several hours later, having joined the family and the other grandparents for pizza. Both the children were in great form, a reminder that going to school really does sap their energy.

I do like seeing the multitude of colours of the fallen leaves: crimson, yellow, amber, gold, beige, chestnut, red, ochre and, when the Sun’s illuminating the ground, glowing and even flaming in hue. The thought of shuffling through the piles of leaves isn’t as attractive as it used to be, I am more aware of what might be lurking, hidden in the depths.

Fallen leaves

Autumn is coming into our block of flats. I think a couple of leaves blow in every time someone opens the door. Can I be bothered sweeping them out again? No, don’t be daft.

Watching the cyclists and pedestrians in Northenden, still wearing what might be thought of as light, Summer clothing, is very reassuring. Sometimes I feel odd being the only one still out and about in shorts and a t-shirt (not that I’m bovvered) but until it becomes really cold, I don’t really need to put on more layers.

And it’s so peaceful when a convoy of electric vehicles drives by, so much quieter than the infernal combustion engines that most cars, including ours, still possess.

It still surprises me that whatever time we go out for a walk, locally, we see as many buses that declare themselves ‘Out of Service’ as we see actually in service, taking passengers from place to place. I’d be interested to see the drivers’ shift patterns: do they really start and stop at any hour of the day?

Liesel and I haven’t been out litter-picking for a while, we really should get back to it. But recently, we saw a few young men on our patch, picking litter while wearing hi-visibility vests. Is that the new uniform for Wythenshawe Waste Warriors? Or were they on community service? Neither of us felt brave enough to ask, just in case they were indeed axe murderers.

Liesel wandered along the road for this year’s flu jab. I was scheduled to get one as well, but my appointment was cancelled. As an official old fart, the recipe for my flu jab is slightly different, and the pharmacy had run out.

A partial eclipse of the Sun was visible from the UK, but I assumed we wouldn’t see anything because of cloud cover. But no, it was clear enough. I took a couple of pictures with my phone. The Sun was far too bright really, but, somehow, by luck, the phone camera’s internal workings conspired to present a much fainter image of the eclipsed Sun.

Partial solar eclipse

It’s that time of year again. So glad I don’t have to walk into fresh spiders’ webs as I plod up people’s garden paths early in the morning. But the engineering involved is still pretty impressive.

Spider’s web outside our luxury apartment

I was quite happy to visit the local community library to pick up a book that Liesel had reserved. I took her library card. But of course, it was about to expire, so I had to have the ticket updated. While there, I asked about mine. It too had expired but the volunteer assistant renewed it for me. So, what book? It describes the Coast to Coast walk, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, a trek that we’re thinking of doing next year.

In the library, a young lady was setting up a story time for young children. She had animals. I was invited to stay. I didn’t want to take up space, but I did ask the librarian what sort of animals. ‘She has cockroaches’. ‘I’m outta here’, I replied, after a millisecond’s careful consideration. No need to see cockroaches that close up thanks, we’ve seen plenty in the wild, in the tropics.

These flowers outside the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Assembly Hall were glowing in the sunshine. It seemed possible to squeeze the orange juice out them.

Orange flowers

My other errand was to drop off a bag of plastic at the Co-op, the plastic that our local authority can’t or won’t accept for recycling. I felt very welcome at Quirky Misfits when this chap greeted me at the door.

Quirky Misfits

Inside, I was introduced to a corn snake. A 5-week old that was having a kip in the tank. More zzzz than ssss on this occasion.

Corn snake

The snake attracted the attention of all the children that came in, too. Much more interesting than the cockroaches would have been, I think, and I look forward to seeing it again when it’s fully grown, about five feet in length.

The Wednesday walk was disrupted for me, pleasant though it was. I went to the Post Office to post a letter for Liesel. I waved my phone at the machine to pay, and it was rejected. A second attempt failed too. Luckily, I had cash in my pocket, probably left over from a couple of weeks ago when I had to pay the barber with cash.

It’s along story, but the problem was nothing to do with my phone, or the card, or the bank. It’s because I had the temerity to delete my Google account last night. It gave me a warning, a long list of things that might be affected, but I wasn’t concerned about any of those things. I’m pretty sure Google Pay wasn’t on that list. What a shame though that the only way I could find to stop Google nagging me to pay for more cloud storage when I didn’t even want the free storage, was to delete the whole account.

Goodbye Google

And sever the links to who knows how many other features. Grrr.

My card now works. I tested it in in the coffee shop just along a bit from the dental practice where Liesel went for a scan. But then I tried to use Google Maps to find a route home. It couldn’t find one. Again, the problem was that this app was connected to my now deleted Google account. I’ll never understand why this should prevent it from finding a route home though. Yes, it won’t be recording where I’ve been, but that’s OK, I don’t care that they don’t know where I’ve been. Grrr

Autumn draws on in Altrincham too

Oh and another thing. Yes, we went to Altricham. But at one point, we were in Timperley and/or Trafford and/or Sale. I think it’ll be a long time before I sort out my Manc geography, with all these places and place names that overlap. I thought Chessington and Hook were confusing enough: where is the boundary?