Deers and beers

The good news is that Covid is over! Yes, the news on TV was full of football and that’s terrific: no more pandemic pandemonium. Channel 4 even showed us the 1966 World Cup Final, in colour for the first time on broadcast TV, apparently. We didn’t watch.

Dunham Massey drew our attention. This time, rather than walking around the gardens and deer park that comprise the National Trust property, we went for a walk a bit further afield. By the time we’d completed the 3.5 mile route, we’d walked over 5 miles, according to my pedometer! Maybe my baby footsteps confuse the poor little gadget.

Beware of the bull

Have no fears. We take everything the government says with a large shovel of salt.

The little village of Dunham Massey is very pretty. The Swan With Two Nicks is a strange name for a pub, but certainly memorable.

We passed under the canal, which seemed to be leaking a bit. As flowing water is above us, I assume this is an aqueduct, not just an ordinary bridge?

Happy face

We spotted this happy face on the brickwork, the mark of a master craftsman, no doubt.

The towpath next to the Bridgewater Canal is very well made: if only the path by our stretch of the Mersey were as neat and tidy. This is the place to come for some peace and tranquility. We briefly discussed living here on a houseboat.

Houseboat

The route was described in a book we’ve had for a long time. Today’s wander was by way of an experiment: not too long and, if we were to get lost, we could easily find our way back. But the instructions were very good, we didn’t go wrong at all. This looks good for future, longer hikes in places new to us, a bit further away from home.

Some of the buildings we saw today were a bit old skool. Literally.

Old school

The route did take us to the ‘back door’ of the deer park and we saw more deer today than we did the whole time we were in Scotland! I guess that bloke from Location, Location, Location hasn’t been shooting them so much, here!

Hello my deer
Hello my beer

Actually, this is a pint of cider, but as a caption to the picture, it wouldn’t have rhymed with the previous image. I poured this to enjoy while watching the final of Euros 2020, England v Italy. I have to confess, I didn’t watch avidly, but it was on in the background while I was going round and round in circles with an impossible sudoku puzzle. We went to bed before the end of the match and I listened to the penalty shoot-out on Radio 5 Live. I won’t reveal the result in case you recorded it and haven’t watched yet.

Liesel visited RHS Bridgewater Garden in Salford with the ladies of the WI. A nice day, a nice walk, at least until it started raining.

Thanks to the ladies of the WI for these pictures

Meanwhile, back in Northenden, I looked at the bindweed near the river and realised I don’t have to fight it any more: not my problem!

Bindweed

Yes, that weed was my nemesis in our garden in Chessington. I suspect it’s completely taken over by now.

The heron was standing in his usual spot, on the weir. He stands so still, and then suddenly grabs something from the water. Oh, he will move if he thinks I’m about to take his picture. He’s psychic.

And what are those little things that swarm around your head whenever you sit on the bench by the river? They don’t buzz, bite or sting, they just annoy people. They don’t fly off when I get my phone out to take a picture, but I wish they would.

A swarm of something
The heron

On another occasion, the heron was on the island. I got my phone out. He knew. He took flight straightaway. He laughed. He thinks he’s a kookaburra.

Thrive Manchester organises a well-being walk each week in Northenden. It’s been on our list of things to do and places to go for quite a while, and this week, finally, we made it. Yes, we joined in an activity with half a dozen other people. It was a pleasant day for a walk which on this occasion took us along the river to Simon’s Bridge and back to The Northern Den for a cup of coffee. And we didn’t stay in one group, everyone walked at their own pace.

Single file

In places, the path was narrow, it’s a bit overgrown right now, so we had to walk in single file. Which we used to call Indian file, but I’m not sure when the change occurred. One thing I am sure about though is that in the end, when humanity has exhaled its final gasp of CO₂, nature will regenerate and recover without our meddling ways and without our help.

A miracle

This little plant is showing the way, growing out of a metal railing, possibly relying on nutrients in the mud left behind after those floods a few months ago.

The planters on Palatine Road are once again looking very pretty, thanks to the sponsorship of some local businesses.

Some colours

Lyme Park is probably the place we visit most often for a walk away from our local ‘hood. There was a film crew there today, but they didn’t need any extras. If we’d known, we too might have dressed up in period costume.

Quiet on set

We walked up the hill to The Cage, the folly that has held prisoners and banquets at various times. We must have noticed the sundial before, but today, we realised that there is a sundial on three out of the four faces. Doing the maths to locate these three elements must have been fascinating.

Three-part sundial

The stonemason got fed up with the Roman numerals, II, III, IIII, V so he finished off with Arabic ones instead, 6, 7, 8. Or maybe the gnomon’s shadow announced that it was opening time down at The Swan With Two Nicks.

Walking down the hill, we bumped into a herd of deer. All male as far as we could tell, a proper stag party. They were curious, a few backed off slowly but most held their ground. Which meant that in order to keep our distance, we had to walk all the way off the path and around a tree. Such a to-do.

More deer
Home, home on the range

On the other side of the road, we walked through the woods, over a couple of stiles and passed by very few other people. Which was quite surprising, given how full the car park was. There were some cattle who got quite excited when a tractor turned up. As they ran towards their friends in the next field, we even witnessed one of the cows jumping. What sort of a cow jumps? Well, this one was brown.

Cattle: some roaming free, some shrink-wrapped

We found ourselves at the coffee shop in the 19th century. But they were still charging 21st century prices, fnarr, fnarr!

Exciting new episode of The Bill?

Sorry, no, we didn’t find out what this production this is, and I doubt that we’ll find ourselves in the background of a key scene.

Wythenshawe Park is nice enough, but when you meet up with your daughter and grandson, it’s at least three times as much fun. Jenny and William drove over, while Liesel and I walked. William had a lot of fun, on his scooter, and in the playground. He knew that if there were too many people there, we wouldn’t go in. What a shame we have to issue such warnings.

Wythenshawe Park > Jurassic Park

We’ll bring William back when the dinosaurs have been released into the wilds of Wythenshawe Park.

Who needs steps?
Bentch

We saw some horses at the farm but only managed to smell the goats and cows and their copious output. We had ice cream as it was such a warm day and I would say less than 10% of William’s ended up on his face this time.

Liesel drove to Didsbury for her sight test but my appointment was later so I walked. It was going to be hot day – possibly the hottest of the year so far. I’d already planned to go, so after my appointment at the optician*, I walked to Withington. (*Not gonna mention the expense but, for the money, I would much rather have flown into space.)

It was no Camino de Santiago, but I wanted to make a pilgrimage to the Marcus Rashford Mural. It was defaced last week after he missed a penalty at a football game. Such a shame that after forcing our government to feed children during the school holidays, after being awarded an MBE, after writing an inspirational book for young people, You Are A Champion, after winning however many games playing for Man Utd and England and after having a mural painted in his honour, he’ll probably best be remembered as one of the black players who missed a blinkin’ penalty in a football game. Ooh, a bit of a rant there. But at the site of the mural today, there was a lot of love and appreciation on display.

Marcus Rashford MBE

I think if someone had started singing, we would have all joined in from behind the safety of our face coverings

Some of the fantastic messages

As Radio Northenden’s Sanny reported on BBC 5 Live a few nights ago, as you go higher up the wall, you notice the hand-writing improves.

Selfie of the day

It’s not like me to follow the herd, but I did today. Other families were taking selfies, so I thought, why not?

I had a coffee and a cake before I left for the long walk home. I didn’t have to, I know, but I was running out of water. The walk home was a long trudge, the whole length of Palatine Road, accompanied by the traffic. At every bus stop, I thought, should I? But no, I’ll stay off public transport for as long as I can. At home, I glanced in the mirror and a bloke with a tomato where his face used be said, ‘Been out in the Sun, eh?’ The cold shower was fabulous and very welcome!

This week’s Radio Northenden show celebrated that marvellous pastime: Clothes Shopping. Listen back here for two hours of fine tunes. What’s that, Skippy? You want more from Radio Northenden? Well why not read Katie’s new Radio Northenden blog right here.

The depiction and, usually, misrepresentation of statistical information in the mainstream media is deleterious to the general public’s understanding of scientific research and has undoubtedly led to mis-informed decisions being taken that have resulted in unnecessary suffering and even death. Well, that was the thought that I woke up with this morning, the last and only remnant from what must have been a very deep and meaningful dream. If I were Paul McCartney, I’d make a hit record out of it.

Bug bites and batteries

There’s still a moment in the morning when I wake up and wonder where I am. And still a momentary flash of disappointment when I remember that we’re back home, but away from the midges. Itchy legs and arms still and I even have a bindi where one of those little blighters bit me while in the Highlands. We are glad to be away from those microdots of torture. No other animal bites you and leaves a mark a thousand times larger than its own body size. I bet they miss me though: I’m quite tasty, they didn’t go for Liesel at all.

Wythenshawe Park

Wythenshawe Park looked nice and tidy, freshly mown, and I even had the place pretty much to myself. Sneezes erupted and followed me around and I realised I couldn’t carry on much longer without taking some anti-histamines. My hay fever really is much worse here at home than it was in Scotland, but then maybe my immune system was concentrating on attacks from those nasty little black beasties.

In our flat, when we leave the windows open, we get visits from flies the size of small humming birds. They can find a way in, but we have to open all the windows wide before they find their way out again. I say ‘they’, but it might be the same one coming back every day.

Welcome to our first exciting day out out since we returned from the extreme north. We’ve wanted to visit Tatton Park, a National Trust property, for a long time and today was the start of The Foodies’ Festival. Neither of us were particularly interested in the Foodie side of the Festival, oh no, we went primarily to see some live music.

We wandered around the gardens, yes, still socially distant from other visitors. So it was a bit strange seeing a large group, maybe a coach party, having a guided tour all in close proximity, some with masks, some without.

Rhubarb
Poppies
Selfie of the day

It was relaxing hearing the birds singing, but the peace of the Japanese Garden was disturbed by the noise from the robot lawn mower. They have modern tech like this, but one of the gardeners was trimming the edge of the lawn with shears that really needed sharpening. Or replacing!

Japanese Garden
Liesel the fountain

We didn’t see as much wildlife as we would have liked in Scotland, so to see some today was, well, wild. Some deer way over there in the distance and this little chap:

Frog

He is a very small frog, barely bigger than my thumb nail.

Nescio quid hic flos est

This is a very pretty flower, we had some in our garden in Chessington. I never knew what it was. [Thanks to Stella, we now know this is St John’s Wort. No wonder I didn’t recognise it, the last time I saw St John’s Wort, it was in the form of little off-white tablets in a bottle.]

There’s a big kitchen garden here at Tatton too, which must take some looking after, but all the indoor venues were closed. As midday approached, we wandered over towards The Foodies’ Festival. The queue was quite long already and Liesel and I were both bemoaning the fact that our poor old backs needed a rest. We knew we were in the right place when we heard the strains of Texas Angel wafting across the fields.

Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

Jessica and Chris were playing the music to welcome all the guest to the Festival. ‘Ah, you must be Mick’, said Jessica from the stage and I thought, where? It was good to see them live and in the flesh: usually I see them on YouTube each Tuesday night playing for an hour or so. Jessica’s cousin David and Viv also watch the online shows, and this was the first time of course that we’d met them in real life. Jessica and Chris performing songs without buffering issues: priceless!

They sung a mix of their own songs and covers such as Big Yellow Taxi and You’re So Vain.

We sang and clapped along of course. Sang or sung? The more you think about it, the more wrong both words seem to be. Most people just walked on by, paying no attention to the music. Looking around the stage, it was interesting to see that all the nearby stalls were offering alcohol: prosecco, gin, Kent cider (I took some home), Pimms, beer on an old London bus. Really? Yes, really!

Oxford Circus

We properly met Jessica and Chris after their first set, before wandering off for a coffee and a sit-down. A sit-down in the marquee where the cookery demonstrations were taking place. Before the second set, we bought some cheese and some desserts that we wouldn’t normally look at. There was even a CostCo stall, bizarrely, which I thought out of place amongst all the local produce on offer. What a nice day for wandering around a field and then sitting down to watch more music. I feel bad about not staying for the other musicicans, including the intriguingly named Maybe Gaga, but I had a radio show to do later on.

Upstaged

It was fun to watch this little girl dancing in front of the stage and, in the end, sitting down for a rest. Of course it made us think about taking Martha and William to a performance like this one day.

And yes, of course, afterwards, I asked for a selfie with the stars of the show.

Mick, Jessica, Chris

The radio show this week was a Postcard from Scotland. Some Scottish singers plus plenty of other great tunes, including, of course, one from JLM. I started at 4pm this week rather than 2pm, the idea being that, like today, if we go out on a Friday, we don’t have to rush back: I have to allow a good half hour for the PC to boot up and for me to run all the necessary software.

The Tour de France continues to entertain. Spoilers coming up. Today, Mark Cavendish won his fourth stage this year, making a total of 34: this equals the record achieved by Eddy Merckx, probably the greatest male cyclist ever, in 1975.

This morning we went over to Didsbury, Liesel had things to do, while I walked home, the long way. I was pole-axed on reading the news that Jono Coleman, top radio presenter here in the UK and in Australia, had died. I had to sit down and recuperate in Fletcher Moss Park, with a coffee and a fried egg barm.

Parsonage Gardens

While I was walking back along the river, there was a downpour in Northenden. I could tell by the wet pavements, plus, it was confirmed by Liesel. I stayed dry though, chatting with the duck family who couldn’t swim away from me fast enough.

Ducks

Yep: another photo of animal rear-ends. I think my phone emits a signal that warns them that I’m about to take a picture.

Liesel told me there were three crates of empty milk bottles in front of the neighbour’s car, in our communal car park. When I looked out, I could see no crates, so I told her they’d gone. A little while later, Liesel told me the crates were still there, in front of the car. I looked out but still couldn’t see them. Was I even looking at the correct vehicle? Yes I was. The car is parked facing the fence. The crates were between the front of the car and the fence. So, in front of the car. But to me, in front of the car would place the crates between me and the offending vehicle. Liesel maintains that this would be behind the car, as the crates are closer to the back of the vehicle. We tried to come to some agreement, but basically, the English language is a bit fluid and ambiguous. Imagine the car was, say, a sphere, without a front or a back. Where are the crates now? I still think, between the ball and the fence, they’re behind the object. From our point of view in our second floor luxury apartment, if the crates were in the neighbour’s garden, are they behind the fence or in front of the fence? You might think it doesn’t matter. But if we were trying to direct someone to defuse an unexploded bomb, she would need to go straight to the device, she wouldn’t want to be wasting time climbing over fences looking for it, just because we can’t agree on what’s in front and what’s behind. So from now on, we’re going to use absolute terms to describe locations. Something will be north, east, south or west of something else, or some combination thereof. I hope that’s clear.

It’s a bit of a joke these days that when some thing goes wrong, the advice is to turn it off and back on again. There was an item on radio recently which agreed that, because most things are basically just computers now, this will work. It’s a way of clearing the temporary memory in the device. In the old days of computers, you’d get a message such as ‘Stack Overflow’, which meant you’d run out of memory. Not, you, the computer. So today, when my phone wouldn’t pair with the portable keyboard via bluetooth, I resorted to turning both items off and on again. They still didn’t want to acknowledge each others’ existence. I pulled out some of my hair, not that I have much to start with, and wondered what else I could try. I know the keyboard likes to be top of the list of bluetooth devices that pair with my phone, so I made sure the others were all (both) turned off. So, just the phone and the keyboard now. Will they shake hands and play nice? Nope. Then, in a flash, the thought occurred: batteries. The phone was 85% charged. I changed the two AAA batteries in the keyboard, et voilà, we have lift-off. This is the first time I’ve had to change these batteries, so I’m glad that was the only problem. Here’s a tip: ‘turn it off and on again and check the batteries’ should be the more complete advice when something stops working properly. 

Two castles and a battlefield

Yesterday I expressed a desire to see a red squirrel. That wish didn’t come true, but we did see a blue one.

Blue squirrel

We saw this chap just down the road, here in Inverness, one of a series known as The Go Nuts Art Trail, raising funds for the Highlands Hospice. This one’s design is based on Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Today we were tourists. Our first destination was Brodie Castle, named after the anti-hero from the American TV drama series Homeland. We saw a plume of smoke as we approached Inverness Airport and hoped it wasn’t another terrible incident on the road. No, just a harmless factory of some sort.

Nice smoke

But nicer than that is the fact that the runways at Inverness Airport are configured to look like a snowflake when viewed from a suitable height.

Brodie Castle looks alright, so we thought we’d ruin the view by standing in front of it.

Selfie of the day

Each room had its own guide, and they spoke for up to ten minutes. The tour groups were kept separate of course. But it was quite dark inside. Actually, it was pretty dismal outside too. The library was probably fascinating: I would love to have studied the children’s books in case there were any that I remembered from my own childhood, but there just wasn’t enough light.

What could beat seeing a blue squirrel? Seeing the biggest white rabbit in the whole of Scotland, of course.

White rabbit

The sign said to download an app that would animate this large rodent, but I couldn’t get it to work. The playgrounds on the castle site are fantastic, it would be a great place to bring children, or grandchildren, one day.

We had a nice walk around the grounds but while wandering around inside the castle itself, it started to rain. What a shame. Also, we were too late in the year to see the daffodil collection, put together by Ian Brodie after his awful experiences in the Boer and First World Wars left him with what we now know as PTSD. But if we can’t see thousands of golden daffodils, we can enjoy seeing the biggest monkey puzzle tree we’ve ever seen.

Monkey puzzle

It is a truth universally acknowedged that when Mick and Liesel go travelling in the UK, it is likely to rain. It used to rain when Mick and Sarah bed and breakfasted around the country too. We’ve enjoyed so many picnic lunches inside a car, watching the rain cascade down the windscreen while the windows fog up inside. Oh well, we tell ourselves, while chewing sandwiches in a car, in a car park, again, all this rain is what makes Scotland so beautiful.

According to William Shakepeare, Macbeth, the Thane of Cawdor, resided at Cawdor Castle. Not in real life he didn’t, because the castle wasn’t built until 300 years after Macbeth died.

Caravan

This isn’t the sort of caravan we anticipated seeing a lot of in Scotland. And no, nor is it our accommodation on this occasion. It’s outside Cawdor Castle, which was the next stop on our tour.

I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, as usual, but I did have a waterproof(-ish) jacket on too. The guide in the castle accused me of being dressed inappropriately. I pointed out that I was dressed correctly, it was the weather that was behaving badly.

Tartan carpets
Bike parking facilities

For a moment, I thought we’d entered an American house.

French arms

Too many firearms for one wall. This castle is occupied by one lady for half the year, and the rest of the time, it’s open to us visitors. Again, lots of historic artefacts. But again, I think I enjoyed walking around the gardens more, despite the weather.

Cawdor Castle
Minotaur in a maze

There’s a maze in the gardens, but we’re not allowed to enter it. Maybe they’ve lost too many visitors to the minotaur in the centre. We think it’s a minotaur, but we didn’t bring our binoculars with us today. Although they would have been useful as we watched some birds from a distance, finding something tasty on the path nearby. We saw a thrush, some chaffinches and a yellow thing that was too fast to identify.

Mum and baby

What a brilliant work of art. From this angle, the sculpture is of a Mum and her baby having a cuddle, but from the other direction, it’s a pair of hands supporting them both. Very clever.

Holding them up

Another record breaker was this iris.

Iris

This is the deepest purple iris we’ve ever seen, and it looks spectacular with a few drops of rain water.

On the way back to our b&b, we stopped at Culloden Battlefield. We’d been before, with Liesel’s Mom and Dad, and the place has lost none of its sense of eeriness. We know the terrible story, how many lives were lost senselessly. The grey clouds were perfectly matched the feeling of foreboding.

Culloden Battlefield

I went for a walk around the site, trying to avoid the other visitors. To be fair, they probably weren’t that keen on me, either. I found a couple of the memorial stones that we’d missed last time.

Clan Donald

This headstone marks the traditional site of a grave locally believed to be the resting place of the MacDonalds who fell in action during the battle. This stone was erected by members of the Clan Donald Society ‘to honour all MacDonalds killed at Culloden and in battle elsewhere’. A sad but salutory reminder of how lucky I am that I’ve never been involved in any conflict.

Memorial cairn

A very different day today, just pootling around rather than driving a long way to reach a destination. There’s plenty of that still to come of course.

So what’s gone wrong so far? My first injury was incurred yesterday when I was bitten on the ankle by some bug or other. I’d forgotten all about it until this morning after my shower when I noticed the wound was bleeding. The second injury was caused by hard furniture. My shin detected the coffee table in our lounge. It didn’t break the skin but there is a contusion, which, given we’re in Scotland, I’m naming Robert. Robert the Bruise.

As I write, we’re listening to the golden voice of Eddi Reader, but earlier we re-played my radio show from January, the one with Scotland as its theme. The one in which my microphone wasn’t working for a long time. Lots of fabulous Scottish music, but also an embarrassing amount of dead air.

Back to the egg

We like a bit of nature, but we’re not so keen on wasps. So when one was posing on the outside of our kitchen window, how could I resist?

Wasp

Luckily, he stayed outside. I probably could have done with the exercise, chasing him round the flat, trying to encourage him to go back outside, but he was quite happy where he was.

Meanwhile, some people in Northenden thought they could have fun polluting the river. I’m sure they had a great time, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what the ducks and geese and fish get up to in the Mersey.

Costa del Northenden

Tony Bennett famously left his heart in San Francisco, but someone left theirs in the woods near us.

Wooden heart

It was lovely to spend a sunny afternoon in the garden with William and Martha. They both seemed to like the blankets their Oma had made for them, and William wasted no time making himself comfortable!

Good night, William

We sat in the sunshine, enjoying a picnic lunch, we soaked up the Sun, and I was surprised that the water pistols didn’t make an appearance. I say water pistol, but William calls it a water crystal.

We played What’s the time, Mr Tod, which morphed into What’s the Time, Mr Wolf and lots of chasing ensued. Plus, both Martha and William watched the bumble bees doing their thing with the clover.

Bumble bee
Martha’s unorthodox swinging technique

We all receive a copy of the magazine from Chester Zoo every month or two, and Martha, with Oma’s help, repurposed the current issue into headwear. She is also secretly training to be a model, none of us told her to pose this way, it just came naturally.

She’s a model

A couple of days later, I drove into Manchester and just like my last visit there, it was purely practical. Straight to the Blood Donation Centre, then straight home. But I was delighted with the choice of biscuits on offer this time. I had a mint Club biscuit for the first time (I think) since the 1980s. The nurses, all the medics, were very welcoming and friendly. The health check questionnaire has been revised, and now, gay men are not excluded from donating blood, something that was deemed impossible, in the 1990s.

Our world is slowly expanding. We paid a visit to Stratford upon Avon where we met up with Helen and Steve from Chessington. It was warm but overcast, a nice day to mooch around a perfectly delightful little town. Lots of touristy shops, and just about everything has a connection with Shakespeare.

On the two-hour drive, we were reminded of things that we haven’t seen for a long, long time. The M6: the roadworks seem to have largely been completed. The Pies graffiti is still there on the bridge. We actively listened to the traffic report on Radio 2, although nothing affected us today. I scored 12 points on Ken Bruce’s Pop Master, over two rounds.

The four of us went on a 45-minute cruise on the Avon. Edward Elgar was quite rude about the then new theatre when it was built, so I had to laugh when the boat crew played Nimrod. Well, I didn’t laugh, I usually cry when I hear that tune, but it seemed so out of place. Something by Shakespears Sister might have been more appropriate. And then, they played The Swan fron Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, much better suited to the situation: see the picture after the next one (sorry, spoilers).

All Saints Church

Actually, the commentary was very informative. What happened to Shakespeare’s head after he was buried is really sad and unnecessary. Of course, it would be rude to venture out onto the Avon and not take a picture of a swan. So here it is.

Swan of Avon

We learned that swans are the heaviest flying birds in the world, and sometimes in Stratford, rather than fly, they use the locks to get from one place to another along the river and canal system.

We enjoyed this actor outside the theatre. He recited a couple of speeches, from Henry V or maybe Richard III: my English teacher would be horrified if she thought I didn’t know.

Not Sir Laurence Olivier

We had lunch at Boston Tea Party, another branch of the place we’ve been to in Salisbury several times. A long time ago, before the pandemic, that is. What’s nice about this place, at least according to the menu, is that they use Chew Valley organic milk from happy, jaunty, loveable, huggable cows.

The menacing pink sheep took us all by surprise, just standing there, guarding a shop. No, we hadn’t been drinking.

Pink sheep

But just when we thought we were beginning to understand Stratford upon Avon, we had to accept that, yes, it is a bit strange. As this inscription on the pavement confirms.

It’s too weird for me

And something else weird is occurring in Stratford. There are two golden post boxes, painted gold to celebrate local gold medal winners from the 2012 London Olympics. Only one of these two has a plaque attached. And the other one says that James Roe won a gold medal for rowing. Really? Nominative determinism?

James Roe the boat ashore

Stratford is a nice, quiet little town, but it could do with a few modern high-rise buildings to drag it from the 15th into the 21st century.

Just 531 years old

The most exciting part of driving home was spotting some new graffiti on one of the bridges over the M60.

Smoke Pies

I suspect this relates to the old Pies graffiti, daubed by the band of the same name over twenty years ago, maybe even longer. But what a surprisingly pleasant drive home, no traffic hold-ups at all. The car managed its longest trip in over 15 months, it didn’t complain once. Which is just as well, because we’re soon off on another adventure which is why this piece of nonsense has appeared earlier than usual this week.

Also, because we had made plans, I pre-recorded my radio show this week. You can listen live here on Friday at 2pm or catch up here soon after 4pm. The theme this week is Holidays, which is a remarkable coincidence, since we’re all going on a Summer holiday.

Memory almost full

In a moment of cynicism as I walked up the road, I mourned the end of Summer when I saw these leaves.

Autumn Colours

Autumnal colours, I thought, how pretty, but so early in the year.

But no, we’re still good, it’s warm and pleasant outside albeit a bit cloudy which, as you’ll see later, was quite useful one day.

The good news is, our car was washed and it passed its MOT. Liesel completed another blanket and you’re thinking, whoa, that was quick, but actually, she was crocheting this one and the previous one more or less in parallel.

Another fabulous crocheted blanket

We’ve both been making plans for the next few weeks so we haven’t been venturing very far from home. My phone has run out of storage, so I spent (far too many) hours moving stuff to its SD card. Let’s hope that stops it nagging. There’s a lot going on in Northenden though, especially on the river.

You have to wade through the water to get there, but it’s less than knee-deep, and unless the water’s flowing really fast, quite safe, I think.

The obligatory dumped car tyre

It takes some effort to place a tyre on this spot. Any normal, decent fly-tipper would just throw it in the river.

Geese and heron cooling off on the weir
Kayak

I’m sure they were having a good time, but they weren’t paddling in sync, and I waited in vain for at least one of them to fall in. Or fall out, depending on your point of view.

Nearby, the golfers were out in force, some more skilled than others, judging by some of the choice language reverberating among the trees.

Playing a round

But none of these players experienced the fate that befell Adam in Australia. He went to retrieve a loose ball from the bushes and was bitten by a snake. Pretty scary, and painful, but it was non-venomous. The photos are too graphic for this site.

On being told that Uncle Adam had been bitten by a snake on a golf course in Australia, Martha announced that she was never going to go to… a golf course.

I never thought I’d encounter a real life Gollum. Most of the fishermen on the Mersey have a rod. Not this chap.

Smeagol, my precious

He was trying to catch the fish with his bare teeth.

Meanwhile, the horses were having a good time on Northenden Village Green.

Neighbourhood horses, geddit?

We wondered whether these were the horses that pull the hearses for the local funeral director. Horses, hearses, that’s poetry right there.

Of course, I don’t visit Northern Den or Boxx 2 Boxx every time I go out, but on one hot day, I opted for the chocolate milkshake.

Chocolate milkshake

The ice in it kept me going all the way to Simon’s Bridge and back which was handy, because I’d forgotten to take a bottle of water. Yep, still not fully adapted to life in hot weather.

Google was kind enough to send me its usual email at the turn of the month, showing me all the exciting places I’ve visited. I thought I’d share it.

Google knows everything but Google knows nothing

Well, I don’t like knocking Google unnecessarily, but, yes, while that was my first visit to Middlewich, I have been to Sale before. Also, Sale and Wythenshawe have very similar looking places of interest.

Another day, another walk, another local eccentric.

Panning for gold

I think this bloke’s panning for gold, but I don’t think he’ll have much luck, this region doesn’t have the correct geological history, as far as I can tell. Now, if he were panning for car tyres, I could have pointed him in the right direction.

The highlight of the week was the opportunity to observe a partial eclipse of the Sun. Naturally, that day, we had 100% cloud cover, but after maximum obscuration, the clouds did thin out a bit.

I thought this would be as good as I could manage…
…but just a few minutes later, the clouds thinned

Then when the clouds totally cleared (briefly) I projected the image in the old-fashioned way.

Projected images are the best

Yes, I know none of those pictures, taken with my phone,  would ever win an astrophotography competition, but I felt quite happy that, despite the clouds, I was able to witness this, albeit unimportant, event.

My radio show this week consisted of a few requests, some songs left over from previous shows plus a few new or re- discoveries. Also, I chatted with Rachel Nicholas, whose new single Sloth was released today. She was also responsible for the Radio Northenden jingles last year, and is an all-round good egg. You can listen to the show here.

My ultimate criterion for whether Summer is truly here has not yet been satisfied. I’ll be more convinced when there are tan lines on my feet, now that I’m wearing sandals most of the time.

Strawberries oceans ships forest

On a scale of one to ten, the weather this week has been turned up to eleven. It’s been bright and sunny, with blue skies, a few fluffy clouds, it’s been warm, it’s been Spring-like. At last. Well worth waiting for. We love a bit of sunshine, it’s been a long time coming, after the long remix of Winter that didn’t want to leave us.

We watched the end of the bike race on TV. I know, I know, gorgeous weather outside and we’re still indoors watching TV. But it was the end of this year’s Giro d’Italia, won by Egan Bernal (from Colombia) riding for the British team Ineos Grenadiers, hooray, proud to be British. It was a fascinating race and we saw a lot of the Italian countryside. In the Sun.

Cold
Brr that looks chilly, picture from TV

Mostly. High in the mountains, in ski country, the snow was still literally feet deep.

Deep snow (picture from TV)

We kept looking out of the window, just to make sure our sunshine was still there. Sorry to go on about the weather but it was  welcomed by everyone. Yes of course, some folks are already saying that it’s ‘too hot’ and I’m sure I’ll be guilty of that too eventually, but for now, I’m going to lap up every British thermal unit of heat I can.

So where was our first excursion in the sunshine? Oh, just local. Two bags of litter picked and some happy memories rekindled. I haven’t seen one of these for years, decades probably.

Golden Wonder

Golden Wonder crisps. Nowadays for us it’s all about Tyrrells low- or no-salt. But I wonder how long that packet’s been lurking in the bushes? I did enjoy Golden Wonder sausage and tomato flavour crisps in the late ’70s, but I suspect I’d find them far too salty now.

Fallen branch

I hope this branch was blown off in the last of the strong winds and wasn’t pulled off by our local heavy monkeys swinging from it. But look how bright everything is, and how sharp the shadows. Sorry to keep going on about the sunshine, but it really has been magnificent this week.

Boxx 2 Boxx provided the musical entertainment on bank holiday Monday, thanks to Angie, playing saxophone along to a backing track.

Angie sax

The coffee shop was the most busy I’ve ever seen it, all us pasty white locals taking full advantage of the opportunity. I think we just don’t believe the warm weather is going to last.

The best day of the week was spent at the seaside. We left very early to go to Formby, where we spent the day with William and Martha and Jenny and Liam. The tide was at its lowest, and way over there, we could see the wrecks of some ships that had apparently been scuttled during the second world war.

Wind turbines and ships in the ocean

The beach is flat, so at low tide, the sea is a long way away. As you walk towards it, you have to wade through a couple of dips in the sand. Well, I say sand, but in places, it’s proper mud, as William discovered.

William’s new socks

The children had a ball, we all did, really. We did comment on how popular the place was today. I think Liesel and I are just so used to having the vast expanse pretty much to ourselves.

William and Martha
Four go mad in the sea

Somehow William had learnt that you can wee in the sea. So he decided to save it. But in the end, he had to go at home before they left. It’s good that he’s now aware of such things. But as a grandad stripped from childminding duties because of the pandemic, I feel a slight loss that I won’t need to change his nappies any more. That’s progress, I suppose. Anyway, to celebrate William’s restraint, June 8th has been decreed World Ocean Day.

Selfie of the day
Martha, super sand castle constructor

We ate our picnic lunch on the beach, and as I always say, you can never go hungry on the beach. Why’s that? Because of all the sand which is there. I think I read that joke in a comic about 100 years ago, and it still makes me chuckle, even when it leaves everyone else cold.

For the second week in a row, our grocery order came with the reddest, sweetest, juiciest strawberries you could wish for. They disappear too fast for a family photo, so here are the last two survivors this week.

Strawberries

And while we’re contemplating bright colours, here’s the blanket that Liesel completed this week, a labour of love, a million crochet stitches and if she were being paid even at minimum wage, Liesel would now be a millionaire.

Liesel’s lovely warm crochet blanket

What else have we been up to? Indoors, we’re watching the Danish TV series The Killing and we’re nearly at the end of the third and final series, so please don’t send any spoilers. We watched Jessica Lee Morgan not once, but twice: her own weekly show on Tuesday (subscribe here) and she also replicated her mother, Mary Hopkin’s, show from The Royal Festival Hall, 1972, a concert that of course I wish I’d been to.

And for the first time in ages, we got tickets from the BBC, to watch, online, a recording of an episode of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. Via the medium of some magic software, they recorded our reactions, clapping, laughter, whoops, wolf whistles for Samantha and it was a very funny show. They asked us not to take pictures or record the show.

I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue

Oops.

I’d love to relate some of the gags but, no spoilers here. The new series begins on June 14th, Radio 4 at 6.30, and our episode will be broadcast on July 12th.

I think I spent more time than usual this week preparing my radio show, mainly editing my chat with Tom Hingley from last week and then finding the music, most of which of course was not in our collection. Anyway, it went OK (mostly) and you can hear the result here.

Alternatively, if you’re in or near Wythenshawe on Wednesday, tune into Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2 at 7pm for a (slightly edited) repeat. Or listen via TuneIn.

At the Speed of Sound

Our first day out this week was a return visit to Dunham Massey. It was cloudy but it wasn’t supposed to rain until well after the end of our nice long walk. We wandered around the garden, no longer having to follow a one-way system. Yes, another tangible sign that things are opening up. We still tried not to get too close to other people, but it was very pleasant. And it was interesting to see plants that we’ve not been able to view for a long time.

Purple fircones (not to be confused with the 1970s prog rock group)

I wish I knew what this thing is, with its purple fircones. One day I’ll go back through this blog and insert all the proper names of plants and birds but don’t hold your breath.

Silver birches

These birch trees make us both happy, they always remind me of those paintings by Teri Lindseth that we saw in Anchorage. That was a long two and a half years ago now: I had to check my sums there. But what was nice too was hearing the birds singing their little hearts out.

Where’s Liesel?

The rhododendrons are blooming brilliant, and this one has a strange rose in its midst.

We decided to have a coffee before setting off for another jaunt, this time through the deer park. I don’t know what possessed me but I picked up a Mars bar to have with my coffee. Definitely a spur-of-the-moment, impulse buy. Apart from the small bitesize ones you get in a box of Celebrations, I haven’t eaten a Mars bar for several years. Today, I was reminded exactly why this is the case. Far too sweet and sickly and gooey, I could feel the caramel and nougat dissolving the enamel from my teeth. It made my cheek muscles ache. Luckily, the coffee washed away most of the sugar and I came home with pretty much the full set of gnashers. But, lesson learnt, stay away from Mars bars. Such a shame, because I have happy memories of Dad bringing them home from work, for my sister and me, on a Thursday evening along with the latest edition of Radio Times. Those were the days.

We watched some deer in the deer park, but I missed a great photo opp of one on its back legs reaching up to a nice juicy leafy tree.

Deer, deer

In fact, there was quite a lot of wildlife: deer, squirrels, Canada geese, ducks, moorhens, humans and dogs. So a cacophony of quacks, honks, barks and complaints about the state of everything.

It slowly got darker and darker, then we felt the first few spots of rain. It won’t last, we told ourselves. But it did. And as we were at the furthest point along the path, the rain became torrential. It even hailed for a couple of minutes.

Rain on the water (fire in the sky?)

My waterproof anorak isn’t as waterproof as I thought, but this was its toughest test to date. Liesel’s umbrella did the job though. Two very wet people sat in the car for a few minutes before setting off home. It had been raining hard for maybe half an hour or so, but already, the roads were flooded. We drove through several puddles and would have drenched any passing pedestrians if we’d encountered any.

The splash of water

There’s a nice picture of a water splash, including the bonus reflection of one of my knobbly knees.

And then, just ten minutes down the road, nothing. It hadn’t been raining here at all, we realised. Definitely a case of unfortunately being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I usually have cereal for breakfast, sometimes toast and occasionally both. Many years ago, Liesel couldn’t stand the smell of fried eggs. Now, she is kind enough to fry me a couple of eggs every now and then. Anyway, on this fateful day, I began salivating as I poured out some muesli into the bowl, added a Weetabix and then topped it all off with a couple of handfuls of Shreddies. I poured on the milk, and sat down in my usual spot on the sofa to enjoy my breakfast while watching a recording of the previous day’s stage of the Giro d’Italia. The first spoonful had barely entered the orifice before it was violently expelled across the room. The milk was off. Sour. Putrid. Vile. What’s the ‘best before’ date? Well, today. How did it know that today was the day to turn rancid? And why didn’t the smell warn me? And why were there no giveaway globules of fat floating around? Disbloomingusting. To take the taste away required black tea and toothpaste and I was tempted to gnaw on a raw onion. Yuck, yuck and thrice yuck. In unrelated news, if you need someone to provide a pebbledashing service, I am waiting for your call. Small projects only.

A quick walk around the streets of Northenden and we saw our old friend lurking.

Where’s the heron?

It’s good to see the playground full of little children again, squealing, screaming and laughing, it’s been a while. One day, we’ll be in there having a good time with our William and Martha.

Our second proper day out this week, to a place beyond Northenden, was a return visit to Lyme Park. I may have been overdoing it by very nearly walking 10,000 steps most days, but my old body wasn’t having it on this occasion. From the car park, there’s a slope to walk up to reach the house and the gardens. At the top, I had to stop to catch my breath. My heart rate was 105 according to the app. I thought my breathlessness issue had pretty much gone away, but no, like a really bad, annoying penny, it came right back to remind me who’s boss. Sometimes I wish I smoked 50 fags a day just so that I’d have something to give up.

Anyway, I recovered, and we walked around the gardens, but not the long route around the park which I’d mentally set myself up for. Oh well. At least we didn’t get rained on today.

There’s a nice Italianate garden here and lots of rhododendron bushes in flower, but one thing that caught our attention was this holly bush growing out of a crack in a brick wall.

Holly

There are many more goslings here than during our previous visit, and most of them look pretty healthy, but there was one poor wee chap who toppled over after every few steps taken.

I stood still near the bird feeder in vain for far too long, waiting for the coal (or great?) tit to return. I even hid behind a tree watching through my phone. But Liesel thinks my bright blue t-shirt might have been a deterrent.

We’ve notice several piles of dead trees around Lyme Park, but we don’t know why. Has there been some fatal disease? Or is this part of the general management of the park? There were quite a few gardeners around today, but we didn’t want to approach any of them to ask. A sign I suppose that even though we’ve been inoculated, we’re not 100% comfortable with too much social non-distancing.

Our third day out this week (yes, third, how exciting!) was to Sale Water Park where we met Jenny and William. He scooted (scootered?) all the way around the lake, a distance of 2.1 miles according to my pedometer.

William the scooterer
Danger overhead fishing lines

There were quite a few people fishing here, away from the power cables. A few had big tents to hide in while their three rods did all the hard work for them. But the thought of eating fish from this particular body of water (if I ate fish at all) was not appealing.

Squirrel in a bin

We were all amused by seeing this squirrel in the bin, but we couldn’t understand why somebody would want to throw it away.

Jenny asked William what this structure was…

Pylon

Surely he doesn’t know the word ‘pylon’, does he? No. ‘It’s an Eiffel Tower’. His teachers are going to love him when he starts school!

He wore his helmet while scootering (scooting?) so when he took it off, his hair was a bit of a mess. Which he laughed at when he saw his reflection in the water.

William and Mummy

Today it was Jenny’s birthday, so we gave her something nice, which she unwrapped so that William could see, but he’s not interested in gin at the moment, maybe it was too early in the day. We gathered up everyone we could find in the park, and we gave Jenny a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday.

Martha was at school today but we hope to catch up with her at some point during the two-week long half-term holiday. Two weeks? It’s a northern thing, apparently.

In the evening we went out. Out out. To a proper place for a proper live music event. Our first gig since before the first lockdown. We were in a marquee at The Kings Lock in Middlewich to see Tom Hingley. While there, I interviewed him for my radio show. He was very generous with his time, and I hope I can use some of it on the show. We were seated right by the canal, with running water, and a busy road just the other side, so I hope the background noise wasn’t too bad: all I had to record on was my phone. Still, what a top bloke.

Tom Hingley

The marquee was as covid-safe as they could manage, fairly well ventilated, although the stench of cigarette smoke did waft in occasionally. Each party was seated at a table and a young lady came round every now and then to take our bar orders, which were then delivered.

The first song Tom performed was Saturn 5 which, by coincidence, was the final song that I’d played during my radio show today. Ooh my radio show. What was the theme this week? Well, I celebrated the return of Live Music, something we’ve missed quite a lot. I may have mentioned that before, actually. So this week, I played tracks from some of my favourite live albums, from concerts that I’d been to and from some that I wish I’d witnessed. You can listen back here. Just remember to pre-order your drinks, and don’t forget to chat to your friends all the way through (oops, sorry, I wasn’t going to whinge about anything this week).

Driving Rain

This weeks events, or lack thereof, were largely governed by the amount of rain we enjoyed. Well, obviously, not ‘enjoyed’. The word is more like ‘endured’. I try not to let bad weather get to me too much, but at the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, my brain was feeling the strain.

We paid a quick visit to Cheadle Hulme where we stood around Jenny’s garden in the rain for a while.

Where’s William, in the rain?

We played hide and seek making good use of the only three places we could hide in. Squatting on my haunches in the play-house put too much strain on these aged knees. But sitting on the soggy terrain is no good for other parts of the anatomy.

In the evening, I watched Wall to Wall Bowie online, marking the release of Janette Mason’s new single, Fame, featuring David McAlmont on vocals. He’s a very interesting chap. Sarah saw him perform with Bernard Butler in the late ’90s, somewhere in north London, when their song Yes was a big hit. Miles and Lynne were also in the online audience. Lynne asked if I was Mick the Postman. Yes, but retired, I told them. Oh, you’ll always be Mick the Postman to us! Janette asked how we knew each other. Miles couldn’t restrain himself from telling everyone about how he worked at GLR, and I was its most loyal listener. Recognition, at last! And, aptly, a modicum of fame.

Wall to Wall Bowie with Janette, Mick, David Mcalmont and Miles, out of the rain

You’re wondering why you can’t see my fizzog? I was using my own PC for the Zoom call, and it has no webcam. Any day now, I am going to buy myself a brand new laptop computer. I’ve been saying that for 18 months now, so don’t hold your breath.

In between showers, we had a quick walk around Northenden. Unusually, the heron was on our side of the weir.

Heron in the rain

Of course, as soon as I took a couple more steps closer, it took off. As if I don’t have enough photos of animals running off and birds flying away.

Heron in flight, in the rain

Kenworthy Lane Woods were a bit muddier than we’d anticipated, but there was far less litter than usual, which was nice.

Wild garlic in the rain

Liesel thinks this is wild garlic, but we refrained from picking any, just in case it was something else.

Monday was, unbelievably, the 20th anniversary of Sarah’s passing.

RIP Sarah, out of the rain

How did I mark the occasion? I went for a walk, in the rain, and picked some litter, in the rain. It was also the first day we were allowed to sit inside coffee shops, as things slowly open up.

Blackboard, in the rain

So I sat inside Boxx 2 Boxx and watched the torrential rain for a while. I had a nice chat with Dan, the choirmaster and sometime fellow Radio Northenden presenter, and with Jill and Shelly, the proprietors. Jill, by her own admission, isn’t yet very good at drawing a nice picture on top of a frothy latté!

Coffee inside, out of the rain

Liesel and I thought we’d go for a walk in a different place, just for a change. The Trans Pennine Trail at Reddish Vale is a nice rhyme, but it’s probably not somewhere we’ll return to. Far too many dog-walkers with their charges and their charges’ discharges. Lots of it on the path, and plenty more in bags and just left behind. If only there were proper training for dog owners and professional dog walkers.

No hunting, in the rain

I don’t know what we were expecting, to be honest, but we certainly didn’t anticipate this being a hunting venue. Rabbits and magpies, maybe?   

Harrison’s Weir, in the rain

As far as we’re concerned, this is a waterfall, but known locally as Harrison’s Weir. You can walk across the river a bit further downstream, if you don’t mind getting wet trainers. This is known as Harrison’s Ford.

Trees as far as the eye can see, in the rain

It’s lovely to see so many newly planted trees here in Reddish Vale Country Park, a rain forest of the future maybe.

My brain has been complaining about the lack of daylight. So it was time to visit the barber and have my hair cut. This was my first visit to the barbershop for eight months. I’ve enjoyed a pony tail for a couple of weeks, but it’s time for a change of style. And a tidy up. Another indoor venue, but I felt OK, and I think being vaccinated against Covid certainly helps. Sadly, when I’m out, I usually can’t refrain from visiting a coffee shop. I think that’s as close as I get to an addiction.

Hairs, out of the rain

As usual, as I walked along the damp, soggy, wet pavements of Northenden, I noticed just how bad the drainage is. Just put the drains where the puddles form, that would be my advice. But I am just a bystander, waiting to be splashed when the next vehicle goes by.

Driving to a National Trust venue that is new to us, we spotted a Möbius strip. Not a real one, just a logo on the back of a van.

Möbius strip , in the rain

I probably spent too much time trying to see whether it was a one- or a two-sided strip, when I should have been helping with the navigation. It’s still not 100% clear, is it? Even when you waste time looking at their website, it’s ambiguous. 

The rain it rained harder and harder as we approached Hare Hill. It eased off slightly, we had raincoats, we had waterproof trainers, so we decided to walk around this place, despite the weather.

Mick: If it’s too bad, we can always sit inside the coffee shop instead.
Liesel: There is no coffee shop here.
Mick: No coffee shop? What’s the point of the place then?

Hares, in the rain

It was a nice, quiet place, with a one-way system in place, and very few other visitors. Our walk was shorter than many National Trust sites, and I’m sure we’ll return, maybe with a picnic, when the weather’s less rainy.

But the displays of colour are very uplifting.

Pinky purple, in the rain
Yellowy green, in the rain
Iris, in the rain

Looking at the low clouds, almost mist, I remarked that if the Sun were out, we might see a rainbow. Trying to look on the bright side.

We sat in a bower, sheltered from the rain, waiting for it to ease. It didn’t. As we were leaving, Bob, the National Trust guy, engaged me in conversation about what I was wearing. Shorts. It’s nearly the end of May, I should be able to wear shorts and show off my tanned lallies by now, but no, when I look down, my Dad’s voice comes into my head: ‘That reminds me, I must get two pints of milk on the way home’.

We’ve booked a couple of trips for later in the year. Going by train? No, neither of us is comfortable with travel by train, yet.

I dedicated my radio show this week to Sarah, playing some music that means or meant a lot to us. I don’t think I could have done such a thing before, but now, yes, it’s still emotional, but I was able to cope, and I think there were just a couple of slips of the tongue. Oh, and I was also caught singing along a couple of times, when I forgot to mute the microphone. You can listen to the show here.

Thank you for your continued support, reading this blog, and here’s something we’ve never done before. Please consider buying us a cup of coffee.

Not necessarily for coffee, but to help pay for this very blog: we might have to move up to the next payment level soon and any help would be much appreciated, thank you.  It’s rewarding knowing you’re there, but we’ve been brainstorming how to make this thing sort of pay for itself.

Over 24 hours of continuous, torrential rain has resulted in the level of our River Mersey rising by over half a metre. Time to get the rainproof wellies out again, soon. Did I mention it rained a lot this week?

Wild Life

Five weeks until the Summer solstice, and we’re still waiting for some prolonged warmer weather. Liesel and I have decided that the next time we install windows (apertures that reveal the world to us, not the operating system), we’re going to get orange-tinted glass, so it’ll always look nicer and brighter outside than it really is.

Sadly, I have to start this week with some sad news. I found a lost, sad, pining Peppa Pig near the local playground.

Poor Peppa Pig

I hope she is reunited with her sad child very soon. The other thing I saw near the river was a ‘vole’. It ran out from the grass, grabbed a lump of bread that someone had thrown at the ducks, and took it back to its den. I say ‘vole’ because I hoped it was something more interesting than what it probably really was, scurrying at 60mph for a quick snack.

Our most recent attempt to visit Biddulph Grange Gardens was curtailed because of roadworks and diversion signs that didn’t really help much. This time though, we arrived safely and just a few minutes before Jenny and William. We had a nice walk together, following the one-way system.

Strawberries and cream

William bought a bucket of fish food which we shared. Well, we fed the fish and kept our fingers crossed that he wouldn’t slide down the grassy slope into the pond.

William on a slippery slope

Although, to be honest, he might have enjoyed jumping into such a large puddle.

There are climbing opportunities as you wander along the path, and William had a go at everything.

William up a greasy pole

Martha was at school. In fact, she’s been cycling to school every day, which is great, she really enjoys it. One day she even cycled to William’s nursery to bring him home, a total of two miles that day.

Back at Biddulph, we tried some bird-watching. I think the smudge in the middle of the lawn is a yellow wagtail.

Yellow wagtail, but you might need a magnifying glass

Walking along one long straight path, we asked William to count the shadows cast by the line of trees. He was getting tired and we thought this would help keep him interested and moving. And it probably would have worked if the Sun didn’t keep going behind the clouds. ‘The shadows have gone,’ he announced.

William likes to be scared and he likes to scare his Grandad, so we had fun scaring each other. Then we turned a corner and saw this.

Sphinx

Eek. Scary.

And who could resist going on a seesaw with their grandson?

Seesaw

Of course, the flowers are fabulous, a beautiful display of colour.

Tulips

Liesel and I had another day out this week, we know how to have a good time. A leisurely walk at Lyme Park where it threatened to rain, but it waited until we were on our way home. We felt just a few spits and spots, I think that’s the technical term.

There were quite a few geese in the lake, including one family of very cute fluffy babies.

Italianate Garden
Rhododendron Island in the lake, plus bonus daffodils
Selfie of the day

So, what do you think of the new hat? It’s managed to deflect a few raindrops so far, plus it’s SPF 50, which I think means the Sun doesn’t come out much when I’m wearing it. I admit, it does look better than my old faithful, much loved but well-worn and floppier sunhat.

Acer or maple

I tried to get a picture of a sheep and a lamb, but they just turned their backs on me. I have plenty of photos of animals’ bottoms already, thank you.

And the birds at the feeders were just too fast for me. Not sure if they were blue tits or coal tits, but they certainly didn’t want to sit still and pose for us. Likewise, a fat robin, straight from a Christmas card, flew off as soon as I even thought about taking its picture. I think they’re telepathic.

There’s plenty of deer spoor around the park, but the only deer we saw was located inside the coffee shop.

Isn’t venison dear?

Thank you Helen for the brilliant caption!

My hair is quite long and on Sunday while out for a walk around Northenden, I thought I’d surprise Liesel by having it cut. When I reached the barbershop, the one I last visited in September, it was closed. I was a little disappointed, but mostly relieved that I didn’t have to go inside a small space with some total strangers. I think it will be a while before we feel totally comfortable doing normal things. But later in the week, Liesel did visit the big Sainsbury’s in Cheadle and felt OK, even though it was quite busy. 

We have been thinking about travelling further afield too, maybe even going away for a week or two. We’re not going overseas this year, so it will be somewhere between Cornwall and John o’Groats, between Norfolk and Pembrokeshire. With that in mind, the radio show this week had the theme of Cities. I played records about or featuring some of the world’s great cities. You can listen here and enjoy DJ William helping out a bit, thank you.

The Wall

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

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

Cheers!

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

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

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

Sunset in Manly NSW

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

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

Sorry Protection Sells

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

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

Foliage hiding the rubbish

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

Selfie of the day

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

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

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

Fluffy clouds

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

Azaleas and rhododendrons

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

Pink rhododendrons

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

Yellow rhododendrons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long-haired yeti

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