Walk an empty mile

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

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

Bee in the City: Willow Garden

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

Casey the Robot

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

Wythenshawe Library Homework Centre

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

Martha, rocks

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

Head Over Heels clock
Martha on the dancefloor
Ball pond

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

Martha and William at Gusto

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

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

Creek
Stumped
Snowdrops

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

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

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

Nada lada

It’s always good to tick things off the to-do list, whether such a list exists on paper or solely in the mind. There wasn’t a lot of ticking off of anything this week, mainly thanks to feeling rough. I hope the cold/flu/covid/whatever-it-is/combo, and it’s the man- version, don’t forget, isn’t transmissible via the medium of blog posts, otherwise you’re in trouble.

I finished a book this week, Micah’s Ghost by Ann Thomas, certainly the strangest ghost story I’ve read for a long time. This has allowed me to start reading a book that Liesel has borrowed from the library. Even though it’s an electronic book, there’s been a waiting list for Robert Galbraith’s The Ink Black Heart for a few months, and finally she’s been able to download it onto her Kindle. And she has kindly shared it with my own Kindle. When I noticed that this novel is over 1400 pages long, I thought I’d never finish that in the three weeks we’re allowed to keep it. But, over the Christmas period, I’m sure we’ll find plenty of time.

By coincidence, we both had appointments with the dentist on the same afternoon this week. In a sit-com, we would have heard each others’ screams of anguish and pain from the room next door, and assumed the worst. But is wasn’t that bad. The receptionist dobbed me in by telling Liesel that I was going to the coffee shop.

What else did we get up to this week? Other than increasing the value of Kleenex shares? I really didn’t fancy going out for the regular walk, despite Liesel insisting that I would feel better if I left the house. My old carcass was having none of it, that day.

Sunset and Christmas lights

It was cold and clear outside, leading to a couple of pretty sunsets.

The highlight of the week though was our visit to the theatre. We saw Betty! A Sort of Musical  at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. Written by Maxine Peake and Seiriol Davies, it tells the story of Betty Boothroyd, the first female Speaker of the House of Commons. The songs were funny, the set was clever and the whole show was great fun. Sadly (?), I didn’t know the songs so I couldn’t croak along. We are honoured to have seen the World Premier performance of this show.

The cast of Betty!

In the interval, I met some new friends in the theatre too.

Boris the bear
Director of the Royal Exchange

Two days after not going out for the regular walk, I felt absolutely fantastic, other than the cough which has now morphed into a blogged-up doze. So we went into Didsbury where Liesel collected her new specs and we enjoyed breakfast at FFS. The Big Issue seller, Adriana’s little electronic payment gadget wasn’t working, probably too cold, and having no cash on us, we couldn’t pay for our mag this week. But she kindly let us keep it anyway, and we’ll make sure she doesn’t lose out.

In Didsbury, we also bumped into this little chap, I hope she finds her way home soon.

Lost kitty

Also, in Didsbury, right next to the opticians is this brand new mural.

Mural Life Mcr

Well, we think it’s new, neither of us have noticed it before. But then, this is maybe why we sometimes need opticians.

What is this week’s big disappointment? Victory Vs aren’t as tasty as they were during my brief addiction to them over 50 years ago. I’m not proud of the fact that for a few months, I ate them all day, stinking out school classrooms with the aroma of liquorice. I don’t think they contain as much chloroform and ether as they used to, either.

This week’s radio show was the first of two this year. I played Christmas songs from my Mum and Dad’s old record collection.

Proper Winter

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

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

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

Nerdle stats

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

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

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

Albatross

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

Bridgewater Canal
Stretford Marina

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

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

Stretford Mall

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

Northenden sunset

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

Holly: Christmas photo of the week

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

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

Martha’s snowflake

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

William’s horde

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

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

Painswick Pond

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

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

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

Disappointment haunted all my dreams

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

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

Silver ball plus old pound coin for scale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William running around

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

Bucket heads

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

William and Chris entertaining the troops

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

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

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

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

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

Raspberries

We left the raspberries for other people to enjoy.

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

Jon Ronson and Miranda Sawyer

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

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

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

Sunrise over Northenden

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

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

New benches in Riverside Park

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

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

Martha and friends

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

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

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

Circles

Never let it be said that Liesel and I don’t know how to have a good time, whether together or separately. On this fine Saturday, Liesel went for coffee with her WI chums leaving me to my own devices at home. But not for long. I paid a quick visit to Wythenshawe Forum for my Covid booster jab. No chocolate biscuits on this occasion, but neither did I have to rest for 15 minutes before being kicked out. All I need now is my flu jab and I’ll then consider myself fully Winter-proofed.

The walk home, the long way, took me by the river where I was delighted to see the heron attempting to hide on the island.

Spot the heron

There are of course a zillion things more romantic than a Northenden sunset, but we have to make do with what we can get.

Sunset over Northenden

I have been tempted to paint a mountain view on the windows, but that idea has been vetoed by my wife. What about a stain glass window, then? If not mountains, what about a beautiful seascape? Nope. And nope.

We paid a return visit to Jodrell Bank where we met up with Jenny and Liam and the children. It’s been a while since we were last there, and the layout of the place and the car park all seemed unfamiliar.

We watched a couple of short films in the Dome, and even though it was warm and dark inside, I didn’t fall asleep.

The main attraction was the playground, where William and Martha had a great time climbing the frame and spinning fast on the mini roundabout made from an old washing-up bowl.

Spinning Martha
William walking on what can only be described as the rings of Saturn

We had lunch before wandering over towards what should be the main attraction, the James Lovell radio telescope. On the way, we encountered some strange, almost extraterrestrial lifeforms.

Toadstools

We also admired pictures from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, now in its 13th year. I would love to claim credit for these photos, but I didn’t spend hours, days, even weeks, outside, in the cold, taking multiple time exposures and stitching together several elements. I just walked along a path and took a few quick snaps with my phone.

Jupiter by Sergio Díaz Rulz

‘High clouds on Jupiter create intricate and beautiful shapes that swirl all over the planet. To get a colour image when there are only three colour channels (red, green, blue), some sort of filter-to-channel mapping must be done. PixInsight was used for the rest of the processing: custom white balance, deconvolution and wavelet transformation for detail enhancement, contrast and saturation curves. The resulting image, in CIE-LAB colour space, was then converted to RGB.’ – Sergio Díaz Rulz

This Image takes the Annie Maunder Prize to a new level this year. By using real data from a NASA research programme, the entrant has managed to encode the filters used to study Jupiter into shape and colour, creating a new and unique way to see the largest planet in our solar system.”

Our Moon by Göran Strand

‘When I took this photo it was -16°C and the air was filled with small ice crystals that made this halo possible. This regular 22° halo is more commonly seen around the Sun. The moonlight needs to be quite strong to make the halo visible, so it’s more common around the days of a full moon. To the left you can see the city lights of Östersund, Sweden, and in the foreground you can see the tracks from a rabbit that hopped up to the trees.’  – Göran Strand.

“I really love this picture as it beautifully captures the Moon in a way we rarely see it, showing us that even on a calm winter’s night, it can still take your breath away.” Melissa Brobby, Judge.

The fly is a bit annoying but feel free to believe it’s an alien spacecraft if you like.

James Lovell radio telescope

Martha was impressed at the scale of the telescope, even if she didn’t quite understand how it worked. We tried to walk around it but sadly, some of the grounds are out of bounds. William and Martha enjoyed the scientific exhibits outside, demonstrating such things as the conservation of angular momentum. I’m sure there used to be ‘toys’ to play with indoors too, but as I said, it’s been a long time since our last visit.

For some reason, the children weren’t interested in the wooden radio telescope prototypes that I found behind the scenes.

Wooden dishes

On our baby-sitting day, we collected them both from school and brought them straight back to our luxury apartment. Mummy and Daddy were off to school for Parent Teachers evening. I told Martha it was so the teachers could tell the parents how bad the children had been. She immediately corrected me, “How good we’ve been!”

At home, using some colourful, fallen Autumn leaves, some washi tape, paper and sellotape, they had fun making some bookmarks. At school, William had made a card each for Oma and Grandad which was very cute, even if his teacher had to help spell ‘Grandad’.

For the radio show this week, I played lots of black music to mark Black History Month.

Something went wrong with uploading to Mixcloud, I had several attempts and it didn’t work. I wondered at my incompetence, or if I’d hit some limit that I was unaware of. But no, it turns out there was a problem on their site. So, overnight, all three of my attempted uploads successfully completed. Anyone looking at my profile would wonder why there were three shows with almost identical names! Technology eh?

In medical news, I visited the dentist, the hygienist and the barber. My neck feels much colder now. I also visited a periodontist for the first time since we moved away from Chessington. I won’t go into details but you know that song Unfinished Sweet by Alice Cooper? That. On the way home, I thought I’d go for a wander in Wythenshawe Park while I processed a lot of information. I texted Liesel and we agreed to meet there.

We had a nice walk around the park, following the new cycle/pedestrian path. It looks pretty good, although it ‘s recommended that you cycle in one direction only, widdershins. In places, there are extra loops and bumps and challenges for wannabe mountain bikers.

Off-road skills

It started raining a few minutes before completing the circuit so we arrived back at the car a bit more damp than planned.

On TV, we’ve been watching the World Track Cycling Campionships and feel a bit sad that some of our favourite cyclists from 2012, London Olympics, are no longer competing, and we don’t know the current team nearly as well.

Party, plants and Petra

It was good fun going through photos for a couple of days, on Klaus’s computer, on Facebook and some really old, physical photos. They made for a fascinating slideshow at the party to celebrate Klaus’s life.

Klaus

Here is former marathon runner Klaus, with baby Liesel and her grandmother, with a freshly caught fish and barbecuing. Here’s Klaus’s obituary.

There was far too much food for the hundred or so people who turned up, so it’s been leftovers all week. Huli-huli chicken and kalua pig are two Hawaiian dishes that Klaus was especially fond of. The family have been enjoying the leftovers for a few days now.

Klaus was famous for his sense of humour. He was always telling jokes, so with that in mind, we set up a Joke Board, inviting contributions from the guests. Well, needless to say, some of the jokes are too rude for this family-friendly blog, but here goes anyway:

Joke board

Fifteen years ago, Liesel and I visited Bremen with Klaus and Leslie, a family reunion with some long-lost German relations. One of the side-trips was a tour of Beck’s brewery. Afterwards, we were given some samples to try: six, I think, small glasses of various beers and lagers. Which one did you like best, Klaus? To everyone’s surprise, he picked the non-alcoholic beverage. I imbibed some Beck’s today, it seemed the right thing to do. Prost!

Amongst the guests was Holly, our friend who flew up from Washington. Liesel and I were happy to give up our bed and sleep on the blow-up bed for a couple of nights, even if it did make farty noises every time one of us moved.

On one of our walks to Kincaid Park, Liesel picked both of the raspberries. Yes, there were only two ripe ones on the bush, but there’ll be plenty more soon. Maybe all that rain helped speed up the ripening process.

Yellow toadflax

It’s nice to be out in the Sun again, of course. And we do like seeing the odd splash of colour.

Red elderberry

At least, I think this is elderberry. But I wasn’t confident enough to pick the berries with a view to making elderberry wine. Well, I can’t help thinking about the times you were a wife of mine. You aimed to please me, cooked black-eyed peas-me, made elderberry wine. That Elton John song came to mind and was my earworm for the rest of the day.

Fireweed

Well, I think this is fireweed, it’s quite prolific in some places.

Selfie of the day: Holly, Jyoti, Liesel, Mick

I have to confess: Holly took this picture: if I’d tried to take a selfie, there would have been at least half of someone’s face missing.

There is a cat who lives in the house with Leslie. Her name is Petra and she is very shy, timid, secretive. I have often seen the tip of her tail disappear around the corner as she heads towards her favourite hiding place, the back of the closet. But one day, I was at home on my own, glanced down from the den, the upper landing. I saw the cat. The cat saw me. The cat crouched, ready to move off. I slowly extracted my phone. Turned the flash on. And I now have photographic evidence that the beast exists.

Petra

As you can see, her headlights are on full-beam. And this is the face that greets Leslie when she wakes up each morning. Luminous green, scary, starey eyes and everything.

Liesel, Holly and I walked on the boardwalk at Potter Marsh. One of those borderline days when even I was taking off and putting on my coat as the wind cooled and warmed up again.

The water in one of the streams was a bit murky, but it was good to see the salmon swimming upstream

Salmon

No birds to speak of, but I had some success with the dragonflies. One was on a lady’s shoe, so we helped it escape, and out of the way, we didn’t want anyone to stomp on it.

Dragonfly on a stranger’s shoe

And then there was this chap.

Dragonfly on the fence

He was very cooperative, he stayed very still, but at least he was alive. Or she, I don’t know how you can tell. I was able to get a nice close-up without him flying off.

Face to face with a dragonfly

We drove up to see Catherine and Hans. Their rhubard crumble was delicious. Holly knew Catherine from a long, long time ago. Holly and Liesel were travelling in Europe and spent some time with Catherine and Hans in the Netherlands. We had a good chat, enjoyed the view and the sunshine. George the Bernese mountain dog lives with Catherine and Hans. He wears children’s grippy socks indoors so that he can walk on the wooden floors without slipping.

George

When he’s out for a walk, he’ll let you know he’s had enough by lying down on his back, in the middle of the road.

Later that afternoon, Aaron, Jodi, Asa and Gideon came round with friends visiting from Germany: Fee, Jorn and Philip. It was a raucous evening, and again, there were stories about Klaus.

Jyoti, Liesel and I had a quick walk around Little Campbell Lake, also known as Beercan Lake. The ladies had a longer walk than I did, but it was nice sitting on the bench, watching the young people in their kayaks. This lake is where Liesel and I were married all those years ago. It was frozen at the time, so a very different vista today.

Beercan Lake

In Kincaid Park, near the chalet, we admired the multi-coloured bench.

Bench

It was windy here today, and a few people were flying kites. The clouds were fascinating to watch, swirling and whirling around. Someone suggested it was like a scene from Harry Potter.

Kites and clouds in Kincaid Park

Indoors, I was quite busy doing some DIY. The key lock box combination is … haha, I nearly revealed it. I tightened up the screws holding up the hanging basket bracket. I changed a lightbulb outside the garage, quite possibly the most awkward lightbulb in the world, in a brass and glass case, with a hole not quite big enough to fit a bulb and fingers at the same time. Duct tape, as is often the case in Alaska, was my saviour.

Last week’s radio show was themed around Religion, but as someone commented, it’s not at all dry and preachy. Please give it a listen here.

If you would like to see a list of all the shows that I’ve uploaded from Wythenshawe Radio and beyond, then please follow me, mick_the_knife, on Mixcloud, you’ll be notified every time a new show appears.

An unexpected job was to clear out some cr I mean rubbish, old stuff, from the garage. Some was thrown away but a lot was taken to the charity shop. This provided the day’s scary moment. Do something scary every day, someone once said. Well, I don’t manage to every single day, but I made up for quite a few days on this occasion. I had to climb up the ladder several times, to take things down from high shelves and to put other items up there. My palms were sweaty, but I didn’t show my fear to Liesel and her Mom. I am very proud of my stoicism. Ladders and me have never really got along. This was after Liesel had taken me to the local supermarket, Carrs, for my second Covid booster jab. I have a slightly sore arm, but otherwise, no problem. The bonus was, the pharmacist gave me a voucher, so we got 10% off the groceries we bought. $12 saved. That’s almost as good as the chocolate I was given with my very first Covid jab, last year. Almost! 

My time in Anchorage is nearly over. Before I arrived, Liesel and I had the following telephone conversation. (Remember, on my last trip, I ((very) briefly) swam in the lake at Nana’s Cabin in Talkeetna):

Liesel: When you come over, will you bring my swimsuit?
Mick: Yes, of course, where is it?
Liesel: Under the bed, I think.
Mick: OK. Why?
Liesel: We’re going to Talkeetna and I thought I might go for a swim in the lake.
Mick: Oh great, I’ll bring my budgie smugglers too.
Liesel: You’re not going.
Mick: Uh?
Liesel: I’m going with Mom and Jyoti after you’ve gone back home. (There was an evil cackle at this point, or maybe I imagined it.)

Huh.

Wows and woes

You’ve probably seen this picture before, but it was undoubtedly the best photo I saw this week, the first taken by the James Webb Space Telescope and released to the public.

Gaze in awe

Galaxies 13.5 billion years old with gravitational lens effects, I couldn’t stop gawping at this picture for a very long time.  It reminds me, I still want to be a spaceman.

Closer to home, these poppies brighten up an otherwise dreary part of Northenden.

Poppies

So where else have I been this week? The dentist where again the hygienist asked the same questions about my oral hygiene regime and I reminded her that I am 145 years old and I will continue to look after my teeth and gums as well as I can.

Not sure if it’s more exciting or not, but I took the car in to have a light bulb replaced. Not a 5-minute job as you’d expect, because they had to take out the wheel arch to access it. Why do they design cars that way?

What is definitely more exciting and interesting is that the heron was not in his usual spot this week, on the weir. He was in the river, halfway to Didsbury.

Heron

I went with Jenny and William and Liam to a suit hire shop, funnily enough to hire a suit, for a future event. Later in the week, I went clothes shopping, by myself, not my favourite pastime, and came home with a pair of shirts and a pair of shoes. Not trainers but actual, Italian leather shoes.

Martha and William both enjoyed their sports day at school, and not only because all the children got an ice lolly afterwards. It was a very nice day for the event.

Liesel reported a couple of earthquakes from Anchorage. At home, three pictures fell off the walls within 24 hours. Now, I’m not saying the earthquakes caused this, but what a coincidence. One frame broke and by luck, the glass remained in tact. Another one, I think the Blu Tack just melted in the heat, same as the rest of us.

I may have mentioned my very long to-do list from a few weeks ago. Mostly quick jobs that weren’t so quick in the end for one reason or another, mostly ticked off now, and this week I succeeded in preparing, recording and editing three radio shows. That was quite a feat, and I probably won’t repeat it.

In Anchorage, Liesel has been working with Amrit and Suvan again, staying out of the scorching Alaskan sunshine. There’s a heatwave here in the UK, but Anchorage was much hotter for a while.

I enjoyed a few walks locally this week, including a couple with the well-being walking groups. And in a repeat performance from two months ago, I got up ridiculously early on Saturday morning, to take a taxi to the airport for my flight to Frankfurt and then onwards to Anchorage for a couple of weeks.

This week’s radio show is all adverts. Well, a few actual adverts but mostly songs that have been used in commercials over the years. Sing along to a couple of old favourites!

Blossom and birthday

Liesel is in Alaska until the end of the month, working from home and sometimes in an office, and spending time with her Mom and Dad both of whom are recovering well from recent surgery. But mainly, she’s enjoying the snow and the spectacular scenery while walking and hiking with friends.

Jyoti and Liesel and the mountains

Nearer home, I’m now Covid free but I did have a few days of extreme lethargy. Yes, I know I can be a bit lazy sometimes, but this was a totally different feeling. I listened to my body and did very little. And when I did do something, I became fatigued very quickly. But slowly, slowly, things are getting better.  All helped by the much more pleasant weather of course, blue skies and sunshine, even if I couldn’t take full advantage for a while.

But when I did go out for a quick walk, it’s all change in Northenden. The island in the Mersey has had a Brazilian.

The bush has gone

The vegetation on this island was quite useful: it used to catch some of the plastic whenever the river was in flood. Well, this bush has now been well and truly trimmed. And, inevitably, you can see an old discarded tyre.

The village green continues to evolve. Where there were crocuses and snowdrops just a couple of weeks ago, the daffodils are now taking over.

Daffodils

So, having taken the plunge, I decided to join the regular organised walk in Northenden. About 10 of us walked through the woods and round the block before enjoying a coffee at a coffee shop. So this was my first time mixing with people since my Covid. Chantel had succumbed recently too, so we compared notes and symptoms.

The walking group

It was my birthday this week too. Happy birthday to me. Jenny invited me over for supper and, of course, this was the first time I’d seen the family for nearly three weeks. We had an Indian takeaway and Jenny baked a beautiful big cake for me, thank you!

Martha, William and the cake

And thank you Jenny and Helen and everyone too for my pressies: chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and beer! And a walk around the Manchester music scene.

Not only that, but the laptop I ordered has arrived. It’s a refurbished Acer with all new components, built to my specifications. So at last, I’m going to have to wean myself off Windows 7 (and Windows XP) which I still use on my old desktop PC, and get to grips with Windows 11. The laptop came fully loaded with Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Works and Yahoo GeoCities. I don’t need to take advantage of the offer from AOL of 999 free hours of internet access this month.

After a quick visit to the hospital to be wired up with a heart monitor, I thought I’d go for a walk in Wythenshawe Park.

Young jockey

I still remember the first and only time I’ve been on board a horse. I was six years old, we went to the Epsom races, and I was lifted up onto what may have been one of the actual race horses. It was very high up and it didn’t move, thank goodness, but that experience has meant that I’ve never since mounted a horse. These young people seemed to be enjoying the experience, though.

Some trees are now blossoming: I was surprised how much has changed in the 10 days that I didn’t really venture outside.

Blossom

I was sitting on the bench listening to the birds when I was chucked out. Yes, I was in the horticultural centre and they close at 4.30. I think that’s the first time I’ve been kicked out of a park. So, a quick drive home and then supper? Well, no. I couldn’t go directly home because police vehicles were blocking Church Road. I drove the long way round and decided to go for another quick walk just to see what the excitement was.

A whole section of Church Road was closed, buses were on diversion, and a white-van man was remonstrating with a PCSO because he couldn’t make his delivery. The PCSO said there had been a fatality and later on, I overheard a conversation in which it was revealed that a hit-and-run driver had killed an elderly lady. I’ve not been able to verify this. Neither have I seen anything in the news about a collision between a cyclist and a vehicle which again delayed my drive home after joining the organised walk in Wythenshawe the following day. That completes this weeks tragic news from Northenden.

It was a very pleasant walk in Wythenshawe, but whether it gave my portable ECG device anything to get excited about, I don’t know.

A nice, friendly looking tree

As I was walking through Kirkup Gardens (I think it was Kirkup Gardens) a young lady gave me something to plant in my garden. What a nice thought. She’s from Manchester Forever, the only charity that raises money to fund and support community activity right here in the Wythenshawe area. So that might be an organsation to find out more about later on.

As seen from the bathroom window

I mentioned my post-Covid lethargy earlier. This is the reason why my Wythenshawe Radio show this week was a repeat from last year. There’ll be a brand new one next time. A celebration of Spring.

As I sit here on the sofa writing, listening to last week’s Cerys Matthews show, the Sun is streaming in through the window and I’m thinking I can’t wait to post this so I can go out for a quick walk! A great sign I think that the lethargy really has gone and I just need to slowly build up my stamina again after a week or so of not doing very much at all. The lesson from this is, avoid Covid if at all possible. I’ll be wearing a mask when necessary, and keeping social gatherings to a minimum. And I’ll be getting any vaccines on offer at the earliest opportunity. The government might be acting like the pandemic’s over, but we should all carry on being cautious. Stay safe!

Not much

The title sums it up. Not a lot happened this week. So, I was feeling a bit under the weather and lo, on the third day, I tested positive for Covid. Yes, after two years of being incredibly cautious, I picked it up. Whether from York, or public transport, or the streets of Notrthenden, or medical facilities, I’ll never know for certain. But at least I have it while Liesel’s 4,500 miles away in Anchorage.

One NHS site said I had to isolate for 10 days, another said 5 days and until I test negative two days in a row, while the governemnt’s advice is to do absolutely nothing to protect other people.

My symptoms did not include the classic loss of sense of smell and taste. No, it was more like a really bad cold, headache, earache, mucous glands working overtime, some fatigue and even more lethargy than usual. But mainly, it was coughing. It started with a tickly throat, turned to a sore throat, that eased and I’m still left with a niggly cough that won’t quite let go.

Covid testing centre

Help slow the spread of #COVID19 and identify at risk cases sooner by self-reporting your symptoms daily, even if you feel well 🙏. Download the app https://covid.joinzoe.com/

I joined Zoe two years ago and I’ve been reporting Liesel’s and my Covid status every day, all our tests, all our vaccinationss and lately for me, all the symptoms. Zoe told me to go for a PCR test, just to confirm my positive LFT results and this involved a walk to the test centre in Wythenshawe. Which was hard to find, but really obvious once I got there. Maybe being geographically challenged is a symptom. And this was my last visit to the outside world for several days. The result came through a lot more quickly than they’d predicted.

Another beneficial side-effect, if I can call it that, is that I was able to take part in a trial of an antiviral drug which may or may not speed up my recovery. Remember licorice comfits? I had to take four capsules bigger than those twice a day for five days. And as I said, I still have a cough, though nowhere near as frequently as a few days ago.

I think I was unlucky to catch Covid but I think I was pretty lucky that I only had it mildly. At least I’m still around to talk about it.

How did I keep myself occupied whilst confined to quarters? Radio, podcasts, TV, puzzles, books and eating and sleeping. Oh, and spending far too much time falling down rabbit holes on the internet. There’s some good stuff there, but there’s an awful lot of crap as well. Still, it passes the time. No matter how I try, I can’t get up to 10,000 steps a day pacing up and down our hallway.

Meanwhile, in another time and place, William became Gymnast of the week.

Flamingo of the week

I think the award was for forward rolls and other stunts rather than for standing on one leg, but we are all very proud of him.

And much further away, Liesel was greeted by a visitor lurking in the bushes.

Moose

Now if I’d planned this thing properly, that moose would have been standing on one leg as well. As would this little chickadee, enjoy the offerings in Liesel’s parents’ garden.

Chickadee

In Anchorage and here right outside our apartment in Northenden, the squirrels know that Spring is very nearly here and they’ve been playing kiss-chase up and down the trees and all over the place. Very entertaining.

The weather has improved a lot this week. In fact, it was so nice, I opened windows. Yes, fresh air blowing through the flat for the first time this year felt pretty good. Hopefully, the miasma of coronavirus has been well and truly smited. Smote. Smitten? Got rid of.

I did go out for a walk in the sunshine, a short walk, but it was nice to pay a quick visit to Quarry Bank Mill. I avoided people as much as I could, of course.

Greenhouses

In a couple of weeks, I think more flowers will be out and it will look quite pretty.

No, not beavers

I need a better map so I’m not sure whether this is the River Bollin or one of its tributaries, but it was flowing pretty fast. No, I don’t think this blockage is the result of beaver activity. It’s more likely to be the accumulated woodwork from the many times William and Martha have played Pooh sticks here.

This week’s Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 radio show was a bit more challenging, as I had to record it between coughing fits. Still, you can listen to it here:

So, to summarise: not much.

Trivial pursuits

Hot on the heels of Dudley and Eunice came Franklin. Three named storms in quick succession wreaking havoc. Howling wind and driving rain is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, in my recent experience. Then, to add insult to injury, while searching for a podcast to listen to on my phone, up popped a message telling me to go to bed, my bedtime was 5 hours ago.

My breakfast view was obscured:

Rain on window

The rain was relentless, I felt certain I wouldn’t leave the house all day. But just as I was finishing writing last week’s blog post, Jenny called and invited me to join them for a walk in Fletcher Moss Gardens. By then, the rain had stopped and I decided to risk a walk over to Didsbury. As a last resort, I could always catch a bus, I suppose.

Ford Lane

A stretch of Ford Lane was flooded, so I had to cling to the railings at this point. The river was noticeably high too. Fletcher Moss had quite a few puddles, which proved useful later on when it came to keeping children entertained.

Flooded path to the rockery

I met up with Jenny, Liam, Martha and William, and sensibly the children were wearing Wellington boots. I think William walked or ran or jumped in every puddle we encountered on our walk. But at leat, on this occasion, he didn’t go into puddles so deep that his boots filled with water, like he’d done a few days earlier!

For half term, there’s a Broad Oak Hearts Train in the park, a series of 20 hearts for children to find, each depicting a popular children’s book or character. It provided structure to the walk. William ticked the numbers off on his sheet, while Martha wrote down all the characters on her self-made crib sheet. Why did she make her own? Because outrageously, the coffee shop was closed and that’s where you get the sheets from.

Rainbow fish
Water babies

Did I mention it was a bit wet in places?

William nearly in the Mersey
Water babies

As you can see, the Sun came out and that certainly lifts the spirits, even when it’s not particularly warm. But this was the lull before the storm.

The following day, the river Mersey was so high, that the flood gates were opened. The flooded area included Fletcher Moss and the golf courses. I don’t think it stopped raining all day, I certainly didn’t leave the house on this occasion.

River Mersey

But if I had, this is what I would have witnessed. The river now at its highest ever level in Stockport, and very close to record highs in Northenden and Didsbury. As a precaution, a few hundred houses were evacuated, but in the end, the Environment Agency and local councils controlled the situation very well.

In Anchorage, they’re still enjoying the snow. This is a speed-skating circuit as seen from Amrit’s office where Liesel is working.

Speed-skating in Anchorage

With the mountains in the background, it does look much more interesting than what we were experiencing.

The Winter Olympics have come to a close and I’m glad I watched the women’s curling final, live, from the comfort of my bed, very early in the morning. The men’s team had won silver, and this was GB’s last opportunity to win a gold medal.

Eve Muirhead

It was a good game and in the end I felt that I’d contributed to GB’s gold medal win, merely by staying awake long enough to watch the whole thing!

That was the weekend. The rest of the week was spent in the pursuit of trivial matters. Lots of five- or ten-minute jobs that I’ve been putting off. Putting tea in the tea caddy. Checking the toilet roll situation. Watering the plants. Emptying the bins. A bit of tidying up here, a spot of sorting out there. Paying bills. And of course, a quick walk to check up on things.

Where’s the weir?

I ventured into Manchester by bus in order to visit the blood shop, as Jenny and Helen used to call it. I donated and in return, I enjoyed some biscuits.

A not very convincing Disney castle in Manchester

During the week, the wind kept up and it was as cold and unpleasant as ever, just not as strong. One of the casualties of the latest storm was the estate agents sign outside our premises.

Estate agent’s sign – missing

Oh well, never mind. Maybe they should just take them away when they’ve outlived their usefulness.

Northenden Players Theatre Club put on a performance of Educating Rita this week, at the little theatre just up the road. It was a two-hander, and very well done. Both characters, Frank and Rita, were very convincing, and I realise I’d forgotten just how grumpy Frank can be. It was good to see a full house.

Martin Hulme and Freya Fulton as Frank and Rita

As I was walking home afterwards, I just fancied a bag of chips, with plenty of salt and vinegar, I’ve not done that for years. Alas, the chip shop was shut.

Child-minding day. As I was driving over, I was engulfed in a hail storm. It only lasted a couple of minutes but it was a reminder of just how exciting / unpredictable our weather systems are.

While watching Encanto, again, I helped Martha decorate her hairbands with various adornments, ribbons, bows, ties. I also managed to keep William awake until dinner time: he’s always so tired at the end of his school week!

This week on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2, I played pop songs that are based on or inspired by classical music.