Adventures with hair

I don’t think I’d even heard of Clifton Country Park before being invited to join the family there. It’s in Stockport which I thought was just a dirty old town with a Media City to brighten it up. But no, there is green space and a wonderful playground.

It’s easy to find, unlike the pay stations. But that’s because they don’t actually exist: very unusually, there’s no charge to park here. Don’t tell anyone, they might get ideas.

It was lovely to see Jenny and Liam and the children and their Auntie Helen and it was really nice to see Amy again after all this time too. Amy is one of Helen’s school chums and I haven’t seen her since her now 13-year old was a wee toddler. 

Amy and Helen

Here’s the latest school photograph and I apologise for the flasher in the background, I didn’t notice him at the time.

As you can see, it was a gorgeous day and Martha and William made good use of most of the play equipment.

Martha the swinger

Well, we all did.

Martha, William, Helen, Jenny, Mick, Liam on the rope swing

Helen is still plying her trade as a hairdresser and at home, she was more than happy to shear us all. Anyone would think there’s a big family event coming up, or something.

Meanwhile in Anchorage, Liesel is trying to do too much in the time left before she returns home to the UK.

Liesel and Jyoti : Ladies of leisure lounging about but just for a moment

The first blackberry of the year was disappointingly bitter. I think other people may have picked the best ones.

A blackberry

The apples growing in the church yard looked good though, but I did not go scrumping on this occasion. I left them for the people who turn up each week to tidy up the church yard and cemetery.

St Wilfrid’s apples
A goose washing his hair in the river

I didn’t get my 10,000 steps in one day this week, but I certainly burnt some calories. I walked up and down the stairs probably a dozen times, mostly carrying heavy, bulky stuff to take to the storage unit. Anyone would think I’m trying to make space in our luxury apartment for visitors or something. During this heatwave, any form of activity is really difficult. But then, sitting around doing nothing in this heat is quite exhaustng too!

The walking group on Wednesday was very popular this week, with far more participants then usual and, unusual for me, I had an iced coffee back at the café. Yes, it was a hot day.

In the afternoon, I spent some time with Martha and William, blowing bubbles, in their garden.

William’s back and Martha’s bubbles

Their blackberries looked much nicer than the ones in the woods. But for some reason, I didn’t actually pick any.

Mostly this week though, I was ticking things off the ‘to-do’ list. I’ll never get to the end though, because part-way through some projects, I’ll think of one or two other things I need to do. Or, I’d like to do. One day, I must go back to the ‘big to-do’ list that has been going since about 2006, when I very successfully collated all my then on-going lists into one single mega-list. Well, it seemed important at the time.

Recording the WFM radio show this week was a bit quicker than last week, only interrupted by a couple of phone calls, which is unusual. The theme this week is ‘Doubles’, by which I mean musicians who have the same name as another. Or groups with duplicate names.

Evil peas

On my final full day in Anchorage, Liesel and I spent some quality time together in Klaus’s office. I used his Mac to determine what was on each of the CDs and DVDs in quite a large pile. One CD had photos from 2012, including our trip to Hawaii. Everyone was there, including Liesel’s parents, Aaron’s family, Liesel’s Aunt Buzz and family, my sister Pauline and Andrew, my daughters Jenny and Helen and her boyfriend Adam. That trip coincided with a visit from President Barack Obama which disrupted a couple of shopping trips and a game of golf played by Adam and Liesel’s cousin Andi’s bloke Steve. It was nice to see the old photos again of course but I forced myself not to be distracted. The other CDs and DVDs were all, as expected, but still disappointingly, blank.

Meanwhile, Liesel was working on her own laptop. Or maybe paying Tetris, I don’t really know, we were sitting back to back.

The plan was to have an Ethiopian meal in the evening with friends. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed and they didn’t return calls, so we resorted to Plan B: Pizza from Moose’s Tooth.

We drove over to Una and Phil’s house and later we were joined by Pam and Owen. Jyoti brought her friend Bill, the first time the rest of us had met him.

It was nice enough to sit outside and eat, so that’s what we did. It’s a bit disconcerting when you’re sitting there, soaking up the Sun, drinking some beer, chatting away and otherwise minding your own business, when a cat leaps up onto the table right in front of you.

The cat sat on the table

We left at about 10, and I bade farewell to everyone, knowing I wouldn’t see most of them again probably until next year. I couldn’t believe how busy the roads were on the way back home, it was like Piccadilly Circus out there.

Not really: empty roads

As we approached home, we saw a moose cross the road a couple of cars in front of us. I tried to get a picture as we passed, but the moose’s bum is just a blur in front of the sunset.

Blurry moose

The most recent post here details my horrendously stressful trip back home. I won’t dwell on it here other than to say it was three days before I felt normal again. Jetlag and lack of sleep don’t help of course, but that was the longest lasting attack of stress, anxiety, panic, that I’ve had for years. I was very conscious on arrival at home to do things that would help me recover. I wasn’t going to do anything that mattered for a while, I certainly wasn’t going to make any important decisions.

So, in no particular order, here are some things that cheered me up over the next few days:
🔴 Watching the last week of the Tour de France, even if the Freeview box decided it wasn’t worth recording the final two days. Oh well, I know who won.
🟠 Watching the England women’s football team beat Germany in the final of the Euros, if for no other reason than we might stop hearing about 1966 now.
🟡 Witnessing Jill Scott swear on the pitch during the game.
🟢 I didn’t see the race, but I was pleased to see that Laura Kenny won a gold medal for the track cycling scratch race at the Commonwealth Games.
🔵 Lying in bed a few times, drifting in and out of sleep, listening to the sound of seagulls outside, imagining I was at the seaside.
🟣 Seeing pictures of Martha and William playing on a beach for real, in the company of the other grandparents.
⚫ Walking by the river Mersey, yet wondering why there weren’t more people out and about: surely they’re not all away on holiday?

Jill Scott being congratulated by the President of the Football Association
Martha, the other Prince William and Papa
Ducks in a row

Oh, and I went for a massage and collected my new spectacles from the optician: Didsbury has everything.

Well, maybe not everything. As far as I know, it doesn’t have a football champion. Northenden does, and I was pleased to meet her in her natural home, Boxx2Boxx.

Jill Scott MBE and Mick

A few days later, Jill appeared on the TV show Football Focus. She talked about working in the café this week and how lots of children had come along to see her and wear the medal…

But Jill wasn’t the only superstar I met this week. Later in the day, I went over to Jenny’s where Martha and William were excited because Auntie Helen had arrived from Australia. She’ll be here for a few weeks, making a few side-trips to exotic places such as Surrey and Greece.

After our evening meal, Martha engaged me in a game, which she made up as she went along. It was based on a drawing she’d made.

Martha’s drawing

The sad faces are Carrot and Fish Finger. The large character is SuperTato or maybe SuePotato. I was chastised for calling him/her/it SuperPotato. In retrospect, that was a ridiculous suggestion. The task was to kill the evil peas: they’re the little chaps in the top right hand corner. When killed, the evil peas miraculously grow hair, which Martha drew in with much force. The one that looks like a rocket isn’t in fact lettuce, it’s Celery. The one with the crown is Broccoli. Or Tomato, depending. If you want more details about this game, please ask Martha, I found it quite hard to keep up with all the rules!

This radio show this week was very tasty, all about food, glorious food.

I had to re-record the voice track because the first attempt had an annoying high-pitched whistle throughout. Now you might think it probably sounded better that way, but no, it really didn’t! The source of the whistle took some tracking down. I turned off all the other electric and electronic equipment, in case something was emitting a whistle that the microphone could pick up even if my ears didn’t. I tried recording with different software, and this was perfect, so the problem was within my preferred sound recorder. And after digging deep through the options, I found the culprit. An inadvertent twitch of the mouse or rogue keystrokes had, at some point, changed one of the settings. You can hear the results of this chicanery here:

Wows and woes

You’ve probably seen this picture before, but it was undoubtedly the best photo I saw this week, the first taken by the James Webb Space Telescope and released to the public.

Gaze in awe

Galaxies 13.5 billion years old with gravitational lens effects, I couldn’t stop gawping at this picture for a very long time.  It reminds me, I still want to be a spaceman.

Closer to home, these poppies brighten up an otherwise dreary part of Northenden.

Poppies

So where else have I been this week? The dentist where again the hygienist asked the same questions about my oral hygiene regime and I reminded her that I am 145 years old and I will continue to look after my teeth and gums as well as I can.

Not sure if it’s more exciting or not, but I took the car in to have a light bulb replaced. Not a 5-minute job as you’d expect, because they had to take out the wheel arch to access it. Why do they design cars that way?

What is definitely more exciting and interesting is that the heron was not in his usual spot this week, on the weir. He was in the river, halfway to Didsbury.

Heron

I went with Jenny and William and Liam to a suit hire shop, funnily enough to hire a suit, for a future event. Later in the week, I went clothes shopping, by myself, not my favourite pastime, and came home with a pair of shirts and a pair of shoes. Not trainers but actual, Italian leather shoes.

Martha and William both enjoyed their sports day at school, and not only because all the children got an ice lolly afterwards. It was a very nice day for the event.

Liesel reported a couple of earthquakes from Anchorage. At home, three pictures fell off the walls within 24 hours. Now, I’m not saying the earthquakes caused this, but what a coincidence. One frame broke and by luck, the glass remained in tact. Another one, I think the Blu Tack just melted in the heat, same as the rest of us.

I may have mentioned my very long to-do list from a few weeks ago. Mostly quick jobs that weren’t so quick in the end for one reason or another, mostly ticked off now, and this week I succeeded in preparing, recording and editing three radio shows. That was quite a feat, and I probably won’t repeat it.

In Anchorage, Liesel has been working with Amrit and Suvan again, staying out of the scorching Alaskan sunshine. There’s a heatwave here in the UK, but Anchorage was much hotter for a while.

I enjoyed a few walks locally this week, including a couple with the well-being walking groups. And in a repeat performance from two months ago, I got up ridiculously early on Saturday morning, to take a taxi to the airport for my flight to Frankfurt and then onwards to Anchorage for a couple of weeks.

This week’s radio show is all adverts. Well, a few actual adverts but mostly songs that have been used in commercials over the years. Sing along to a couple of old favourites!

Gathering in Gatley

As regular readers will be aware, I didn’t quite make it to Glastonbury Festival this year. But I did venture out to Gatley Festival. This has the advantage of being within walking distance. And a lot smaller. Just one performance area, rather than 96 stages. Lots of food stalls and some fairground attractions too. Perfect! Extra points if you noticed the musical allusion.

Eclipse Parade Band

The parade through Gatley consisted of a few bands, some school parties and other local groups. Those of us watching from the pavement (just outside a coffee shop, in my case, unbelievably) then followed the parade to the Festival ground itself, Gatley Hill.

Colin and Hayley from Wythenshawe FM were compèring, although the event wasn’t being broadcast live on the radio. I made up for it: see below.

Just one of many gymnasts plus Hayley talking to the tutor

We were able to enjoy some music and a gymnastics display, we could play rugby and lacrosse, we could have our faces painted and hair coiffed, we could splat the rat and ride a donkey. We could even drink and drive.

Gatley Driving School

There was a very long queue at the beer tent but it was good to see the vegan Indian stall, Bhaji Pala, being well attended too.  We’ve had meals from the restaurant a few times and can highly recommend it.

I met Neil, who will be rowing across the Atlantic later in the year for Alzheimer’s.

Neil’s boat

This isn’t the actual boat they’ll use but very similar. Follow his progress here and if you can, show your support!

Gatley Hill House

This is a new building to me, normally rooms are available for hire, but given the fencing all around it right now, I think it’ll be a while before we’re allowed back in.

The omelette I made for myself was very nice, but I’m no good at cooking, and rather than being one solid piece of food, it came out of the pan in several lumps. I’ll try again in another five years or so.

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to watch either of the children swimming, but I did take Martha for her lesson this week. She’s so confident in the water, swimming below the surface and later, treading water for a whole minute. As she explained, this is because if she falls out of a boat she might have to tread water for a minute, or ten minutes, an hour or ten hours or even longer.

Similarly, it’s been a while since I picked the children up from school.

Wild flowers

But I did this week and at home, we watched a YouTube video in which a couple of men dug a big hole in the ground to make a swimming pool, with a couple of slides and an underground house. Impressive work, as Martha said. We wondered where in the world this was taking place. When they began to chop down bamboo for making a fence and other decoration, Martha suggested it was China. Why? Because that’s bamboo, pandas eat bamboo and pandas live in China. Can’t fault the logic, there!

Meanwhile, in Anchorage, Liesel is enjoying a heatwave. There she was, relaxing in the Sun at Carrie’s house, when a visitor appeared.

Water moose

I think Liesel’s been walking a lot, probably more than I have here in Northenden, but she has also been in to work a couple of times.

On another occasion, she saw a baby moose with his big momma. And in an unexpected turn of events, Liesel has been bitten by a mosquito. Usually they go for me, but I’m several thousand miles away, out of sniffing range, so I guess even in the mosquito world, beggars can’t be choosers.

Didsbury in bloom

A nice explosion of colour here with the flowers and the bins. This is in Didsbury where I went for my annual visit to the opticians and while I was in the village, I went for a very welcome massage too. After which I wanted to sleep for the rest of the day.

But I didn’t.

This week’s radio show theme is Festivals. Glastonbury and Gatley, to be precise. Listen here on on WFM 97.2 next Wednesday at 10pm. A wonderful way to nod off at the end of the day.

Now it’s time for a whinge. The email says:

We look forward to welcoming you on board soon.

To start your journey well-prepared, we have compiled the most important information relating to travel during the pandemic

But they haven’t compiled the most important information at all. They just told me to check this and check that and in the process, introduced an unnecessary level of anxiety. Grrr. Yes, you read my palms correctly: I am going on a journey.

Here, there and everywhere

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

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

Sir Paul McCartney

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

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

Rubbish parking

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

Incey Wincey

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

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

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

Aaron, Liesel and Leslie

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

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

William and Grandad

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

William’s new slippers

Slippers have never been more slippery.

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

Jyoti, Una and Liesel

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

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

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

Just a random garden in Northenden

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

Hydrangea

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

Snail

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

Jill Scott
Boxx 2 Boxx

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

No ball games

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

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

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

Goodbyes

Going to bed late after a delayed flight, you think you’d go to sleep fairly quickly. Oh no, not me, not with my brain. I spent far too long counting, not just sheep, but the number of animals we’d seen in various airports: bears (polar and brown), moose and horses. Well, one horse.

Horse

This is Blackleaf, by Deborah Butterfield, 2017, taking pride of place at Seattle Airport.

Dall sheep

The glass cage at Anchorage Airport is not the Dall sheep’s natural habitat, they’re more commonly found in the mountains of Alaska.

So if I were counting sheep as an aid to sleep, I would have reached a grand total of one. But I got there in the end.

A bit of a lie-in was followed by a reasonably lazy day. The three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. And it was a delight to go back to bed at a more reasonable hour.

Sadly, in an almost repeat performance from a few weeks ago, in the middle of the night, Klaus fell out of bed on his way to the toilet. Three of us couldn’t help him climb back in so again, we called the paramedics. I think this one incident really confirmed to us just how ill he is now. No strength at all.

After breakfast, I wrote some more before Liesel took us over to Pam and Owen’s place for a barbecue. Well, we went to see Una and she drove us over to Pams’, with Monica. On this occasion, on meeting her, I did not give Monica a bear hug exacerbating her shoulder injury.

My eyes were watering and I put this down to hay fever. But no, it’s more likely to be smoke from bush fires quite a long way off, Una was suffering as well. And, sure enough, the mountains were all but invisible through the haze.

Mountains through the haze

From AP News: High winds have pushed a wildfire to within miles of an Alaska Native village in western Alaska, officials said Thursday.

No evacuation orders were issued for St. Mary’s though the East Fork Fire was within 8 miles (12.9 kilometers), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service said in a statement. No structures have been burned.

The 78-square-mile (202-square-kilometer) fire was started May 31 by lightning…

Meanwhile, back at the barbecue, burgers were the order of the day. Liesel enjoyed her first burger for six years or something. And I enjoyed the salads on offer plus possibly my favourite comfort food: cheese and tomato sandwiches, albeit in burger buns.

Thanks Pam and Owen for a nice afternoon: I think it’s fair to say the ladies managed to solve the problems of the world while Owen and I sat quietly in the background!

While we were driving home, Monica received a call from her husband Gregg saying that a tree behind their house had been set on fire. That’s pretty scary, especially when you have lithium batteries in the garage that don’t mix with heat nor with water that might used to put the fire out.

On Monday morning, Klaus visited his family doctor. Straightaway, because he looked so jaundiced, she sent him to hospital, where he spent the next few days. While he was there, we tried to make the house more accommodating for him on his return. With this in mind, Liesel, Jodi and I went to Bailey’s Furniture shop to buy a new chair for Klaus, a powered one that would help him to stand up, that massages and reclines to nearly horizontal.

But what a fascinating shop. Never mind the wonderful range of furniture, the place is decorated in style.

A plane in Bailey’s

And I’m sure a little girl I know would love this chair.

Not Klaus’s chair

Liesel uses some software to be able to work from home accessing Amrit’s computer. She got a bill claiming she hadn’t paid. Which she had. Prove it. So I looked at the relevant account on my phone and tried to screenshot the payment. Oh no. For security reasons, I can’t screenshot from a banking app. If Liesel had been around at the time, I would have used her phone take a picture of my phone’s screen. But she wasn’t. Instead, I had to use an elaborate system of mirrors, a split screen with the required data in one half and the camera in the other half and take a picture using the timer, then reversing the image. I say ‘elaborate’ and it would have worked if only I could have held the phone perfectly still for a split second. Technology, eh?

Liesel and her Mom spent most of the next day in hospital with Klaus. My task at home, on Klaus’s computer, was to make sure we knew his passwords: bills need paying and he’s usually responsible. Klaus uses an Apple Mac, so that was an interesting learning curve having been using Windows for decades! Fortunately, my daughter Helen was able to provide some technical support. Thanks Helen!

Jodi brought her friend, realtor Andrea, around to look at Leslie and Klaus’s house, with a view to selling it after thirty years. It needs some work but it’s not in too bad a condition.

After they left, I started walking towards Jyoti’s house intending to go for a longer walk with her.

Mountains again

It was reassuring to see the mountains more clearly today. And I had the pleasure of gently pursuing a dragonfly for a minute. Last time I was here in Anchorage, I was notoriously unlucky in trying to photograph these flighty beasts. But today, I took a series of pictures, each one a little closer.

Dragonfly

I am very pleased with this picture, although I would have preferred the background to be a leaf rather then the pavement!

I thought I was on a roll. But no, that was the extent of my success. Attempts to capture a beetle in all its glory failed abysmally.

Did we have a nice long walk? Not today. Instead, we got coffee at Kaladi and took it to Sand Lake, traipsing through the grounds of the Elementary School. Sitting in the shade by the water was so peaceful. Thanks for the time-out, Jyoti.

Sand Lake

We collected Liesel from the hospital and went home for a short while. We spent the evening back at Catherine and Hans’ again, enjoying good food, outside, watching the Sun go down. We talked about Klaus of course and music and radio.

Sunset over Turnagain Arm

Jyoti and I did go for a nice long hike the next day. She took me to Kincaid Park and we followed one of the trails. Well, maybe: we might have missed a turn somewhere, but it was still a very pleasant walk.

Basil

The only wildlife we saw was Jyoti’s dog Basil who probably walked and ran twice as far as we did and on little legs too. And how green is that vegetation? So lush. It’s hard to believe that it hasn’t rained here since the snow melted a couple of months ago, but further out of the city, as we’ve seen, there is a real risk of fire.

I’m sure Margaux was a wonderful person

On the way out, we saw this little chap just mooching along the pavement, minding his own bees wax.

Moose

At Fire Island, we bought some high-calorie content cupcakes for ourselves and for Liesel and Leslie who again had stayed with Klaus in hospital. And coffee again from Kaladi Brothers for us. Again, we collected Liesel and took her home.

Leslie returned a little later, after which we all went out to view an apartment that would suit Klaus and Leslie, should they decide to move.

We met Andrea and Jodi there and had a good look round. It seemed ideal, to me. If we’d seen such an apartment when we were looking four years ago, I think we would have seriously considered it. My job was to walk around with the walker to make sure it fits through all the doorways. In my head was Bill Withers: Lean on me. One selling point is that it’s quite close to Aaron and Jod’s house, as well as just over the road from New Sagaya, a supermarket and coffee shop.

We were told that Klaus was to be discharged. The house isn’t ready. So, in a rush, with the help of Asa, Gideon and their friends Addie and Alec, we moved the dresser out of the bedroom, lowered the bed and rotated it 90° to make it easier for Klaus to get up in the night.

Later, it emerged, he wasn’t coming home today, after all. Communication failure.

Still with a view to maybe selling this house, the next morning, Liesel, Jyoti and I threw away loads of food. Now, none of us like throwing away food, but this was all out of date. I don’t mean just a couple of weeks old.

Old, old, old food

Oh no. Some of it was years old. Even decades. The oldest items had no best before date, they were that old. But the record goes to Liesel who threw away something from 1992.

The plan is, eventually, to empty the pantry and move the washing machine and dryer to that space, up from the garage. This should be more attractive for any potential buyer.

Sorting through old food and disposing of it is ridiculously hard work. Luckily it was bin day, so much of it was taken away, leaving a nice empty bear-proof wheelie bin for the next few bags of old food.

I had a bit of a break by continuing with the passwords project on the Mac.

Liesel and I went to Walmart to collect some prescription drugs for Klaus, because he really was being discharged today. Good to see the pandemic’s over in the city. Very few other people were wearing masks.

Klaus came home, and sat in his new chair for a short while before going upstairs to bed.

And so, my time in Anchorage comes to an end. After saying goodbye to Klaus and Leslie, Liesel dropped me off at the airport. She was originally going to fly back with me but is staying on for a couple more weeks to help and support her Mom.

I went through security. That’s it. No trauma today. I had a middle seat so I looked around trying to predict which two fatties I’d be wedged between. But no. Both my seat-mates were skinnies. And,the young lady to my left moved to a different seat, leaving me her aisle seat.

Transit at Frankfurt was a doddle. A ten-minute walk from one gate to the next. It makes you wonder why USA has to make such a big deal out of these things. It certainly doesn’t make  us feel any more secure.

Clouds over Germany

As we flew past Cheadle, I took some pictures, hoping to be able to pinpoint Jenny’s house from the sky. This is still a work in progress.

I kept mine on, but just about everyone else removed their masks on disembarkation. Even when entering the overheated, windowless depths of Manchester Airport to go through security, which was a slow process.

I took a taxi home, and immediately felt very welcome. Jenny and Helen had left Fathers Day cards for me as well as a box of Maltesers and some beer. Cheers! I slumped for most of the day and went to bed really early. I never seem to get a proper sleep on an aeroplane.

And of course, I woke early, listened to a couple of podcasts and did my usual three puzzles, Wordle, Worldle and Nerdle. Horror of horrors: I lost my winning streak on the first two. I’d forgotten to play in the short ‘day’ between leaving Anchorage and landing in Manchester.

On my first full day back at home, I waited in for a grocery delivery from Ocado, ate Maltesers, wiped out the now empty fridge, after its inadvertent defrosting while we were away, and wrote for a while while listening to old, recorded radio shows. And, in an effort to convince myself I was doing something useful, I gathered together all the to-do lists.

On my second full day back at home, I ticked a few items off the to-do list. Don’t worry, I did them first. And there is still plenty to keep me occupied. I’m lucky to have the freedom to nap whenever the urge takes me.

At 4.50 in the morning, I answered the phone. It was Liesel telling me that her Dad had died. Just three days after I’d left. I really had said goodbye to him. Very sad, but not totally unexpected. We didn’t like seeing him in such distress and discomfort, and we’ll certainly miss him and his humour.

The rest of the day was taken up with mundane chores, nothing that required too much thought. In a bit of a daze, to be honest. I started putting this week’s radio show together and finished it the following day. I think this one took longer to prepare than any, since the very early days when the whole process was new to me.

You can listen to my Postcard from Alaska here. Or catch the repeat on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 at 10pm on Wednesday.

Some exciting, good news to end on. After completing enough tasks (an arbitrary target, I admit), my reward was to visit the local coffee shop here in Northenden. The latté art made me smile.

Very arty, very tasty

It’s reassuring to see that some things never change. I don’t think our heron has moved from this spot for at least five weeks.

Heron on the weir

On the other hand, car parking skills in Northenden haven’t improved since I’ve been away.

How did they end up here?

Packing and stacking

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

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

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

Ladybird giving another ladybird a piggy-back

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

Spot the heron

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

Tyres

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

Where’s my scooter?
Artistic shot of the week

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

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

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

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

William the mountaineer

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

Martha the runner

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

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

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

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

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

Oops, Tom, electric guitar, Tom as PM

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

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

Not Martha Reeves

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

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

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

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

Black tulips and babies

Sadly, no space is deemed too small for the application of graffiti. Even the fairy doors in the local woods aren’t safe from such desecration.

Fairy door needs attention

It is now No Mow May in which we are invited to leave the lawn alone for the benefit of the very few pollinating insects left alive in this country. A lot of people are indeed not mowing, but sadly, the local council’s grass-cutters are out in force, cutting the grass and shredding the litter embedded therein. Ooh, I do like a whinge, don’t I?

We took Martha and William to Lyme Park for a nice, long, brisk walk in the sunshine. Well, that was the plan. After confirming the adventure playground was indeed open, we decided to play there for a while, then walk up to the folly known as The Cage, at the top of the hill, then return to the playground.

William is very adventurous and despite many pleas from us, he decided to cross the small stream via stepping stones and a log. Not the most stable of logs.

William and the wobbly log

He jumped onto the opposite bank, and gave a victory salute at the top. But oops, on the return trip, he slightly overbalanced and had to step into the water. He wasn’t too keen on wet shoes, socks and feet. And he momentarily sat down on a wet stone.

A few minutes later, when Liesel was helping him change his shorts, he apologised for ignoring her when she’d told him not to cross the water, which was very sweet.

Martha and William on a table top

They enjoyed many adventures and we hadn’t even reached the playground yet. Yes, you’re right. Martha is indeed wearing odd socks and, at this point, William is wearing no socks at all.

It was fun watching Martha going round and round on this strange little thing, with her ponytail flying.

Martha spinning

As she was spinning, I asked her what happens when she pulls herself in? Oh, it goes faster, she observed. And in this way, Martha discovered the law of Conservation of Angular Momentum.

The playground was great fun, so in the end, we didn’t make it as far as The Cage. Later, when Liesel and I fancied a cup of coffee, we parked the children up on the branch of a tree.

Martha and William sitting in a tree

Yes, again, you are very observant. Martha is indeed crossing her eyes, a trick that she’d learned from her cousin Emily!

Liesel and I didn’t really go to the café by ourselves, that would be irresponsible and we’d probably lose our jobs. We had coffee and we treated the children to an ice cream. Of course we did!

Our challenge now was to keep them awake on the drive back home, which I did quite successfully, even if one of the games was to kick my arm as quickly and as often as possible. The bruises weren’t too bad.

William enjoys his weekly dance class, and although we didn’t see him at his terpsichorean activituies, we did pick him up from the venue to take him to the zoo. We’ll miss these odd days out with William when he starts going to school 5 days a week, with his sister.

Where’s William?

He’s wearing his hoodie in this manner to keep the cold draught out. He did eventually succumb to sleep on the long drive to Chester Zoo.

As is often the case, it was a bit cooler here than at home, but that didn’t stop us from having a really nice day. Treetop Challenge is always number one on his list and today was no exception. Apart from seeing the elephants first.

William on the zipline

He now needs no assistance in finding his way around this Challenge, and he really has conquered the ziplines.

William (l) and Boris the Gorilla (r)

The Bird Flu crisis is now over and the flamingoes’ aviary was open for business. By which I mean we humans are now allowed inside and we can see these gorgeous pink creatures other than through a close wire mesh.

Flamingoes
William with an otter

We were so pleased that William was interested in seeing so many animals on this visit. He did want to visit the shop so we made a deal: we’ll go to the shop at the end but only if you don’t mention it again. And that worked pretty much all day. But then “You know that place I’m not allowed to talk about? Are we still going there?”

We went. But we also passed by the elephants one more time.

Baby elephant

Our challenge now was to keep him awake on the drive back home, which I did quite successfully, even if one of the games was to kick my arm as quickly and as often as possible. The bruises weren’t too bad.

Liesel had an appointment near home with a pair of physiotherapists’ very strong hands, so William and I visited Riverside Park playground back in Northenden. On the way, we picked litter, a job he really seems to enjoy. But of course, the playground was more fun. He made friends with Misha, a 6-, nearly 7-year old from Ukraine.

William and Misha

I had a nice chat with Misha’s Mum while his younger sister played with a doll and followed the boys around. Her husband is still in Ukraine and of course we hope the war ends soon so he can come and join his family.

Soon, everyone else had left the playground: just me and William left, waiting for Liesel to collect us and take him home.

After two days with a varying number of grandchildren it was time to move on and see some grown-up people. Late in the day, after I’d attended my medical appointments, we drove north to Windermere. By coincidence, we were staying in the same place as Helen and Steve from Chessington. We’d not seen them on our recent trip down south for various reasons, so it was good to catch up now.

We dined in a greasy spoon just down the road from the hotel, you know, the sort of place that sells all kinds of food: chips, pizza, kebabs, burgers. It was alright though.

Helen pointed out this picture in a shop window.

David Bowie

Well, we haven’t seen a David Bowie in a shop window for a couple of weeks, but this is a good one. The artist is Don Pearce and the artwork is outside our price range.

Liesel and I shared a four-poster bed and at first, we thought the mattress was too hard. But actually, it was alright and we both had a reasonable night’s sleep.

Breakfast was served by a lovely Scottish lady whose name I never did catch, after which we set off for Beatrix Potter’s old home, Hill Top, on the other side of the lake itself. Last time Liesel and I visited, many years ago, we took the ferry across and walked up the hill.

Many of the roads are very narrow and in some places, I couldn’t see what to do if we encountered another vehicle coming towards us. But we were very lucky in that respect.

The scenery is of course gorgeous, but this is also a good time of year to enjoy the azaleas and the rhododendrons as well. And the garden behind Hill Top is a very peaceful and pretty place to pass some time. The gardener, Pete, is doing a very good job.

Baby azalea

How do we know the gardener’s name is Pete? Well:

Gardener Pete

The parts of the garden that he’s not responsible for are totally Pete-free.

Black Tulips

When I first read The Black Tulip by Alexander Dumas, as a school-boy, I thought it was a made-up flower. But no, they really exist and there are some here at Hill Top. One day, I might read the book again because I can’t remember the story at all.

Even though our tickets were timed, the house was still quite busy, just on the borderline of what we find uncomfortably crowded vis-à-vis Covid. Beatrix Potter had some cool stuff, including a doll’s house with furniture and other items that really aren’t made to scale.

Beatrix’s doll’s house
Selfie of the day

Bizarrely, I think of all the photos I took today, this is my favourite.

Watering can

It is so reminiscent of the Peter Rabbit stories, and I can only surmise that this is the original watering can from Beatrix Potter’s time.

Did I mention Peter Rabbit?

Warning: Peter Rabbit

We drove Helen and Steve back to Ambleside. Funny place, Ambleside: all the shops are named after mild exclamations.

Shops in Ambleside

We took Helen back to the guest house for a nap leaving Steve to enjoy a bus ride in peace and quiet.

The drive home was uneventful. But you can never go on the M6 without there being a traffic jam somewhere!

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one week, Liesel dragged me to asked me if I wanted to accompany her to Ikea. We haven’t been for a while and the thought of those juicy tender 50p veggieballs, well, how could I refuse?

In a strange case of pareidolia, here’s one of the machines in the café looking particularly grumpy with that thing in its eye.

Smiley tea machine

And back in Wythenshawe, there were more goslings near the path in Painswick Park.

Baby geese on land

And as if they’re not cute enough, there was again another family in the pond.

Baby geese on water

I just hope they stayed safe from the fishing lines on the opposite side.

There was a park bench on which I decided not to rest awhile, because of the nettles growing underneath and up through the gaps. I didn’t want to give my arsenic.

Uncomfortably numb, potentially

Here is evidence of Liesel’s latest craftwork.

This cross-stitch was a labour of love, and will be part of a collection being put together by the ladies of the WI to commemorate the 1948 London Olympics. No further details are available at this time. But jolly well done, Liesel!

Last week’s Wythenshawe Radio show was Girls, Girls, Girls, so this week it had to be Boys, Boys, Boys. Catch up here. Or don’t.

Walking in Memphis

Haha, no, not really, I’ve never been to Memphis. But we did do a lot of walking around our local ‘hood this week, three days in a row. Not as far as we wandered last week in London, of course.

Day 1. It was raining, but I didn’t let that deter me. Plus, I had to go out anyway to run some other errands. I was at first annoyed to see the Post Office was closed when it should have been open. I was concerned because I didn’t want to walk around in the rain any longer than necessary with a very important letter. The counter clerk let me in and I concluded my business.

Remember last week, the incident with the pharmacy? Well, they still hadn’t fulfilled my recent prescription. As requested, I paid a fifth visit only to be told once again that the item in question wasn’t in stock. It should be in tomorrow. I asked them to just send me a text message when it’s in, rather than having to go in every day of the off-chance. Two days later, I received the SMS, I went along, and eventually I was given my medication. Six visits for one prescription. I hope I never have to use this pharmacy again. Grrr.

Not only that, but there’s the issue of the fraudulent activity. Well, in the end, the card company said it wasn’t fraud, someone had just made a mistake. The money was refunded. So I returned the £9.35 in cash to the pharmacy, of course. But still, we’re unhappy with the staff’s lack of concern over what might have been a much bigger issue, whether fraudulent or otherwise.

Anyway, I interrupted the walk. It was wet.

A puddle

I don’t think I’ve included a photo of a puddle for a while, so here’s one for all the pluviophiles, limnophiles and toddlers.

Day 2. It’s hard to believe now, but I spent far too much time trying to remove dandelions from our garden in Chessington. Even then, I didn’t mind the odd one, but for some reason, it felt like they were taking over and not giving other weeds a sporting chance. But they can be quite attractive, when they’re in other people’s gardens or out in the wild.

What’s the time?

This walk started and finished at Benchill Community Centre, and on this occasion, Liesel and I were the only ones keeping Chantel company. It was a nice walk, despite being close to the very loud motorway.

Back in the Community Centre, we had coffee while being entertained by someone untangling a string of fairy lights.

Day 3. This is the walk that begins at Woodhouse Park Lifestyle Centre. I was on my own this time, as Liesel chose to join the WI’s walk for a different walk.

Painswick Park was more about daisies than dandelions on this occasion.

Daisies

Further round the lake, I think most of today’s group of nine oohed and aahed at the sight of this young family.

Mr and Mrs Goose and their babies

There was another family in the lake, so maybe the goslings were just taking it in turns to have their swimming lessons.

Liesel has taken up the craft of cross-stitch. Very small stitches with a very short needle with a microscopic eye. The good news is, I knew exactly where the magnifying glass was.

This week’s radio show was Girls, Girls, Girls. Due to some technical issue beyond my ken, the first hour stopped after just 17 minutes. It’s repeated next Wednesday at 10pm, or you can listen at your leisure here:

A Tale of, like, Two Cities (Part 3)

The story so far: we’ve been to London and now we’re back home in Northenden.

Jenny and the family were going away for the weekend so to enhance their packing experience, I was asked to look after William for a couple of hours. We went to Wythenshawe Park which he immediately recognised from a previous visit. He scootered straight to the playground from the car park.

I think it’s fair to say he had a go on all the equipment, and I certainly got my steps in following him around. There was no logic to his choice of activity. My only embarrassing moment was growling at the wrong child as they emerged from an enclosed slide.

Was there a climbing opportunity? Of course there was.

William, King of the Castle

He knew the way to the café too, where I had a coffee while he enjoyed a strawberry ice cream in a tub. He was very specific about the flavour and the container: no cone today. Do you want to go back to the playground? No, I want to go home now. Hmm, that was a problem because I hadn’t heard from Mummy yet: either they were still packing or taking a well-deserved break.

To play for time, I took him to Quirky Misfits in Northenden. I thought he’d be interested in the shelves stocked with skulls, not to mention the hot chocolate. Marshmallows yes please, but no cream.

William, King of the Hot Chocolate

And yes, I had another coffee. It would be rude not to.

Where was Liesel while I was having fun with our grandson? At her coronation. Having a crown fitted.

For my birthday, Jenny and Helen had given a walk around Manchester. Well, the day for the Manchester Music Walkabout Tour arrived.

We drove into the city on a clear sunny day and parked about ten minutes away from the meeting point, outside Bridgewater Hall.

Tower of Light

The Tower of Light is a visible commitment to sustainability, designed by award-winning architectural practice Tonkin Liu. This 40m high flue tower and shell lace structural façade encloses a highly efficient source of heat and power for some of Manchester’s most iconic buildings; Manchester Town Hall, Central Library, The Bridgewater Hall and Manchester Art Gallery among them. Reflectors moved by the wind reflect sunlight to fill the tower with shifting light during the day, while at night the gently-lit tower and white brick podium form a holistic energy landmark. One day, we’ll see it at night.

From a distance, I thought his building looked a bit like The Midland Hotel.

Looks like the Midland Hotel

I later discovered that it is in fact The Midland Hotel, it’s just that we approached it from a different direction. Slowly, slowly, Manchester landmarks are coming together to form a coherent, cohesive map in my mind.

Our guide, Emma, took us on a fascinating tour of places in Manchester of particular musical significance. There were 13 of us in the group, an ideal size for gathering round on the street and listening to her speak.

Free Trade Hall is where Bob Dylan turned electric in 1965 to calls of ‘Judas’ from the audience. The Sex Pistols played here just 11 years later. Both events seem a long time ago now, and as time goes on, more and more people claim there were present at these events. I know I was there: got the t-shirts and everything.

Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney

This plaque commemorates another small step on the road to giving the vote to women.

Emma spoke about the Madchester scene, Tony Wilson, the Bee Gees, Hollies, the Gallagher brothers, a nice potted history.

The Temple of Convenience is a pub located on the site of old subterranean public toilets. It’s celebrated as ‘there’s a hole in my neighbourhood’ in Elbow’s song, Grounds for Divorce. It’s close to where Guy Garvey of Elbow used to live and where they celebrated winning a Mercury award several years ago. Emma suggested having a quick pint here before moving on. It would be rude not to. So we did. Cheers!

The Temple

Naturally, the duration of the walk was much longer than the scheduled hour and a half!

Haçienda Apartments

These apartments, as the name suggests, are on the site of the Haçienda Club, a venue I never visited. I was aware of its existence from down south in London, and what it meant to the Manchester music scene, but now: luxury apartments. Could be worse I suppose: could be a multi-storey car park.

We thought about having a quick meal at the nearby Tiffin Room. Fate determined otherwise. It was closed. We were in the gap between late lunch and early evening dinner. If only we hadn’t stopped at the hole in the neighbourhood.

This concludes our Tale of Two Cities. London and, like, Manchester.

Another day, another walk. And we laughed at this example of neighbours being kind to one another.

The long and short of it

I wonder if the mowing family are just unfriendly? Or maybe the non-mowing family deliberately chose to keep a sort of wild-flower meadow outside their house? We’ll never know.

We saw this on our hike to Wythenshawe Park. Where we were surprised to find that, even at 2.30pm, the grass in the park was still covered in dew. On the other hand, our shoes probably needed a bit of a wash.

Where’s Liesel?

We know how to have a good time, as you know. It was a pleasant walk through the park, and no, we didn’t stop for coffee. Instead, we paid a visit to Aldi for some shopping, after which we walked a slightly longer way home, avoiding the busy industrial estate roads. And OMG, we need to go back to that quiet, secluded path next to the railway and pick up several bags of litter. We won’t be able to reach it all, there’s a fence, but in years to come, listen out for announcements such as: Your train’s been cancelled due to too many Coke cans on the line.