Mandelbrot Extinction

A big week in mickandlieselsanticsland – it was a big birthday for Liesel. We celebrated by going to the seaside, not once, but twice.

Formby – at its busiest

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.

Not really a hidden message

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.

Selfie of the day

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.

Empty beach

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

A monkey with a very long tail
Hoof prints in the sand

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.

Where’s Liesel?

It was a hot day, and possibly the last really hot day of the year, if the forecast is anything to go by.

Horses and a wind farm

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.

Fletcher Moss

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!

Very tall trees

One morning, we went out really early, the ground was covered in dew, our feet got wet, but we saw some beautiful sights.

Bedewed web
No results!

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.

Dan’s choir

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.

Up Your Street

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.

Nina Simone – Missisippi Goddamn
Wynton Marsalis Septet – Linus and Lucy

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.

Walks on the wild side

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.

Pretty little white flowers but not snowdrops, we think

 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.

Tortoiseshell butterfly

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 fox has lost its nose. How does it smell? Terrible
Proper social distancing

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.

Dragonfly

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.

Sparring buddies

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.

The lawn mower was here

We walked through the rockery and rewarded ourselves with a coffee at the Alpine Tea Rooms.

Pretty red, Autumnal leaves

Our early-morning weekly walk to Didsbury was very pleasant.

Silverback wasp

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 Moon but not really the Milky Way

The sky was blue and the contrails were out in force this morning.

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag

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.”

Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

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.

Berries, trees and kites

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

Tom Hingley

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.

Some birds by the river

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.

The famous jungle of Northenden

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.

Lily

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.

Palatine Road
Decaff latté, natch

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.

Between the flags

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.

Selfie of the day
A size 5 jellyfish
The beach and the sky
Sea holly

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.

Messing about on the river
Selfie of the day

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.

Didsbury’s famour mural
Yellow door

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.

A real squirrel

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.

Martha, Laim, Jenny and William

We didn’t visit our family this week, but here’s the obligatory photo, and they’re all looking pretty good!

The famous bee of Northenden

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.

The famous string tree of Wythenshawe Park
Alien bin

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.

Blackberries

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.

Martha’s stone

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.

Lyme Park mansion house, the biggest house in Cheshire
The raspberry

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.

A wall

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’.

The famous fairy ring of Lyme Park
The famous mouse-in-a-tree of Lyme Park
Very large kite

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.

Hello and goodbye

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!

さようなら

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

Kayak
Single kayak, the other one hadn’t fallen out

Most of them carried on towards the Irish Sea but a couple decided to have a break on the island.

Quick break

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.

The Sun turning flats into gold

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.

Martha getting to grips with badminton
Liam trying to retrieve his hat from William

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!

William Morris

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.

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!

Heron, cormorant, moorhen(?)

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.

Flowers, not to be too technical
Penguins

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.

Wader

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.

Noah and the Four Winds Fountain Sculpture

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.

Air whale
Too many people not social distancing

Back in Northenden, guess what? Yep: more flytipping outside Barnado’s, despite the wooden hoarding.

Barnardo’s

On the other hand, there are some pretty flowers around.

Shining Crane’s-bill

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!

Giving it 300 percent

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.

Selfie of the day

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.

Wild raspberries, for future enjoyment
Fireweed

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 small tortoiseshell would look better against a natural background
Kindle error

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.

Oak tree, blue sky, dead branch

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.

This duck would look better against a natural background

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.

Blackamoor statue removed
A field with a few shrink-wrapped cows, I think

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!

Martha and William through the window
Installing update
Unwanted software

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).

A gorgeous display of colour
Mick in the thick of it

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.

Hanging on
This dragonfly would look better against a natural background

As well as all the pretty flowers, they grow a lot of food here, but I was dissuaded from scrumping an apple.

Apple tree, artichoke, kohl rabi and coffee, cheers
Old, gnarly tree
More colour
Something went wrong

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.

Dolly Parton and her saxophone
Barry Gibb with Coldplay

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.

David Bowie at Glastonbury in 2000. He’d first performed there in 1971 at 5.30 in the morning, there was no curfew in those days.

The set list:

Wild is the Wind
Little China Girl
Changes
Stay
Life on Mars
Absolute Beginners
Ashes to Ashes
Rebel Rebel
Little Wonder
Golden Years
Fame
All the Young Dudes
The Man Who Sold the World
Station to Station
Starman
Hallo Spaceboy
Under Pressure
Ziggy Stardust
Heroes
Let’s Dance
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.

I can’t stand the rain against my windows bringing back sweet memories

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.

A bobble hat before the application of the pompom
Sanny Rudravajhala

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!

If you want to hear me and my little show, visit the Radio Northenden showreel and listen to Monday 29th June 2020.

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:

        1. Precaution
        2. Precarious
        3. Exhaustion
        4. Nonsequential
        5. Equiproportional
        6. Persuasion
        7. Insouciance
        8. Remuneration
        9. Augmentation
        10. Autoinjector
        11. Overpopulation
        12. Delusional
        13. Ecuadorian
        14. Dishonourable
        15. Rheumatologist
        16. Unsociable
        17. Expostulating
        18. Coeducational
        19. Neuroradiology
        20. Recapitulation
        21. Pseudobirthday
        22. Neuroplasticity
        23. Favourite
        24. Gregarious
        25. Intermolecular
        26. Consequential
        27. Equinoctial
        28. Manoeuvrability
        29. Autopsies
        30. Equatorial
        31. Malnourished
        32. Institutionalised
        33. Exsanguination
        34. Encouraging
        35. Repudiation
        36. Proceduralism
        37. Deucalion
        38. Autoimmune
        39. Anxiousness
        40. Hermaphroditus
        41. Refutation
        42. Unequivocal
        43. Authoritative
        44. Communicative
        45. Dehumanisation
        46. Misdemeanor
        47. Deputation
        48. Reputation
        49. Unifoliate
        50. Eunomia
        51. Unconscionable
        52. Housewarming
        53. Pterosauria
        54. Overqualified
        55. Uncontaminated
        56. Discombobulated
        57. Housemaid
        58. Unnegotiable
        59. Reconfiguration
        60. Moustachioed
        61. Denticulation
        62. Neurological
        63. Insurmountable
        64. Intercommunication
        65. Pelargonium
        66. Unprofessional
        67. Sequoia
        68. Authorised
        69. Authorities
        70. Endocarpium
        71. Autoerotic
        72. Mountaineer
        73. Education
        74. Abstemious
        75. Unmethodical
        76. Facetious
        77. Harbourside
        78. Carnoustie
        79. Cointreau
        80. Immunotherapy
        81. Evacuation
        82. Bivouacked
        83. Businesswoman
        84. Regulation
        85. Recuperation
        86. Euphoria
        87. Euphorbia
        88. Nonequivalence
        89. Unfashionable
        90. Revolutionary
        91. Cauliflower
        92. Behaviour
        93. Chivalrousness
        94. Pneumonia
        95. Boundaries
        96. Authentication
        97. Gelatinousness
        98. Absolutist
        99. Evolutionary
        100. Exclusionary
        101. Unaffectionate
        102. Encrustation
        103. Equation
        104. Prosecutorial
        105. Tambourine
        106. Unprofitable
        107. Auctioneer
        108. Trepidacious
        109. Tenacious
        110. Emulation
        111. Evaluation
        112. Undiscoverable
        113. Seismosaurus
        114. Ostentatious
        115. Crematorium
        116. Quaternion
        117. Discourage
        118. Mountainside
        119. Exhumation
        120. Functionalities
        121. Unemotional
        122. Preoccupation
        123. Semiautomatic
        124. Byelorussia
        125. Mendacious
        126. Excruciation
        127. Beautification
        128. Ejaculation
        129. Reunification
        130. Undomesticated
        131. Warehousing
        132. Documentaries
        133. Atrioventricular
        134. Fontainebleau
        135. Questionable
        136. Autofellatio
        137. Overcultivate
        138. Simultaneous
        139. Documentation
        140. Perambulation
        141. Auditioned
        142. Discontinuance
        143. Exculpation
        144. Exultation
        145. Sanctimoniousness
        146. Instrumentation
        147. Andouillettes
        148. Microcephalus
        149. Pandemonium
        150. Endeavouring
        151. Spermatogonium
        152. Nefarious
        153. Vexatious
        154. Manoeuvring
        155. Mozambique
        156. Ratatouille
        157. Bougainvillea
        158. Renunciation
        159. Biconjugate
        160. Savouries
        161. Endocranium
        162. Houseplant
        163. Intellectualisation
        164. Unequivocally
        165. Heliopause
        166. Duodecimal
        167. Boatbuilder
        168. Sacrilegious
        169. Sequestration
        170. Reuploading
        171. Filamentous
        172. Unapologetic
        173. Ketonuria
        174. Overfatigued
        175. Resuscitation
        176. Coequality
        177. Gubernatorial
        178. Labourite
        179. Simultaneously
        180. Flirtatiousness
        181. Dunbartonshire
        182. Boardinghouse
        183. Numerlogical
        184. Quadrisection
        185. Outdistance
        186. Jalousie
        187. Ultraviolet
        188. Aeronautical
        189. Unintentionally
        190. Unostentatious
        191. Authorise
        192. Glamourise
        193. Radioluminescent
        194. Communicated
        195. Contextualisation
        196. Conceptualisation
        197. Gigantopithecus
        198. Authenticator
        199. Perturbation
        200. Austronesian
        201. Fluoridate
        202. Uneconomical
        203. Unexceptional
        204. Grandiloquence
        205. Misbehaviour
        206. Muscoidea
        207. Beaujolais
        208. Boulangerie
        209. Praetorium
        210. Dauphinoise
        211. Jailhouse
        212. Questionableness
        213. Preoccupational
        214. Gauloise
        215. Consubstantiate
        216. Quatrefoil
        217. Plesiosaur
        218. Misfortunate
        219. Undemocratically
        220. Secularisation
        221. Dialogue
        222. Antineutrino
        223. Obituaries
        224. Heterosexuality
        225. Efficacious
        226. Uncomplimentary
        227. Unconstipated
        228. Gelatinous
        229. Repopulation
        230. Dehumanisation
        231. Neurobiochemical \
        232. Speculation / these two in a row in this book
        233. Portraiture
        234. Sulfonamide
        235. Tenaciously
        236. Langoustine
        237. Excommunication
        238. Carboniferous
        239. Eunoia
        240. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis
        241. Crenulation
        242. Gourmandise
        243. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
        244. Enumeration
        245. Menstruation
        246. Overhauling
        247. Pasteurisation
        248. Reevaluation
        249. Neurofibromatosis
        250. Boulevardier
        251. Conceptualise
        252. Physiotherapeutic
        253. Automobile
        254. Autoshield
        255. Pseudohermaphrodite
        256. Larcenious
        257. Outpatient
        258. Unmotivated
        259. Uncontaminated
        260. Contextualise
        261. Autosuggestion
        262. Magnanimousness
        263. Overenthusiastically
        264. Equivocal
        265. Consanguineous
        266. Permutation
        267. Unexceptionable
        268. Armouries
        269. Humectation
        270. Underestimation
        271. Australopithecus
        272. Hallucinogen
        273. Europeanise
        274. Tragedious
        275. Putrefaction
        276. Fountainbridge
        277. Expurgation
        278. Groundbreaking
        279. Thermocoagulation
        280. Revolutionary
        281. Abstentious
        282. Miscellaneous
        283. Multimillionaire
        284. Audiophile
        285. Elocutionary
        286. Praseodymium
        287. Unsensational
        288. Housecleaning
        289. Eukaryotic
        290. Genitourinary
        291. Mykobacterium
        292. Abdoulie Sallah
        293. Prepublication
        294. Unsportsmanlike
        295. Anticoagulative
        296. Countersurveillance
        297. Decoagulation
        298. Gratuitousness
        299. Salaciousness
        300. Misevaluation
        301. Recurvation
        302. Ambiguousness
        303. Inoculated
        304. Tautologies
        305. Outlandishness
        306. Overenthusiastic
        307. Regularisation
      1. Oh, extra, extra, here are a few that don’t really count!
        1. (Tamsin) Outhwaite
        2. Jo Caulfield
        3. (Simone de) Beauvoir
        4. Serge Gainsbourg
        5. Liquorice Allsorts
        6. Au revoir!

See you soon for the 301st!

Parks and Recreation

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.

Anna Neale and Mick

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.

Some positive graffiti

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.

The business end of a lawn mower

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.

Costa del Mersey

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!

Friend or stranger?
Another family of ducks

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.

BDM

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.

Lyme House and Liesel
The Cage (a folly) and to the left, Manchester in the distance

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.

Little white flowers
Foxgloves

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.

Cattle

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.

This tub is quite clearly yellow, not red

But the floral display in the High street is magnificent.

Cheadle High Street is blooming marvellous

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.

Bindweed

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.

Police but no traffic warden

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.

Jessica Lee Morgan – Forthright

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.

Lockdown week 11

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.

Martha and Minnie

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.

Aromatic

The highlight of the week was visiting Jenny and Martha, outdoors. We went for a walk around the block, Martha on her scooter.

Martha, the fastest scooterer

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.

William the most diligent of bowl lickers

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.

Jessica Lee Morgan and ChristianThomas

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.

Golfers and a pylon

Blig black clouds

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 cleanest duck in the Mersey

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.

Lockdown week 10

Welcome to Week 10 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 next week. Yes, even though many scientists are saying it’s still too early. Then there’s the whole Dominic Cummings (government advisor) thing last weekend: he broke the rules that he helped implement, because he feels very special and entitled. He managed to unite the country, ironically against himself. Then there was the murder of George Floyd in America, another black man killed by a police officer pretty much because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of these news stories, whether they affect us directly or not, slowly, slowly erode any sense of well-being. This isn’t the place for a commentary into current affairs, but if you, dear reader, detect a slight undercurrent of dismay in this post, that’s why, and I apologise. But I’ll try to keep looking up, not down.

We miss going to all the music festivals this year, like everyone else. Well, we sometimes go to one in Hyde Park. Instead, we watched the Folk on Foot Front Room Festival from the comfort of our homes. It was a wonderful, uplifting day of music. I produced a list of performers who we would like to see live in concert at some point and whose music we need to buy more of:

O’Hooley and Tidow

      • Chris Wood (he was sitting in a wheelbarrow while performing)
      • O’Hooley and Tidow (with baby Flynn) (we’ve seen them once live)
      • Gwilym Bowen Rhys (lovely Welsh songs)
      • Kathryn Tickell (Northumbrian pipes)
      • Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman (we’ve seen these two too)
      • Duncan Chisholm (fiddle)
      • Kitty Macfarlane (guitar)
      • Rioghnach Connolly and Ellis Davies (Antrim girl now lives in Manchester)
      • John Smith (guitars)
      • The Unthanks (presented their film “As We Go”) (we’ve seen them!)
      • Frank Turner and Jess Guise (The time of my life)
      • Kate Rusby and Damien O’Kane (the voice of England)
      • Johnny Flynn (guitars)
      • Eliza Carthy (you know Eliza)
      • Richard Thompson and Zara Phillips (you know Richard)

All of the performers

I would recommend any of these and if you wish to enjoy the festival too, it’s still up here on YouTube.

The Sun set as the show ended and I realised that we haven’t seen nearly as many vapour trails in the sky as we usually do.

Pink con trail

We did go out a couple of times to walk around the area, for some fresh air, for some exercise and to enjoy a hot, hot late May. It should be peaceful, but there was a lot of noise. Just up the road from us, someone was trimming a hedge and their friend was blowing the trimmings off the road and back into the hedge. Round the corner, someone was washing a car with a powerful powered hose. Up the road, there were men at work. Except they weren’t, they had downed tools for a welcome break.

A man with a leaf-blower

A robin

The robin often appears when we walk along this path. A bit later, we were walking by the river and we heard the sound of a creaky gate approaching. It was our old friend, the heron flying by and, if the passer-by (socially distanced of course) is to be believed, it nearly gave her a heart attack.

Yes, it’s much hotter now, and there are many more insects about. Of course, I always feel obliged to count the spirals on a daisy, just to confirm they are Fibonacci numbers!

Fly on a daisy

On different days, one or both of walked on and around the golf course, just for a different point of view, really. One day, a player asked if I’d seen where his ball went. I hadn’t, and I didn’t feel comfortable lying that it had ended up in the river, either.

A path through the golf course

I walked on this side of the river, adjacent to the golf course, because there was nobody else here. There were many groups of people on the other side, some of whom were having a picnic on a small ‘beach’ that I’d previously been unaware of.

To the left, the golf course; to the right, the Mersey

There’s more to golf than walking around and bashing a ball until it falls into a rabbit hole, it seems. Staircases and bells are involved too.

Stairway to Heaven

You can ring my bell

The duck family were nowhere to be seen, the geese have moved in instead.

Goose family

Hot, hot, hot, and a good enough excuse for some folks to go out sunbathing.We just go out for a walk, keep going, however far, avoiding everyone, go home and check for mail.

Soaking up the rays

We walked along the river, to Stenner Woods, then Fletcher Moss Park, on to Didsbury.

View from the Rockery

One thing you don’t expect to see in Didsbury is a squat: I apologise if this isn’t a squat, but that’s what we both thought.

Homes for people, not for profit

We wandered through Marie Louise Gardens then back home. One thing you don’t expect to see in the Mersey is people sunbathing.

Soaking up the rays

We visited The Northern Den for more coffee and Viennese whirls. The local council seem to be deterring people from sitting outside on park benches, sadly. They’d squirted tomato ketchup over them, and nobody wants to sit on that, thank you very much.

A moment of excitement soon evaporated when I realised this wasn’t a real Tardis.

Not the Tardis

In between our trips outside, what have we been doing?

I watched ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ from the National Theatre. Gillian Anderson was in it, and the play itself was good and well performed, if a little long. But that might be because I was fully aware of and distracted by the camera work. Yes, the play was performed ‘in the round’, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch while walking round and round the stage.

We’ve been listening to lots of radio, BBC Radio 2, 6 Music, Classic FM and even local Radio Northenden is back this week!

We’ve watched a lot of TV, a lot of lot of TV. Current favourites include Killing Eve, series 3 and we’ve  watched 8½ series of Spooks so far, but we have avoided news most of the time.

I’ve been watching YouTube a lot, not just folk festivals. On the Cracking the Cryptic channel, you can watch Simon solving sudoku puzzles, some of which are ridiculously complicated, but his enthusiasm and enjoyment are infectious.

We’re listening to ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers’ Stone’ being read by a series of actors and others who have links with the Harry Potter world. Harry Potter at Home.

Simon Callow reading chapter 5

If that’s not enough good stuff from JK Rowling, I can recommend her latest, being published as a serial online for now, 2 or 3 chapters a day. The Ickabog shouldn’t give you nightmares, but, so far, it’s a good old fashioned fairy tale!

Many museums and galleries have put their exhibitions up online too. As ever, we can’t wait until we can visit these places in real life.

This morning, I played the album Young Americans from my phone. It was on shuffle mode, which I had a little whinge about. ‘Why does it matter?’ asked Liesel. Because it messes with my expectations, I said. And then, of course, it repeats one track and another while some tracks remain unplayed at all. To make it funnier, Liesel misheard the lyrics to Fascination as vaccination!

(Fascination) Your soul is calling
Like when I’m walking
Seems that everywhere I turn
I hope you’re waiting for me
I know that people think
That I’m a little crazy

Well, we’re trying not to go crazy in these crazy times, there’s certainly plenty of good stuff out there, but it doesn’t take much bad news to rock the boat. Stay safe, stay alert, stay at home!

Some Clever People

Happy birthday to Mormor in Ferndale. Hope you had a good day, hope you’re staying well, and we hope we can get together again, sometime, when ‘this is all over’, this plague and pestilence, isolation and social distancing.

We’re all trying to keep up our sense of mental well-being in this time of Coronavirus, and we can pick up hints and tips from the most bizarre and unexpected places. For instance, who knew that delivery drivers would be advocating meditation and reciting Buddhist mantras?

Om mani padme hum

Van Gogh did some eyeball pleasers
He must have been a pencil squeezer
He didn’t do the Mona Lisa
That was an Italian geezer

There ain’t half been some clever bastards
(Lucky bleeders, lucky bleeders)
There ain’t half been some clever bas-tards

Random songs pop into my head at random times, many of which I’ve not actually heard for a very long time. This classic from Ian Dury and the Blockheads is the latest example. And he’s absolutely right. Some members of the family are being very creative at the moment. Liesel has been putting the sewing machine to good use. Let me introduce Cyril. He is the latest occupant in our luxury apartment, serving time as a draught-excluder. Why Cyril? Because I momentarily mis-remembered the name of my parent’s draught-excluder, Cedric.

Cyril

We may be encouraged to wear face masks when we go outside, so Liesel has been making these too. We look forward to messing with the local facial recognition systems.

Selfie of the day: either Mick or Liesel, I can’t remember

William has been very creative with the paints. The paint was liberally applied to the rest of his body, not just his hands.

William’s hands

Meanwhile, way, way over there in Anchorage, Alaska, it’s good to see Asa still playing the cello.

Asa sawing away

Martha planted a few seeds in the garden a while ago and she is now reaping the rewards. She was very happy to find this radish, and eat it. She liked it. She likes little ones but not big radishes because they’re too spicy.

Martha and a radish

Both William and Martha made chocolate lollipops in the shape of animals. William was happy to share: Mum could have a tiny little bit.

William and Martha and chocolate

There may be a dearth of fruit pickers in the UK this year, so William’s been learning to drive a tractor in case his services are required.

William on a tractor

And the latest creations from Liesel are the front and back of a cushion. We haven’t got the stuffing yet, but it’s on order. What did we stuff Cyril with, then? About 10% of the shredded paper that I produced a couple of weeks ago, naturally.

Liesel’s cushion cover<ph cushion cover x2

So, all those resourceful, creative and, as Ian Dury said, clever… people. Meanwhile, what have I been up to? Reading, writing and doing sudoku puzzles, mostly. This one took over 98 minutes but at least I got 8 stars for it!

Very difficult sandwich sudoku

Again, we haven’t ventured further afield than our ‘hood. We had a cold few days, but it was soon warm enough to go topless.

A bin with no lid

We bought some goodies from the Northern Den, Viennese girls and coffee. Actually, Viennese whirls, but a bit of finger trouble on the phone and it autocorrected whatever I typed to ‘girls’. So I left it.

Goodies from Northern Den

 

Busy doin’ nothin’

We’re busy doin’ nothin’
Workin’ the whole day through
Tryin’ to find lots of things not to do
We’re busy goin’ nowhere…

Another few days locked down and locked in, and we’re still trying to develop some sort of routine, but really, we just busk each day as it comes. Last Friday night, I tried to observe the newly lauched Starlink group of satellites but missed them. I was probably looking in the wrong direction, but as a consolation prize, Venus was looking good in the late evening sky.

Liesel’s been quite busy, phoning some of her new WI friends for a chat, cooking, baking, housework, laundry and I thoroughly enjoyed watching and I appreciating the fruits of her labours. Thanks, Liesel 😉

This week’s news is that we have new neighbours in one of the flats below us. And that’s the end of the news. Good night.

Thank goodness for the Internet, it has been keeping us entertained in so many ways. I can’t wait to visit these places and enjoy these things in real life, but until then, here’s a quick look into our lives this week.

We’ll Meet Again

Dame Vera Lynn with West End Stars performed We’ll Meet Again 2020. We all sang along with Alfie Boe, Gyles Brandreth, Maria Friedman and lots of other folk, some of whom I’m sorry to say we hadn’t heard of before. This message of support for UK theatre can be seen here.

Christian O’Connell doing very well down under

Meanwhile at the other end of the world, ANZAC day was celebrated in New Zealand and Australia with a Concert from the Home Front for the fight against Covid-19. When I played the show back, I thought my phone was ringing. Yes, I still have the kookaburra as my ringtone from last year in Australia. The music was all home-performed: it was especially good to see Crowded House and Bic Runga performing at home. Here it is.

Rachel Unthank

This morning, we watched Rachel Unthank perform a couple of songs from home, via Facebook. We’ll get songs from a different Unthank every morning for a short while. Here they are. Liesel and I agreed that to support these artists, we need to buy more of their records. That’s the sort of online shopping I quite enjoy!

Thanks for coming to watch Twelfth Night

I watched a fantastic version of Twelfth Night from the National Theatre. It featured Tamsin Greig as Malvolia: I wonder what Miss ‘Ma’ Abbott, my old English teacher, would think of that? Sadly, we missed Treasure Island, a recent performance in the series, but we are looking forward to watching Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch this week. Highly recommended.

We have enjoyed our online visits to Chester Zoo and Taronga Zoo, with their talks and videos and if watching elephants wallowing in mud following a rainstorm doesn’t cheer you up, there’ll almost certainly be something else to make you laugh.

Dandelion clock in the sunshine

We haven’t seen much of the outside world of course, but it’s always nice to get out and see nice, pretty things, signs of Spring slowly turning to Summer. I had to get down low to take these pictures of dandelion seeds. I no longer consider them my enemy, but instead, a photo opportunity. Crouching down low is one thing, getting up again afterwards without going ‘Ooh, ahh’, like a really, really old person, is another. Thank goodness only one bloke walked by giving me a funny look, but at least he kept his distance.

 

 

 

The good …

… the bad …

… and the ugly

Yes, not everything is very nice to look at. But I did see some wildlife which is always exciting.

Concrete fox

Again, this fox took me by surprise as I walked by. We haven’t seen any actual, live, wild foxes since we moved here to Northenden, so all the discarded chicken bones and pizza boxes were probably dropped by humans. And of course, we do miss the eerie screech and howl that accompanies nocturnal vulpine coital activity, honest.

Wild horses

The horses are probably wondering why there are fewer people around at the moment. This one was watching, but didn’t come over for a neighbourly chat.

Meet the ducks

This family of ducks didn’t care about the rain, as they swam up and down and across the river. Four chicks stayed close to mama most of the time, but number 5 was always a bit behind, always playing catch-up. And it caught up really fast when a (presumably strange) mallard swam by.

And, because we can, here is this week’s obligatory photo of the family. Sadly, Helen won’t be joining us from Manly today, as originally planned, which is probably the most heart-breaking single effect of the virus so far, for us.

William, Jenny, Martha

Stay safe, stay in, #stayathome, stay connected, stay healthy, ♫ stay, that’s what I meant to say or do something, but what I never say is stay this time ♫ Yes, time for a David Bowie record, I think.