And all of a sudden, we’re halfway through March. Considering we’re not really doing much, time is certainly flying by. Liesel has been here in the UK for 15 years and in that time, several World War 2 bombs have been unearthed around the country and, in most cases, safely detonated. Nobody’s been injured, but some buildings were damaged recently in Exeter during a (badly) controlled explosion.
In more local news, Samosa Box is closing for a couple of months so we enjoyed our last box of Samosas for a while. Aloo aloo, very tasty and so, so spicy. While waiting to collect my order, I thought about working for the BBC.
It was also announced this week that Salutem will close at the end of the month. Oh no, that’s one of one top venues for coffee and cake and bagels within walking distance. Let’s hope the replacement coffee shop will be just as good.
While wandering around, I found this creature in the graveyard. Angel? Fairy? Bumble bee?
We had over 24 hours of continuous rain, and this was enough to raise the river level by over a metre. The island is once again under water. Then 40 mph winds accompanied by more rain, so I think it’s fair to say, the weather wasn’t conducive to long walks outside this week. And pacing up and down our own hallway is a bit boring and repetitive, just not the same.
But we did go out, and we showed appreciation for the new sign by the woods, installed only a year late.
While wandering through the woods, we found the Pink Pixie’s residence, but she wasn’t in. She? We had a long discussion about whether fairies can be male and female. Similarly, angels: the ones we know with names are all male, Michael, Gabriel. And what about pixies? As if the debate about human gender isn’t complicated enough right now!
We’ve had some pretty sunsets, when the rotten weather permits. And it certainly lifts the spirits to watch the Sun set later and later each day as we approach the Spring equinox.
In admin news, I completed our 2021 Census form this week and took great delight in declaring my National Identity as European. Not sure what difference this will make in the long-term planning of the government and local authorities but, from the heart, it’s a big raspberry to all the brexiteers. There are 101 problems in society and there’s not much we can do about many of them. Signing petitions makes us feel better but I don’t know how many result in the desired outcomes. One thing we can do is pick up litter, so that’s what we do. Four bags this week. A total of over 3,600 so far this year in Northenden and Wythenshawe by a growing team of Wythenshawe Waste Warriors.
In family news, Martha returned to school this week and was very happy to do so. William attended one day at Nursery in January before it was closed following a last minute change of government guidelines. He happily returned this week as if nothing had happened.
Have I mentioned the wind this week? There we were, wandering through the woods when we came across an obstruction.
There were two fallen trees in this area, which is a shame for the birds nesting and making babies.
Despite whingeing about the weather, it is good to see Spring in all its colourful glory.
Another pink thing was in the news this week. An angry, gammony bully to young (and not so young) women everywhere flounced off the set of the TV show he was presenting. I blocked him on Twitter years ago yet he still appears and annoys me thanks to other people’s interest in the bloated old ham. Or at least in their descriptions of him, which are often very imaginative.
An unexpected splash of colour was to be found outside Northenden Superstore this week, I think for the first time, but we don’t always walk past this emporium. A glorious display of vegetable including okra and white aubergines.
Liesel continues to make progress with not one, not two but three crochet blankets. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the patterns nor the yarn. We certainly don’t want people to get the wrong colours.
The government announced a roadmap telling us when things would be opened up after this long period of lockdown. They said decisions would be governed by data, not by dates. So, of course, we now know the dates when we’ll be able to go out, go places, go to a pub, go and see our grandchildren in their garden and maybe even go to a concert and eventually, go on holiday. But for us, this week was very similar to last week. Some weather, some walks, a radio show, some crocheting, a jigsaw puzzle or two, some looking through old photographs but mainly, just sitting at home, looking through the window, watching nothing much happen outside. Our road was re-surfaced and we took it in turns providing the running commentary. Yes, of course we could have done the job much more efficiently than they did.
But we really hope things aren’t opened up again too quickly: I don’t think a fourth lockdown would be welcomed by anybody.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, they’re pretty much living a normal life, although a short lockdown has just been announced following a case of Covid. It’s ten years since the devastating earthquake, and my sister Pauline sent photos of some damage that is still visible close to Christchurch.
The whole area is still quite dangerous and the Summit Road will be closed for quite some time.
When you see this sort of destruction, it puts our little problems into perspective. This week, for instance, I’ve been thinking about blister packs. What a waste of resources. All our prescription drugs come in blister packs. Why? And why is there not a common size? I have packs of 10, 28, 14 and sometimes the pharmacist cuts up packs so I receive the correct total amount, usually 56 days worth but sometimes 60. You can’t recycle them because they’re a mix of plastic and aluminium foil. And when they’re cold, they’re very brittle. The blister pack snaps and you have to chase your pill across the room.
That was my moan of the week.
We found this old school on one of our walks.
I think the only reason we’ve not seen it before is that we’ve somehow never walked along this particular road. There’s also an entrance for ‘Girls’ and ‘Laundry’.
Towards Northern Moor and I was reminded that a good pun is the only way to name your hairdresser’s shop.
I also found not one, not two, but three further hairdressers whose names each contain all five vowels. You may remember I provided a long list of such words several posts ago. A small part of my mind with nothing better to do is still on the lookout for these delightful pentavowelled words. Or phrases. I think Sienna Guillory is still my favourite in so many ways.
It was lovely walking through Wythenshawe Park without having to avoid big puddles and ice. Someone at the café is very positive and uplifting.
Martha’s been painting her bedroom.
It’s a darker colour than we anticipated but I think Mummy and Daddy probably finished off the decorating.
Then there was the day we went out litter-picking and we found this phone-recharging station on an old telegraph pole.
The connector was incompatible with either of our phones, though, being the barest of bare wires. But another three bags collected adding to the total so far in Wythenshawe of 2780 this year, at the time of writing. What a load of rubbish! Plus another bag this morning before our longer proper walk in the sunshine.
And during the course of our very pleasant walk by the river today, even if there were too many other people, we realised that we haven’t seen the herons for a while. So, this one in Riverside Park will have to do.
And look at this gorgeous blue sky.
How is the village green looking? Absolutely stunning. We feel we should plant bulbs and sow seeds all over the place now.
Of course, one of the reasons it looks so good there is that other litter-pickers have been at work.
We’ve had lots of weather this week. A temperature range of about fifteen degrees. It’s warmer now and there are more signs of Spring. Even the village green is showing some more colour.
One day, when the pandemic’s all over, and things are getting back to normal, there will be a Festival of Northenden on this village green. It’s only a small space, so we’ll have to attend in shifts. I’m sure that can be arranged, and it’s always good to have something to look forward to.
We found a princess in the woods. Very familiar but in the heat of the moment, we couldn’t identify her.
Thanks to Helen, we now know this is Princess Aurora. It’s always good to encounter real stars in our neighbourhood. Readers of a nervous disposition might want to look away now. We are sorry to report that just a couple of days later, Aurora had been decapitated.
And if we ever need a plumber, we now know where Luigi lives.
Liesel and I celebrated our Crystal Wedding Anniversary this week. But a day late. This was so that we could have a meal from Greens in Didsbury and dessert from The Northern Den, both of which were closed on the actual day. Beautiful meal though, accompanied by the last of the wine from our visit to Heiffer Station two years ago.
It was a nice of drop of wine, too, thanks for asking: we’re going to have to go back and get some more one day.
Another highlight of the week was visiting the children (and their parents). We still find it very sad that we have to maintain a safe distance, and we can’t really interact.
It was half-term so the home-schooling was taking a break.
Martha’s been helping decorate her own room. First, draw on the walls, then rip the wallpaper off. Then leave the hard bit to Mum and Dad, removing several layers of paint hiding all sorts of defects and flaws in the plasterwork. And then, evenually, the exciting, interesting part of the job: the actual painting and decorating.
Liesel finished the 2,000-piece jigsaw in double-quick time. I think I contributed about 5 pieces, but they made all the difference. It’s a collage of family photos from the last few years. Lots of sky and lots of grass all adding to the complexity.
After concentrating on the puzzle for a while, Liesel has returned to her crochet project, a blanket each for William and Martha, but please don’t tell them and spoil the surprise.
Martha and William made gingerbread men but sadly, none for Grandad nor Oma. One day…
William loves supervising the decorating project, it’s a bit of a mess in there at the moment, but he’s following all the health and safety guidelines.
Somebody worked really hard to dump this wooden pallet in the bushes in a park a long way from any residential or industrial property.
That was just one of the strange items Liesel and I came across during our litter-picking walk this week. We couldn’t fit it into our green bag of course, but we did take away the semi-deflated football and a trainer amongst all the usual litter discarded by rude and lazy people.
Wythenshawe Waste Warriors was the inspiration behind my radio show this week, which was Rubbish. All things rubbish, garbage, waste and litter, not to mention some Dirty characters. Martha’s contributions were absolutely fabulous, thank you. Listen back here.
We’re still consuming lots of TV and radio and podcasts of course, but we had some unusual online viewing this week too.
We attended the online funeral of Myra Jean Waring, Sarah’s mother, who died last month. Like everything during the pandemic, it was very different. The people attending in person wore masks and weren’t allowed to sing the hymns. The vicar Fiona conducted a good service and I think we all appreciated (Sarah’s brother) Michael’s eulogy. Afterwards, we family members had a chat online, just as we’d met up on Myra’s 90th birthday only a couple of months ago. But there was no post-funeral standing around eating sandwiches. These are strange times.
The following day, online, I watched NASA Live as Perseverance landed safely on the surface of Mars. You could feel the excitement from JPL and from all the contributors to the broadcast.
This is my picture of the first picture taken by the rover on Mars. Someone commented that Mars looks like their cheesecake. Well, they might have a point.
There is now a helicopter on Mars too, Ingenuity, and it will be interesting to see how that flies in the very thin Martian atmosphere.
At the risk of being overtly political, our government has spent ten times the cost of the Perseverance mission on a Covid Track and Trace system that has never worked properly.
On Valentine’s Day, we watched was six hours of folk music. The Folk on Foot LOVEFest was a pretty good substitute for a live music performance.
Also on Valentine’s Day, we welcomed the launch of a brand new radio station, Boom Radio, aimed at us baby boomers who feel driven away from Radio 2 other stations who no longer play our sort of music.
We can’t visit Chester Zoo in person right now, but sometimes we enjoy watching their YouTube live broadcasts and videos.
We probably watched the giraffes chomping for a bit too long, but it was interesting to see the sun bears and the tigers a bit more closely than if we were there in person, with too many other visitors. How will we cope with the crowds when that time comes back?
For example, in the woods, we feel violated and grossly inconvenienced when we see one or two other people. It’s wrong to feel that the place belongs to us, and us alone, but that’s what happens after being isolated for so long.
We have no idea what this green twiggy knitting is, but it’s a very pretty colour. Just a shame about all the cans and bottles nestling within, but we’ll get in there one day.
At the risk of confirming my role as Grumpy Old Mick, can I just say that sometimes the internet is infuriating? I went to sign into a site that, admittedly, I’ve not used for a very long time. Over a decade, in fact. It says ‘There’s no such username, email address or password.’ Oh well, quite right, they probably deleted my details after a period of inactivity. So I clicked on ‘Sign Up’, as if for the first time. Why not use the same details as before? Because it then says ‘An account already exists for this username / email address’. I detect a slight discrepancy here. I do have another email address that I can use, and I can easily concoct a new username. But why should I have to? I tried to sign in again and this time, I clicked on the ‘Forgotten Password’ option. They sent me a link to ‘change my password’. So I did. I came up with a lovely new password. And, unbelievably, I was able to sign in, no problem, this time. And, as a bonus, I was able to access my activity from all those years ago. The trouble is, after all this faffing about, I’d forgotten what I wanted to do in the first place.
Well, the good news this week is that Liesel wasn’t arrested after all. I would have visited her in jail of course, if the Covid restrictions allowed me to. The unsolicited phone call from ‘HMRC’ was a computer-generated voice, threatening arrest if she didn’t press button 1 straightaway to resolve some fictitious tax issue.
Is that the most exciting event of the week? Not quite. We went for a drive in the car for the first time since before Christmas. We still remember how to drive, always a bonus, but one of the tyres was flat. We got that fixed before setting off. Where did we go? We visited the Dark Lands beyond our own postcode.
After a snowy start last Saturday, it was my turn to cook our evening meal. I love a good non sequitur, don’t you? I have two selections in my repertoire and this time it was toad-in-the-hole. The rest of the week we enjoyed Liesel’s culinary delights, thank you, Liesel, much more skilful and with a much more varied menu!
We went for a walk and came across a fire engine near Northenden’s Riverside Park.
The river was flowing fast but it was much lower than at the height of the floods last week. Lots of detritus had flowed downstream of course, plenty of trees and branches and so on deposited by the high water. But the ugliest sight probably is all the plastic caught in the trees on the island and tangled in the vegetation on the river banks.
There is a large group of litter pickers in the area, Wythenshawe Waste Warriors, and one day, when we’re no longer shielding, we’ll join them. So far this year, they have collected nearly 900 bags of litter in Wythenshawe, Northenden and the general area. One day, someone will wade over to the island and collect all the rubbish from the trees there.
It was a good decision to wear my new wellington boots when I walked through Wythenshawe Park. The path was still flooded: in fact, half of its puddle was frozen too. The grass either side of the path was waterlogged to the point that one side resembled an ice rink. I was joined on this particular walk by Tina in Coventry. From a very safe distance, I hasten to add. Whatsapp was the means of communication.
Mick: I’m out for a walk! Just tried to break the ice in a puddle. Useless!
Tina: OMG 😮 Glad I went food shopping so I don’t need to go out!!
Mick: Yes I’m sure!
Mick: I found the ice rink! A big frozen puddle on the grass
Tina: Oh wow 🤩
Tina: Poor birds
Mick: It’s very quiet. Spooky- apart from the rumble of the motorway over there…
Tina: Looks dangerous
Mick: It is. Very thin
Tina: Well, stay on the paths
Mick: This is the path!!
Tina: Oh you can’t pass
Mick: Yes 👍
Tina: Oh you’ll have to find another route, don’t get lost!!!
Mick: I’m back on the path… I can see how deep it is here!
Tina: Gosh be careful
Mick: Made it 🙌 to the other side. Dry!
Tina: Well done but be cautious
Mick: My mate Oliver
Tina: He’s not covered in snow!
Mick: No and he’s not covered in graffiti any more, either!
Tina: That’s good.. graffiti would def ruin the monument
Mick: And the good news is, I can get a coffee!
Tina: Oh really that’s great 😀 will warm you up? Is Liesel with you on your walk? Which coffee shop is that? Bit of a queue
Mick: Liesel came out with me but I wanted to go further.
Tina: Oh trust you
Mick: Not sure what it’s called. It’s in the park!
Tina: That’s great it’s open during these times
Mick: The dog bowls are frozen!
Tina: Oh dear there doesn’t seem to be much snow there anymore
Mick: It’s The Courtyard
Tina: Oh you got your coffee?
Mick: Patchy, still on the roof
Mick: In the queue still…
Tina: Oh yeah
Tina: Ha lol 😂
Mick: Decisions, decisions
Tina: Hot Vimto lol yes lots to choose from! They do food as well or just drinks? It’s not bad prices. What’s a barm? A batch or bread roll?
Mick: I have my coffee and chocolate orange brownie! Yes a barm is a plain bap, burger bun type thing. Usually. I have been given a sandwich before made with sliced white bread!
Tina: Ooh the brownie sounds lovely 😊 it’ll give you an energy boost 😂 Oh I see… I’ve never heard it being called a barm before
Mick: Yes, I’m still learning the language. I’m walking the long way home, trying to avoid all the people
Tina: That’s understandable, you’re having a good walk Mick, lots to see
Mick: Lots of snow on the grass. And more ice
Tina: Your coffee got me making a coffee too. It’s freezing can’t believe it’s snowed but it’s going to rain next week so hopefully it’ll clear up. Hope it doesn’t get icy and slippery though!
Mick: So far, I haven’t slipped, but it will happen sometime
Tina: That’s good hopefully not!
Mick: Once when I was a postman, all the snow and ice had gone, or so I thought, but I found the last square inch of ice and went arse over tit. Bashed my elbow. Kept hold of the bloody mail though!
Tina: Oh no that’s sounds hilarious 😂 but I bet it hurt! Typical
Mick: Look what I just did
Tina: Looks good but graffiti is a shame, ruins the buildings. Oh my you’re having some walk
Mick: It is an eyesore yes
Tina: How was your brownie? Coffee any good?
Mick: Very nice it had a segment of Terry’s Chocolate Orange on top! Coffee ok but not the best, but at least the place was open
Tina: Oh that would be really nice. True and it kept you going
Mick: Look what I just made!
Mick: Should be home by 2.30 then it’ll be time for a coffee 😉
Tina: Ha lol 😂 looks like you’re back to where houses are!
Tina: Good timing
Mick: Yes far fewer people this way
Tina: Oh that’s good
Mick: Nearly home
Tina: Oh good I’ve just made a sandwich 🥪
Tina: You home ? 🏡
Tina: With your coffee ☕️
Mick: Yes I am, now with a coffee, thanks for joining me on my 5 mile walk!!
Tina: It’s quite alright was fun! There is nothing on tv so I’ll listen to the radio for a bit!
Mick: Me too in a minute, probably Radio 2 Sounds of the 70s
Tina: Well enjoy. I’m listening to Capital fm
Mick: Ah, Capital Radio in the 70s was terrific, it’s not really my taste in music now, enjoy, sing along, dance!!
Another day, another walk, another stop for coffee. You can pick up the feel-good vibes in Salutem.
I invited Rachel from Salutem to join me on my Radio Northenden show this week. And she very generously agreed. You can hear our chat plus two hours of music loosely themed around Shopping right here.
Martha told a wonderful story about a Witch and Gnome and a dragon that morphed into a dinosaur! We watched online of course.
Some highly visible men working by the sluice gates, after the deluge last week.
And so we come to the real highlight of the week. Salutem and snowman and spammy phone calls are all well and good, but nothing beats spending time with our grandchildren, William and Martha. Yes, SK8 was the destination for our first road trip for a long time. We still have to maintain a safe distance of course, hugs are out of the question, we saw them from the end of the drive.
Martha knows that she only needs to dress the top half for her online schoolwork. Truly, a member of the Zoom generation.
And William insisted on wearing his backpack while scootering outside the house: maybe he thought he’d be going further away from home. He was doing sums. Just turned three years of age and he can do simple arithmetic. And he loves saying two and two equals four rather than just plain old ‘is‘.
We’ve been entertained this week by more online content, which is a horrible term, but covers everything from Netflix to gigs to Twitter and Instagram as well as videos of Martha and William. In fact, if you want to hear Martha’s sensational new hit single, please listen to this week’s Radio Northenden show.
We watched all 8 episodes of Bridgerton, and not just because it was described as Regency porn. I think we both enjoyed it on the whole, but I found the use of some Americanisms in the very English setting a bit grating. Liesel wondered about my sudden gasps of exasperation when a character said, ‘I’ll be with you momentarily’, or something was done ‘differently than’ something else.
Someone I haven’t seen live in concert for far too long is Tom Hingley, so it was good to catch him online performing in aid of the John Peel Centre in Suffolk, a small venue that we’re unlikely to attend in real life, but it was good to hear some of the old songs performed live from his home. His camera was cunningly placed to reveal a nice warm fire plus the gold disc on his wall. Well done, Tom!
And finally, some more good news: Liesel received her first Covid vaccination this week. I’m not expecting mine until March but the roll-out of the vaccine seems to be going well, so far. A second day out for the car this week. Maybe we’ll start venturing out a bit more often, if anything, just to keep the poor old thing ticking over and to stop the mould from growing on the outside!
Liesel also completed another blanket, her crochet skills are improving by the minute.
This really is a labour of love, I don’t know how many times Liesel counted the stitches in each row, just to make sure… and how pretty is it?
There has been a lot of sitting about this week. As usual. We tend to sit when we’re doing our things. And when we’re not doing anything.
Mick: I’m going to write this week’s blog. Liesel: But nothing happened this week. Mick: Oh, I’m sure I’ll think of something. Mick in his head: And if not, I’ll make something up.
So here we all are, living in a rainbow.
It would be rude to put up a picture of someone else’s Christmas lights (that doesn’t usually stop you) but it’s nice to see them going up, as we approach the end of November.
The cold, dark evenings don’t stop the vandals from venturing out, unfortunately.
Usually, we don’t use this picnic table beside the river because (a) someone else is sitting there (b) we didn’t bring a picnic or (c) most often, it’s just wet from all the rain.
It’s a bit late in the month, but here is our local war memorial in Northenden. We just haven’t been for a walk in this direction for quite a while.
We try to look up, not down, but some sights are just too horrible to ignore. Some people.
Things really are desperate when I resort to posting photos of what’s left of a chicken.
I was going to collect them and make a feather boa for somebody’s Christmas, but Liesel said No.
If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Well, I went down to the woods and I was surprised. One of the trees in Kenworthy Woods has been turned into a Christmas tree by three delightful cousins, Isabelle, Isaac and Jacob.
We’re all invited to go along and add our own baubles and tinsel. At the time of writing, there is a more conventional Christmas tree outside our local Tesco, but it hasn’t yet been decorated.
We went for a walk later than usual one day. Fearing that it might be dark by the time we got back home, I think we both walked a little faster than we intended. A jolly good work-out. And our reward was seeing some colour in the sky. Not quite the Northern Lights, but we’ll take anything colourful right now.
A little bit of pink and a little bit of orange.
One day we walked by the pub. There was a queue outside, and a group of people over the road with their pints, sharing space with the wheelie bins.
Everyone in Northenden will probably tell me this sign has been here for years, but I’ve only just noticed it.
At least with a 20 mph speed limit in the residential areas, some drivers might slow down to 40 or so, so that’s good.
We succumbed to temptation and purchased a Treat Box from The Northern Den: a chocolate orange cookie, a white chocolate and raspberry cookie, a jammie dodger cupcake, a Kinder Bueno cupcake, a biscoff brownie and an Oreo brownie. You want a photo? They didn’t last long enough! This cake wasn’t part of the deal, but it looks delicious.
No I didn’t try a fingerful of icing, but it was close.
We were sitting at home doing nothing much when our ears perked up at the sound of clip-clopping. That sounds like horses, we said to each other. It was a funeral passing by, which is sad, but conversely, the most interesting thing that’s happened in our neighbourhood this week.
The theme for the radio show this week was Happiness (please listen here), so I had to include songs of that name by Ken Dodd and Tom Hingley, and you don’t often see those two in the same room.
This is a picture of me with the equipment for my Radio Northenden show, microphone and headphones.
Next week’s show is about Connection. Please send me your song suggestions and I’ll see what I can fit into the two hours. And don’t forget to tune in to Radio Northenden at two o’clock on Friday afternoon, it’ll be lovely to see your name up on the screen! (I don’t normally say what’s coming up next week because I haven’t decided a whole week in advance, but next week’s show should be special.)
Hmm, as we thought, not much occurred this week, so here’s something I made up. Well, my subconscious made it up to keep me entertained while I was sleeping. Me and my old school friend Oscar flew to Sydney for the weekend. We then drove north to Hayman Island, Queensland. I knew we had to book in on the mainland before taking a boat to the island itself. We found the resort shop which was full of disappointingly cheap and nasty tourist tat. We booked our tickets and accommodation and then ate in the greasy spoon canteen. I had a good look round, but then I couldn’t find Oscar. He’d gone missing. I kept looking for him, I asked the receptionist where the nearest hotel was, Oscar might have gone for a kip. Oh no, there are no hotels here, she snootily replied. Then she remembered. Oh, there is a backpackers one just over there, pointing across the road, behind a fence. Well, it was nearby, but it was a long walk. I asked at their reception desk whether Oscar had booked in, the guy said he didn’t know. Then I remembered I could try and call or message him, but my phone was nearly dead, and in any case, the Internet was very slow. A pretty girl said, ‘There are problems with all the phones around here, I feel sorry for the girls.’ Girls? ‘Hookers.’ Oh well, my friend Oscar’s out here somewhere if you want try and find him. ‘Oh, I’m not a prostitute,’ she told me in no uncertain terms. I thought, well you’re pretty enough. Notes:
In real life, I haven’t seen Oscar since he left for San Diego in about 1984.
Flying to Sydney for the weekend is not really a viable option.
Driving from Sydney to Hayman Island is not a quick trip. It’s probably a 24-hour drive.
Hayman Island is a beautiful resort in the Whitsundays. Hello, Adam! Have a look. Dream. One day…
I don’t know if there is a shop and/or a greasy spoon restaurant on the mainland attached to the resort, in real life.
Also, in real life, we’d book everything in advance.
I’m not really a sexist pig who thinks every pretty girl could or should be on the game.
This is why I rarely tell people my dreams: they need so many explanatory notes and don’t make sense to anyone, not even me, sometimes. Yes, I would love to be able to meet up with old friends. Yes, I would love to be able to go somewhere warm and sunny. But at least my dreams are still Covid-free.
We survived what was the fifth wettest October since records began. On our (not quite) daily walks, we managed to mostly avoid the rain but we were caught out a couple of times. I think the ducks enjoyed the wet weather though, even venturing as far as the bank (levée?) that separates the Mersey from the golf course.
We visited a couple of National Trust places this week, because at first we didn’t know whether they would stay open during this second national lockdown. But they will be open and we shall return.
Dunham Massey was good, although we had to shelter from a couple of showers, under trees that don’t provide as much cover as they used to. Also, we were delighted by how few other visitors were there, so maintaining social distance was not a problem.
Thanks to Helen, we now know this is a teasel. You probably think I should have asked Liesel. I did, she said it was a thistle. Next time, I’ll just give a whistle. [Added 21/11/20]
We only saw a couple of deer this time, but most of the deer park was out of bounds, it’s another rutting season.
No, it’s not a real hedgehog. It’s a prickly plant of sort sort that’s caught a few hundred fallen leaves.
Our second NT venue was Lyme Park, a couple of days later. It was drier today, a little bit windier and our long walk was much hillier.
We’ve received kale a couple of times in our weekly fruit and veg box, and I wondered what it looked like out in the wild. And now, I think I know.
We watched a coal tit by the bird feeder for a few minutes. What a tease. It knew I wanted to take a picture but it wouldn’t keep still.
Lyme Park was a bit squidgier in places, too. One day, we’ll return all the mud that was splashed up the back of our legs.
Indoors, Liesel is still busy with her crafts, needle felting and crocheting, I’m still ‘sorting out the photos’ and fighting some of the software on my computer. Moan of the week: stop ‘improving’ programs and making them harder to use.
One big surprise is that our Christmas cactus has buds, so it will be well molly-coddled for the next few weeks.
Sorry if it’s too early in the year to mention the C word. Obviously, we have no plans for the festive season: we keep coming up with ideas but we just don’t know what the state of the world will be.
We’ve been entertained by some of the loudest fireworks in the universe for a couple of weeks. We’ve seen a few pretty, colourful fireworks, but mostly they’ve just been very loud bangers. Including at two o’clock in the morning!
We’re looking forward to watching Mission Impossible: 45, in which a team of crack agents are sent in to extract a rogue ex-president from the White House. I think it’s on straight after the Queen’s Speech.
My radio show this week was all about Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, listen back here.
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:
The weather here has been as strange as it can be. Hot and muggy, torrential rain and thunderstorms, but we have been out and about, a little further afield, so things are looking up. This week saw the release of a couple of new records. I joined Anna Neale and a few other fans as she launched her new single Anarchy. I surrepticiously tried to take a picture of the Zoom screen but it didn’t really work. It was good to see the world premiere(!) of the accompanying video, even if Zoom couldn’t quite keep up. You should view the video here, not just for the song itself, but for my first ever (minor) contribution to a ‘pop video’. See if you can spot it. Answers at the bottom.
The song itself talks about the decline in societal standards including littering and graffiti. But sometimes, we see something daubed on a wall and it’s a positive message. So much better than the boring tags, however convoluted and multi-coloured they are.
It’s a bit more risky these days to walk on a golf course, but you never know what you’ll come across. I found a lawn mower behind a bank of trees. I assume the green-keeper left it there on purpose. There were no golfers around on this occasion, so I didn’t need my tin hat after all.
I walked along the river, a little beyond Simon’s Bridge and rather than retrace our stroll from a couple of weeks ago, I carried on as far as the beach. I was surprised that it was free of litter, very unusual around here, sadly. In Millgate Fields, there are ground-nesting birds apparently, but I didn’t see nor disturb any.
A few other people were out and about too, but I was surprised to see a couple with walking poles. The terrain around here isn’t that bad, really. I tried using walking poles once. Never again. Mobile trip hazards. I’m still not sure if this is the one and only local heron or if there are a few living at different places on the river. It would be nice to see more than one at a time, though!
And so we come to the most exciting day since March. We gathered up our passports and ventured outside and away from the local neighbourhood. Away from Northenden, further even than Didsbury. Our wonderful car started at the first attempt and we drove to Lyme Park for a walk. This, like all other National Trust properties has re-opened, but you have to book a time slot in advance.
The cafés are still closed and only one toilet is open, but that’s OK, we had a lovely walk, on hilly grass and, best of all, there weren’t many people, so it was easy to maintain social distancing.
Lyme Park mansion house itself is still closed too, so we had no excuse to not carry on walking.
The views from the top of the hill near The Cage were pretty good. We couldn’t work out whether the haze was mist or just air quality returning to pre-lockdown levels already.
The only wildlife we encountered were some cattle. We did see plenty of evidence of deer, sheep and rabbits, but they were all hiding in the trees and bushes because they’re not used to seeing people any more.
We had a good reason to venture into Cheadle too, one day, saving ourselves 40p as car parking fees have been suspended. While Liesel conducted her business, I walked around. I think the S4G guys were a bit concerned, but I wasn’t deliberately loitering near their van while they took millions of pounds in used fivers into the bank. The housewares shop should be cautioned for their misleading descriptions.
But the floral display in the High street is magnificent.
As I was walking home later on, I bumped into an old friend, well, old enemy. I think I’ve mentioned before that I lost my Thirty Year War with bindweed in our garden in Chessington. Well, it’s thriving well in some gardens near where we live, but I am so glad I don’t have to fight that battle any longer.
In local news, we learned that the Nat West bank, which has been closed for as long as we can remember, has been used as a cannabis farm. It’s in the middle of our main street.
And, just along the road from us, we think there was one of two drugs raids taking place in Northenden. And we found out why the local authorities aren’t bothered about all the vehicles that are parked on pavements.
The second exciting record release this week is Jessica Lee Morgan’s ‘Forthright’ album. It’s her fourth and, I think, her best so far. I can’t wait to see her live in concert again. Meanwhile, she’s been performing on YouTube, in a virtual world tour.
And in case you’re wondering, my bit of Anna’s video is at 22 seconds. It’s graffiti local to where we live in Northenden. ‘Live work consume die?’ Which nicely summarises just about everything!
PS a couple of people in real life have asked what podcasts we’re listening to. Well, I’ve started compiling a list right here, so please take a look. Over and out.
Even the wind hasn’t been enough to deter us from a lot of walking. Sometimes it’s a bus ride followed by a walk. I think it’s fair to say we’re not looking forward to going home to be greeted by Storm Jorge and its cold, wet and windy so-called weather. T-shirt, shorts and sandals are my dress code de jour here in Malta, and I can put up with the funny looks from the strange locals, no worries.
The walk to St George’s beach was interesting, through a largely residential area of St Julian’s. One of the main hobbies here seems to be standing around on street corners chatting and laughing or, at a pinch, sitting in a stationary car, maybe lurking, maybe waiting for someone.
By the sea, I watched a couple of men fishing. I guess they caught something because the cat was having a party all by himself.
I didn’t walk to the casino, visible in the distance, but I found the sea again round the corner. St George’s Bay is, I’m sure, a very popular beach in Summer, but today, the only men sunbathing were wearing their business suits.
Up the road and round the corner is a relatively new shopping centre and residential complex. This is the real centre of Paceville, but we don’t feel we’ve been missing out at all. There’s a Planet Hollywood and a Hard Rock Café not forgetting the obligatory Costa Coffee. Plus clubs, pubs and gambling dens.
There’s a Women’secret rather than a Victoria’s Secret, but, as far as I could tell from a cursory 20-minute long glance, they’re selling the same kind of wares. Underwares.
Some of the architecture is fun, and it’s a shame so many of the buildings look a bit tatty, either faded in the Sun, or covered in a thin layer of dust from all the building work taking place.
I was surprised the first time I saw cactuses growing here, just a week ago. But they’re all over the place. They’re prickly pears, imported from America, planted typically around fields to help reduce the force of the wind.
The local cinema has 17 screens, but none of them were showing a film that particularly appealed this week.
It was a pleasant jaunt and the walk back was much faster, unexpectedly. I followed the bus route and I’m glad I didn’t catch a bus for what would have been for just one or two stops.
After a good night’s sleep and a slow start, the next bus took us in a south-easterly direction, to a place called Xgħajra. It is purely residential, of no interest whatsoever, which is probably why it’s not mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide. So why did we go, then? Because once we got seats on the bus, we weren’t giving them up for anybody! Actually, the sea looked gorgeous here, not nice enough to want to swim in, but beautiful azure, lapis lazuli, a proper Mediterranean shade of blue.
Back in Valletta, we walked around attempting to keep the warmth of the Sun on our backs, it was heaven. Liesel asked how long it would take to walk back home from here? If we took the ferry, about 55 minutes, was the answer. If we don’t take the ferry, nearly an hour and a half.
So, we went for the ferry. Thanks, Google Maps, we missed a vital turning at first. It wasn’t obvious that we had to cross the road, walk round in a loop and then walk under the road we’d just been on. It’s so easy to forget that the world is actually 3D.
The single fare on the ferry was a mere €1.50. I suggested going back and forth several times as it’s so cheap, but the idea was vetoed.
The ferry ride was short and sweet and we took our time walking back home from Sliema, a route that is very familar to us now. But, of course, we still see things that we’ve not noticed before. Have you seen those fish, Mick? What fish? Those fish. Oh, those fish!
I thought for a minute we were in danger of seeing actual, real fish, in the sea!
By the diving school, I was impressed by the mural.
If only all ‘graffitti artists’ were this talented, then there wouldn’t be so many accusations of vandalism. Less than 100 metres along the shoreline, though, we came across this.
Well, maybe it’s funny in its own way, but we’re not in on this joke. It reminds me of the long-standing message daubed at Surbiton Station: ‘Foxes know’. Maybe both are secret messages between secret agents working secretly for secret organisations and we’re not supposed to know.
Gozo is a no-go. Yes, reluctantly, we decided not to visit Gozo on this occasion. We’re attempting to see as much of the main island as possible, but without feeling rushed or over-stretched. Anything we don’t see this time will still be here next time.
Unless of course, Malta does roll over into the Med. We found out today that due to local tectonics, Malta is rising in the west and sinking in the east. That’s why the cliffs at Dingli are so high and so interesting. It was a long bus ride there, but worth it. The views were lovely, and we even ate a decent lunch at a restauarnt called, by coincidence, The Cliffs, just near Dingli Cliffs.
Now we’ve found Maltese bread, we can’t get enough of it. And our lunch came with some today. My salad included quail’s eggs, something I’ve not eaten before. What are they like? Well, they taste like chicken’s eggs to me. The implication is, there are quails hereabouts. But we’ve not seen any birds other than pigeons and sparrows. Nice to see sparrows, yes, but it would be good to see something more exotic too. The sound of budgies came out of someone’s window, but it might as well have been a tape recorder.
It was good to be out in the country, too. We saw more vegetation today than we have the whole time we’ve been in Malta.
I don’t think I’m breaching any state secrets by posting this photo.
It’s probably a secret listening station, but whether owned by Malta, Italy, UK, USA or someone else, we don’t know. But combined with ‘My eggs’ from yesterday, I’m beginning to think Malta is Spy Central.
Imagine my disappointment when I found a sign claiming that this is a ‘Navigation Transmitting Site’. A likely story.
We approached the edge of the cliff, but not as close as Jyoti would have ventured!
Teetering right on the edge of Dingli Cliffs is this cute little chapel, the Church of St Mary Magdalen.
Nearby was a stall selling Maltese coffee. Yes, of course I was tempted, but I’d had two coffees already by this point. Plus, if it’s anything like Turkish coffee that you can stand a spoon up in, I don’t think we’d get along very well. Thanks for the offer, though.
Yes, until today, we were beginning to feel that the whole of Malta is just one big city, one huge building site, so it was nice to see some greenery. In fact, as well as the pretty flowers, we saw not only our first butterflies in Malta, but also our first wasps. We saw a beetle. We saw a really big butterfly that was in fact a kite being flown by someone who we couldn’t see. And we saw a herd of goats and sheep just wandering along the road, with no concern for the honking drivers.
I knew it was the day but I missed it by less than a minute! Yes, today, I took my 500,000th step since I started using a Pedometer rather than the Fitbit Zip that was eating batteries like Smarties.
Training for my walking challenge next month is going very well, thanks for asking.
I’m aiming to walk at least 10,000 steps every day in March, come hell or high water or Storm Jorge. Please, if you can, help me raise some money for Cancer Research, just follow this link, please, thank you, thank you, thank you!
The bus ride home was long and relaxing and allowed plenty of time for the mind to wander. All the buses here display their route number at the front, along with the name of the next bus stop. I asked Liesel if there was a bus route 66 at all. Why? Because I want to get my kicks there.
Most of the drivers have been friendly, although many of them seem to be in a great hurry all the time. But if they see someone running for the bus, they will wait and open the door for them: something Manchester bus drivers could learn to do.
We’ve experienced a few clouds of cigarette smoke here, but it’s not been as offensive as in Paris a couple of years ago. There, it was almost compulsory to walk through a smoke-filled tent before you could get into a restaurant. Here in Malta, you’re just unlucky if the wind gusts the wrong way.
It is a remarkably multicultural, multi-ethnic place. We’ve heard 101 different languages spoken, some recognisable, some not, we’ve seen people from all around the world, visitors like us of course, students as well as locals and workers from all around Europe. We’ve never felt threatened nor in danger here. We’ve heard police sirens just a few times in the time we’ve been here whereas we’re used to hearing several each day at home in Northenden.
We arrived at our ‘hood, alighted the bus for the walk to Wok to Walk where we ate, and on the way we home, we bought another loaf of Maltese bread which, alas, we’ll have to consume all in one day!
We are currently experiencing an exceptional call load at the moment. We are currently experiencing an extremely high call level at the moment. We are currently experiencing a higher than usual number of calls at the moment. Sentences guaranteed to put you in a good mood for when you do finally speak to an actual person, and not just because of the tautology. I did that sort of job for a mere three months and it wasn’t a lot of fun, apart from the one-hour bike ride to work each way, every day. So I always try to be polite and friendly and throw in a joke or two: you can be cross with an organisation but whatever it is, it’s not the call centre’s underpaid staff’s fault.
But on this occasion, I wasn’t making a complaint, just trying to address something that I couldn’t do online. Imagine my delight when after a minute or so of these annoying messages, I was given the option of leaving my phone number, I’d retain my place in the queue and they’d call me back. They did so after about another ten minutes. All sorted. Well done Transport for London, problem resolved. Sadly, my punishment for moving away from London is that I’ll no longer be able to use my Senior Oystercard. So that’s that, then.
We visited Manchester Central Library. I wandered round aimlessly, still surprised and delighted by just how much is available here, not just books but displays and computers. In the music section, there were two young chaps playing on keyboards. Hang on, this is a library: shhh! But no, what a great place. Liesel attended a meeting where she was introduced to the world of volunteering in Manchester. Plenty of opportunities here. I walked over to the Arndale where I found Bagel Nash and succumbed to the temptation of a bagel and a coffee.
It’s the Chinese New Year, now the year of the rat.
Jenny brought William round for our childminding day: he likes playing at our place and when we tried to go out, he didn’t want to leave. Until, that is, Liesel suggested going for a drive. William took this to mean, he’d do the driving.
He needed help to reach the pedals but rejoiced in telling us he was turning right. And then right. Liesel took over the driving duties and William fell asleep within a couple of minutes, in his seat in the back. When he woke up, we found ourselves at Dunham Massey.
There’s a small adventure playground here, the Log Pile. While William pushed up the last few zzzz, I wandered over to see what it was like. Well, it was damp of course, the logs were a bit slippery, and I think it’s probably for slightly older, taller children. That’s that, then.
Sadly, someone has left their friends behind.
We had a pleasant walk around the gardens. Some Spring flowers are poking through, but there’s a lot of work going on in the gardens: it’ll be fabulous later in the year when it’s in fuller bloom.
Yes, it does lift the spirits to see so much colour on display. The days are lengthening by 3 minutes a day or so.
William was delighted to find a Big Hole in the lawn. It was roped off, he walked all around it but, unusually for him, he didn’t duck under the tape.
Obviously, this being a country park, with trees and everything, there are plenty of sticks lying around. William likes sticks. he likes picking them up. He likes throwing them into bushes and into streams. If there’s ever a job for a stick distributor and organiser, William’s your boy.
So, here we are, January 31st 2020. A black day in British history. The UK’s final day as a member of the European Union, after 47 years. I’m still waiting for someone to explain the benefits of leaving the EU, not the blue passports (which we could have had anyway), not more immigration control (that our government could have implemented anyway), but something tangibly better, more beneficial. Sorry, William and Martha, your potential futures have been substantially curtailed. That’s that, then.
It was nice to see the children on their last day as European citizens. Jenny and Liam had other plans. So Martha and William decorated pizzas, ate them, then had a bath. They went home, dressed in their PJs and presumably, went straight to bed.
The wind was loud and intimidating, so Liesel drove to Disbury. I walked but came home with Liesel in the car.
Swimming was fun, lots of splashing: nearly as much as we’d experienced when they were in our bath a couple of days ago!
Every bloke who has an ultrasound scan probably wants to ask the nurse whether it’s going to be twins. But I resisted. My scan, offered to all men at about my age, is to check for a possible developing abdominal aortic aneurysm. A large bulge in the aorta is bad. A slight bulge and they’ll keep an eye on it. No bulge at all, and you should never have to worry about this potentially fatal condition again. And I’m pleased to say I am the proud owner of a perfectly straight, perfectly round, 1.6cm wide drainpipe of an aorta. I didn’t get a picture but I’ll never forget what it looked like. That’s that, then.
At this month’s meeting of U3A, I signed up to join some groups, including a couple well outside my comfort zone. Let’s see how I get on!
And if you think this is a load of old rubbish, just look at this.
Too many people chucking their rubbish out of cars as they wait at traffic lights: this is where you need CCTV!