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.

We go to Talkeetna

Jenny celebrated a birthday at home while Liesel and I were in Anchorage. I’m sorry we missed the party, but there’ll be plenty more later on. Happy birthday, Jenny!

Meanwhile, having been south to Juneau for a couple of days, it was now time to head north. We paid a return visit to Talkeetna, where we had our wedding party all those years ago.

The drive was uneventful, and sadly, one of the most notable features was the after effects of bush fires. Burnt trees from last year, or maybe several years ago. Despite the damage, some trees were trying to come back to life.

Burnt but regenerating trees

We drove through Willow, which at one point wanted to become the state capital. We stopped at Wasilla (famous for Sarah Palin) for coffee and use of WiFi (I went to Kaladi) and some shopping (Liesel went to Carrs). Nothing special.

In Talkeetna, we drove straight to Diane’s log cabin, where we stayed for a couple of nights. It’s secluded, in the woods, close to a pond (large pond, or small lake?) Surprise, surprise, Jyoti appeared!

Log cabin

The grebes on the water were determined not to swim too close to us. Maybe they had chicks to protect, but we’ll never know for sure. It was still warm and sunny, and we couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather.Diane,

Diane came by and we made our way into town. Well, Jyoti drive us into town.

Talkeetna itself was much more busy than we’ve ever seen it. There was the Arts Festival, there was live music and I’m sure some of the people were here to climb or explore Denali, the highest mountain in north America. Unfortunately, the Roadhouse has been closed since the pandemic. We were unable to go inside to check that the bottle top commemorating our marriage was still in place, nailed to the doorframe.

There’s a moose, loose, ootside the hoose

It’s always exciting to see wildlife but I wasn’t convinced by this moose. We spent some time looking at the various artworks on display. Would we like any of it in our flat? Yes, of course, some of it was really clever and attractive. Did we buy any? No. On another level, it’s just more stuff.

The live music was great though: I enjoyed listening to Lauren Crosby. She was meant to play the previous evening but, like us, her flight from somewhere extremely remote had been delayed. The organisers let her play a few songs this afternoon. I wouldn’t be surprised if she makes an appearance on my next radio show… watch this space!

Also: Ukulele Russ played ukulele versions of rock songs such as Van Halen’s Jump. Did I think to record it? Not until it was too late, sorry.

While the girls were looking at more stuff in shops, I went for a quick walk along the main street, in search of coffee. I’d heard about the world famous espresso milkshakes offered by Conscious Coffee and of course, I tracked it down after visiting the wrong emporium first.

Softball

There was a sporting event in town too: softball. This is a variation on baseball, which is a variation on rounders, and there was quite a crowd watching the game. Including Jim, Diane’s husband, who she tracked down by locating his bicycle.

Back at the cabin, we sat beside the pond for a while. Did I go in for a swim? No: I dangled my feet in up to my ankles and told myself, it’ll still be here tomorrow!

We ate dinner outside too and it was nice to have a long, light evening, by the pond, without being bothered by mosquitoes or midges.

No official name, so: Mick’s Pond

The pond doesn’t have an official name, but all the local people refer to it in their own way, referring to previous occupants of their property, or to the men who built our cabin.

In fact, it didn’t really get dark all night. For the usual reason, I was up at about midnight and again about 2am, and it was light enough to read by. Did I mention mosquitoes? Well, one did manage to find its way into the cabin.We heard the high-pitched whine, but we never managed to track it down. On the other hand, it didn’t track me down either.

I’ve missed Jytoi’s fried eggs on toast so I was delighted when she offered to cook my breakfast in the morning. In fact, I probably accepted the offer far too quickly, before it had been fully vocalised.

Liesel is working for lawyer Amrit. Amrit and her husband Siri also have a cabin near Talkeetna. Jyoti drove us over to see them. Cabin? It’s huge! It’s a big barn that, at one point in its history, could have been turned into a boarding school. It’s a fascinating place, full of stuff, it’s not for me to call it junk, but lots of old books and hundreds of boxes of other… clutter, yes, that’s the word.

Amrit’s barn

In a feat of strength, I helped Siri carry a huge DeWalt saw to the back of his car. This is probably the heaviest item I’ve lifted for many years. Muscles and back were OK, but that 30 seconds of exercise were enough to leave me short of breath for a few minutes.

After showing us around the cabin/barn, Siri took us for a hike through the woods. I thought we were headed for nearby Sunshine Lake, but we didn’t find it. Maybe we were walking the boundary of the property, like we sometimes walk the parish bounds at home, but there were no stakes marking the different properties.

Jyoti, Amrit, Liesel, Siri

Eventually, what drove us back was the devil’s club, a really thorny, prickly, aggressive looking plant that was growing at the edge of the trodden path, but occasionally on it. No need to scratch our delectable legs more than necessary.

Devil’s club

If it had started walking towards us, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I’m sure it was partly the inspiration for John Wyndham’s triffids.

When away from the others talking, it was so peaceful: the only sound was birdsong, but other than the large American robin, I didn’t see any birds here.

Birch bark

This birch bark felt like thick paper and it gave me the idea of maybe pulping wood, and turning into paper. It would be ideal for writing on and maybe even for wrapping birthday presents.

Back at the cabin, I thought about going for a swim in the pond. It would be refreshing, after the hot, sweaty walk in the woods.

Just jump in, they all said. No, thanks. I climbed down the steps very slowly, getting used to the temperature. Or, letting my lower legs grow numb with cold. The water was refreshing yes, but just a little too cold for comfort.

In the end, I swam for just a few minutes. When I climbed out, I lied that it wasn’t the cold water that beat me, but remembering the dead fish we’d seen floating by yestertday.

Jim told us that it really was worthwhile going on a flight around Denali. You land on a glacier and have a quick walk and a quick gawk. We didn’t have time on this visit, although the weather was ideal for such an adventure.

Denali

But near Talkeetna, is a fantastic lookout point, so this was the best sighting we had of the mountain.

After tea and crackers, we bade farewell to Jyoti, who was heading back to Anchorage prior to flying to Portland.

It was Diane’s birthday, and she invited us over to her place for cake. There, we met Stacey and Troy, local artists, woodworkers and generally all-round good guys. They were off to Portland soon, too!

Everyone in Alaska has dogs. And in any group of people, everyone else is fond of the dogs and one of us isn’t that interested. So guess who the dogs come over to bother every time? They sniff and puff and pant and sit by my feet and beg for a stroke and I’m thinking, you’d get far more attention from everyone else in the room!

It’s been dry lately, almost a drought in Alaska. So there’s lots of dust in the air. And it’s far less humid than at home. I suspect this change in conditions has affected my fingerprints. I rely on this biometric to start my phone a hundred times a day. But just lately, it hasn’t recognised my fingerprints at all. And after five attempts, I get locked out for 30 seconds.

Take me home, dusty roads

There’s a 9-hour time difference between Alaska and home, so that meant Liesel had to attend an online WI meeting early in the morning. I think she enjoyed showing off the cabin and the pond to the ladies of the WI, before getting down to WI business.

We packed, locked up and drove back to Anchorage, again stopping briefly in Wasilla. In Anchorage, we visited Kohl’s where Liesel bought some shorts for our next little trip. She hadn’t brought any with her from home because, seriously, who expects heatwaves in Alaska?

Mountains again

Of course I had to take another picture of the mountains. And of course, I had to share it.

Just be grateful I didn’t take pictures of the game shows we endured on TV, Wheel of Fortune, Double Jeopardy, and another one whose name escapes me. There are some vey excitable, excited people in America!

I slept pretty well, albeit with some strange, vivid dreams that shall remain private.

Packing and stacking

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

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

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

Ladybird giving another ladybird a piggy-back

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

Spot the heron

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

Tyres

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

Where’s my scooter?
Artistic shot of the week

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

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

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

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

William the mountaineer

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

Martha the runner

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

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

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

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

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

Oops, Tom, electric guitar, Tom as PM

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

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

Not Martha Reeves

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

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

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

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

Black tulips and babies

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

Fairy door needs attention

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

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

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

William and the wobbly log

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

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

Martha and William on a table top

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

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

Martha spinning

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

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

Martha and William sitting in a tree

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

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

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

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

Where’s William?

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

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

William on the zipline

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

William (l) and Boris the Gorilla (r)

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

Flamingoes
William with an otter

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

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

Baby elephant

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

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

William and Misha

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

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

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

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

Helen pointed out this picture in a shop window.

David Bowie

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

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

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

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

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

Baby azalea

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

Gardener Pete

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

Black Tulips

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

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

Beatrix’s doll’s house
Selfie of the day

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

Watering can

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

Did I mention Peter Rabbit?

Warning: Peter Rabbit

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

Shops in Ambleside

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

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

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

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

Smiley tea machine

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

Baby geese on land

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

Baby geese on water

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

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

Uncomfortably numb, potentially

Here is evidence of Liesel’s latest craftwork.

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

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

The Savagery of Self-satisfaction

I think that was the first ever Easter during which I didn’t have any chocolate eggs of my own. I didn’t buy any for Liesel either. But over there in Cheadle, at 6 o’clock in the morning, William bounded into his parents’ room announcing that the Easter Bunny had been. He and Martha enjoyed their egg hunt in the garden on a glorious Easter Sunday.

Martha and William with their haul

Liesel and I next met up with the family for a walk at Alderley Edge. As mentioned before, this is quite a mountainous terrain, compared with the pancake that is Northenden and Wythenshawe. The views from up on high are quite spectacular. There is one rocky outcrop that must have been designed with photo opportunities in mind. I asked Martha to pick William up and hold him up high, to replicate that scene on Pride Rock from The Lion King. She declined using the excuse that William was too heavy.

Pride Rock

There’s plenty of opportunity for scrambling and climbing and more than once, Martha said that she wanted to be a mountaineer when she grew up.

Martha climbing

And I don’t think William will be too far behind.

Wiliam climbing

At one point, the path split into two, with short flights of steps going up to the right and to the left. Liesel went one way, and I went the other. From behind, I heard William say “Oh no, Grandad’s gone the wrong way.” Why did he assume I’d gone the wrong way and not Oma? You can go off people, you know!

Jenny, Martha, Oma way ahead of William

William’s not being left behind on purpose, but he won’t take ten steps when a hundred will get him to the same place! He will, however, stop and pose for carefully selected photographers.

Say cheese

The children returned to school the following day. In fact, this was the first day of term but the teachers had an Insect Day.

Liesel had reasons to be in Gatley so she dropped me off and I walked back home from there. I wasn’t expecting to see the Ukraine flag, but that’s why walking in different places can be so interesting.

Слава Україні!

Walking through Gatley Carrs, I was approached by a trio of ducks.

Mallards

Well, sorry, ducks, I had no bread nor any other inappropriate food to hurl in your direction. According to the sign, there are several other species of birds here, but I didn’t see or hear any. I did hear the hum of the nearby motorway though, it’s quite hard to avoid sometimes.

Stairway to heaven

The Wednesday walking group walked along the river to Didsbury and back this week. And then we stopped for a coffee at Boxx 2 Boxx.

Oma and I picked Martha and William up from school, and we were not expecting them to provide their own transport: William had his scooter and Martha rode her bike.

William the Scooterer

Martha comes out of class fifteen minutes after William, so while waiting for her, he said he was going to play in the mugger. This is a fenced off basketball or netball court. We’d not heard the term ‘mugger’ before, so we guessed it must be a northern term. But no. After several hours researching in a dusty old library, I discovered that in fact the term is MUGA, which stands for Multi-Use Games Area. This makes sense: there are markings on the soft playing surface, although no actual nets for any games. But it’s a good place to scoot around fast without having to worry about other people.

We brought the children back to ours where Martha indulged in some craft activities, while William went back in time and played with the stacking beakers that he used to play with in the bath. It’s always fascinating when you can see their brains ticking over. He counted as he placed the beakers on top of each other. Nine. But he knew there are ten in the set. A metaphorical scratch of the chin and he tried again, this time remembering to count the first one, the one that wasn’t moved, that wasn’t stacked on another.

What else is new? Well, it’s a joy having Liesel back. Her fried eggs are so much better than my own. I still don’t know what she does differently, but some of my own efforts were just embarrassing. I’m glad nobody else had to witness their existence. Yes, of course there are a million other reasons why I’m glad Liesel’s back from her long trip to Alaska, but the fried eggs, mmm.

The new laptop is great. It’s lovely being able to use a computer within a minute of turning it on. I’m sure it’ll slow down with time, but I have to turn the old one on on Tuesday if I want to use it on Thursday. (Slight exaggeration.) Also, what I do mostly at the moment is record and edit audio for my radio shows. And it is so fast. I can’t wait to start processing photos as well, that was another painfully slow process on the old desktop PC. Yes, there are a few things about Windows 11 that I don’t like and wish I could change, but so far, so much better. I won’t leave it as long the next time I need to upgrade.

I also have a new set of headphones. They’re not noise-cancelling but they do keep out a lot more extraneous noise than my very old, cheap set. And I’m hearing things in songs that I’d not noticed before. What have I been missing all these years?

Speaking of radio shows, I recorded two this week. Like I said, the new laptop is fast enough to let me do that. This week’s show features songs that have titles not reflected in the lyrics, such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Lazarus and so on. Wythenshawe Radio broadcast my show on Friday at 2pm but you can miss it again by ignoring this link:

You were asking about the title of this post? Well, I don’t remember the dream but that phrase, The Savagery of Self-satisfaction, was in my head when I woke up one day this week. Is it a book title? Is it a song? I had to look it up. And I was pleased to see it looks like the invention of my own weird and wonderful nocturnal mind.

No results

It reminds me of the olden days of Googlewhacking. And don’t get me started on Antegooglewhackblatts!

One egg is un oeuf

Something guaranteed to lift the spirits at any time is seeing a display of colour in everyday objects. Liesel uses these stitch markers with her crochet projects. Seeing them bathing in sunshine, on the otherwise fairly bland sofa, well, I couldn’t not take a picture really.

Stitch markers

The rain was torrential as we drove along the motorway. A fire engine overtook us on the inside, on the hard shoulder. A couple of minutes later, we saw thick black smoke ahead. We soon saw the source: it was a refuse truck, and the fire crew on our side of the road was attempting to extinguish the flames from the wrong side of the central reservation and its barrier. As we drove on, we noticed another fire engine stuck in traffic, on that side of the road. The children found it interesting, and we just hope nobody was injured. As Martha said, the rain would help put the fire out.

It was still raining lightly when we arrived at Chester Zoo, but it didn’t last long. Martha and William didn’t seem to even notice, while Liesel and I were wearing the brand new fully waterproof coats that she’d bought for us in Alaska.

We did see some animals at the zoo, but the main attraction were the playgrounds! The slides were still wet of course. As was everything else. Even climbing up the tree stumps with notches for footholds was risky, it was all too slippery.

I was expecting William to be Spiderman but no, Martha reached the top of the web first.

Martha’s web of intrigue

And of course, we had to capture the moment William spread his wings.

William the flamingo
Mick and friend

I’ve never been photobombed by a penguin before, but here is a poicture of me and my new coat!

For the first time in several visits, we actually saw an actual cheetah. Not running at 70mph, or hiding, but sitting on a mound way over there, through the haze.

Cheetah

It wasn’t too wet to sit on the elephant though. I assume other guests’ clothing had dried the poor old beast.

Liesel, Martha, William, elephant (bottom)

We enjoyed some good, local walks this week: Northenden, Wythenshawe and beyond.

In Wythenshawe, I was surprised to find some standing stones, signs of a really old civilisation here. Not as commercial an enterprise as Stonehenge, obviously, but quite interesting just the same.

Standing stones

This walk took us close to the motorway: a mere fence separated the traffic from our very loud chatting. Not the most pleasant of walking routes, to be honest, but it’s always good to see new things and new places.

Some of the insects in Benchill are huge, especially at the school.

School bug

Liesel did some laundry this week, including my jeans, for which I am very grateful. I checked they were dry before putting them on. Liesel had turned them inside out before washing them, which I probably would have forgotten to do. When I turned them outside out though, they seemed darker than I remembered. They really had needed a wash! I tried pulling them on, but they didn’t get far. Oh no, I thought, they’ve shrunk. I also wondered how come I’ve been wearing them for years without noticing some slight elasticity. Then I realised. I took them off, folded them up nicely and returned to the bathroom to look for my own legwear. Liesel is very welcome to her own, darker blue, elasticated Levis, thank you very much.

Liesel and I walked to Fletcher Moss park together for the first time in ages. We saw the heron too, always a bonus, he hasn’t been around for a while.

What a popular little park, so many groups of people must have decided to meet up for a Good Friday coffee and chat. We secluded ourselves in the rockery for a rest. And Liesel provided a running commentary on the mouse lurking in the bushes, that I totally failed to observe. Mouse, or baby rat? When Liesel told another couple about the rodent behind them, the lady shrieked and jumped up onto the bench. Well, she would have in a sitcom.

Acer or Japanese maple

Another day, another acer. How do you dig them up, I wondered? Acer spades, suggested Liesel.

Selfie of the day

Yes, I know it’s a rubbish photo. But the height difference between Liesel and me makes it hard to get a good picture, especially when you’re trying to get some blossom in the background as well. My head isn’t really eight times the volume of Liesel’s.

Easter Saturday was very exciting, we spent most of the time with Martha and William. The idea was for them to dye hard-boiled white eggs. Imagine the disappointment when the rarely seen (in the UK) white eggs turned up with a lion mark and other stamps! Fortunately, boiling them removed all this ink, leaving pristine shells for the childern to decorate. Oh, except William wasn’t interested, in the end! He played with the dinosaurs. I don’t think his lack of interest was due to the excitement of the Easter egg hunt around the salubrious setting of our small apartment. They both had a good time, and both were willing to share when one found more eggs than the other. Of course, probably too many were consumed, but, well, that’s Easter!

In fact, at one point, William decided he’d had enough, so he took himself off to bed for a quick nap.

William the kipper

When I say quick, I mean very short, less than a minute, a proper power nap if ever there was one!

The eggs turned out very well, though.

Martha the egg dyer

So that’s Mummy’s and Daddy’s breakfast sorted for tomorrow!

It was such a lovely day, we thought we’d also take them to the playground. And on the way there and back, we picked litter. There’s just so much to choose from around here.

William and Martha the litter-pickers

We saw the heron again, in exactly the same place as yesterday.

Heron on the weir

Why bother moving if you can catch all the fish you need in that one spot?

Martha and William had fun together on the swing and on the slide.

Martha and William the sliders

And before you ask, yes, this is a very short slide, they haven’t had a sudden growth spurt.

After returning the children to their parents (only leaving one small toy at ours by mistake) we came home to relax… What a gorgeous day.

The theme for my Wythenshawe Radio show this week was Death, pushing up the daisies, shuffling off this mortal coil. It wasn’t at all morbid or mournful or maudlin, but I was surprised at how many songs they are about the subject.

🤬  🔞  🤬  🔞  🤬

Below this point is only for fully paid-up subscribers. Over 18s. Please show your Id to the camera on the device on which you’re reading this blog post.

OK, I believe you.

As well as the regular show, I’ve put together a show that won’t be broadcast on any radio station. It’s a bit rude, there are explicit lyrics, lots of swearing, and other songs that you don’t usually hear on the radio. Plus a couple of poems. It’s all done in the best possible taste. But please don’t listen if you don’t approve of a bit of bad language. The idea came a while ago, but I gave it a lot of serious thought and consideration when I was laid low by the Covids.

Welcome Home

Well that was an exciting week. Liesel came home from Anchorage and what a celebration. I tied not one, not two, but a hundred yellow ribbons round the old oak tree. The brass band played welcoming tunes while the dancing girls’ performance was immaculate. Someone suggesting bringing on the dancing horses, but that seemed a bit over the top.

Sorry if you weren’t invited to the ‘Welcome Home’ party, but you should receive a slice of cake in the post any day now.  The flowers that bedeck our luxury apartment are beautiful and the aroma is almost overpowering. I didn’t know whether the smell of fresh coffee or toast would be best, but I think the natural scent of roses, jasmine and frangipani was spot on.

Mainly, though, I am very proud of the large banner I embroidered saying ‘Welcome home, my lovely wife, Liesel’. Sorry about the blood stains, but I kept stabbing my fingers with the needle.

Sadly, in all the excitement, I forgot to take any pictures of this remarkable reunion. Oh well. Sorry.

Earlier in the week, we celebrated Mothers’ Day.

Cheers, Mummy!

I find it hard to believe that it’s now 31 years since I last bought a Mothers’ Day card for my own Mum. I have to re-calculate every year and then sadly shake my head.

People’s gardens are brightening up now that Spring is here.

Primroses

Oh, did I say that Spring is here? Well, it was. But this week we were treated to Winter 2.0, a surprise few days withe a cold, northerly wind, timed perfectly to kill off all the newly blooming flowers. It even snowed in places: we had a few flakes. We shouldn’t really blame Liesel for bringing the snow back with her from Alaska, but who knows how the universe really works?

I made a mistake. I went to Wythenshawe by bus to attend a meeting about a potential opportunity to start cycling again. Yes, I went by bus. And arrived 15 minutes late. It was a good meeting and as I was wandering around aimlessly, I found this churc.

Saint Richard’s

Yes, I’m still taking photos of signs with missing letters.

And so the time came for Liesel to say goodbye to her family and friends.

Una, Liesel, Jyoti and Monica

After 10 (or is it 11?) weeks in Anchorage, I think the parting was made easier by the knowledge that Liesel and I would be going back in May.

I managed to tidy up most of the flat in time before collecting Liesel from the airport. There is no evidence of any of the debauched parties I enjoyed in her absence.

Jetlag and fear of Covid infection following the long flights meant that we didn’t have the children this week. Instead, they had a disco at school, and posed for some pictures beforehand, in the very light and barely visible snow.

William and Martha

William aspires to be Spiderman, as you can see. What’s that, Skippy? There aren’t enough photos of nature here today? Well, let’s rectify that. These are from a walk in and around Wythenshawe’s Painswick Park, with the regular Friday group.

Geese in the haze
Bare tree

This tree keeps an eye on the weather, it knows what’s happening. It knew we’d have another Winter so it hasn’t bothered to blossom yet. Look at the contrast between the blue sky and white clouds here and the battleship grey clouds over there…

Grey cloud

There are a few Christmas trees now incarcerated probably because of their anti-social behaviour.

The caged Christmas tree

Liesel’s been out with the WI a couple of times since her return, giving me the ideal opportunity to visit the coffee shop.

Selfie of the day
Слава Україні!

Last week I started preparing a radio show about Spring. Post-Covid, I couldn’t complete the project, so I repeated last year’s Spring show. But the exciting all-new Spring celebration was, finally, aired this week.

Again, welcome home, Liesel, it’s lovely to have you back!

Blue and yellow

Well again there’s not much going on in real life in Northenden. But in my dreamworld, it’s all going on: I’m getting lost, I’m losing my bike, and sometimes I wake up feeling really good but I can’t remember why. In Anchorage, Liesel’s being arty and finding some colour.

Paint pouring

This paint pouring looks fun but very messy. We can’t wait to get the children involved. Ideally at their house of course, not ours 😉

It was rare this week, but always a joy to see the Sun even if we couldn’t really feel it. But it was cold enough for this pigeon to be frozen to the spot.

Falcon

Actually, I think this is the first falcon I’ve seen in Northenden, what a shame it’s not a real one. Maybe the buildings aren’t tall enough.

The river’s subsided significantly, but it has left a lot of debris behind, mainly trees, logs and of course the ubiquitous plastic.

Tree debris

I had an unexpected road trip. Jenny asked if I could pick her up from work as Liam was busy. Of course, I said, expecting to have to fight the rush hour at about 5 o’clock, maybe 5.30. But no, it was about 8 o’clock when I got the call. I don’t think I’ve ever driven into Mancheter in the dark before. Yes, we’ve driven home after a show but I can’t remember the last time either of us have actually set off anywhere that late in the day. What an adventure! See, I can have a good time now and then!

This Tuesday was pancake day. So I made pancakes for myself. I made the usual quantity, intending to keep some for the next day. Well, that didn’t happen. I just stuffed myself with all of them. All topped them off with the traditional fresh lemon juice and sugar.

Pancakes, first course

But, in a moment of madness, I ate them in a stack rather than rolled up. Two stacks, as it happens. I should go and consult the doctor and see if there’s anything they can do about me slowly turning American. Maybe it’s Liesel’s long-distance influence.

I didn’t visit Fletcher Moss Gardens this week, but I did start reading a book about the venue.

Fletcher Moss Gardens: Its History and Plants

It’s very informative, telling us about the plants there, some of which are quite rare. Which makes one wonder if they’re OK being inundated with flood water every year or so. I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

Child-minding day. William was dressed as the Gruffalo and Martha as Isadora Moon.

Gruffalo and Isadora Moon

When William came out of his class, I asked if he’d enjoyed International Book Day. “World Book Day” he replied, putting me in my place. It was fun seeing all the children, and teachers, dressed as some favourite literary characters.

There’s a tragedy unfolding in Ukraine right now and I’m seeing the flag everywhere I look.

School playground

Even the school playground is showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people. As usual, I’m wondering what I can do to help and I end up sending money to whichever organisations or individuals are offering practical help to the refugees.

Playroom

This week’s radio show celebrates World Women’s Day. Yes, I did that on purpose, because I can just hear William correcting me again: “International Women’s Day”. An all-female cast of performers of course. And thanks to Jenny for providing some brand new feminine jingles!

There was a power cut during the show’s first outing on Wythenshawe Radio so it dropped out for a couple of minutes. It’s being repeated on Tuesday 8th March at midday, that’s International Women’s Day, as well as on Wednesday at the exciting, brand new time of 10pm.

Northenden Village Green

And just a reminder that we are in meteorological Spring now, looking forward to the Spring equinox and Easter and we can finally forget the long, cold, wet and windy Winter.

Слава Україні!