I will chew and spit tobacco like my grandfather Jones


We went for a quick drive, all the way over to Cheadle Hulme. And we realised our car is filthy, it really does need a clean. If only we weren’t living on the second floor, we could wash it ourselves, but neither of us wants to be lugging buckets of water up and downstairs. I think in a parallel universe, life probably oozed from and evolved on a car very much like ours.

We enjoyed spending time in the garden with Martha and William and Jenny and Liam. It was a nice sunny day, too.

Martha’s thinking


We were still being careful not to get too close to each other. William and Martha opened a shop and took it in turns to serve the grown-ups. Interestingly, everything I wanted to buy was in stock.

William’s escaping


In fact, you could say, William’s sales are through the roof. As is he.
It was Easter weekend and straightaway, they bit the ears off the chocolate bunnies. But they did save the bodies for later on and for the next day.

Easter bunnies


I think it’s fair to say this was the highlight of the week, for us. A couple of days later, the temperature was right down, and snow was forecast. Yes, it is April. We had the warmest March day for decades recently, and now we’re experiencing unseasonally cold weather. This doesn’t enhance our overall sense of well-being, to be honest. Oh how we yearn for good, old-fashioned April showers.

So, let’s go back to the garden. There is now a goal net and both Martha and William have been taking and attempting to save penalties. William likes playing in goal. Literally.

William’s in goal


Northenden is a good place to live, but it does need some TLC. This map-of-the-UK-shaped defect has been marked up for as long as I can remember:

202569 (scheduled to be repaired in the year 202569?)


Just think, there are at least 202,568 such holes that might be repaired one day. But, what’s the point? Most of this damage is caused by cars being parked on the pavements, and there doesn’t seem to be any real effort to prevent this anti-social behaviour. There’s nothing as entertaining as watching people in wheelchairs rolling up the middle of the road* because they can’t squeeze by the numerous, inappropriately parked vehicles. There you go, that’s my whinge of the week. (*Actually there is: Mums pushing buggies and their young children up the middle of the road.)

Online, I watched Wall to Wall Bowie again, ‘a celebration of one of our greatest pop icons’! Janette Mason chatted with Sam Obernik as they celebrate the release of their new single, Wild is the Wind.

But, while the show itself was fabulous, I was knocked for six by ‘meeting’ not one, but two of my old buddies from many, many years ago. Out of an audience of about 40, that’s not bad. Patrick was a guy I met on a writing retreat I joined in 2002, and haven’t met in real life since a few years afterwards. And I don’t think I’ve met Miles since 2008. What are the chances? It’s been a while, but whenever Liesel and I go to a show, I always look around to see if there’s someone I know. It rarely happens, though.

So, did it snow? Yes, 2 days later, as predicted. Was it cold? Yes.

It was a big week for birthdays. Radio Northenden turned 1 but more excitingly, Martha turned 5. (Plus, it should have been my Mum’s birthday: 89.)
We had a family Zoom chat for Martha’s birthday. I think we all hope that next year, we’ll be there in person. This is Martha’s second birthday in lockdown, that’s 40% of all the birthdays she’s ever had.

Meet the family
Martha’s going wheelie fast


Martha loves her new, purple bike, and already she’s in the maillot jaune. Allez, Martha!

Martha’s having a good time

In lieu of a proper party with proper children in the same room, Martha and her friends and family were joined by magician Olly G online. I think she was thoroughly well entertained!

One motto that I try to live up to is ‘do something scary every day’. Well, obviously I don’t every single day, but an opportunity presented itself this week. Claire was unable to do her weekly show on Radio Northenden, so I thought I’d step in at the last minute, to see if I could do something more spontaneous, without the hours of preparation that I usually put in. Just a couple of outbreaks of cold sweat when I did something wrong, but other that that, it was OK. You can of course catch up with this and my regular show on the Mixlr Showreel. This week’s theme was Smith and Jones. Of course, I played a record for Martha, David Bowie’s When I’m Five, some lyrics from which I borrowed for this week’s title. I don’t think Martha will do that though, she doesn’t have a grandfather Jones. Maybe her teacher, Mrs Jones, chews and spits tobacco?

I thought it was raining hard against the windows this morning, But no, it was hailstones. It turned to snow after a while, and so again the thought crossed my mind: hibernation would be a wonderful thing.

Precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals formed directly from the water vapour of the air at a temperature of less than 0°C


If only the view from our luxury apartment were a bit more interesting. The little patch of grass over the road? Now covered in snow? Last week, the girl who lives in one of those flats was sunbathing on that very spot. Yes, it really was that warm that day.

Heron is an anagram of Horne

Well, the world really is a carousel of colour. Especially our little corner of Northenden. Just look at this. A splash of green, a dash of white, a hint of blue (a waste paper collection bag, unused) and one solitary red berry.

Where’s the berry?

The trees around our block are slowly turning green, or white if the blossom is taking over. More cherry blossom had appeared overnight in one front garden, totally at odds with all the rubbish and detritus dumped there.

I don’t know where the nearest McDonalds is, so I think some people must travel a long way to Northenden especially to dump their burger packaging and coffee cups. We ‘enjoy’ picking it all up for you, along with all the drugs paraphernalia. And I have a suggestion for Viz Magazine too.

Dear Dog Owners: Use green dog-poo bags, so they blend in better when, after use, you toss them into the bushes or hang them in a tree: obviously check nobody’s watching, first.

Looking up, not down, though, Liesel is still bringing colour into our lives, making good progress with her crochet blankets. One ball of yarn caught our attention  in the sunshine this week.

Orange yarn just waiting for a kitten or a Martha to unravel

What do these blankets look like, I hear you ask? Well, here’s a quick look at one of them. Not a bobble out of place.

Sneak preview of one of the blankets

OK, let’s go back outside now. We’re very proud of our potholes in Northenden. In fact, some of them are so deep, we have to put sandbags in them, we don’t want animals or small children falling in.

Sandbag in a pothole

And if you think that’s bonkers, do you want to know what’s Proper Nutty? Our latest peanut butter is presented in a tin.

Proper Nutty Smunchy Peanut Butter

Someone in Yorkshire thought it would be a good idea to use an old paint pot for peanut butter. We even had to lever the lid off with an old screwdriver. And, as with paint, the layer of oil on top had to be stirred in. But, actually, this Yorkshire peanut butter is delicious spread on Yorkshire pudding and dunked in a mug of Yorkshire tea.

Back in the outside world, magnolia trees are beginning to blossom. So many colours to spot here, I wonder which one most closely matches the paint colour known as ‘magnolia’?

Magnolia

Sometimes when we’re out walking around the local neighbourhood, we find oursleves talking to the wall. Well, it would be rude not to.

Hello, wall

Liesel and I had a long discussion about how long it would take the chalk to disappear, given the amount of rain we get in this part of the world, bearing in mind this is a vertical wall and the force of the falling raindrops might not be enough to dislodge the chalk particles. Equally, now that someone’s set the precedent, it might encourage even more grafitti. If it’s a decent mural, that would cheer the place up, but it’ll probably be a tag of no significance to anyone other than the perpetrator. In which case, I think we’d probably just have to demolish the wall as it’s become an eyesore, and then we’d be able to see just what a mess the garden behind is. All that, and we only said a quick hello to the wall.

Some good news this week: he’s back! Yes, we haven’t seen him for a while, but here’s the heron, by the weir.

Heron on the weir

He then flew downstream to spend some time on the island. Other people have been on the island too, they even left a chair behind, which is very thoughtful, because we all need somewhere to sit when we’ve waded over.

Chair on the island
Peacock butterfly

It’s a long time ago, but I can remember when we used to say that today, we saw 12 peacocks, 20 cabbage whites, several red admirals, and too many commas to count. Now, we’re excited when we see a single butterfly on a walk. Two in one day is very rare. But it was nice to see this chap sunning himself this week. What a shame about the piece of plain wood he was sitting on, not a very good background for the photo. Plus, there was a fence in the way so I couldn’t get any closer.

 

In local news, farewell Salutem and hello Boxx 2 Boxx.

Boxx 2 Boxx

The new coffee shop will open in a couple of weeks and the new people are working very hard in there by the looks of it.

On a sunny but cold day, we visited The Northern Den and treated ourselves to a coffee and an Easter-themed mini egg blondie each. A blondie is like a brownie, only made with white chocolate. Earlier in the week, we’d experienced the hottest March day for 30, or 50, or 100 years, depending on which news source you believe. But the nasty old Arctic Maritime Air Mass moved in, it’s definitely colder, and unbelievably, snow has been forecast for next week. We certainly have interesting weather here in the UK!

Back indoors for more online entertainment. I watched Jessica Lee Morgan not once but twice. She performed Mary Hopkin’s album Recollections, to perfection, some great songs including some by Jim Croce. Then a couple of days later, I watched her again, this time singing some of her own delightful songs while poor old Liesel attended a WI committee meeting online: I know who got the better deal!

We first saw The Horne Section during the recording of a radio show many years ago. This week, we watched them online: they’re all very talented musicians but they are also very funny and entertaining.

The Hornes Section plus Robbie

There was a guest appearance by Robbie Williams, performing a much more upbeat version of Angels than the one we’re usually subjected to, which was refreshing.

Radio Northenden was set up one year ago, so my show this week celebrated the anniversary and, in passing, mentioned a few other favourite radio stations. You can listen back here or on Wythenshawe Radio WFM97.2 and online on Wednesday at 7pm. Some great music (I may be biased) and some wonderful old radio jingles.

Birds, birthday and blossom

I was delighted to see William and Martha when they visited, along with Jenny and Liam, of course, since neither of the children can drive yet, on account of their legs being too short, they can’t reach the pedals. They brought me a big gift box for my birthday, which was a few days later.

We all stayed outside, Covid restrictions still apply of course. Liesel and I played hide and seek with the children, which was fun, even if the only real hiding place was behind the oak tree growing outside our block of flats.

Mature oak tree, with a wide girth
The old oak tree

We also played tag, or ‘it’ as I used to call it, but that’s a strange game to play too when you can’t actually get close enough to tag someone. Good to see both William and Martha are learning new skills.

It won’t be long before Martha is skipping as adeptly as her Grandad (used to). And William’s counting skills are phenomenal. He knows his sums very well, and at one point, he was counting in 10s. He’s only 3 years old. Yes, we are very proud and boastful of our grandchildren. We can’t wait until we can sit down together and read a book or even watch something on TV. How we long to be able to pick them up spontaneously for a hug.

The oak tree is still quite bare, but that’s OK, it gave us an opportunity to watch the little birds for a while. We’re not sure whether they were great tits or blue tits, they just wouldn’t sit still long enough.

And of course, my attempt to capture them on film was a complete and utter failure.

As I mentioned, it was my special day this week. Helen sent me this photo of my birthday present all the way from New South Wales.

Well, it’s a terrific number plate, but as it turns out, the vehicle isn’t mine at all, just the picture. Still, thanks Helen, it’s the thought that counts.

Actually, my big box of goodies was epic. Oh look, I’ve used a word that young people use, even though I am suddenly a year older. Beer, chocolates, Smarties, TimTams, a huge coffee mug from Sydney, a Nespresso Aeroccino 3, a fab gadget for heating and frothing milk. I can make my own cappuccinos and lattés at home. No need to visit coffee shops ever again. Thank you very much for everything, Helen and Adam and Jenny and Liam and Martha and William. And thank you Pauline for my Double Choc Brownie making kit!

Speaking of coffee shops, it was a very sad day in Northenden today. Everyone was wearing black in honour of it being Salutem’s final day of business. Black arm bands, black face masks and in my case, black trousers, black t-shirt and an all black (apart from the silver fern) windcheater from New Zealand. Just one final visit to this delightful little coffee shop on Palatine Road. So, farewell then, Rachel, Ceilidh and Andie.

In other local news, Northenden’s Post Office has been closed all week. An in-depth and thorough investigation has failed to ascertain exactly what is going on here. Actually, I had a quick look on Twitter to see if there was an explanation, but no, there wasn’t.

Liesel and I picked another couple of bags of litter one day this week, and we moved some fly-tipped items to the pick-up point by the litter bin. It’s a thankless task to a certain extent, but the odd passer-by who expresses gratitude makes the exercise less disheartening, and in any case, it’s all worthwhile.

William paid a surprise return visit, bearing gifts: cakes that he’d baked, with Jenny’s help.

I’m sorry we tucked in before I was able to take a picture: the tray was full to start with!

It was lovely to have an online chat with Jenny and Helen and Liam and Adam on my birthday. Adam’s still in quarantine having returned to Sydney from the UK.

And then later on, I saw William and Martha online too. Thay sang Happy Birthday to me, blew candles out and I’m sure, enjoyed their cakes too.

I watched Jessica Lee Morgan’s 66th online show on my birthday, and she was kind enough to send me birthday greetings and perform some of my requested songs, with her partner, Chris.

Here’s a short excerpt, which I’d watch more often but I don’t want to wear it out.

Any more online entertainment this week? Well, yes, actually. We watched a comedy show that featured my Radio Northenden friend and co-presenter Dan Tiernan, live from the Frog and Bucket Comedy Club in Manchester.

Dan said it was strange performing only to a virtual audience, but I think he was glad to be performing at all. I just checked and the show is still up here.

On my big day, I walked all the way into Didsbury for the first time since, ooh, I don’t know when. Nothing much has changed there, apart from many of the flowers in the planters are blooming.

The golf courses are still being well maintained, even if we’re not allowed to play right now. And even if we were allowed, I probably wouldn’t, following my GP’s advice from about 10 years ago when I was having really bad back issues.

Marie Louise Gardens was nice and quiet. A good place to sit down and watch the world and the squirrels go by.

Sometimes, it does feel that time is flying by, but equally, sometimes it passes really slowly. I think Liesel and I are both happy with our current workloads: projects and hobbies that keep us occupied each day. But, we can’t wait to be able to go out and do something different, somewhere different. Like everyone else, I imagine.

When I was young, the only Cherry Blossom I was aware of was the shoe polish that bears that name. I can’t help but remember this fact every year when I see actual, proper, real-life cherry blossom making the place look more colourful.

On this week’s Radio Northenden show, I played some very long songs and some very short ones. This will be edited for Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2, when it will be broadcast on 97.2 FM on Wednesday at 7pm, so please tune in if you’re in the area. Or, you can listen online of course. Or play the unedited version from the Mixlr Showreel.

Senior moment of the week. I got up as usual, had a shower and got dressed, which included of course, putting on a clean pair of underdaks. I went for a walk (as described above, to Salutem) and on returning home, I visited the lavatory, as I usually have to do. It was a ridiculously difficult task to perform on this occasion, so eventually, I had to look down to see what was occurring. Well, it turns out, that instead of adding yesterday’s dirty underwear to the laundry basket, I’d put them back on, on top of today’s clean pair. I was so embarrassed, I didn’t even tell Liesel about my faux pas. And I would appreciate it if you kept schtum too, thank you very much.

White lines and a white cat

We’re all looking forward to the end of Covid-related restrictions. We’re trying not to look back to 2020 too much. And this graffiti artist agrees.

2020 Still don’t look back

The tag is very well done, but I can’t read it. Maybe it’s a secret message for young people, maybe it’s not meant for us oldies.

On the other hand, we enjoyed three online concerts within 17 hours over the weekend.

Seth Lakeman celebrated the 15th anniversary of the release of his album, Freedom Fields.

Seth Lakeman

Bic Runga was, I think it’s fair to say, the main attraction at the Ōtautahi Together concert in Christchurch’s Botanic Gardens, to mark the tenth anniversary of the earthquake. There was meant to be a real audience in the gardens, but due to last minute Covid restrictions, it was streamed online. Ideal for me as I fought insomnia at 4 o’clock in the morning!

Bic Runga

Every Tuesday evening, Jessica Lee Morgan performs online, singing her own songs as well as covers of other peoples’. She also now performs online on the last Sunday of each month, singing the songs of her Ma, Mary Hopkin. This time, Jessica performed the whole of Mary’s album Valentine.

Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

Well, I enjoyed watching and listening to all the music, but if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice before, we can’t wait to see live music, performed live, in real life, in a theatre, concert venue or even in a park.

We don’t quite manage to get out for a walk every day. I’m sure we would if we were allowed to venture further afield, to National Trust properties for example, but we are limited right now. Litter picking isn’t the best way to keep the step count up. If we’re walking at a reasonable pace, we can achieve 10,000 steps in one and a half hours. But after two hours of litter picking at a slow, dawdling pace, stopping and starting, the pedometer said we’d only walked 5,900 steps. We certainly used as much, if not more, energy, but we don’t have a gadget to confirm this. Four bags collected this week, for those of you keeping a record.

As we passed by some houses, we were on the other side of the fence at the bottom of their gardens, we heard of chorus of people saying to each other, ‘You alright?’ ‘You alright?’ ‘You alright?’ ‘You alright?’ Honestly, it was like a live performance of The Royle Family.

Who remembers the old Pink Floyd song, Two Suns in the Sunset? Well, that’s what happens in Northenden when you take a late afternoon picture through the window.

Two Suns in the window

We spotted the lesser-spotted cup-and-saucer plant growing in somebody’s garden.

Cup-and-saucer plant

Again, we saw no herons this week, but it was good to make my acquaintance with this raven.

Raven

He was wandering around the beach by the Mersey. There’s always been a stretch of sand there, but the strand is much longer now, since the floods a few weeks ago.

I wandered by Old Bedians Sports Ground where the rugby pitches are used by dog-walkers, as recommended by the nearby sign.

Rugby pitch

The pitches are used to store flood water when necessary and I think this must be the sluice-gates control room, well-decorated on all four sides.

Control room

Fletcher Moss Gardens was also flooded a few weeks ago, and is now recovering well. There’s a warning though because it seems not everyone stood well back.

Careful, now

Still, I had a nice cup of coffee and a nice slice of carrot cake at the café here, thanks for asking.

I’d rather be in Whitby

They’ve taken away many of the benches in order to stop people congregating. So, instead, they were standing around in groups not really socially distanced. I sat in the rockery, watching the robin, and thinking about how one day, it would be nice to visit Whitby. No idea what planted that seed in my mind.

Last week our road was resurfaced and this week, the painting crew came to re-paint the white lines.

White line painters

Yes, we spend a lot of time watching people through our windows. But I did like the fact that in order to mark a straight line, they used a length of string covered in chalk dust, held tight between two points and pinged against the road. Old technology is sometimes the best.

I drove over to see the children and we tried to rescue a bumble bee with sugar water but I think we were too late. William liked standing close to it as it lay dormant on the drive, and jumping over it. Both he and Martha rode their pedal-less bikes and scootered and laughed. But all at a safe distance.

Martha’s still being schooled at home, and she dressed up for International Book Day, along with her classmates. That must have ben a fun Zoom call.

Martha as the little girl in the book

She’s going back to school on Monday, and William will return to Nursery on Wednesday. He’s only been for one day so far, before the government rules changed. He still enjoys a good ice cream though.

William missing his mouth

Otherwise, nothing much going on here: jigsaw puzzles, crochet, radio show, photos, writing, reading, podcasts, radio, turning on the TV and groaning because inevitably it’s a food programme, watching the white cat watching the squirrel but not chasing it until the squirrel’s right next to the tree.

Weatherwise it’s been a bit colder this week. This always happens when I blow the dust off my shorts for the first time as Spring begins.

For the sake of completeness, here is this week’s Radio Northenden show, the theme is Opposites. Why is there a Highway to Hell but only a Stairway to Heaven? Once again, Martha is the star of the show, thank you!

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?

Bowie, birds and bagels

Last weekend was a big David Bowie commemoration. We should have been celebrating his 74th birthday but instead, the world marked the fifth anniversary of his death.

I watched Lazarus, the musical that was one of Bowie’s final pieces of work, online, a recording of the London performance that I saw twice with our friend Helen, with Liesel joining us on one occasion. Liesel and I also saw Lazarus in Melbourne, and that seems a long time ago now.

And yes, it was just as enthralling for me the fourth time round.

Sophia Anne Caruso and Michael C Hall

Photos from TV screeens will never be as good nor as clear as those taken inside a theatre, of course. But you’re not supposed to take pictures in a theatre, apparently.

I stayed up late to watch A Bowie Celebration. This concert was put together by Bowie’s long-term piano player Mike Garson, and was shown online at 2am our time. Sadly, it was postponed for 24 hours, so I had to stay up late for a second night in a row, and that hasn’t happened for a long time. Actually, I grabbed a few hours kip before getting up, just in time, to enjoy three hours of wonderful and sometimes very moving music.

In real life of course, I would have run up to the stage and stolen the set list. Luckily, we can see the full set list here. Also in real life, Liesel would probably rather not let me run up to the stage!

Ian Hunter

It was good to see Ian Hunter perform his tribute to David Bowie, Dandy as well as All the Young Dudes and what’s scary crazy is, he’s 81 years old and still rocking and rolling. Many other Bowie alumni took part, including Tony Visconti (although we never saw him) and Rick Wakeman (confined to a very small box on the screen).  Yungblud never worked with Bowie of course, and I think he was trying to do a Covid test on himself with the microphone.

[Added two weeks later] I just found a list of some of the best comments from the Chat that accompanied the show. I couldn’t keep up with all the comments, there were far too many participants.
‘I small pot’.
‘Warszawa here’.
‘I got front row tickets’.
‘How do you mirror this show to TV?’
Mike Garson disappeared for one song: ‘Mike spilt coffee on his pants, changing now’.
‘Paid for a live concert, the energy ain’t there’.
‘I’m in space’.
‘The woman in front of me won’t sit down’.

Other than those two events, there were about twenty shows on radio to enjoy, BBC and elsewhere, never mind what was on TV. I’m still catching up of course, and what with a slight backlog of podcasts, it’s a good job we’re in lockdown and I don’t have to go to work! Always look on the bright side, as they say.

[10,000 words omitted]

Well, if Robert Heinlein can use that device in his novels, so can I in a blog. I could have written so much more about the David Bowie weekend but that’s for another place. Maybe.

The week was full of four letter words: rain, snow, cold, wind, dull, grey. Despite that, we did venture out a few times, but again, we confined ourselves to our own postcode.

The river was surprisingly low early in the week, we could even see the bricks that make up the weir. And our old friend the heron was sitting there wondering where all the water had gone.

Heron

But no need to panic. Within a couple of days, the river was as high as before, totally hiding the weir and covering the island. Anyway, our friend flew off, of course, and we next saw him standing on the grass. So here’s a bonus portrait of the heron.

Bonus heron

One day, we’ll go along with some fishes in our pockets to feed him.

The larger volume of water just a couple of days later was enough to shift large bits of, if not whole, trees.

Tree bashing one of the pillars holding up the M60

There’s a new lake in Wythenshawe Park.

A big puddle

A few seconds after taking this picture and putting my phone away, those two dogs had a really good time running through the puddle and shaking water over some other passers-by. A big puddle, yes, and the grass on both sides was under water too. Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, we’ll have to turn round and go back the way we came.

What a nice young van

The sentiment on the back of the van: seconded!

In other local news, as well as coffee this week, I bought some bagels from Salutem. Possibly the best bagels I’ve had since we were in Anchorage over two years ago. Anchorage: that city so well-known for its bagels.

The drizzle didn’t prevent me from walking to the GP for a quick visit. I certainly didn’t expect to see flamingoes, but there they were, two of them, large as life in somebody’s garden.

Pretty flamingoes

To be honest, I’m not sure they’re real life flamingoes, I couldn’t see a pond  anywhere nearby.

Yes, it was only drizzling lightly, but the puddles in Sharston Road were out in force. You have to time it right as you walk on by.

43 bus making a splash

I’ve always wondered, given that Manchester is famous for its rain, why is its drainage so bad? This should be the capital city of run-offs and storm drains.

Karine Polwart

The end of the week saw the start of the 19-day long Celtic Connections. Liesel and I have wanted to visit Glasgow for a while for this music festival, but obviously, not this year. Instead, we’ll enjoy it online, like everything else. But we’re certainly not alone in wanting to be able to see live music again, sometime.

One day this week, I poured out my breakfast cereal only to realise I’d finished off the milk in my first cup of tea. Fresh milk would be delivered later, so I was reluctant to open the emergency bottle of long-life milk. And there’s no way I was going to separate the Shreddies from the muesli and the blueberries, not to mention the Weetabix crumbs, and return all the cereal to the various correct containers. Only one thing for it. I poured on the last of the Christmas Baileys and had a very nice start to the day, thank you very much.

This week on Radio Northenden (newly updated website, go and have a look), we went back to school, had a few lessons and said thank you to our teachers. Catch up here.

Locked down, locked in

In lockdown, we’re allowed out for exercise and for food shopping and to collect medication. As requested, the GP sends our prescriptions electronically, directly to the pharmacy. One day this week, we got extra steps in by visiting one pharamcy, walking to the other branch then all the way back to the first, where we finally collected what we’d been in for in the first place.

The occasional coffee to take away is fundamental to our mental well-being, as well, of course. All our shopping is done online, it’s all delivered by some very nice young men and, last week, by a very nice young lady.

Northenden’s very own mermaid

When you’re lurking inside a pharmacy while the staff are failing to find what you came for, all you can do is admire the tat on sale, such as this little ladyfish.

I was in danger of succumbing to a full-on panic attack when my PC lost touch with the internet.

Scary, misleading, error message

After failing to fix it by turning the PC off and on again, I went for a walk to breathe and to calm down and to try and think of possible solutions that didn’t involve a sledge hammer.

24 hours later, everything was back to normal. I have no idea what it was that I did but I tried to set things up as if for the first time. And tried again. Plugging and unplugging everything that I could think of. And tried again. Then it was all working again. So I don’t know what went wrong and I don’t know how it was fixed.

St Wilfrid’s Church in the sunshine

We enjoyed a few local walks this week, in the cold but sometimes in bright sunshine. Quite rightly I suppose, Liesel’s Mom queried why I went for a walk in the graveyard. Well, it was somewhere different to go. The gravestones were very slippery though, like a field of miniature ice rinks.
In the sunshine, the distant stones resembled a rather sophisticated stoney toast rack.

Graveyard

Artwork of the week

That picture was a mistake, phone in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some people in the family are a bit better at taking pictures though. Just look at this one taken by Helen during a storm in Manly.

Lightning in Manly

This week marks what should have been David Bowie’s 74th birthday. Jessica Lee Morgan kicked off the celebrations on her regular Tuesday night online show.

I continued celebrating the great man on my own radio show on Friday afternoon . Listen back here: songs that David Bowie covered plus several of his songs covered mostly by female singers.

Another day, another walk and we have a new visitor, or maybe a new inhabitant, on the river. Is it a cormorant?

Cormorant

He didn’t move from his stone, despite quite a few people walking by on both sides of the river. Stone? Actually, it looks more like an old Roman plate, when you zoom in.

Shutters

Nice to see the cheeky grin on the shutters outside this closed beauty parlour. But hooray, the coffee shop next door, Salutem, was open.

The new year started off with some sad news for us. Sarah’s mother Myra passed away in her sleep. We saw her online last month on the occasion of her 90th birthday, and she was looking forward to celebrating in real life later on. We’ll miss our occasional visits to London with her, to the National Theatre, to the British Museum, to Pizza Express. And her occasional visits to Manchester. Martha and William love saying the words ‘Great Granny’. Yes, even when she was locked in her room at Premier Inn, hanging out of the window asking for help, she remained positive and upbeat.

When will I see you again?

There’s a new word to describe the no-man’s land between Christmas and New Year: Merryneum. The time of year when even more than usual, we don’t know what day of the week it is. And it still doesn’t matter really. Except when we miss Doctor Who because they showed it on a Friday, which is just bizarre.

It was much colder here in Northenden* and we took a break from our (not quite) daily strolls. *I know, it was colder everywhere, but Northenden is our universe for now.

Blue sky after rain

Blue skies are always welcome of course, along with bright sunshine. The Sun’s low, just above the horizon, even at noon, this time of year. So sun-hats are no good, the brim will never be wide enough. I am now wearing my beanie hat, to keep my the ears warm.

Following all the recent rain, the river is really high. The weir is totally submerged, its location given away only by surface turbulence.

The site of the weir

And what a shock to wake up one morning to the sight of snow. Yes, it was forecast, but it was still a surprise.

Fresh snow of Northenden

It soon melted, only to be replaced the following night. The clatter of the snowflakes pounding against the window disturbed my slumber.

More snow in Northenden

I took some pictures and crawled back into my pit.

Martha and William built a superb Snowman and Snowdog way over there in Cheadle. Sorry we couldn’t help out on this occasion.

William, Snowdog, Martha, Snowman

When William was asked why he’d put a glove on the side of the Snowdog, he pointed out that that’s what a Snowdog looks like. And, sure enough, Raymond Briggs’s Snowdog does have this embellishment.

I don’t know who built a snowman in our car park, but the next day, all that was left was his nose.

Snowman’s nose

We did come across this little chap on one of our walks. If we’d known, we would have brought the discarded nose with us and performed a transplant.

Snowman in Northenden

We felt it was probably too slippery and muddy on the river banks, so we gave them a miss this week. (Translation: we are wimps.) Looking down from the bridge, that was a wise move, I think.

The River Mersey

So, a pretty lazy week, really. Every noise outside is an invitation to look through the window. ‘What’s goin’ on?’ we ask, like some freak from EastEnders. Someone in the flats over the road received a delivery. When she answered the door:
Liesel: Is that the girl who goes out sunbathing sometimes?
Mick: I don’t know, I don’t recognise her with her clothes on.

What did we achieve this week? Well, Liesel completed her jigsaw puzzle, thank you Helen and Jenny.

Liesel’s 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle

And my New Year’s Day radio show is here.

As a special treat, we enjoyed our first Samosa Box. The food was delivered, still hot from the oven and the samosas were delicious. Support your local business!

Samosas and chips

Here are some statistics from 2020.

The good news is, I read more books this year than previously, thanks to the opportunity presented by lockdown. 41 books, 21 of which were by female writers. This is probably the first time I’ve read more books by women than by men, a conscious effort on my part. (2019: 33 books, 13 by women.)

On the other hand, I walked only 1530 miles in 2020 compared with 1748 in 2019, but we were on our Travels for half of that year. And, walking locally, it’s so easy to think, ‘oh that’ll do, I’m going home now’.

It was a funny old year, but I think we got by OK. We are looking forward to 2021. Happy New Year and thank you for joining Liesel and me on our antics. When will we see you again? Sometime soon, we hope. Why did that song come to mind this week? Because the temperature was Three Degrees.

Yes, we’re looking forward to the new year, but I can’t help but look back on decades past.

I always listen to Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70s and last week’s episode was especially good. Johnnie’s wife Tiggy talked to him about his broadcasting career during the 1970s, and they played some of his favourite songs from that decade. Listen again here before it falls off BBC Sounds.

Out of the 16 tracks played, I’ve seen most of the artists either in concert or in passing.

1 Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

Liesel and I saw them at a reunion gig in Hyde Park, one of the first shows we saw together. Liesel was intimidated by the large crowd, she wasn’t used to that sort of thing. It was a great show, of course, all their songs are wonderful. But sadly, there was no chemistry between them, no eye-contact at all. The support act was The Everly Brothers.

In a previous life, I saw Simon and Garfunkel at Wembley Stadium, in about 1982, with Sarah and my sister Pauline and her then boyfriend John. Jobsworth Security Man wanted to take my camera away, no photos in those days. I followed him a short way to wherever he was leading, chose my moment, ran off, took off my jacket, and joined the others in the auditorium. My photos were of course rubbish. But the show was great.

2 Derek and the Dominos – Layla

Sarah and I saw Eric Clapton on the same bill as Elton John and Bonnie Raitt, at Wembley Stadium in 1992. The performance was good but maybe a bit subdued. It was a year after the tragic death of his 4-year old son Conor. He performed his very moving song Tears in Heaven, written in memory of Conor. We saw him again at Masters of Music in 1996.

3 Neil Diamond – I Am… I Said

Sadly no.

4 The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again

As part of Masters of Music for The Prince’s Trust, The Who performed Quadrophenia on a cold June day in Hyde Park in 1996. It was so cold, I bought myself an extra t-shirt to keep warm. I know. Sarah, me, Jenny and Helen were here for a full day of music. We also saw Alanis Morissette and Eric Clapton again. But it was so cold, we, along with many hundreds of other people, left as Bob Dylan took to the stage.

5 Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side

Sarah and I saw Lou Reed at Hammersmith Odeon around the time of his Magic and Loss album, March 1992. A great show but when on arrival, we saw him sitting at a bar, having a quiet drink, we were too intimidated scared to walk up and say ‘Hello’.

6 The Steve Miller Band – The Joker

Sadly no.

7 David Bowie – Life On Mars?

Sarah and I saw David Bowie five times in concert: Wembley Arena twice, Earls Court, Milton Keynes Bowl (with baby Jenny, 1983) and at the awful short-lived London Arena (with Jenny, 1990, and yes, she fell asleep again). We saw him again at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley Stadium. But the only time I met him was outside the gallery hosting his art exhibition in 1995. He was coming out just as Sarah and I arrived. I shook his hand and thanked him for the music and asked for an autograph. ‘I’m gasping for a cuppa,’ he said, ‘I’ll be back in ten minutes’, he said, walking away with his assistant. Two hours is plenty of time to feign interest in wallpaper designs and other weird paintings. I’m still waiting for my man to return.

8 Cockney Rebel – Judy Teen

I saw Steve Harley, the lead singer, as a guest at a David Bowie Celebration in 2017. The band was put together by Mike Garson, Bowie’s long-time piano player, along with many other musicians who have played with Bowie. Steve Harley sang his own song Sebastian as well as a David Bowie song. I have a photo of the setlist. The woman was holding on to it really tightly, fearing I might run off with it.

9 John Lennon – Stand By Me

Sadly no.

10 Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

Sadly no.

11 Elton John & Kiki Dee – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

We saw Elton once with Eric Clapton (see above) and once before then at the Royal Festival Hall. The night before had been a Gala performance for a Royal personage which he must have found challenging, because he told us that tonight he could relax. The percussionist Ray Cooper stole the show.

Sarah and I also saw Kiki Dee at the Royal Albert Hall. She performed Don’t Go Breaking My Heart as a solo, despite the fact that from our lofty seats, we could see Elton lurking backstage. Good for him for not stealing the limelight.

12 The Eagles – The Last Resort

Sadly no.

13 Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK

Definitely no, I’m not even going to say I was at the famous 100 Club gig with 20,000 other people who were there in the tiny 350 capacity, iconic venue.

14 The Undertones – Teenage Kicks

Sadly no.

15 Patti Smith Group – Because The Night

I haven’t seen Patti Smith in concert, but I have had a deep and meaningless conversation with her. She curated the Meltdown Festival in London, 2005. As well as putting on several shows, she did some work with students from local schools. One lunchtime at the Royal Festival Hall, our paths crossed. I said ‘Hello’. She said ‘Hello’.

16 Jackson Browne – Running On Empty

Sadly no.

Liesel and I are looking forward to more live shows later in the year, as I’ve said before. Until then, radio and online gigs will have to do!

 

Christmas Crackers

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house, nothing was stirring, no, not even us. Our movements were confined to Northenden. Much excitement to be had on bin day when I only had to take out five wheelie bins instead of the usual nine. We think we’re one of only two flats occupied in our block at the moment.

I fancied a quick snack, as is often the case at Christmastime. Well, not just Christmas, of course, but this was a particularly Christmaslike desire for a snack. I thought about some ridiculously delicious delights, since I’m one of those people who doesn’t have time for the mediocre. Scrumptious somethings for me, a double-or-nothing food lover, because my fancies are tickled by serious baking. I found some crackers, savoury biscuits in the cupboard. I topped them with a range of cheeses so outrageously indulgent, I couldn’t help but giggle in blissful, unbridled merriment.

There is some sad news though. We said goodbye to our old toaster this week. Its left-hand slot hasn’t worked well for quite some time. But at least, we can dispose of it safely. The bonus is, I didn’t have to get rid of all its crumbs, an exercise guaranteed to leave us walking on crunch in the kitchen for days afterwards, no matter how careful I am and no matter how diligent I am in sweeping up the mess. In the old days, cleaning the toaster was an exercise conducted out in the garden, much to the birds’ delight.

Local strolls took us to the river and through the woods, along our High Street, Palatine Road and very slightly beyond.

Brinkmanship

As described a couple of weeks ago, the seagulls are still playing brinkmanship by the weir.

Liesel – the bollard relief service

Traffic is no longer allowed along this little road. But someone decided to take shortcut. This is why Liesel volunteered to join the bollard replacement scheme. Conversely, the bollard was lying down in the road a few yards away, where Liesel often takes a nap.

In the great ongoing war between trees and fences, this tree recently won a minor battle.

Tree 1 Fence 0

The big astronomical event of the week was the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, appearing close to each other in the night sky. Usually we can’t see anything interesting in the sky because of the thick layers of cloud, but on the day before the closest approach, we were met with clear blue skies. So, just after sunset I looked southwest and saw the two planets. It took a while to convince myself that it wasn’t just the headlights from a passing aeroplane, but hooray, I saw the two largest planets in the solar system. I tried to take a picture with my phone, it’s obviously not the best picture taken of the event.

Conjunction photo – fisrt attempt

Next time, I hope to be better prepared, and maybe my photo too will show the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter, like this one I saw on Twitter.
[I would like to credit whoever took this picture, but aarrgghh, I can’t find it]

Someone else’s photo of the conjunction

On Christmas eve, I was surprised by and delighted to see a nice sunset again, with clear blue skies once the orange red tints faded. I used binoculars to see the two planets, now a bit further apart, but ours aren’t strong enough to show any features. I did manage to take a clearer picture with my phone, through the binoculars.

Phone through bins

Liesel did a fabulous job of putting up our Christmas lights again. There’s no space really for a tree in our luxury apartment, but the shelves in our living room will do.

Christmas decorations

We’ve enjoyed a lot of online enetrtainment this week, all of which we would prefer to see in real life, in the flesh. But then, we wouldn’t go out three or more nights in a row.

Phil Cunningham holds a Christmas Concert every year but this, the 15th, was online only. In fact, there were two shows in the end. During one, Eddi Reader performed In The Bleak Midwinter, my favourite Christmas tune, I think. And in the other, she sang Scarlet Ribbons, my first ever favourite song, and one that always reminds me of my Mum.

Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson, Phil Cunningham and many others

Tuesday evening is Jessica Lee Morgan evening. She and her partner Chris keep us entertained for an hour while those of us watching exchange pleasantries and bad jokes in the chat box.

Jessica lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

Christmas eve, after dark, we were entertained by O’Hooley and Tidow singing songs for us, along with their little one, Flynn, who joined in a bit.

Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow with baby Flynn

I think the consensus amongst all these performers and audience members is, we can’t wait to get back to live gigs again. Until then, we’ll be walking around the highways and byways of Northenden, commenting on high the river is, how fast it’s flowing, enjoying the sunshine on our backs once in a while.

Every time we walk through the woods, I regret not bringing my tools. This fence has been broken for as long as I can remember, and I reckon I can fix it with a few nails and a couple of cable ties. Oops, I just remembered, I’ve passed on most of my tools. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.

The fence keeled over

The Christmassy tree is looking better and better. There’s even a parcel or two there now.

The Kenworthy Lane Woods Christmassy tree

We passed the Winter solstice this week, so in theory, the days are getting longer again. But this week was also the first time we went for a walk while it was still frosty. I was persuaded to wear trousers. Trousers: they’re like shorts, but they cover whole legs, all the way down to the shoes. They also feel very strange.

Frosty

9½ hours I’ll never get back!

My achievement of the week was completing the biggest crossword I’ve ever attempted: 1284 clues. It was an app, with a few annoying adverts but good fun and quite challenging at times.

Yes, I sent off for and received a magnificent certificate!

If you want to have a go, and I would highly recommend it, here’s the link to download it.

Christmas isn’t the same without children, is it? I can still remember the sense of electric excitement I felt leading up to Christmas day. I relived it with Jenny and Helen growing up and now we see it in William and Martha.

The night before Christmas with Martha and William

On Christmas day, we all got together, online. So much fun, but definitely not as good as actually meeting up, playing with the children’s new toys and reading their new books.

Martha, Oma, Grandad and Auntie Helen

We were watching something on TV on Christmas day afternoon when Liesel suddenly exclaimed ‘It’s snowing!’ And it was. Everso slightly. Everso lightly.

Mick! It’s snowing!

And then, within five minutes, it had stopped. Hardly a white Christmas. Maybe next year. Or, if meteorologists are to be believed, it’s more likely to snow at Easter time.

Oh, the cheese and crackers mentioned above? We now have more outrageously indulgent cheeses from the Cheese Hamlet in Didsbury to enjoy with the scrumptious quartet of biscuits.

In the end, I didn’t do a radio show this week. But all the others are still available if you would like to catch up. And look out for a major re-launch of radio Northenden soon!

We’ll be back next week. Next year! Cheers!