Catching up at home

The rental car was returned without too much hassle. We reported the knocking sound from the back of the vehicle. The guy went straight to the rear, passenger side wheel arch to rock the car. It was almost as if he already knew about the defective shock abosrber.

Pauline, Andrew and I then took the tram into Manchester city centre where we spent the rest of the day. It was a nice day to wander around the city, through Castlefield, past Bridgewater Hall and The Midland Hotel.

Big bike at Deansgate

The most interesting site was Castlefield Viaduct. It opened to the public recently as a Sky Park. It’s a National Trust place and you’re supposed to book in advance online. But we hadn’t, of course, not even knowing the place existed before now. But we were allowed in for the tour with the 12 o’clock group.

New Life on the Viaduct

Various local communities are planting their own gardens, and the horticulture was well described by the two enthusiastic guides. Let’s hope everything thrives, and in the fullness of time, this will be a lovely, colourful sky garden. It’s a good place for views of the city too.

Tricyrtis
YHA Potato Wharf
On the Viaduct, a makeshift planter

We continued our wander and ate our lunch by the remains of a Roman Fort, enjoying the saxophone player’s busking.

Roman Fort, Castlefield

We came upon a record shop in the Northern Quarter. As I guessed, there was a David Bowie record in the window.

Record Shop

Liesel and I should spend more time exploring the Northern Quarter, or NQ to those in the know, there is some fascinating architecture and plenty of quirky shops.

Meanwhile, it was the first day back at school for Martha and William, both of whom look very smart in their uniforms.

We took the bus back home in late afternoon, it was packed of course. One cyclist on an electric bike kept pace with the bus most of the way home.

We walked to Didsbury and later went to Jenny’s place where we all had one final meal together. We watched a highlights video from the wedding weekend. The shock I felt when I realised that that old git on screen was actually me…

By coincidence, Helen and Pauline and Andrew were on the same flight out of Manchester. At Singapore, they would go their own ways to Christchurch and Sydney, according to taste.

It was a quick drop-off at the airport and the enormity of the occasion didn’t really strike until I was halfway home. I don’t know when I’ll see Pauline and Andrew again, in New Zealand but I hope it’s soon. Jenny took Helen to the airport, but I’d said my goodbyes the night before. And already, I can’t wait to visit her in her new home in Australia.

And then there were three. Just me, Liesel and Leslie in the flat now.

I prepared a radio show for broadcast on Friday. But it was never broadcast. Her Majesty the Queen passed away and the balance of the universe shifted. The important thing of course is that this show has been preserved on Mixcloud, I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out, after all.

We’ve had rain and thunderstorms so it was probably not a surprise that the tree stumps over the road have grown fungi overnight.

Tree stump fungi

Lady Heyes Touring Park is probably a good place to go for a camping or a glamping holiday. But Liesel, Leslie and I paid a visit to look at all the antiques shops.

Toby jug

Seeing a few Toby jugs or character jugs reminded me that my Mum had a huge collection. We still have a few small examples at home but the bulk of the collection has, I believe, found a happy new home. I had a quick look in the record shop here, but I will not be collecting vinyl again any time soon!

There were old stamp albums, old coins, old photogrpahs, lots of old stuff. Many years ago, I started to write an article about all the collections I’ve ever had. Maybe I should dig it out and finish it.

Easter Island Moai

This was an unexpected sculpture to find in the car park, and I’m not sure how accurate it is.

Walking around Northenden means we’re getting back to normal. Especially when you see the heron in its usual spot on the weir.

One big surprise though was finding that some trees in the woods have been cut down.

Recently cut down trees

It won’t be too long before they’re sprouting their own fungus. But back to normal is finding a fly-tipped sofa in the neighbourhood.

A Northenden sofa

It seems like a long time since we last collected Martha and William from school. But we’re now back on the rota, and this time, we took them back to our place. They were delighted to see Great Oma, Leslie, waiting for them. Spaghetti bolognese for supper was a bit risky, maybe, but I don’t think any tomato sauce ended up where it shouldn’t have.

Last Christmas, we were given a home-made voucher for a guided walk in Chester. And now was the time to cash in. The three of us drove to the Park and Ride car park next to the zoo, and we enjoyed the short bus ride into the city centre.

Liesel and I have driven through Chester in the past, on the way to Jenny’s following a week cycling in Wales. But this was the first time we’d spent any time there. All I knew about it was it was an old Roman town and it’s the birth place of Bob Mills, a comedian who presented a really good, fun show on GLR, all those years ago. Oh and that in Chester, you’re still allowed to shoot Welshmen with a bow and arrow.

East Gate clock

The three of us wandered around for a bit and found the venue for our guided tour.

The record shop didn’t have a David Bowie record in the window, so that was disappointing. But there was a David Bowie mug. So my theory has now been revised: Every existing record shop has, in its window display, either a David Bowie record or some other David Bowie merchandise.

Chester Cathedral

The Rainbow Tea Rooms were pleasant, we had a nice lunch there while, over the road, a Roman centurion was putting some children through their paces.

Roman centurion

I’m not sure about this though: a special place in the city for pigeons to gather and be fed. But we are encouraged not to feed them elsewhere in Chester.

Pigeon coop

At the appointed hour, we gathered outside the town hall for the start of the guided walk. While there, we spoke to Angela, a local journalist. She asked about our reaction to the death of Queen Elizabeth. She took my picture so there should soon be another small contribution to my fifteen minutes of fame.

I’m rubbish at names but our guide was Karen, or Mary Ann or more likely something completely different. We walked for well over the announced 90 minutes, all over Chester, in and out of the Gates in the Roman Walls. We learned about the Grosvenor family and how Chester grew over the centuries.

Small section of The Wall
Bell Tower

With all the Georgian and Tudor (real or fake) buildings around the city, it was a surprise to find this bell tower. It might be functional, and it might be keeping the weight and vibrations of several bells from damaging the cathedral itself, but I think it could do with a splash of colour.

It was fun to explore Chester, there are plenty of alleys and lanes to investigate further and I’m sure we’ll return sometime. I nearly forgot to mention that this was on Liesel’s birthday too. She’d made her own cake yesterday which we all enjoyed.

I prepared a radio show for this week, but as Wythenshawe FM is continuing to play ‘slow’, ‘respectful’, some say ‘boring’, ‘turgid’ ‘dirges’, along with most other radio stations, I again uploaded it straight to Mixcloud.

And so life in Northenden continues, until our next adventure.

And back to Northenden

It was a dark and stormy night. No, really, it was. Nice and dark because we were well away from major sources of light pollution. And it was stormy. It rained. It was still raining when we got up early for breakfast. Nevertheless, we were determined to have a nice day out.

We drove north to St Bees. The rain stopped, hooray. It started again, oh no. We parked by the beach and had a short walk along the beach to clear the air. We had had coffee in the seafront café, along with a scone, and that was very pleasant. But in the toilet, I was horrified, shocked and almost gagged at the sight of something I’d not seen for decades. A flystrip. A sticky strip of paper along with several corpses of long-dead flies. Such a contrast with the stark beauty of the beach.

The beach at St Bees

St Bees is the start (or the end, depending which way you go) of the Coast to Coast walk, something that has been on our bucket lists for a long, long time.

Coast to Coast Walk

We did witness one young man set off on his bike, and (I’m guessing) his Dad with the support vehicle. Today wasn’t perhaps the best day to set off. There’s a a lot of water in them there clouds.

But the main reason we came to St Bees was to visit the very old priory, now the parish church of St Bees.

St Bees Priory front door

Once we parked in the correct place (that’s another story) we easily found the elaborate front door.

As we explored the building, the organist kept us entertained. There’s a lot of history here. We stood at the site of the South Chancel that was the focus of an archaeology excavation in 1981.

Although the Monastic burials were expected, the discovery at a 14th century vault containing two bodies was not. One female skeleton lay beside the nearly perfectly preserved body of a man wrapped in a lead coffin.

Priory interior
After the Flood – including scientifically inaccurate rainbow

Some of the gravestones in the cemetery had lost their battle with the elements. Even some Victorian epitaphs were very hard to decipher.

Celtic cross
St Bees Priory

The sundial in the graveyard was a grave disappointment. No gnomon, no good, but there was no Sun anyway, so no problem.

The walk to the RSPB site on the coast was exciting. The local farmer had erected a sign saying ‘Authorised vehicles only’. So we had to park on his land and pay for the privilege. Don’t mind paying, but not so keen on the underhand way he goes about it. Then when we’d parked up, a woman came running out and told us to rotate the car 90° to make room for more vehicles. Ooh, sorry, we all missed the sign that wasn’t there

The road was passable except for one huge puddle which we negotiated by utilising a well placed gate.

Puddle and gate

After passing by the lighthouse, we eventually came to the cliffs. Fortunately, there was a display depicting all the birds that we wouldn’t see on this occasion: fulmar, kittiwake, peregrine falcon, razorbill. We did see herring gulls, a cormorant and ravens. Sadly, puffins weren’t even mentioned!

Stack with no birds

On to Ravenglass for a ride on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway train.

Leslie and Liesel at the back of the train

Our compartment was at the back of the miniature train. We passed through some pretty countryside, and I wondered how the train kept upright on a mere 15-inch gauge railway track.

Yes, of course we waved at passengers on the train passing by in the opposite direction. And at people on bridges and in the fields.

I’m sorry I missed seeing the steam engine on the turntable at Eskdale as it turned round to take us back to Ravenglass. I always wanted a turntable when I had train sets but that boat sailed a long time ago.

R & E R Steam Engine

Back in Ravenglass we went for a walk to the site of the old Roman Bath. Yes, I was surprised too. Who knew the Romans were in this part of the world?

Roman Bath House

We met a lady who used to live in the area and she was really enthusiastic about it. She told us tales of playing here as a child.

The tide was safely out (we hoped) so we walked back to town along the beach. The sea was remarkably calm, but that didn’t help me achieve any stone skimming PBs.

Pauline thought a gull was in distress when it kept jumping out of the water and being dragged back. But as we got closer, we realised it was just messing about, practising its take off and landing and its diving skills. Very entertaining and I’m so glad I didn’t have to hold Pauline’s coat if she’d been required dive in and rescue to poor old bird.

A gull having a good time

A hearty supper was taken at a local pub before we set off for Nether Wasdale for our final night away from home. It’s always an anti-climax when you’ve been away for a while, had a good time and you have to go back home, back to normal.

Another early breakfast was taken and by the time we left, we anticipated arriving home by about 12.30. Plenty of time to get ready for our 4 o’clock date. Rarely have we been more wrong. We thought this would be as bad as it gets:

Cows crossing the road

Cows walking, running and stumbling across the road held us up for a couple of minutes. Never mind, we’ll soon be on the motorway.

It took over six hours to get home. There’d been an accident on the M6. Liesel, Leslie and I were on the M6. I sent a message to Pauline and Andrew who were behind us, saying it might be best to come off the M6 while they had the chance. Their diversion was slow as well. They took even longer to get home. In a first for me, I leapt out of the car while it was stationary on the motorway, ran up the embankment, climbed over a fence, missed jumping into the world’s largest cowpat by about three inches, relieved myself, jumped back over the fence and ran several hundred yards along the motorway to catch up because, of course, the traffic was now moving, at least for a while.

In Ambleside, I’d bought myself a new shirt, a very rare occurrence. I was glad to have time to change into this shirt for our family gathering at Gusto in Cheadle Hulme. When Pauline and Andrew arrived, there were ten of us altogether and we had a very nice, civilised meal, thank you very much. 

At this point, you’re expecting to see photos of the ten of us, in various groups and subgroups. Other than some blurry photos of me with Helen, and Martha with Helen, I have none. We’ll just have to gather together on another occasion.

And so our mini post wedding weekend travels come to an end. A splendid time was had by all. Thanks to Liesel and Leslie; Pauline, Andrew and Rob; Helen; Martha and William; and Jenny and Liam, the new Mr and Mrs W, for a brilliant time. And thanks for the opportunity to present a controversial Oxford comma plus did you notice the controversial use of semi-colons where commas ought to be?

Back in Northenden and all is well with the world.

To Nether Wasdale

Another big breakfast gave us the energy we needed for a relatively lazy day. Apart from anything else, it felt only fair to give Andrew a day off from driving.

Our first bus was an open-top and the commentary was supplied by Count Arthur Strong, either that or CAS has a vocal doppelganger.

Reflections on Grasmere

We spent some time in Grasmere, the village, having driven by Grasmere, the lake. I’m not saying Grasmere doesn’t welcome visitors, but I think the sign could be a little bit more prominent, maybe with a larger typeface than this embarrassment:

Grasmere Village Centre

Grasmere Parish Church is dedicated to Oswald of Northumbria, king and champion of Christianity, who is believed to have preached on this site sometime before 642AD when he died in battle.

It is a Grade One Listed building of national historic interest. The oldest parts date from around 1300AD, but it is probably the third church to have stood on this ancient site by the side of the River Rothay.

Grasmere Parish Church

It’s not really keeling over, but you knew that, didn’t you? Almost in the shadow ow the church is the so-called Grasmere Gingerbread® Shop. It’s a very small shop, so Pauline went in on her own to buy some gingerbread®. We have Sarah Nelson to thank for creating this cross between a biscuit and a cake and I wonder what the secret ingredients are?

We visited William Wordsworth’s grave as did some of his descendents, or so they claimed. I took a photo for them but didn’t think to take a picture of them with my own phone.

Wordsworth’s grave

(I recently played Taylor Swift’s song The Lakes on my radio show, which includes a nod to Wordsworth. See what you’ve been missing?) The Daffodil Garden is full of daffodils, but not at this time of year. It was interesting to walk along the path that acknowledges the hundreds of people who contributed to the garden.

Subscribers

After a pleasant wander, we took the bus back to Ambleside. You can’t help but admire the lady who put this display together in the bookshop window.

Menopausal window dressers, eh?

A third bus took us to Coniston. The driver was very patient on the narrow roads, and very skilful. I think we were all glad to let someone else do the driving for us. Some of the car drivers going in the opposite direction looked terrified, I suspect a couple of steering wheels will have been crushed, they were being gripped so tightly.

As Pauline pointed out, here’s something you don’t see very often these days:

Butterfly nets

I trust they’ve been failing to sell for a number of decades because we just don’t want to be catching butterflies any more.

Coniston Water is famous for two things. It’s where Donald Campbell died in 1967 during his attempt to break the water speed record in his boat Blue Bird. And one of its islands was the inspiration for Swallows and Amazons,
the first in a delightful series of books by Arthur Ransome that I enjoyed over fifty years ago. Time for a re-read?

Andrew, Pauline and I took advantage of our perfect timing and climbed aboard for a guided boat tour of the lake. The commentary wasn’t provided by Count Arthur Strong on this occasion. In fact, she didn’t even look like him.

Sailing on Coniston Water
Rowing on Coniston Water

After a quick cup of coffee, we walked back to town, consuming blackberries on the way, and took the bus back to Ambleside. As Crowded House might sing: Four buses in one day. We greeted a few locals, although some were a bit wary of strangers.

Ewe looking at me?

The return bus ride was less exciting, in the sense that there was far less traffic fighting the bus for space.

Our evening meal was taken sitting inside a tuk tuk in a Thai restaurant. The waiter was very apologetic about this being the only table available, but we didn’t mind at all, even if the whole edifice moved every time one of us did.

Tuk tuk

Andrew returned to driving duties and took us to the other side of the Lake District to what was our final b&b. To quell any doubts you may have, we went in the rental car, not in the tuk tuk.

Buttermere is a good place for a walk. It’s a small lake, but we didn’t walk all the way around. We did climb the hill, though Pauline and Andrew went a bit further than I did.

Up the hill forwards
Buttermere

It was fascinating to see water flowing out of the lake into a stream. We know it happens, but we’re more used to seeing streams flow into the main body of water.

Just as we thought we were making good progress, the road was blocked.

Flock of sheep

We weren’t held up for long, the sheepdogs were doing a great job of controlling and herding their charges.

The hotel in Nether Wasdale was very easy to find, after a long and beautiful drive through the mountains. I realised that after all the time spent in Ambleside, we never did get to stop at Dove Cottage, where William Wordsworth lived for a while with his sister Dorothy. But as with all tourist attractions, it’ll still be there next time.

The three of us went for a short walk in the direction of Wastwater and returned for a drink. St Michael and All Saints is a very small church, very quick and easy to explore.

Pauline stayed in the area over fifty years ago, so our mission was (partly) to track down the cottage in which she stayed. Our drive towards Wasdale Head was curtailed because there was too much traffic coming towards us and there was nowhere to park.

We ate a late lunch (picnic food again) and quaffed our drinks on a bench over the road from the hotel, enjoyed the sunshine and the quiet. Car headlights flashed us, announcing the arrival of Liesel and Leslie. Liesel had successfully completed a couple of work projects at home. On the way to Nether Wasdale today, they’d stopped at a Bobbin Mill for a break. And it was more interesting, I think, than they’d anticipated.

The big evening meal was closely followed by a big breakfast in the morning. We were well stocked up with energy for a long hike, even if we had a lot of extra weight to lug around. On this occasion, Liesel drove us to Wasdale Head, and it was a much more pleasant ride than yesterday, much less traffic.

It was hilly, gorgeous view of the mountains and, occasionally, the lake. Becks, streams, waterfalls and sheep all competed for our attention.

View from the car park
Andrew on a bridge

In fact, at one waterfall, we met a couple who were enjoying the outdoor shower, emerging as if in an old advert for shampoo. That’s what they do. The previous day, they’d showered under four waterfalls.

Ritson’s Force
Liesel and Leslie

The blackberries were bountiful. Some were bitter, sour, most were ok but some, on the sunny side of the bush, were sweet and juicy, the taste of childhood Autumns.

Funny looking blackberries

The going was tough in places, but we all kept going, with encouragement from the others. We were greeted by sheep now and then. They drew our attention to the dry stone walls which are different in style to those in Derbyshire and Yorkshire.

Spot the sheep

We tried not to worry the sheep, at least we didn’t have a dog with us. But when I mentioned in passing to one ram that Liz Truss might become our new prime minister, he looked horrified.

St Olaf’s, Wasdale Head, is England’s smallest parish church.

St Olaf’s

This one was built in about 1550 but there has been a church on the site for about 950 years. There was no need for a guided tour on this occasion.

The body and blood of Christ

On the way back to Nether Wasdale, we stopped on a beach by Wastwater for our lunch. We sat on rocks for a bit, but my sister and her partner went over to sit on the grass. Again, we consumed a few handfuls of blackberries. What a wonderful lifestyle. Perfect temperature, gorgeous scenery, no deadlines to meet, no work to complete.

More sheep

The postprandial perambulation up the hill proved too much for me and Leslie so we waited while the others conquered the mountain. Or so they claimed…

We fell asleep to the sound of people enjoying themselves over the road, as they celebrated Holly’s Dad’s 70th birthday. Did we gatecrash? No: far too knackered! Besides, we don’t know Holly nor her Dad.

To Ambleside

Newby Hall is a Grade I listed building in North Yorkshire. Pauline chose this as the venue where we could meet up with a school friend of hers, Yvonne, and Yvonne’s husband Ian. They live a bit further north in Yorkshire. I haven’t seen Yvonne for over fifty years: in fact, the last time I saw Yvonne in real life, she was wearing her school uniform. Sadly not the case today.

The gardens are quite extensive and we wandered through chatting and admiring the work of the gardeners.

Lobelias

The colours were almost out of this world, I’m sure this verges on the ultraviolet.

Beacon

During the guided tour of the house itself, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures. But there was more Chippendale furniture here, lots of books and pictures. Somehow, we missed seeing Gyles Brandreth’s collection of teddy bears.

We admired the miniature train as it whistled on by, but we were more interested in going out on a boat ride, on the River Ure. I saw a flash in my peripheral vision, and that was all I saw of the kingfisher, although others saw it for longer. Neither did I see the otters nor, thank goodness, the minks that are wreaking havoc on this stretch of the river. Still, it was a very enjoyable way to pass the time, sitting down, after walking around the gardens.

River Ure

What a beautiful day too. We ate lunch outside, torn between sitting in the shade and soaking up and enjoying the full blast of the Sun.

The shell grotto was interesting, Martha would love it, although there are warnings about the sharp edges.

Shell grotto
Newby Hall

It was lovely to meet Yvonne again after all this time and I said I hoped to see her again before another fifty years have passed by.

Back at Pateley Bridge, we weren’t tempted by the Oldest Sweet Shop in England. I don’t need to eat the oldest sweets in England, wherever they come from.

The Oldest Sweet Shop

But we couldn’t resist visiting the local car boot sale early the following morning. I tried, unsuccessfully, to conceal from Liesel the ten CDs that I’d bought. But I really do need them for the radio show. I do, I do.

Nidderdale AONB from Pateley Bridge High Street

We drove to Brimham Rocks, another place that was previously unknown to me. Everyone else on the planet knows about the place though, so they all came along today too. One car park was full but as members of the National Trust, we were directed to the upper car park. By ‘us’, I mean Liesel, Leslie and myself. Pauline and Andrew weren’t so lucky. They arrived a few minutes later and were sent to the overflow car park, quite a long walk away, as I discovered later in the day. Jenny, Liam and the children arrived in a third vehicle and found a parking space somehow.

Brimham Rocks is a fascinating place. There are several stacks of rocks which all invite you to climb them. I quite enjoy climbing up such rocks, intermittent shortness-of-breath issue permitting, but I really don’t like going down again. My depth perception while looking down has always been a bit dodgy, I almost have to do it by feel, even if that means using both hands and shuffling down on my bottom.

But William especially was in his element, he is such an adventurer.

Lover’s Leap

I think each of the stacks has its own name. I was surprised to see some of the individuals who scampered at least halfway up some of the rock formations, just to have their photo taken.

320 million year old structure

Again, the weather was quite agreeable. Except that when we sat down for our pre-packed picnic lunch, the wind got up a bit. Later on, we realised we’d plonked ourselves down in the middle of a wind tunnel.

Martha and Jenny way up there
Liesel and William up there
Jenny, Martha, Liam and William the conquerors

The café and ice cream shop are at the top of a hill, you just keep walking up until you see the queue. When you look away from the shop though, you will see lots of big golf balls on the horizon.

Menwith Hill

This is RAF Menwith Hill, a top secret listening station that at one point didn’t even appear on OS maps. Don’t tell anyone.

Pauline and Andrew

Get back from the edge, William!

One last rock for William

We all returned to out accommodation in Pateley Bridge, all 9 of us, where we ate supper from the local chippy. William must have Duracell batteries, he never slows down. But he did lose the wrestling match with a foot stool.

William v stool

As I hinted at earlier, Pauline, Andrew and I  walked a long, long, long way back to where they’d been encouraged to park. Liesel and Leslie wanted to leave earlier. Oh well, we always need more exercise. But if I’d realised that Pauline and Andrew had parked in the next country…

Before leaving for our next base of operations, I needed to get some cash out of the ATM. They saw me coming, and watered the hanging basket. I was typing in in my PIN code and wondered why my leg was being splashed. I stood back, looked up and got a faceful of water too. There are some jokers in Pateley Bridge.

Mick’s coming, quick, let’s water the flowers

Liesel had some work to do and the 4G and Wifi services hadn’t been too reliable recently, out in the countryside, so she and Mom chose to go home for a couple of days.

I accompanied Pauline and Andrew on the drive to Kendal, which was long but uneventful. Yes, the country lanes were narrow in places. And inevitably, we followed a tractor for a short while. On the way, we passed by close to Giggleswick,  Wigglesworth and an advert for Biggles removals. Like Bakewell, Kendal was a bigger town than we remembered from previous visits. We’d moved on from Yorkshire to the Lake District for more adventures in the big outdoors.

Old Shambles

My sister Pauline is always more than happy to pose for a photo.

Kendal United Reformed Church

During our travels, we visited a few churches. I like to light candles for my Mum and Dad and Sarah, but this year, there has been no facility to do so. I wonder if they’ve stopped this practice because of the fire risk? Having said that, no, we didn’t visit this United Reformed Church.

Fryer Tux Fish & Chips

I’m sure there’s more to Kendal than bad puns for shop names! Oh yeah: Kendal Mint Cake. But in the end, none of indulged in that very sweet and minty delicacy. We walked down an alleyway to look in the bookshop, only to be greeted by the sign: ‘Sorry, this is a storeroom, not a bookshop’. So we schlepped all the way back up the alley and wondered why they didn’t put this warning at the top. There are some jokers in Kendal.

And so to Ambleside, where we stayed at a b&b for a couple of nights. The first thing you notice about Ambleside is the ridiculous amount of traffic (yes, I know, we were part of it) and the one-way system. We couldn’t park outside the b&b, so we stopped as soon as we could. Andrew and I waited for Pauline to go back to ask our hosts where to park. They told us. Reluctantly, they gave us a Parking Disc that would allow us to park on the street for up to an hour at a time. We also got a pass that allowed us to park in the nearby car park overnight. We later found several of these rare, precious and beautiful Parking Discs in a basket by the Co-op supermarket.

We bought some groceries for a quick picnic which we enjoyed while sitting by the river, in view of Bridge House which was built over Stock Ghyll more than 300 years ago, probably as a summer house and apple store for Ambleside Hall.

Bridge House

Mostly we enjoyed our bread and cheese and tomatoes and crisps, which we ate without the aid of a knife. But, we were joined and pestered by a very aggressive mallard. He pecked at our shoes, attacked Andrew’s leg, and scared away the sparrows.

Mallard v shoe

We went for a nice, long walk to the head of Windermere, passing by the sporting facilities on offer: bowls, tennis, rugby and crazy golf. We were quite lucky with wildlife too.

Pond skater
Otter
Red squirrel

Well, I admit the last two aren’t the real thing, but they’re as close as we got on this occasion. There was a tree close to the lake that drew my attention though.

Tree

Our walk took us through a field of cows, which Liesel would have enjoyed, but they weren’t interested in us. We also saw a deer, a female deer with twin fawns, which was nice and unexpected.

Deer family

Silhouetted again a bright sunset sky was the church of St Mary’s.

St Mary’s

Liesel and Leslie decided to stay at home in Northenden, leaving me, Pauline and Andrew to amuse ourselves here in Ambleside.

To Penistone and Pateley Bridge

Liesel and I didn’t hear them go, but Pauline and Andrew left early to take Rob back to Manchester Airport. His short time here in the UK was over but I’m so glad he was able to come over for his cousin’s wedding and to spend a couple of days with us in Derbyshire. Afterwards, Pauline and Andrew drove to our next b&b visiting Ladybower Reservoir on the way.

Liesel and I and Leslie got up, packed, and looked out of the window. It was drizzly, we could no longer see the castle at the top of the hill. So we decided not to walk up, we wouldn’t see the views today.

We drove to Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire, in the rain, quite hard rain at times, on more narrow roads. Liesel drove, I navigated, as is out usual practice.

Call me cynical but I have a theory. The harder it’s raining, the further the car park is from whichever venue we’re visiting.

Nostell Priory

The highlight for me was seeing an original John Harrison long-case clock. I took several pictures of it from different angles so that one day I can 3D-print one of my own.

John Harrison clock

But the main collection is furniture designed by Thomas Chippendale, even if he didn’t do all the woodwork himself. He was a local lad who did very well. Some chairs looked more comfortable than others, but I wasn’t allowed to try them out. ‘This isn’t Ikea, you know’.

Gentleman’s dressing table and writing desk by Chippendale

The tour of the house was interesting, lots of old stuff to look at and a reminder of how easy it is to acquire too much clutter!

I was introduced to a lady in a wheelchair. This is Daisy, said her guide, she’s 105 years old. I wished her a happy birthday. For safety reasons, she wasn’t allowed up to the first floor, not even in the lift. So I took more pictures upstairs than I need to, so I could show her. By the time I went back down, she’d disappeared. Fast mover.

When buying tickets, and a couple of times later on, we met a guide with a French accent. I was curious/nosey enough to tell him that his Yorkshire accent wasn’t very convincing. Where do you think I’m from, he asked. France? Maybe Switzerland? Nope. He’s from Lithuania and has been living here for 11 years.

I haven’t even mentioned the library or the doll’s house! We walked around the garden for a while so here’s the obligatory photo of a flower with raindrops.

Raindrops on roses
Banana leaves

We might return to Nostell one day, not for the house or the garden, but to take the children to enjoy its adventure playground.

We found our next b&b in Millhouse Green, near Penistone, very easily. We have an en suite bathroom. So I won’t be disturbing everyone when I find all the squeaky floorboards as I make several trips to the loo in the middle of the night.

We sat outside in the Sun and chatted, watching the mallards on the river Don at the bottom of the garden. Pauline and Andrew arrived, soon after which, Andrew and Liesel went to the local chippy to buy our evening meal. We dined outside. What a nice way to end the day.

Al fresco

The breakfast was very satisfying, thank you, Di and Dave. But the best news today was that I completed the Nerdle puzzle for the 200th day in a row.

#not #humblebrag

The first time I visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park was in 1991. It was a campsite for the night during our cycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I’ll Rot13 the next bit, it’s not for squeamish souls. Vg jnf cbhevat jvgu enva fb bs pbhefr, V arrqrq n jrr va gur zvqqyr bs gur avtug. V jnfa’g tbvat gb jnyx nyy gur jnl hc gur uvyy sebz zl grag gb gur gbvyrgf, abg va gung enva. Vafgrnq, V jrag oruvaq gur arneol Urael Zbber fphycgher. V guvax vg jnf guvf bar,  Ynetr Gjb Sbezf. Fbeel, Urael.

Mick and Large Two Forms

Today though was bright and Sunny and we had a lovely wander around the park. There’s plenty of space between the items.

Love (by Robert Indiana)

There’s something about the combination of primary colours I like, here.

The Corby Rocker (by Jason Wisher-Mills)

“The Corby Rocker was made with a group of adults with learning disabilities, based at Oakley Grange in Corby, Northamptonshire. The rocker’s exuberance and love of life was my attempt to capture how much this group had inspired me, how I felt about them, and how they had given me a new artistic voice. Simply put – meeting them changed my life.”

And it impressed and amused several visitors today, too, Jason!

Charity (by Damien Hirst)

I remember seeing this little girl, and other charity collectors, outside shops when I was growing up. Damien Hirst made this larger-than-life version.

Not all artists take their work seriously of course. One piece celebrated William Harvey, who first discovered the circulatory system in the human body. This is on the back:

The First Doctor

Well, it made me laugh anyway! (That’s William Hartnell, not William Harvey.)

There are still a few signs and indications around, marking the Tour de Yorkshire races from a few years ago. The event stopped during the pandemic, and I don’t know whether it will come back.

Funny place to park a bike

But one highlight was the early morning visit to the local car boot sale. I tried unsuccessfully to hide the ten CDs I bought from Liesel, but I do need them for my radio show. Andrew enjoyed a bacon buttie and I’m not sure anybody else bought anything.

Illustrated history of Penistone

We’ve been to the National Trust property, Wentworth Castle Gardens before, but it was only when we arrived this time that I recognised it. It was a good place to meet up with Jenny and Liam and Martha and William.

Multi-coloured flower bed

We had a picnic, which included cherry tomatoes, by the folly that is Stainborough Castle, which William in particular enjoyed exploring. When he wasn’t impersonating a hamster, that is.

William the hamster

Jenny and Liam were looking good after being married for six whole days.

There’s a fun playground here too and between them, Martha and William nearly wore out the zipline.

This was a nice, sunny day, and we enjoyed watching the sunbeams as we drove to our new place at Pateley Bridge. No, we’re not on the run, we’re just touring around staying in different b&bs for two or three days, doing some sightseeing.

There’s a car park just down the road from our new place, and we spent a lot of time walking up and down Pateley Bridge High Street, which is about the same gradient as Guildford High Street. This is the only town within the Nidderdale Area of Natural Beauty and I think the locals are very proud of this fact.

History of Pateley Bridge in two plaques

Our only regret in Pateley Bridge is that we weren’t invited to the party on our first night: it was only just over the road. One of those where the blokes have a contest to see who can impress the boss by laughing the loudest. Actually, not my sort of party at all…

To Castleton

Following the absolutely fabulous Wedding Weekend, after all the fun and farewells, we drove to Bakewell. Six of us altogether: Liesel, Leslie and myself in one vehicle, Pauline, Andrew and Rob in their rented car.

The last time Liesel and I visited Bakewell, we were on our bikes. We’d had a good day cycling around, visiting Eyam and a couple of other places. The lady in Buxton Visitor Information told us that the bus back to Buxton had bike racks on the front. She lied. The bus came, with nowhere to hang our bikes. Plan B: ride back to Buxton as quickly as possible along the A6, in the rain, as it got darker and darker. It was not fun. Too much traffic, too many close passes. We left the bikes at our b&b and legged it towards the Opera House. After a bag of crisps for supper, we settled in for a groovy concert. I can’t remember the name of the Pink Floyd tribute act now, but they were good. We would have enjoyed the show more if we’d arrived at a more leisurely pace and having eaten properly. Still, an event not to be forgotten. Nor repeated, if I understand Liesel correctly.

Today though, we had a nice break in Bakewell, including of course one of their famous tarts. Bakewell is bigger than I remembered. I had to ask in the Information Centre where the nearest public convenience was located. She told me. I trusted her. I found it.

Record shop

There aren’t many record shops left around the country, but I have a theory that every remaining one now has at least one David Bowie album in the window. Bakewell didn’t disappoint.

The bridge over the river Wye is in danger of collapse, being weighed down by a million padlocks. I hope they’re not, but I suspect many of the keys have been thrown into the river below.

What a lot of padlocks

We backtracked a bit to spend some time at Haddon Hall. What a fascinating house, even if the presence of bats and/or their produce induced a coughing fit in me. There is a lot of original building work here. GM knew how to keep the roof up.

A nearly 400-year old roof

This place has been used extensively for filming and the guide told us that after a recent episode of a TV series was filmed here, the crew left behind the protective pedestal at the base of this very old supporting pillar.

21st century protection for the 500-year old supporting pillar

The windows look warped, but they were constructed this way.

Wonky windows

I looked for but could see no obvious mathematical pattern, so maybe it was just random on the part of the window-maker. Or maybe he just couldn’t cut the lead beading to the right length.

The gardens were delightful too, so here’s the obligatory photo of a flower with a bee, a very distinctive bee, as it happens.

Yellow flower with exotic bee

We followed some very narrow roads on the way to Castleton, which was to be our home for a couple of days.

I’m not going to list all the toilets I visited but one invited me to leave the door open when I’d finished, due to nesting swallows. I saw the nest, but the occupants were probably out shopping or something.

Monsal Head provided a good viewpoint, just one of very many gorgeous sights we’d see over the next couple of weeks.

Castleton is a small town, with narrow roads, several pubs and lots of shops selling ‘stuff’. The GPS told us we’d arrived at our destination, but I couldn’t find it. Neither could Andrew who I bumped into, also wandering around aimlessly looking for it.

It took the man in the pub to show us where we were supposed to be. Up a steep hill, behind the road we’d been searching on. Now, if they’d told us our cottage was above the fish and chip shop, we’d have found it much sooner! I suspect the b&b has a deal with the pub. Their guests will get lost, go to the pub for directions and then feel obliged to take a drink there.

We looked up at Peveril Castle and decided to visit it the following day. Instead, now, we went for a walk towards Blue John Cavern, which we would also visit the next day. This Cavern was the main reason for being here: Pauline’s wanted to visit for many, many years.

So, yes, of course we had a drink at the pub. A nice refreshing pint of shandy in my case.

Devil’s Arse!

Liesel and I have tickets for a concert here in September, so it was quite funny to see we’ve ended up so close by today. Will we stay in Castleton overnight again, then? To be decided!

I took pictures of the hills surrounding us, but they’re never as good as the real thing. Nor, as Liesel and I have discussed several times, as good as water colour or even oil paintings, which seem to capture the essence of a place much better than a photograph. But I can’t paint, so I’ll continue to take pictures.

While the others returned to our digs, Pauline and I roamed a bit further afield, around the town. We can buy lots of Blue John based jewellery, as well as other stones and, yes, ‘stuff’, ‘clutter’, items to sit on a shelf and gather dust.

A cacophony from the sky drew our attention. It wasn’t quite a murmuration, but certainly a large flock of birds was flying around as a group. What were they? We didn’t recognise the call and couldn’t identify them. They settled on top of a tree. I used an app called Chirp-o-matic which identified them as jackdaws.

In our cottage, we only found one toilet roll. Two of the lamps weren’t working and the replacement bulbs were the wrong sort. I suspect the b&b has a deal with the local supermarket. Their guests will visit the shop desperate for toilet paper and then buy lots of other items as well.

Hundreds of jacksaws sitting in a tree

It was a muggy evening and the following day, we awoke to slight drizzle. Despite this, we aimed to be at Blue John Cavern by 9.30.

Pauline contemplating life the universe and everything

Behind us as we looked down towards the cavern stood Mam Tor. This used to be a much bigger hill, covering the whole area. Yes, we thought about walking up the hill. And it’s the thought that counts.

Liesel and Leslie weren’t interested in the cavern, so it was just me, Pauline and Rob who descended the 245 steps. It was wet inside, dark, damp, and a bit slippery in places. Blue John stone gets its name from French, bleu et jaune, and it is a coloured variety of fluorspar. This is the only place known to have Blue John.

Meanwhile, Liesel nipped home to work  and to get some more clothes, as well as take back all our wedding gear.

Blue John stone in situ

The guide illuminated some of the more remarkable rocks. The place started off as a lead mine but people still like to mine for Blue John, but on a much smaller scale of course.

Another seam

Climbing back up the steps wasn’t too bad. We stopped a few times to look at other features. I must say, though, it was nice to get out in the fresh air again. I didn’t even see the large rock spiders that scurry from between the rocks when they hear a loud noise, such as a clap.

The three of us with Andrew visited Peveril Castle in the afternoon, just up the hill from our b&b. It was a well-made path but, whinge incoming: I don’t like it when there are steps, each one of which is on a slope. Steps are ok, slopes are ok, but I find the combination very uncomfortable, especially going down. We stopped a few times on the way up, to admire the views, but mainly for the brief rests.

Peveril Castle on a steep slope

The views from the top of the hill were fantastic of course, but photos will never do them justice. Nevertheless, here’s one.

The view from Peveril Castle

The spiral staircase in the castle was a bit intimidating. If I were to be tried here for some minor felony, in the days when the castle was used as a court of law, I think I might plead guilty just to avoid it having to climb it.

In the evening, we enjoyed a meal at The George, table 52 at the end of the garden, if you’re interested.

In an unusual turn of events, we watched TV in the evening: the first couple of episodes of Ghosts. And I think this was the only TV we watched for over two weeks. Most of us, anyway.

This was followed by a good night’s sleep, in preparation for the following day’s adventures. The smell of fish from the chippy below was not at all a problem.

Wedding Weekend

Sometimes you go to bed at the end of the day and you have no recollection of anything that happened. One day this week passed in such a manner. It was a Thursday. We did some more tidying up, we started packing for the weekend ahead, and that’s about it. I took zero photographs, which is very unusual. A busy, productive day but totally unmemorable. I don’t know why I mentioned it really. I’m sorry I wasted your time on this paragraph.

Jump to Friday. Pauline and Andrew drove to the airport to pick up Robert, who’d flown in from Vancouver. Yes, Liesel and I only saw him fairly recently, but this was the first reunion with his mother, my sister Pauline, since he moved to Canada all those years ago.

Now we are six. For the first time, there are six people staying in our flat overnight, which seems to have shrunk in size. Rob drew the short straw (we drew it for him) and he slept on an inflatable bed in the office/studio, curled around the legs of the desk.

Before settling down for the night though, we had fish and chips from the local chippy. We bought far too many chips. Which is why, for breakfast the following day, we had egg and chips.

And so, after years of anticipation and planning, the Wedding Weekend began. I am pleased to announce that my daughter Jenny was marrying Liam at an event postponed for a couple of years because of the pandemic.

We woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning. After our stodgy breakfast, Pauline, Andrew, Rob and I drove to the venue, Knockerdown Cottages, near Ashbourne, on the cusp of the Peak District National Park in the Derbyshire Dales. Yes, what a beautiful part of the country. Just look at the view!

The view from Knockerdown

After a lovely drive, despite a couple of diversions, we arrived and parked at the venue at about 11.45. I saw Liam and walked over to say hello. I was immediately told to go to the back of the line over there, to join Jenny, as they were timing the walk up the aisle. Well, a trail of hessian mats on the grass, that led to a gazebo in front of which the ceremony would be conducted. I felt bad that the others were unloading the car without my help. (Afterwards, not at the time, I was in a whirlwind out of my control.) We had a lot of stuff. For the weekend and for a couple of weeks afterwards too. We spent much of the weekend meeting old friends. Danielle, Louise, Katie and Sarah, Jenny’s friends from school, along with the leader of the gang, Helen, were all there leading the procession, followed by Martha and William, with Jenny and myself walking slowly behind. This wasn’t really a full-blown rehearsal. Another long-time friend, Ross, took us through the ceremony, advising us who stands and sits where and when and of course all I can think of is how I can possibly will probably mess the whole thing up.

Meanwhile, back at home, Liesel and Leslie drove to the airport to pick up Michael (Sarah’s brother) and Astrid, visiting from Norway. After a quick trip to Quarry Bank Mill, they joined us at Knockerdown later in the afternoon.

I was glad our car was amongst the first to arrive in the morning, we could be useful for a bit. We moved bottles of wine and fizz from one cottage to another, we moved some furniture. As a former postie, I was given the task of delivering the Welcome letters to each of the cottages.

Most of the guests arrived soon after 3pm, as did the groceries we’d ordered. Ours came from Ocado as usual, but during the course of the afternoon, Tesco and Sainsbury were represented.

The venue includes a games room and a swimming pool. I confirmed at various times over the weekend that I am still no good at pool (it was a manky table, but I don’t think it made much difference), table tennis (the table seemed much smaller than I remember from my youth) and table football (despite spending too much time on the game while at university).

With about 75 guests in one place for the weekend, there had to be a disaster. And the first one sadly fell to Martha.

Rescuing a mermaid from the tree

For some reason, she threw her mermaid into a tree. It took several people, several sticks, a ball, a pool cue and a broom to finally dislodge the doll from the arboreal resting place.

Pizza Pi turned up and set up his wood stove in the courtyard, right outside our cottage. Nice and convenient and we wondered, unnecessarily, would our cottage be filled with smoke? The pizzas were very tasty, and were accompanied by a variety of leaves and salad.

It was good to see Michael and Astrid again after all these years. Also here were several members from Liam’s wider family including Una’s sisters and Alan’s brother Lawrence.

In the evening, everyone sat down and ate more pizza and snacks and drank copious amounts of alcohol and non-alcohol. Matt, a very entertaining friend of Jenny and Liam, took us through a number of fun party games.

People playing silly games

Modesty prevents me from saying that our team, number 10, won. After each task, someone had to run up to Matt and declare their team number. Our table was the closest. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t the best! Obviously.

After a busy, exciting and fun day, of course it was quite hard to get to sleep that night. Finally, after all this time, I was within hours of delivering the Father of the Bride speech. Those who know me know I am not a natural extrovert, I don’t enjoy being the centre of attention and I certainly don’t perform in front of more than four people at a time. So the butterflies were slowly gathering together in my stomach.

When I emerged from my pit on Sunday morning, the kitchen was a hive of industry. Liesel and Pauline were making sandwiches for the children’s lunchboxes, and Leslie was making use of her origami skills, folding and sealing the lunch boxes with all the other lovely components.

I ate a hearty breakfast, spent some time alone going through the speech for the hundredth time. I’d been working on it for nearly three years, on and off, so of course, by now, it made no sense, it was absolute rubbish. Fortunately my secret proofreader/editor has helped out recently, thank you, Helen!

Another disaster. Someone gave me some cash with which to pay the bar staff when they arrived. Liesel saw me put it in my pocket. Later on, I couldn’t find it. I asked around, I retraced all my steps, but no. People agreed with me that this new-fangled plastic money is so easy to lose, when you pull something out of your pocket, for instance. The bar staff were paid, so don’t worry about that.

Three days later, in a place a long way, away, I bent down to put my trainers on. There was some sort of obstruction in my left shoe. Yes, you’re ahead of me. It was the cash I now remember putting there for safe keeping. I think it’s fair to say, pre-speech nerves adversely affect the memory.

Back to Sunday. The children had a Hearts Trail to follow, a series of 18 heart-shaped wooden plaques carefully hidden by adults.

Wooden heart (not the Elvis song)

William started well but later, I witnessed one of Liam’s aunts completing his sheet on his behalf. Shh, don’t tell anyone.

Another disaster, oh no. William was stung by a wasp. He soon got over the shock but that was something else we could do without.

While chatting with Uncle Lawrence by the pool, I saw Pauline walk by with a couple of the lunch boxes. I was going to help deliver them, but alas, I’d missed my opportunity.

The weather couldn’t have been better for an outdoor event. A bit cloudy but sunny and with bright blue skies.

I wandered around the site for a while, and even though I knew Jenny and Liam wouldn’t be going anywhere soon, I wondered whether I should attach a ‘Just Married’ sign to the back of this old vehicle, for their post-ceremony departure.

Mouldy old plough

My moment arrived. Time to have a shower and put my wedding attire on. I’d picked up my suit from Best Man in Stockport on Thursday: one of the tasks that I seem to have performed on autopilot.

I was pleased that my clothes all fitted well, even though they felt unusually tight.

Guests made their way to the gazebo where seats had been placed. I was pacing up and down in my cottage, waiting to be summoned.

Someone gave me a pretty little boutonniere to wear. Another potential calamity. In my nervous state, I was bound to prick my finger on the pin and get blood all over my pristine, new, white shirt. But no: this particular disaster was averted and I continued to wait.

Gazing longingly towards Jenny’s cottage, waiting, waiting

Forlornly, I looked through the window towards the bride’s cottage while waiting for the call. Many other people were coming and going but all I could do was walk around the living room again. And again.

I obtained some new spectacles recently. Same prescription as my everyday ones, but these don’t turn dark in sunlight. I remembered to wear them. I would not be ruining photographs today by having shades in front of my eyes.

I paced up and down a bit more. This was like waiting for a baby to be born or something. Exciting, but nerve-wracking.

The bridesmaids all looked gorgeous, the guests all looked splendid, my family all looked very smart and well-turned out. I probably looked OK but as I wore out the carpet in our cottage, of course I had my doubts.

At last, I was called to meet the bride. She looked stunning. I knew she would, but even so, I had to swallow something hard and jagged.

Father seeing the bride in all her bridal gorgeousness for the first time

Thanks to Ross, the celebrant, for taking this picture. I’d left my phone behind in the cottage. Mainly because I wouldn’t be able to take pictures for the next hour or two, but also because the pockets in my hired jacket had been sewn shut.

I accompanied Jenny from her cottage all the way to the gazebo without once tripping over my own feet, despite wearing brogues, which I’m not used to and which are longer than my trainers. In addition, I didn’t stand on Jenny’s dress while various girls tried to keep the train under control. Jenny and I followed William at a distance. He was behind Martha who was keeping a good distance behind the bridesmaids.

Other potential faux pas were avoided. My trousers didn’t fall down. I did not have a coughing nor a sneezing fit. And I think I was in the right place at all times.

After turning past a certain tree, Jenny and I heard the processional music, an instrumental version of Elton John’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight, from The Lion King.

After delivering Jenny safely to Liam, and shaking his hand, I went to stand next to Liesel in the front row. Ross soon told us all to sit down, and I breathed a sigh of relief: so far, I had not messed up.

The Humanist ceremony was really nice, and I look forward to reading Ross’s words at leisure later on. They were delivered beautifully at the time, but half my mind was elsewhere. Martha performed her reading really well, and so did Liam’s Mum, Una.

During the slow walk back, we each picked up a small bag of (biodegradable) confetti with which to shower the newly married couple and their children, mainly for the benefit of the photographer, Marc.

(I’ll post one or two of Marc’s photos at a later date, but as mentioned above, my phone wasn’t with me during these events.)

Between the wedding ceremony and the Breakfast, we enjoyed drinks and snacks in the courtyard again, conveniently close to our cottage. I collected my speech, printed out in a large font and glued to a set of seven cards. I checked I had this set of cards in my pocket a dozen times. I checked they were in the right order another dozen times.

Guests gathered for the Wedding Breakfast in, what felt to me at the time, the hottest room in all of England. The Sun was pouring in, I was still wearing my suit and I was trying to suppress my state of nervousness.

I looked around and reminded myself, as Chris had said, that these hundreds of people are on my side, that they’ll listen politely while looking forward to the other speeches. Writing this now, a few days later, I realise that my lack of confidence is really showing through. Hundreds of people? Well, seventy-five including about twenty-five children.

Chris’s entrance into the room was quite flamboyant. Jenny and Liam followed with a little more dignity.

I was introduced by Matt, I stood up and read from my crib cards for four of the longest and quickest minutes of my life. It went very well. I’m glad I raised a toast to Jenny’s Mum, Sarah. I was delighted when people laughed at the right time, at the jokes. Again, I’m pleased to say my worst fears were not fulfilled: I didn’t drop the cards, I didn’t read them in the wrong order, I didn’t move away from the microphone and my trousers didn’t fall down.

Modesty forbids me from mentioning how many people came up to me afterwards and the following day to say how much they’d enjoyed my speech, that I’d hit the right tone, the right mix of seriousness and humour, that my nerves hadn’t shown at all.

Helen gave a speech too, with a little help from Martha. She was followed by Liam and by Chris himself.

We guests had selected our meals some months ago, and like most other people, I’d forgotten what I’d opted for, so thank goodness for the personalised menu on the table in front of us. The food was very good, prepared and served by some friendly, helpful caterers. I enjoyed my spinach and artichoke pie and mash with a parmesan crisp served with various beans and peas. This was followed by Bakewell tart with ginger cream which I ate before I had a chance to take its picture.

An ex-Bakewell tart with ginger cream

Yes, I had retrieved my phone by this point. So of course, I shot Jenny and Liam too.

Jenny and Liam

Between the end of the Breakfast and the evening activities, I think I just socialised, and enjoyed having successfully delivered a Father of the Bride’s speech.

Jenny threw the bouquet over her shoulder towards all the single ladies.

Martha with her bouquet

Martha was delighted to pick (some of) it up but I’m not sure whether she knows the significance.

The Sun was beginning to set and this was a great photo opportunity for Marc and for the rest of us.

Sunset, Jenny and her supporters

I’d forgotten there were so many formalities at a wedding. I was quite happy to grab a slice of cake and tuck in. But there was the matter of the official Cutting of the Cake.

Cutting the cake

Martha was on the scene and very quickly announced ‘I want that bit’.

A little later, Jenny and Liam took to the floor for the first dance. The first song I remember the band, Funtime Frankies, playing was Summer of ’69. The dancefloor soon filled but my feet kept themselves to themselves, at least until a pint of beer later. The band were really good, performing old songs with great skill, and I know it’s an old-farty thing to say, but they were really quite loud.

Jenny and Liam dancing

During the evening, we made several visits to the bar for a wide range of beverages. And water.

As darkness settled on Knockerdown, I think we were all still a bit high from the emotion if not from the alcohol. More food was available and I feel sorry for those folks who mistook the jalapeños for mushrooms. Hello Andrew!

Michael and I had a nice chat about Sarah and the wider family. He and Astrid went to bed and I moseyed on over to the After Party, much to Helen’s surprise, I think. I had a bottte of beer, very rare for me at around midnight, before hitting the sack myself. I said good night to the new Mr and Mrs W.

Breakfast for me on the day after consisted of veggie sausage roll, although bacon butties were available for the carnivores. This plus a few cups of tea were very welcome. But I think one of the most memorable sights this day was seeing that Martha didn’t change out of her pyjamas all day. She and all the bridesmaids and Jenny and Helen were wearing personalised robes and I think Martha just didn’t want to take hers off.

We had fun and games in the field including a 9-hole Crazy Golf course that materialised early in the morning. I played two rounds. Once against Pauline and Andrew and once with Martha, Emily and Papa. On both occasions, I got the highest score so I think that makes me the winner.

Crazy Jenny and Liam playing Golf (*words to be rearranged)
William captured by rogue space hoppers

William played tag with me and Emily for a while. There was a short race course for space hopppering around. The track itself was William’s safe ‘base’ while the island in the middle was ‘super-base’. William’s other job, which he took upon himself, was to carry a crate of bubble mix around. Bubbles were blown.

William bearing bubbles

There wasn’t enough food here this weekend, thought absolutely nobody at all. So it was lovely to welcome the barbecue in the afternoon. At this point, the wind got up and blew one of the gazebos across the patio. I ran over to unload the children from the bouncy castle, just in case, and the rain followed soon after. I’m glad I had my ice cream before the rain set in, since the freezers were outside, exposed to the weather: and wet weather and electricity are not a good pairing.

Weddings are of course mainly about the people, so there will follow a few mug shots, just some of the guests. I hope they don’t put you off your next meal.

Rob, Pauline and Andrew
Martha
Michael and Astrid

Shortly after this picture was taken, so were the subjects. Liesel and Leslie drove them back to Manchester Airport for their return flight to Bergen.

Liam and Matt

They missed some of the early evening entertainment which included children’s Pass the Parcel and a Pub Quiz. Liesel returned just as the last question was being posed, which is the only reason our team didn’t win. In fact, the winners were the team led by Liam and Jenny which seems only fair. The prize consisted of a few items of old tut previously donated by Liam and Jenny.

Annabel, Martha, Emily and William

The end of the day meant lots of goodbyes of course and I for one was glad of a slightly earlier night in bed.

In the morning, we had to vacate the cottages by 10am. We then hung around a bit to help Jenny and Liam load up their van and Helen and a couple of others to take their stuff out. I think we finally hit the road at about 11 o’clock, having agreed to meet up with Pauline, Andrew and Robert in Bakewell. But that story’s for another day.

Several days later, I can still feel the positive vibes from this wedding weekend, and I mean no disrespect to those who organised and attended my own weddings when I say that I think this was the best, most enjoyable wedding I’ve ever been to. So well planned by Jenny and Liam. Thanks a million to them and thanks to everyone else for making it all so much fun. I can’t wait to see Marc’s professional photos and share one or two here, such as:

Beautiful

Birds, flowers and bees

A message appeared in my Gmail inbox telling me that I could receive no further emails because I’d used up my free allocation of 15GB cloud storage. I would have to clear out whatever’s there, or pay for more storage. I don’t use that account much, so it’s no big deal, but <<something>> now keeps nagging me to either delete those files or pay for more storage. To be honest, I wasn’t aware that I was using any cloud space belonging to Google. But it seems that, until April this year, <<something>> had been uploading my photos to Google’s cloud storage. I probably ticked the wrong box at some point. So, my task was to delete those photos so that I could continue to enjoy whatever else Gmail has to offer.

And yes, I am aware, nobody really likes Gmail, for a variety of different reasons.

My first concern was that, if I deleted photos from the cloud, would <<something>> also delete them from my phone? In the mistaken belief that I didn’t want them at all? (It’s not such a crazy idea. I remember when Apple told me that if I wanted to add some specific music to my iTunes library, it would have to delete everything that was already there. Because, obviously, when I buy a new book, I have to burn all my old ones.)

So, I decided to download whatever was in the cloud. And this is not straightforward. I was doing this at leisure. But if I were downloading everything, my backup, because I’d lost my phone, I would be really annoyed. There should be a big red button saying ‘Download everything’  and it would do the job, even if it were to take several hours. But no. I could download one item at a time. Or I could select up to 500 at a time and it would, eventually, download a .zip file. But there were tens of thousands of pictures. I want them all in one go.

After a lot of Googling (ironic, I know), I found a tool called Google Takeout. This allows you to download everything, but if there’s too much (there was) it will break it up into smaller chunks.

It would prepare these files for downloading and then send an email with the relevant link, which would actually download those files.

But, I refer you to the first line. I can’t receive any emails right now because I’ve used up all my storage.

So that’s my silly-old-fart technophobe Luddite whinge of the week.

Other whinges here over the years include rants against fly-tipping. So I felt bad dragging the old futon downstairs and leaving it out on the pavement. It had to be done, we need the space.

Farewell, faithful old futon

But have no fear. I had arranged for it to be taken away and sure enough, a couple of hours later, a brace of strong young men arrived with a van full of other people’s dead mattresses, and they took it away. They took photos of it and our front door, so someone, somewhere, has a very interesting photo album.

I drove to the airport and collected Liesel and her Mom after their mammoth flights from Anchorage via Frankfurt. It was good to see them again after all this time (2 weeks), so to celebrate, when we got home, we went straight to bed! Well, it was nearly midnight by this point.

Two days later, I returned to the airport to collected Pauline and Andrew after their mammoth flights from Christchurch via Singapore. It was good to see them again after all this time (4 years) and to celebrate, when we got home, we all went for a walk.

These few days were very hot, so it was no real surprise to see a couple of people messing about in the river. And I don’t mean in a boat.

Man in the Mersey

The gate to the local allotments was open, unusually, so we wandered in for a quick look. We got caught though, as the Committee were having an Important Meeting and we Unauthorised People were not at all welcome. So glad we didn’t pick a couple of pears from the tree near the entrance.

Blackberries are out, some very nice and some quite bitter, but the only way to tell is to eat them. Andrew and I scrumped apples from the churchyard. Mine was delicious, Andrew’s was mouldy. Luck o’ the draw.

We walked around a bit, relaxed, and reorganised the flat to now accommodate 5 people, for a short while. Phew, it was hot!

Liesel drove her Mom to Fletcher Moss Gardens for coffee with the ladies of the WI while Pauline, Andrew and I walked over, along the river, to join them. The banks of the Mersey are being mown, because it’s that time of year, and I think it helps later on with any flooding issues, should there be any.

The best thing about Fletcher Moss? The public toilet is now open again after being closed due to Covid. Proof that the pandemic is, indeed, over. If only it were, if only it were.

The five of us drove over to Bridgewater Gardens, the RHS property, that Liesel’s seen, but only once. And what a delightful place to wander around. It’s only been there for a couple of years or so

Cardoon or artichoke thistle

There are some unusual plants, but all very well presented. We were hoping that the fresh air and especially the sunlight might help the travellers regain their natural circadian rhythm: there’s a lot of sleep going missing somewhere!

Vervena
Liesel and Leslie
Green wall

This Green Wall was interesting. I thought maybe we could do something like this at home, grow some plants up the walls of the block, since we don’t have a garden, but two things: I would probably lose interest soon after its implementation, leaving all the work to Liesel. And the Management Company would almost certainly object.

Sunflower with bees

There were plenty of bees around, which is always good to see. Wasps, not so much of course. And despite the signs advertising butterflies, I didn’t see any on this occasion. I’m sure that when some of the old farm fields have recovered, and they’ve reverted to being wild meadows, it will be a great place for insect spotting.

The location of this RHS site is Worsley. We’d been here before, but I didn’t recognise the name. Other than it bringing to mind Lucy, of that ilk. On the way home, we took a small detour to show Pauline and Andrew Worsley Delph, a local monument. Near the water was a heron, which I videoed because it looked like it was about to take flight. So of course, it didn’t.

Andrew spotted something, with Pauline

How many attempts do you think it takes before I manage to get a picture containing my own image plus a specific object? Far too many. All for the sake of a lame pun too. Remember the sweet counter at English Woolworths all those years ago?

Pick and Mick

No, you’re right, it really wasn’t worth all that effort. But a lot of the artefacts here remind us that it once was a very intensive, industrial area.

Another place we haven’t been for a while is Chester Zoo. Time to rectify that. And in the process, take advantage of the opportunity for all our overseas visitors to meet up with some young children, but not in an enclosed space, like someone’s house.

Helen (from Australia) took Martha and William to the zoo. Liesel (from Northenden) drove there with her Mom, Leslie (from Anchorage). And I accompanied Pauline and Andrew (visiting from New Zealand) after they’d picked up their rental vehicle. It’s up to one of them to document the actual shenanigans surrounding the collection of their vehicle, but in summary: what a palaver! We’d gone to the drop-off point rather then reception at first. I can blame the GPS, or the bus parked right in front of the Reception sign, which, to be honest, wasn’t all that prominent even without buses blocking the view. For more details, contact Pauline or Andrew. But we got there in the end.

Martha and William were in good form, meeting several people new to them in one go must be a bit daunting for a young child. Crumbs, I find it hard meeting lots of new people all in one go.

I didn’t know whether we’d see any animals or not, we often don’t with Martha and William, so I was pleased to snap this bird soon after we entered the zoo.

Starling

I had to stand on tiptoes and hold the phone up high, but I captured these giant otters having a nap in the sunshine.

Giant otters
Ibis

How strange, to see a pair of bright red ibises hiding amongst the flamingoes, we thought.

In the end, we saw plenty of animals today, we stopped for a picnic lunch, we played in the playground and, best of all, we avoided the shop and the bat cave, being indoor venues. Martha and William now have new cuddlies from Alaska, a sea otter and a mammoth respectively. Sadly, the mammoth has a fractured incisor. That’s what happens when you swing a mammoth round by its tusk!

After Helen took the children home, Liesel and Mom left too, leaving me and my sister and brother-in-law to have some fun our own. We found the aviaries and managed to get quite close to some of the birds.

Bali myna

I don’t know if they expected to be fed, but if so, they were disappointed by us three.

Java sparrow

While wandering around the Islands, a part of the zoo that we seldom reach, we noticed slow boats passing by underneath. Let’s go for a boat ride, we all said in unsion, with harmonies very similar to the Bee Gees. So we did. A nice 20-minute, slow journey, along the Lazy River.

Lazy River boat

From the boat, we caught sight of the orang utans but we saw them more clearly afterwards.

Orang utans

But what a lovely family day that was, if a little tiring.

Helen, Mick, Andrew, Liesel, Leslie, Pauline,Martha, William

And what a treat supper was: bangers and mash.

I hope you get a chance to listen to Mick’s Matrimonial Music Mix, two hours of songs about Love and Marriage. Visit Mixcloud and the new shows will appear here. It’s on Wythenshawe Radio WFM at 2pm Friday.

So, why that particular theme? Because my baby girl, Jenny, is getting married at the weekend. So it’s a very exciting time, we’re all busy preparing for a long weekend of jollity and fun and a wedding ceremony. Aha, you’re thinking, this is why people are arriving from all around the planet. Stay tuned for wedding antics and everything!

Adventures with hair

I don’t think I’d even heard of Clifton Country Park before being invited to join the family there. It’s in Stockport which I thought was just a dirty old town with a Media City to brighten it up. But no, there is green space and a wonderful playground.

It’s easy to find, unlike the pay stations. But that’s because they don’t actually exist: very unusually, there’s no charge to park here. Don’t tell anyone, they might get ideas.

It was lovely to see Jenny and Liam and the children and their Auntie Helen and it was really nice to see Amy again after all this time too. Amy is one of Helen’s school chums and I haven’t seen her since her now 13-year old was a wee toddler. 

Amy and Helen

Here’s the latest school photograph and I apologise for the flasher in the background, I didn’t notice him at the time.

As you can see, it was a gorgeous day and Martha and William made good use of most of the play equipment.

Martha the swinger

Well, we all did.

Martha, William, Helen, Jenny, Mick, Liam on the rope swing

Helen is still plying her trade as a hairdresser and at home, she was more than happy to shear us all. Anyone would think there’s a big family event coming up, or something.

Meanwhile in Anchorage, Liesel is trying to do too much in the time left before she returns home to the UK.

Liesel and Jyoti : Ladies of leisure lounging about but just for a moment

The first blackberry of the year was disappointingly bitter. I think other people may have picked the best ones.

A blackberry

The apples growing in the church yard looked good though, but I did not go scrumping on this occasion. I left them for the people who turn up each week to tidy up the church yard and cemetery.

St Wilfrid’s apples
A goose washing his hair in the river

I didn’t get my 10,000 steps in one day this week, but I certainly burnt some calories. I walked up and down the stairs probably a dozen times, mostly carrying heavy, bulky stuff to take to the storage unit. Anyone would think I’m trying to make space in our luxury apartment for visitors or something. During this heatwave, any form of activity is really difficult. But then, sitting around doing nothing in this heat is quite exhaustng too!

The walking group on Wednesday was very popular this week, with far more participants then usual and, unusual for me, I had an iced coffee back at the café. Yes, it was a hot day.

In the afternoon, I spent some time with Martha and William, blowing bubbles, in their garden.

William’s back and Martha’s bubbles

Their blackberries looked much nicer than the ones in the woods. But for some reason, I didn’t actually pick any.

Mostly this week though, I was ticking things off the ‘to-do’ list. I’ll never get to the end though, because part-way through some projects, I’ll think of one or two other things I need to do. Or, I’d like to do. One day, I must go back to the ‘big to-do’ list that has been going since about 2006, when I very successfully collated all my then on-going lists into one single mega-list. Well, it seemed important at the time.

Recording the WFM radio show this week was a bit quicker than last week, only interrupted by a couple of phone calls, which is unusual. The theme this week is ‘Doubles’, by which I mean musicians who have the same name as another. Or groups with duplicate names.

Evil peas

On my final full day in Anchorage, Liesel and I spent some quality time together in Klaus’s office. I used his Mac to determine what was on each of the CDs and DVDs in quite a large pile. One CD had photos from 2012, including our trip to Hawaii. Everyone was there, including Liesel’s parents, Aaron’s family, Liesel’s Aunt Buzz and family, my sister Pauline and Andrew, my daughters Jenny and Helen and her boyfriend Adam. That trip coincided with a visit from President Barack Obama which disrupted a couple of shopping trips and a game of golf played by Adam and Liesel’s cousin Andi’s bloke Steve. It was nice to see the old photos again of course but I forced myself not to be distracted. The other CDs and DVDs were all, as expected, but still disappointingly, blank.

Meanwhile, Liesel was working on her own laptop. Or maybe paying Tetris, I don’t really know, we were sitting back to back.

The plan was to have an Ethiopian meal in the evening with friends. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed and they didn’t return calls, so we resorted to Plan B: Pizza from Moose’s Tooth.

We drove over to Una and Phil’s house and later we were joined by Pam and Owen. Jyoti brought her friend Bill, the first time the rest of us had met him.

It was nice enough to sit outside and eat, so that’s what we did. It’s a bit disconcerting when you’re sitting there, soaking up the Sun, drinking some beer, chatting away and otherwise minding your own business, when a cat leaps up onto the table right in front of you.

The cat sat on the table

We left at about 10, and I bade farewell to everyone, knowing I wouldn’t see most of them again probably until next year. I couldn’t believe how busy the roads were on the way back home, it was like Piccadilly Circus out there.

Not really: empty roads

As we approached home, we saw a moose cross the road a couple of cars in front of us. I tried to get a picture as we passed, but the moose’s bum is just a blur in front of the sunset.

Blurry moose

The most recent post here details my horrendously stressful trip back home. I won’t dwell on it here other than to say it was three days before I felt normal again. Jetlag and lack of sleep don’t help of course, but that was the longest lasting attack of stress, anxiety, panic, that I’ve had for years. I was very conscious on arrival at home to do things that would help me recover. I wasn’t going to do anything that mattered for a while, I certainly wasn’t going to make any important decisions.

So, in no particular order, here are some things that cheered me up over the next few days:
🔴 Watching the last week of the Tour de France, even if the Freeview box decided it wasn’t worth recording the final two days. Oh well, I know who won.
🟠 Watching the England women’s football team beat Germany in the final of the Euros, if for no other reason than we might stop hearing about 1966 now.
🟡 Witnessing Jill Scott swear on the pitch during the game.
🟢 I didn’t see the race, but I was pleased to see that Laura Kenny won a gold medal for the track cycling scratch race at the Commonwealth Games.
🔵 Lying in bed a few times, drifting in and out of sleep, listening to the sound of seagulls outside, imagining I was at the seaside.
🟣 Seeing pictures of Martha and William playing on a beach for real, in the company of the other grandparents.
⚫ Walking by the river Mersey, yet wondering why there weren’t more people out and about: surely they’re not all away on holiday?

Jill Scott being congratulated by the President of the Football Association
Martha, the other Prince William and Papa
Ducks in a row

Oh, and I went for a massage and collected my new spectacles from the optician: Didsbury has everything.

Well, maybe not everything. As far as I know, it doesn’t have a football champion. Northenden does, and I was pleased to meet her in her natural home, Boxx2Boxx.

Jill Scott MBE and Mick

A few days later, Jill appeared on the TV show Football Focus. She talked about working in the café this week and how lots of children had come along to see her and wear the medal…

But Jill wasn’t the only superstar I met this week. Later in the day, I went over to Jenny’s where Martha and William were excited because Auntie Helen had arrived from Australia. She’ll be here for a few weeks, making a few side-trips to exotic places such as Surrey and Greece.

After our evening meal, Martha engaged me in a game, which she made up as she went along. It was based on a drawing she’d made.

Martha’s drawing

The sad faces are Carrot and Fish Finger. The large character is SuperTato or maybe SuePotato. I was chastised for calling him/her/it SuperPotato. In retrospect, that was a ridiculous suggestion. The task was to kill the evil peas: they’re the little chaps in the top right hand corner. When killed, the evil peas miraculously grow hair, which Martha drew in with much force. The one that looks like a rocket isn’t in fact lettuce, it’s Celery. The one with the crown is Broccoli. Or Tomato, depending. If you want more details about this game, please ask Martha, I found it quite hard to keep up with all the rules!

This radio show this week was very tasty, all about food, glorious food.

I had to re-record the voice track because the first attempt had an annoying high-pitched whistle throughout. Now you might think it probably sounded better that way, but no, it really didn’t! The source of the whistle took some tracking down. I turned off all the other electric and electronic equipment, in case something was emitting a whistle that the microphone could pick up even if my ears didn’t. I tried recording with different software, and this was perfect, so the problem was within my preferred sound recorder. And after digging deep through the options, I found the culprit. An inadvertent twitch of the mouse or rogue keystrokes had, at some point, changed one of the settings. You can hear the results of this chicanery here: