Birds and buses

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

Bed of leaves

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

More Northenden flytippery

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

William the carrot-muncher

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

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

 

Mincemeat scone

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

 

 

 

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

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

Lyme deer

Time for some bird spotting, I think.

Corkbill egrets

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

Baby ferns
Selfie of the day
Mushroom

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

 

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

Britannia Country House Hotel

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

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

Bad news at Greens

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

Time for some more bird spotting, I think.

Wooden sculpture
Kingfisher

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

Baby daffodils

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

Lost shoes

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

More muddy than Mudsville, Mudshire

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

Big sprouts

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

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

William the former Busy Bee

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

Martha in mufti

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

Brandy balls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seagulls playing chicken

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

Sunset over Northenden

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

Martha did very well

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

Heron on the Mersey

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

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

Heron by the Mersey

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

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

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

Holy smoke, Batman

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

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

Blossom

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

Rest your feet here

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

You’ve been Barlowed

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

Lots and lots of fairy doors

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

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

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

Chicken

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

Lost pooperty

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

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

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

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

10,000 steps a day

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

Christmas tree in the woods


Fairy door

Colourful graffiti

Didsbury Mosque

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


Olde worlde light bulbs

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

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

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

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


Lightshade or lampshade?

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

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


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


Pylon of the day

Scarecrow in the allotments

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


Myra’s first-ever Google Meet call

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

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


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

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

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


Another day, another walk.


Birthday balloon on a bridge

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


Someone loitering within tent

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

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

50 Shades of Grey

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

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

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

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

Martha and William with their tree

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

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

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

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

Nothing much

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

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

So here we all are, living in a rainbow.

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


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

Picnic table out of order

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

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

War Memorial

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

Fly-tipped oil drums

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

Feathers

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

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

Merry Christmas, everybody

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

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

Sunset over the Mersey

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

Twilight zone

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

Ivy fighting its way through the fence

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

Go slow

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

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

Another fine cake from Dani’s Bakehouse, Northern Den

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

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

Funeral procession

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

Mick the DJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horizontal

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

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

Carrot cake

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

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

Christmas cactus

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

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

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

So still runs the river

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

A bench to rest on, by the river

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

Simon’s Bridge

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

Power lines

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

Landslip

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

A ball in the river

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

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

Leaf of the day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William and his cake

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

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

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

Christmas cactus a week later

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

The snail, the robin and the badger

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

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

Mossy tree

Tree leaning over the stream

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

Styal ½ mile

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

A very pleasant view

A rock, a hard place

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

Badger

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

Apple bobbing on an industrial scale

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

Robin

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

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

Martha MP

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

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

The former Tatton Arms

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

St Wilfrid’s churchyard

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

Snail

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

Long shadow of the day

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

Some love in the bunker

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

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

Tomte

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

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

The coot and the hedgehog

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

Ducks of the day

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

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

Pretty car park
What a big thistle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection

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

Muddy path of the day

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

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

Christmas cactus

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

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

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

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

A nightmare

Nothing ever changes, nothing changes at all. Those song lyrics popped into my head on one of our walks this week. But as I later realised, the actual lyrics in the Del Amitri song are: Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all. Both versions are correct at the moment, we’re living a very straightforward, unexciting lifestyle, thanks to the pandemic and the lockdowns and rules and regulations and guidelines and mainly, concern for our own safety.

But there are of course variations on a theme. Sometimes we walk that way instead of this way. We walked to Wythenshawe Park and home again, around a big loop.

Vandalised statue

It makes a change to walk on grass rather than footpaths and muddy tracks, but it was, let’s say, a bit damp in places. Our very own, local Grimpen Mire: plenty of well-hidden puddles to catch us out and some a bit easier to spot.

Puddle

We haven’t been to the zoo for a while, but I was delighted to see a Hippo in Northenden.

Hippo

Online, we watched a couple of events from Manchester Literature Festival. A tribute to Nina Simone, and an interview with Tori Amos, who is currently locked down in Cornwall.

Kate Feld interviews Tori Amos

Also online this week, some rascal started a rumour that Woolworths was coming back to our High Streets. This is the good news we Brits have been waiting for, so what a shame it turned out to be a hoax. I still have my faithful Woolies notebooks though, and if your offer is high enough, you could own it!

Very old notebook

Walking by the river is always a pleasure, though sometimes tempered by the concern that it might start raining before we get home. The Sun tried hard to make itself visible through the 99% cloud cover, and I did catch it in the river, briefly.

The Sun in splendour
Skulls of the day

I found these skulls in the window of the tattoo parlour next to Church Lane Chippy, not sure if they’re always there or just for Halloween. I don’t often look in windows of tattoo parlours, but I was waiting for my chips!

We trudged through the Autumn leaves in the woods, and again mourned the fact that William wasn’t with us, exploring the jungle.

Leaf of the day
Leaves of the day

The bed of wet leaves on the ground at this time of year always reminds me of cross-country running at school. It was only ever an Autumn and Winter activity, because in the Summer term, we did proper athletics instead. And yes, I have manipulated the colours in that picture.
‘Don’t take that picture, Mick, they’ll think you’re a burglar casing the joint,’ said Liesel. ‘Well, if they don’t want me to take a picture of their house, they shouldn’t put a pretty, red bush in front of it.’

Red bush of the day

In other news, one day, Liesel baked 48 cookies. What an achievement! We rose to the challenge and consumed them all within three days: well, no need to let them to go stale!
As I write, it’s Halloween and our much-loved and much-missed grandchildren are having a great time in their suitably, spookily decorated house.

Cookie monsters of the day

As a tangential nod to Halloween, in my radio show this week, I built a body from spare parts found in song titles and song lyrics. After last week’s ‘dreams’ theme, I had a bit of a nightmare this week, when the PC refused to accept that the microphone was connected. The only solution was to reboot. Which meant the show began uncomfortably late. Listen here and listen out for Martha!

Pedalling and walking

Manchester is now in Tier 3 restrictions. This change won’t affect Liesel and me too much: we don’t go out to places, we can still walk around our neighbourhood, we still enjoy the odd takeaway coffee and we weren’t socialising at all. Not even with our grandchildren which is by far the most upsetting thing about this whole crazy situation.

We found more fruit growing in Northenden.

Quince

We had quinces in Chessington too, but even though I lived in that house for a third of a century, I never ate one nor made jam with them. I think I was put off partly by not being 100% certain they were real, edible, quinces, but also by the fact that we often saw one with a single bite taken out, by a fox or a squirrel, or whatever. But just one bite? That tells me, they just weren’t very tasty.

Our default walk is along the river, towards Didsbury and back. On one occasion, the following discussion took place.

Liesel: Look, there’s some Queen Anne’s Lace.
Mick: Oh, I thought it was Fox something, not Foxglove.
Liesel: Uh?
Mick: Fox’s something. Fox’s parsley.
Liesel: You mean Cow Parsley?
Mick: Yes, that’s what I said. You call it Queen Anne’s Lace?
Liesel: Yeah.
Mick: Is that the same as Cow Parsley, then?
Liesel: I dunno. Maybe.
Mick: I’ll look it up when we get home.

So I looked it up, and they are indeed the same plant. Other names include Wild Parsley, Adder’s Meat, Devil’s Meat, Bad Man’s Oatmeal, Keck (like the observatory in Hawaii), Wild Carrot, Bird’s Nest, Bishop’s Lace and Anthriscus sylvestris. Or, if you look elsewhere online, they’re not the same thing at all, but very similar. Please don’t trust any botanical information on this blog. Or on the rest of the internet.

As well as the vegetation, we do enjoy seeing our friends, the herons, geese, ducks and mergansers.

Heron
Heron

It was good to see the Environment Agency cutting back some of the grass, part of the flood protection scheme.

Flood risk
Lawn mower by Simon’s Bridge

Actually, the path was supposedly off limits today, but we didn’t realise until we saw the sign at the other end of the closed section.

Footpath closed

On at least one occasion this week, I went out for a walk without my phone, without the camera. I am so pleased we didn’t encounter anything unusually photogenic.

I had to pre-record my radio show this week so that I could attend the hospital appointment that clashed.

Selfie of the day

They asked me to take my mask off and put theirs on. I’m not sure it was better than the cloth one that Liesel had madefor me: it slipped off much more easily and more often.

Still, I enjoyed the 15 minutes on a supine cycle, pedalling at about 65 rpm, increasing my heart rate, while they monitored the performance of my old ticker. I think it’s good news, nothing wrong with the arteries, but I still have no explanation for the sporadic episodes of breathlessness that accompany the most innocuous of activities. For instance, a few days ago, I had to sit down and catch my breath after towel-drying my hair. So, to prevent that sort of thing happening again, I’ve decided to stop taking showers.

We really are in strange times and it’s messing with our minds. Each year, we watch the Tour de France and La Vuelta a España on TV. This year the races have all been re-scheduled for later in the season. Plus, we’ve been able to watch the highlights from Il Giro d’Italia as well. So that’s all three of the cycling Grand Tours available for our viewing pleasure.

But, even more unusually, this year the Giro and the Vuelta overlap by a few days. This makes keeping track a little more difficult.
‘They haven’t mentioned Chris Froome at all today.’
‘That’s because he’s not in this race.

Even worse when the commentator says the cyclists are approaching Borneo.
‘Borneo? That’s a long way from Spain.’
‘This is Italy.’
‘Ah. Well, Borneo’s a long way from Italy too. And it doesn’t snow this much in Borneo, I suppose.’

In fact, they were in Bormio, a small town in north Italy, and I’d misheard.

What else have we been up to? We binge-watched both series of the TV drama ‘Liar’. It was quite intense, something I enjoy but Liesel struggles with, sometimes.

The theme of this week’s incredibly long radio show was Dreams and Dreaming.
Martha is the star of the show, no doubt!

Bulldog clips and fences

You just can’t find a bulldog clip when you need one.

We enjoyed a few local walks this week, by the river, and beyond. It’s colder, especially when wind fresh from the Arctic comes along.

Crocodile in the Mersey

Of course, it’s not really a croc. We’re not in the Northern Territory any more, sadly, but we’re still on the look-out for dangerous animals. I wonder how far this log travelled? Is it now lodged on the part-time island in Northenden? Or is it a potential threat to shipping in the Irish Sea?

Even more mushrooms

It wouldn’t be a proper walk without encountering mushrooms. Are these liberty caps? Magic mushrooms? We now need a mycologist on our panel of experts, along with the botanist, arborist, architect and historian who can help out with my embarrassing lack of knowledge in those fields.

Erin McKeown

Liesel went to bed, but as the loyal fan I am, I stayed up until midnight to watch Erin McKeown online. She was performing outside her home in New England, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of her first album, Distillation. It was a fun show, and I slept well when I eventually turned in.

Northenden sunset

Sometimes, we glimpse a half-decent sunset from our living room, it’s just a shame about the intervening buildings.

We wandered over to Fletcher Moss Park and enjoyed a coffee under The Joshua Tree. ‘Not the Joshua Tree’, said Liesel, but I disagreed, pointing out the commemorative sign attached. I never knew Josh of course, but I was moved by seeing the lyrics from an Oasis song.

 
The Joshua Tree
That was a nice tree, that was

Elsewhere in the park, tree surgeons were at work. I say ‘surgeons’, but another word came to mind. This was a very nice tree, it didn’t harm anybody.

Selfie of the day

If it’s Tuesday, it must be time to watch Jessica Lee Morgan online again. So I did.

More pretty flowers
The heron

We don’t see our herons every time we go out, but it’s always a delight to be the first to spot him. Or her. This one was sitting there, surveilling his territory. Sometimes, we see one rooting about in the grass, maybe tracking something, but definitely treading quietly and carefully.

 

 

Needle-felt gnome

 

Indoors, Liesel is busy with her crochet and now, some more needle-felting with the WI. This chap with a big hat is very cute on our bookshelves. While Liesel was busy with this, I continued my search for a bulldog clip.

 

 


For the first time in a very long time, we walked over to Cheadle Hulme and back. Just because we can’t see William and Martha in the flesh doesn’t mean we can’t give them books from time to time.

Autumn colurs in Cheadle Hulme

This was by far the longest walk of the week, and we both felt much better for it. As we walked over a stream, I looked it up. It’s called Micker Brook, and, look, according to Google Maps, just over there a bit, there’s a bagpiper for hire.

Crash barrier in a residential area

What a shame that so much of our road system is geared up to cater for the worst of the bad drivers. This barrier makes it ridiculously difficult for pedestrians to cross the side road at this point. I wouldn’t want somebody driving into my house either, but that’s what speed limits are meant to be for.

The world-famous Gatley fence

This is the ever evolving ricketty fence in Gatley. The elderly gentleman can often be seen repairing it, introducing new branches, planks and, as you can see here, a couple of wooden pallets on this occasion. Apparently he’s always refused any help in repairing the fence properly, once and for all.

Bulldog clips

As we wandered through Gatley, I spotted this shop. Hooray! I went inside and asked for a bulldog clip. ‘Sorry,’ was the reply, ‘we don’t sell bulldog clips.’ But you have loads in your window, I pointed out. I was glared at, so I still don’t have a bulldog clip. Oh well.

Pretty fence

Ah, this fence looks much better, especially now with its new Autumn colours.

And, sorry, but here’s the oblogatory weekly photo of fly-tipping here in Northenden. This time, a carpet and lots of garden waste.

Fly-tipped carpet etc

Anyway, never mind that, here is some much more uplifting (I hope) family news.

Helen and Adam have been together now for fifteen years, and it don’t seem a day too long. To celebrate, they went for a balloon trip over the vineyards and the curious kangaroos of New South Wales. What an adventure!

Ballooning over NSW

Nearer home, Martha is doing very well at school. The first parents’ evening revealed nothing embarrassing, and the teacher is very happy to have Martha in her class, very interested, very observant, even to the point of noticing something that’s lined up for a surprise later on.

William told his Mummy one morning ‘I can’t get the puff out of my nose.’ A wheat puff, a vital component of his breakfast. Mummy and Daddy looked up the orifice but couldn’t see anything. Was he joshing? Hovering between laughing and sheer panic, a solution was found. I’d never heard of a ‘mother’s kiss’ or ‘parent’s kiss’ before but it’s very effective. So here’s a tip for parents of little ones with foreign objects rammed up the hooter:

  • Tell the child they will be given a ‘big kiss’
  • Place your mouth over the child’s open mouth, forming a firm seal as if performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
  • Close the unaffected nostril with a finger
  • Blow until you feel resistance caused by the closure of the child’s glottis
  • Give a sharp exhalation to deliver a short puff of air into the child’s mouth, which passes through the nasopharynx and out through the unoccluded nostril
  • Repeat if necessary

In William’s case, the wheat puff shot out and ricocheted around the room. But if not, you might shift the object enough for it to become visible.

The following morning, at breakfast: ‘Mummy, I can’t get the Rice Krispie out of my nose.’

And finally, if you’d like to hear two hours of fabulous music about my desires to be a spaceman, listen to the show here on Radio Northenden.