You just can’t find a bulldog clip when you need one.
We enjoyed a few local walks this week, by the river, and beyond. It’s colder, especially when wind fresh from the Arctic comes along.
Of course, it’s not really a croc. We’re not in the Northern Territory any more, sadly, but we’re still on the look-out for dangerous animals. I wonder how far this log travelled? Is it now lodged on the part-time island in Northenden? Or is it a potential threat to shipping in the Irish Sea?
It wouldn’t be a proper walk without encountering mushrooms. Are these liberty caps? Magic mushrooms? We now need a mycologist on our panel of experts, along with the botanist, arborist, architect and historian who can help out with my embarrassing lack of knowledge in those fields.
Liesel went to bed, but as the loyal fan I am, I stayed up until midnight to watch Erin McKeown online. She was performing outside her home in New England, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of her first album, Distillation. It was a fun show, and I slept well when I eventually turned in.
Sometimes, we glimpse a half-decent sunset from our living room, it’s just a shame about the intervening buildings.
We wandered over to Fletcher Moss Park and enjoyed a coffee under The Joshua Tree. ‘Not the Joshua Tree’, said Liesel, but I disagreed, pointing out the commemorative sign attached. I never knew Josh of course, but I was moved by seeing the lyrics from an Oasis song.
Elsewhere in the park, tree surgeons were at work. I say ‘surgeons’, but another word came to mind. This was a very nice tree, it didn’t harm anybody.
If it’s Tuesday, it must be time to watch Jessica Lee Morgan online again. So I did.
We don’t see our herons every time we go out, but it’s always a delight to be the first to spot him. Or her. This one was sitting there, surveilling his territory. Sometimes, we see one rooting about in the grass, maybe tracking something, but definitely treading quietly and carefully.
Indoors, Liesel is busy with her crochet and now, some more needle-felting with the WI. This chap with a big hat is very cute on our bookshelves. While Liesel was busy with this, I continued my search for a bulldog clip.
For the first time in a very long time, we walked over to Cheadle Hulme and back. Just because we can’t see William and Martha in the flesh doesn’t mean we can’t give them books from time to time.
This was by far the longest walk of the week, and we both felt much better for it. As we walked over a stream, I looked it up. It’s called Micker Brook, and, look, according to Google Maps, just over there a bit, there’s a bagpiper for hire.
What a shame that so much of our road system is geared up to cater for the worst of the bad drivers. This barrier makes it ridiculously difficult for pedestrians to cross the side road at this point. I wouldn’t want somebody driving into my house either, but that’s what speed limits are meant to be for.
This is the ever evolving ricketty fence in Gatley. The elderly gentleman can often be seen repairing it, introducing new branches, planks and, as you can see here, a couple of wooden pallets on this occasion. Apparently he’s always refused any help in repairing the fence properly, once and for all.
As we wandered through Gatley, I spotted this shop. Hooray! I went inside and asked for a bulldog clip. ‘Sorry,’ was the reply, ‘we don’t sell bulldog clips.’ But you have loads in your window, I pointed out. I was glared at, so I still don’t have a bulldog clip. Oh well.
Ah, this fence looks much better, especially now with its new Autumn colours.
And, sorry, but here’s the oblogatory weekly photo of fly-tipping here in Northenden. This time, a carpet and lots of garden waste.
Anyway, never mind that, here is some much more uplifting (I hope) family news.
Helen and Adam have been together now for fifteen years, and it don’t seem a day too long. To celebrate, they went for a balloon trip over the vineyards and the curious kangaroos of New South Wales. What an adventure!
Nearer home, Martha is doing very well at school. The first parents’ evening revealed nothing embarrassing, and the teacher is very happy to have Martha in her class, very interested, very observant, even to the point of noticing something that’s lined up for a surprise later on.
William told his Mummy one morning ‘I can’t get the puff out of my nose.’ A wheat puff, a vital component of his breakfast. Mummy and Daddy looked up the orifice but couldn’t see anything. Was he joshing? Hovering between laughing and sheer panic, a solution was found. I’d never heard of a ‘mother’s kiss’ or ‘parent’s kiss’ before but it’s very effective. So here’s a tip for parents of little ones with foreign objects rammed up the hooter:
Tell the child they will be given a ‘big kiss’
Place your mouth over the child’s open mouth, forming a firm seal as if performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
Close the unaffected nostril with a finger
Blow until you feel resistance caused by the closure of the child’s glottis
Give a sharp exhalation to deliver a short puff of air into the child’s mouth, which passes through the nasopharynx and out through the unoccluded nostril
Repeat if necessary
In William’s case, the wheat puff shot out and ricocheted around the room. But if not, you might shift the object enough for it to become visible.
The following morning, at breakfast: ‘Mummy, I can’t get the Rice Krispie out of my nose.’
And finally, if you’d like to hear two hours of fabulous music about my desires to be a spaceman, listen to the show here on Radio Northenden.
It’s been a wet week weatherwise. So much rain, so many deep puddles. The only good thing about the torrential rain is that, when it peppers the living room windows with millions of raindrops, we can’t see the leaden grey sky behind.
Again this week, we didn’t venture far afield, we just walked everywhere, in all directions, mostly avoiding the rain.
We haven’t seen the geese for a while, we thought they’d migrated, but apparently not.
Wythenshawe Park is a nice big space, and there’s always something interesting to see.
No, of course I didn’t laugh when the little dog tried to carry the huge stick through a gap that was too small. I did laugh though when it looked at me as if it were my fault.
I’d forgotten there were tennis courts in the park, and a few people were having a good game, but the girls weren’t grunting like they have to at Wimbledon.
Liesel and I might take up tennis one day, when ‘this’ is all over. My worst ever tennis related injury, years ago, was blisters on my hand from gripping the racquet too tightly.
Mushrooms are taking over the world, or at least, our small corner of it.
Another day, we watched a couple of people playing golf on one of our local courses.
I suggested to Liesel that she bury the ball in the sand, just for a laugh, but she declined the offer.
Liesel and I might take up golf one day, although my GP advised me not to while I was having back issues when I was a postman. Sarah and I used to play Pitch and Putt when we lived in Peterborough. My claim to fame is that one day I pitched the ball so hard, it hit a passing bus.
It was my turn for a flu jab this week, so I walked to the GP surgery, hoping it wouldn’t rain until at least I was on my way home. Did I mention we’ve had a lot of rain recently?
It looks like this small, bright yellow, protective barrier wasn’t up to the job after all.
I had a fantastic idea as I passed by this residence:
Rain panels. There must be a way of harnessing the energy generated by falling rain. And, as I may have hinted, there’s a lot of rain about at the moment. I just need to work out a few technical details.
I walked through Hollyhedge Park, another peaceful place, although you can still hear the hum and rumble from the nearby motorway.
Liesel and I might take up bowls one day: we had a go in Chessington a few years ago and apparently, I’m a natural. A natural what, our host didn’t say.
We’re looking forward to the time when we can once again take William and/or Martha to a playground. Or anywhere, really.
This is the home of Wythenshawe Amateurs Football Club aka the Ammies. Which is confusing, because nearby Salford City FC is also known as The Ammies. There’s a lot about football that I’ll never understand.
Liesel and I might take up football one day but, no, actually, it’s very unlikely. My games teacher at school knocked any real interest in football out of me, and Liesel doesn’t like being out in the rain.
But, if Martha or William take up any of these wonderful sports, or anything else, we’ll definitely be there to support them, whatever the weather!
We’re about to be locked down again, so our world isn’t going to broaden any time soon. But we still enjoy our almost daily walks in and around Northenden. And we did have a proper day out, just once, this week.
We walked over to Fletcher Moss Park where Liesel again met up with her WI ladies.
The river was flowing slowly on this occasion, so the kayakers couldn’t just drift along. They probably needed the exercise.
We haven’t seen swans on the Mersey for a long time, so this was a rare treat.
In the park, one of the memorial benches received some love, presumably from the family.
While Liesel chatted with her friends, I took my coffee to the rockery, found a bench in the Sun and read my book. What I didn’t anticipate was having company of my own.
The robin and I had a good chat. I couldn’t apologise enough for not having any food, certainly no mealworm, about my person.
I have a few books on the go at the moment: poems, short stories, non-fiction but no novel, and that is very unusual. So I was pleased when Jyoti recommended a science fiction book that I might enjoy. Thank you!
Walking back home through the park, we passed a crocus, which is unusual this time of year. It’s jolly lucky we didn’t stomp on it by mistake.
We’re told this is a wild Autumn crocus, new to both of us.
Something else I didn’t expect to see in the park was a bat. Neither a cricket bat nor a vampire bat.
Later on, we saw the herons, two of them, flying up and down the river. Maybe they hadn’t migrated after all. Or maybe they had but didn’t like it there and came home. Anyway, one stopped, waited, watched and finally grabbed for a juicy titbit in the water. He shook his head, but who knows whether he was swallowing a small fish, or just stunned from bashing his beak on the river bed.
We had a good day at Chester Zoo, which I don’t think was as busy as last time. The temperature was perfect. But the animals were not at all cooperative, turning away as soon as they knew I was about to take their picture.
Here are just a few of the animals that we saw, some more easily than others.
The beautifully iridescent Himalayan monal is the national bird of Nepal, and one of the few inmates to turn round and pose for a photo.
Liesel finished her second crochet blanket this week, and it’s a wonderful work of art. It has been exported to Chessington where I hope it lives happily ever after.
While Liesel’s busy crocheting, I can usually be found pursuing one of my interests on the computer. For instance, this week, I completed the ‘How to Read Poetry’ course. It was interesting but very intense and I learned a lot of new words and concepts.
Here’s a pretty leaf It fell out of a tree If I’d been there at the wrong time It might have fell on me.
Yes, I should probably do a ‘How to Write Poetry’ course too.
We wandered over to Gatley under a blue sky. Mostly. Big grey clouds appeared ominously, the temperature dropped a few degrees and we were convinced we’d be rained on before we returned home. But no, our luck held.
We went for another walk, this time through Kenworthy Woods. The apples that we’d planned on sampling have long gone, and the few that remain are a bit moth-eaten, or squirrel-eaten. I left Liesel at the hairdresser where she kept her mask on, and enjoyed her first haircut in over six months.
I’ll never be a big fan of snails, but now that I am not growing plants that they find very nice and very tasty, I can almost admire their beauty.
This week on Radio Northenden, we went to the zoo: a couple of hours of music about zoos, zoo animals or some songs with a very tenuous link to the above. Listen here. Thanks again to Martha and William for helping out. Nobody could ask for better broadcast assistants.
Martha was VIP in her class one day at school, this week. This was because she turned up at school bearing a huge smile. Mummy said she was very proud of Martha. Martha said, ‘I’m proud of me, too. I’m proud of my mouth.’
A big week in mickandlieselsanticsland – it was a big birthday for Liesel. We celebrated by going to the seaside, not once, but twice.
The car park was full, but the beach is huge, so although there were pockets of people, it was easy enough to find our own space. Luckily, we’d arrived early, because by the time we left, there was a very long queue of cars waiting to get into the car park. The final Sunday before the ‘Rule of 6’ restrictions kick in, maybe. Or just a Sunday.
These shapes are a result of small stones and fragments of shell on the beach, combined with the angle of the Sun and the wind direction. At first glance, it reminded me of some old Babylonian cuneiform writing, all those little triangles.
We had a nice long walk along the beach. The wind was borderline acceptable, quite strong but not cold. Nonetheless, for protection, I was walking along the beach with a finger in my ear like a really intense folk singer.
On Monday, lots of flowers arrived, so I was up and down stairs like an old, wheezing yoyo [edited]. The bell rang, I ran downstairs, thought it was weird because I’d ordered flowers from Interflora, not M&S, then I thought maybe Interflora uses M&S round these strange northern parts. Plus when Liesel opened the box, I thought, those don’t look like the flowers I’d ordered! The attached card revealed that this bouquet was actually from Helen and Steve. My flowers arrived a couple of hours later, I’m glad to say. And a third one from Pauline, Andrew and Rob in New Zealand arrived a little later. So far, my birthday card hasn’t arrived, which is embarrassing and very disappointing: I should have just handed an old one over in the first place. but I didn’t want to go into a shop and buy one, so I ordered it online. Oh well, there’ll be another birthday next year.
Early on birthday morning, we had a Zoom call with Jenny, Liam, Martha and William here in UK, and Helen and Adam in Australia. Martha and William sang Happy Birthday, blew out candles and ate cake. (Later in the day, William wanted to sing Happy Birthday again, but I think the main attraction was more cake.) Liesel opened her presents and it looks as though she’ll be busy for the next several weeks doing a 2000-piece jigsaw puzzle (a collage of photos of our grandchildren and our adventures, put together by Helen), and making cheese (a great idea, Jenny)!
Later on, it was good to have an online chat with Sarah in Exeter too.
We returned to Formby, and even though it was much later in the day this time, it was far less busy. Everyone’s back at work and at school now, hastening the second wave of Covid infection, presumably
We had a fantastic picnic lunch of samosas and veggie sausage rolls. The wind was less strong today, too, so overall, we had a very pleasant time. The tide was a long way out, so if there were any jellyfish around, we didn’t see them.
It was a hot day, and possibly the last really hot day of the year, if the forecast is anything to go by.
I could have made a cake, I could have gone out and bought a cake, but Liesel made her own cake, a small but perfectly formed chocolate cake. Somehow, we made it last three days. Very nice, very tasty.
We walked around the local area again a few times, visiting the river, and Fletcher Moss Park. We don’t know if our herons have migrated at all, but we haven’t seen them all week.
The Autumn colours are really coming out now.
We talked about these tall trees. Are they conifer? Or are they dancer? Answers on a postcard please!
One morning, we went out really early, the ground was covered in dew, our feet got wet, but we saw some beautiful sights.
So, the title, Mandelbrot Extinction. Any ideas? No, nor me. I woke up one day with the phrase buzzing around my head like a fly trying to get out of a room with no windows. I assume it’s the only remnant from what must have been a very interesting dream. I googled the phrase, of course I did, and there is nothing. My strange nocturnal mind has invented something brand new. At least I have a name the next time I form a rock band.There used to be a game to play on the internet: enter two random words into Google and try to get exactly one result. Googlewhacking! Well, once this blog has been published and the web crawlers have done their job, maybe Mandelbrot Extinction will be a successful Googlewhack, bringing you right back here!
Friday in Northenden was big. Up Your Street was an opportunity for local businesses to highlight their wares. Thankfully, the weather was kind, and Palatine Road and the surrounding area was very busy. Dan McDwyer and a couple of singers from his Youth Choir, part of The Choir Project, provided the entertainment outside Salutem.
As well as playing keyboards, singing and conducting his singers, he was broadcasting on Radio Northenden. And yes, it was good to see Radio Northenden in the list of participants.
Liesel and I had a fantastic breaded halloumi burger in The Northern Den, highly recommended! We met Sanny and Katie from Radio Northenden there, with (baby) Byron: he sometimes gatecrashes his Mum and Dad’s shows. It felt strange talking to people, in a restaurant, outside, because after six months of lockdown, of course, it is strange.
Before walking up the road to Up Your Street, I presented my own regular show on Radio Northenden. Because it was her birthday this week, Liesel picked all the music and there were some lovely messages from family and friends too. Due to bad planning on my part, I had to leave out a couple of the songs, and many of the stories I’d planned ended up on the cutting room floor. And now, they’ve ended up here, in this very blog. Here comes a tarted up version of the ‘script’ for Liesel’s Birthday show. Tarted up? I’ve fixed the many typographical, grammatical and punctuational errors and I’ve left out all the adverts for, and references to, Up Your Street – if you missed it, you missed it! Listen here for two hours of fab and groovy music.
Mort Stevens and his Orchestra – Theme from Hawaii Five-O Dave Matthews – American Baby
We’ve seen Dave Matthews Band in concert a few times, with Liesel’s cousin Andrea, and Steve. And just like Whispering Bob Harris, we can’t understand why they’re not bigger here in the UK. At one show, Liesel was approached by a stranger. Liesel thought he was a ne’er-do-well, a random stranger. But no. He was only Dave Matthews’ guitar player, and he was here, at Andrea’s behest, to give Liesel a guitar pick.
Queen – Radio Gaga
I saw Queen support Mott the Hoople at Hammersmith Odeon. Liesel didn’t, on account of being a mere toddler at the time. Embarrassing. Mott the Hoople played a long set, they wouldn’t leave the stage, and the curtain came down in front of them.
U2 – Bullet the Blue Sky Dolly Parton – Coat of Many Colours
Nope, neither of us have seen U2 nor Dolly, live.
Delighted that Liesel chose a David Bowie song, almost without prompting. You may remember the video for China Girl ends with a passionate embrace on a beach. Well, Liesel and I spent part of her birthday at Formby [see above], walking and picnicking, rather than rolling around in the surf: the tide was too far out.
David Bowie – China Girl
Liesel’s celebratory birthday meal this year, after our day at the seaside, was fish and chips from the Church Road Chippy. Sadly, they had no cheese and onion pies for me this time, so a bit of a let-down.
Unthanks – Magpie
We’ve seen them just once in concert, at the newly renovated Roundhouse in London.
Martha Tilston – Survival Guide
We’ve seen Martha probably more often than any other single artist, at various venues around the country. [Most recently]
Billy Joel – Piano Man
We’ve seen him in concert once, great show, Piano Man, Uptown Girl, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. He invited his guitar player Mike del Guidice to sing a song. He performed Nessun Dorma and of course we sang along. Well, until security intervened.
Neil Diamond – I am I said
We wanted to see him in concert a few years ago, but the tickets were far too expensive.
Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto – Desafinado
That’s another song that I murdered while learning to play the saxophone.
Shanukh Khan and Sapna Awasthi – Chaiyya Chaiyya
I was doing all the Bollywood moves there, screwing in light bulbs, picking cherries from trees. I can’t do the pigeon head movement though. From the 1998 film Dil Se.
Adele – Skyfall
One of those songs that took a while to grow on me after being played on autorepeat on a radio station that I couldn’t switch off, when I was at work. [Chessington Delivery Office]
Gordon Lightfoot – Rainy Day People
We saw him on his first visit to the UK after a 30-year absence. He still has a great voice and some timeless songs
Bill Withers – Ain’t no Sunshine
One of Liesel’s favourite songs. Bill Withers’ first job was making toilet seats for Boeing airlines. He wrote this song during that time.
Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the wall
We haven’t seen Pink Floyd but we’ve been close. We once cycled from Bakewell to Buxton, along the A6, in the rain, as it was getting dark, an experience that Liesel doesn’t need to repeat. The reward was seeing a Pink Floyd tribute band at the Opera House. We only had time for a bag of crisps for dinner that evening. [We’d been told that buses between Bakewell and Buxton have bike racks on the front. They don’t.]
A better experience was watching Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, in Hyde Park in London. He performed Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. I found it it incredibly moving. I don’t think Liesel quite understood why me and other fans of a certain age were in tears. That’s how powerful music can be.
Sister Sledge – We are Family Simon and Garfunkel – 59th Bridge Street Song
We saw them at a reunion gig in Hyde Park, our first outdoor show together. Liesel was slightly intimidated by the size of the crowd, so much so, that she wouldn’t even let me go to the toilet by myself. The show was good but I don’t think Paul and Art made eye contact once, which is quite sad. The support act was The Everly Brothers.
We saw Wynton Marsalis at a late night concert many years ago, maybe it was one of the Proms that year. And we can hear a version of that song on Amy Lamé’s 6 Music show each week as she tells us what delights we can look forward to. Amy is also big fan of Christine and the Queens. During a recent interview, I wondered whether they shouldn’t just get a room.
Christine and the Queens – Christine [Baz Luhrmann (Quinson Tarver speaking)- Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen – not played because I was running out of time] Duran Duran – Ordinary World
We nearly saw Duran Duran in concert several years ago, we had tickets, but sadly illness overtook us.
Rick Braun – Nightwalk
We saw him in concert at Pizza Express in London. We had a table right at the front. Rick left his trumpet on the stage, easily within reach. Tempted to have a go? Of course I was, but Liesel said No.
Bic Runga – When I see you Smile
We were lucky enough to see her in concert a couple of years ago, in a vineyard on an island off Auckland, New Zealand, what a beautiful day, she really made us smile.
James Taylor – Steam roller [Swear word beautifully edited out, if I do say so myself]
Of course we’ve seen James Taylor on stage! Just the once.
We’ve also seen REM: at Twickenham Stadium. They played their music, not rugby, of course.
REM – Man on the Moon Frank Sinatra – Young at Heart
Have we seen Frank in concert? Yes, if a holographic projection counts. ‘He’ was accompanied by a live orchestra.
[Dave Matthews – What would you say? – not played, no time] Elbow – Grounds for Divorce PS Yes, I was surprised at how many of these artists we’ve seen perform in concert over the last 16 years or so together. What an adventure! We can’t wait for live shows to start up again.
Liesel and I are both happy about going out for a walk most days. There’s usually something interesting or funny to see in our local neighbourhood. But, equally, we can’t wait to go further afield. New York. London. Paris. Munich. Everybody talk about pop music. Our one trip out of the area this week was to Dunham Massey, the National Trust venue. Last time we went, it was far too crowded, so we were quite prepared to take a look at the car park and leave straightaway if necessary. But no: our luck was in.
As usual, we await corrections from our botanical correspondents.
Thanks go to Sally who identified these beauties as cyclamen. Of course, deep down, I knew that all along. I remember being told off as a youngster for trampling on my parents’ cyclamen in the garden, whilst retrieving an errant ball.
It really was a much more pleasant walk today than last time, we never felt there were too many people, too close to us. Schools are back and many people are now back at work, so that probably helped.
It was nice to see so many butterflies, especially in the garden. But I am old enough to remember when, on a nature walk, we asked each other how many species of butterfly we’d seen, not just how many individual specimens.
This is a good view, other people, far, far away in the distance. Yes, of course we came across groups of five, walking slowly, side by side, occupying the full width of the path, but really, we were very relaxed about the situation today.
Regular viewers may recall my several failed attempts to take a decent photograph of a dragonfly, when we were in Alaska a couple of years ago. And other places, subsequently. Well, I think this is my most successful shot so far. Yes, I would prefer a more natural background, not the fence post, but that’s where he decided to settle.
We were able to walk around the deer park on this visit, an area that was restricted last time. And we saw quite a few deer. These two young males were having a pretend fight. The clatter of the clashing antlers resonated around the park. They scared a little fawn, who ran back to its mother, but there was no real malice in their sparring. Liesel was (rightly) concerned that I wouldn’t get too close, but none of the deer even twitched an ear in my direction.
We chose to walk to Fletcher Moss Park on what must have been National Dog-Walking Day. We saw at least three people, each with four or five dogs, of various shapes and sizes, the larger ones bounding about like jacks in boxes, the little ones with their little legs whizzing round and round like cartoon characters.
In the park, we admired the way the grass cutting operative had, literally, cut the corner.
We walked through the rockery and rewarded ourselves with a coffee at the Alpine Tea Rooms.
Our early-morning weekly walk to Didsbury was very pleasant.
This thing looks like a wasp rather than a bee, but it has a silver back, like an elderly male gorilla. But I didn’t think wasps were bothered about pollinating. We await further information from our entomological correspondents.
The sky was blue and the contrails were out in force this morning.
This young lady was enjoying herself, bonding with the ducks.
We’ve seen a lot of heron activity during the week: one seems to hang about by a particular spot on the riverbank, maybe there’s a colony of tasty frogs there, or something.
We’ve seen far fewer geese this week: I wonder if they’ve started to fly south for the Winter? Another missed photo opp was a pair of squirrels, both standing upright on their hind legs, each holding an acorn in their front paws. A very cute pair of bookends.
We saw a very long worm on the path. I don’t know if we saved it from being consumed, but the robin wouldn’t return after we’d inadvertently scared it away. I’d like to say we saw a couple of chickens this week too, but no, just empty boxes from the local fried chicken emporia. A couple of horses thought about coming over the see us for a chat, but in the end, they changed their minds.
Apart from our perambulations, what have we been up to? Three weeks ago, we started studying poetry online. It’s a Future Learn course, of which I’ve completed quite a few now. How to read a Poem is very interesting, very detailed, very technical and very time-consuming. The funniest comment I’ve seen so far on the poetry course: “I do struggle with the idea that anything can be poetry but then I’m not a big fan of Tracy Eminem’s work either so I’m possibly just too old school.”
Online, I always try to catch Jessica Lee Morgan’s shows. If you want to hear her music, visit her YouTube channel, she’s performing live every Tuesday evening, 8pm, during September.
Or, listen to my latest Radio Northenden Show. I’ve played one of her songs every week so far, and I’m not apologising for that. This week’s theme was ‘Time Travel’, an excuse to play songs that I wouldn’t otherwise choose. Please bookmark this link and join me next Friday at 2pm to help celebrate Liesel’s birthday!
In other news: following my haircut last week, I am pleased to report a fantastic return on my investment. Yep: my shampoo bill has been more than halved.
Recently, Manchester Central Convention Complex was converted to a Nightingale Hospital, in case the Covid pandemic was even worse in England than it has turned out to be. Thirty years earlier, one of my favourite bands from the 1990s played a gig there. Being a Londoner, I was of course oblivious to this at the time. The venue, formerly known as G-Mex, hosted the Inspiral Carpets and their performance, recorded by Granada TV, has gone down in history as one of the greats. I watched
a recording on YouTube along with about 650 other people on the anniversary, many of whom were at the show all those years ago. I was reminded again just how many great songs the band recorded. And then there’s Tom Hingley’s soaring vocals. I can’t wait to see him perform live again, either solo or with his new(-ish), tribute band, the Kar-pets.
We enjoyed a few days out, including a couple of longer trips in the car. The poor old thing doesn’t know what’s going on. But we still spent some time down by the Mersey.
Sorry, I borrowed that caption from the 1970s.
Meanwhile, some of the path in the woods is becoming overgrown. William would love it in this jungle.
One day, I’ll be taking a picture of someone’s flowers, and they’ll take offence and I’ll have to beg forgiveness while convincing them I wasn’t casing the joint, honest.
The shops are beginning to open, as the lockdown is relaxed. Well, until the recently implemented tighter lockdown in Greater Manchester. There are some pretty planters in Palatine Road.
I sat outside Salutem and enjoyed a lovely cup of coffee while watching people going by, all at a safe distance. It felt so civilised, such a simple pleasure, long denied.
In another first for a long time, we drove to the seaside. It’s a long beach at Formby, and as the tide was very far out, we had plenty of space. As advised by the sign, we tried swimming between the flags but to be honest, it’s so much easier to move through water than it is through sand.
It was the hottest day of the year so far, we had a marvellous walk along the beach before enjoying our picnic lunch. Luckily, we checked for sharp, pointy plants before sitting down on the dunes. Again, very civilised. Anything like this that can induce a holiday feeling has to be good for a general sense of well-being.
The kite-flyer was having fun, although I wanted her to run faster so the kite flew higher. In my photos, the kite is a mere three pixels in size.
To the south, we could see what we think was the city of Liverpool. Out at sea there is a massive wind farm. Liesel asked why not all the turbines were turning. I said, don’t worry, it’s probably windy enough already.
We haven’t walked to Didsbury for a long time either, but we took advantage of another warm day. There were more people having fun on the river.
We bought a coffee at Cidsin, and a slice of pear and walnut cake. While I was carefully carrying the goodies back to Liesel, looking down, making sure the coffee wasn’t slopping around in the cups, I walked between two posts and bashed my bonce on the sign that they held up. Liesel stopped laughing eventually.
A bright yellow front door always takes me back to my childhood. Our yellow front door at home was a more conventional rectangular shape, and it had a window, but whenever I see a yellow front door, it’s guaranteed to give me that Proustian rush that many authors write about.
We walked home through Marie Louise Gardens. There, we enjoyed watching a squirrel sitting at the bottom of a tree, pretending to be a lost, stuffed toy. After a few minutes, it ran up the tree and then had a rest on top of the birdbox. I don’t think there are any inhabitants. But I did enjoy watching a blackbird sitting in the tree, mostly in the shade, but with its yellow bill glowing in the sunshine.
We didn’t visit our family this week, but here’s the obligatory photo, and they’re all looking pretty good!
Many years ago, the aerial on our car was wrapped with tinsel, left over from Christmas. It too was easy to spot in a busy car park.
We walked to Wythenshawe Park, another site with plenty of space, easy to stay away from other people.
This litter bin is pretending to be some kind of alien invader. I’m not sure whether it appeals to young children in the nearby playground, encouraging them to deposit their rubbish here, or if it just scares them away.
Yes, of course we ate some blackberries.
At home, Liesel’s tapestry project is still going well. But she took time out to decorate a small stone that Martha picked up somewhere a few weeks ago.
Of course, now we have the kit to decorate stones, I thought we’d collect a couple of pebbles at Formby. Nope. It’s all sand, and shells, and dead jellyfish, none of which we wanted to bring home to paint.
We returned to Lyme Park for another fun, socially-distanced, walk. Well, it was fun, despite the rain. Look at this lovely blue sky. At the time, behind us, the clouds were grey and angry and, although we didn’t realise, coming our way.
We passed a raspberry bush in the woods, and I thought I’d eat one. I tried to pick it, but it wasn’t coming away. In fact, I suspect I wasn’t the first to try and pick it, it was already squashed and squishy. While we took shelter from the rain under the trees, I did use some of the rain water to wash my sticky fingers.
Berries? We have blueberries at home with our breakfast most days, and the question is: whose job is it to put one, just one, mouldy blueberry into every single punnet? If you leave them too long, others will become infected, but there’s always one, and always with the mould underneath so you don’t see it straightaway.
While hiding from the rain, I suggested to Liesel that we dismantle the wall and build a more sturdy, reliable shelter using its bricks. It seemed like a good use of resources, and it would keep us busy for a while. Plus, future visitors would be extremely grateful for the new facility. Reader: Liesel said ‘No’.
We couldn’t believe the size of this kite, being flown from the top of a hill that we didn’t walk up. We never saw the people run with it, so we never saw it fly any higher off the ground.
We bade a sad farewell to a wonderfully entertaining old friend this week. The book of Sudoku puzzles we purchased in Japan over a year and a half ago is now propping up the world’s recycled paper mountain. All the puzzles were attempted, most were completed successfully and some remain not correctly solved, probably due to misprints in the given numbers, rather then our incompetence. Sayonara!
We witnessed some unusual activity down on the river. A group of kayakers passed through Northenden on their way from Stockport to Liverpool. I doubt they were paddling all the way, but I’m sure the highlight of the trip was gliding down the weir, without falling out
Most of them carried on towards the Irish Sea but a couple decided to have a break on the island.
One thing we don’t miss from Chessington is the eyesore that is Tolworth Tower. Sometimes, a setting Sun would illuminate it. We have our own version here too. A shorter block is visible from our luxury apartment, and it too is a blot on the landscape. But again, when the Sun sets, it almost glows and doesn’t look so bad, after all.
We went over to see the family again. Liesel had made some face coverings for Jenny and Liam, as we’ll all be compelled to wear masks inside shops from next week. We timed it so that we could spend time with William too, albeit at a safe distance.
From one William to another. This building is close to where we live. Liesel and I learned a lot about William Morris and the British Arts and Crafts Movement some years ago, during the course of one of out Bicycle Beano holidays in Shropshire. Ah, Shropshire, oh to be that far away from home!
It’s a nice memorial, but what a shame the building is now a carpet showroom. That’s progress, I suppose.
So there I was, ambling around the sordid streets of Northenden, when I came across this Royal Mail van.
Why did I did a picture of a boring old Royal Mail van? Because it’s foreign. Post Brenhinol tells me it’s Welsh. Why do we have Welsh vans in Manchester? According to the postal worker, they just supplied the wrong vans to our local delivery office. Can’t even rely on Royal Mail to deliver their own vans to their own offices, how ironic!
As I was taking the picture, a young man on a bicycle asked what I was doing. He seemed quite upset that I was taking a picture of a van. I said I thought it was interesting. He said it was like him taking a picture of my house. I thought, no it’s not, but never mind. The driver returned, I engaged in conversation with my (sort of former) colleague, and the interfering busybody cycled off. A couple of minutes later, I realised I should have told him that as a share-holder, I actually own the van. Several hours later I realised that what I should really have said was that I was off duty at the moment, but if he wanted to come down to the station later on to argue the toss, I’d be happy to see him there.
Northenden, especially the Mersey, is fast becoming the bird-watching capital of Manchester. Not that we know for certain, rarely going anywhere else at the moment!
One, day I’ll go with a proper camera and get, better, closer-up shots of the heron and the cormorants, if they hang around for a while longer.
We did go further afield. Hello, outside world! We booked a visit to Chester Zoo, having not been since early March. And yes, of course there were roadworks and hold-ups on the motorway. The car park was quite full, which was disappointing. This was by far the furthest we’d travelled since the lockdown and we hoped for a good day, but from the first moment, we worried that it would be too busy to keep safely distanced.
We stayed for a couple of hours and left just in time before the rain arrived. There were a lot of people there, and despite the zoo’s best efforts, with one-way routes, and Keep Left signs, far too many people just weren’t even attempting to maintain a safe distance. There are loads of hand-sanitising stations, though, which is good.
This little chap joined us while we ate our picnic lunch. Yeah, we found a picnic table away from the maddening crowd and felt comfortable and safe for the first time, really.
We found a part of the zoo that was new to us, on this visit. A sunken garden with a magnificent sculpture. How come we’ve never seen this before? Probably because today, more than on any other occasion, we were deliberately walking away from and trying to avoid the larger groups of people.
As we were leaving, walking past the elephants, I spotted a large aeroplane. I thought it might be Boeing 747, a jumbo jet. I thought this was a great photo opportunity: a jumbo jet and an actual jumbo in the same shot.
But, no, it was just an Airbus pretending to be a whale, an Airbus Beluga.
Back in Northenden, guess what? Yep: more flytipping outside Barnado’s, despite the wooden hoarding.
On the other hand, there are some pretty flowers around.
And if the zoo, the Mersey, TV, radio, podcasts, books and puzzles aren’t entertaining enough, some of my dreams recently have been absolutely amazing. I’d love to share them, but nobody needs to know that much about the inner workings of my psyche.
PS Thanks again to our aeronautical and botanical correspondent, Helen, for the informative comment below!
We enjoyed a mini-heatwave, a few days when the temperature approached 30°C. So we went for a walk one evening when it was just a little cooler. We kept to shade as much as possible, avoiding the worst of the ultraviolet (there’s one) rays.
We found some blackberries in full bloom so I’m sure we’ll be back later in the year to enjoy the fruits. And, just a little further along the road (please don’t tell anybody where), we found some wild raspberries too, just a bit too far back through the thistles and brambles to approach in our besandalled feet.
Liesel pointed out the fireweed and explained that when this flower blooms, it will snow six weeks later. Quite an education (there’s one)! I suspect this is just Alaskan folklore, but, as a precaution (another one), I’m keeping my snow shoes handy.
The evening presented us with the first of the week’s technical faults that could have developed into an immensely vexacious (boom) affair. My Kindle displayed an error message that I’ve never seen before. Fortunately a hard reboot fixed it, which meant that I could continue my struggle with ‘Middlemarch’. After trudging through 11% of the text though, I’m sorry to say, I was so discouraged (aha), I gave up. I very rarely give up on a book once I’ve started. On the other hand, How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford is very readable.
Standing outside our luxury block of luxury apartments, looking up at the blue sky through the oak tree’s foliage, in a slight breeze on a hot day, is delightful. One branch is dead and bits of it fall down now and then. Maybe it was malnourished (oof) when it was younger.
Now that things are slowly opening up again, we enjoyed a couple of days out at National Trust properties. For the first time since the lockdown was implemented, we went to Dunham Massey. This is usually a very busy, popular place, but on this occasion, we had little problem keeping a safe distance away from people. We try to keep our levels of anxiousness (da-dah) down, but when you’re breathing the same air, the risk is always at the back of your mind.
I always investigate the sundial near the main entrance but it has never occurred to me before that the statue supporting it might be offensive: a ‘Blackamoor’ with white bulging eyes. There’s white privilege for you.
The deer were very prominent today: I suspect they’ve become used to people not being around, recently. Other visitors were indulging in the questionable (badoom) activity of approaching the deer and stroking them.
We paid a quick visit to Jenny to drop off some food items. It was an ideal day to deliver butter: 30° or so! We had a quick chat with Martha and William through the window, and I managed to get a good photo this time!
Technical issue number 2. My PC still runs Windows 7, which has not been supported by Microsoft since January. So I was surprised one night when turning it off, it said it was installing an update. My heart sank. This was not authorised (ooh) by me. Next time I booted up, it gleefully told me that Microsoft Edge had been installed. Ever since, it’s been nagging me to accept its terms and conditions. Why? I didn’t want it in the first place! I’ve been uninstalling a lot of unused software recently, and this is another candidate for the chop. But why am I worried? Because once when I uninstalled iTunes from a PC, it also took away that machine’s ability to play CDs. Technology’s great, when it works.
I can’t remember the last time I had a twelve hour sleep with only one interruption. But this happened at the weekend and I can only say I felt fantastic afterwards. Even the smell of freshly baked scones didn’t disturb my slumbers. Thanks, Liesel! We drove to Quarry Bank Mill, the second of the week’s National Trust venues, under changeable skies. Sunny and blue for a while, then cloudy and grey. We mostly avoided the rain and enjoyed a fabulous walk around the gardens. The mill itself is still closed, but we were able to buy a coffee, so that’s encouraging (bazinga).
At one point, we could look down and see the rain in the valley. We felt just a few spots but took shelter under one of the rocks, which strangely, was reminiscent of the painted rocks in the Kakadu, albeit much cooler. Growing out of the cliff-like rock, was this tree, just clinging on by its finger-nails.
As well as all the pretty flowers, they grow a lot of food here, but I was dissuaded from scrumping an apple.
The third of our technical issues was on TV. BBC iPlayer usually just plods along and does its thing, once you’ve navigated to the programme you want to watch. But again, our hearts sank when we saw this. Could our Freeview box be on its last legs? Was a transmitter struck by lightning in one of the ongoing storms? Anyway, it was soon rectified and hasn’t recurred. It briefly interrupted our enjoyment of the Glastonbury Festival. This year’s 50th anniversary festival has been cancelled due to Covid, but the BBC are showing several performances from previous years.
So far this year, we’ve watched or re-watched quite a few of our favourites, most of whom we’ve never actually seen in real life. So, thanks to David Bowie, REM, Florence and the Machine, Christine and the Queens, Adele and her potty mouth. Coldplay persuaded the Glasonbury King, Michael Eavis, to sing My Way and sang a couple of Bee Gees songs with Barry Gibb. Dolly Parton is always good value too. As well as many of her greatest songs, she performed Yakety Sax on her saxophone. Elbow’s songs are often pretty straightforward, but Guy Garvey’s voice and his magnificent instrumentation (ooh, another one) always make the performance something special. Even from the comfort of our own living room.
What? You’re wondering how I can just briefly mention David Bowie at Glastonbury and not dwell a little longer on the subject? At the time of writing, I have watched this programme twice. It’s the first time the full performance has been broadcast on normal TV. He enjoyed it, we fell in love with his bass player, Gail Ann Dorsey all over again, the band was all together.
The set list:
Wild is the Wind
Little China Girl
Life on Mars
Ashes to Ashes
All the Young Dudes
The Man Who Sold the World
Station to Station
I’m Afraid of Americans
We still miss Mr Bowie, and many of us think that the equilibrium of the world was upset by his early death in 2016. So happy we still have his music.
The heatwave came to an end and the rain returned.
It was a quiet Sunday, but I was definitely wabbit by the end of the day: wish I could justify my state of exhaustion (yes).
Liesel’s been busy knitting a beautiful hat.
Radio Northenden broadcast its 50th show today, Monday, and I, Mick the Knife, was invited to take part, have a chat and pick three songs on lock, three tracks that I like to listen to while on lockdown. Thanks for the opportunity, Sanny, and I hope I’m not too embarrassed when I listen back later!
So there’s a 50th, and here’s a 300th. Yup, you are reading the 300th post on this blog so as a bonus, to celebrate, here is a list of 300 words, each of which contains all 5 vowels. I’ve been collecting these for several years. In fact, the first one I was aware of was while still in education (ding). A teacher at school accused me of being facetious (dong). I very nearly said, “Did you realise that ‘facetious’ contains all five vowels?” But luckily I realised just in time that that would just be confirming her ridiculous opinion.
I’ve been adding to the list pretty much ever since then, moreso recently, as I know how fascinated Liesel is(n’t) when I announce a new discovery. Most of them are from books, some from subtitles or dialogue (ooh) from TV shows and, this week, in the space of ten minutes, I spotted a few on my Twitter feed.
In (more or less) the order I noted them down, here are 300 words all containing at least one incidence each of A, E, I, O and U:
The weather here has been as strange as it can be. Hot and muggy, torrential rain and thunderstorms, but we have been out and about, a little further afield, so things are looking up. This week saw the release of a couple of new records. I joined Anna Neale and a few other fans as she launched her new single Anarchy. I surrepticiously tried to take a picture of the Zoom screen but it didn’t really work. It was good to see the world premiere(!) of the accompanying video, even if Zoom couldn’t quite keep up. You should view the video here, not just for the song itself, but for my first ever (minor) contribution to a ‘pop video’. See if you can spot it. Answers at the bottom.
The song itself talks about the decline in societal standards including littering and graffiti. But sometimes, we see something daubed on a wall and it’s a positive message. So much better than the boring tags, however convoluted and multi-coloured they are.
It’s a bit more risky these days to walk on a golf course, but you never know what you’ll come across. I found a lawn mower behind a bank of trees. I assume the green-keeper left it there on purpose. There were no golfers around on this occasion, so I didn’t need my tin hat after all.
I walked along the river, a little beyond Simon’s Bridge and rather than retrace our stroll from a couple of weeks ago, I carried on as far as the beach. I was surprised that it was free of litter, very unusual around here, sadly. In Millgate Fields, there are ground-nesting birds apparently, but I didn’t see nor disturb any.
A few other people were out and about too, but I was surprised to see a couple with walking poles. The terrain around here isn’t that bad, really. I tried using walking poles once. Never again. Mobile trip hazards. I’m still not sure if this is the one and only local heron or if there are a few living at different places on the river. It would be nice to see more than one at a time, though!
And so we come to the most exciting day since March. We gathered up our passports and ventured outside and away from the local neighbourhood. Away from Northenden, further even than Didsbury. Our wonderful car started at the first attempt and we drove to Lyme Park for a walk. This, like all other National Trust properties has re-opened, but you have to book a time slot in advance.
The cafés are still closed and only one toilet is open, but that’s OK, we had a lovely walk, on hilly grass and, best of all, there weren’t many people, so it was easy to maintain social distancing.
Lyme Park mansion house itself is still closed too, so we had no excuse to not carry on walking.
The views from the top of the hill near The Cage were pretty good. We couldn’t work out whether the haze was mist or just air quality returning to pre-lockdown levels already.
The only wildlife we encountered were some cattle. We did see plenty of evidence of deer, sheep and rabbits, but they were all hiding in the trees and bushes because they’re not used to seeing people any more.
We had a good reason to venture into Cheadle too, one day, saving ourselves 40p as car parking fees have been suspended. While Liesel conducted her business, I walked around. I think the S4G guys were a bit concerned, but I wasn’t deliberately loitering near their van while they took millions of pounds in used fivers into the bank. The housewares shop should be cautioned for their misleading descriptions.
But the floral display in the High street is magnificent.
As I was walking home later on, I bumped into an old friend, well, old enemy. I think I’ve mentioned before that I lost my Thirty Year War with bindweed in our garden in Chessington. Well, it’s thriving well in some gardens near where we live, but I am so glad I don’t have to fight that battle any longer.
In local news, we learned that the Nat West bank, which has been closed for as long as we can remember, has been used as a cannabis farm. It’s in the middle of our main street.
And, just along the road from us, we think there was one of two drugs raids taking place in Northenden. And we found out why the local authorities aren’t bothered about all the vehicles that are parked on pavements.
The second exciting record release this week is Jessica Lee Morgan’s ‘Forthright’ album. It’s her fourth and, I think, her best so far. I can’t wait to see her live in concert again. Meanwhile, she’s been performing on YouTube, in a virtual world tour.
And in case you’re wondering, my bit of Anna’s video is at 22 seconds. It’s graffiti local to where we live in Northenden. ‘Live work consume die?’ Which nicely summarises just about everything!
PS a couple of people in real life have asked what podcasts we’re listening to. Well, I’ve started compiling a list right here, so please take a look. Over and out.
Welcome to Week 11 of the official Lockdown. Liesel and I had been isolating for a while beforehand but that seems a long time ago, now. And now, despite the UK still experiencing hundreds of Covid-related deaths every day, HM Goverment want to relax the restrictions ooh hang on a minute, déjà vu or what?
To celebrate the arrival of a short hot Summer, Martha and her Daddy went camping, in their garden. Martha was so excited to sleep in a tent that first time and she slept through from 10pm to 7am.
Despite the warmer weather, we’re still not going out as often as we’d like. More people are out and about now of course, so we’re aware that keeping our distance from strangers will be even more difficult now. What a shame. The lost Summer of 2020.
I’m still doing Sandwich Sudoku puzzles and I’m so pleased that my first reaction on seeing this message was to laugh! It took well over two hours to solve it, but I got there in the end. 12-year old me polished my nails on my lapel.
Liesel is doing Sudoku puzzles too, from a book that we’ve had for a few years now.
Another kind of puzzle that I tried to solve in Malaysian newspapers last year is Slitherlink. I’d never come across such a thing before, and I never got anywhere near completing one. You have to join the dots on a diagram, the numbers tell you how many sides of the square have a line segment. The line has to be one continuous loop. I’ve found an app now for this kind of puzzle too. And I solved one. It took far too long and I’m sure I will get faster, but I’m very proud of my achievement. It was much, much smaller than those in Malaysian newspapers! 12-year old me punched the sky.
We’re not totally confined to the flat, we did still go out for our exercise a few times.
The highlight of the week was visiting Jenny and Martha, outdoors. We went for a walk around the block, Martha on her scooter.
Mostly we kept a safe distance but I did step over the invisible boundary a couple of times by mistake, especially when Martha fell off the scooter. My instinct was to rush over to pick her up, but before I’d taken one step, she announced that she was alright.
Sadly, we didn’t see William, but through the magic of the internet, we do know that he helped with the baking one day, partly by licking the bowl.
In terms of entertainment, I watched a political comedy, ‘This House’ by James Graham. This was a National Theatre production, depicting the Labour government from 1974-1979. It ended with Margaret Thatcher reciting, and ruining for many people, the prayer of St Francis of Assisi outside 10 Downing Street. ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope’. Irony died that day.
Jessica Lee Morgan has embarked on a ‘Time Zone Tour’ of the world, performing at 7pm local time at many places around the world, from the comfort of her own home. So in the UK, each show is at a different time of day. She has ‘been to’ Anchorage and Adak, Alaska, two different time zones, Christchurch and Sydney. The tour continues and you can catch up here on YouTube.
We heard the thwack of metal on golf ball as we wanderd by the golf course. We did see a ball but Liesel wouldn’t let me kick it towards the hole.
It had rained earlier in the day but we stayed dry mostly and the Sun came out again. Until the big black cloud appeared and it started precipitating again just as we arrived home. Good weather for ducks, though.
The latest local news is that the sofa has now been removed from the river. I informed the local radio station, Radio Northenden and I think they’ll be putting out a special programme about it soon. More exciting news is that another local coffee shop has opened for takeaways. Salutem is also on Paltine Road and we (I) had our (my) first coffee there yesterday. We’ll be supporting both them and The Northern Den, just over the road.