The Wall

It’s Quiz Time! Yes, however long it takes you to read this post, that’s how long you have in which to guess what I did today for the first time since about 1996/7. So, not really a quiz at all, just a guessing game. And there are no prizes either. If you scroll straight to the bottom, then you are a rogue and a vagabond.

Most of the country were looking forward to the final episode of Line of Duty on TV. I even rustled up a snack for me and Liesel.

Cheers!

I broke into the bottle of whisky that Liesel bought for my birthday. Sorry to say my birthday chocolate was nowhere to be found, long sinced enjoyed secretly in my secret lair aka my studio.

A lot of viewers thought this final episode was an anti-climax, but I’m not so sure. There are still a lot of unanswered questions and loose threads. No spoilers here, but having watched all, yes all, of the preceding episodes during the week, it does make sense, there were clues.

Whinge of the week can be summed up in two words: the weather. Meanwhile, in NSW, they’re backburning in the bush, so Sydney catches the smoke and residents can’t breathe. On the plus side though, all that muck in the atmosphere makes for some pretty sunsets.

Sunset in Manly NSW

This is what Helen has to look at from her flat every evening. The bad news is that there are now a couple of Covid cases in NSW, with all that that implies: visits to other states may be prohibited.

Northenden continues to surprise me. I’ve been walking the same streets for a couple of years, but I’m still seeing things I’ve not noticed before. Often for the simple reason that I’ve been on the other side of the road.

Sorry Protection Sells

The outside wall of this house has been beautifully(?) decorated, I can only imagine how glamorous it is inside.

As Spring (sort of) makes progress, the leaves on the bushes on the island in the river are nicely hiding all the plastic rubbish that was caught up during the floods a few months ago. The heron has been a bit elusive this week, but he knows how to tease: I can just see him lurking behind the fence!

Foliage hiding the rubbish

Liesel was having problems with her laptop this week. It spontaneously reboots for no obvious reason. I had some ideas and so did Liam, thank you, Liam. Part of the diagnosis involved leaving a Zoom call open while doing something else on the laptop: not quite testing to destruction but trying to see if it was over-heating or something. I had installed a program to show us the temperature of the innards (sorry about the technical language). I was the other participant in Liesel’s Zoom call and I was messing around with different backgrounds.

Selfie of the day

I wasn’t really Zooming on the beach. And my hair isn’t really in a cloud of candyfloss. Have you guessed yet what did I do today for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century?

The other thing I did was turn off the laptop’s option to automatically reboot. So, if something does go wrong from now on, we should have a chance to see any error message that might pop up. And yes, of course we’ve done the first thing any decent IT support person would suggest: we’ve given the computer a jolly good talking to.

We had a lovely walk at Quarry Bank again this week, and I won’t mention the weather.

Fluffy clouds

Except to say, blue sky and fluffy clouds in one direction were very pretty. The solid grey lumps of lead in the opposite direction not so much! We felt a few spots of rain and even hail, but nothing too horrible.

Azaleas and rhododendrons

As I’ve mentioned before, we love a splash of colour, that always lifts the mood.

Pink rhododendrons

As Liesel pointed out, this rhododendron is more of a tree than a bush.

Yellow rhododendrons

And as Liesel reminded me, I don’t think we ever saw Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park at the real height of its flowering rhododendron gorgeousness. Just before and just after, yes, but not on the actual day.

It was that time again: I visited the dental hygienist. Meanwhile, Liesel visited  her beautician way over there in Gatley. But then she drove to CostCo, a trip that I missed out on. After loading up the trolley, queueing at the checkout and being invited to pay, Liesel realised that her debit card was out of date. It’s so long since we’ve been to proper shops and she’d forgotten to put the new card, received a few weeks ago, into her wallet. Fortunately, CostCo now accepts credit cards, so they didn’t force her to replace everything on the shelves.

Here’s a tip: when you go shopping for the first time after a long lockdown, make sure your payment cards have not expired.

I was feeling quite relieved about having dodged a trip to that place. But Liesel realised she’d forgotten one important item, something we can’t find anywhere else. So, as we were driving away from Quarry Bank, she asked, would I mind if we went back to CostCo to pick up the missing item? I was so shocked by this unexpected invitation, I couldn’t immediately think of a good enough reason to say ‘no way, José’. And off we went. Things are getting back to normal. I know this because we both whinged about the amount of traffic near the Trafford Centre and also the quality of some of the driving.

I thought I might as well have a quick look at the DVD players while I was there in a big warehouse, but we couldn’t find any. Neither could we find what Liesel had forgotten earlier in the week. There was none on the shelf. Yes, we were looking in the right place, there was plenty of similar stuff, but not specifically what we needed. Instead, we just bought baked potatoes for lunch, which we ate in the car, since the restaurant seating has all been removed, presumably because of Covid restrictions.

We have made a guest appearance on someone else’s blog this week. Thank you Jacob for inviting us. So here is another small contribution to our Warholian fifteen minutes of fame.

This week’s Radio Northenden show was all about The Letter Z. Jazz, pizza, ZZ Top and Iz. Catch up here if you mizzed it!

So, here it is. Did you manage to guess what I did today for the first time in nearly 25 years? Well, here’s a clue:

Long-haired yeti

Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. Then I spotted some new hair ties that Liesel had bought the other day. I couldn’t resist the temptation to tie my long lockdown locks into a pony tail. It won’t last long, though. The pony tail is, as I’m sure you’ll agree, a total delight, but the large ill-defined bald patch on top is just embarrassing. Sometime during the next couple of weeks, I should visit a barbershop and have a slight trim.

Obscured by Clouds

That light at the end of that Covid tunnel? It’s a bit brighter now, we are getting there. I decided to walk to the venue, it was a nice day after all, plus I would see parts of Wythenshawe I’d not seen close-up before. Woodhouse Park Lifestyle Centre was the destination. Yes, I was excited to be receiving the second of my two Pfizer vaccinations. I was also looking forward to accepting another chocolate biscuit, of course.

Front end of a tram

As the tram passed by, I mentally celebrated impending increased freedom. My Senior Bus Pass has arrived too, and in three weeks time, when my immunity is at its best, I’ll at least be thinking about taking a bus somewhere. Plus, trams and trains are a possibility. Our world is growing wider.

Street Market

The street market is obviously not as extensive as it used to be (yet), and again, the possibility of visiting markets outside, followed by shops indoors, is quite attractive. And I am by no means a big shopping fan, as any female in my life will confirm.

Bee in the city: Wythenshawe

I haven’t mentioned coffee for a while, but a cappuccino is a very nice cup of coffee. And for children, you can buy a babyccino, which is just warm, frothy milk. Our new coffee shop Boxx2Boxx offers beverages for dogs, a puppyccino. And you’d think that would be it. Oh no. I saw this advert and did a double take.

Carpuccino’s

Carpuccino’s? I like a good pun, but this is off the scale, the wrong end of the scale. It’s not even a drink, just a daft name for a car-washing service. I know our vehicle deperately needs a clean, especially since people began asking us whether they could borrow it to grow potatoes on, but washing a car in old coffee dregs doesn’t seem right.

I arrived at the Lifestyle Centre fifteen minutes early: yes, I still walk faster than Google Maps gives me credit for. The volunteer outside said to go straight in. I was processed very quickly, being passed from volunteer to direction-giving volunteer like an extremely valuable pass-the-parcel, only instead of removing a layer of clothing each time, all I did in the end was roll up a sleeve to receive the jab. The small scratch was more noticeable this time. I’m not complaining, but I did have this image of the needle being screwed into the muscle rather than being pushed in, this time. No chocolate biscuit, but that’s alright. I now feel even more invincible than I was before.

While sitting for the required fifteen minutes in case of sudden, unexpected problems, I spoke to both Jenny and Liesel. My initial plan to walk home again was changed. Instead, Liesel collected me and we drove straight over to Jenny’s with the millionaire’s shortbread that Liesel had baked. Well, most of it.

As soon as I got out of the car, I was attacked by William and Martha. In a well-planned ambush, they both got me with their water pistols. Pistols? Water blasters, each of which semingly holds several gallons of ammunition, most of which got me with pinpoint accuracy.

William the water blaster

Yes, of course I ran away down the road like the cowardly wimp I am,  but that didn’t stop them. No, I didn’t mind getting soaked, it was a warm day, and I was feeling quite buoyant from the jab.

Martha, another water blaster

We spent some time in the garden with the children, which is always a delight. Liam was working in the shop, serving his customers, answering the helpline, taking orders and everything.

Two coffees and six doughnuts, please, Daddy

It was ridiculously nice being in a garden, lying on the grass, chewing the fat, not quite nodding off in the Sun, listening to the children playing and laughing and chatting. Still no physical contact, of course, but there is a bit more flexibility in our social distancing and interactions.

Unexpectedly, I had some annoying side-effects following the second jab. I couldn’t sleep that night, but certainly made up for it the following night. And in between, I was lethargic, achy and stiff and I had to force myself to eat. 24-hour flu? Something like that, and yes, just for one day, thank goodness. The site of the jab was sore for a few days too, compared with exactly 4 hours for the first one. 

Back in Northenden, there is colour in unexpected places. The planters on Palatine Road are a blaze of colour.

Tulips in Northenden

And the aforementioned Boxx2Boxx seems to be doing well, attracting visitors from far and wide, including one day, most of the Manchester City women’s football team. Whom I instantly recognised, of course. No. not really.

I drank water…

We had a so-called Pink Moon this week, when the Moon is closer to Earth while full. Well, as usual, we didn’t see it, too much cloud cover for a few nights.

We drove to Dunham Massey on what turned out to be a cooler day than anticipated. The wind was chilly but that didn’t put us off walking nearly 5 miles. It threatened to rain, too, but we kept going. Another visitor was feeding a deer, no idea what the food item was, but it reminded us of Nara in Japan, where the deer bow to people in expectation of being fed.

My new app, the one that tells me what birdsong I can hear, is remarkable. It listens to the sound, then tells me all the possible birds it might be, mostly ones I’ve already thought of. It’s certainly not as slick nor as accurate as Shazam is for music.

On our long walk around this National Trust venue, we witnessed young children playing football and one little girl jumping in a ‘puddle’, only there was no water in it. So not really a puddle at all, I suppose, but what do you call the muddy indentation where a puddle might form when it rains? Another one for the philosophers of the world. We saw a couple of white deer in the distance, which just goes to show how well camouflaged conventionally coloured deer are. Even those whose bottoms look like badgers’ faces.

Flower bed

In domestic news, our shower blocks up fairly often, especially with our copious, long, lockdown hair falling out. So I recently acquired a gadget which I can put down the drainage hole to grab the offending blockage and pull it out. There’s a gripper that opens when you press the button at the other end. Does it work? Not with our shower drain, no. Because of some clever design, two inches down, there’s a flat surface which covers most of the width of the pipe, so water has to drain around this disc’s edge. My new gadget isn’t flexible enough to go down and round this tight corner. So, back to chemicals it is.

Have we tried a plunger? A plunger would possibly work if we could get a good enough seal, which we can’t because of the carefully installed nobbles that hold the drainage cover in place! Stupid design details that just aren’t practical. Put the nobbles on the underside of the cover and recesses in the shower floor, then we could at least try to use a plunger.

Also, we now need a new DVD player. The old one has been reluctant to open its drawer for some time. So after threatening it yet again with replacement if it didn’t cooperate, we had to resort to violence. I inserted a plastic tool to force the drawer open. That worked, but in the process some ratchetty noise told us, or at least strongly implied, that the drawer would never again close properly. RIP, not so faithful DVD player.

Other than that, we need a new dishwasher because the old one has a door whose springs have snapped so it no longer glides gently open. When we forget, it drops to the floor and one day, the hinges are gonna snap, the door will crash on the floor, possibly with such force that it will fall off and crash through into the luxury apartment below. We’re hoping to hold out until we can afford to get the whole kitchen done, but we’ve already had to replace the washing machine.

So much for not being a fan of shopping: there are several expeditions in the pipeline by the looks of it.

I was pleased to have a guest on my Radio Northenden show this week: Rizwana from Bluebird Care here in South Manchester told us about what they do from day to day. Other than that, I played some fabulous charity records. Catch up here, or listen here on Wythenshawe Radio Wednesday at 7pm.

Wish You Were Here

As life slowly begins to return to normal in our local area, we have to remember that for other people in more enlightened parts of the world, the disruption hasn’t been nearly as great. Take my sister in New Zealand, for example. Please, take her! No, she’s a good egg and all through the pandemic, she’s been carrying on pretty much as normal. Last weekend, she and Andrew were out walking, spotting butterflies and bees and enjoying some nice views. A couple of weeks ago, they even went away on holiday, they stayed in a different town. Luxury. For some reason, New Zealanders don’t want to swap prime ministers with us.

A very blue day near Christchurch

This is a beautiful blue view over the water. But, have no fear, we too saw some big water, later in the week. Watch this space. Actually, don’t watch this space, it’ll be more enlightening if you just scroll down. Alternatively, just carry on reading. Forget this interruption. Pretend it doesn’t exist.

Also, Helen in Manly is allowed out and about much more than we’ve been. No idea when we’ll see her again, what with travel restrictions plus the requirement to isolate on arriving in the UK and/or back in Australia. Last week, she and Adam went to see Hamilton, the musical, in Sydney.

Adam and Helen

Well, I think this is Helen and Adam, behind the masks, and it’s good to see the theatres open.

Meanwhile, back at home, it’s always exciting to see Bob Marley…

Bob Marley

…even if it is just his image on a small plastic bag which presumably, earlier, contained a few grammes of ganja. Do you buy that stuff in grammes? Or does it still come in eighths of an ounce? Anyway, this is just one example of the drug paraphernalia we find littering the otherwise pristine streets of Northenden. Nitrous oxide gas canisters are probably the most popular item around here.

We visited Quarry Bank Mill, again for the first time in several months. And by chance, we bumped into Jenny and Liam and Martha and William. Coincidence? No, a carefully coordinated meeting, I think because we all (cynically?) want to take advantage of the limited freedom before the third wave of Covid forces a further period of lockdown.

We all enjoyed a nice, warm sunny walk here, including a picnic lunch. The venue wasn’t too busy either, we never felt intimidated by the presence of too many other people. I suspect that venturing into a busy city centre on a Saturday afternoon might be more challenging, when that opportunity presents itself.

Where’s Martha?

Martha and William climbed a tree, it had very low branches. Martha and I discussed the nature of branches and sticks, and what is the cut-off point?

Martha up a tree

William has a marvellous sense of adventure. We were following a path that took us slowly down towards the river, on a slight gradient with very-nearly hairpin bends. That wasn’t good enough for William. He wanted to climb down the steepest possible slope.

William looking for his roots

Online entertainment this week included a Manchester Literature Festival event, a fascinating chat between Kazuo Ishiguro and Jackie Kay. I enjoyed hearing Kazuo’s latest novel, Klara and the Sun, serialised on radio recently, so it was interesting to hear him speaking about it.

Kazuo Ishiguro and Jackie Kay

Here is the latest in our occasional series of strange things found on the pavement in Northenden.

Severed phone line

Someone over the road will be wondering why their landline isn’t working any more. It looks like the phone cable may have been severed from its anchoring point by the crew working on the roof.

Liesel and I went to the seaside, again, our first visit for a very long time. Formby was very pleasant. The tide was miles out, possibly literally. I walked towards the water’s edge but it still appeared miles away when I encountered too much wet sand with too many puddles to negotiate. So, a very long beach and a very wide beach and, being a weekday, a very empty beach. So what did we do? We picked a couple of bags of litter and received a couple of supportive comments from passers-by. But a couple of dog-walkers seemed surprised that their charges had done something entirely natural ‘while they weren’t watching’.

Selfie of the day

We had our second picnic lunch of the week, on the dunes. Why can we never go hungry on a beach? Because of all the sand which is there. I went for a longer walk than Liesel and leapt a few inches in the air when a horse galloped past suddenly and very close.

Where is Liesel?

Liesel: Why are you stomping?
Mick: To make sure my pedometer counts every step. Sometimes it doesn’t register if I just walk normally, and it definitely doesn’t count when I’m just dawdling, like when we’re picking up litter or when we’re moving slowly through a museum or gallery, very, very slowly studying all the exhibits.
Liesel: Oh.

Yes, we were in Formby on St George’s Day. Someone on Twitter asked whether I’d been leaning on a lamppost. And, yes, I had! I had to lean against something while I shook the sand from my sandals.

This week’s radio show was entitled ‘Same Title, Different Song’. I didn’t play all ten songs that I found called Tonight but I did play a few. You can listen back here to those and many other songs that have the same titles as each other.

Sorry to say, we were so engrossed by the latest series of Keeping Faith on TV, that we just couldn’t wait for a whole week, so we binge-watched the last few episodes on the BBC iPlayer. Unfortunately, Line of Duty is not available on the iPlayer, so we have to wait seven very long days for each new episode. We’ve also started re-watching Torchwood. Yes, even when we do stay in, we know how to have a good time!

Animals

Well that was a good week. We’re allowed out a bit more, now. The government’s roadmap to a return to normal life turned a corner this week with shops, pubs and other venues opening. So we went out for a walk and picked up a couple more bags of litter.

In other, totally separate and unrelated news, we have come into possession of several facemasks which we are prepared to sell at mates’ rates. Please send a message if you’re interested.

I bumped into Mary and Dave, fellow litter-picker-uppers, who gave us some more bin bags as we’re in danger of running out. I treated myself to a coffee and a blondie from The Northern Den and sat by the river for a while. It started snowing again. It was a lovely day, not too cold, really, but it snowed. Not nice, pretty, six-pointed snowflakes, but the small lumps of ice that looked like polystyrene.

Unexpected snow shower

There’s a new warning sign now, telling me not to jump in the river. Well, Liesel and I had no imminent plans to do so, but once hot Summer days come along, who knows what madness might overtake us?

Never jump into open water

Most of the colour in our world is provided by flowers, but sometimes, we see something a little bit different.

Magpie feather

I think this is a magpie feather but in any case, the photo doesn’t quite capture the vibrancy of the iridescence.

There was an horrific accident on Palatine Road this week. An Audi, by the looks of it, crashed into one of the posts that is supposed to deter motorists from parking on the pavement. An horrific use of the indefinite article at the start of this paragraph too.

Palatine Road RTA

And so to the first of our proper days out for a long, long time. We returned to Lyme Park and had a very pleasant walk, if shorter than usual, not being sure of our respective states of health and stamina. Don’t want to push things too hard, too soon. But never mind Lyme Park itself, in the farm next door, all the livestock came to see us.

Hielan coo

It’s always good to see highland cattle, although how they can see anything themselves through all that lockdown hair beats me. There were some sheep too and Liesel especially enjoyed watching the lambs gambolling up and down the hill.

Hielan coo too

These cows do need to have a meeting one day, and decide which is the correct direction of travel for their horns.

Big house at Lyme Park

Bug house at Lyme Park

We saw a few of these little bug hotels dotted around the various flower beds. At least, we think they’re bug hotels and not something more sinister.

The good news is that, on the way home, I remembered to take a photo of some grafitti that we’ve passed many, many times before. I ususally forget to have my phone ready. Today though, was different. Success. Mission accomplished. Game very much oveer.

Game oveer

While following a motorway maintenance vehicle, I though its warning lights looked familiar.

Warning lights channelling Thomas

Maybe it’s just me, but don’t they look like a collection of yellow Thomas the Tank Engine faces?

It was delightful to see our heron again this week. He does like playing games with me, though.

Heron

He stands in the same spot on the other side of the weir for ages. Then, as soon as I look away, he flies over to this side of the river. And, as if by magic, as soon as I make a move to take my phone out for a closer-up photo, he flies back to where he came from. You can tell he’s having a good time by his laughter lines.

And so to our second proper day out this week. We visited Chester Zoo and so did Martha and William along with Jenny and Liam, and we had a very nice day, thanks for asking. Usually, it’s colder here than at home, but today it was very pleasant.

It was the first time we’d been out with the children without a buggy. So yes, we’re at the zoo ostensibly to see the animals but really, I think Liesel and I were really here just to spend time with the children.

William standing proudly

I don’t think he’s in the cabinet, but William seems to have adopted the Conservative Ministers’ default power stance.

Martha sitting pinkly

Martha’s favourite colours are purple and pink, and here she is with matching heather.

The indoor venues at the zoo are still closed to the public, but there’s a nice little tunnel near the red river hogs (not pigs, as Martha corrected me) where Martha and William enjoyed making Grandad jump.

Booo!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a day at the zoo without at least one photo of captive wildlife.

The mane, if not the main, attraction

The lion was wandering around his territory while the two lionesses were resting their eyes in the warmth of the Sun.

One side effect of planning to go to the zoo was that I had to pre-record the radio show earlier in the week and then ask for someone to push the button and sent it out to the world, well, to Northenden, at 2pm on Friday. Thanks, Sanny, and we can all catch up on two hours of records about the weather right here.

I think it’s fair to say that our spirits have been lifted this week, by going out and by spending time with Martha and William. Plus, the Sun’s out, we’ve had blue skies, it’s warmer, Liesel’s projects are making good progress, I reached a significant stage in one of my own undertakings, Liesel’s had her second Covid jab and mine is booked for next week. Yep, things are certainly looking up, hooray!

As I write, it’s Liam’s birthday, and we’ve already paid them a quick visit, and watched Martha on her new bike. Yes, Liam’s birthday but seeing Martha on a bike is so much more exciting, sorry, Liam!

Martha pedalling like Billy-o

Both William and Martha were brandishing water pistols, not filled, but I’m sure one day we’ll feel the benefits of their cool, refreshing ammunition.

I will chew and spit tobacco like my grandfather Jones


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

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

Martha’s thinking


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

William’s escaping


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

Easter bunnies


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

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

William’s in goal


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Meet the family
Martha’s going wheelie fast


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

Martha’s having a good time

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

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

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

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


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

Heron is an anagram of Horne

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

Where’s the berry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sneak preview of one of the blankets

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

Sandbag in a pothole

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

Proper Nutty Smunchy Peanut Butter

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

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

Magnolia

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

Hello, wall

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

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

Heron on the weir

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

Chair on the island
Peacock butterfly

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

 

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

Boxx 2 Boxx

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

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

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

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

The Hornes Section plus Robbie

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

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

Birds, birthday and blossom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring is sprung

It is now well over six months since I last had a haircut. The advantage of having long hair is that I now have a variety of styles to choose from. I can drag it forward, so that the fringe impedes my vision. Or, I can comb it back like my Dad used to do, and like I did until about the age of 16. So far, it’s not so long that I step on it as I’m walking along. Somehow, Liesel with her long, equally long-uncut hair, manages to keep it looking nice and tidy. When people have asked if there’s anything I’d like for my birthday, this year the response has been ‘a hairnet’.

There I was, walking innocently through Northern Moor, when I made a momentous discovery.

St Aidan’s Church, Northern Moor

We are living in, or at least very close to, the Diocese of Shrewsbury. That is a huge diocese. I remember the last (and only) time Liesel and I visited Shrewsbury. We were on a bike ride through the town. We passed by a bowling green and agreed that yes, that was a sport we might take up one day. A few yards further on, Liesel fell off her bike. In front of a policeman. I still don’t know how that happened, but I do know I got the blame. I’m so glad we’ve both forgotten that incident.

Liesel: I’m not going to order as much milk this week.
Mick: Why not?
Liesel: We still have a lot of that UTH milk, and we should use it up before it expires.
Mick: UTH?
Liesel: UTH, UHT, whatever it’s called.
Mick: UTI.
Liesel: That’s it, UTI milk.

On the whole, it was a grey week. Grey and miserable. The Sun peeped through occasionally, but on the whole, it was solid grey sky, sometimes different shades of grey, but whichever window we looked through, there it was, hovering over us like a dreaded exam.

Wythenshawe Park was busy in places, not helped by the fact that the main path was still flooded from the torrential rain last week.

Lonely bench

I didn’t buy a coffee in the café here on this occasion, but if I had, I would have got very wet feet sitting on the only unoccupied bench. While it was exciting to see some sky lurking in the grass, it did make the task of walking from one side to the other quite challenging.

Reflections of my life

Here is one attempt at blue sky breaking through the clouds, during the week.

Not enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers

This week takes us to the Spring equinox, so while some things are looking bright and beautiful, the sky isn’t firing on all cylinders yet. But then, in New South Wales there are floods: compare that with the horrendous bush fires they’ve had in recent dry, hot Summers. 

Sometimes I feel the world imitates art.

Mark Rothko maybe

The highlight of the week for me was driving into Manchester. This is the first time I’ve been outside my local postcode area for months. Manchester, the big city, a whole six and a bit miles away. It was less than a half-hour drive, but it felt much longer. How will I cope when we go a really long way? Chester Zoo? Formby? London?

There was a moment when I realised that yes, I can remember how to drive. I knew the way to my destination but I still set up my phone to guide me, just in case. The lady on my phone was very loud, but I couldn’t adjust the volume while gripping the steering wheel so tightly.

So, what prompted this venture into the almost unknown? A year since the last visit, it was time to give blood. We’ve both been vaccinated against Covid now, and I knew the venue would be as safe as possible. Because it’s been a year since I last went, I had to undergo a very long and thorough interrogation investigation into my recent health situation.

My blood flowed out as quickly as ever, but I’m so disappointed that none of the medics have referred to me as a ‘fast bleeder’ since the very early days, nearly half a century ago.

And, as a bonus, while resting afterwards, a beautiful nurse brought over the trolley for me, from which I selected a KitKat and a packet of Mini Cheddars. They’re still not offering hot beverages but I was delighted with my haul. I’ll be back!

Sky blue

And another bonus as I skipped out of the donation centre: proper blue sky with fluffy clouds.

The drive back home was interesting. I followed Google Maps’ suggested route, which seemed counter-intuitive, but at least it remembered to keep away from the motorway.

A window cleaner made us both jump when his brush suddenly appeared, spreading the dirt outside our windows. He was using one of those long poles with a supply of running water, and you can’t really scrub hard when you’re two floors down, holding a pole that long, but it’s the thought that counts.

A different window cleaner turned up a few days later and all he did was top up his water tank from a standpipe in the pavement. The following picture is not safe for work, for children, nor for people of a nervous disposition.

X-rated

My Radio Northenden show from last week was played out this week on Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2. I listened for a short while on FM. Nobody’s complained so far, so I’ll be editing this week’s show for them too. Despite the grey skies, I thought it was only fair to celebrate Spring. So that’s what I did. Two hours of lovely, happy, Springtime music. And a couple of poems.

Spring is sprung, da grass is ris
I wonder where dem boidies is?
Dey say da boid is on da wing
But dat’s absoid
Da wing is on da boid.

Pink things and other colours

And all of a sudden, we’re halfway through March. Considering we’re not really doing much, time is certainly flying by. Liesel has been here in the UK for 15 years and in that time, several World War 2 bombs have been unearthed around the country and, in most cases, safely detonated. Nobody’s been injured, but some buildings were damaged recently in Exeter during a (badly) controlled explosion.

In more local news, Samosa Box is closing for a couple of months so we enjoyed our last box of Samosas for a while. Aloo aloo, very tasty and so, so spicy. While waiting to collect my order, I thought about working for the BBC.

A different BBC

It was also announced this week that Salutem will close at the end of the month. Oh no, that’s one of one top venues for coffee and cake and bagels within walking distance. Let’s hope the replacement coffee shop will be just as good.

While wandering around, I found this creature in the graveyard. Angel? Fairy? Bumble bee?

Another BBC, a Big Bee by the Church

We had over 24 hours of continuous rain, and this was enough to raise the river level by over a metre. The island is once again under water. Then 40 mph winds accompanied by more rain, so I think it’s fair to say, the weather wasn’t conducive to long walks outside this week. And pacing up and down our own hallway is a bit boring and repetitive, just not the same.

But we did go out, and we showed appreciation for the new sign by the woods, installed only a year late.

Sign o’ the Times

Pink Pixie

While wandering through the woods, we found the Pink Pixie’s residence, but she wasn’t in. She? We had a long discussion about whether fairies can be male and female. Similarly, angels: the ones we know with names are all male, Michael, Gabriel. And what about pixies? As if the debate about human gender isn’t complicated enough right now!

We’ve had some pretty sunsets, when the rotten weather permits. And it certainly lifts the spirits to watch the Sun set later and later each day as we approach the Spring equinox.

Pink skies

In admin news, I completed our 2021 Census form this week and took great delight in declaring my National Identity as European. Not sure what difference this will make in the long-term planning of the government and local authorities but, from the heart, it’s a big raspberry to all the brexiteers. There are 101 problems in society and there’s not much we can do about many of them. Signing petitions makes us feel better but I don’t know how many result in the desired outcomes. One thing we can do is pick up litter, so that’s what we do. Four bags this week. A total of over 3,600 so far this year in Northenden and Wythenshawe by a growing team of Wythenshawe Waste Warriors.

In family news, Martha returned to school this week and was very happy to do so. William attended one day at Nursery in January before it was closed following a last minute change of government guidelines. He happily returned this week as if nothing had happened.

Have I mentioned the wind this week? There we were, wandering through the woods when we came across an obstruction.

A fallen tree

There were two fallen trees in this area, which is a shame for the birds nesting and making babies.

Despite whingeing about the weather, it is good to see Spring in all its colourful glory.

Pink camellias

Another pink thing was in the news this week. An angry, gammony bully to young (and not so young) women everywhere flounced off the set of the TV show he was presenting. I blocked him on Twitter years ago yet he still appears and annoys me thanks to other people’s interest in the bloated old ham. Or at least in their descriptions of him, which are often very imaginative.

An unexpected splash of colour was to be found outside Northenden Superstore this week, I think for the first time, but we don’t always walk past this emporium. A glorious display of vegetable including okra and white aubergines.

Vegetable display

Liesel continues to make progress with not one, not two but three crochet blankets. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the patterns nor the yarn. We certainly don’t want people to get the wrong colours.

In really exciting news, my Radio Northenden show will be re-played on Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2 next Wednesday evening at 7pm. The show this week was dedicated to Carers, a large but largely unrecognised group of lovely people.

 

White lines and a white cat

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

2020 Still don’t look back

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

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

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

Seth Lakeman

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

Bic Runga

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

Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

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

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

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

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

Two Suns in the window

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

Cup-and-saucer plant

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

Raven

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

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

Rugby pitch

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

Control room

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

Careful, now

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

I’d rather be in Whitby

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

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

White line painters

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

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

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

Martha as the little girl in the book

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

William missing his mouth

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

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

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