Terrific Pacific

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

Hallé St Peters

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

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

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

O’Hooley and Tidow with a young fan

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

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

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

St Wilfrid’s

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

Millennium Banner

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

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

Severe Alert, said my phone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terrace Gardens, Richmond, overlooking the river

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wythenshawe FM presenters

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

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

Flying the red, white and blue

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

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

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

William and Martha

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

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

Meetings

I don’t know why, but out of the blue, I remembered a pair of bookends that I had when I was a child. They were wooden. One had a dog and the other had a cat and, when propping up books, it looked as though the cat was about to leap over the books onto the dog. Very cute. And I thought, you don’t see bookends much any more.

It’s always a bonus when you can walk home from a gig. On this occasion, I walked up the road to Northenden Theatre to watch an evening of comedy. Plane Comedy was one of the events that made up Northenden’s Arts Festival a year or so ago. Plane Comedy returned with six comedians. The only thing wrong was, they were all men. Out of six, I can’t believe they couldn’t drag at least one female comedian along to participate. Still, it was a very good evening, hanks to Mike Carter, Charlie Lewis (yeah, him again!), Jack Miller, Ben Hodge, Eddie Fortune, Stan Ridgeway and the MC, Lewis ‘Big Lou’ Jones. I was even able to enjoy alcohol during the interval.

Plane Comedians

The next day was Mothers’ Day, something that I was totally oblivious to until Liesel mentioned it in passing. She’s still in Anchorage with her Mom and I’m glad to report there hasn’t been any more snow recently. She’s coming home soon so I’ve got to tidy up a bit, and hide evidence of all the rowdy parties I’ve enjoyed.

The first person I met during a busy week of meetings was my GP. We discussed the results of my recent echocardiogram which showed that really, there’s nothing wrong with the old ticker, and I should go back in three years’ time for another echo.

Next up, in Didsbury, I met Chris Mitchell, DJ and entertainer. We met in Didsbury and I recorded our chat for this week’s radio show. It’s his birthday this week too.

Chris Mitchell

Walking the back streets of Didsbury, and guess what I came across?

Bookends

That’s right, bookends, in the form of two red Ford Fiesta Zetecs. What are the chances?

To conclude a busy day, well, busy by my standards, I attended a meeting in Wythenshawe for us volunteers at the local, community radio station. I’m slowly putting faces to the names and the voices.

It was my turn to collect the children from school this week, and I took them to Quirky Misfits, the coffee shop in Northenden. Martha was delighted to be able to buy the ‘Love Potion’ pendant that she’d asked for last time. Of course, it was only fair that William buy something too. I would never have guessed that he would choose… a pair of halloween socks. ‘It’s not halloween for a long time,’ I said. ‘In this shop, it’s halloween every day,’ said Lydia! Quite right too.

William concentraing

There are some games in the shop too, and William recognised Ker-plunk from school. His level of concentration while putting the device together was lovely to see, even when things didn’t quite go right.

Warning

Thankfully, they were both very well bahaved, enjoyed their drinks and snacks. William had a nice brownie, while Martha went for a slice of Cookie Pie. What’s in a Cookie Pie? Cookies around the outside, cookies on the base and  all filled with cookies. It was too much: Martha took half of it home in a box. A couple of days later, this advert appeared on Instagram.

Cookie Pie advert

Before taking them home, we went for a play in the Riverside Park playground. Yes, after all that sugar, their energy levels were maxed out. I’m not sure William’s quite got the idea of ‘slides’…

William on the slide

Nor of monkey bars…

William on the monkey bars

Oh well!

After taking Martha and William home, I set off for Salford. Liesel and Leslie should have been with me, to watch Danny Baker again. The show was similar to the Buxton edition a few weeks ago, but as time goes on the stories change and morph. Another three and a half hours non-stop talking and pacing up and down the stage.

Danny Baker on stage

After the show, I asked a member of staff to take me ’round the back’ to meet Danny. He’d invited me (well, all listeners to his Treehouse podcast) to go round the back whenever we saw him.

We had a nice chat and he gave me a terrific voicenote/jingle thing for my own radio show. Tune in to hear it sometime! Of course, in the heat of the moment, I forgot to take his picture in the luxurious dressing room. And I forgot to show off my collection of the giveaways from various incarnations of his show over the years. And I think he is genuinely looking forward to retiring, to his third act.

And lo, it was my birthday. I feel I’ve had enough birthdays. So, treating it as a normal day, I went out for the second of three organised walks this week. Today’s was a bit wet. Light drizzle mostly but quite a downpour for a couple of minutes. So much so, that one of our number took a tram back to the Forum. The rest of us merely took a shortcut, missing out some potentially slippery woods.

William and Martha invited me out for a birthday meal, so I went round to their place and we all walked over to Gusto.

William and Grandad

Very nice, very tasty, thank you.

Back to Wythenshawe next day for another walk followed by a coffee! In the afternoon, I witnessed the event of the week in Northenden. The official opening of the Little Library in the Riverside Park playground. We’d seen it there when we went to play after school, but I didn’t realise at the time that it had only been intsalled the previous day.

Northenden’s Little Library

Anyone can leave, borrow or take books, so I hope it gets well used.

Dave cutting the ribbon

It was nice to see a few local celebrities there too, Dave the chief local litter-picker, Mary the ex-councillor and Pam the poet who recited one of her poems.

On this week’s radio show, I had a chat with Chris Mitchell (as mentioned before) and I also celebrated my birthday so if you missed it on Wythenshawe Radio, click here to catch up.

One more thing

It’s been on the to-do list for a long time, and with the luxury apartment to myself for a few weeks, this is the perfect opportunity to sort out the paperwork. I can leave piles of paper all over the floor. Organised chaos for a while! Literally thousands of sheets, mostly A4 size, have been sifted, sorted then retained, recycled or shredded. The shredding process is quite time-consuming, noisy, messy but ultimately satisfying. Maybe this could become my new money-making side-hustle. Anyone need something shredded? 10p a sheet?

There is a mountain of cardboard to be chucked out too. Sadly, some of what I thought were empty shoe boxes contain precious possessions of Liesel’s, so I’m not recovering as much space as anticipated.

Getting out for a walk has proved more challenging this week, as Winter is once again getting the last word in before going away completely. On Wednesday it started snowing, just a flurry, a smattering of snowflakes, but we still walked along the river as far as Simon’s Bridge and back. The new shops and flats in Palatine Road will, I’m sure, be nice when they’re finished, but right now, it just looks like someone is playing with oversize Meccano.

Palatine Road’s new erection
Crocuses

I thought I’d drift off to sleep listening to a radio drama. How long was it? According to BBC Sounds: 1339 mins! Well, it was really only 19 minutes. Three people find themselves trapped in a pitch black, flooding mine. Is this the end? ‘Danger’ or ‘The Mine Play’ is regarded as the BBC’s first ever radio drama. Originally broadcast live in February 1923, when the audience was invited to listen in the dark for maximum effect. This version was re-recorded to mark the play’s 50th anniverary. Written by Richard Hughes.

I did listen in the dark, and It was quite spooky, so it probably didn’t help me fall asleep.

In Anchorage, Liesel has been working in the office a couple of days. How she gets any work done with a view like this is beyond me.

View from the office

Speed skaters encounter a moose while the mountains compete with blue skies for your attention.

I picked Martha and William up from school and both told me it had been snowing earlier in the day. We went to a different soft play place this time, Let Loose. Apart from the slides, the main attraction is the slushies. Both wanted one, a mix of Red and Blue. ‘Oh you mean slushies?’ queried the sales girl. ‘Yes, what did I say?’ ‘You asked for smoothies.’ I realised I’d probably never asked for slushies before, anywhere.  

In the cage

I know it’s there for safety reasons, but it’s really hard getting decent photos through the mesh. But this really is Martha and William up there.

Whingeing about the weather is what makes the world go round. While I don’t mind the cold, and I don’t mind wind, one thing that really makes me cross is cold wind blowing in one ear and out the other. But that’s what was on offer in Wythenshawe this week. Two days in a row. Cold wind blowing from left to right, regardless of whichever direction I was walking in.

White stuff

The snow was never really heavy enough to show up in a photo, so here is a picture of flakes of paint thanks to some decorators in the shopping centre in Wythenshawe. On the second day, one guy was half-heartedly sweeping up their mess.

Mixed results in technical news. I couldn’t quite get the old disk drive to boot up into Windows 7 on the laptop. So close, but it gave up with scary-looking error messages that weren’t on-screen long enough to read. This was all way outside my comfort zone.

On the other hand, I was able to recover lost files from the recently zapped SD card. I guess I’ll never know whether I’ve got every single picture back, but I’m happy with the results. Message to self: backup the photos every time you take one.

This week on the old Wythenshawe Radio show, I marked International Women’s Day by playing mostly female singers. Catch up here.

All change

We often hear about the butterfly effect. Where the flap of a butterfly’s wing in Northenden can eventually result in a cyclone in the Pacific Ocean. Or as some people would have it, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Well, there we were, Liesel and me, passing time on a peaceful Saturday afternoon, when the phone rang. This call was to change our plans for the next month or so.

We were preparing to welcome Liesel’s Mom to our home in a few days time. I was writing something very important, well, maybe not, when Liesel answered the phone. Her Mom’s house in Anchorage was letting in water. There had been so much snow this Winter, the roof could no longer take all the ice and snow. Water was coming in though windows and by any other route it could find. I don’t think Liesel even made the offer, she just said that she was flying over to help out.

Within a couple of hours, flights had been booked and in some cases rearranged. Liesel would fly to Anchorage the following day, and they’d both come back to the UK at the end of March.

Suddenly, our (very tenuous) plans for Sunday changed. Liesel called her cousin in Richmond, and thanks to Andi and Steve, we had accommodation close to Heathrow from where Liesel was flying out.

It took just a few minutes to pack. I was staying away from home for one night, and although Liesel’s away for a month, she has more suitable clothing in Anchorage. Several feet of snow and temperatures below -10°C do not sound very appealing to me.

We drove over to say a quick hello goodbye to Jenny and family. Martha was a bit sad that Great-Oma might not be here for her birthday (in April) but we’re fairly sure they’ll both be back by then.

In an exciting turn of events, we saw a couple of foxes in the garden, quite healthy looking animals too.

Fox in the garden

We drove to Richmond, nothing remarkable, a bit of drizzle here and there, a bit cloudy although we were driving towards the Sun on the odd occasion.

Andi and Steve took us on a bit of a pub crawl. Not because we were imbibing at every port of call, but we were looking for a pub that was still open for dinner.

We briefly visited The Prince’s Head, where they are still proud of being used as a location in the popular TV series Ted Lasso.

Prince’s Head

Liesel’s enjoyed the show and has recommended it to me, and I’m sure I’ll catch up with it one day, even though I’m not a big football fan.

We found ourselves at The Cricketers, near Richmond Green, the starting point for many a charity bike ride in the olden days. Here we ate a hearty supper and as luck would have it, it was quiz night. What a good quiz, too. We came second, losing by a single point. So close!

Pomegranate tree towering over Liesel and Andi

This pomegranate tree is, I believe, the only one in Richmond, apart from those at Kew Gardens of course. On a bad night, drunk men will attempt to climb it and, when challenged, will fall down onto the carefully nurtured flower beds below.

We drove to Heathrow Airport via Richmond Park, where we dropped Andi and Steve off to go deer-hunting. Well, deer spotting, I suppose. I hope they got some good photos and had a good walk back home afterwards.

I then dropped Liesel off at the airport, and set off for Kingston. I parked up and went into The Rose Theatre for a quick cup of coffee. The place was full of buggies, it was like a buggy showroom.

Buggies

I’m no detective, but I think there may have been some entertainment taking place for mums and babies.

I wandered around Kingston for a while, noticing a few changes in the retail sector since my last visit.

Wild Chimp Imitation by Gillie and Marc

I met Stella and Ian in Eden Walk shopping centre, and they haven’t changed a bit. That’s not their photo, by the way, that’s Anya and Hugo, age 14 and 4. Like us, chimps learn throughs imitation. They will observe the members of their communities, particularly their mother, to learn the necessary skills needed for their survival. They will also imitate emotions, showing a high level of empathy. At least, that’s what the plaque says anyway.

It was nice catching up with old friends in Apia Café. This was a new place to me. I realised later that a long, long time ago, Stella and I had worked together in an office just down the road from this location.

We walked over to John Lewis where I left them. I followed my nose to The Bentall Centre.

Bentall Centre

From here. it was a short walk back to the car park. From there, it was a long haul back home. 5¾ hours, again uneventful, apart from a couple of incidents resulting in very slow-moving traffic for a while. In one case, I noticed a burnt-out van. In the other, I have no idea what the hold-up was.

Please don’t accuse me of not being loyal to any particular radio station. In the car, I can’t get BBC 6 Music, or Boom Radio, but I did flit from Radio 2 to Radio 3  to Smooth (where they were talking about the upcoming Take That musical) to Magic (where they were talking about Brian May’s pronouncement that Queen never really liked audience members singing along) to Jack FM (where the music was, imho, much better) back to Radio 2 and 3 then to Radio 4 and then as I got closer to home, Radio Cymru, Radio Wales, Radio Stoke, CWR, Greatest Hits Radio and another one whose name escapes me.

Then ensued a great night’s sleep with some weird but fun dreams. Just don’t ask for details.

The next couple of days offered some fabulous sights in the night sky. Jupiter and Venus are really close to each other at twilight but Manchester’s clouds aren’t transparent enough.

And the Aurora Borealis, which unusually has been visible as far south as Cornwall, is absolutely stunning.

Northern Lights

Thanks to Martin at Manchester Weather for tweeting this wonderful, colourful photo with the caption “The Northern Lights of South Manchester 🤣 Beautiful shades of grey and black with a sprinkle of drizzle!”

We’re being threatened with another Beast from the East, in other words, extremely cold weather and snow. I’d like to say, don’t worry, I’m used it it, I lived in Peterborough for six years. There’s nothing between Peterborough and the Urals, and I’m shivering at the very thought.

We’re not there yet, and I saw bits of the Mersey this week.

Walking by the Mersey

I never saw the heron, but the ducks and geese are out in force, probably getting excited at the prospect of Spring. Huh, they’re in for a shock. As are the daffodils and crocuses that will want to sink back into the ground.

Northenden Village Green

I met up with Hayley for a coffee, and again, it was nice to catch up. Still no heron by the river though.

Back at home, I began the process of sorting out all the paperwork. It’s pretty much split equally three ways between keep, shred and recycle.

As I wrote this today, the soundtrack was Ken Bruce’s final show on Radio 2. I remember when he first turned up, decades ago. ‘He sounds just like Terry Wogan’, I said to my Mum. ‘Don’t be daft, he’s Scottish, Terry Wogan’s Irish’, she said, ‘they sound totally different’. Well, as usual, Mum’s right. And what a great last song to play, Ken: The Beatles’ Golden Slumbers, Carry that Weight and The End.

My own relatively humble radio show on Wythenshawe Radio this week was Mick’s Monochrome Music Mix, the theme being Black and White. Catch it here.

Meanwhile, how’s Liesel doing in Anchorage? Well, I hope she’s keeping warm. The leaks have stopped but the house and roof needs much more attention.

Camouflaged squirrel (well, he tried)

The depth of the snow is being measured in feet. And the size of the Ice Eccles (so dubbed by Martha) is just ridiculous.

Icicles

Residents are advised to wear a hard hat if they go wandering around Anchorage.

Meri Kirihimete

Our walk to Didsbury was uneventful, Unless you count the ducks shouting at us from the river.

Christmas quackers

I don’t think they wanted us to walk over the bridge for some reason. Maybe they just wanted some privacy, thinking Spring was on its way. After all, it was 21 degrees warmer today than it was on the coldest day last week: 14° versus -7°.

After walking back to Northenden, Liesel went straight home while I continued along the river. I had two plans in mind. First, a hot chocolate at Quirky Misfits, which was very nice.

Quirky Christmas Hot Chocolate

And second, a visit to the barber. Yes, my barnet was bit untidy and needed sorting out. It does look better, I admit, but boy, does my neck feel cold now! Still, Liesel approved and that’s all that matters really: she has to look at it, I don’t.

Quirky Christmas lizard

Our regular Wednesday walk was uneventful unless you count having to sit outside Boxx2Boxx with our coffees afterwards. As always before going away for a few days, there were 101 things to do at home at the last minute.

But I didn’t start packing until a couple of hours before we left home. Liesel drove us to Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, where we’d rented a cottage for a week.

The drive was OK, it rained a bit and we didn’t need to worry about glare from the Sun. Our only stop was in Colne, for coffee, and to pass some time as we couldn’t check in until 4pm.

Christmas at Colne

It’s a hilly place, is Colne, we could have had a good workout here. We drove past a tree that was still laden with apples. Very bright apples, I thought they were Christmas baubles at first. In one field, a big sheep and a small pony seemed to be great buddies. And they were about the same size.

We saw many pheasants along the way. They’re not the brightest of birds are they? Standing in the middle of the road playing chicken. At least the crows noshing on a squished bunny have the sense to get out of the way when a car approaches.

We got the keys from the lockbox, parked up, and made several journeys between the car and our accommodation. Time for some stats. It’s supposed to be a holiday, but we’re on the second floor, which means climbing 40 stairs, 40!, compared with only 32 at home. Plus, we brought 16, yes, 16!, bags of stuff with us. No, we’re not staying for six months, just a week. Most of it’s food that we won’t be taking back. I brought my laptop too, and that’s a first. I can do all my usual laptoppy things. Liesel brought her laptop too, so she can do some work. I think my laptoppy things might be more fun.

It was nice to be settled and I made some coffee. Instant, of course. A few minutes later, I took a swig and it tasted… different. Have you adulterated my coffee, I asked Liesel? A grin spread across her face like milk expands when spilt on the kitchen floor. She confessed to adding Baileys to my coffee. No, I didn’t complain.

There seems to be an unwritten competition between us to finish reading The Ink Black Heart. The only reason for our haste is that the book will be deleted from our Kindles in less than two weeks time. Why an electronic copy of a book has to be removed at all is a mystery. Surely the library can ‘lend’ out a hundred copies if it wants?

Bread, cheese, crisps and chutney was our Christmas eve eve eve supper of choice. Highly recommended.

It’s a great cottage, nice and warm, but the trek from my side of the bed to the lavatory is quite long. I should take my pedometer with me, it too needs a good work-out. Needless to say, I had to pay many visits overnight. You’ll probably be blaming the Baileys.

Selfie of the day, by Fountains Hall

We’re actually staying in what you might call the North Wing of Fountains Hall. It’s creaky to say the least, but it’s very comfortable inside. Most of the electrics are modern, but there is at least one power point remaining from the 1920s, the plug has round pins.

Chicken just crossed the road

On Friday, much of the estate is closed to the public because that’s when the locals are allowed to go shooting, in an agreement between the former landowners and the National Trust. I was torn between watching the shooters and maybe having a go, and staying well away from them and not being shot. We played safe, and drove over to Brimham Rocks for a quick walk. Last time we were there was in Summer, with the children. Not so warm today, and it started to drizzle too. Or mizzle as I believe the locals call it, something between mist and drizzle.

Another selfie, at Brimham Rocks

We climbed to the top of the hill, where there’s a trig point. I was tempted to ask Liesel to sit on it for a photo, but I think I know how terse the response would have been.

As the guide said in the video we watched (really just an excuse to get inside, out of the wet for a few minutes), the folks who built the very first visitors’ centre knew exactly what visitors to the countryside want: a view, a loo and a brew.

Turtle through the mist

Back home, we read, drank coffee (plus Baileys), snacked, listened to the radio and relaxed. We have a nice view from our second floor pad, but a bit of sunshine would be nice. Like what they have down under. Yes, Jenny, Liam, Martha and William have arrived in Australia and will be spending Christmas with Helen. In Summer. No, not at all envious!

Martha and William released from the baggage at the airport
Santa, Martha, Helen, William, Jenny and Liam in the Sun

For the second of my two Christmas radio shows on Wythenshawe Radio this year, I ‘shuffled’ the Christmas tunes on my PC. I cheated a bit, of course, to avoid duplicates and there were a couple of songs I wanted to play, regardless. Plus, the usual, regular features: a David Bowie song and something from my Mum and Dad’s record collection.

Thank you for following our antics in 2022. Let us wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy holidays, Feliz Navidad, God Jul, Mele Kalikimaka, Joyeux Noël, Fröhliche Weihnachten, Meri Kirimihete and a Blithe Yule, whoever and wherever you are 🎄🎅🏽🎁

Nada lada

It’s always good to tick things off the to-do list, whether such a list exists on paper or solely in the mind. There wasn’t a lot of ticking off of anything this week, mainly thanks to feeling rough. I hope the cold/flu/covid/whatever-it-is/combo, and it’s the man- version, don’t forget, isn’t transmissible via the medium of blog posts, otherwise you’re in trouble.

I finished a book this week, Micah’s Ghost by Ann Thomas, certainly the strangest ghost story I’ve read for a long time. This has allowed me to start reading a book that Liesel has borrowed from the library. Even though it’s an electronic book, there’s been a waiting list for Robert Galbraith’s The Ink Black Heart for a few months, and finally she’s been able to download it onto her Kindle. And she has kindly shared it with my own Kindle. When I noticed that this novel is over 1400 pages long, I thought I’d never finish that in the three weeks we’re allowed to keep it. But, over the Christmas period, I’m sure we’ll find plenty of time.

By coincidence, we both had appointments with the dentist on the same afternoon this week. In a sit-com, we would have heard each others’ screams of anguish and pain from the room next door, and assumed the worst. But is wasn’t that bad. The receptionist dobbed me in by telling Liesel that I was going to the coffee shop.

What else did we get up to this week? Other than increasing the value of Kleenex shares? I really didn’t fancy going out for the regular walk, despite Liesel insisting that I would feel better if I left the house. My old carcass was having none of it, that day.

Sunset and Christmas lights

It was cold and clear outside, leading to a couple of pretty sunsets.

The highlight of the week though was our visit to the theatre. We saw Betty! A Sort of Musical  at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. Written by Maxine Peake and Seiriol Davies, it tells the story of Betty Boothroyd, the first female Speaker of the House of Commons. The songs were funny, the set was clever and the whole show was great fun. Sadly (?), I didn’t know the songs so I couldn’t croak along. We are honoured to have seen the World Premier performance of this show.

The cast of Betty!

In the interval, I met some new friends in the theatre too.

Boris the bear
Director of the Royal Exchange

Two days after not going out for the regular walk, I felt absolutely fantastic, other than the cough which has now morphed into a blogged-up doze. So we went into Didsbury where Liesel collected her new specs and we enjoyed breakfast at FFS. The Big Issue seller, Adriana’s little electronic payment gadget wasn’t working, probably too cold, and having no cash on us, we couldn’t pay for our mag this week. But she kindly let us keep it anyway, and we’ll make sure she doesn’t lose out.

In Didsbury, we also bumped into this little chap, I hope she finds her way home soon.

Lost kitty

Also, in Didsbury, right next to the opticians is this brand new mural.

Mural Life Mcr

Well, we think it’s new, neither of us have noticed it before. But then, this is maybe why we sometimes need opticians.

What is this week’s big disappointment? Victory Vs aren’t as tasty as they were during my brief addiction to them over 50 years ago. I’m not proud of the fact that for a few months, I ate them all day, stinking out school classrooms with the aroma of liquorice. I don’t think they contain as much chloroform and ether as they used to, either.

This week’s radio show was the first of two this year. I played Christmas songs from my Mum and Dad’s old record collection.

Proper Winter

Here is the latest news. The shower has been repaired and so far, it seems to be leak-proof. The trouble is, and this is entirely my own hang-up, I know, but I’ll never be 100% certain that something is, as Klaus would say, tight as a duck’s ass. By which we mean, it is totally watertight.

My cough continues but its nature has changed. I saw the GP, I’m on antibiotics and I had a chest X-ray. I’m not complaining, but the nurse’s hands were really cold. I think, on the whole, slowly, I’m recovering from whatever lurgy it was. Liesel appears to be a few days behind me on this unwelcome journey. But, talking to people, it seems everyone around here has had a cold, a cough, or flu, or covid, or some bug that’s going round.

I know nobody else on the planet will appreciate this historic landmark, but it needs to be documented.

Nerdle stats

I have a winning streak of 300 now, doing a daily Nerdle puzzle. What a shame I was unaware of it for 17 days after its inception. But I am very grateful to Helen for drawing my attention to it. Also, I have now needed just 3 guesses more often than 4 to reach the correct solution. I would therefore also like to thank all the teachers who encouraged me to develop pretty good mental arithmetic abilities.

It’s proper Winter weather now, with a couple of frosty mornings. Our car is parked in the communal car park, and this time of year, it never sees the Sun. So even if we don’t need to drive anywhere until 2.30pm, we still have to scrape ice off the car. Brrr.

There is no photographic evidence of the female pheasant that was wandering around the car park early one morning. Nope, no idea where it came from. But I did manage to capture the albatross, even if I don’t know why it was crossing the road.

Albatross

One morning, I drove over to Stretford to speak to someone for the radio show. What a pretty neighbourhood. Bridgewater Canal seems to get everywhere.

Bridgewater Canal
Stretford Marina

The Marina was very calm, not a ripple on the surface. Who knew such a place existed?

Afterwards, I visited Stretford Mall for the first time. And possibly for the last time. I parked the car but couldn’t immediately find the shops. Somehow, I left the car park via a fire escape door at the back. I made a mental note of the location. But, of course, being a fire escape door, I couldn’t get back in that way. After walking miles around the car park, I found the shops. And after I left, the only way I could find the car again was by walking up the ramp I’d originally driven up. Come on Stretford: nice canal, but your shopping centre needs some more signage for plonkers like me. But never mind, I told myself, at least I’d walked a long way. That’s true, but there’s no step count because my pedometer was still at home. Grrr.

Stretford Mall

Yes, it’s very nice to see Christmas decorations of course, but I think that Christmas tree is upside down.

Northenden sunset

We enjoyed a couple of pretty sunsets this week. Unfortunately I was unable to witness the Moon’s occultation of Mars so again, I relied on the good folks of Twitter to share photos and videos.

Holly: Christmas photo of the week

Despite the cold weather, the frost and the ice, we went for a couple of walks this week, in Northenden and in Wythenshawe. Once I get out there, I don’t mind the low temperature, but to actually get moving in the first place takes a Herculean effort. Oh, but if there’s a cold wind outside, I’m not so keen. Brrr.

We looked after the children after school one day, and brought them home. What’s nice is that they both enjoy doing some sort of craft, mostly with Oma, and now never ask to turn the TV on. Martha made some snowflakes with beads and wire while William made a card for one of his schoolfriends.

Martha’s snowflake

Hannukah begins soon, so we played the dreidel game again. Both Martha and William remember playing last year and still had a good concept of the rules of the game.

William’s horde

Chocolate coins are involved and they change hands many times before the end of the game. At which point, they are shared out evenly.

Usually on a Friday morning, there are a couple of blokes fishing in the pond in Painswick Park. They weren’t there this week though. I wonder if that was because the pond was completely frozen over? The geese and ducks were confused as they displayed their skating skills. Naturally I didn’t go out on the frozen surface, I’d left my skates at home.

Painswick Pond

The radio show this week featured songs about dogs, including some really sad tales. Grrr.

This morning, I woke up to the sight of snow outside. Naturally, straight back to bed where I enjoyed a couple of podcasts before venturing out. Danny Baker’s Treehouse and We Didn’t Start the Fire, since you ask.

And of course, I know it’s not really an albatross!

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.

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.