Bowie, birds and bagels

Last weekend was a big David Bowie commemoration. We should have been celebrating his 74th birthday but instead, the world marked the fifth anniversary of his death.

I watched Lazarus, the musical that was one of Bowie’s final pieces of work, online, a recording of the London performance that I saw twice with our friend Helen, with Liesel joining us on one occasion. Liesel and I also saw Lazarus in Melbourne, and that seems a long time ago now.

And yes, it was just as enthralling for me the fourth time round.

Sophia Anne Caruso and Michael C Hall

Photos from TV screeens well never be as good nor as clear as those taken inside a theatre, of course. But you’re not supposed to take pictures in a theatre, apparently.

I stayed up late to watch A Bowie Celebration. This concert was put together by Bowie’s long-term piano player Mike Garson, and was shown online at 2am our time. Sadly, it was postponed for 24 hours, so I had to stay up late for a second night in a row, and that hasn’t happened for a long time. Actually, I grabbed a few hours kip before getting up, just in time, to enjoy three hours of wonderful and sometimes very moving music.

In real life of course, I would have run up to the stage and stolen the set list. Luckily, we can see the full set list here. Also in real life, Liesel would probably rather not let me run up to the stage!

Ian Hunter

It was good to see Ian Hunter perform his tribute to David Bowie, Dandy as well as All the Young Dudes and what’s scary crazy is, he’s 81 years old and still rocking and rolling. Many other Bowie alumni took part, including Tony Visconti (although we never saw him) and Rick Wakeman (confined to a very small box on the screen).  Yungblud never worked with Bowie of course, and I think he was trying to do a Covid test on himself with the microphone.

Other than those two events, there were about twenty shows on radio to enjoy, BBC and elsewhere, never mind what was on TV. I’m still catching up of course, and what with a slight backlog of podcasts, it’s a good job we’re in lockdown and I don’t have to go to work! Always look on the bright side, as they say.

[10,000 words omitted]

Well, if Robert Heinlein can use that device in his novels, so can I in a blog. I could have written so much more about the David Bowie weekend but that’s for another place. Maybe.

The week was full of four letter words: rain, snow, cold, wind, dull, grey. Despite that, we did venture out a few times, but again, we confined ourselves to our own postcode.

The river was surprisingly low early in the week, we could even see the bricks that make up the weir. And our old friend the heron was sitting there wondering where all the water had gone.

Heron

But no need to panic. Within a couple of days, the river was as high as before, totally hiding the weir and covering the island. Anyway, our friend flew off, of course, and we next saw him standing on the grass. So here’s a bonus portrait of the heron.

Bonus heron

One day, we’ll go along with some fishes in our pockets to feed him.

The larger volume of water just a couple of days later was enough to shift large bits of, if not whole, trees.

Tree bashing one of the pillars holding up the M60

There’s a new lake in Wythenshawe Park.

A big puddle

A few seconds after taking this picture and putting my phone away, those two dogs had a really good time running through the puddle and shaking water over some other passers-by. A big puddle, yes, and the grass on both sides was under water too. Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, we’ll have to turn round and go back the way we came.

What a nice young van

The sentiment on the back of the van: seconded!

In other local news, as well as coffee this week, I bought some bagels from Salutem. Possibly the best bagels I’ve had since we were in Anchorage over two years ago. Anchorage: that city so well-known for its bagels.

The drizzle didn’t prevent me from walking to the GP for a quick visit. I certainly didn’t expect to see flamingoes, but there they were, two of them, large as life in somebody’s garden.

Pretty flamingoes

To be honest, I’m not sure they’re real life flamingoes, I couldn’t see a pond  anywhere nearby.

Yes, it was only drizzling lightly, but the puddles in Sharston Road were out in force. You have to time it right as you walk on by.

43 bus making a splash

I’ve always wondered, given that Manchester is famous for its rain, why is its drainage so bad? This should be the capital city of run-offs and storm drains.

Karine Polwart

The end of the week saw the start of the 19-day long Celtic Connections. Liesel and I have wanted to visit Glasgow for a while for this music festival, but obviously, not this year. Instead, we’ll enjoy it online, like everything else. But we’re certainly not alone in wanting to be able to see live music again, sometime.

One day this week, I poured out my breakfast cereal only to realise I’d finished off the milk in my first cup of tea. Fresh milk would be delivered later, so I was reluctant to open the emergency bottle of long-life milk. And there’s no way I was going to separate the Shreddies from the muesli and the blueberries, not to mention the Weetabix crumbs, and return all the cereal to the various correct containers. Only one thing for it. I poured on the last of the Christmas Baileys and had a very nice start to the day, thank you very much.

This week on Radio Northenden (newly updated website, go and have a look), we went back to school, had a few lessons and said thank you to our teachers. Catch up here.

Locked down, locked in

In lockdown, we’re allowed out for exercise and for food shopping and to collect medication. As requested, the GP sends our prescriptions electronically, directly to the pharmacy. One day this week, we got extra steps in by visiting one pharamcy, walking to the other branch then all the way back to the first, where we finally collected what we’d been in for in the first place.

The occasional coffee to take away is fundamental to our mental well-being, as well, of course. All our shopping is done online, it’s all delivered by some very nice young men and, last week, by a very nice young lady.

Northenden’s very own mermaid

When you’re lurking inside a pharmacy while the staff are failing to find what you came for, all you can do is admire the tat on sale, such as this little ladyfish.

I was in danger of succumbing to a full-on panic attack when my PC lost touch with the internet.

Scary, misleading, error message

After failing to fix it by turning the PC off and on again, I went for a walk to breathe and to calm down and to try and think of possible solutions that didn’t involve a sledge hammer.

24 hours later, everything was back to normal. I have no idea what it was that I did but I tried to set things up as if for the first time. And tried again. Plugging and unplugging everything that I could think of. And tried again. Then it was all working again. So I don’t know what went wrong and I don’t know how it was fixed.

St Wilfrid’s Church in the sunshine

We enjoyed a few local walks this week, in the cold but sometimes in bright sunshine. Quite rightly I suppose, Liesel’s Mom queried why I went for a walk in the graveyard. Well, it was somewhere different to go. The gravestones were very slippery though, like a field of miniature ice rinks.
In the sunshine, the distant stones resembled a rather sophisticated stoney toast rack.

Graveyard
Artwork of the week

That picture was a mistake, phone in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some people in the family are a bit better at taking pictures though. Just look at this one taken by Helen during a storm in Manly.

Lightning in Manly

This week marks what should have been David Bowie’s 74th birthday. Jessica Lee Morgan kicked off the celebrations on her regular Tuesday night online show.

I continued celebrating the great man on my own radio show on Friday afternoon . Listen back here: songs that David Bowie covered plus several of his songs covered mostly by female singers.

Another day, another walk and we have a new visitor, or maybe a new inhabitant, on the river. Is it a cormorant?

Cormorant

He didn’t move from his stone, despite quite a few people walking by on both sides of the river. Stone? Actually, it looks more like an old Roman plate, when you zoom in.

Shutters

Nice to see the cheeky grin on the shutters outside this closed beauty parlour. But hooray, the coffee shop next door, Salutem, was open.

The new year started off with some sad news for us. Sarah’s mother Myra passed away in her sleep. We saw her online last month on the occasion of her 90th birthday, and she was looking forward to celebrating in real life later on. We’ll miss our occasional visits to London with her, to the National Theatre, to the British Museum, to Pizza Express. And her occasional visits to Manchester. Martha and William love saying the words ‘Great Granny’. Yes, even when she was locked in her room at Premier Inn, hanging out of the window asking for help, she remained positive and upbeat.

When will I see you again?

There’s a new word to describe the no-man’s land between Christmas and New Year: Merryneum. The time of year when even more than usual, we don’t know what day of the week it is. And it still doesn’t matter really. Except when we miss Doctor Who because they showed it on a Friday, which is just bizarre.

It was much colder here in Northenden* and we took a break from our (not quite) daily strolls. *I know, it was colder everywhere, but Northenden is our universe for now.

Blue sky after rain

Blue skies are always welcome of course, along with bright sunshine. The Sun’s low, just above the horizon, even at noon, this time of year. So sun-hats are no good, the brim will never be wide enough. I am now wearing my beanie hat, to keep my the ears warm.

Following all the recent rain, the river is really high. The weir is totally submerged, its location given away only by surface turbulence.

The site of the weir

And what a shock to wake up one morning to the sight of snow. Yes, it was forecast, but it was still a surprise.

Fresh snow of Northenden

It soon melted, only to be replaced the following night. The clatter of the snowflakes pounding against the window disturbed my slumber.

More snow in Northenden

I took some pictures and crawled back into my pit.

Martha and William built a superb Snowman and Snowdog way over there in Cheadle. Sorry we couldn’t help out on this occasion.

William, Snowdog, Martha, Snowman

When William was asked why he’d put a glove on the side of the Snowdog, he pointed out that that’s what a Snowdog looks like. And, sure enough, Raymond Briggs’s Snowdog does have this embellishment.

I don’t know who built a snowman in our car park, but the next day, all that was left was his nose.

Snowman’s nose

We did come across this little chap on one of our walks. If we’d known, we would have brought the discarded nose with us and performed a transplant.

Snowman in Northenden

We felt it was probably too slippery and muddy on the river banks, so we gave them a miss this week. (Translation: we are wimps.) Looking down from the bridge, that was a wise move, I think.

The River Mersey

So, a pretty lazy week, really. Every noise outside is an invitation to look through the window. ‘What’s goin’ on?’ we ask, like some freak from EastEnders. Someone in the flats over the road received a delivery. When she answered the door:
Liesel: Is that the girl who goes out sunbathing sometimes?
Mick: I don’t know, I don’t recognise her with her clothes on.

What did we achieve this week? Well, Liesel completed her jigsaw puzzle, thank you Helen and Jenny.

Liesel’s 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle

And my New Year’s Day radio show is here.

As a special treat, we enjoyed our first Samosa Box. The food was delivered, still hot from the oven and the samosas were delicious. Support your local business!

Samosas and chips

Here are some statistics from 2020.

The good news is, I read more books this year than previously, thanks to the opportunity presented by lockdown. 41 books, 21 of which were by female writers. This is probably the first time I’ve read more books by women than by men, a conscious effort on my part. (2019: 33 books, 13 by women.)

On the other hand, I walked only 1530 miles in 2020 compared with 1748 in 2019, but we were on our Travels for half of that year. And, walking locally, it’s so easy to think, ‘oh that’ll do, I’m going home now’.

It was a funny old year, but I think we got by OK. We are looking forward to 2021. Happy New Year and thank you for joining Liesel and me on our antics. When will we see you again? Sometime soon, we hope. Why did that song come to mind this week? Because the temperature was Three Degrees.

Yes, we’re looking forward to the new year, but I can’t help but look back on decades past.

I always listen to Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70s and last week’s episode was especially good. Johnnie’s wife Tiggy talked to him about his broadcasting career during the 1970s, and they played some of his favourite songs from that decade. Listen again here before it falls off BBC Sounds.

Out of the 16 tracks played, I’ve seen most of the artists either in concert or in passing.

1 Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

Liesel and I saw them at a reunion gig in Hyde Park, one of the first shows we saw together. Liesel was intimidated by the large crowd, she wasn’t used to that sort of thing. It was a great show, of course, all their songs are wonderful. But sadly, there was no chemistry between them, no eye-contact at all. The support act was The Everly Brothers.

In a previous life, I saw Simon and Garfunkel at Wembley Stadium, in about 1982, with Sarah and my sister Pauline and her then boyfriend John. Jobsworth Security Man wanted to take my camera away, no photos in those days. I followed him a short way to wherever he was leading, chose my moment, ran off, took off my jacket, and joined the others in the auditorium. My photos were of course rubbish. But the show was great.

2 Derek and the Dominos – Layla

Sarah and I saw Eric Clapton on the same bill as Elton John and Bonnie Raitt, at Wembley Stadium in 1992. The performance was good but maybe a bit subdued. It was a year after the tragic death of his 4-year old son Conor. He performed his very moving song Tears in Heaven, written in memory of Conor. We saw him again at Masters of Music in 1996.

3 Neil Diamond – I Am… I Said

Sadly no.

4 The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again

As part of Masters of Music for The Prince’s Trust, The Who performed Quadrophenia on a cold June day in Hyde Park in 1996. It was so cold, I bought myself an extra t-shirt to keep warm. I know. Sarah, me, Jenny and Helen were here for a full day of music. We also saw Alanis Morissette and Eric Clapton again. But it was so cold, we, along with many hundreds of other people, left as Bob Dylan took to the stage.

5 Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side

Sarah and I saw Lou Reed at Hammersmith Odeon around the time of his Magic and Loss album, March 1992. A great show but when on arrival, we saw him sitting at a bar, having a quiet drink, we were too intimidated scared to walk up and say ‘Hello’.

6 The Steve Miller Band – The Joker

Sadly no.

7 David Bowie – Life On Mars?

Sarah and I saw David Bowie five times in concert: Wembley Arena twice, Earls Court, Milton Keynes Bowl (with baby Jenny, 1983) and at the awful short-lived London Arena (with Jenny, 1990, and yes, she fell asleep again). We saw him again at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley Stadium. But the only time I met him was outside the gallery hosting his art exhibition in 1995. He was coming out just as Sarah and I arrived. I shook his hand and thanked him for the music and asked for an autograph. ‘I’m gasping for a cuppa,’ he said, ‘I’ll be back in ten minutes’, he said, walking away with his assistant. Two hours is plenty of time to feign interest in wallpaper designs and other weird paintings. I’m still waiting for my man to return.

8 Cockney Rebel – Judy Teen

I saw Steve Harley, the lead singer, as a guest at a David Bowie Celebration in 2017. The band was put together by Mike Garson, Bowie’s long-time piano player, along with many other musicians who have played with Bowie. Steve Harley sang his own song Sebastian as well as a David Bowie song. I have a photo of the setlist. The woman was holding on to it really tightly, fearing I might run off with it.

9 John Lennon – Stand By Me

Sadly no.

10 Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

Sadly no.

11 Elton John & Kiki Dee – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

We saw Elton once with Eric Clapton (see above) and once before then at the Royal Festival Hall. The night before had been a Gala performance for a Royal personage which he must have found challenging, because he told us that tonight he could relax. The percussionist Ray Cooper stole the show.

Sarah and I also saw Kiki Dee at the Royal Albert Hall. She performed Don’t Go Breaking My Heart as a solo, despite the fact that from our lofty seats, we could see Elton lurking backstage. Good for him for not stealing the limelight.

12 The Eagles – The Last Resort

Sadly no.

13 Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK

Definitely no, I’m not even going to say I was at the famous 100 Club gig with 20,000 other people who were there in the tiny 350 capacity, iconic venue.

14 The Undertones – Teenage Kicks

Sadly no.

15 Patti Smith Group – Because The Night

I haven’t seen Patti Smith in concert, but I have had a deep and meaningless conversation with her. She curated the Meltdown Festival in London, 2005. As well as putting on several shows, she did some work with students from local schools. One lunchtime at the Royal Festival Hall, our paths crossed. I said ‘Hello’. She said ‘Hello’.

16 Jackson Browne – Running On Empty

Sadly no.

Liesel and I are looking forward to more live shows later in the year, as I’ve said before. Until then, radio and online gigs will have to do!

 

Birds and buses

Liesel and I usually go for our strolls in the morning but every now and then, we venture out later in the day. The danger with this is, there are usually many more people out and about. This makes it more difficult to maintain social distancing, of course, but being out in the Sun is good, you can feel the vitamin D fizzing away while it’s being manufactured beneath your skin.

Bed of leaves

Of course, the delight of walking in the sunshine has to be balanced by the sight of flytipped rubbish, including a mattress, in the middle of the road. Yes, actually on the road, as if they’d just opened the back door of a moving van and kicked out all their rubbish. What a shame that personal details were clearly visible on some of the items.

More Northenden flytippery

Passing vehicles had to bump up onto the pavement to get past.

William the carrot-muncher

On a lighter, happier note, William grabbed his Mum’s phone and called his Grandad while eating his lunch, in the car, after his swimming lesson.

Unprompted, he told me the carrot stick was a triangle. In the pool, he had dived to retrieve a (plastic) fish, something that I could never manage to do.

 

Mincemeat scone

Liesel baked some scones, using mincemeat rather than plain ordinary dried fruit, and of course, they didn’t last very long. All the flavour of, but not as strong as, traditional mince pies.

 

 

 

There is a universe beyond Northenden. We proved that to be the case by breaking out the passports and venturing as far afield as Lyme Park this week. It’s been a while, but it was good to be out walking somewhere other than our local ‘hood.

There was evidence that deer had been roaming, but we didn’t see any. Not real ones, anyway.

Lyme deer

Time for some bird spotting, I think.

Corkbill egrets

Amongst the fallen leaves of Autumn, behold, young ferns.

Baby ferns
Selfie of the day
Mushroom

As you can(‘t quite) see, it was a very clear day. You can see the metropolis that is Manchester from Lyme Park, and today was the clearest that particular view has ever been.

 

Back in Northenden and we’re still finding new roads to explore. We took it into our heads to walk a bit further, buy some lunch and then walk home.

Britannia Country House Hotel

We had been walking along the river but the path was so muddy, we detoured at the first opportunity, not really knowing where the stone steps would lead. It’s a bit of a dilapidated hotel, with its run-down car parks, set back from the main road.

We found our destination in West Didsbury but were immediately disappointed.

Bad news at Greens

Yes, you guessed, it was Tuesday. Oh well, nothing for it, but to walk home, hungry. Well, not strictly true. We stopped off at La Chouquette in Didsbury for coffee and cake. La Chouquette has taken over from Cidsin, a coffee shop that we had frequented in the past.

Time for some more bird spotting, I think.

Wooden sculpture
Kingfisher

Spring is coming up fast, even though we probably have the worst of Winter to come, yet. I thought the baby fern at Lyme Park was a freak, but we also saw some very early daffodils near one of our local golf courses.

Baby daffodils

On the other foot, I did find a pair of shoes on one walk. Well, not exactly a pair, but I guess these folks had a good time at their illegal parties before hopping home.

Lost shoes

I was so glad I’d decided not to walk by the river on this occasion. Looking down at the path from the road above reveals how muddy it still was after all that rain. Plus, the river is a few feet higher than normal.

More muddy than Mudsville, Mudshire

Our food deliveries this week included the biggest Brussels sprouts we’ve ever seen.

Big sprouts

There is not a lot of spare room in the fridge, right now! But the sprouts are delicious, oh yes.

Here’s William on his last day at Busy Bees. He’ll start at his new nursery after Christmas.

William the former Busy Bee

And here’s Martha on the last day at school before the Christmas break.

Martha in mufti

It’s wonderful to see them both doing so well, and I’ll say it again: the worst thing about the pandemic is that we aren’t able to spend time with our beautiful grandchildren.

Brandy balls

What’s this? Another foodie photo? Are you alright, Mick? Yes, I’m fine, thanks. But you need to see Liesel’s bourbon balls, made with, not bourbon, but French brandy. Brandy balls. Liesel also baked cookies and included crème de cassis. We’ve had a bottle of that particular poison for many, many years too and it’s time to finish it all off. With white wine, it makes a cocktail called kir, something Sarah and I used to enjoy during our brief cocktail-making period.

My radio show this week was full of Christmas cheer, and you are welcome to listen to two hours of fun and frolics here.

And so, the first of the Christmas snacks have been opened. Liesel’s justification is that we are now on the first day of the Christmas Radio Times. Salt and pepper cashew nuts. M&S salted pretzel sticks. All very tasty of course. Liesel’s career as a food critic is slowly taking off. ‘These pretzel sticks are long, they’re like covid tests.’ I don’t know why M&S feel the need to straighten out pretzels, to be honest.

As this is the last post before the big day, Liesel and I would like to wish a very merry Christmas to all our readers, visitors, viewers and other passers-by. Thanks for joining us during a period of antics not quite as exciting as our gap-year travels a couple of years ago, but we’re looking forward to a much more adventurous 2021.

Ahh, gap-year travels, the good old pre-covid days! Here’s something I wrote that wasn’t published at the time, for some reason. Imagine we’re in Fiji, late 2018, mostly taking buses here and there…

Suva bus station is organised chaos. There are several different bus companies, there are several bays, there are hundreds of people, and to move around you have to walk between moving buses. Yes, there are signs saying not to cross over except at the designated places, but those designated places are never where you actually need them.

On the first bus, we bought $15 cards which was enough to cover the fare from Nadi to Pacific Harbour. Each card now has $3.50 credit. Can we use this towards another fare? No.

The second bus, we paid a man at the bus station, he wrote out a ticket which we then had to present to the driver when we got off the bus at our destination.

On one occasion we paid the driver when we got on but didn’t receive a ticket, so we’re glad nobody, no inspector, asked to see it.

On the ride from Pacific Harbour back to Nadi, we paid a man halfway back. He took my last $50 bill and got off the bus when it stopped for a break at a market. I thought I would never see him again. But he did eventually reappear with my change, but again, no tickets.

Seagulls playing chicken

And so, as the days become shorter but at a slower rate than before, and the radio waves are filled with more and more seasonal music, I realise that it’s very nearly the end of the year. But before we go, there will be a couple more posts here. Yes, even when nothing much happens. Some days are rounded off nicely with a half-decent sunset. I say ‘half-decent’ because it would be even better without those roofs in the view.

Sunset over Northenden

The highlight of the week for Liesel was a Zoom call with Martha in which they made some Christmas decorations together. Both girls did very well.

Martha did very well

The highlight for me I think was taking a really good picture of our heron, in flight, coming towards me. It was good timing, really, he was flying away from someone on the opposite bank of the river.

Heron on the Mersey

Yes, we’re still going out for walks in the local area, it’s been quite a while since we ventured outside our own postcode.

Here’s another picture of the heron. He’s looking at me as if to say, ‘I know, I usually fly off when you get your camera out, but honestly, I can’t be bothered right now.’

Heron by the Mersey

One thing we don’t like about being out for a walk these days is those nasty, irritating clouds, swarms, of very small flies, or midges, whatever they are. I hate to think how many we’ve inhaled over the last few weeks. I wonder if they’re just breeding fast thanks to the large number of muddy puddles available right now?

The first Covid-19 vaccine has arrived in the UK and is being given to the most vulnerable people first. So, a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. As more people are vaccinated, things might get back to more normal. We’ll be able to make plans again, hooray! We’ll be able to visit Martha and William again, even bigger hooray! (Oh and Jenny and Liam, I suppose.) (And Helen and Adam but that’s a little further ahead in time.)

Phwoar, that smells like a coal fire. Then we turned the corner and gasped at the sight of this.

Holy smoke, Batman

We don’t see smoking chimneys very much any more, thank goodness, so this one, near Didsbury, took us by surprise. I feel sorry for anyone who had their washing hanging outside to dry. (In this weather?) And to think within my lifetime, this was every house in the neighbourhood. I’m surprised I still have a functioning pair of lungs, to be honest. Thank goodness things are getting better. Oh, apart from new-build houses being sold with wood-burning stoves, ffs.

Something equally surprising but much nicer to see was this tree in the park, blossoming. Maybe it thinks we’re past the worst of Winter this year.

Blossom

Sometimes when you’re walking by the river, you just fancy a sit-down and a foot-bath. Thank goodness someone has provided such facilities.

Rest your feet here

This week saw the 60th anniversary of the TV serial Coronavirus Street. No, Coronation Street. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whole episode, but it’s good to see Northenden joining in with the celebrations, big style.

You’ve been Barlowed

The fairies are taking over the woods. This time when we walked through, we saw many more fairy doors on the trees. So far, we’ve not seen any of the inhabitants, but we do like the bright and cheerful designs.

Lots and lots of fairy doors

Also in Kenworthy Woods, decorations on the ad hoc Christmas tree have spread out a bit further.

The world-famous tree that isn’t really a Christmas tree

One of the most entertaining five minutes of the week was spent by the river, just above the weir. The seagulls were playing chicken. They’d fly around for a bit, land on the water by the bridge, then drift downstream with the water. The last one to take flight before plummeting over the weir itself was declared the winner.

Chicken

The person we felt most sorry for this week was someone, presumably fairly local, who went shopping and left their toilet rolls in the trolley afterwards. I hope it wasn’t an emergency visit.

Lost pooperty

Our online entertainment this week included Artists Against War: A Stop the War Online Xmas Fundraiser. We were entertained by various poets, actors and activists for over two hours. There was an auction too for Stop The War, but (a) we don’t need any more clutter and (b) thank goodness other people had pockets deeper than we were prepared to dig.

Alexei Sayle, Tariq Ali, Brian Eno, Jeremy Corbyn, Salena Godden and Mark Rylance

I wish I’d had the foresight to record Mark Rylance singing the Irish folk song Arthur McBride, a capella, it was very moving.

On the radio show this week, I spoke with Ciro from the online band Daphne Did It. Their new single Black Rose was released on the same day. Watch the Black Rose video here. The show otherwise was a bit of a mish-mash: some Christmas songs, some requests, some songs left over from previous themed shows. You can listen here. Just one more show before Christmas, and it will be mostly Christmas tunes of course. I am happy to receive any requests and suggestions, please use the Contact page, somewhere near the top of this page, I think!

10,000 steps a day

Later in the day than usual, we went for a walk. There was a small window of opportunity between the forecast rain, darkness and the always threatening lethargy. It’s colder now too, but I am, to Liesel’s consternation, still sporting my shorts. I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of the sight of my legs, especially the joggers and dog-walkers of Northenden.

Christmas tree in the woods


Fairy door

Colourful graffiti

Didsbury Mosque

Some sad news. Our antepenultimate incandesecent light bulb blew this week, causing the circuit breaker to, well, break. We were plunged into darkness for a few minutes.


Olde worlde light bulbs

This is a very old box. Made in the EEC, an ancestor of the EU. I know that so-called ‘energy saving’ light bulbs are better than they used to be, but it’s still nice to flick a switch and see light straightaway!

In other light-related news… well, bear with me.

We’re still part-time de-cluttering. So, this week, I passed on most of my tools,
because I haven’t used them for years, and somebody else might be able to make use of them. I won’t be doing any more big DIY projects.

But of course, something needed doing almost straightaway. I installed the pretty glass lightshade that survived a journey all the way from Malta. If I’d used its accompanying cord, it would have been hanging at about chest level in the hall. So we had to use the much shorter cord that was, after all, already attached in position. Unfortunately, the hole in the top of the glass shade was too big. So I fashioned a large washer, an annulus, from an old tin lid using my remaining, iron age tools. It seems to have worked.


Lightshade or lampshade?

Here’s the newly installed shade, and you can see the old one, a gourd from Mexico, complete with newly replaced incandescent, light bulb in the distance.

While in the process of doing it myself, I became aware that every time I do a such a job, I end up apologising to Liesel in advance, in case it falls over, falls down, falls off or falls apart.


Another day, another walk. Nice to see some blue sky with some fluffy clouds, even if that means a few degrees lower in temperature.


Pylon of the day

Scarecrow in the allotments

We had a big family celebration as Myra turned 90 years of age. Mother to Sarah and Granny to Jenny and Helen. Mick’s mother-in-law number 1.


Myra’s first-ever Google Meet call

Top row: Henrik, Astrid, Michael (Norway), Jenny, Richard (Philadelphia) (Mick and Liesel in a little box in the top corner). Bottom row: Myra (Kent) and Helen (Australia). (Michael and Richard are Sarah’s brothers, Astrid is Michael’s wife, Henrik is their son.)

Here’s another picture from Helen’s point of view a little earlier.


Google Meet, but I think generically referred to as a Zoom call

It includes Liam and Hanna (Henrik’s sister) who both had to go back to work. Real life gets in the way of so much fun.

I wonder what I’ll do for the first time in my life on my 90th birthday?


Another day, another walk.


Birthday balloon on a bridge

We don’t know whose birthday was being celebrated (not Myra’s) but having a party on the bridge over the Mersey is a bit strange. You think that’s strange? Well, wait ’til you see what we saw in the woods just over the bridge.


Someone loitering within tent

Someone has apparently taken up residence here in a small and what must be very cold tent. Of course, it might just be normal day-to-day Northenden fly-tipping.

The sky wasn’t as bright today. In fact, I said to Liesel that this week’s blog should be called ’50 Shades of Grey’, but I changed my mind.

50 Shades of Grey

On another walk, we heard a honk from the other side of the river.
Liesel: Crumbs, someone blew their nose louder than you.
Mick: We’ll see about that.
Liesel: Don’t you dare.
So I didn’t. I know my place.

On another occasion, while walking by the river, a runner stopped to let us pass along the path first, losing his rhythm. This is a first, after 8 months of social distance restrictions. Usually runners and joggers just carry on regardless, breathing heavily in our direction, unless we jump into the bushes out of their way.

Our walks have changed a lot during the course of the last few weeks. We used to walk on a nice, crisp bed of fallen leaves. But this has slowly turned to mush, so basically we’re walking on slushy, slippery, semi-composted vegetation.

Yes, Christmas is coming along fast. We’ve not put up our decorations yet, but we know someone who has started.

Martha and William with their tree

William and Martha helped decorate the tree, and a good job they made of it too.

This week’s Radio Northenden show was based around the theme of Connection. This was inspired by the Connection Festival taking place this month in Manchester. Festival coordinator Ali Davenport joined me on the show, by telephone. Yes, for the first time, I had a guest. Another exciting learning experience for me. Listen again here.

You can download Ali’s Soul Survival Guide and other inspiring books free here. And this is the first official listing I’ve ever been listed on, so that’s quite exciting! Another small contribution to my fifteen minutes of fame.

Newsflash: Local Northenden news. George has been found. The dog went missing a couple of weeks ago and posters have appeared on lampposts and fences all over town. We can rest easy now.

Nothing much

There has been a lot of sitting about this week. As usual. We tend to sit when we’re doing our things. And when we’re not doing anything.

Mick: I’m going to write this week’s blog.
Liesel: But nothing happened this week.
Mick: Oh, I’m sure I’ll think of something.
Mick in his head: And if not, I’ll make something up.

So here we all are, living in a rainbow.

It would be rude to put up a picture of someone else’s Christmas lights (that doesn’t usually stop you) but it’s nice to see them going up, as we approach the end of November.


The cold, dark evenings don’t stop the vandals from venturing out, unfortunately.

Picnic table out of order

Usually, we don’t use this picnic table beside the river because (a) someone else is sitting there (b) we didn’t bring a picnic or (c) most often, it’s just wet from all the rain.

It’s a bit late in the month, but here is our local war memorial in Northenden. We just haven’t been for a walk in this direction for quite a while.

War Memorial

We try to look up, not down, but some sights are just too horrible to ignore. Some people.

Fly-tipped oil drums

Things really are desperate when I resort to posting photos of what’s left of a chicken.

Feathers

I was going to collect them and make a feather boa for somebody’s Christmas, but Liesel said No.

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Well, I went down to the woods and I was surprised. One of the trees in Kenworthy Woods has been turned into a Christmas tree by three delightful cousins, Isabelle, Isaac and Jacob.

Merry Christmas, everybody

We’re all invited to go along and add our own baubles and tinsel. At the time of writing, there is a more conventional Christmas tree outside our local Tesco, but it hasn’t yet been decorated.

We went for a walk later than usual one day. Fearing that it might be dark by the time we got back home, I think we both walked a little faster than we intended. A jolly good work-out. And our reward was seeing some colour in the sky. Not quite the Northern Lights, but we’ll take anything colourful right now.

Sunset over the Mersey

A little bit of pink and a little bit of orange.

Twilight zone

One day we walked by the pub. There was a queue outside, and a group of people over the road with their pints, sharing space with the wheelie bins.

Ivy fighting its way through the fence

Everyone in Northenden will probably tell me this sign has been here for years, but I’ve only just noticed it.

Go slow

At least with a 20 mph speed limit in the residential areas, some drivers might slow down to 40 or so, so that’s good.

We succumbed to temptation and purchased a Treat Box from The Northern Den: a chocolate orange cookie, a white chocolate and raspberry cookie, a jammie dodger cupcake, a Kinder Bueno cupcake, a biscoff brownie and an Oreo brownie.
You want a photo? They didn’t last long enough! This cake wasn’t part of the deal, but it looks delicious.

Another fine cake from Dani’s Bakehouse, Northern Den

No I didn’t try a fingerful of icing, but it was close.

We were sitting at home doing nothing much when our ears perked up at the sound of clip-clopping. That sounds like horses, we said to each other. It was a funeral passing by, which is sad, but conversely, the most interesting thing that’s happened in our neighbourhood this week.

Funeral procession

The theme for the radio show this week was Happiness (please listen here), so I had to include songs of that name by Ken Dodd and Tom Hingley, and you don’t often see those two in the same room.

Mick the DJ

This is a picture of me with the equipment for my Radio Northenden show, microphone and headphones.

Next week’s show is about Connection. Please send me your song suggestions and I’ll see what I can fit into the two hours. And don’t forget to tune in to Radio Northenden at two o’clock on Friday afternoon, it’ll be lovely to see your name up on the screen! (
I don’t normally say what’s coming up next week because I haven’t decided a whole week in advance, but next week’s show should be special.)

Hmm, as we thought, not much occurred this week, so here’s something I made up. Well, my subconscious made it up to keep me entertained while I was sleeping.

Me and my old school friend Oscar flew to Sydney for the weekend. We then drove north to Hayman Island, Queensland. I knew we had to book in on the mainland before taking a boat to the island itself. We found the resort shop which was full of disappointingly cheap and nasty tourist tat. We booked our tickets and accommodation and then ate in the greasy spoon canteen. I had a good look round, but then I couldn’t find Oscar. He’d gone missing. I kept looking for him, I asked the receptionist where the nearest hotel was, Oscar might have gone for a kip. Oh no, there are no hotels here, she snootily replied. Then she remembered. Oh, there is a backpackers one just over there, pointing across the road, behind a fence. Well, it was nearby, but it was a long walk. I asked at their reception desk whether Oscar had booked in, the guy said he didn’t know. Then I remembered I could try and call or message him, but my phone was nearly dead, and in any case, the Internet was very slow. A pretty girl said, ‘There are problems with all the phones around here, I feel sorry for the girls.’ Girls? ‘Hookers.’ Oh well, my friend Oscar’s out here somewhere if you want try and find him. ‘Oh, I’m not a prostitute,’ she told me in no uncertain terms. I thought, well you’re pretty enough.
Notes:

  • In real life, I haven’t seen Oscar since he left for San Diego in about 1984.
  • Flying to Sydney for the weekend is not really a viable option.
  • Driving from Sydney to Hayman Island is not a quick trip. It’s probably a 24-hour drive.
  • Hayman Island is a beautiful resort in the Whitsundays. Hello, Adam! Have a look. Dream. One day…
  • I don’t know if there is a shop and/or a greasy spoon restaurant on the mainland attached to the resort, in real life.
  • Also, in real life, we’d book everything in advance.
  • I’m not really a sexist pig who thinks every pretty girl could or should be on the game.

This is why I rarely tell people my dreams: they need so many explanatory notes and don’t make sense to anyone, not even me, sometimes. Yes, I would love to be able to meet up with old friends. Yes, I would love to be able to go somewhere warm and sunny. But at least my dreams are still Covid-free.

Horizontal

The weeks are tumbling by like dominoes, each one a little different from the week before, but, more importantly, we’re a week closer to the end of this strange disruption to our lives. The good news is that the development of a couple of anti-Covid-19 vaccines has been announced so that looks promising.

Liesel made a carrot cake but objected to the size of the slice I cut for myself. I sent the photo out and asked the wider family whether it was too big. The consensus was, well, it depends on the size of the fork.

Carrot cake

Anyway, subsequent slices were smaller (more normal), and it was delicious but we managed to make it last several days. We would have saved some for you but, you know, social distancing…

The Christmas cactus is still doing very well, the colour of the flowers is delightful.

Christmas cactus

This is probably the pinkest pink I’ve ever seen. More buds are appearing on a daily basis.

Sixteen months ago, we hired a storage unit near where we live. This was a temporary measure until we were more settled in our (now not so) new luxury apartment. The kick up the bum we needed to vacate the facility arrived this week. An email telling us that the rental price was rising by over 150%. Yes, I couldn’t believe it either., That’s a steep price rise in one go. So far we’ve made three trips to bring back the stored items, and one more trip should see it empty. We have to time the visits to avoid the worst of the dodgy weather. Again, we’re in the middle of a rainy season. Jenny has kindly taken the empty crates to store in her loft, and Liesel and I have decided, gulp, at last, to sell our old bicycles, gulp. It’s always sad to say farewell to a faithful old friend.

The inclement weather also meant that this week, we didn’t make it to any National Trust properties for a walk. So we stayed local, in Northenden.

So still runs the river

The Mersey was very high and flowing fast this week. The eddies and whirlpools are quite mesmeric, and it’s interesting to see the ducks and mergansers avoiding the turbulence.

A bench to rest on, by the river

The second plaque was attached to this bench a couple of weeks ago, and later a note appeared from The Authorities asking the perpetrator to get in touch as it was unauthorised. The note has now gone but the second plaque remains.

Simon’s Bridge

We cross this bridge on maybe half of our walks and very often we have to wait for other people to cross before we can. Sometimes we get the impression that we’re the only ones who walk single file in order to maintain a safe social distance while passing other walkers. It’s almost like we’re sending out a signal telling people ‘don’t worry, we’ll move over to one side of the path so you don’t have to’.

Power lines

Sometimes, there are birds sitting on these power lines, and I try to hum the tune that’s written on the stave in the sky.

Landslip

This bank (levée?) separates the golf course from the ravages of the river. This is one of a few minor(?) landslips that have occurred recently. Hopefully this is as bad as things will get, but if it keeps precipitating this much, who know what will happen?

A ball in the river

We saw some extreme Pooh sticks floating by, well, more like branches that had blown off trees. Plus, a football. But no furniture on this occasion.

As I was perusing these photos, I noticed they had something in common. They are all dominated by horizontal lines. That’s where this post’s title comes from. Not, as you undoubtedly suspected, from the fact that I probably spend more than half my time lying in the comfort of my bed.

Leaf of the day

In our neck of the woods, Wednesday is bin day. Well, it’s Thursday, really, but we put the bins out on Wednesday because the first couple of times, the refuse collectors arrived way too early on a Thursday morning with their very loud lorries. So, each Wednesday, I get up with a bounce in my step because it’s bin day.

It’s a fortnightly cycle. One week, it’s the grey (landfill), green (food waste and garden waste) and blue (paper and cardboard recycling) wheelie bins. The other week it’s just the brown (glass, plastic and metal recycling bins). It’s taken a year for me to get this division settled in my mind. Not helped when the system was tampered with during the first lockdown. I even came up with a mnemonic. All the bins go out together, apart the brown ones. Brown goes out on its own. Br-own. Geddit?

I waited until the rain eased off before hauling our week’s waste downstairs and distributing it amongst the various bins. The plan was to take the bins out and then go for a longer walk. It was quite mild, and I don’t mind a bit of light rain. I took one bin at a time out onto the pavement. That’s 6 grey bins, 2 blue ones and the green one. Why so many grey bins? One for each flat in the block plus a spare. And this week, we got our money’s worth by filling the spare one ourselves, hooray. It’s such a good feeling to throw out stuff that we don’t need any more.

And on every return trip, I noticed the rain was becoming harder. I was determined to finish the chore though. After about half of the bins were succssfully lined up on the pavement, I decided I didn’t need to go for a long walk in this much rain after all. It got even harder. It was so hard in the end, that my waterproof hat, the one I’d bought in the Lake District, where they ought to know about waterproof clothing, all those years ago, proved inadequate. The rain just penetrated the fabric of the hat much like gamma rays penetrate thick sheets of lead. For the first time ever, the rainproof hat let me down.

Once back inside, I had to shake the water off all my clothes before entering our flat. It was time for a shower, no need to keep those wet clothes on.

The next day was proper bin day. We expect to be visited by three separate trucks. We had plans for later in the day, so we went for our walk at about 10 o’clock. I noticed that everyone else had put the wrong bins out. Everyone had left their brown (glass, plastic, tins) bins on the pavement. I guessed what had happened: somebody got the wrong week and put their brown bin out, and everyone else had looked out the window and copied them.

No. Of course not. You’ve guessed: it was me that was a week out of sync with the schedule. I distinctly remember taking out just one brown bin last week, though. Hmmm. Maybe it wasn’t last week, but the week before. Yes, that’s it, someone else must have taken out the 7 or 8 or 9 bins last week. So I got soaked yeserday for no good reason at all. It’s a 50-50 chance, and I got it wrong. Not for the first time. Another reminder that this is why I steer well clear of betting shops.

So before we could set off on our walk properly on Bin Day, I added one of the three brown bins to the line-up on the pavement. The other two were empty, always a bonus. On our return, we lugged all of them back to the bin cupboard. I look forward to taking the wrong bin(s) out again next week.

As I write, we are celebrating William’s 3rd birthday. We had a family Zoom meeting this morning (meeting!): sadly, there’ll be no party for William this year. But it was nice to see Aunty Helen and Uncle Adam in Australia, Nana and Papa, Aunty Andrea, Uncle Paul, Emily and Annabel as well as Jenny, Liam, Martha and the birthday boy.

William and his cake

The cake is based on characters from PJ Masks, a show that I’d never even heard of until quite recently. I probably shouldn’t have laughed when William told us about one of the characters, Night Minja. On the other hand, I felt quite sad that Hey Duggee! might now be out of favour.

If you’re interested in hearing the theme tunes from those two TV shows, please listen to my lastest radio show on Radio Northenden. The theme this week is Toys and Games and it’s geared towards the little chap’s birthday. William even makes a guest appearance.

Here’s a bonus photo because you’ve read (or scrolled) all the way to the bottom, thank you!

Christmas cactus a week later

A week later, and just look at this gorgeous display of almost luminescent pinky goodness.

The snail, the robin and the badger

Our days are filled with cream and jam and chocolate chips. No, actually, that’s cakes, isn’t it? Our days are filled with music, radio, puzzles, TV, books, twitter and trying to avoid as much news as possible. We’re allowed out for exercise but some days it’s hard to get motivated. We always feel better for going out, but why we both feel so lethargic sometimes is strange. If we’re both affected by the malaise at the same time, it’s really bad, man.

But we had a very pleasant walk at Quarry Bank Mill. It falls between Lyme Park and Dunham Massey in terms of hilliness of the terrain. If hilliness is a word. Well, it is now.

Mossy tree

Tree leaning over the stream

I do like a sign that rhymes. Sometimes, it’s called ‘found poetry’. There aren’t enough of them in the world.

Styal ½ mile

Another example, that we look forward to driving by again one day, on the M40: Historic Warwick.

A very pleasant view

A rock, a hard place

If you squint and maybe inhale or consume some illegal pharmaceuticals, you might see a skull wearing a green wig. Or maybe that’s just me. Really, it’s just a bare rock with a bush on top.

Badger

This isn’t a real badger, as the little chap told his mother.

Apple bobbing on an industrial scale

We returned to Fletcher Moss Gardens, not Fletcher Moss Park as I think I’ve always called it. We sat on a bench in the rockery while we drunk our coffee. Our old friend came by to say hello.

Robin

Actually, he didn’t say anything at all, he was very polite. Sadly we had no bugs with which to feed him.

In other news this week, I suppose I ought to mention the recent exciting election results. We are all very proud of Martha who has been elected to her primary school’s parliament, the ministry of justice.

Martha MP

When asked what this meant in practice, Martha replied ‘I’m in charge of the whole school.’ She’ll go far.

In local news, the derelict Tatton Arms is at last being redeveloped. There’ll be 28 new residences but at least the riverside footpath is being retained.

The former Tatton Arms

The local churchyard is looking much tidier than a few weeks ago: the volunteers have done a really good job. What they couldn’t stop is all those leaves falling off the tree.

St Wilfrid’s churchyard

In wildlife news, we have been invaded by snails. I saw two on this wall just along the road in Northenden. I think October’s rainfall has helped with the population explosion.

Snail

We enjoyed a sunny day by the river. Apricity. We could feel the warmth of the Sun on our backs while feeling the cold wind on our faces. I’m sure there must be a way of utilising this temperature differential to produce energy, but I’ll leave that project for a real scientist or a real engineer.

Long shadow of the day

Golf courses are closed for business right now, so we were able to take a short-cut on one of our (not quite) daily walks.

Some love in the bunker

The other advantage (for us) of the golf courses being closed is that it is much safer walking along Ford Lane, by the river. There are far fewer golf players bombing along this narrow lane, desperate to splash us as they drive through the road-wide puddles.

At home, Liesel continues to be creative. Say hello to our new lodger, our tomte, similar to a garden gnome but Scandinavian.

Tomte

As well as needle felting, Liesel has been busy crocheting and knitting. Oh and baking cookies that have a very short shelf-life. I just can’t stop eating them.

This week, my Radio Northenden show was about America, now that it might be on the road to being great again. There were two slices of American Pie and four different songs called America. Please listen here.

The coot and the hedgehog

We survived what was the fifth wettest October since records began. On our (not quite) daily walks, we managed to mostly avoid the rain but we were caught out a couple of times. I think the ducks enjoyed the wet weather though, even venturing as far as the bank (levée?) that separates the Mersey from the golf course.

Ducks of the day

We visited a couple of National Trust places this week, because at first we didn’t know whether they would stay open during this second national lockdown. But they will be open and we shall return.

Dunham Massey was good, although we had to shelter from a couple of showers, under trees that don’t provide as much cover as they used to. Also, we were delighted by how few other visitors were there, so maintaining social distance was not a problem.

Pretty car park
What a big thistle

Thanks to Helen, we now know this is a teasel.
You probably think I should have asked Liesel.
I did, she said it was a thistle.
Next time, I’ll just give a whistle. [Added 21/11/20]

We only saw a couple of deer this time, but most of the deer park was out of bounds, it’s another rutting season.

Reflection
Coot of the day
A cabaret of colour
Hedgehog of the day
Selfie of the day
Dogwood

No, it’s not a real hedgehog. It’s a prickly plant of sort sort that’s caught a few hundred fallen leaves.

Our second NT venue was Lyme Park, a couple of days later. It was drier today, a little bit windier and our long walk was much hillier.

We’ve received kale a couple of times in our weekly fruit and veg box, and I wondered what it looked like out in the wild. And now, I think I know.

Leaf of the day
Selfie of the day (with Darcy’s lake behind)

We watched a coal tit by the bird feeder for a few minutes. What a tease. It knew I wanted to take a picture but it wouldn’t keep still.

Reflection

Lyme Park was a bit squidgier in places, too. One day, we’ll return all the mud that was splashed up the back of our legs.

Muddy path of the day

Indoors, Liesel is still busy with her crafts, needle felting and crocheting, I’m still ‘sorting out the photos’ and fighting some of the software on my computer. Moan of the week: stop ‘improving’ programs and making them harder to use.

One big surprise is that our Christmas cactus has buds, so it will be well molly-coddled for the next few weeks.

Christmas cactus

Sorry if it’s too early in the year to mention the C word. Obviously, we have no plans for the festive season: we keep coming up with ideas but we just don’t know what the state of the world will be.

We’ve been entertained by some of the loudest fireworks in the universe for a couple of weeks. We’ve seen a few pretty, colourful fireworks, but mostly they’ve just been very loud bangers. Including at two o’clock in the morning!

We’re looking forward to watching Mission Impossible: 45, in which a team of crack agents are sent in to extract a rogue ex-president from the White House. I think it’s on straight after the Queen’s Speech.

My radio show this week was all about Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, listen back here.