On the Beach

Those meteorologists don’t know what they’re talking about. First, they say Friday is the hottest day of the year so far. Then they say Saturday is the hottest day of the year so far. Well, which is it? Certainly we’ve had a few incredibly hot days this week, not quite 30° here in Northenden, but hot enough. I refuse to say it’s ‘too hot’, just because it’s warmer than we’re used to, but admittedly, it is challenging. We’ve had to dig out the fans at home and blow the dust off. Actually, the fans could have just blown the dust off each other, I suppose.

We found ourselves walking in the shade of the woods a lot this week. Even the birds seemed more hot and bothered, and subdued, than usual. But the fairies have been busy.

More doors

The Rorschach Test at the top is new (to me) and my first thought was that it resembled two bottoms looking at each other in the room behind the window.

I know it wasn’t scheduled but I took this photo of this week’s transit of Venus.

Transit

What’s that? You don’t think it’s real? OK, it’s the straw through which I slurped my first mango smoothie of the season. While at Boxx 2 Boxx I bumped into Dan the choirmaster again. It didn’t cost tuppence to talk to him, even though he did recently meet the actual Queen when his Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus performed for Her Majesty recently.

St Hilda and St Aidan

Here are St Hilda and St Aidan, patrons of our local Catholic church here in Northenden. Now I know I’ve been out in the Sun a lot recently, but look over St Aidan’s right shoulder. Up in the corner of the picture. Is that really the hand of God holding a cigarette?

Something was a-tugging at my toes. In my early morning torpor, I thought I was being woken up to go for a local walk while it was still relatively cool outside. But no. Liesel took me to the seaside instead. We were on the beach at Formby by 9.30, well before most people arrived. The tide was high so it wasn’t too far to go for a paddle. The very slight breeze was refreshing and we shared the beach with, literally, hundreds of jellyfish. It’s sad to see so many stranded like that. The dead seal made us wonder whether there had been an ‘incident’ at sea. Maybe some toxic effluent had ‘accidentally’ been released again. I hope not.

Selfie of the day
Jelly of the day
Skelly of the day
Spot the difference

Sadly, there was a lot of litter on the beach today, hundreds of people have enjoyed their days out and their picnics and they’ve left the evidence. Our litter-picking kit was at home, otherwise we might have done something about it.

Bathing cap
Sea urchin
Beach ball

We saw some ferries heading for Dublin and/or Douglas and we agreed that one day, we’d visit those places too. One of them was Stena Sealink. I got the look from Liesel when I told her that some of their ships operate just for women. Really? Yes, Stena Lady.

Again, we heard what sounded like gunfire from the beach. We concluded it must be bird scarers, there was no other explanation for the random distribution of shots. On the way home, we saw the sign for Altcar Rifle Range. Aha! Although, at times, it sounded more like Altcar Machine Gun Range.

We walked a long way today, along the beach, up and down to the water. Many more people were on the beach by the time we left. But the good news is, a proper toilet block has been built in the car park.

Back in Northenden, we enjoyed watching strange people out and about in the heatwave. There was a group of ladies doing exercises under a motorway bridge, tai chi or pilates, or maybe just gentle exercise. They were all in the shade of the bridge, apart from one perspiring glowing in the full glare of the Sun. I felt sorry for the dogs being taken out in the middle of the day, hot pavement, no socks or ice packs on their paws.

A couple of men were making signs at each other along the street, prompting us to wonder which house they were about to break into. More likely to be a drug deal, though, to be fair. We saw blokes wearing nothing on top and we saw people wearing thick anoraks. The runners looked even more miserable than usual and I thought, well, you could always stop for a minute. All carefully observed by us two mad dogs out in the midday Sun.

In the river, we spotted a supermarket trolley, a road cone and a chair all in one small stretch beyond Simon’s Bridge. And people were letting their dogs jump in to retrieve thrown balls.

We also saw people, humans, in the river, near the island. Swimming is understandable, but jumping in? Like the warning sign says, you don’t know what’s lurking beneath: sharp rocks, sharks, shopping trolleys.

We saw the heron most days but once, we saw an exotic white bird in the middle of the river. It was a great bustard. Well, I think that’s what I called it as it took flight before I even got my camera out. An utter, utter bustard. I was lucky enough to shoot some ducklings however.

Ducks

Even this lovely family are swimming away from me and my camera. Lots of DAs on show.

In medical news, I am still finding new bite marks from the midges in Scotland. I mean, the marks are on my skin, the bites were acquired in Scotland: stop confusing me. They’re different from, for example, the spider that got me on the back of my elbow this week. A different quality of itchy irritation.

The radio show this week was mostly songs in which the singer or band namechecks themselves. I had a chat with Chantel from Thrive Manchester, whom we met on the well-being walk last week, and she picked a couple of bangers for the show too. Here it is, if you want to listen back.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics have started and we sat through the Opening Ceremony. The end was better than the start, in case you haven’t watched yet. We’re looking forward to seeing some different sports and I have had to promise my sister that I won’t whinge about the BBC’s presentation for the whole two weeks. What they did to the Men’s Cycling Road Race this morning was diabolical. Cutting away at an exciting time to interview someone who was watching from home? Interrupting to show a glimpse of a different sport? Having to switch from one channel to another several times? Oops, sorry, Sis.

Smoo Cave

After posting yesterday’s edition, we broke into the bottle of whisky bought a few days ago at Glenmorangie Distillery. Very smooth and a good way to end the day. Only it wasn’t really the end of the day at all, oh no. I wanted to see the Sun set over the ocean which was about 10.30.

Rabbits

We had a couple of visitors late at night. They weren’t at all disruptive or noisy. In fact I think they were more surprised to see me than I was to see them. They weren’t bothered about the sunset though. Which was, to be honest, not as spectacular as I’d hoped. But the clouds looked pretty.

Clouds at sunset

Waking up at 2.00 am, I was surprised at how light it still was. There’s a nearly full Moon but this light is from the Sun barely dipping below the horizon.

3½ hours after Sunset, 2 hours before Sunrise

Unfortunately my internal body clock failed to wake me up on this occasion, so I missed the Sunrise by at least half an hour. Oh well, there’ll be another one tomorrow.

Liesel crocheted and I gazed at a Sudoku while we listened to the radio: Broadcasting House on Radio 4, the only news show we deliberately choose to listen to, then Cerys Matthews on BBC 6 Music. At noon, we watched Jessica Lee Morgan on YouTube singing the songs from Mary Hopkin and Morgan Visconti’s 10-year old album You Look Familiar, and very enjoyable that was too. Here’s a gripe. On my PC, I can leave YouTube playing and do other things at the same time. If I dare try and look at something else while YouTube’s playing on my phone, it just stops. It demands 100% of my attention.

In today’s unbelievable news, we can confirm that yesterday, Liesel managed to get sunburnt. It was pleasant outside on the beach, not too hot. The UV levels were low, apparently. But Liesel’s shoulders are radiating their own heat. Take care out there, folks.

Puffin

This puffin is coming home with us.

I went for a bit of a walk this afternoon, just a solo jaunt on this occasion. In the craft village, there’s the Durness Deep Time exhibition explaining the local geology and displaying the various rocks found locally and the minerals they’re composed of. There’s way too much information to absorb in a quick visit, but the subject is always fascinating.

Deep Time rocks

In the opposite direction from our temporary home is the bustling metropolis known as Durness.

Durness Visitor Facilities

I was glad to be reminded about Smoo Cave: Liesel and I talked about it a few days ago. I sent a message but Liesel declined the invitation to join me. I passed another lovely beach, but resisted the temptation to go down and investigate. My mind was now focussed on finding a cave.

Sangomore Beach
The sheep that thinks it’s a cat
Durness Millennium Cairn

There’s a lovely garden next to Durness Village Hall. It was put together by 40 local volunteers. One of the highlights is the John Lennon Memorial.

John Lennon Memorial

John used to come to Durness on holiday between the ages of 9 and 16, staying with his aunt, whose grave we saw yesterday, and cousin Stan Parkes. The gorgeous song In My Life is partly inspired by John’s memories of this place, according to Stan.

Durness Village Green

The first sighting of Smoo Cave certainly surprises you, such a deep cleft in the rock. It’s easy to see that the cave may be inundated with sea water from time to time.

Entrance to Smoo Cave

I walked down the steep wooden staircase to sea level and then, looking back, away from the sea, there is the 50-foot high entrance to the cave.

Smoo Cave

We can go on a tour of more chambers in the cave, for a fee, but, because they’re in a cave, they can’t get a phone signal, so electronic payments are out of the question. And, of course, I had no cash on me. Whether Liesel and I come back tomorrow for the tour is to be determined.

One of the illuminated features

The cave has been inhabited in bygone millennia, but I’m sure any artefacts will have been taken away by now, to ensure their security.

I walked back up the 76 steps, which was harder that you’d imagine because the rise for each step is slightly higher than you’d normally expect. I pretended to study the back of thie sign while catching my breath.

Stickers

What’s sad about this is that the stickers we ordered hadn’t come back from the printers by the time we left home. ‘Mick and Liesel’s Antics: NC500 Tour June 2021’ could have been plastered all over Scotland by now. Oh well.

The walk back to our hut was of course much faster, despite the fact that I ended up walking through the caravan park. Here’s another house where the occupants have a strange set of priorities.

Airbnb at its best

I’ve come intae some money, hen, shall I get a new roof and some windaes?

Och, no, I’d rather have a satellite dish.

When I returned home, today’s stage of the Tour de France was about to finish. Somehow, I didn’t nod off until it had finished. No, I waited until Amy Lamé was playing some good tunes from past Glastonbury Festivals!

Here’s another moan from grumpy old Mick. I rarely imbibe soft, fizzy drinks: maybe once a year. Sometimes I’ll have lime and lemonade or maybe shandy in a pub, but that’s pretty rare too. Yet here I am in Scotland and I got the urge to sample the locally produced delicacy Irn Bru. So I put my mask on and entered the local Spar supermarket in Durness. I found bottles of Irn Bru rather than cans, but that’s ok. How much? £1.45 a bottle. How much? £1.45 a bottle. Or two bottles for £1.60. What a rip-off. Irn Bru might be made from girders but I’m not made of money, my internal, parental voice said. So I left the shop without a refreshing beverage and I didn’t buy anything else either. The tap water I drank back at the hut was perfect.

Driving Rain

This weeks events, or lack thereof, were largely governed by the amount of rain we enjoyed. Well, obviously, not ‘enjoyed’. The word is more like ‘endured’. I try not to let bad weather get to me too much, but at the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, my brain was feeling the strain.

We paid a quick visit to Cheadle Hulme where we stood around Jenny’s garden in the rain for a while.

Where’s William, in the rain?

We played hide and seek making good use of the only three places we could hide in. Squatting on my haunches in the play-house put too much strain on these aged knees. But sitting on the soggy terrain is no good for other parts of the anatomy.

In the evening, I watched Wall to Wall Bowie online, marking the release of Janette Mason’s new single, Fame, featuring David McAlmont on vocals. He’s a very interesting chap. Sarah saw him perform with Bernard Butler in the late ’90s, somewhere in north London, when their song Yes was a big hit. Miles and Lynne were also in the online audience. Lynne asked if I was Mick the Postman. Yes, but retired, I told them. Oh, you’ll always be Mick the Postman to us! Janette asked how we knew each other. Miles couldn’t restrain himself from telling everyone about how he worked at GLR, and I was its most loyal listener. Recognition, at last! And, aptly, a modicum of fame.

Wall to Wall Bowie with Janette, Mick, David Mcalmont and Miles, out of the rain

You’re wondering why you can’t see my fizzog? I was using my own PC for the Zoom call, and it has no webcam. Any day now, I am going to buy myself a brand new laptop computer. I’ve been saying that for 18 months now, so don’t hold your breath.

In between showers, we had a quick walk around Northenden. Unusually, the heron was on our side of the weir.

Heron in the rain

Of course, as soon as I took a couple more steps closer, it took off. As if I don’t have enough photos of animals running off and birds flying away.

Heron in flight, in the rain

Kenworthy Lane Woods were a bit muddier than we’d anticipated, but there was far less litter than usual, which was nice.

Wild garlic in the rain

Liesel thinks this is wild garlic, but we refrained from picking any, just in case it was something else.

Monday was, unbelievably, the 20th anniversary of Sarah’s passing.

RIP Sarah, out of the rain

How did I mark the occasion? I went for a walk, in the rain, and picked some litter, in the rain. It was also the first day we were allowed to sit inside coffee shops, as things slowly open up.

Blackboard, in the rain

So I sat inside Boxx 2 Boxx and watched the torrential rain for a while. I had a nice chat with Dan, the choirmaster and sometime fellow Radio Northenden presenter, and with Jill and Shelly, the proprietors. Jill, by her own admission, isn’t yet very good at drawing a nice picture on top of a frothy latté!

Coffee inside, out of the rain

Liesel and I thought we’d go for a walk in a different place, just for a change. The Trans Pennine Trail at Reddish Vale is a nice rhyme, but it’s probably not somewhere we’ll return to. Far too many dog-walkers with their charges and their charges’ discharges. Lots of it on the path, and plenty more in bags and just left behind. If only there were proper training for dog owners and professional dog walkers.

No hunting, in the rain

I don’t know what we were expecting, to be honest, but we certainly didn’t anticipate this being a hunting venue. Rabbits and magpies, maybe?   

Harrison’s Weir, in the rain

As far as we’re concerned, this is a waterfall, but known locally as Harrison’s Weir. You can walk across the river a bit further downstream, if you don’t mind getting wet trainers. This is known as Harrison’s Ford.

Trees as far as the eye can see, in the rain

It’s lovely to see so many newly planted trees here in Reddish Vale Country Park, a rain forest of the future maybe.

My brain has been complaining about the lack of daylight. So it was time to visit the barber and have my hair cut. This was my first visit to the barbershop for eight months. I’ve enjoyed a pony tail for a couple of weeks, but it’s time for a change of style. And a tidy up. Another indoor venue, but I felt OK, and I think being vaccinated against Covid certainly helps. Sadly, when I’m out, I usually can’t refrain from visiting a coffee shop. I think that’s as close as I get to an addiction.

Hairs, out of the rain

As usual, as I walked along the damp, soggy, wet pavements of Northenden, I noticed just how bad the drainage is. Just put the drains where the puddles form, that would be my advice. But I am just a bystander, waiting to be splashed when the next vehicle goes by.

Driving to a National Trust venue that is new to us, we spotted a Möbius strip. Not a real one, just a logo on the back of a van.

Möbius strip , in the rain

I probably spent too much time trying to see whether it was a one- or a two-sided strip, when I should have been helping with the navigation. It’s still not 100% clear, is it? Even when you waste time looking at their website, it’s ambiguous. 

The rain it rained harder and harder as we approached Hare Hill. It eased off slightly, we had raincoats, we had waterproof trainers, so we decided to walk around this place, despite the weather.

Mick: If it’s too bad, we can always sit inside the coffee shop instead.
Liesel: There is no coffee shop here.
Mick: No coffee shop? What’s the point of the place then?

Hares, in the rain

It was a nice, quiet place, with a one-way system in place, and very few other visitors. Our walk was shorter than many National Trust sites, and I’m sure we’ll return, maybe with a picnic, when the weather’s less rainy.

But the displays of colour are very uplifting.

Pinky purple, in the rain
Yellowy green, in the rain
Iris, in the rain

Looking at the low clouds, almost mist, I remarked that if the Sun were out, we might see a rainbow. Trying to look on the bright side.

We sat in a bower, sheltered from the rain, waiting for it to ease. It didn’t. As we were leaving, Bob, the National Trust guy, engaged me in conversation about what I was wearing. Shorts. It’s nearly the end of May, I should be able to wear shorts and show off my tanned lallies by now, but no, when I look down, my Dad’s voice comes into my head: ‘That reminds me, I must get two pints of milk on the way home’.

We’ve booked a couple of trips for later in the year. Going by train? No, neither of us is comfortable with travel by train, yet.

I dedicated my radio show this week to Sarah, playing some music that means or meant a lot to us. I don’t think I could have done such a thing before, but now, yes, it’s still emotional, but I was able to cope, and I think there were just a couple of slips of the tongue. Oh, and I was also caught singing along a couple of times, when I forgot to mute the microphone. You can listen to the show here.

Thank you for your continued support, reading this blog, and here’s something we’ve never done before. Please consider buying us a cup of coffee.

Not necessarily for coffee, but to help pay for this very blog: we might have to move up to the next payment level soon and any help would be much appreciated, thank you.  It’s rewarding knowing you’re there, but we’ve been brainstorming how to make this thing sort of pay for itself.

Over 24 hours of continuous, torrential rain has resulted in the level of our River Mersey rising by over half a metre. Time to get the rainproof wellies out again, soon. Did I mention it rained a lot this week?

Farewell Facebook

In the last couple of weeks, Liesel has thrown in the Facebook towel. While she didn’t whinge and moan about the platform as much as I used to, she too has decided it’s outlived its usefulness. One recent event in particular didn’t help. A message received, apparently from a friend, contained a dodgy link. When Liesel clicked on it, it sent the same dodgy link to all her friends on Facebook. Surely a platform as big and popular as Facebook should have some basic checking of these messages? If it can filter out the slightest hint of a naked body, we know the technology exists. Fortunately, no damage seems to have been caused by the virus, other than annoyance and embrrassment, but it doesn’t instil confidence in Facebook.

I left Facebook nearly two years ago now and I have no regrets. Yes, I continue to miss some of the people and some of the groups, and I’m sure Liesel will too. But I don’t think she’ll miss the overall experience much . When most of the local news is crime-related, it does nothing to make us feel safe.

And yes, there are some events and concerts that only take place on Facebook, and we’ll miss those. But organisers should be aware that while many people still use it, quite a lot of us don’t.

Over the last month or so, a few people have casually asked whether I’ll ever re-join Facebook? Well, never say ‘never’, but it’s highly unlikely. Whenever Facebook turns up in the news, I invariably come away with a feeling of, ‘thank goodness I got out of that when I did.’ Similar to the way I feel whenever a negative story about the meat production industry appears. Thank goodness I stopped eating meat thirty years ago and don’t have to make that decision now.

No, I’ve seen nothing new about Facebook that is tempting me back. I came across an essay I wrote soon after I left. I suspect there are even more ‘features’ and bugs to whinge about now.

This is what I wrote in July 2019:

Why I decided to leave Facebook

After being a member of the Facebook community for an unlucky 13 years, it was time to move on. I certainly can’t compare the experience with that of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave, but at times, I resented being trapped, being almost forced to waste so much time on such a fruitless enterprise while my data was making stacks of money for other people.

Facebook has been fun at times, informative and useful. Most of my Facebook friends are friends in real life too: there are only a couple whom I know solely through this online medium.

But, there were many, many times when I felt so frustrated by the platform that I thought about leaving, and even threatened to once or twice in public. There were many final straws over the years. But the real, final, final straw was one day a couple of weeks ago when I was seeing one advert for every post from a friend or message from one of the groups to which I’d signed up.

Looking back over thirteen years of my own Facebook posts, I realise there is one common, perpetual thread. I have had a moan and a whinge about Facebook on numerous occasions. It just doesn’t do what I would expect it to. Yes, it works for Mark Zuckerberg, making him lots of money and it’s ‘free’ to use so why do I have the right to complain? Because it’s sold and portrayed as being a wonderful community, a way to bring people closer together, to keep people in touch with each other, to share ideas in groups with other like-minded people.

Here’s an early ‘Note’ that I made. What makes a Note different from a Post is still beyond my understanding.

Hahaha just going through my emails and found this one: Hi Mick, You haven’t been on Facebook for a few days, and a lot happened while you were away. 3 notifications Mary, Ian, Jon and 4 other friends have posted statuses, photos and more on Facebook. Go to Facebook: See all notifications

But, Dear Facebook, I can’t see all of these messages because you’ve decided what’s relevant and what isn’t. I shouldn’t have to go through all of my Friends and tell you that I wish to see ‘All’ of their Updates rather than ‘Most Updates’ or ‘Only Important’. Facebook philosophy: if it ain’t broke, break it. (2/9/11)

Yes, one of the things that annoyed me very quickly was that out of all my friends’ posts, I would only see a small subset, selected by Facebook. If I wanted to see everything someone else wrote, I had to visit their individual page. Facebook could never understand that if I felt overwhelmed by the amount of information being presented, it was my problem, to deal with in my own way. But I don’t think that’s the issue at all. They just like to exercise control. After all, there seems to be no limit to the amount of advertising I have to scroll through. Maybe they just want to make the ads more prominent by reducing the amount of what they think of as ‘background noise’.

Facebook says “Top comments is selected, so some comments may have been filtered out.”

I would like to see them all, please, then I can decide what I think the top comments is. (17/4/18)

I accept that adverts are how they make their money, and that’s how the service can be ‘free’ at the point of use. But why do they pretend the adverts are targeted? That I’ll only see those that are of interest to me?

Yes, Facebook, I really really DO want to hide EVERYTHING from Ray Ban bloody sunglasses. Really. (1/6/14)

It’s been an ongoing battle trying to make Facebook more user-friendly, so, as they requested, I passed on some of my thoughts. To no avail.

Good old Facebook (an on-going rant, I know). On the left-hand side, under ‘Messages’ there’s an ‘Other’ button. It contains dozens of messages that I never saw when they might have been of some interest. They’re well out of date now. Research shows that Facebook puts messages there from people I’m not ‘friends’ with. Such as from my daughter who was probably Friend number 1. FB. It can stand for ‘Facebook’, ‘Full of Bugs’, or ‘██████ up Beyond all usefulness’. (30/9/12)

Got to love Facebook: the more you complain about their ‘Suggested Posts’ (adverts, often verging on the fraudulent), the more they send you. (9/2/16)

Yes, Ok, let there be adverts. But why are they so irrelevant? And bad?

“The Best Gift You’ve Never Heard Of” – you might want to change that strap line since I see your advert on Facebook nearly every damn day! (1/9/17)

No software is 100% perfect. And something like Facebook doesn’t stand a chance.

<a href=”evalInSandbox:Error: Permission denied for evalInSandbox:Error: Permission denied for <https://facebook.com/&gt; to create wrapper for object of class UnnamedClass
I beg your pardon? Not another Facebook bug, surely? (9/7/13)

And it’s not just bugs. They’ve introduced many ‘features’ that just don’t work properly or, if they do, are just plain annoying. I’m not alone in thinking Facebook was turning into bloatware and some people even tried to address the issue. An add-on initially named ‘Better Facebook’ helped tidy up the screen but, because Facebook changes its underlying code to ‘improve’ its software at least weekly, it was very difficult for this one part-time guy to keep up. Then the Facebook lawyers came along and forced him to change his software’s name anyway.

http://socialfixer.com/blog/2013/06/21/4-reasons-why-facebooks-user-interface-is-a-nightmare/

Reassuring to note that it’s not just me who thinks Facebook is a PITA these days. (21/6/13)

Full of bugs, did I say?

Holy moly, I’m locked in. Can’t log out of Facebook. Oh well, ‘Close tab’ it is. (6/8/12)

That ‘recent activity’ of mine: ‘Mick liked St John Ambulance’? It’s a lie. I wasn’t even online 30 minutes ago. I was watching Doctor Who. Facebook really is pants. (Nothing against St John Ambulance, by the way.) (22/9/12)

Good old Facebook. It’s now repeating items in the Newsfeed as I scroll down. So, Suzanne’s watched a YouTube video several times and Marko has several painful shoulders. And Baylen keeps talking about Madonna. (17/7/12)

It tried hard to be my friend, reacting to my interests and concerns. But even here, I just don’t understand why it would send me some football news and trivia when I have never shown any interest in the sport and probably only mentioned it a couple of times in passing. Unexpected pun there.

Apparently West Ham have beaten Liverpool at Anfield for the first time since September 1963! And if my Facebook feed is to be believed, nothing else happened today! (29/8/15)

It used to notice when I disappeared for a few days, or even a few minutes, and it tried to bring me up to date with lots of stuff of no interest to me.

Facebook sent an email saying:
A lot has happened on Facebook since you last logged in. Here are some notifications you’ve missed from your friends.
There are zero notifications from my friends. I only logged in 5 minutes ago. And with 1.5 billion users, I’m sure a lot has happened, but 99.99999% is of no interest to me, thanks! Just as this status is of no interest to anyone but me. (23/8/15)

Another recent complaint of mine:

Last week, Facebook was giving me one ad for every other post. (20/1/19)

Earlier today, it accused me of ticking the box that said Facebook could track my location, even when I’m not using Facebook. No I didn’t. It might be your default setting but if asked, I would never have said that was ok. Go to settings and check everything, they’re sneaky bastards. (13/4/19)

Dear Facebook, I ticked all the boxes telling you not to follow me, look at my location, track my movements. Yet you still suggest restaurants near to me wherever I am. Just stop lying about any concerns you have for my privacy. Apart from anything else, it’s Sunday and most of them are closed. Useless piece of crapp. (2/6/19)

In response to other peoples’ problems, I responded with my own tuppence-worth.

Facebook is full of bugs, each update fixes some and introduces new ones. That’s why we love it so much… (9/9/14)

To be honest, I find most Facebook ‘features’ a PITR but I’m not allowed to whinge about it any more! (27/11/17)

No, that didn’t stop me whingeing of course, although it may have slowed down the flow. Slightly. I tried to help fellow users when they had something negative to say.

I use Social Fixer. It fixes a lot of Facebook’s ‘features’, but it can’t do anything about the different subsets of posts that appear on different devices. Worth what we pay for it, I guess. (29/12/15)

This one’s almost prophetic.

There’s a very thick book waiting to be written about the ways in which Facebook manages to pis people off. So glad it’s free. Worth what we pay for it. (8/2/16)

Well, if not a thick book, this might well become a very long blog post. And what an embarrassing typo that was. More of my profound responses:

Yep, totally agree. Especially annoying when you’re seeing stuff that you don’t want, while other posts from people that you would love to see never appear due to Facebook’s ‘I know best’ algorithms. Grrr. (25/2/16)

Yes: also can’t post photos to other groups… it amazes me how Facebook can come up with a new bug every week… (12/4/17)

Don’t think so! But I have noticed a couple of other groups I appear to have dropped out of, so I’m leaning towards the Facebook bug theory (16/4/17)

It’s likely to be a Facebook problem: they release ‘upgrades’ every Tuesday. (28/2/19)

Sorry I can’t help. My GLW rolls her eyes every time I moan about Facebook’s bugs, inadequacies, inconsistencies. Sadly I have had to disable Social Fixer because that was screwing things up too. Still, it’s worth what we pay for it … (2/6/17)

There are so many ‘privacy options’ now, but I don’t trust them. I’m fairly confident with these internetty type things but if, say, I’ve not, in fact, ticked all the boxes to say ‘Don’t track my location’ and all its variants, then how is a less computer literate person going to get it right? I think they’ve been forced to make a show of concern for our privacy, but either they’re deliberately misleading us, or their algorithms just don’t work. As I mentioned before, if, as required and requested, it’s not tracking my location, how can it possibly suggest ‘nearby’ restaurants that I might be interested in?

There has been a lot in the news over the last few years about ‘fake news and the role that ‘social media’ plays in its promulgation. In November, 2018. I was asked whether I was voting in the General Election. My response?

Go away Facebook. It’s not the 2018 General Election. I’m not American so I can’t vote, anyway. I’m not even in America so I couldn’t vote even if I were allowed to. Which I’m not. But apart from that, congratulations on your political astuteness and your targetting algorithms. (11/18)

Why was I bothered about the location thing anyway? Because Facebook kept giving me duff information based on the wrong location.

Facebook hasn’t any idea where I am yet it keeps alerting me that friends are nearby when they’re really not! (28/3/13)

Buy and sell groups near you
Dagenham, Barking, Romford Selling & Advertising
16,564 members
No it ain’t, Facebook, it’s nowhere near me. Just stop it. (2/8/17)

This particular bugbear hasn’t bugged this particular bear for the whole time, though.

Since when did Facebook start telling me where it thinks I am? (4/12/16)

I think the first time was when it suggested, at a very early hour on a Sunday, that I was at the nearby boxing gym. I was still in bed at home.

Facebook has plenty of other things to comment on too. It spent a lot of time inveigling itself into my life.

Facebook keeps nagging me to wish you a belated happy birthday. So. Happy belated bleedin’ birthday, Pauline. (Alright, Facebook? You interfering festering pile of bloatware.) (8/11/16)

Just another example of it doing stuff I don’t need it to, when I would prefer it to just show me my friends’ posts.

It’s been a long time since I even thought about this feature. Now I’m no longer a member, I can’t check whether it’s still a thing.

OMFG (as the young people might say) Facebook comes up with another winning idea: couples’ pages eg https://www.facebook.com/adam?and=eve (15/11/12)

Another daft idea:

Sorry Facebook but I won’t be paying so that my nonsense can be read by more of my friends and subscribers. But if it’s this earth-shattering, I might reconsider: http://www.messengernewspapers.co.uk/news/whereyoulive/timperleynews/9960209.Saucepan_fire_in_Timperley/?ref=mr (4/10/12)

Sometimes, other people’s comments chimed with my own thoughts.

Blimey, wish I knew how to find my way back to the old facebook layout. Not that I ever seem to have the time to use it much! (19/9/11)

I think I promised a while ago to stop whingeing about Facebook’s bugs and ‘features’ that mean I don’t get to see everything I’d like to. Well, I am not alone: read this exchange between George Takei and a Facebook spokesman… and especially the comments that follow. https://www.facebook.com/georgehtakei/posts/475040805858711
I know, I know, Facebook is worth exactly what I pay for it, but it could be so much better. (14/6/12)

I blocked them too. Wish Facebook could do something but “freedom of speech” bla bla (17/6/16)

So, even in the early days, Facebook was changing things unnecessarily and annoying people. I’ve finally bitten the bullet and deserted a ship that is, surprisingly, not yet sinking. It’s been a long, long process of attrition. Sometimes I went literally minutes without having a whinge and a moan about Facebook.

Remember when you had to type a post into a box preceded by your own name? How quaint!

…is going to try “The New Facebook” … Whooppeeeee…. (6/8/8)

…can’t find anything on this dog’s dinner of a new facebook (15/9/8)

…is an old fart of a technophobic luddite and so is happy to have found a way back to the old facebook layout! (17/9/8)

…can’t send message in Facebook . I’ll respond to your messages just as soon as Facebook works again. Grrr. (1/11/8)

Publisher? Box? Wall? Posts? Streams? What’s on my mind? It’s a lovely sunny day and I’m sitting indoors fighting Facebook… (16/3/9)

…wants to know how he can possibly ‘Like’ everyone’s Status when he hasn’t even been on Facebook for nearly 24 hours. (1/5/9)

…is glad Facebook fixed the bug whereby I like every status. Now they just need to fix all the other bugs. (1/5/9)

Now I can have a username for my Facebook Profile. So it says. Only I can’t. It’s been “Checking Availability” for a million years and it still won’t give me my username. (20/6/9)

Why does Facebook keep telling me there are several new posts and then give me the same ones again? And again. And again. (15/7/9)

My Facebook no longer works in Firefox. Keeps telling me: “Cookies required Cookies are not enabled on your browser. Please adjust this in your security preferences before continuing.” It doesn’t tell me how often I have to enable cookies, though. Bloody computers. (16/10/9)

Oh, Mick, why didn’t you just give up on Facebook? Well, better late than never.

I see Facebook is playing up again; giving a random and different selection of ‘news’ items each time the button’s pressed. (11/12/9)

“A guide to Facebook’s home page: A simplified design provides easy access to your entire Facebook experience.” If this is ‘simplified’ then I am eternally grateful that Facebook isn’t becoming far too complicated and over-burdened with way too many ‘features’. (5/2/10)

Nice to see Facebook have introduced anti-time-wasting enhancements. Most of the ‘buttons’ no longer work. (15/3/10)

Thanks for all the birthday greetings… but where, oh where, on this latest version of Facebook, can I find the list of my friends’ imminent birthdays? It used to be on the front page, but it’s well hidden now. Or is it cos I is too old? (23/3/10)

Facebook and Adblock Plus and Firefox – major incompatibility issues. My money’s on the bugs all being Facebook’s, since I have no other problems with Firefox nor Adblock Plus. (IANAG) (17/8/10)

“People who aren’t friends with David only see some of David’s profile information. If you know David personally, Add David as a friend? on Facebook..” But unless I can see more of David’s information, how can I be sure it’s the correct David? (16/1/11)

Oh I’ve been given the new Facebook profile. Now with more ways to show and tell my story. Well, it can’t be any more bug-ridden than it was before. Can it? (18/1/11)

Did you know that from Friday, Facebook will start using your information – your ‘likes’ etc. in ads that will appear on the profile page of your contacts. It’s legal and is mentioned in the fine print when you create your account. To stop this do the following: Account, Account Settings, Then click on Facebook Ads ( tab…), choose “No one” on the drop-down menu and save changes (18/3/11)

Facebook gets on my thrupennies sometimes. Where I had a link to ‘Groups’ on my Homepage, I now have an option to ‘Create group’. I want to access my old groups, not create new ones. Any ideas? Facebook’s help is useless. Cheers. (10/4/11)

Ooh another Facebook bug. I ‘recommended’ a link a few minutes ago and on the ‘Home’ page it’s telling me I’m recommending the link I actually recommended yesterday. (4/5/11)

Facebook has changed its user settings without telling us again. Face recognition for photo tagging auto-enabled. Disable at will! http://tinyurl/&#8230; (7/6/11)

Don’t think much of this new idea from Facebook, Fred Bloggs and two other friends posted about BBC. So what? Let me decide if those posts are in any way connected. Facebook’s going the same way as MySpace did, getting too damn ‘clever’, by which I mean ‘impossible to use’. (8/8/11)

<rant> So now Facebook tells me about every new friendship one at a time instead of summarising, thus forcing other potentially interesting news items well off the bottom of the screen. Royal Mail would call this ‘modernisation’ or ‘the way forward’. I won’t say what I call it.</rant> (17/8/11)

Oh wow Facebook have actually fixed something. “Fred Bloggs is now friends with Jane Doe and 43 other people.” That’s all I need to know. There was no need to list every one individually. I’m sure there are more Facebook bugs/features on the way. (22/8/11)

Dear Facebook, please can I decide what are my ‘Top Stories’? Also, please fix the ‘Older Posts’ link at the bottom so that I can find any Posts / Stories that you’ve incorrectly relegated. Thanks. (16/9/11)

As far as I can see, in Facebook, if I subscribe to somebody, it’s like they’re my friend but I’m not theirs. I can’t see the point. Is Facebook trying to be Twitter? (3/10/11)

Just below this status box, Facebook says “19 RECENT STORIES, 2 MARKED AS TOP HIGHLIGHTED STORIES FIRST · SORT BY RECENCY”. Recency??? Never seen that word outside psychology text books. So, thanks, Facebook, for broadening my vocabulary. Now go away and fix some bugs. Please. (22/10/11)

Oh FFFFFacebook snafu stop it. (23/11/11)

Haven’t had a moan about Facebook for a while, so I’ll rectify that right now. “Tom Friendlyperson and 5 others posted about Christmas” it says, then displays these 6 postings in a clump, with no regard to the ‘Sort: Recent Stories First’ legend at the top of the screen. Funny thing is, there are other statuses that mention Christmas too, but Facebook has arbitrarily ignored those. Guess it’s worth what I paid for it. (17/12/11)

Exception in createSidebarSection: Error: Permission denied for <moz-safe-about:neterror?e=netReset&u=https%3A//www.facebook.com/%3Fsk%3Dh_chr&c=ISO-8859-1&d=The%20connection%20to%20the%20server%20was%20reset%20while%20the%20page%20was%20loading.> to call method HTMLDocument.createElement
Even if it was, why do I need to know? And what am I supposed to do about it? Oh, you need me to log in again. Good old Facebook, always thinking about my security. (31/1/12)

What’s on my mind, Facebook asks. I’m staring at a Facebook page which my browser thinks is ‘done’ but which is (apart from the header and the left hand column of Favourites, Groups and Apps) totally empty. Devoid of content. Bereft of reading matter. Depleted. Blank. (20/2/12)

Good old Facebook number 462: You signed up to be one of the first to get Timeline (no I didn’t) and now it’s ready to go. Learn more, watch this video. The video you requested could not be loaded. Try again later. (Thanks, I’ll give it a miss, then.) (23/2/12)

Groan. Facebook. Trending articles. (21/5/12)

Oh F-F-F-Facebook! When did it start popping up with little tabs at the bottom of the screen? And how do I stop it? If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: I wish they’d spend more time fixing bugs and giving us what we want rather than introducing new ‘features’ that we don’t want. (11/2/17)

Since my acquisition of a smart phone, I’ve been able to enjoy Facebook on two devices, on the PC and on the phone. I expected to see the same things in both places, even if what was carefully selected by Facebook’s algorithms was a mere portion of the whole. But no. The subset of posts I see on the phone is different to the subset of posts I see on the PC. So the notion that FB’s algorithm determining what is and isn’t important to me is demonstrably rubbish. It just randomly picks a few posts to throw my way. The alternative theory, that FB is deciding what to show me depending on whether I’m on a phone or on a PC is just too creepy to contemplate, and surely even Facebook wouldn’t do that?

Also, why does it bother to tell me about a post that it doesn’t want to or can’t show me? What am I supposed to do about a message like this:

This content isn’t available at the moment. When this happens, it’s usually because the owner only shared it with a small group of people or changed who can see it or it’s been deleted.

But it’s not just Facebook that annoys me. Sometimes the whole internet is ganging up on paranoid little old me.

I’m sure I used to be able to compose more than one email at a time, without the drafts being deleted. Thanks, Yahoo. So that’s Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, AVG all ‘improving things’ and adding features that make them harder to use. (26/11/13)

And.

The internet is breaking up before my eyes. Facebook displays a different collection of statuses every time I refresh. Twitter is displaying some tweets twice. Flickr claims to be uploading my photos but is blatantly lying. Radio Downloader is taking over 30 minutes to download a 15-minute long programme. Yahoo won’t even retrieve emails I’ve just sent to myself. Yes, I could turn it off and on again – but where’s the fun in that? (1/6/14)

In my experience, if my browser, Firefox, stops working, it’s usually Facebook causing the problem. “Firefox is not responding” crops up every now and then, for a variety of reasons. Too many tabs open, or a sudden loss of internet connection, they’re reasonable excuses. But usually, deleting the Facebook tab gets things moving again like some electronic laxative.

I’ve always been concerned about Facebook’s inconsistencies in what it deems acceptable. It seems to love right-wing hatred being perpetrated on its platform. Yet it censors photos with the slightest hint of a female nipple.

There are a few good features that I like, such as the ability to hide all those annoying games and apps that peppered the site in the early days. That’s a setting that seems to work. Not to mention the option of muting users whose posts would otherwise monopolise the Facebook page, or ‘timeline’ as my ‘wall’ is now called, at the expense of other people’s more interesting offerings.

But the best way by far to improve the look of Facebook was by implementing an add-on, ‘Social Fixer’. This gives you the ability to hide the adverts, to conceal some areas of the screen so it appears less cluttered and to more easily change some of the settings. You can even change the overall look of Facebook: for a while, I enjoyed a pink Facebook rather than the drab, default blue.

Frequent bugs, hiding stuff I’d like to see, too many ads, inappropriate ads, security settings being too difficult and dishonest, it’s just not worth my time any more.

Since leaving Facebook, I’ve seen nothing to make me regret the decision. According to various news items, it’s going to become even more bloaty and ambitious. It’s likely to implement its own e- or crypto-currency. So not only will they know where you are, they’ll know what you’re spending your money on.

The moderators who have to sit and view hundreds of disturbing videos and images every day are not employed by Facebook, but by a firm sub-contracted by them. They are badly treated and they can’t remove much of what they see because Facebook’s rules aren’t stringent enough.

When I downloaded ‘my’ Facebook content before closing the account, one of the things I saw was a list of adverts that I’d clicked on. Haha. I didn’t click on any of them out of interest, I just clicked so that I could ‘hide’ uninteresting, repetitive and dodgy adverts. If they count those clicks as a sign of interest, then they’re misleading the advertisers. Surely I’m not the only one who hides adverts?

I’m sure I’ll miss some of the groups I belonged to, especially the funny ones, and I’ll miss the people. Some of whom I interact with mainly on Facebook. But as I write this, three weeks on, I am glad to have thrown it away like a tatty old sock. One of the unintended side-effects is that I now have to look for other things to whinge about and that’s got to be a good thing.

—– The end —

Well, that’s the essay what I wrote, just to get it out of my system. I agree, it needs a bit of editting, but other than reformatting for this blog post, to be honest, I can’t be bothered.

I knew it was the time to leave when we returned from our travels. During that 10 months away, I’d rarely looked at Facebook, so I knew I could live without it. That’s 10 months of far more interesting posts than this one, by the way.

That last sentence though: “One of the unintended side-effects is that I now have to look for other things to whinge about and that’s got to be a good thing.” Actually, I have been trying really hard not to whinge about anything and everything. Live and let live, so to speak. But then along comes an incompetent government, full of self-serving no-good-niks, so what am I supposed to do?

 

 

 

 

Pink things and other colours

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.

A different 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?

Another BBC, a Big Bee by the Church

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.

Sign o’ the Times

Pink Pixie

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.

Pink skies

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.

A fallen tree

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.

Pink camellias

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.

Vegetable display

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.

In really exciting news, my Radio Northenden show will be re-played on Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2 next Wednesday evening at 7pm. The show this week was dedicated to Carers, a large but largely unrecognised group of lovely people.

 

Flowered News

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.

A crack in the rock

The whole area is still quite dangerous and the Summit Road will be closed for quite some time.

Damaged crash barrier

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.

The Boys’ entrance

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.

Ali’s Barber

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.

Three more hairdressers

It was lovely walking through Wythenshawe Park without having to avoid big puddles and ice. Someone at the café is very positive and uplifting.

Everything will be OK

Martha’s been painting her bedroom.

Martha v paint

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.

20,000 volts

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.

Riverside Park heron

And look at this gorgeous blue sky.

Mr Blue Sky

How is the village green looking? Absolutely stunning. We feel we should plant bulbs and sow seeds all over the place now.

Northenden Village Green

Of course, one of the reasons it looks so good there is that other litter-pickers have been at work.

I mentioned the radio show earlier: it was Brothers and Sisters this week, and you can listen to it here.

And if you’ve stuck with it this far, you may be curious about the title of this post. It’s a David Bowie lyric. Make of it what you will.

The Princess and the Martian

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.

Northenden Village Green

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.

Princess Aurora

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.

Luigi, a friend of Mario


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.

Heiffer Station Merlot

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.

William and Martha, scooterers

It was half-term so the home-schooling was taking a break.

Martha stripping the wallpaper

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.

2,000 pieces, count them

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.

More blankets

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.

William (left) and gingerbread man

Martha and William made gingerbread men but sadly, none for Grandad nor Oma. One day…

William supervising the decorating

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.

Let’s carry this pallet half a mile through the park

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.

Mars

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.

More than twenty top folkies

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.

Giraffes and their lunch

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?

The deep dark woods

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.

Twigs and sticks

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.

Ice rink and Inspiral Carpet

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.

Fire appliance

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.

Real plastic in trees

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: Awwww
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.

Be stronger than the storm

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 telling a story

Martha told a wonderful story about a Witch and Gnome and a dragon that morphed into a dinosaur! We watched online of course.

Heron of the week – on the opposite bank, of course

Men at work

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

Martha knows that she only needs to dress the top half for her online schoolwork. Truly, a member of the Zoom generation.

 

 

 

William

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.

We watched more of the Celtic Connections festival. I loved the Kinnaris Quintet especially, and enjoyed the very different Indian group, Jodhpur RIFF. Jessica Lee Morgan is still doing a weekly show on YouTube and from this Sunday, once a month also on Mary Hopkin’s YouTube channel.

Tom Hingley, lead singer of Inspiral Carpets and the Kar-pets

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.

Crochetted blanket
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?

Nothing much

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.

Picnic table out of order

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.

War Memorial

We try to look up, not down, but some sights are just too horrible to ignore. Some people.

Fly-tipped oil drums

Things really are desperate when I resort to posting photos of what’s left of a chicken.

Feathers

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.

Merry Christmas, everybody

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.

Sunset over the Mersey

A little bit of pink and a little bit of orange.

Twilight zone

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.

Ivy fighting its way through the fence

Everyone in Northenden will probably tell me this sign has been here for years, but I’ve only just noticed it.

Go slow

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.

Another fine cake from Dani’s Bakehouse, Northern Den

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.

Funeral procession

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.

Mick the DJ

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.

The coot and the hedgehog

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.

Ducks of the day

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.

Pretty car park

What a big thistle

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.

Reflection

Coot of the day

A cabaret of colour

Hedgehog of the day

Selfie of the day

Dogwood

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.

Leaf of the day

Selfie of the day (with Darcy’s lake behind)

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.

Reflection

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.

Muddy path of the day

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.

Christmas cactus

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.