We’re about to be locked down again, so our world isn’t going to broaden any time soon. But we still enjoy our almost daily walks in and around Northenden. And we did have a proper day out, just once, this week.
We walked over to Fletcher Moss Park where Liesel again met up with her WI ladies.
The river was flowing slowly on this occasion, so the kayakers couldn’t just drift along. They probably needed the exercise.
We haven’t seen swans on the Mersey for a long time, so this was a rare treat.
In the park, one of the memorial benches received some love, presumably from the family.
While Liesel chatted with her friends, I took my coffee to the rockery, found a bench in the Sun and read my book. What I didn’t anticipate was having company of my own.
The robin and I had a good chat. I couldn’t apologise enough for not having any food, certainly no mealworm, about my person.
I have a few books on the go at the moment: poems, short stories, non-fiction but no novel, and that is very unusual. So I was pleased when Jyoti recommended a science fiction book that I might enjoy. Thank you!
Walking back home through the park, we passed a crocus, which is unusual this time of year. It’s jolly lucky we didn’t stomp on it by mistake.
We’re told this is a wild Autumn crocus, new to both of us.
Something else I didn’t expect to see in the park was a bat. Neither a cricket bat nor a vampire bat.
Later on, we saw the herons, two of them, flying up and down the river. Maybe they hadn’t migrated after all. Or maybe they had but didn’t like it there and came home. Anyway, one stopped, waited, watched and finally grabbed for a juicy titbit in the water. He shook his head, but who knows whether he was swallowing a small fish, or just stunned from bashing his beak on the river bed.
We had a good day at Chester Zoo, which I don’t think was as busy as last time. The temperature was perfect. But the animals were not at all cooperative, turning away as soon as they knew I was about to take their picture.
Here are just a few of the animals that we saw, some more easily than others.
The beautifully iridescent Himalayan monal is the national bird of Nepal, and one of the few inmates to turn round and pose for a photo.
Liesel finished her second crochet blanket this week, and it’s a wonderful work of art. It has been exported to Chessington where I hope it lives happily ever after.
While Liesel’s busy crocheting, I can usually be found pursuing one of my interests on the computer. For instance, this week, I completed the ‘How to Read Poetry’ course. It was interesting but very intense and I learned a lot of new words and concepts.
Here’s a pretty leaf It fell out of a tree If I’d been there at the wrong time It might have fell on me.
Yes, I should probably do a ‘How to Write Poetry’ course too.
We wandered over to Gatley under a blue sky. Mostly. Big grey clouds appeared ominously, the temperature dropped a few degrees and we were convinced we’d be rained on before we returned home. But no, our luck held.
We went for another walk, this time through Kenworthy Woods. The apples that we’d planned on sampling have long gone, and the few that remain are a bit moth-eaten, or squirrel-eaten. I left Liesel at the hairdresser where she kept her mask on, and enjoyed her first haircut in over six months.
I’ll never be a big fan of snails, but now that I am not growing plants that they find very nice and very tasty, I can almost admire their beauty.
This week on Radio Northenden, we went to the zoo: a couple of hours of music about zoos, zoo animals or some songs with a very tenuous link to the above. Listen here. Thanks again to Martha and William for helping out. Nobody could ask for better broadcast assistants.
Martha was VIP in her class one day at school, this week. This was because she turned up at school bearing a huge smile. Mummy said she was very proud of Martha. Martha said, ‘I’m proud of me, too. I’m proud of my mouth.’
A big week in mickandlieselsanticsland – it was a big birthday for Liesel. We celebrated by going to the seaside, not once, but twice.
The car park was full, but the beach is huge, so although there were pockets of people, it was easy enough to find our own space. Luckily, we’d arrived early, because by the time we left, there was a very long queue of cars waiting to get into the car park. The final Sunday before the ‘Rule of 6’ restrictions kick in, maybe. Or just a Sunday.
These shapes are a result of small stones and fragments of shell on the beach, combined with the angle of the Sun and the wind direction. At first glance, it reminded me of some old Babylonian cuneiform writing, all those little triangles.
We had a nice long walk along the beach. The wind was borderline acceptable, quite strong but not cold. Nonetheless, for protection, I was walking along the beach with a finger in my ear like a really intense folk singer.
On Monday, lots of flowers arrived, so I was up and down stairs like an old, wheezing yoyo [edited]. The bell rang, I ran downstairs, thought it was weird because I’d ordered flowers from Interflora, not M&S, then I thought maybe Interflora uses M&S round these strange northern parts. Plus when Liesel opened the box, I thought, those don’t look like the flowers I’d ordered! The attached card revealed that this bouquet was actually from Helen and Steve. My flowers arrived a couple of hours later, I’m glad to say. And a third one from Pauline, Andrew and Rob in New Zealand arrived a little later. So far, my birthday card hasn’t arrived, which is embarrassing and very disappointing: I should have just handed an old one over in the first place. but I didn’t want to go into a shop and buy one, so I ordered it online. Oh well, there’ll be another birthday next year.
Early on birthday morning, we had a Zoom call with Jenny, Liam, Martha and William here in UK, and Helen and Adam in Australia. Martha and William sang Happy Birthday, blew out candles and ate cake. (Later in the day, William wanted to sing Happy Birthday again, but I think the main attraction was more cake.) Liesel opened her presents and it looks as though she’ll be busy for the next several weeks doing a 2000-piece jigsaw puzzle (a collage of photos of our grandchildren and our adventures, put together by Helen), and making cheese (a great idea, Jenny)!
Later on, it was good to have an online chat with Sarah in Exeter too.
We returned to Formby, and even though it was much later in the day this time, it was far less busy. Everyone’s back at work and at school now, hastening the second wave of Covid infection, presumably
We had a fantastic picnic lunch of samosas and veggie sausage rolls. The wind was less strong today, too, so overall, we had a very pleasant time. The tide was a long way out, so if there were any jellyfish around, we didn’t see them.
It was a hot day, and possibly the last really hot day of the year, if the forecast is anything to go by.
I could have made a cake, I could have gone out and bought a cake, but Liesel made her own cake, a small but perfectly formed chocolate cake. Somehow, we made it last three days. Very nice, very tasty.
We walked around the local area again a few times, visiting the river, and Fletcher Moss Park. We don’t know if our herons have migrated at all, but we haven’t seen them all week.
The Autumn colours are really coming out now.
We talked about these tall trees. Are they conifer? Or are they dancer? Answers on a postcard please!
One morning, we went out really early, the ground was covered in dew, our feet got wet, but we saw some beautiful sights.
So, the title, Mandelbrot Extinction. Any ideas? No, nor me. I woke up one day with the phrase buzzing around my head like a fly trying to get out of a room with no windows. I assume it’s the only remnant from what must have been a very interesting dream. I googled the phrase, of course I did, and there is nothing. My strange nocturnal mind has invented something brand new. At least I have a name the next time I form a rock band.There used to be a game to play on the internet: enter two random words into Google and try to get exactly one result. Googlewhacking! Well, once this blog has been published and the web crawlers have done their job, maybe Mandelbrot Extinction will be a successful Googlewhack, bringing you right back here!
Friday in Northenden was big. Up Your Street was an opportunity for local businesses to highlight their wares. Thankfully, the weather was kind, and Palatine Road and the surrounding area was very busy. Dan McDwyer and a couple of singers from his Youth Choir, part of The Choir Project, provided the entertainment outside Salutem.
As well as playing keyboards, singing and conducting his singers, he was broadcasting on Radio Northenden. And yes, it was good to see Radio Northenden in the list of participants.
Liesel and I had a fantastic breaded halloumi burger in The Northern Den, highly recommended! We met Sanny and Katie from Radio Northenden there, with (baby) Byron: he sometimes gatecrashes his Mum and Dad’s shows. It felt strange talking to people, in a restaurant, outside, because after six months of lockdown, of course, it is strange.
Before walking up the road to Up Your Street, I presented my own regular show on Radio Northenden. Because it was her birthday this week, Liesel picked all the music and there were some lovely messages from family and friends too. Due to bad planning on my part, I had to leave out a couple of the songs, and many of the stories I’d planned ended up on the cutting room floor. And now, they’ve ended up here, in this very blog. Here comes a tarted up version of the ‘script’ for Liesel’s Birthday show. Tarted up? I’ve fixed the many typographical, grammatical and punctuational errors and I’ve left out all the adverts for, and references to, Up Your Street – if you missed it, you missed it! Listen here for two hours of fab and groovy music.
Mort Stevens and his Orchestra – Theme from Hawaii Five-O Dave Matthews – American Baby
We’ve seen Dave Matthews Band in concert a few times, with Liesel’s cousin Andrea, and Steve. And just like Whispering Bob Harris, we can’t understand why they’re not bigger here in the UK. At one show, Liesel was approached by a stranger. Liesel thought he was a ne’er-do-well, a random stranger. But no. He was only Dave Matthews’ guitar player, and he was here, at Andrea’s behest, to give Liesel a guitar pick.
Queen – Radio Gaga
I saw Queen support Mott the Hoople at Hammersmith Odeon. Liesel didn’t, on account of being a mere toddler at the time. Embarrassing. Mott the Hoople played a long set, they wouldn’t leave the stage, and the curtain came down in front of them.
U2 – Bullet the Blue Sky Dolly Parton – Coat of Many Colours
Nope, neither of us have seen U2 nor Dolly, live.
Delighted that Liesel chose a David Bowie song, almost without prompting. You may remember the video for China Girl ends with a passionate embrace on a beach. Well, Liesel and I spent part of her birthday at Formby [see above], walking and picnicking, rather than rolling around in the surf: the tide was too far out.
David Bowie – China Girl
Liesel’s celebratory birthday meal this year, after our day at the seaside, was fish and chips from the Church Road Chippy. Sadly, they had no cheese and onion pies for me this time, so a bit of a let-down.
Unthanks – Magpie
We’ve seen them just once in concert, at the newly renovated Roundhouse in London.
Martha Tilston – Survival Guide
We’ve seen Martha probably more often than any other single artist, at various venues around the country. [Most recently]
Billy Joel – Piano Man
We’ve seen him in concert once, great show, Piano Man, Uptown Girl, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. He invited his guitar player Mike del Guidice to sing a song. He performed Nessun Dorma and of course we sang along. Well, until security intervened.
Neil Diamond – I am I said
We wanted to see him in concert a few years ago, but the tickets were far too expensive.
Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto – Desafinado
That’s another song that I murdered while learning to play the saxophone.
Shanukh Khan and Sapna Awasthi – Chaiyya Chaiyya
I was doing all the Bollywood moves there, screwing in light bulbs, picking cherries from trees. I can’t do the pigeon head movement though. From the 1998 film Dil Se.
Adele – Skyfall
One of those songs that took a while to grow on me after being played on autorepeat on a radio station that I couldn’t switch off, when I was at work. [Chessington Delivery Office]
Gordon Lightfoot – Rainy Day People
We saw him on his first visit to the UK after a 30-year absence. He still has a great voice and some timeless songs
Bill Withers – Ain’t no Sunshine
One of Liesel’s favourite songs. Bill Withers’ first job was making toilet seats for Boeing airlines. He wrote this song during that time.
Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the wall
We haven’t seen Pink Floyd but we’ve been close. We once cycled from Bakewell to Buxton, along the A6, in the rain, as it was getting dark, an experience that Liesel doesn’t need to repeat. The reward was seeing a Pink Floyd tribute band at the Opera House. We only had time for a bag of crisps for dinner that evening. [We’d been told that buses between Bakewell and Buxton have bike racks on the front. They don’t.]
A better experience was watching Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, in Hyde Park in London. He performed Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. I found it it incredibly moving. I don’t think Liesel quite understood why me and other fans of a certain age were in tears. That’s how powerful music can be.
Sister Sledge – We are Family Simon and Garfunkel – 59th Bridge Street Song
We saw them at a reunion gig in Hyde Park, our first outdoor show together. Liesel was slightly intimidated by the size of the crowd, so much so, that she wouldn’t even let me go to the toilet by myself. The show was good but I don’t think Paul and Art made eye contact once, which is quite sad. The support act was The Everly Brothers.
We saw Wynton Marsalis at a late night concert many years ago, maybe it was one of the Proms that year. And we can hear a version of that song on Amy Lamé’s 6 Music show each week as she tells us what delights we can look forward to. Amy is also big fan of Christine and the Queens. During a recent interview, I wondered whether they shouldn’t just get a room.
Christine and the Queens – Christine [Baz Luhrmann (Quinson Tarver speaking)- Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen – not played because I was running out of time] Duran Duran – Ordinary World
We nearly saw Duran Duran in concert several years ago, we had tickets, but sadly illness overtook us.
Rick Braun – Nightwalk
We saw him in concert at Pizza Express in London. We had a table right at the front. Rick left his trumpet on the stage, easily within reach. Tempted to have a go? Of course I was, but Liesel said No.
Bic Runga – When I see you Smile
We were lucky enough to see her in concert a couple of years ago, in a vineyard on an island off Auckland, New Zealand, what a beautiful day, she really made us smile.
James Taylor – Steam roller [Swear word beautifully edited out, if I do say so myself]
Of course we’ve seen James Taylor on stage! Just the once.
We’ve also seen REM: at Twickenham Stadium. They played their music, not rugby, of course.
REM – Man on the Moon Frank Sinatra – Young at Heart
Have we seen Frank in concert? Yes, if a holographic projection counts. ‘He’ was accompanied by a live orchestra.
[Dave Matthews – What would you say? – not played, no time] Elbow – Grounds for Divorce PS Yes, I was surprised at how many of these artists we’ve seen perform in concert over the last 16 years or so together. What an adventure! We can’t wait for live shows to start up again.
We stayed within the local area this week, no trips abroad, to Yorkshire nor Chester for instance. The poor old car feels neglected, out there in the car park, all by itself, unloved except by passing birds.
August Bank Holiday weekend was different, this year: no Notting Hill Carnival in London and no Manchester Pride in, well, anywhere. Instead, we started watching the Tour de France on TV, taking place a few months later than usual, is this year of the Virus. On YouTube, we watched Jessica Lee Morgan perform a couple more shows from home, one to mark the release of her mother, Mary Hopkin’s, fantastic new album, Another Road. Buy your copy here. Highly recommended ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐, lovely songs and still a beautiful voice after all these years.
Also on TV, we completed our ‘binge-watch’ of the modern Doctor Who series. I can’t believe the Doctor is now in prison, in solitary confinement, between series, after the Judoon managed to materialise inside the Tardis, normally the safest place you can be. Sorry. Spoilers.
Also on YouTube, we watched the Folk on Foot’s third Festival in our Front Room. Forty musicians from around the UK got together with their respective bandmates and entertained us from their own homes, socially distanced where necessary. Watch it here, 7 hours of fabulous folk music.
We walked back to Didsbury on Bank Holiday Monday, specifically to Fletcher Moss Park, where Liesel met up with a group of ladies from her WI group for ‘muffins and mugs’: bring your own coffee and refreshments. While they were wagging their chins, I walked around the park, visiting the rockery, the rose pergola garden and the grass tennis courts which are in as much need of a haircut as I was at the time. I ended up, of course, buying myself a coffee in the little family-owned café.
After several hours, I gave up trying to untangle this mess.
🎼 Sun is in the sky, oh why oh why would I wanna be anywhere else? 🎵
There’s not a lot of wildlife round our way, so imagine our excitement when we saw this one morning by our oak tree.
Liesel thinks it looks more like a dog’s toy and, sure enough, it disappeared a few days later.
Another day, another walk by the river. In fact, we walked along the river several times this week. The level of the water varies quite a lot each day, almost regardless of the amount of rainfall. The depth of the puddles on the road and footpath fluctuates too: we have to do a funny little dance sometimes to avoid them all.
For the first time ever, we saw two herons in the same place at the same time. They flew off together before going their separate ways.
Martha started school. Yep, that short sentence makes me feel old. She went for an hour on the first ‘settling in’ day and she now wants to walk to school on her own. She loved it and can’t wait to go full time next week.
The jacket says CHPS: I think that’s California Highway Patrol, whose remit is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security. Sarah and I used to love watching CHiPs on TV on a Sunday afternoon BC, before children!
Almost as momentous, on the same day, I had a spontaneous haircut. As we walked by Massimo on Palatine Road, we noticed there were no customers. So we deliberated. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Yes, this long lockdown hair had to go. The barber wore a mask, the customers’ seats were separated by plastic sheets, so it was as Covid-safe as they could manage. The clippings were knee-deep by the time he finished. My reward was a cup of coffee on the way home after my second visit to Massimo. I had to return in order to pay: they only accept cash and I haven’t carried anything other than my phone to pay, contactlessly, for months, now.
Even the flowers in the Palatine Road planters smiled when they saw my newly shorn bonce: they said I looked ten years younger.
The Tatton Arms, our local riverside pub, was probably a very nice place once, but it’s been closed and derelict since 2007. We’ve heard that the site is, maybe, possibly, going to be redeveloped. But we’ve never seen any activity there. Until now. We noticed people behind the fence that protects the building. There was a van, a few cars, and several Important Looking Men standing around in Important hi-visibility vests, with Important hands in Important pockets and all with Important clipboards. Let’s see what happens.
I successfully broadcast a second show on Radio Northenden, and I was asked to keep going for an extra half hour after the usual two hour-long stint. No problem, I just played more of my favourite records! Catch up here and forgive the odd mistake. And if you can, please feel free to join me ‘live’ next Friday at 2pm. (Thanks Helen for pointing the type: Friday or Friyay indeed!!)
Liesel took this picture of Mick the DJ in the stygian depths of his Studio, formerly known as the Office, earlier known as a Storage Facility and laughingly described by the estate agent as a Third Bedroom.
Early this morning, we again walked into Didsbury, the village itself this time, not just the park. There were very few other people around, which made for a pleasant walk, no need to avoid anyone.
We were lucky enough to see two herons again, on the way to Didsbury (us, not them), and yes, the photo’s a bit blurred, but it was very satisfying to capture one in flight, after so many failed attempts. Their call is something between a honk and a screech, not very attractive, except maybe to other herons.
We were lucky enough to see a wine glass in Didsbury, out in the wild, presumably after a fun night out.
We were lucky enough to see a splash of colour in Didsbury, in an otherwise drab little side street, nice and bright on this early, sunny morning.
We were lucky enough to see a professional footballer in Didsbury, but what a shame he was only in an advert for shoes.
We were lucky enough to see a fox, on the walk home from Didsbury. This is the first one we’ve seen since we moved here to Northenden, and he looks pretty healthy too.
We couldn’t join them, sadly, but Martha and William went swimming in a pool for the first time since the lockdown started in March. We did enjoy watching the videos of them playing in the water, swimming, jumping in and even diving to the bottom to pick up objects, something I’ve never been able to do.
Martha and William weren’t the only ones to get wet this week. We all did. It rained. And it rained. A lot. Storm Francis got the blame, it brought strong winds and a lot of rain. So we didn’t go out every single day this week. Which was OK, we had plenty to do indoors, but it’s just so disheartening when every time you look out of the window, it’s grey and rainy: early onset November. Liesel finished her first crochet blanket and it looks really good.
I was especially impressed with the fringe around the edges, a very professional finish. Liesel has now started on a second one, with a different combination of yarn colours.
We visited Lyme Park despite the threat of rain. It held off mostly on this occasion, and we had a very pleasant walk, if a little shorter than usual.
No doubt, if William had been with us, he would have been up this ladder like a shot.
We have no idea what these flowers are, but when our botanical expert lets us know, I’ll amend this caption.
This fella’s fish was spouting a very weak column of water. We have no idea who he is or what he represents, but as soon as our ornamental fountain expert lets us know, I’ll amend this caption.
Unexpectedly, as we bought our coffees just before leaving, a lovely patch of blue sky appeared. It didn’t last long, but it cheered us up.
Our next trip was to Biddulph Grange Gardens, a National Trust property that we’d not visited previously. By coincidence, Jenny and Liam had been a few days earlier, with Martha and William. Today, it rained on us pretty much all the time.
There’s a one-way system in place around the grounds, but one couple were backtracking in a hurry, presumably some sort of biological emergency.
Obviously, even monkey puzzle trees have to start life as a seed, but I’d never seen one this small before. Very cute and I’m sure we’ll be back in 70 years time to see it fully grown.
These tiles probably look very attractive on a dry, sunny day, but thery’re not as pretty covered in wet, muddy footprints.
This bridge reminded us of those we’d seen in Japan, but in fact, it’s part of the Chinese area here. I think the one-way system meant that we couldn’t see all the various gardens at their best. But we had a very pleasant walk, and it’s easy to see why Martha and William thought it was a big adventure playground, with lots of steps and other obstacles to climb.
The funny (?) thing is that by following the correct route, and choosing not to go into and through the house, we found ourselves at the exit with no way to go back and invest in a nice warming beverage.
Back in Northenden this very morning, we did go for a walk locally. It was unexpectedly cold and we could tell from the puddles and the very high, fast-flowing river, it must have been raining a lot lately. You don’t say! The canoeists weren’t deterred though, but they had combined two vessels together for stability, as they drifted downstream: not a lot of paddling going on today, it really wasn’t necessary.
As we walked along the river on the high bank, an Indian lady was walking fast on the lower bank. I tried to capture her speed in a photo but it didn’t really work out, did it?
Presumably this gathering by the riverside was illegal, but even so, that’s no excuse for not taking your empties home.
Fifty years and nine days after Whispering Bob Harris first took to the airwaves on BBC Radio 1, Mick here took to the airwaves of our local, community, isolation station, Radio Northenden. It was also, by chance, the 100th show broadcast on this wonderful little station, and you can listen to them all here. Specifically, if you would like to hear my first show, listen here.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been busy learning new software, talking to myself, choosing music, practicing, rehearsing, reading books, talking to professionals, compiling pre-flight check-lists, trying to soak it all up. So here I am, broadcasting to a small but perfectly formed audience. During the first show, of course there were a couple of mistakes, but nothing too embarrassing, and, at the time of writing, no complaints have been made to Ofcom.
I look forward to next week’s difficult second show, and if you’d like to join me on Friday between 2 and 4pm, please do, from here, or download the Mixlr app on your phone or other device, and search for Radio Northenden. If you register, I’ll see your name on the list of visitors and I might even say hello.
It was good fun, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: I did write to a Hospital Radio station 25 years ago, but they never got back to me.
You wouldn’t believe me if I said we had a peacock in the flat, would you? But we did. Oh, alright, it was a peacock butterfly, and when it first fluttered in through the window, I thought it was a moth. I apologised for my mistake as I helped it fly out again. It was the first one I’ve seen all year. What a pity it was indoors.
We’ve had a few days of very high temperatures, approaching the 30s. One day, Liesel took her crochet outside. Read to the bottom to see how well she’s progressing. But here’s a tip: you don’t want the full weight of a crocheted blanket on your lap, indoors, in a heatwave! Not even with the windows open, letting all sorts of fantastic beasts in, mostly not as pretty as a peacock butterfly.
Too hot to cook, so one night, we chose an Indian takeaway. There’s a vegan Indian restaurant in Gatley, that we’ve been been meaning to try since well before the lockdown. It’s open again for business, and while we’re still a bit wary of sitting inside places with other people, we’re happy to take food away. All the staff in Bhaji Pala were wearing masks and when I went in, only two tables were occupied. The food was delicious, I just heaped it up on the plate which doesn’t make for a good, appealing photo but we’ll definitely go there again sometime.
We hadn’t planned to go shopping either, but we had to return something to John Lewis in Cheadle. The car park was half empty, an unusual sight and a good sign that the shop wasn’t too crowded. Staff at the doors were monitoring how many people were inside the shop. Liesel wore her mask as required whereas I’d stupidly left mine at home by mistake. Not all was lost though. I got some steps in wandering around the car park and I even found some blackberries.
Very juicy, very sweet and warmed by the Sun, these blackberries tasted of my childhood. We used to pick them from fields on the other side of the railway line from where we lived, in Guildford. Stop, look, listen, before we walked across the tracks. Those blackberry bushes disappeared when Bannister’s playing field was created. Later on, a large Tesco landed there. Progress, huh. I was spitting seeds out for the rest of the day, but that’s a price worth paying for being transported several decades back in time.
The highlight of the week was, without doubt, another day at the seaside.
Again, the tide was out and this time, we walked down the beach, to see the sea, close up. The sand was quite hard to walk on in some places, the ridges could provide a nice massaging feeling for a while, but it was equally pleasant finding a smooth patch to walk on.
The real highlight though was being joined by Jenny, Liam, William and Martha. It was lovely to spend so much time with them, still at a distance (mostly) on such a nice, warm, sunny day.
William and Martha were both excited to see the sea and the sand. They’ve missed their swimming lessons for several months now of course, but both were very happy to go into the sea, which was pleasantly warm. William followed the stream quite a long way towards the sea itself, he just kept going, like a Duracell bunny. I would have picked him up if necessary to run in the opposite direction, but that wasn’t necessary in the end.
There were lots of jellyfish on the beach, a few different species, and there were even some swimming in the sea. I only waded in up to my ankles, so I was surprised to see so many. They’re not lethal like those in Australia, but the sting can be quite painful. The advice here, now, is not to pee on a sting or use vinegar, but to rinse in warm seawater. The beach wasn’t at all crowded, a nice surprise, but there were far more people bathing than there were on our recent visit to Formby.
We found a nice spot to sit down to have our picnic lunches, separating our blankets by the requisite two metres! Well, nearly. The lifeguard drove up on his quad bike and when he turned the engine off, William said ‘Hello’. ‘Hello, you have a yellow t-shirt just like mine,’ said the lifeguard, ‘do you want my job?’ ‘Yes,’ said William, enthusiastically.
Martha made some sandcastles and decorated them with her new collection of seashells.
Martha wanted to spend another night outside, in the tent, in the garden.
She found a way out in the morning!
As mentioned before, here is the blanket so far. There are just a few more rows to go and some edging to do, literally tying up all the loose ends.
We’ve been enjoying some walks by the river while the Sun shines; and even when it rains, sometimes. No trips further afield this week, though.
I called it a rowan tree, Liesel said it’s a mountain ash. Who knew those two were the same thing? Probably everybody except me.
Our old friend, the heron, has returned after a few days’ absence. He tends to stand in the same spot by the weir, not bothered by the other water-loving birds.
Sometimes, the simplicity of an ivy leaf draws the eye. I suspect the owner of the garden behind this fence is desperately trying to cut back the ivy as it spreads.
We didn’t see our gorgeous grandchildren this week, but they had a lot of fun in the garden, and visiting Lyme Park and Quarry Bank Mill. Thanks to Jenny and Liam for these photos. Here’s William insisting that the sunglasses are on his ears. He might just have a point.
And here’s Martha rehearsing her rôle as Sister Maria. The hills are alive, with the Sound of Music.
Meanwhile, in a perfect example of rôle reversal, here is a big stick picking up a William.
One day, we picked and enjoyed the first blackberries of the season. There will be a glut very soon. I think that’s the technical word. Unfortunately, we failed to locate the raspberries we’d seen a couple of weeks ago. Maybe we were mistaken, or maybe we were just too late. The apples in the woods aren’t quite ready for picking yet.
It’s fun and funny watching the geese walk up the weir, against the strong flow of water. Just as I’m vocalising this thought, one chap decided to show his wings off, after all. I’ll show you, Mick, he seems to be saying.
I’m no botanist but we think this might be an orchid*. Liesel didn’t believe me when I told her where the word ‘orchid’ comes from, nor what an orchidectomy is. The trouble is, when she doesn’t believe me, I can’t help but laugh even more, convincing her even moreso that I am making it all up. Which makes me laugh even more!
* This is not an orchid, after all. “It’s Himalayan balsam, an invasive plant that can take over river banks. It’s got explosive seed pods that send the seeds far and wide. As a conservation volunteer I’ve spent a few weeks pulling it up before it sets seed.” Thanks for your hard work, Ruth, and thanks for the information.
It was a lovely day to take a boat out. So somebody did. Not us.
Liesel spotted this heron on the golf course. Is it the same one? Or do we have at least two living in the area? As I told Liesel, a heron in golf terms means a score of 5 under par, but I’m not sure she believed me, to be perfectly honest with you.
There have been some fabulous innovations here in Northenden recently. We have a lot of rain, as I may have mentioned once or twice, so it’s good to see that, at last, the local authorities are installing bus shelters for very short, single passengers.
Liesel is making good progress with her crocheted blanket. Next time you see it, the last few rows may have changed. I think she quite enjoys unravelling a row or three and having another go, with different colour yarns.
I really hope this apple tree growing behind St Wilfrid’s Church is bearing Bramleys. Because then, it would be a bit like old man Steptoe: Wilfrid Brambelly. This old character was again brought to mind by a return visit from the local rag’n’bone man.
In other local news: our green, food waste bin wasn’t emptied this week. The new washing machine is doing a great job, and much more quietly than its predecessor. The 24-hour rainstorm proved too much for the gutters, again. The motion-sensored communal lights are again totally insensitive to any movement, staying on all day and all night. Radio Northenden has a shiny new website: watch this space.
We bade a sad farewell to a wonderfully entertaining old friend this week. The book of Sudoku puzzles we purchased in Japan over a year and a half ago is now propping up the world’s recycled paper mountain. All the puzzles were attempted, most were completed successfully and some remain not correctly solved, probably due to misprints in the given numbers, rather then our incompetence. Sayonara!
We witnessed some unusual activity down on the river. A group of kayakers passed through Northenden on their way from Stockport to Liverpool. I doubt they were paddling all the way, but I’m sure the highlight of the trip was gliding down the weir, without falling out
Most of them carried on towards the Irish Sea but a couple decided to have a break on the island.
One thing we don’t miss from Chessington is the eyesore that is Tolworth Tower. Sometimes, a setting Sun would illuminate it. We have our own version here too. A shorter block is visible from our luxury apartment, and it too is a blot on the landscape. But again, when the Sun sets, it almost glows and doesn’t look so bad, after all.
We went over to see the family again. Liesel had made some face coverings for Jenny and Liam, as we’ll all be compelled to wear masks inside shops from next week. We timed it so that we could spend time with William too, albeit at a safe distance.
From one William to another. This building is close to where we live. Liesel and I learned a lot about William Morris and the British Arts and Crafts Movement some years ago, during the course of one of out Bicycle Beano holidays in Shropshire. Ah, Shropshire, oh to be that far away from home!
It’s a nice memorial, but what a shame the building is now a carpet showroom. That’s progress, I suppose.
So there I was, ambling around the sordid streets of Northenden, when I came across this Royal Mail van.
Why did I did a picture of a boring old Royal Mail van? Because it’s foreign. Post Brenhinol tells me it’s Welsh. Why do we have Welsh vans in Manchester? According to the postal worker, they just supplied the wrong vans to our local delivery office. Can’t even rely on Royal Mail to deliver their own vans to their own offices, how ironic!
As I was taking the picture, a young man on a bicycle asked what I was doing. He seemed quite upset that I was taking a picture of a van. I said I thought it was interesting. He said it was like him taking a picture of my house. I thought, no it’s not, but never mind. The driver returned, I engaged in conversation with my (sort of former) colleague, and the interfering busybody cycled off. A couple of minutes later, I realised I should have told him that as a share-holder, I actually own the van. Several hours later I realised that what I should really have said was that I was off duty at the moment, but if he wanted to come down to the station later on to argue the toss, I’d be happy to see him there.
Northenden, especially the Mersey, is fast becoming the bird-watching capital of Manchester. Not that we know for certain, rarely going anywhere else at the moment!
One, day I’ll go with a proper camera and get, better, closer-up shots of the heron and the cormorants, if they hang around for a while longer.
We did go further afield. Hello, outside world! We booked a visit to Chester Zoo, having not been since early March. And yes, of course there were roadworks and hold-ups on the motorway. The car park was quite full, which was disappointing. This was by far the furthest we’d travelled since the lockdown and we hoped for a good day, but from the first moment, we worried that it would be too busy to keep safely distanced.
We stayed for a couple of hours and left just in time before the rain arrived. There were a lot of people there, and despite the zoo’s best efforts, with one-way routes, and Keep Left signs, far too many people just weren’t even attempting to maintain a safe distance. There are loads of hand-sanitising stations, though, which is good.
This little chap joined us while we ate our picnic lunch. Yeah, we found a picnic table away from the maddening crowd and felt comfortable and safe for the first time, really.
We found a part of the zoo that was new to us, on this visit. A sunken garden with a magnificent sculpture. How come we’ve never seen this before? Probably because today, more than on any other occasion, we were deliberately walking away from and trying to avoid the larger groups of people.
As we were leaving, walking past the elephants, I spotted a large aeroplane. I thought it might be Boeing 747, a jumbo jet. I thought this was a great photo opportunity: a jumbo jet and an actual jumbo in the same shot.
But, no, it was just an Airbus pretending to be a whale, an Airbus Beluga.
Back in Northenden, guess what? Yep: more flytipping outside Barnado’s, despite the wooden hoarding.
On the other hand, there are some pretty flowers around.
And if the zoo, the Mersey, TV, radio, podcasts, books and puzzles aren’t entertaining enough, some of my dreams recently have been absolutely amazing. I’d love to share them, but nobody needs to know that much about the inner workings of my psyche.
PS Thanks again to our aeronautical and botanical correspondent, Helen, for the informative comment below!
This week, we got out and about a bit further afield, despite the rain and drizzle in some cases. Wythenshawe Park is worth exploring, and in the current social distancing climate, where I go is often determined by where there are fewer other people.
As I passed by the mushrooms, I thought it would be nice to see an actual real-life Ickabog come along to pick and eat them.
Yes, a California poppy, not a fancy buttock-up.
Many thanks to Helen, our horticultural correspondent, who identified these lovely flowers.
According to the annotated sign, this beech is the oldest tree in Wythenshawe.
The notice board has been neglected lately, for obvious reasons, but when things get back to (more) normal, I’m sure we’ll be following up some of the activities on offer.
I suspect we’ll be cycling over to the park so we can play baseball in the glasshouses.
Back at home, Liesel continues with her latest project, crocheting a blanket, using many colours. I often hear her counting the number of stitches in a row, and I try not to interrupt too much.
For the first time since the lockdown, and for quite a while before, come to think of it, we walked to Jenny’s house. We walked the long way round in order to avoid the local, very smelly, recycling centre.
We sat in the garden for a while, enjoying watching Martha play on the swing and count and do sums with the large plastic numbers from her floor mat. Sadly for us, William was taking his nap. The previous day, they’d all been to Reddish Vale for a walk.
William fell in the water but he was alright, so he fell in again later on.
It was a beautifully sunny day, we should have been drinking beer in the garden, really. Well, not Martha, I suppose.
The clouds were fascinating to watch, I guess it was more windy at the higher altitude.
Exciting news in Mick and Liesel’s household. We have a new washing machine and after installing it, one of the engineers thanked us for all the stairs. There’s only 32 of them, but I wouldn’t want to be lugging heavy white goods up and down those, either.
A new tray has arrived for the dishwasher, to replace the old one with its broken wheels. The new one is grey, not white, but I think we’ll get used it.
In the repair department, I successfully reinstated the knob on the waffle-maker. It now rotates between ‘off’ and ‘max’ without going round and round forever. Previously, we had to temporarily remove the knob and use pliers to turn the control inside.
I also reattached the lampshade to the ceiling in the living room, after it spontaneously succumbed to the gravitional pull of planet Earth.
We went to Dunham Massey again, and we noticed the car park was much busier than it had been last time. A lot of the grounds were roped off, to protect the deer and their fawns.
It was a while before we saw any deer at all, so I wonder if they’re retreating further away now that more people are turning up each day. I suggested to Liesel that she start a stampede and I’d film it,while yelling ‘Liesel, Liesel, LIESEL, LIESEL, Jesus Christ, LIESEL, LIESEL…’. She could be the new Fenton. But she said ‘No’.
For a moment here, I was taken back to New Zealand where the ferns are numerous and very pretty, especially the new, undeveloped ones. At some point in today’s walk around Dunham Massey, I took my 23,000,000th step since I first acquired a Fitbit all those years ago. I now use a mechanical pedometer, and I’ve missed a few days due to dead batteries, and being locked down and locked in, but I feel that this week, at last, my daily walk is getting back to normal.
These are the only badgers we saw today, but sadly, neither of them is a real one.
I had to take this picture of the silver birches, Liesel’s favourite trees, and again, I wondered whether we should have bought one of Teri Landseth‘s stunning paintings while we were in Anchorage.
There is a one-way system in the garden, with some paths completely roped off, and it works quite well, until someone is walking really slowly and somehow occupying the whole width of the path!
Another day out, this time, the default loop to the river Mersey, in the drizzle.
Some Dads are really good. This Daddy duck was showing his ducklings where to shelter from the rain: underneath the motorway, of course.
This week, we continued with our re-watch of Doctor Who on TV. I watched another play from the National Theatre, The Deep Blue Sea by Terence Rattigan. And we watched more from Glastonbury.
Ah, this is the section you’ve all been waiting for: the exciting, local news from Northenden.
The Barnardo’s shop has had its shopfront hidden by the installation of black hoarding. This is to deter people from kindly leaving donations flytipping outside the shop.
The bus stop has been cleaned and at last, we now know for sure that we’re supposed to wear masks on public transport, and that we can pay with a contactless card or phone.
This is the season for insects, which is OK, but these clouds of midges are annoying, especially when they won’t keep still so I can get a decent photo.
The smell of newly cut grass is pleasant, but often leads to a sneezing fit. This happened by the river the day they cut the grass by the river.
One morning this week, I was woken by what I thought were hundreds of geese flying round and round our house. I’ve no idea how many there were, really, but a couple of days later, we saw quite a few had set up camp on the island in the stream.
We paid a return visit to Lyme Park, where the gardens are now open too, but not the house. Again, it wasn’t too busy: maybe the rain kept some people away.
We had a very pleasant walk around the gardens, admiring the plants and the views.
Yes, I am still wearing that tatty old titfer that travelled with me a couple of years ago, much to Liesel’s consternation. One day, I’ll go shopping and buy a new one. One day. When this is all over. When it’s safe to go shopping. Meanwhile, we spent some time watching the squirrel. It made no attempt to climb up for the bird food. Instead, it waited nearby for birds to come along and shake the feeders, then it would pick some food up from the ground.
We were just a little too far away, so I didn’t manage to get pictures of the robin, various tits and other birds.
It was raining very lightly, not enough to be uncomfortable. But the Park suffered from huge floods a few years ago, and parts of the park are still recovering.
If I’m going to get Lyme Disease, I suppose it makes sense to pick it up at Lyme Park. I felt a pin prick on my leg, saw a black thing, brushed it off before I had time to interrogate it. Apparently, depending on what you believe, you can only catch Lyme disease from female ticks, and only if they’ve recently been on board a deer, and only if they stay attached for three days. As I didn’t ascertain its gender nor its recent history, I just hope that Germoline does the trick. But I shall be taking pictures every day to see whether the bite mark is getting worse.
We followed a track that we thought would take us back to the car park. Unfortunately it didn’t. This cow and nocow else in the herd bothered to tell us that we were on a road to nowhere. And, by the time we reluctantly turned around, to retrace our steps, my phone had died and we couldn’t even look at a map. On the way back, several cows were blocking the road, so we climbed over them to get by.
Liesel’s becoming more crafty as the (now voluntary for us) lockdown continues. This week, she did some fabulous needlework.
I like this, because it looks as though it’s floating.
On one of my local walks, I had a close encounter with Uri Geller.
As you can tell, there has been a lot of rain recently. Liesel woke me and asked me to take the car in for its MOT. ‘Of course, darling,’ I said. It was raining again and Liesel quite rightly didn’t want to walk home in it. So I took the car in, but there was nobody at reception. Our time was 9.00 but another man there was booked in at 8.30. The car-wash people next door told us the car mechanics are usually in by this time.
Someone did eventually roll in. He took down all our details in very slow hand-writing and I thought, this doesn’t seem like the nice helpful mechanic Liesel had spoken to a few days earlier, when he’d repaired something on the car.
I walked home in light drizzle, not bothering to go via any of the local coffee shops, as they weren’t yet open. At home I said that the guy wasn’t very helpful, I shouldn’t have had to give him all the details all over again. My reward was sausages in a baguette with lashings of English mustard, thanks Liesel. After further discussion, we realised that I’d only gone and taken the car to the wrong place. I should have gone to a garage a bit further along the road. Liesel phoned the correct place, apologised for her husband’s incompetence and admitted she didn’t know where the car was currently located. I asked Liesel why she’d chosen Oakfield Autos. ‘Because it contains every vowel, of course.’ ‘Oh, don’t start that nonsense again,’ I said.
I walked back to retrieve the car from the, as it turns out, nameless place where I’d left it. With profuse apologies, I got the key back and drove the car about 30 feet to the correct venue. The guy behind the counter here tried very hard not to laugh and yes, this place did seem much more professional, and he was very helpful.
Again, I walked home in the rain, again choosing not to visit a café. Later in the afternoon, the mechanic called, the car was ready, so I traipsed back, in the rain, and brought the car back home.
In a wonderful government initiative, pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen on 4th July, a Saturday. Locally, the light rain seems to have kept most people away, and I was pleased to see there was no large crowd outside our local pub, as I’d expected. Even the main road was deserted, although there was a pre-lockdown volume of traffic. Liesel and I have no desire to visit such places until we feel the coronavirus is much more under control.
Liesel’s at it again. This morning, she knitted (knat?) a pair of fingerless mitts. Any colour you like as long as it’s white, at least until yarns of other colours are delivered.
This was lovely to see, our Martha making up a story based on a book sewn together by her talented Granny, Sarah, over 30 years ago.
Today’s highlight, after Martha? The dishwasher repair man. He couldn’t fix the broken parts, but we will get a whole new tray, which seems an unnecessary waste of resources when a couple of little plastic wheels would do. So that’s the car and the dishwasher that required repairs. What’s the third item? Well, sadly the washing machine is beyond repair, so we’ll be investing in a new one soon.
Oh and as I write, of course it’s still raining! Sideways, the wind is so strong.
We enjoyed a mini-heatwave, a few days when the temperature approached 30°C. So we went for a walk one evening when it was just a little cooler. We kept to shade as much as possible, avoiding the worst of the ultraviolet (there’s one) rays.
We found some blackberries in full bloom so I’m sure we’ll be back later in the year to enjoy the fruits. And, just a little further along the road (please don’t tell anybody where), we found some wild raspberries too, just a bit too far back through the thistles and brambles to approach in our besandalled feet.
Liesel pointed out the fireweed and explained that when this flower blooms, it will snow six weeks later. Quite an education (there’s one)! I suspect this is just Alaskan folklore, but, as a precaution (another one), I’m keeping my snow shoes handy.
The evening presented us with the first of the week’s technical faults that could have developed into an immensely vexacious (boom) affair. My Kindle displayed an error message that I’ve never seen before. Fortunately a hard reboot fixed it, which meant that I could continue my struggle with ‘Middlemarch’. After trudging through 11% of the text though, I’m sorry to say, I was so discouraged (aha), I gave up. I very rarely give up on a book once I’ve started. On the other hand, How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford is very readable.
Standing outside our luxury block of luxury apartments, looking up at the blue sky through the oak tree’s foliage, in a slight breeze on a hot day, is delightful. One branch is dead and bits of it fall down now and then. Maybe it was malnourished (oof) when it was younger.
Now that things are slowly opening up again, we enjoyed a couple of days out at National Trust properties. For the first time since the lockdown was implemented, we went to Dunham Massey. This is usually a very busy, popular place, but on this occasion, we had little problem keeping a safe distance away from people. We try to keep our levels of anxiousness (da-dah) down, but when you’re breathing the same air, the risk is always at the back of your mind.
I always investigate the sundial near the main entrance but it has never occurred to me before that the statue supporting it might be offensive: a ‘Blackamoor’ with white bulging eyes. There’s white privilege for you.
The deer were very prominent today: I suspect they’ve become used to people not being around, recently. Other visitors were indulging in the questionable (badoom) activity of approaching the deer and stroking them.
We paid a quick visit to Jenny to drop off some food items. It was an ideal day to deliver butter: 30° or so! We had a quick chat with Martha and William through the window, and I managed to get a good photo this time!
Technical issue number 2. My PC still runs Windows 7, which has not been supported by Microsoft since January. So I was surprised one night when turning it off, it said it was installing an update. My heart sank. This was not authorised (ooh) by me. Next time I booted up, it gleefully told me that Microsoft Edge had been installed. Ever since, it’s been nagging me to accept its terms and conditions. Why? I didn’t want it in the first place! I’ve been uninstalling a lot of unused software recently, and this is another candidate for the chop. But why am I worried? Because once when I uninstalled iTunes from a PC, it also took away that machine’s ability to play CDs. Technology’s great, when it works.
I can’t remember the last time I had a twelve hour sleep with only one interruption. But this happened at the weekend and I can only say I felt fantastic afterwards. Even the smell of freshly baked scones didn’t disturb my slumbers. Thanks, Liesel! We drove to Quarry Bank Mill, the second of the week’s National Trust venues, under changeable skies. Sunny and blue for a while, then cloudy and grey. We mostly avoided the rain and enjoyed a fabulous walk around the gardens. The mill itself is still closed, but we were able to buy a coffee, so that’s encouraging (bazinga).
At one point, we could look down and see the rain in the valley. We felt just a few spots but took shelter under one of the rocks, which strangely, was reminiscent of the painted rocks in the Kakadu, albeit much cooler. Growing out of the cliff-like rock, was this tree, just clinging on by its finger-nails.
As well as all the pretty flowers, they grow a lot of food here, but I was dissuaded from scrumping an apple.
The third of our technical issues was on TV. BBC iPlayer usually just plods along and does its thing, once you’ve navigated to the programme you want to watch. But again, our hearts sank when we saw this. Could our Freeview box be on its last legs? Was a transmitter struck by lightning in one of the ongoing storms? Anyway, it was soon rectified and hasn’t recurred. It briefly interrupted our enjoyment of the Glastonbury Festival. This year’s 50th anniversary festival has been cancelled due to Covid, but the BBC are showing several performances from previous years.
So far this year, we’ve watched or re-watched quite a few of our favourites, most of whom we’ve never actually seen in real life. So, thanks to David Bowie, REM, Florence and the Machine, Christine and the Queens, Adele and her potty mouth. Coldplay persuaded the Glasonbury King, Michael Eavis, to sing My Way and sang a couple of Bee Gees songs with Barry Gibb. Dolly Parton is always good value too. As well as many of her greatest songs, she performed Yakety Sax on her saxophone. Elbow’s songs are often pretty straightforward, but Guy Garvey’s voice and his magnificent instrumentation (ooh, another one) always make the performance something special. Even from the comfort of our own living room.
What? You’re wondering how I can just briefly mention David Bowie at Glastonbury and not dwell a little longer on the subject? At the time of writing, I have watched this programme twice. It’s the first time the full performance has been broadcast on normal TV. He enjoyed it, we fell in love with his bass player, Gail Ann Dorsey all over again, the band was all together.
The set list:
Wild is the Wind
Little China Girl
Life on Mars
Ashes to Ashes
All the Young Dudes
The Man Who Sold the World
Station to Station
I’m Afraid of Americans
We still miss Mr Bowie, and many of us think that the equilibrium of the world was upset by his early death in 2016. So happy we still have his music.
The heatwave came to an end and the rain returned.
It was a quiet Sunday, but I was definitely wabbit by the end of the day: wish I could justify my state of exhaustion (yes).
Liesel’s been busy knitting a beautiful hat.
Radio Northenden broadcast its 50th show today, Monday, and I, Mick the Knife, was invited to take part, have a chat and pick three songs on lock, three tracks that I like to listen to while on lockdown. Thanks for the opportunity, Sanny, and I hope I’m not too embarrassed when I listen back later!
So there’s a 50th, and here’s a 300th. Yup, you are reading the 300th post on this blog so as a bonus, to celebrate, here is a list of 300 words, each of which contains all 5 vowels. I’ve been collecting these for several years. In fact, the first one I was aware of was while still in education (ding). A teacher at school accused me of being facetious (dong). I very nearly said, “Did you realise that ‘facetious’ contains all five vowels?” But luckily I realised just in time that that would just be confirming her ridiculous opinion.
I’ve been adding to the list pretty much ever since then, moreso recently, as I know how fascinated Liesel is(n’t) when I announce a new discovery. Most of them are from books, some from subtitles or dialogue (ooh) from TV shows and, this week, in the space of ten minutes, I spotted a few on my Twitter feed.
In (more or less) the order I noted them down, here are 300 words all containing at least one incidence each of A, E, I, O and U: