Two departures and a birthday

One day, I look forward to walking the length of the Transpennine Trail, but for now, I’ll just be happy to come across the short section that passes through Northenden. No doubt, a highlight for many a long distance walker from Southport to Hull.

Transpennine Trail sign

But that’s in the future. This week, as usual, we stayed pretty local. Out on a walk one day, Liesel sent a message asking me to pick up some painkillers from the pharmacy. Both the pharmacies in Northenden were closed, so I jumped on a bus that stopped at exactly the right time, thinking that wherever I ended up, I’d find one that was open for business. And yes, of course, I realised I should do more of these mystery tours, it’s a good way to get to know the wider area.

On this occasion, I was taken to Sale where indeed I was able to buy what I needed. I also saw a massive bee.

Bee Tree

Two of them lovingly carved from an old tree. And by coincidence, the same bus driver took me back to Northenden.

Liesel and I went over to see the family between gym and swimming. No, not us, it was Martha at the gym and William who went swimming later.

Yee-hah

Martha would make a good cowboy and I can’t help feeling most westerns would be improved if they rode unicorns rather than horses.

Jenny and Helen took me out for a couple of hours to go shopping. I haven’t worn a suit for many years, probably decades, but the time has come to find one that fits. We visited a place called Peter Posh where I expected to be served by someone like Mr Grainger from Are You Being Served? with a tape measure draped around his shoulders. But no, a very helpful, and patient, young lady helped out. I tried on two suits and a waistcoat. In my mind, I’d built suits up to being the uncomfortable uniform of office work, of business men making things worse for the rest of us. So I was surprised to find that these ones at least were actually quite comfortable, and nobody laughed as they said I didn’t look too shabby.

The lesser spotted Mick in a suit and proper shoes

So, good luck, Mick, at the next job interview.

Helen’s birthday rolled up as it always does just after Christmas, and how fabulous it was that she was here to celebrate with us this year. She and I went for a nice walk at Dunham Massey. We found some footwear here and there,  just part of an activity designed presumably for children.

Beautiful boot by a bench

The rose garden was spoiled by the stench of bonfire.

Bonfire grrr

How disappointing. I know the gardeners are all volunteers and we’re very grateful for all their hard work, but there better ways to dispose of stuff you don’t need, especially green waste. We said hello to the robins as we wandered round. Or was it the same robin following us? I keep forgetting to take a bag of mealworms with which to feed them.

On one path, we passed someone familiar to me. I didn’t pester him. But Count Arthur Strong later confirmed that he had indeed been at the same venue. As he said, he’s like the Scarlet Pimple, here, there and everywhere!

Liesel and I attended Helen’s party in the evening but I think, on the available evidence, Martha and William were more excited than she was. We all enjoyed the party food and I can now reveal Helen’s best present.

A few snacks

Let’s hope these snacks all make it through customs when she goes home. In other words, let’s hope the customs officials aren’t hungry.

Helen, William and Martha with the cake

Liesel and I drove to Heald Green where, for the second week in a row, she took a PCR test for Covid. A negative result means that she can fly to Alaska. While waiting, I found a couple of frogs. I didn’t realise these amphibians were still adorning the streets of Stockport.

The frogs in Heald Green

The weekly Wednesday well-being walk in Northenden has resumed, and nine of us had a very pleasant stroll through the woods and around the streets. We stood outside the café with our coffees: sitting inside in a large group didn’t seem a good idea.

In the evening: pizzas again. A second opportunity to wish bon voyage to Liesel. In the morning, I jumped on the boxes to squash them before putting them in the bin.

It was so cold on Thursday morning, we had to scrape ice off the car. I took Liesel to the airport. She’s off to Anchorage to see her parents and her friends and to enjoy all that a deep Alaskan Winter can throw at her. For the rest of the day, I donned my chauffeur’s cap as I was quite happy to help Helen with her various errands.

Helen and I drove to Heald Green where she took a PCR test for Covid. A negative result means that she can fly back to Australia. While waiting, I renewed my acquaintance with a couple of frogs.

Next stop was Lester and Brown jewellers in Poynton where the High Street looks very slippery. The jeweller had taken an old brooch that neither Jenny nor Helen will wear, and made a pair of earrings for each of them, and as far as I can tell, he’s done a very good job.

Slick High Street

Next: Next in Handforth Dean where Helen returned a dress and picked up a new one for Martha to try on.

Next: Create-It in Cheadle to pick up  some mugs designed by the the children.

Next: Greens in Didsbury for lunch. Just a couple of other parties here in the restaurant and the food was, as usual, delicious.

And finally: Card Factory back in Cheadle where a couple of balloons were inflated: a dinosaur for William and a Unicorn for Martha.

New pets

Even though we’ve been living here in Northenden for over three years, I still used Google Maps all day. I don’t yet have a comprehensive mental map of Greater Manchester in my head. I’m sure it will come.

If I’m saying goodbye to one of the ladies in my life, it’s only fitting that we have pizzas. And so it was that we all met up at Pizza Express for a farewell meal. I won’t be having the hot jalapeño dough balls again. Steam blasted from my ears, and my nose didn’t stop running for ages. Incredibly hot and spicy. Helen was due to fly out from Manchester early in the morning so we said our goodbyes here.

I still can’t get over the wonderful surprise of actually seeing her here for Christmas.

Sisters are doing it for themselves

To lose one woman in my life, Mr Worthing, maybe regarded as misfortune. To lose two in the space of two days looks like carelessness. I think that’s from The Important of Being Earnest.

Liesel arrived safely in Anchorage and is already taking advantage of the very slightly different weather. Flying with Covid regulations and face masks adds an extra layer of anxiety to the whole travelling thing, but that’s something we’ll have to live with for a while.

Welcome to Alaska, Liesel

Earlier in the week, I’d pre-recorded and sent off the first radio show for Wythenshawe Radio in its own right. Unfortunately, due to events outside my control, on Wednesday evening, the previous week’s show was broadcast instead. Which is a shame, because it was a special one for Helen’s birthday. The correct show was released into the world on Friday afternoon. And I’ve uploaded a copy here if you’d like to catch up. There’s a news bulletin at the halfway point, but I left that out: nobody needs to hear the news more than absolutely necessary.

It’s a start

While Helen’s here, obviously we want to see her as much as possible. On the other hand, we don’t want her to catch some nasty contagious disease and take it back home. So we’re all doing Covid Lateral Flow Tests much more often now. And my daily sneezing fit is now more often caused by sticking a pipe cleaner swab up my hooter. But the negative tests give us enough confidence to be able to spend time together. It was a full house at Jenny’s and it was lovely to witness the antics of two very excited grandchildren on Christmas Day. The other grandparents, Alan and Una were there too. So with Helen, that was nine in the house. I think we’ll get away with it if we call it a business meeting. Yes, one of the talking points was the government’s flagrant breaking of rules that they themselves had put in place. Oh well. It’s Christmas, we were there to have fun and plenty of food.

It’s Christmas!

So many parcels, so many presents, books, and toys, so much food. And lots of photos.

Excitement

Thoughts of a late afternoon walk were soon discarded, but at least Liesel and I had made the effort earlier in the day. And we did burn off a few Christmas calories at Daddy’s disco later in the day. Lots of dancing and playing musical bumps and musical statues.

Daddy’s disco lights

Thanks Jenny for putting up with us all! And thanks for inviting us back a couple of days later, I guess we didn’t embarrass ourselves, or you, too much. We played a game of Junior Cluedo with Martha and William, and it was interesting watching them play well, concentrate and interact.

Princess of Wales and Colonel Mustard
Another photo

More food of course: Christmas cake, cheesecake, peanut butter and chocolate fudge, chocolates, oh and lots of real, proper food too.

And yes, we pulled Christmas crackers. The jokes don’t improve over the years, do they?

Guess who?

Spending time with the family was of course the highlight of the week, we didn’t go far from home, otherwise. A surprise bonus of some mild weather finished off 2021 nicely and the sunsets were a little unusual too.

Sunset over Northenden

One thing I’ve always wanted to see is a two-headed skeletal dog, and my wish came true this week.

Woof woof

I came across this monstrosity in Quirky Misfits where I bumped into a friend so we had a coffee. Yes, there’s a sign on the door saying dogs are welcome, but there are limits: skeletal bicephalids?

The river is rising again after a lot of rain. So much so, that the Mersey is bringing trees down from its upper reaches, in Stockport.

Trees and logs

The roiling river didn’t look very inviting, to be honest. But why the short post last week? Because we were invited over to spend some time in a hot tub. Helen rented it for a few days, a most unusual Christmas gift, but I hadn’t been in a hot bath like this since we were in Japan. Time for a wash.

In the hot tub: William, Helen, Martha, Jenny

A good way to start the new year, I think you’ll agree. But that feeling of well-being can so easily be squished by industrial levels of incompetence.

When I need my prescription renewed, I send a message to my GP, they send it to the pharmacy, the pharmacy sends me a message when the meds are ready for collection. Not this time. In other news, both Liesel and I have received the Collection Codes that we now need to pick up Lateral Flow Tests from the pharmacy. So, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and pay a visit, even though I hadn’t received the expected message after several days. I queued for over half an hour.

On CCTV waiting to get over the threshold

They’re short-staffed due to Covid. They’d run of of Lateral Flow Tests, which many other people in the queue were also waiting for. But had they put a notice up in the window to save people time? Nope. Never mind, I can still get my prescription. Oh no I couldn’t. Despite there being a pharmacist behind the scenes, they weren’t fulfilling prescriptions either. Was there a sign in the window to this effect? Nope. Instead, the assistant gave me a printed copy of my prescription to take somewhere else. I asked why they hadn’t sent a message telling me that they were unable to help on this occasion? I got a funny look and directions to the nearest other pharmacy. Where, after a short walk along the road, I was given my drugs within ten minutes of arrival. Fantastic service. Unfortunately, they too had no LFTs in stock. Luckily, Liesel and I have also been ordering them online. Most often the site says none are available, but we have hit the jackpot a few times. We’re now testing after we’ve been in crowded places, which hasn’t happened recently, and each time before we see the family. We don’t want to give anyone Covid, especially Helen. But, in another quirk of misfortune, Helen has succumbed to a nasty bug leaving her hoarse and coughing and just not feeling very well. What she needs is some of that New South Wales sunshine. I think we all do.

Actually, waiting in that queue for half an hour wasn’t really a big deal. Liesel brought us coffees from a nearby emporium. And we would have been loitering for at least half an hour anyway, because we were waiting for Liesel’s iPhone battery to be replaced in the local electronics shop.

My insomnia isn’t helped by the fact that I’m not going out as much as I should. The weather’s just horrible. So much rain, sleet, snow, thundersnow, cold wind. Oh stop moaning about the weather, Mick. Unlikely.

One night, instead of podcasts, I started listening to CBeebies Radio. Between 9pm and 6am, they play Calming Sounds. I thought this might help the old brain to switch off. One night it was birdsong, and it was lovely, very relaxing. Another night, it was the sound of ocean waves. A lovely background noise, it relaxed my brain beautifully, but my bladder reacted in a totally different, and unhelpful, manner.

We had a couple of nice, local walks recently. One day was quite windy and there were crocodiles floating by on the river.

Not really a crocodile

And I did walk over to Jenny’s one day, too, making a detour by Micker Brook.

Micker Brook

The original plan was to meet Jenny and Helen and all by the Brook, but in the end, we all went for a walk in their neighbourhood, Martha on her bike and William on his scooter.

Back home, Martha continued with her project of mixing a potion.. What’s it for? Well, it’s poisonous but it also makes you invisible.

Martha and her potion

Liesel drove over and we later collected a takeaway from Bhaji Pala in Gatley. Why did we go all the way over there for our meal? Because it was Monday, Bank Holiday, so all the fish and chip shops were closed. The food was delicious. And a little bit late, maybe, but we had Christmas pudding too.

Flaming pudding

Liam drowned the pud in brandy and set it alight, much to the bemusement of the children. When I was a child, there would have been a thrupenny bit or even a sixpence inside, but we don’t do that sort of thing any more, apparently.

A couple of days later, I went over to babysit while Jenny and Helen went to the shops.

Green Goblin

William is now The Green Goblin thanks to some temporary hair colour that Helen applied. Martha’s hair was more variegated. I allowed my hair to be coloured a striped orange and yellow, but all this did was to highlight my bald patch. The photos have now been locked away in a vault somewhere.

I am working on what will be the first radio show to be broadcast solely on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2. But one afternoon I was distracted by the urge to tidy up the Studio, the Office, the so-called third bedroom. I say I got the urge, but in reality, the urge was imposed upon me by Liesel. Who shouldn’t even be here*! Yes, everything’s been put in its new location, plenty of stuff has been disposed of, and over the next weeks and months, it will undoubtedly once again revert to its status of ‘tip’. Sorry, there are no before and after photos. But we did come across tonnes more paperwork that we’re not sure we need to keep. So, add this to the list, Mick: go through each of those boxes again, again, again.

*Yeah, what do I mean, Liesel shouldn’t even be here? Well, she’d planned to fly off to Anchorage to see her family on January 6th. Iceland Air would take her via Reykjavik and Seattle. Unfortunately, the flight was cancelled due to expected bad weather in Iceland and by the time Liesel spoke to someone, the next flight was a week away. So that’s all rebooked now. But If you want to reminisce about bad quality 1970s style phone lines, feel free to call Iceland Air in London. Even the hold music sounds like the old Björk tape has been stretched a bit too much.

And again today, I awoke to the sound of rain being hurled at the windows. I don’t know if the glass in our windows is just intrinsically louder than what we had in Chessington, or if it really does rain harder sideways here in Manchester, but, man it’s loud!  

Blood, Bond, Broadband

It rained so much, the river was in full flow, so the birds migrated to the newly flooded golf course.

Birdies on the golf course

This was witnessed by Liesel, on an early morning walk, while I remained warm and comfortable in my pit.

A million congratulations and thanks to Wythenshawe Waste Warriors: they (we) have collectively picked up over 10,000 bags of litter this year, so far. Liesel and I added another small contribution, just walking up and down Royle Green Road and some of the sideroads. Bottles and cans should have a 10p (or more) deposit on them, that would help. There was a lot of drugs paraphernalia too, including for the first time a hypodermic needle. Very close to a school. But as I’ve mentioned before, we could do a roaring trade in used, discarded face-masks. If there were a market for such a thing.

Oversize mushroom

It’s been ideal weather for supersized mushrooms too. I suppose they’ll deal with the leaf litter and eventually take over the whole world.

500 years from now, people will look back at our times and laugh at the range of jobs people had. In the same way we cringe at Henry VIII’s master of the stool: not a pleasant job at all. In our case, they’ll be looking down their noses at leaf-blower operators. What’s the point of blowing leaves around? But we witnessed a whole different level of ridiculosity.

Leaf washer downer

I’ve concealed his identity to save him embarrassment. He was hosing the leaves off the pavement and grass verge, onto the road, eventually to block the local drains.

On a brighter note, we did visit a cinema, for the first time since before the world turned upside down. No Time To Die is the latest, much delayed, James Bond film. And jolly good it is too. People said it was too long, but it certainly didn’t drag. My only criticism is that some of the dialogue was hard to hear because of the background music and sound effects, which were very bass heavy. The Savoy Cinema in Heaton Moor is a good place, we sat on a sofa, but we declined the offer of coffee and wine in the auditorium.

Liesel suggested going on the well-being walk at Newall Green. It was a nice day, so why not? We walked to the venue, the Firbank Pub and Kitchen, arriving just on 11am, but there was nobody else there. Oopsie. This is an afternoon walk: we were two hours too early. So we had a quick look at Rodger’s Park, just over the road, before walking home.

Trees in Rodgers Park

I was missed out the next day too: I missed the Northenden walk, because I was on the phone. Two different people called me within half an hour, which is most unusual, I very rarely receive phone calls. Well, it was lovely to speak to Helen of course, from the comfort of my own bed, where I was lying, while soaking up the Sun.

We upgraded our Broadband connection this week, and the process was unexpectedly straighforward. The downside is, we’re now paying a lot more for it each month. But comparing the price with other providers, I think we’ve been lucky to have it so cheap for so long.

We walked to our GP’s surgery where my blood was taken to be sampled. We both commented on the amount of litter in some places, especially in and around the industrial estate. One day, we might venture that way with our bags and pickers.

Thursday is our child-minding day, and usually we take Martha and William home to our place to play. This week, we went a bit further afield. We saw The Lanterns at Chester Zoo. These are animals, made from paper (or a waterproof, paper-like membrane), illuminated, with many being animated. It is, as they say, totally enchanting. Martha really wanted to hug the butterfly as she slowly wafted her wings. Father Christmas was there too, and William really wanted to speak to him.

Penguins in Technicolor®

I tried to tell her that they were just ordinary wolves, but Martha insisted on stroking the werewolves.

Martha and the Werewolf

We arrived just before 5pm and it was of course already dark. Which is good, it makes the illuminations all the more impressive. But it also makes it harder to track down your children when they run off. And William loves running. Even in the dark.

The artificial snowstorm
Awestruck in the presence of greatness

Father Christmas was a jolly old soul, he managed to get the crowd to join in with his ho, ho, hos and his Merrrrrry Christmases. 

Dancing in the lights

We did wonder whether the real animals were impressed by the light show. Or scared. Or sedated.

Both William and Martha fell asleep in the car on the way home but the big surprise is that I didn’t.

The final Wythenshawe walk of the year was very enjoyable, just the four of us on this occasion, plus a dog who thinks he’s a meerkat.

Sandy the wannabe meerkat
Painswick Park

Yes, the Sun was out, the pond was pretty, the geese were chatty and all’s right with the world. Meanwhile, Liesel was in the Lifestyle Centre, volunteering. She got up at stupid o’clock while I just rolled over. Between 8am and 1pm, she witnessed and helped out as 600 people received their Covid booster jabs. Yes, we are aware of the irony of being in a closed space with hundreds of strangers, while still debating whether or not to go into people’s houses.

Painswick Park

A quick glance at this picture reminds me of Japan: that fence could easily be one of those cute little bridges in a Japanese garden.

Breakfast for me is usually a combination of blueberries, muesli, Weetabix and Shreddies. It’s a carefully honed operation, combining the ingredients in exactly the right proportion, while waiting for the kettle to boil and the tea to brew. So imagine my dismay when I caught myself pouring the Shreddies into the Weetabix tin one day instead of into the cereal bowl. The virus that causes such senior moments is very contagious. Later in the week, twice, Liesel was unable to locate the notebook she uses for her legal work. Once, it had fallen behind the sub-futon drawer where it usually resides, but the second time, it was in a different room altogether. I suggested tying it to a piece of string so she could hang it around her neck, but that idea didn’t go down well.

This week’s Radio Northenden show, my antepenultimate one, was two hours of Christmas songs. You can listen here.

I have just two more shows on Radio Northenden, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Radio Northenden has different plans for 2022, all change here. My little show will continue on Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2, initially pre-recorded at home, but I hope to broadcast live from the studio eventually. I hope to find a way to upload my shows for people in different timezones who like to listen later on. Or they could get up in the middle of the night and tune in of course.

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. As usual, Liesel has done a brilliant job decorating and lighting up our living room. We don’t have room for a tree, sadly, something we never considered when looking at the place all those years ago.

Manchester by bus

The weather is very changeable here in Manchester, I may have mentioned this before. This week, we’ve experienced at least two seasons. A couple of days of Summery heat, a nice dose of apricity (a nice word, that) and very welcome. On the other hand, one day, the cold, strong wind, seemingly fresh from Siberia, made for an unexpectedly unpleasant walk. Yes, I could have put on more and warmer clothes, but as I said, the ferocity of the gale was a big surprise. Never mind the weather: as a Brit, I could whinge about it for several hours.

It’s been a while, but after acquiring some new bags, we collected some litter from our local streets. There should be a law against driving over discarded drinks cans because the flattened items are so much harder to pick up with the bespoke litter-picker-upper. But then, I could whinge about the amount of littering for several hours too. Well, it makes a change from moaning about the weather.

We had a coffee break at Boxx2Boxx and that was nice, sitting outside in the Sun. Now if only they’d ban traffic from Palatine Road, it would be even more quiet and pleasant, but that will never happen. Yes, I could whinge about the amount of traffic until the cows come home. In fact, there are so many cars around here, they don’t all fit on the roads, they have to park on the pavements.

We paid a visit to Manchester and we chose to go in by bus. The first bus we’ve been on here, I think, since before the first lockdown. Most of the windows were open, but somebody had managed to close one of the windows that was fitted with a device to prevent it from being closed. It was a long ride into Manchester, over half an hour to travel just six miles or so. We agreed that there should be a fast, non-stopping bus service from outside our front door to the big city. But then, I guess that’s what Uber is for. Could I whinge more about the local bus services? Yep, I sure could.

Unfortunately, we chose a day right in the middle of the Conservative Party Conference, so we witnessed hundreds of police officers from several police forces keeping us all safe from the politicians in the city centre. St Peter’s Square was the venue for several protest groups, but we fought our way through into the Central Library.

Gandhi

Liesel was looking at some specific books, so I wandered around and amongst other things, came across this bust of Mahatma Gandhi. There are hidden, secret passageways in this library: it seems I find something new every time I visit. In 1980, Manchester became Britain’s first nuclear free zone.

Nuclear free Manchester

In the music department, I resisted the temptation to play the piano and to play on the drumkit. One thing that did surprise me was the number of books about David Bowie.

Where the books were found by the golden ones

My plan now is to write a book about David Bowie, and for a title, I can just pick one of his song titles. There can’t be much left to say about him, surely? It’s bad enough that some people play one of his records on each and every single radio show they cobble together. Ahem.

I mentioned the less than ideal bus service before, but very soon, Manchester’s public transport system will be improved. We look forward to the full implementation of The Bee Network, fully integrated mass transportation, and this includes facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.

The Bee Network bus

There is a shortage of lorry drivers and of slaughterhouse workers in the UK right now, so farmers are having to cull 150,000 pigs. What a waste. There was a protest outside the library against this, of course.

Don’t burn the pigs

We walked to a place called The Green Lab for lunch, but I was disappointed that there wasn’t a big green dog sitting outside. It’s a popular place, we were lucky to get seats, really. Another group of people were observed walking towards the library, carrying the Roma flag I think, blue and green with a red wheel. Amongst the delegation was a unicorn with his own security detail.

A rare Manc unicorn

Our first day out in Manchester concluded nicely when we passed these buskers, singing the songs of Bob Marley and doing a very good job.

Buskers

The exciting news this week is that we are resuming our childminding duties. We picked Martha and William up from school one day, so that Jenny could show us where to go. And on Thursday, we collected them both and brought them home to ours for a few hours.

It’ll take a while to get back into the swing of things of course, as they are both very tired at the end of an arduous schoolday.

William earning his snack
Martha fighting a biscuit packet

We’ll get the balance right between satisfying their desire for post-school snacks and not filling them up before dinnertime. We shovelled the coal out of the tub again so that they could have a soak and a play in the bath together and afterwards, we watched something on TV. William knew what he wanted, and our TV setup is different to theirs at home, but he still took charge of the remote control.

Jenny and Liam arrived and we all ate together. Liesel went out to her WI Knitting Group meeting and missed Martha and William getting ready for bed. What an absolute pleasure to spend time with these delightful little people.

Again, my plan was to walk to the well-being walk in Wythenshawe, but once again, I left home too late. Having taken the plunge a few days earlier, I cheated and caught the bus to about the halfway point.

Red and blue

This was a nice, bright day, and I did like the look of the red and the blue here.

We walked through Painswick Park again and back to the main offices of Thrive Manchester. After which I walked all the way home. I’m not one to whinge, as you know, but the weather forecast is not looking good for the next week

The theme for the Radio Northenden show this week was Days. Listen here. And yes, it includes a David Bowie track, something from my Mum and Dad’s record collection as well as Sounds of the ’20s: that is, a song from the 1920s and a brand new release by a (fairly) local artist. Listen back here (in case you missed the link the first time)!

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.