Thanks, Mancs and Diolch, Cymru

I missed the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on account of not being born yet. The Coronation of King Charles III was on TV in the background while I was doing other things, such as writing and looking out of the window and making coffee. I didn’t really go out and buy a hat as previously suggested. But Liesel and Jyoti went out shopping and missed most of the so-called Event of the Year.

King Charles and Queen Camilla on the balcony of Buckingham Palace

Liesel collected her new prescription sunglasses from Didsbury, and while they were in the village, she and Jyoti bought treats for me (and for themselves). So we had scones for breakfast on Sunday morning, with clotted cream and jam and no arguments about which to put on first.

Our walk through Kenworthy Lane Woods on Saturday afternoon was uneventful, no moose nor bear encounters.

Jyoti and the scone

No matter how careful you are, you (or is it just me?) always end up with sticky fingers after eating anything where jam is involved.

With our energy levels suitably boosted, we took a bus into Manchester. And yes, of course we saw the back end of a bus disappear up the road as soon as we turned the corner, walking towards the bus stop. Yesterday, when Liesel and Jyoti walked to the village, I said I’d catch up and, for the first time ever, a bus arrived at the bus stop just as I got there, so I boarded it, overtook the ladies, travelled as far as the next stop, disembarked and met them.

Liesel and I enjoyed showing Jyoti the sights of Manchester including the Central Library, although it seemed to be closed. So we mooched around the Art Gallery for a while.

Golden Monkey

You can just see Jyoti’s reflection to the left of the golden monkey, who sits on top of a large urn made by top artist Grayson Perry, and he wasn’t afraid of incorporating images of his own face throughout the design.

In a few galleries, several objects are on display as if they are in storage, still in crates, and grouped together in unorthodox ways, such as by material, by object type, by size, rather than by country of origin or by artist.

Just bung them in here for a minute

Some works of art make us laugh for the wrong reason. For instance, this pot of kitchen utensils is very similar to one we have at home.

Work of art and Liesel’s version at home

One of the coolest items was a dress make up from 43 kg of dress pins.

One dress, many pins

I tried to count the pins, but someone interrupted and I lost count at about 13,000 and I wasn’t even up to the waist.

By accident, we ended up at Gooey, a cake and cookie shop that Liesel was aware of and which she’s been lusting after for a long time. We bought doughnuts and after enjoying mine, overflowing with raspberry jam, I vowed never to look at a Krispy Kreme donut again. And yes, my fingers were sticky.

We paid a quick visit to the Cathedral where we witnessed a small band rehearsing, including a harp player. I’ve never been that close to a harp but I resisted the temptation to wander over and have a pluck. I don’t think Liesel would have let me, anyway, never mind the harpist.

Harp and musicians

We walked towards Castlefield Viaduct, passing a few places of interest, such as what’s left of the old Roman Wall. Rather than sit on this historical artefact, Jyoti chose to sit on the sheep. A premonition, maybe.

Jyoti and the sheep

It was a first visit to the Viaduct for Liesel and Jyoti, and I hadn’t visited since I went with Pauline and Andrew last Summer. It has matured since then, many of the plants are now in full bloom and some of the beds are even overgrown.

Selfie of the day

As you leave, you’re surprised to see yourself in a reflective surface. You’re supposed to reflect on what you’ve seen, the flowers, the local communities and groups that have contributed to the project, the plight of the world what with climate change and all that, but all I could think of was, I look a bit distorted in that mirror.

A quick pitstop at the Museum of Science and Industry was followed by the slog back to the bus stop. Our pedometers confirmed that we’d far exceeded our 10,000 steps today, so the sit down on the bus back to Northenden was very welcome. We dined out at Chennai Dosa before making our way home.

I had a few little admin jobs to do on the computer before packing for a few days away. We d drove off and on a long section of road, we watched as several thousand vehicles were returning from their long weekend away, it was a bank holiday, and they may have all gone to Wales to escape the Coronation. Yes, Wales, that’s where we went, Snowdonia to be precise. Liesel had booked a National Trust Cottage just up the road from Craflwyn Hall. Why this area? Many years ago, Liesel and I enjoyed a Bicycle Beano cycling holiday there during the course of which I undoubtedly had a whinge about the hills. Especially the ones that go up.

Bwthyn Mai is a cute little cottage: most of the pictures on the walls are William Morris prints from an old exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum, the bedrooms are on the top floor, the bathroom on the middle floor, the living room and kitchen down below. Yes, it was built on a hill, a long, long time ago. The doors and floorboards squeak a symphony as you walk around.

And outside, we can watch the sheep as they upturn furniture, take shelter under the picnic table, rub their bums against the fences and gate posts, we can witness the lambs barging into their mums for a quick feed, and generally gambol like sheep do. Jyoti took many, many pictures of sheep. And I took a couple too.

A sheep

The only downside to this accommodation, to the wider area as we discovered, is that there is no 4G coverage, and our cottage has no WiFi either. Not a problem, I thought, but as time went on, we all realised how dependent we’d become on having access to the internet. Someone had left me a WhatsApp message but I was unable to acknowledge it for a couple of days. We couldn’t quickly check the weather forecast. When faced with a problem or a question, the first thing we think is, I’ll just Google it. Can’t do that. When reading a book on my Kindle, if I want to look up a new word, I just click on it and it tells me via a dictionary or via Wikipedia. Similarly if I want to remind myself about a certain character, just touch the name and it tells me. Not now I’m out in the sticks. What’s the news? Probably the same old depressing nonsense  but we shall remain in blissful ignorance.

From my point of view, the worst thing was the possibility of losing my winning streaks on a couple of puzzles that I do every day. This really is a ridiculous first-world problem I know, but this is how tangled our lives have become with the many tentacles of the internet. And I haven’t even mentioned Twitter, Instagram and email yet. Who’s been communicating with me?

On the other hand, what a great opportunity to get away from the modern e-world for a few days. Except, everywhere we go, we’re checking for a 4G or even a 3G signal, and whether shops, cafés, galleries have WiFi.


I asked Liesel whether she fancied a game of chess on this board in the gardens of Craflwyn Hall but she politely declined, which is fair enough: she doesn’t know how to play.

Liesel and Jyoti set off for a walk and I followed a little later. The path was steep, rocky and damp, it had rained a lot overnight.

Steep path

After lunch, Liesel drove us to Rhyd Ddu from where there is a trail leading to the summit of Yr Wyddfa which is the new (old original) name for Snowdon. It started off as a well made path, no water running down this one, and yes, of course, walking up a mountain, it’s going to be steep. Liesel and Jyoti climbed a lot further than I did because, annoyingly, I had to stop due to my old shortness-of-breath issue. Maybe I should have trained longer and harder up hills, not the flat plains of Northenden. Maybe I should have persevered on an inclined treadmill at the gym. In any case, I had to stop and sit on a rock for a while, soak up some sunshine and convince my body that it can manage.

Liesel and Jyoti lead the way

It was a beautiful day, though, no complaints there. I walked back to the car park, slowly: it took a ridiculous amount of time before my breathing was back to normal.

Rhyd Ddu is a station on the railway line between Caernarfon and Porthmadog. While pottering about, listening to the birds, I heard the whistle from a train in the distance. I also saw a red dragon on the platform.

Welsh dragon

Eventually, the train that had been tooting arrived at Rhyd Ddu and I took a few pictures of the engine.

The Harbourmaster

At which point, my phone died. No internet and now, no phone, no camera, no more pictures today, then. So I missed getting photos of the second train as it arrived from the opposite direction. Many people disembarked maybe with the intent of hiking some of the way up to the summit of the mountain. No pictures of them either, some dressed like me, in t-shirt and shorts, some with several layers of waterproofs and a full backpack including a tent.

Liesel, Jyoti and I met up and compared notes, especially regarding tired aching calves. After dinner, we turned the TV on and Jyoti and I watched the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Conest. The whole event is new to Jyoti and semi-finals are a new experience for me. A good nights sleep should have been a dead cert.

The weather didn’t look so good in the morning. Aches and pains determined that we should therefore have a bit of a rest day. Last night, a sheep had a fight with one of the benches outside. The bench lost, and we found it with its legs in the air. One of the sheep was limping and we wondered whether he was the one who beat up the furniture.

We drove to the nearest town, Beddgelert, where we resisted the temptation to have an ice cream. We did buy postcards and stamps and other cards and pottered about a bit. Outside the church, St Mary’s, we saw a well-preserved gravestone for a William Parry and I wondered whether he was a local hero of some description.

William Parry

Many scenes for the film Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman, Curt Jurgens and Burt Kwouk were filmed in the area in 1958. I wonder if this explains the presence of this Chinese dragon which is stylistically very different to Welsh dragons.

Chinese dragon
Bridge over the river Colwyn in Beddgelert

There was a touch of mizzle in the air and at one point Jyoti commented that she couldn’t understand why I didn’t put a coat on. Well, it wasn’t raining that hard and I didn’t feel cold. I said that, equally, I couldn’t understand how she could keep taking her coat off and putting it back on every time the temperature changes by a degree or two!

We’d been through Betws-y-Coed before, on the occasion of our cycling holiday, so we knew it was a (relatively) big, busy place. Liesel came up with the idea of parking outside the town and walking in. And what a great decision that was because we saw a wonderful heron down by the riverside.

Ooh a heron

We found a place to eat by the railway station and looked forward to using their WiFi to catch up with some totally unimportant stuff. So imagine the heart-wrenching disappointment when we saw this on the wall.

No WiFi here

The food was great though, especially the Victoria sponge. On this beautiful day, we should maybe have done a tour of the the local waterfalls, since they are so well signposted.


Liesel confessed to her love of bridges, so we walked to Sappers Suspension Bridge, but it’s not open to the public at the moment. Further along the road, (and who would have guessed that we’d ever be walking along the A5?) we saw Waterloo Bridge, a small edifice compared with its namesake in London, but so called because it was first built in the same year as the Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

Waterloo Bridge

Even though this was supposed to be more of a rest day following the exertions of all the climbing yesterday, we still did a lot of walking.

Deciding where to visit on our final whole day in Wales was hard, so much depends on the weather and of course, we can’t look up a weather forecast because we have no internet. In the end, we drove to Beddgelert Forest where we planned to walk to around a lake. Well, we never did find the lake. The trail was marked but somehow all three of us, I think, missed a vital pointer so we ended up well off course. But it doesn’t matter, we enjoyed the walk, the views, the weather, the fresh air, the birdsong and the fact that there were very few other hikers, cyclists and no horseriders at all. The forest itself is very lush, so many different greens from olive to almost dayglow.

50 shades of green

Once we realised we were off course, we decided instead to follow the trail into Beddgelert itself. It was a much more pleasant experience than one of our earlier plans which was to walk from the Forest car park to the village along the road, with no footpath. We lost count of the number of streams and rivulets. It’s a very wet forest but today, we were lucky to be out in the sunshine, and the threatening grey clouds never came too close.

Snowdon aka Yr Wyddfa under the clouds

We’ve been wondering which peak was in fact Snowdon, Yr Wyddfa, and today a very helpful sign showed us. What a shame the actual summit was shrouded in cloud!

We had lunch at the Prince Llewelyn public house in Beddgelert, grateful for the opportunity to sit down for a while after quite a long walk. Oh, and they weren’t afraid to let us use their WiFi so I caught up on a few things, nothing of any importance of course.

Before setting off for the car, retracing our steps, we had an ice cream. What a joy to be sitting in warm sunshine eating an ice cream.

I heard a dog barking and a man telling it to be quiet. Round the corner, and we saw a flock of sheep in the road.

A flock of sheep

The man had two dogs that very skilfully herded the sheep through a gate. I thought it was unusual to hear a sheep dog being so vocal, though.

Finding another cute little bridge, I thought it would be rude not to take a picture of it for Liesel. So here she is, with Jyoti, about to walk across it.

Bridge with bonus Liesel and Jyoti

By the time we found our car in the car park, we had walked over 20,000 steps, so probably between 8 and 9 miles. Very good training for what we’ll be doing next week. My body behaved much better than yesterday. I found my rhythm and walked up a very long hill and was hardly out of breath when I got to the top, a totally different sensation to the shortness-of-breath episode I’d had yesterday.

Back at our cottage, we had some coffee then supper and in the evening, Jyoti and I enjoyed the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest. I now realise what I’ve been missing for several years!

A good night’s sleep was interrupted by a very early rise and an early departure. One aspect of the cottage that I didn’t mention was the beam in the room.

The offending beam

I must have banged my head on it a thousand times over the course of four days, thus keeping Liesel fully entertained. How I can bang my head, utter ‘ouch’, glance down, forget the beam’s there, stand up and bang my head again so many times is a question that will only be answered by the pathologist who dissects my brain post mortem.

The day back at home was quiet, I worked on a radio show, processed the week’s accumulated mail (one item) and in the evening, we met up with the family for dinner at a pub called The Pointing Dog. Martha was but a small baby when she last met Jyoti but what a fab reunion.

Jyoti, Martha, William and Liesel

As mentioned a couple of times, this is Eurovision Song Contest week, and the competition is being held in Liverpool, on behalf of Ukraine, last year’s winner, and we’ve had a lot of coverage on TV and radio. So of course, my own show on Wythenshawe Radio has a Eurovision theme, and you can catch up with it here.

Oh and by the way, I didn’t lose my winning streaks on the puzzles that I do every day, just because there was no internet access. It seems that if you don’t or can’t attempt the puzzle one day, that doesn’t count against you. Phew, I am so relieved.

And, as I discovered after we returned home, the Wikipedia entry on the Welsh Red Dragon is a fascinating read. Highly recommended.

I could find no evidence that the William Parry whose gravestone we found was a celebrity in any way. But Parry is a very common name in the Beddgelert area, certainly in the graveyard.

One out, one in

All good things come to an end and such was the case with Leslie’s visit. We took her as far as we could, Security at the airport and she then enjoyed (?) an uneventful series of flights back home to Anchorage. Where, unbelievably, there was one more, final snow flurry before, maybe, possibly, Alaskans can finally bid farewell to a very long Winter.

Liesel’s been a fan of Duran Duran for most of her life and we had tickets to see them in concert many years ago but we didn’t make the show on that occasion due to indisposition: this was well before the days of Covid.

So imagine the delight on Liesel’s cute little face when she found out that they were playing in Manchester within two weeks. In a rare moment of spontaneity, she booked tickets for us, and so it was, we found ourselves in Manchester on a Saturday night, visiting the Arena for the very first time. In general, we try to avoid large stadiums, other than Hyde Park, but we had a very good time.

Before the show, we found something to eat and, eventually, somewhere to eat it! Not many flat surfaces (aka tables) to sit at or even stand by, given the place has a capacity of 20,000 and presumably, most of them want to nosh on something before the show.

AO Arena
Liesel with Duran Duran

There were two support acts, both of whom seemed very excited and pleased to be supporting Duran Duran.

Lia Lia

Lia Lia is German Chinese but some of her dance moves were, we thought, Japanese influenced. And yes, we were quite a long way back so no there was realistic possibility of close-up pictures on this occasion.

The next guy seemed familiar and it took a while before it clicked: in his shiny silver suit was Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters.

Jake Shears

The best I could do from a photographic point of view was to wait for a close-up to appear on the TV screen. He was very energetic and he knew the audience wanted him to sing some old Scissor Sisters songs as well as his own.

And then the moment Liesel’s been waiting for for forty years: Duran Duran. Their show was very visual and amongst all their big hits, they performed some new songs, both genuinely new and some just new to me.

Duran Duran
Liesel with the band

I think it’s fair to say the conditions for me to take pictures with my phone were less than optimal! Some of the stage lighting was so bright, I had to look away and then blink away the green blobs before my eyes.

Save a Prayer

In the olden days of course, all these lights would have been cigarette lighters. We welcome the reduced fire hazard, but what a strange custon, when you think about it, to illuminate your phone’s flashlight just because a particular song is being played.

As advised, after the show, we didn’t rush to leave, and it was about 45 minutes before we were able to leave the car park. If we ever visit the Arena again, I think we’ll be going by public transport. Or at least, parking down the road in a totally unrelated car park.

Manchester Victoria Station as seen from the car park roof

The day after the gig the night before was quite relaxed. Did we go out at all? Probably, briefly. But the following day we went for a really long walk, towards Sale Water Park, mostly along the river. In places, the bank is being reinforced. And near Sale as with Didsbury, the paths beside the river are in a much better state of repair than those in Northenden.

River bank

It was nice to see so many ducks out and about, and especially nice to see this heron.

Black heron

To be honest, I’m not sure this is a real heron perched up there on a gate post, its eye looks a bit googly. We stopped for a break at a pub, where we had a plate of chips each. Perfect preparation for the wander back home.

Some of the gardens in Northenden are now beginning to show the results of all the occupants’ hard work.


For the first time in many, many years, I watched some of the final of the World Snooker Championship from The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. I watched it on TV, of course, I didn’t schlep all the way over there to Sheffield. Luca Brecel from Belgium won for the first time, becoming only the fourth non-UK player to become World Champion. And some of his shots appeared to defy the laws of physics, he might be some kind or wizard or something.

One of the most exciting sightings of the week was in Wythenshawe Park, we we saw a peacock butterfly. Lovely to see one, but it would be so much nicer if there were flocks of them like we used to see.


I approached very slowly but even so, it flew away before I could get a close-up. Maybe I should just get a zoom lens for my phone. Or even, as I keep saying, take out my real camera.


I showed Liesel the bench, commissioned by Netflix and Campaign Against Living Miserably, as featured in the TV series After Life. As we walked away, this chubby little robin came to say hello. We think he’s a very young one, and hopefully he’ll look better when he sorts his feathers out.

Did it feel strange, now, just being the two of us? Well, yes. Leslie didn’t join us for many really long walks, but it doesn’t take long to adapt to having a third party join us, out and about while she was here. And now there were two. But not for long.

Just a few days after Leslie returned home, we were joined by Jyoti. After not sleeping for the duration of her flights, needless to say she was a bit tired. But we all went for a brisk walk to Fletcher Moss Park.

Selfie of the day

From the boardwalks near the park, we spotted a thousand tadpoles in the water below.


And on the way home, we saw more ducks in the river including a family of ducklings. Another encouraging sign that Spring is here.

After a jolly good night’s sleep, Jyoti and Liesel were raring to go for another long walk. After a false start, when we got as far as the landing before it started raining, Liesel and I retraced our steps, more or less, towards Sale Water Park, this time with Jyoti. On this occasion, en route, we walked around Chorlton Water Park, just to get a few extra steps in. I rescued a small beetle from Liesel’s shoulder, and it sat on my finger for the whole circumnavigation of the lake.

Liesel and Jyoti by the river

We revisited Jackson’s Boat for lunch and then wandered back to Northenden on the other side of the river. And what a good day for bird watchers. More ducks of course, plus a ring-necked parakeet and even a great tit. But on the river itself:


In the evening, I went to Tea and Talk at Benchill Community Centre where a few people from Factory Internatioanl were doing work in and for the community, as well as telling us about Manchester International Festival. I wasn’t expecting a meal but that was very welcome, and it was good to see some people I knew.

The room was decorated in preparation for the Coronation. Lots of red, white and blue plus posters of the new king who I pretended not to recognise.

Benchill Community Centre

Which is an amazing coincidence, because my Wythenshawe Radio show this week was inspired by the Coronation. Two hours of songs about or by Kings and Queens. You can pay homage here.

Terrific Pacific

After a relaxing day, we drove into Manchester. Time for a gig. We throughly enjoyed the performance by O’Hooley and Tidow at a fantastic venue, new to us, Hallé St Peters. The show was to promote their new record, Cloudheads, but of course, we’re special, and we received our CD, signed, a couple of weeks ago.

Hallé St Peters

We found seats just four rows from the front and before the show proper began, we were digging the music, man, songs by Rodriguez, whose story is interesting but quite sad, really.

Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow sang songs old and new, told funny stories, and the audience was spellbound. Nobody was chatting and apart from a couple of glasses being kicked over after the interval, there was no disruption.

I had a quick chat with Belinda in the interval, told her I’d played their records on my show, and when I told her my name, Mick, she knew my surname straightaway. I’m not quite on the A-list, but getting there!

O’Hooley and Tidow with a young fan

I received my postal vote: there are local elections in May. I knew who I was going to vote for, and, given all the election literature I’ve seen so far, I was beginning to think there was only one candidate standing. So what a surprise to see some others on the ballot paper. I was tempted but in the end, I didn’t vote for Sir Oink A-Lot, of The Official Monster Raving Loony Party, because, well, I’m not entirely sure he’s taking it very seriously.

In our local church, St Wilfrid’s, there was another celebration of Sir Edward Watkin. I paid Geoff for the book of his I’d bought a few nights ago and he told me about a painting that had hung at Rose Hill for many years. Someone wanted to sell it for charity, expecting to raise about  £100. In the end, it was valued at £4 million.

Sir Edward funded some of the stain glass windows in the church, and they are indeed very bright, even on a cloudy grey day such as this was.

St Wilfrid’s

The Millennium Banner was obviously a labour of love. The wall hanging which stretches along one side of the church was made in 1999, mostly by members of the Women’s Group, to mark the turning of the millennium. It shows scenes and motifs from the history of the previous 2000 years, some very local, others national, global or even cosmic. Spoiler alert: this is how it ends:

Millennium Banner

I’d gone along because The Edward Watkin Society, also known as WatSoc, had organised the week of events. On display here today were several letter sent from or to Sir Edward. The handwriting was beautiful, and neat, but very hard to read.

While talking to someone, my phone went off. “Is that your phone?” “I think it’s everyone’s phone” I replied, because all of a sudden, the room was full of alarms.

Severe Alert, said my phone

This is a test of Emergency Alerts, a new UK government service that will warn you if there’s a life-threatening emergency nearby.

In a real emergency, follow the instructions in the alert to keep yourself and others safe.

This is a test. You do not need to take any action.

Needless to say, I took no action. But, being Brits, we all rolled our eyes and tutted at the inconvenience.

So why was I here at the church by myself? Because Liesel and Leslie were travelling south to visit cousin Andi and Steve in Richmond. Andi I think particularly wanted to catch up with her Auntie Leslie.

One morning, Liesel got up early and went for a long solitary walk taking in Richmond Hill, Petersham Common and Richmond Park.

Terrace Gardens, Richmond, overlooking the river

They all visited Bushy Park too one day, where the deer wandered over to say hello.

Let’s return to the saga of my phone. To recap: I took my phone in to have its battery changed. That worked out OK. But, the fingerprint sensor no longer worked. I went back to the shop, he couldn’t get it to work, so ordered a new sensor. A couple of days later, the new sensor didn’t work either. I would have to leave my phone with him overnight so that some internal connection could be soldered. Couldn’t do it over the weekend because it was Eid.

So, as requested, I took my phone in on Monday with a view to collecting it the following day. It wasn’t ready. In fact, it wouldn’t be back until the next day. My doubts were now growing. I insisted I needed my phone that day. Tell me where it is, and I’ll go and collect it if necessary. He didn’t want to do that. He called someone and then told me to return in the afternoon. Good thing I didn’t have a job to go back to. He said if it wasn’t back by about 3pm, he’d deliver it to my address after closing time.

I felt a wave of relief when I picked up my phone in the afternoon. Fixed. The fingerprint sensor was now working. Where’s my case? I asked. What case? The protective case that I always keep my phone in. He couldn’t find it of course. I suspect it’s still at the other, top secret venue. So he gave me case off the shelf.

I didn’t pay for anything. By now, I was so peeved, I resolved never to darken his doors again. Whether incompetent or criminal, I don’t think I can trust him again. So much so, back at home, I checked the phone for malware. I also checked that no cash had been taken from any of the online bank accounts. He wouldn’t know my passwords, and he didn’t have my fingerprint, but, I have no idea how dodgy or technically agile he and his brother-in-law are.

Later, I realised the volume controls were no longer working. I use those to take screenshots and to take photos as well as adjusting the volume. I’ll be taking my device to a proper, qualified Samsung repair facility, where I’ll have to recite this whole sorry tale, probably.

Liesel and Mom returned but they didn’t join me for the the long Thursday walk. After which, at The Forum, I saw my mugshot on the noticeboard outside the radio studio.

Wythenshawe FM presenters

At least one member of my family asked if this was a Wanted poster? Is there a reward?

And the excitement is building in the area as we approach Coronation Day.

Flying the red, white and blue

I’ll probably tweet this nearer the time but when people ask whether I’ll be watching the Coronation on TV, I usually say “No, because, by coincidence, I’m going out to get a new hat that day too.”

The three of us did join the walking group on Friday though, for one final forced march, as Klaus would have said.

And, as it was Great Oma’s final day here in England, she treated us to a meal at a Japanese restaurant over there in Cheadle Hulme. Jenny and Liam brought a very excited but tired Martha and William. The children had been introduced to Japanese cuisine while in Australia over Christmas. Today, we all enjoyed our meals, even though for a long time, Martha and I were sitting in actual warm sunshine. Even Liesel was beginning to turn pink.

William and Martha

Once William got going, he demolished his plate of food, and both he and Martha are very happy with sticky rice, because it’s easier to eat with chopsticks!

This week, they celebrated ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, and, by coincidence, that was the theme of my Wythenshawe Radio show this week. If you would like to catch up on two hours of Aussies and Kiwis singing for your pleasure, you are very welcome to listen here.

The Long and Winding Road

The three of us drove over to Jenny’s on a beautiful Saturday morning. After William’s success last week, we thought it would be nice to watch William and Martha swimming again. We all walked down the road to the pool  and were entertained by two young but very competent swimmers for half an hour. I feel good in a special way, I’m in love and it’s a sunny day. Walking back afterwards, we passed some really lovely gardens, well-tended and for a brief moment, I wished we still had a garden.

A host of golden daffodils

A lot of daffodils are now past their best-before date, but there are still a few bright patches here and there. Little darlin’, it’s been a long cold lonely Winter, little darlin’, it feels like years since it’s been here. It really is uplifting to be out and about in the sunshine, even if it’s not that warm. It is strange to be walking along, feeling the heat of the Sun on your back while feeling a cold wind on your face.

Later in the day, we met up with the family at Quarry Bank Mill for a quick walk. Martha and William followed the trail which entailed some fun activities such as doing star jumps and even a wheelbarrow race. Desmond has a barrow in the market place, as they say.

Wheelbarrow race

The really exciting part, though was at the end. On completion of the nine tasks, they received an Easter egg. I wish I’d picked up an instruction sheet, now. I am the egg-man, they are the egg-men, I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.

Trip-trapping over the bridge

At this point, Martha and William were miles ahead of us so-called grown-ups. They were heading for the playground. We’d had coffee and they’d had ice-cream so the energy levels were high. I get high with a little help from my friends.

Martha up the pole

In the evening, Liesel, Leslie and I visited our local theatre to watch Northenden Players Theatre Club’s production of Ladies Down Under. It was a full house, well, the capacity is 60 I think, and the play was very well performed. She’s got a ticket to ride. The action mainly takes place near Uluru, and mention was made of staying underground at Coober Pedy, bringing back memories of my trip there in 2002. The set was very clever too, very atmospheric.

Uluru at Northenden Theatre

Its been a long time, so I paid a visit to Rose Hill Woods, one of Northenden’s best kept secrets. There’s no getting away from the hum of the motorway, but it’s a very peaceful place. Especially when there are no other people about. And I did wonder whether the proximity of the M56 and its noise was responsible for the birds seemingly singing more loudly than usual. And your bird can sing. I’d forgotten how well made the path was too.

Watkin Memorial Stone

This is a memorial to Absalom Watkin who campaigned for electoral reform and for the repeal of the corn laws. It’s amazing to think that a UK government would bring in laws that result in food shortages, huge profits for wealthy landowners along with widespread poverty. It would never happen in the 21st century, of course. Baby you’re a rich man.

Absalom’s Bridge

Liesel’s a fantastic cook and so it was, she prepared some Indian dishes which we took over to Jenny’s. Don’t worry, we had been invited, it wasn’t a case of just turning up and thrusting our food upon them. It was of course delicious. All together now, all together now. And we had a lot of fun with the children and their marble run. I suspect there are still some marbles under the sofa.

William and Martha

As we’re ‘in training’ for a long walk next month, Liesel and I wandered over to Wythenshawe Park, and walked the boundaries. This Park isn’t as hilly as the long trek we’re planning, but it’s better than nothing. The long and winding road, that leads to your door, will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before. It’s good the see the path being used by cyclists, not so good to see piles of evidence that horses also use it.

Wythenshawe Park

We stopped for coffee just before closing time and as we were leaving the park, we saw smoke over by the field with the horses. We think it was probably someone with a disposable barbecue and we suspect the evidence will still be there. Good job there are litter pickers in the park, eh? Help! You know I need someone! Help!

I joined the choir. Yes, I know I can’t sing for toffee but, ‘do something scary every day’. I met Dan last week, had a chat, he kept a straight face as he said I should come along, so I went along. There were far more people than expected, between 50 and 60, and about 10 of us tenors. I’m a tenor! Fortunately, Roger and Nick are very loud tenors and my warblings are nicely drowned out. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.

Sadly, here is some sad news. I’m too emotional to write my own words, so here are details straight from the source.

The old oak tree

Over 500 years old, this is the oldest oak in the Dunham Massey deer park: it even predates the historic buildings!

As you can see this special oak is starting to lean towards the moat, this is due to a variety of factors from root compaction to recent storms, as well as the sheer age of this veteran tree.

The Rangers started work in Autumn 2022, thinning some of the older, more ridged branches from the crown of the tree to reduce the sail area, working to prevent the wind from catching it as much as possible. Thinning the top branches has also helped to take some of the weight off, lessening pressure on the root system

Next, in February 2023, they installed a prop to help support the weight of the oak, as this section of the tree will get heavier as the top foliage starts to grow. Help! You know I need someone! Help!

The propped up oak tree

It was another very pleasant walk, again with cold wind in one direction and warm Sun in the other. And I say it’s alright.

Liesel, Leslie and cherry blossom
Snake’s head fritillary

Leslie, Liesel and I joined the walks on Wednesday and Thursday, warm Sun, cold wind, not as cold maybe but noticeable. I can’t measure it scientifically, but it seems to me that ever since I had Covid last year, I have noticed the cold much sooner than I used to, even the slightest of cold draughts. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind, possessing and caressing me.

Sale isn’t that far away, but we’ve seldom been there. We had a lunch date with some folks from the choir, and their spouses. Spouses? Spice? And all the people that come and go stop and say hello. Alanya in Sale was very nice and before we went in, we had a wander around the town. Lots of charity shops and betting shops, even a games arcade.

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Liesel and I left Mom at home while we went for an early evening walk along the river. It was very pleasant, mainly because there were so few other people around! Not even on the golf course. In fact, more than pleasant. In fact, it was so warm, we took our coats off, and that’s a first for this year. I also should have worn shorts. Let’s hope for a nice, long, warm Summer. Here comes the sun king, everybody’s laughing, everybody’s happy, here comes the sun king.

Selfie of the day

That was the week leading up to Easter, so guess what the radio show was about this week? That’s right: Japan. Some Japanese music, plus songs about Japan or that mention the land of the rising Sun. If you missed the Wythenshawe Radio transmission, you can catch up here.

One major disappontment this week. One day, I went out for a walk and left the pedometer at home so there is no step count available. Not once, but twice that day. This will severely affect any statistical analysis that may ensue.


The highlight of the week was the first classical concert I’ve been to for a very long time. My friend and fellow Wythenshawe Radio presenter Hayley is a professional soprano and she was a guest soloist with St George’s Singers. The choir performed Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonnelle.

St George’s Singers

No, I didn’t sing along, not being entirely familiar with the tunes. There is more about this piece of music at the end of this post. But I was listening and watching the performers closely. Some of the choir kept their eyes on the conductor more or less all the time. Others were focused on their manuscript, just glancing up every now and then.

It was a delight, after all this time, to see Hayley in her natural habitat. The venue was St Michael and All Angels Church, Bramhall, so not too far away from home.

Terence Ayebare, Alexander Grainger, Jessica Conway and Hayley Swanton, soloists

I suppose one highlight of the week was the start of British Summertime. We put the clocks forward, giving us an extra hour of daylight in the evenings. Which means of course, we can see the gloomy, dark, menacing, grey clouds for a little longer before bedtime each night. We are surprised by the odd, pretty sunset, but not this week.

Blossoming tree sneaking up on a telegraph pole

Well done William! He earned his 5m backstroke swimming badge this week, and that must qualify as the highlight of the week.

William with badge

The highlight of the week was of course the radio show. The theme this week was Cats, even though most of the cats being sung about are actually people. Three cool cats, what’s new pussycat and that sort of thing. I didn’t forget lions, tigers or panthers. If you’re feline so inclined, catch up with the show here.

I am, of course, teasing. The actual, real, biggest highlight of the week was the return of Liesel from Alaska, hooray! I say ‘from Alaska’ but in fact, much of the state came back with her. In fact, she had so much stuff from Anchorage in her bags, that she and her Mom had to return home to Northenden, from the airport,  in an industrial sized taxi. And yes, sometimes I wish our little block of flats had a lift.

Liesel and Leslie about to depart from Anchorage

A couple of days of jetlag and everything’s right with the world. I am once again enjoying Liesel’s culinary expertise which makes a change from the glorified snacks that I’ve been preparing for myself. Welcome home Liesel and welcome to our humble abode, Leslie!

Liesel missed the dentist so much, she just had to pay a visit at the earliest opportunity. Hopefully the pearly whites will last a long, long time.

Walking around Northenden this week was uneventful. The river’s still quite high but the really bad and sad news is that we haven’t seen our heron for quite a while. I hope he’s having a good time upstream with a nice lady heron.

Liesel and Leslie went along but I missed the Friday walk this week, and it wasn’t because I needed time away from them! No, I had another meeting with Dave from Thrive Manchester and Mary at Boxx 2 Boxx. Afterwards, I had a quick chat with Dan the choir-master and I think I said I might go along next week and join the choir. I know, I should probably take along a box of earplugs for the other members, but, like I often say, I’ll try anything once.

Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle is a musical composition written by the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini in 1863, later in his life. Despite its name (which translates to “little solemn mass”), the piece is quite grand and complex, requiring two pianos and a harmonium, and is known for its intricate harmonies and melodic beauty.

The piece was originally written for private performance and was not intended for public performance. However, Rossini later authorized a public performance of the work in 1864, which was received with great success.

The Petite Messe Solennelle is considered one of Rossini’s most important works and is regarded as a masterpiece of sacred music. It has been performed and recorded numerous times by various orchestras, choirs, and soloists around the world.

Swimmin’ and women

It’s been mentioned before, I’m sure, but sometimes our flat feels colder than it is outside. We open the fridge and the light comes on, inviting us into the warmth. Venturing outside, I exclaim, ooh, it’s warm out here. Not this Saturday though. It was cold, but at least I didn’t have to scrape ice off the car. Martha and William both have swimming lessons on a Saturday morning now, and I drove over to watch them. It was warm inside.

Swimming gallery

It’s a nicely heated venue of course, and upstairs in the viewing platform, the Sun was streaming it. It felt fantastic on our backs as we watched the children ploughing up and down the pool. Martha earned her 10-metre certificate today.

After the lesson, I drove back to Jenny’s, walked back to the pool and accompanied Liam, Martha and William on their walk back home. My reward for all this exercise? Jenny cooked up a gorgeous roast dinner for me. Well, for all of us, thanks, Jenny!

William asked me to help him build his Lego police car. He really didn’t need my help. Dozens of very small parts, and he managed very well.

Lego police car

While I was watching William not needing my assistance, Martha went out with Liam and came back with dessert. I think William enjoyed his chocolate cake.

William v Cake

Later in the week, I saw this.

Scary error message

There’s not much more likely to cause a panic attack than seeing this on a screen, like we’ve gone back to the 1990s or something. Anyway, all sorted now. It also took way too long to get the printer working. It went ‘offline’ but I could find no easy way to put it back ‘online’. I ended up reinstalling it as if it were a brand new device. I think this is something I’ll never understand about technology: why does something work flawlessly for two months then suddenly stop? I wonder how many printers have been thrown through windows in frustration?

I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, to myself at least: Do the shredding little and often. Don’t save it up for years and years. I spent several hours this week shredding old, unwanted but confidential paperwork. One thing I realised though is that once it gets going, our shredder puts out more heat than the actual heating system in this flat.

But I’m not the only one having major issues this week.

Palatine Road planter

Someone had a slight altercation in Palatine Road. There’s a bit of a mess here. I don’t know whether the torrential rain that we had affected his driving ability. Torrential? At times yes, but there was just a lot of rain over a few days. The river was high again.

The Island

Walking around Northenden and Wythenshawe this week was uneventful. Rain was threatened a couple of times but we stayed dry, just a bit of drizzle.

There was more rain to negotiate when I drove to Darwen. I’d never been before, so I left really early so I could see some of the town. Good job too. There was a long hold-up on one of the motorways, so I went a different, longer way, but quicker, if Google Maps is to be believed.

A bit of Darwen
The Weaver Bird

This artwork celebrates the proud industrial heritage of Darwen. Please help us to look after it by not touching or climbing it. The edges may be sharp to touch and falls can cause injury. What a shame the plaque didn’t credit the actual sculptor.

I was delighted to see The Weaver Bird because five minutes earlier, I was very nearly locked inside the market. After parking up, I went downstairs to a deserted market, glad to find a public toilet. When I came out, the Men were walking around locking all the doors. I followed them round like a hungry puppy until they let me out.

India Mill Chimney

This India Mill Chimney is one of Darwen’s most famous landmarks, the last remaining chimney standing as a memorial to the local cotton industry.

Supper was taken in a bank. Yes, really, it’s a pub called The Bank and it really was a bank, once. The barman asked a few times whether my meal was good. Well, yes it was. In the end, he admitted that this was something new on the menu. I can recommend their sweet potato and chilli curry, if you’re ever in Darwen, and hungry.

I was here to see Martha Tilston in concert. We’ve not seen her for about five years, and Liesel and Leslie should have been here too, but are still over there in Anchorage. So, I had three seats to choose from. One minute before show began, in came the inevitable tall man with a big head and I knew exactly where he was going to sit.

Teri Birtwistle, local to Darwen, supported Martha beautifully. I had a quick word with her in the interval, promising to play her music on my show.


I also spoke to Martha’s accompanist Matt in the interval, passed on my regards to Martha and her Mum Naomi, whom I got to know, crikey, thirty years ago now, when we were on the same creative writing course. St Patrick’s Day came up in conversation and I boasted that I was playing Martha’s song Over to Ireland in my radio show this week. So imagine my delight when she played that song on stage, even though it wasn’t on her playlist originally. Matt just went with the flow!

Matt with his 5-string fretless bass

The drive home was much faster, the motorway had been unblocked. But a long drive, late at night, isn’t something I’m used to, so I woke up far too late the next day to go for a walk with the usual group. Instead, after another spot of shredding, I went back down to the river here in Northenden: it was still flowing high and fast.

I’ve mentioned it already, and this week’s Wythenshawe Radio show marked St Patrick’s Day, mostly Irish singers and songs about Ireland. Catch it here.

Wedding Weekend

Sometimes you go to bed at the end of the day and you have no recollection of anything that happened. One day this week passed in such a manner. It was a Thursday. We did some more tidying up, we started packing for the weekend ahead, and that’s about it. I took zero photographs, which is very unusual. A busy, productive day but totally unmemorable. I don’t know why I mentioned it really. I’m sorry I wasted your time on this paragraph.

Jump to Friday. Pauline and Andrew drove to the airport to pick up Robert, who’d flown in from Vancouver. Yes, Liesel and I only saw him fairly recently, but this was the first reunion with his mother, my sister Pauline, since he moved to Canada all those years ago.

Now we are six. For the first time, there are six people staying in our flat overnight, which seems to have shrunk in size. Rob drew the short straw (we drew it for him) and he slept on an inflatable bed in the office/studio, curled around the legs of the desk.

Before settling down for the night though, we had fish and chips from the local chippy. We bought far too many chips. Which is why, for breakfast the following day, we had egg and chips.

And so, after years of anticipation and planning, the Wedding Weekend began. I am pleased to announce that my daughter Jenny was marrying Liam at an event postponed for a couple of years because of the pandemic.

We woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning. After our stodgy breakfast, Pauline, Andrew, Rob and I drove to the venue, Knockerdown Cottages, near Ashbourne, on the cusp of the Peak District National Park in the Derbyshire Dales. Yes, what a beautiful part of the country. Just look at the view!

The view from Knockerdown

After a lovely drive, despite a couple of diversions, we arrived and parked at the venue at about 11.45. I saw Liam and walked over to say hello. I was immediately told to go to the back of the line over there, to join Jenny, as they were timing the walk up the aisle. Well, a trail of hessian mats on the grass, that led to a gazebo in front of which the ceremony would be conducted. I felt bad that the others were unloading the car without my help. (Afterwards, not at the time, I was in a whirlwind out of my control.) We had a lot of stuff. For the weekend and for a couple of weeks afterwards too. We spent much of the weekend meeting old friends. Danielle, Louise, Katie and Sarah, Jenny’s friends from school, along with the leader of the gang, Helen, were all there leading the procession, followed by Martha and William, with Jenny and myself walking slowly behind. This wasn’t really a full-blown rehearsal. Another long-time friend, Ross, took us through the ceremony, advising us who stands and sits where and when and of course all I can think of is how I can possibly will probably mess the whole thing up.

Meanwhile, back at home, Liesel and Leslie drove to the airport to pick up Michael (Sarah’s brother) and Astrid, visiting from Norway. After a quick trip to Quarry Bank Mill, they joined us at Knockerdown later in the afternoon.

I was glad our car was amongst the first to arrive in the morning, we could be useful for a bit. We moved bottles of wine and fizz from one cottage to another, we moved some furniture. As a former postie, I was given the task of delivering the Welcome letters to each of the cottages.

Most of the guests arrived soon after 3pm, as did the groceries we’d ordered. Ours came from Ocado as usual, but during the course of the afternoon, Tesco and Sainsbury were represented.

The venue includes a games room and a swimming pool. I confirmed at various times over the weekend that I am still no good at pool (it was a manky table, but I don’t think it made much difference), table tennis (the table seemed much smaller than I remember from my youth) and table football (despite spending too much time on the game while at university).

With about 75 guests in one place for the weekend, there had to be a disaster. And the first one sadly fell to Martha.

Rescuing a mermaid from the tree

For some reason, she threw her mermaid into a tree. It took several people, several sticks, a ball, a pool cue and a broom to finally dislodge the doll from the arboreal resting place.

Pizza Pi turned up and set up his wood stove in the courtyard, right outside our cottage. Nice and convenient and we wondered, unnecessarily, would our cottage be filled with smoke? The pizzas were very tasty, and were accompanied by a variety of leaves and salad.

It was good to see Michael and Astrid again after all these years. Also here were several members from Liam’s wider family including Una’s sisters and Alan’s brother Lawrence.

In the evening, everyone sat down and ate more pizza and snacks and drank copious amounts of alcohol and non-alcohol. Matt, a very entertaining friend of Jenny and Liam, took us through a number of fun party games.

People playing silly games

Modesty prevents me from saying that our team, number 10, won. After each task, someone had to run up to Matt and declare their team number. Our table was the closest. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t the best! Obviously.

After a busy, exciting and fun day, of course it was quite hard to get to sleep that night. Finally, after all this time, I was within hours of delivering the Father of the Bride speech. Those who know me know I am not a natural extrovert, I don’t enjoy being the centre of attention and I certainly don’t perform in front of more than four people at a time. So the butterflies were slowly gathering together in my stomach.

When I emerged from my pit on Sunday morning, the kitchen was a hive of industry. Liesel and Pauline were making sandwiches for the children’s lunchboxes, and Leslie was making use of her origami skills, folding and sealing the lunch boxes with all the other lovely components.

I ate a hearty breakfast, spent some time alone going through the speech for the hundredth time. I’d been working on it for nearly three years, on and off, so of course, by now, it made no sense, it was absolute rubbish. Fortunately my secret proofreader/editor has helped out recently, thank you, Helen!

Another disaster. Someone gave me some cash with which to pay the bar staff when they arrived. Liesel saw me put it in my pocket. Later on, I couldn’t find it. I asked around, I retraced all my steps, but no. People agreed with me that this new-fangled plastic money is so easy to lose, when you pull something out of your pocket, for instance. The bar staff were paid, so don’t worry about that.

Three days later, in a place a long way, away, I bent down to put my trainers on. There was some sort of obstruction in my left shoe. Yes, you’re ahead of me. It was the cash I now remember putting there for safe keeping. I think it’s fair to say, pre-speech nerves adversely affect the memory.

Back to Sunday. The children had a Hearts Trail to follow, a series of 18 heart-shaped wooden plaques carefully hidden by adults.

Wooden heart (not the Elvis song)

William started well but later, I witnessed one of Liam’s aunts completing his sheet on his behalf. Shh, don’t tell anyone.

Another disaster, oh no. William was stung by a wasp. He soon got over the shock but that was something else we could do without.

While chatting with Uncle Lawrence by the pool, I saw Pauline walk by with a couple of the lunch boxes. I was going to help deliver them, but alas, I’d missed my opportunity.

The weather couldn’t have been better for an outdoor event. A bit cloudy but sunny and with bright blue skies.

I wandered around the site for a while, and even though I knew Jenny and Liam wouldn’t be going anywhere soon, I wondered whether I should attach a ‘Just Married’ sign to the back of this old vehicle, for their post-ceremony departure.

Mouldy old plough

My moment arrived. Time to have a shower and put my wedding attire on. I’d picked up my suit from Best Man in Stockport on Thursday: one of the tasks that I seem to have performed on autopilot.

I was pleased that my clothes all fitted well, even though they felt unusually tight.

Guests made their way to the gazebo where seats had been placed. I was pacing up and down in my cottage, waiting to be summoned.

Someone gave me a pretty little boutonniere to wear. Another potential calamity. In my nervous state, I was bound to prick my finger on the pin and get blood all over my pristine, new, white shirt. But no: this particular disaster was averted and I continued to wait.

Gazing longingly towards Jenny’s cottage, waiting, waiting

Forlornly, I looked through the window towards the bride’s cottage while waiting for the call. Many other people were coming and going but all I could do was walk around the living room again. And again.

I obtained some new spectacles recently. Same prescription as my everyday ones, but these don’t turn dark in sunlight. I remembered to wear them. I would not be ruining photographs today by having shades in front of my eyes.

I paced up and down a bit more. This was like waiting for a baby to be born or something. Exciting, but nerve-wracking.

The bridesmaids all looked gorgeous, the guests all looked splendid, my family all looked very smart and well-turned out. I probably looked OK but as I wore out the carpet in our cottage, of course I had my doubts.

At last, I was called to meet the bride. She looked stunning. I knew she would, but even so, I had to swallow something hard and jagged.

Father seeing the bride in all her bridal gorgeousness for the first time

Thanks to Ross, the celebrant, for taking this picture. I’d left my phone behind in the cottage. Mainly because I wouldn’t be able to take pictures for the next hour or two, but also because the pockets in my hired jacket had been sewn shut.

I accompanied Jenny from her cottage all the way to the gazebo without once tripping over my own feet, despite wearing brogues, which I’m not used to and which are longer than my trainers. In addition, I didn’t stand on Jenny’s dress while various girls tried to keep the train under control. Jenny and I followed William at a distance. He was behind Martha who was keeping a good distance behind the bridesmaids.

Other potential faux pas were avoided. My trousers didn’t fall down. I did not have a coughing nor a sneezing fit. And I think I was in the right place at all times.

After turning past a certain tree, Jenny and I heard the processional music, an instrumental version of Elton John’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight, from The Lion King.

After delivering Jenny safely to Liam, and shaking his hand, I went to stand next to Liesel in the front row. Ross soon told us all to sit down, and I breathed a sigh of relief: so far, I had not messed up.

The Humanist ceremony was really nice, and I look forward to reading Ross’s words at leisure later on. They were delivered beautifully at the time, but half my mind was elsewhere. Martha performed her reading really well, and so did Liam’s Mum, Una.

During the slow walk back, we each picked up a small bag of (biodegradable) confetti with which to shower the newly married couple and their children, mainly for the benefit of the photographer, Marc.

(I’ll post one or two of Marc’s photos at a later date, but as mentioned above, my phone wasn’t with me during these events.)

Between the wedding ceremony and the Breakfast, we enjoyed drinks and snacks in the courtyard again, conveniently close to our cottage. I collected my speech, printed out in a large font and glued to a set of seven cards. I checked I had this set of cards in my pocket a dozen times. I checked they were in the right order another dozen times.

Guests gathered for the Wedding Breakfast in, what felt to me at the time, the hottest room in all of England. The Sun was pouring in, I was still wearing my suit and I was trying to suppress my state of nervousness.

I looked around and reminded myself, as Chris had said, that these hundreds of people are on my side, that they’ll listen politely while looking forward to the other speeches. Writing this now, a few days later, I realise that my lack of confidence is really showing through. Hundreds of people? Well, seventy-five including about twenty-five children.

Chris’s entrance into the room was quite flamboyant. Jenny and Liam followed with a little more dignity.

I was introduced by Matt, I stood up and read from my crib cards for four of the longest and quickest minutes of my life. It went very well. I’m glad I raised a toast to Jenny’s Mum, Sarah. I was delighted when people laughed at the right time, at the jokes. Again, I’m pleased to say my worst fears were not fulfilled: I didn’t drop the cards, I didn’t read them in the wrong order, I didn’t move away from the microphone and my trousers didn’t fall down.

Modesty forbids me from mentioning how many people came up to me afterwards and the following day to say how much they’d enjoyed my speech, that I’d hit the right tone, the right mix of seriousness and humour, that my nerves hadn’t shown at all.

Helen gave a speech too, with a little help from Martha. She was followed by Liam and by Chris himself.

We guests had selected our meals some months ago, and like most other people, I’d forgotten what I’d opted for, so thank goodness for the personalised menu on the table in front of us. The food was very good, prepared and served by some friendly, helpful caterers. I enjoyed my spinach and artichoke pie and mash with a parmesan crisp served with various beans and peas. This was followed by Bakewell tart with ginger cream which I ate before I had a chance to take its picture.

An ex-Bakewell tart with ginger cream

Yes, I had retrieved my phone by this point. So of course, I shot Jenny and Liam too.

Jenny and Liam

Between the end of the Breakfast and the evening activities, I think I just socialised, and enjoyed having successfully delivered a Father of the Bride’s speech.

Jenny threw the bouquet over her shoulder towards all the single ladies.

Martha with her bouquet

Martha was delighted to pick (some of) it up but I’m not sure whether she knows the significance.

The Sun was beginning to set and this was a great photo opportunity for Marc and for the rest of us.

Sunset, Jenny and her supporters

I’d forgotten there were so many formalities at a wedding. I was quite happy to grab a slice of cake and tuck in. But there was the matter of the official Cutting of the Cake.

Cutting the cake

Martha was on the scene and very quickly announced ‘I want that bit’.

A little later, Jenny and Liam took to the floor for the first dance. The first song I remember the band, Funtime Frankies, playing was Summer of ’69. The dancefloor soon filled but my feet kept themselves to themselves, at least until a pint of beer later. The band were really good, performing old songs with great skill, and I know it’s an old-farty thing to say, but they were really quite loud.

Jenny and Liam dancing

During the evening, we made several visits to the bar for a wide range of beverages. And water.

As darkness settled on Knockerdown, I think we were all still a bit high from the emotion if not from the alcohol. More food was available and I feel sorry for those folks who mistook the jalapeños for mushrooms. Hello Andrew!

Michael and I had a nice chat about Sarah and the wider family. He and Astrid went to bed and I moseyed on over to the After Party, much to Helen’s surprise, I think. I had a bottte of beer, very rare for me at around midnight, before hitting the sack myself. I said good night to the new Mr and Mrs W.

Breakfast for me on the day after consisted of veggie sausage roll, although bacon butties were available for the carnivores. This plus a few cups of tea were very welcome. But I think one of the most memorable sights this day was seeing that Martha didn’t change out of her pyjamas all day. She and all the bridesmaids and Jenny and Helen were wearing personalised robes and I think Martha just didn’t want to take hers off.

We had fun and games in the field including a 9-hole Crazy Golf course that materialised early in the morning. I played two rounds. Once against Pauline and Andrew and once with Martha, Emily and Papa. On both occasions, I got the highest score so I think that makes me the winner.

Crazy Jenny and Liam playing Golf (*words to be rearranged)
William captured by rogue space hoppers

William played tag with me and Emily for a while. There was a short race course for space hopppering around. The track itself was William’s safe ‘base’ while the island in the middle was ‘super-base’. William’s other job, which he took upon himself, was to carry a crate of bubble mix around. Bubbles were blown.

William bearing bubbles

There wasn’t enough food here this weekend, thought absolutely nobody at all. So it was lovely to welcome the barbecue in the afternoon. At this point, the wind got up and blew one of the gazebos across the patio. I ran over to unload the children from the bouncy castle, just in case, and the rain followed soon after. I’m glad I had my ice cream before the rain set in, since the freezers were outside, exposed to the weather: and wet weather and electricity are not a good pairing.

Weddings are of course mainly about the people, so there will follow a few mug shots, just some of the guests. I hope they don’t put you off your next meal.

Rob, Pauline and Andrew
Michael and Astrid

Shortly after this picture was taken, so were the subjects. Liesel and Leslie drove them back to Manchester Airport for their return flight to Bergen.

Liam and Matt

They missed some of the early evening entertainment which included children’s Pass the Parcel and a Pub Quiz. Liesel returned just as the last question was being posed, which is the only reason our team didn’t win. In fact, the winners were the team led by Liam and Jenny which seems only fair. The prize consisted of a few items of old tut previously donated by Liam and Jenny.

Annabel, Martha, Emily and William

The end of the day meant lots of goodbyes of course and I for one was glad of a slightly earlier night in bed.

In the morning, we had to vacate the cottages by 10am. We then hung around a bit to help Jenny and Liam load up their van and Helen and a couple of others to take their stuff out. I think we finally hit the road at about 11 o’clock, having agreed to meet up with Pauline, Andrew and Robert in Bakewell. But that story’s for another day.

Several days later, I can still feel the positive vibes from this wedding weekend, and I mean no disrespect to those who organised and attended my own weddings when I say that I think this was the best, most enjoyable wedding I’ve ever been to. So well planned by Jenny and Liam. Thanks a million to them and thanks to everyone else for making it all so much fun. I can’t wait to see Marc’s professional photos and share one or two here, such as:


Here, there and everywhere

Never say never of course, but it’s very unlikely we’ll ever visit the Glastonbury Festival. The biggest and best festival in the world returned for the first time since the pandemic. And the thought of sharing a space with nearly a quarter of a million strangers is just too daunting. On the other hand, the site, Worthy Farm, is vast. See just how big compared with your neighbourhood here: just enter your postcode. (Thanks for this link, Jenny.)

I watched on TV from the comfort of my own sofa, enjoying beer from my birthday and from Fathers Day. The highlight for me was of course was Sir Paul McCartney. Seeing him live at the O2 a few years ago was the best Beatles concert I’ll ever experience.

Sir Paul McCartney

I was on my own at home so I sang along to all the songs: I had a wonderful little party, by myself! It’s mostly a young audience at Glastonbury and it was fantastic to see they knew the words to all the old Beatles’ songs, and to Diana Ross’s old hits, the next day.

Last time, I left you with the image of a small car parked badly on the island in the river. Well, someone waded in, retrieved and relocated it.

Rubbish parking

I went over to visit the grandchildren (and their parents) and their new pet.

Incey Wincey

This brought back unhappy memories of my time as a postman, walking through cobwebs at face height.

It was a joy to see William and Martha again after such a long time away.

Meanwhile, over in Alaska, Liesel went away for a quick break, visiting the little town of Hope, with her Mom and brother.

Aaron, Liesel and Leslie

On another occasion, Liesel reported seeing a porcupine walking along the road. Well, that puts the Northenden heron into perspective.

I couldn’t refuse the offer to look after William for a couple of hours one day, while Jenny and long-time friend Danielle had their hair done.

William and Grandad

I think this picture shows how absorbed William was and how bemused I was after watching several episodes and a full-length movie of Pokémon on TV. After a while though, William did get up and have a walk/slide around in his new footwear.

William’s new slippers

Slippers have never been more slippery.

In Anchorage, Liesel enjoyed a nice long hike up in the hills with Jyoti and Una.

Jyoti, Una and Liesel

If pushed, I’d probably have to admit that the scenery here is slightly more spectacular than anything Northenden has to offer.

This week I had reason to access Facebook, for a very specific purpose. And it annoyed me within two minutes. So no, I won’t be creating a new account for myself.

A much more uplifting experience was to be had on the two well-being walks I joined this week, one in Northenden and one in Wythenshawe.

Just a random garden in Northenden

This week’s photographic assignment was to capture a heavily laden bumble bee on this gorgeous hydrangea.


But it would not keep still, flitting from flower to flower, and especially when I lifted up my phone to take the picture. Some beasties are intrinsically more cooperative, and stationary,  I’m pleased to report.


In sports news, local barista Jill Scott scored the fourth goal for England’s victorious football team, against Switzerland, in their final warm-up game before the Women’s Euro 2022 competition. A great advertising opportunity, of course!

Jill Scott
Boxx 2 Boxx

As I was walking through Wythenshawe, I noticed a plain concrete pillar in the middle of a fairly large area of lawn. I wondered if it might be an old milestone, it had that sort of shape to it. I couldn’t see any legible engraving, so I walked round to see what was on the other side.

No ball games

Well, we won’t be seeing any future Jill Scotts around here, I guess.

In Anchorage, Liesel and her Mom sat outside Carrie’s house, by the lake, enjoying the view and sitting in the Sun a little too long. This set them up nicely for a weekend camping trip to Willow, with Aaron and a group of friends. The last I heard, they were still partying well after midnight.

This week, I dedicated my radio show to the memory of Liesel’s Dad, Klaus, playing some of his favourite songs as well as some others in German.

Packing and stacking

Well that was a strange week that was a strange week for the 1st time in many years we watched the Eurovision song contest well I didn’t watch it but it was on a didn’t watch it but it was on in the background I was doing something else had my nose in a puzzle I’ve had my nose in a puzzle roller book or something and looked up at the TV screen and I saw a Spanish singer’s bottom and I thought she’s getting my vote but I didn’t vote for anyone I didn’t vote for anyone in the end Ukraine one and the uk came 2nd for the 1st time in a 143 years.

That’s how good the dictation option is on my phone. It doesn’t seem too concerned with punctuation. And I’m sure I didn’t recite all those things twice all those things twice. But it is interesting to see how the screen changes as the phone tries to work out what I actually said. I’ll mostly edit the rest of this post, so it more closely resembles what I meant in the first place, in better English.

Liesel and I went for walk around around Northern Ireland (no, it was Northenden). We couldn’t believe the number of ladybirds we saw on the bushes, literally hundreds: it must be the ladybird mating season by the looks of it.

Ladybird giving another ladybird a piggy-back

The heron was on the island, cowering: I think he was hiding from the swarms of ladybirds, maybe he felt under threat.

Spot the heron

We also caught sight of that other occasional visitor to the river Mersey in Northenden: an old car tyre. Lovely to see him sitting near the island.


And what’s this lurking in the bushes near Riverside Park? Somebody’s parked their scooter in a good place. I hope they can remember where they left it.

Where’s my scooter?
Artistic shot of the week

The day after I took this picture of the daisies on the lawn by our communal car park, the mowing crew came along and cut the grass, moss, dandelion stems and, sadly, the daisies.

My regular brain exercise each morning is to play Worldle, Wordle and Nerdle. This week I managed to achieve a winning streak of a hundred games. Except on the actual day, I forgot to grab a screenshot, so here it is from the following day! I was so proud, I even tweeted this image!

Liesel and I had a nice walk with the Northenden group, along the river to Simon’s Bridge and back. We sat outside for coffee at Box 2 Boxx, Shelly took a picture and it looks like I’ll appear in another advert soon, hooray!

And so it came to pass that we collected the children from school. Instead of taking them home, we took them to Bruntwood Park, through the woods behind their school. En route, William looked at a puddle, then looked at me, I slowly shook my head, he walked on by. We spent a lot of time in the fabulous playground, which was quite busy. Children were there from three or four different schools, going by their uniforms. William is definitely a climber.

William the mountaineer

We had a picnic on the glassy nose Yeah sausage rolls cumbers tomatoes and Victoria sponge cakes from a shop. In English: We had a picnic on the grassy knoll (just a raised mound of grass, really). We had pizza, sausage rolls, cucumbers, tomatoes and Victoria sponge cakes from a shop (ie, not home-made).

Martha the runner

There’s a great game there where the children have to run around and tap each post as the lights come on. It’s all electronic and they both found it great fun. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Martha run so far, so fast and for so long. Thank goodness this was before we sat down for our picnic!

The different arrangements today for looking after the children were for a very special reason. We took them home at about 5.30 and then after going home to our place to get raedy, we drove into Manchester for a concert that we’d first booked in September 2019. It had been postponed twice because of the pandemic and Covid restrictions, but at last, tonight was the night.

We’d never been to the Band on the Wall venue before but it’s a good little place. Mostly it’s standing only, but I asked for a couple of seats for us old farts and they were very obliging. We were here to see Tom Robinson. The show was meant to celebrate his 70th birthday but that was two ago now. Before the support act, Lee Forsyth-Griffiths, appeared, Tom himself came out on stage and sang a couple of songs for us early birds, those of us who had bothered to turn up in time to see the support act. He performed a revised version of his old hit What if we live to be 50? This remixed, remastered, updated version What if we live to be 80? was quite funny, especially since it still referred to carrying a packet of three.

Lee sang a few songs and the presence of his Mam and his sister in the audience didn’t affect his potty mouth at all!

It was a pretty good atmosphere all night although there was one scuffle right in front of us because of one man who was very drunk, so he was escorted off the premises.

Oops, Tom, electric guitar, Tom as PM

The Hong-Kong… hahaha… The encore was Power in the Darkness during which Tom always does a skit on some contemporary issue. This time of course of course, he channeled Boris Johnson and as he said afterwards, it’s all beyond parody now.

As we left the venue, we walked through the bar, and at the back was another performer whose name I missed, a lovely soul singer. So we stood around and listened while she sang Dancing in the Street. Twice! This was a nice surprise and a good way to to end the evening

Not Martha Reeves

The rest of this sort of in-between a week was in between a week was taken up with packing and checking all the paperwork and checking all the paperwork and everything that we need to do for we need to do for our trip to Alaska next week next week yes we are going away for 4 weeks and all these last minute and all these last minute jobs it all take 5 all these last minute jobs that should just take 5 minutes take a long time and then you find something’s gone wrong now when anyone finds something’s gone wrong or what a nightmare but we’re getting there we’re getting there. I hope you get the gist. Basically, we prepared for a few weeks away in Alaska.

We visited Windermere last week, so this week’s radio show was about lakes and other bodies of water, lots of songs about rivers, oceans and a couple of lakes. Enjoy it, it’s the last one for a few weeks…

What’s that, the last one for a while? Yes, while we’re in sunny Anchorage to visit Liesel’s family and friends, I won’t be making more shows. I would have to take so much extra stuff with me and even then, I might not find the time. But if you really want to listen to some earlier radio (and non-radio) shows, this link gives you the full list available so far.

I also uploaded a special one this week, and that was the tribute to Sarah first put together last year. Unbelievably, it’s now 21 years since we lost Sarah and she is still much missed and loved.

One egg is un oeuf

Something guaranteed to lift the spirits at any time is seeing a display of colour in everyday objects. Liesel uses these stitch markers with her crochet projects. Seeing them bathing in sunshine, on the otherwise fairly bland sofa, well, I couldn’t not take a picture really.

Stitch markers

The rain was torrential as we drove along the motorway. A fire engine overtook us on the inside, on the hard shoulder. A couple of minutes later, we saw thick black smoke ahead. We soon saw the source: it was a refuse truck, and the fire crew on our side of the road was attempting to extinguish the flames from the wrong side of the central reservation and its barrier. As we drove on, we noticed another fire engine stuck in traffic, on that side of the road. The children found it interesting, and we just hope nobody was injured. As Martha said, the rain would help put the fire out.

It was still raining lightly when we arrived at Chester Zoo, but it didn’t last long. Martha and William didn’t seem to even notice, while Liesel and I were wearing the brand new fully waterproof coats that she’d bought for us in Alaska.

We did see some animals at the zoo, but the main attraction were the playgrounds! The slides were still wet of course. As was everything else. Even climbing up the tree stumps with notches for footholds was risky, it was all too slippery.

I was expecting William to be Spiderman but no, Martha reached the top of the web first.

Martha’s web of intrigue

And of course, we had to capture the moment William spread his wings.

William the flamingo
Mick and friend

I’ve never been photobombed by a penguin before, but here is a poicture of me and my new coat!

For the first time in several visits, we actually saw an actual cheetah. Not running at 70mph, or hiding, but sitting on a mound way over there, through the haze.


It wasn’t too wet to sit on the elephant though. I assume other guests’ clothing had dried the poor old beast.

Liesel, Martha, William, elephant (bottom)

We enjoyed some good, local walks this week: Northenden, Wythenshawe and beyond.

In Wythenshawe, I was surprised to find some standing stones, signs of a really old civilisation here. Not as commercial an enterprise as Stonehenge, obviously, but quite interesting just the same.

Standing stones

This walk took us close to the motorway: a mere fence separated the traffic from our very loud chatting. Not the most pleasant of walking routes, to be honest, but it’s always good to see new things and new places.

Some of the insects in Benchill are huge, especially at the school.

School bug

Liesel did some laundry this week, including my jeans, for which I am very grateful. I checked they were dry before putting them on. Liesel had turned them inside out before washing them, which I probably would have forgotten to do. When I turned them outside out though, they seemed darker than I remembered. They really had needed a wash! I tried pulling them on, but they didn’t get far. Oh no, I thought, they’ve shrunk. I also wondered how come I’ve been wearing them for years without noticing some slight elasticity. Then I realised. I took them off, folded them up nicely and returned to the bathroom to look for my own legwear. Liesel is very welcome to her own, darker blue, elasticated Levis, thank you very much.

Liesel and I walked to Fletcher Moss park together for the first time in ages. We saw the heron too, always a bonus, he hasn’t been around for a while.

What a popular little park, so many groups of people must have decided to meet up for a Good Friday coffee and chat. We secluded ourselves in the rockery for a rest. And Liesel provided a running commentary on the mouse lurking in the bushes, that I totally failed to observe. Mouse, or baby rat? When Liesel told another couple about the rodent behind them, the lady shrieked and jumped up onto the bench. Well, she would have in a sitcom.

Acer or Japanese maple

Another day, another acer. How do you dig them up, I wondered? Acer spades, suggested Liesel.

Selfie of the day

Yes, I know it’s a rubbish photo. But the height difference between Liesel and me makes it hard to get a good picture, especially when you’re trying to get some blossom in the background as well. My head isn’t really eight times the volume of Liesel’s.

Easter Saturday was very exciting, we spent most of the time with Martha and William. The idea was for them to dye hard-boiled white eggs. Imagine the disappointment when the rarely seen (in the UK) white eggs turned up with a lion mark and other stamps! Fortunately, boiling them removed all this ink, leaving pristine shells for the childern to decorate. Oh, except William wasn’t interested, in the end! He played with the dinosaurs. I don’t think his lack of interest was due to the excitement of the Easter egg hunt around the salubrious setting of our small apartment. They both had a good time, and both were willing to share when one found more eggs than the other. Of course, probably too many were consumed, but, well, that’s Easter!

In fact, at one point, William decided he’d had enough, so he took himself off to bed for a quick nap.

William the kipper

When I say quick, I mean very short, less than a minute, a proper power nap if ever there was one!

The eggs turned out very well, though.

Martha the egg dyer

So that’s Mummy’s and Daddy’s breakfast sorted for tomorrow!

It was such a lovely day, we thought we’d also take them to the playground. And on the way there and back, we picked litter. There’s just so much to choose from around here.

William and Martha the litter-pickers

We saw the heron again, in exactly the same place as yesterday.

Heron on the weir

Why bother moving if you can catch all the fish you need in that one spot?

Martha and William had fun together on the swing and on the slide.

Martha and William the sliders

And before you ask, yes, this is a very short slide, they haven’t had a sudden growth spurt.

After returning the children to their parents (only leaving one small toy at ours by mistake) we came home to relax… What a gorgeous day.

The theme for my Wythenshawe Radio show this week was Death, pushing up the daisies, shuffling off this mortal coil. It wasn’t at all morbid or mournful or maudlin, but I was surprised at how many songs they are about the subject.

🤬  🔞  🤬  🔞  🤬

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OK, I believe you.

As well as the regular show, I’ve put together a show that won’t be broadcast on any radio station. It’s a bit rude, there are explicit lyrics, lots of swearing, and other songs that you don’t usually hear on the radio. Plus a couple of poems. It’s all done in the best possible taste. But please don’t listen if you don’t approve of a bit of bad language. The idea came a while ago, but I gave it a lot of serious thought and consideration when I was laid low by the Covids.