Amidst the fleeting moments of life, the extraction of a tooth, though quick, a mere twenty seconds, proved to be a task of greater import, as the wound persisted in bleeding for twenty minutes past. Anaesthesia had masked the pain, but its fleeting touch had only heightened the senses, leaving the tongue to wander and explore the new contours of the mouth.
And so it was, that in the quest for medical aid, I journeyed to the apothecary once more, to collect the remnants of my prescription. In the waiting, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of knowledge, a library in the heart of Wythenshawe Forum.
Surrounded by the buzz of activity, I encountered a mechanical marvel, a robot stationed within the halls. Though its movements were limited, I couldn’t resist greeting it with a warm hello.
The library held within its walls a wealth of history, chronicling the rise of Wythenshawe Hospital from humble beginnings, from a piggery next to tuberculosis wards, to one of the finest institutions in the northwest of England. I learned of the famous figures that had passed through Wythenshawe’s halls, from Yuri Gagarin and Gladys Knight, to the legendary Bruce Forsyth, and more. Liesel was especially delighted to hear about Brucie.
On a day filled with care, we had the pleasure of looking after young Martha, who was off from school due to a teachers’ strike. We embarked on a journey of art and indulgence, visiting a quaint café, the oft-visited Quirky Misfits, for a babyccino, where she savoured the sweetness of cream and marshmallows. Her curious spirit was enticed by a shop filled with rocks, stones, and crystals, leading her to add a new treasure to her collection.
With William in tow, we ventured to a playland, where they let loose, danced and played to their hearts’ content. But as can be seen, Cheadle Hulme appears to be in a different timezone to London.
And as the day came to an end, we treated them to a fine dining experience, where they displayed impeccable manners, ordering their meals and making requests with ease.
William was very nearly welcomed into the arms of Morpheus, but his revival was achieved by the strange medicaments, chocolate brownie and ice cream.
The week was filled with many adventures, from walks through Wythenshawe…
Though the path ahead may be uncertain, and my steps difficult to retrace, I carry with me the memories of these moments, forever etched in my mind, a reminder of the beauty of life’s journeys.
‘Twas an interesting experiment, making use of Artificial Intelligence to help produce this post. Did it save time? Not really, no. Am I happy with the results? Not entirely, no. It is considered unethical to pass off someone else’s work as your own. It’s important to give credit where credit is due and maintain integrity in all of your actions. So, thanks very much for your help, ChatGPT, and good luck with taking over the world.
Where does the time go? That’s another week, whoosh, and as I discussed with someone recently, time does appear to go faster as you get older. So much so, that I find myself doing sums all the time: did that event really occur that many years ago? Every time I hear Sandy Denny’s song, Who Knows Where the Time Goes?, I get goosebumps because that is exactly how I feel. Such are the thoughts that intrude as I wander round, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes with purpose. Then I spot a pile of rubbish, a bag from McDonalds or a cup from Starbucks, discarded on the pavement not ten feet away from a litter bin, and my internal philosophical speculations come crashing down like that stack of plates dropped by the waitress in Pizza Express that time. Which is bright red, by the way, according to my synaesthesia.
Liesel and I walked by the river to Didsbury. The path has been improved in places, not with tarmac, but gravel. Despite the last remnants of snow, and a sprinkling of frost, neither of us went a over t and ended up in the fast flowing water.
Liesel joined the ladies of the WI for a coffee and a chat while I sat, all by myself, on my own, at another table, enjoying my lonesome coffee while doing puzzles on the phone. After which, I took a solitary stroll home, stopping off briefly at Marie Louise Gardens to watch the squirrels building snow squirrels.
I didn’t actually see any, of course, that would be ridiculous.
Then at home, I had a fight with Microsoft. I haven’t had this kind of battle for a long time, so it brought back memories of other things we don’t see on computers any more. Stack overflows. Counters. Websites in progress.
Me: sign into Microsoft with username Mick Microsoft: there’s no such account, try a different one or create a new one Me: create an account with username Mick MS: there’s already an account called Mick: if it’s yours, sign in DC al coda
Outside again, and we were delighted to see an early sign of Spring.
Just a few crocuses on Nothenden’s Village Green, but it’s a start.
And we were witness to some colourful evening skies again this week, from the comfort of our luxury apartment.
I’ve never wanted to be a TV critic, but here goes. I’m watching Dark, a complex story that involves time travel. The dialogue is in German so I really have to concentrate on the English subtitles. But there are two things I find myself saying out loud several times during each episode. ‘Turn the flipping lights on’: a lot of the show is filmed in almost complete darkness. And ‘Answer the flipping question’. One character asks a question, and another just looks blank, lost, confused, tearful and doesn’t respond. Or maybe the actor forgot their lines.
My tooth has been annoying since that time it was electrocuted in Malta. Very sensitive, and sometime very painful, with pain transferred to sinuses and upper reaches of the noggin. I visited the dentist and she said ‘your teeth are OK but your gum’s gotta go’. Well, no, not really, that’s a lyric from an Alice Cooper song. Sadly, we’ve decided the offending tooth has got to go, since it should have recovered from its trauma by now. The X-ray revealed a ligament writhing in agony. I knew I had other plans for the week, so I’ve now made an appointment for the surgery next week. It feels weird losing a part of my body that is older than me but I’m looking forward, once the wound’s healed, to an ache-free, pain-free upper right corner of the cakehole.
Because I was feeling a bit sore and sorry for myself, I missed out on the Wednesday walk, but I did go to the newly introduced Thursday one. Liesel joined us too, after the disappointment of having her yoga class cancelled. This route is longer than the others, and took us through parts of Wythenshawe where I’d never been before.
I didn’t even know there was a prison in Wythenshawe, but it looks like there’s been a jailbreak, somewhere in this town.
Could I retrace the route on my own? Probably not, because I was chatting with someone, and kept forgetting to look at street signs and I don’t know which woods and parks we passed through.
Back at the shopping centre, I was surprised to come across this old Roman mosaic.
I also missed the Friday walk because I had a meeting with David from Thrive Manchester at Boxx2Boxx.
This week’s radio show featured (mostly) songs of five minutes or so in duration. I also had a chat with Dan Tiernan earlier in the week: he’s British Comedian of the Year and a Northendenizen. You can hear this ragbag of delights right here, if you missed it on Wythenshawe Radio. I know I did, because I was chatting to an up and coming singer for next week’s show.
Setting up the new printer was fairly straighforward. Apart from when the message appeared: We’re sorry, something went wrong. Nothing had gone wrong, the printer works perfectly. Liesel and I can now print directly from our laptops and phones. And that concludes this week’s tech news.
We didn’t stay up to watch the New Year’s fireworks from London, but we did enjoy some very loud bangs from the local displays in Northenden. Not so loud that they drowned out the noise of torrential rain battering the windows. Yes, we were quite glad we hadn’t made the effort to go out somewhere to watch a display.
I think it rained continuously for over 48 hours in the end, during which time, sadly, we took very limited exercise. One day, I took some rubbish out and checked for mail. But not to worry, we were soon off to sunnier climes where we hoped to walk for miles and miles.
Getting up at 3.30am is a rare occurrence for us, but it happens sometimes. The taxi took us to the airport, we checked in, we breezed through security having bribed them a fiver to fast-track. It would have been faster if my trays hadn’t been pulled aside. Not because there was anything suspicious, but because their machines hadn’t scanned properly.
The flight was uneventful, apart from some minor turbulence as we flew over the Alps.
I read my book, I did some puzzles and I even forked out for a cup of coffee. Liesel read for a while and also did some crocheting. When we landed, it was cloudy but warm. And as we descended the stairs from the Boeing 737-800, the Sun came out and said, welcome to Malta, Mick and Liesel.
We were in Malta three years ago, returning to the UK just in time for the first Covid lockdown. Masks seem to be optional now, although we kept ours on all the way from Manchester Airport to getting off the bus just round the corner from our b&b in Sliema.
We knew the public transport system here was good, so we bought our bus tickets at the airport. The first bus took us into Floriana, the little independent town just outside Valletta. We ignored the Christmas market stalls as we walked towards the bus stop for a second bus. Except for the stall selling pastizzi. We yielded to temptation. Liesel chose the cheese filling while I opted for the peas. Delicious. But suddenly, 20,000 volts went through one of my teeth. I had tooth-ache for the rest of the day. I’m still not sure if the puff pastry was to blame, or I just bit down in an unorthodox manner, but boy was I miserable after this. I don’t want to have to see a dentist in a foreign country. I took painkillers and tried to play down the discomfort, but I’m sure Liesel will tell a different story. Ouch.
Our host met us at the b&b, showed us around and made us welcome. It’s a nice apartment, and we only have to climb 26 stairs to get there, not as many as in Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago.
In fact, the whole neighbourhood is picturesque, and so far at least, not a lot of noise. We made ourselves comfortable before embarking on the first of many long walks.
The streets are quite narrow so we were walking in the shade whichever side we chose to walk on. I told Liesel that as soon as we reached a sunny stretch, I would hold my arms out like a demented cormorant. It felt so good.
It’s only a 5 minute stroll to the sea and we walked along the promenade, breathing the sea air in deeply.
I was quite moved to see this memorial plaque, particularly as I had recently listened to a podcast serial, Who Killed Daphne? There’s some horrible corruption in Malta amongst the natural, and man-made, beauty.
On our first full day here, we walked to Valletta. It was warm and yet many people were still dressed in their thick Winter coats. As if they look at the calendar rather than the thermometer before deciding what to wear.
My God, it’s full of books. That’s what David Bowman would have said if he were looking into this old telephone box rather than a massive monolith orbiting Jupiter.
Some of the graffiti is quite profound. This caught my eye because it might, in some way, be related to my radio show next week. You’ll just have to tune in and see.
Look how blue the sky, how calm the water, and what a beautiful ship. There were hundreds of boats, of all sizes in the harbour, and in all states of repair.
We followed the path along the waterside, and eventually we saw Valletta way over there. That was our target for the day. And see that gap, I asked Liesel? Yes? That’s the Caribbean, I said. Don’t be so silly, she replied. And, as luck would have it, a hundred yards further on, we saw this vessel:
The Black Pearl, straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. This might not be Captain Jack Sparrow’s actual ship, I wouldn’t want to mislead you.
Yes, it’s very sad to see that capital punishment still exists in Malta. If you’re convicted of a nautical crime, they still make you take a long walk off a short plank.
This Catholic church isn’t really leaning over, that’s just side effect of a panoramic picture taken in haste on a busy road. It was almost glowing in the sunshine. Various church bells were ringing as we made our way to the Maltese capital, and we realised they were probably to mark the funeral of Pope Benedict taking place over the water in The Vatican.
Liesel sprayed her initials on this rubbish bin and couldn’t walk away fast enough. On the other hand, a bit later on, as we were walking across an area of grassland, a man in front kept turning around and looking at us. So we slowed down. And we stopped to ‘admire the view’. I think he’s got the hots for you, Liesel, I suggested. Make sure your phone’s not on display, said Liesel. We managed to lose him, or maybe he lost interest in us, and we found ourselves back in the Floriana Christmas market. No pastizzi today, thank you very much, and, since you ask, my teeth felt much better today. No painkillers required.
We entered Valletta and found somewhere decent, Kantina, to have a very welcome, late lunch. Welcome because we were hungry but also, it was nice to sit down for a while.
This train came along the road as we dined, but we were quite happy to stay put, with a coffee before continuing our perambulation.
Liesel went into a shop and while I loiterd outside, I found this celebration of Pope John Paul II’s first visit to Malta in 1990. It seems he was especially fond of Maltese people, right up until his death.
I’d forgotten that Valletta is quite hilly. So as we walked up and down, eventually heading back to the bus station, you can imagine how seeing this took ones breath away:
We didn’t walk up this street, but one parallel to it, closer to the sea. The Sun was low in the sky, and Fort Ricasoli was really looking for attention over there.
In a couple of places, we could see where the Sun would set, so we tried to get to a good vantage point. So did very many other people and try as we might, it was very hard not to ruin other people’s photo opps. But our patience paid off, and I think this is a pretty cool picture.
We wandered down to the bus stop and of course we missed a bus by 10 seconds. Back at the b&b, we ate and turned on the TV, something we rarely do when away from home, and watched a jolly good escapist movie, Glass Onion.
Unfortunately, I think we consumed too much caffeine so sleep was quite elusive. So much so, I managed to finish my first book of the year, in the middle of the night.
Also, my dreams that night, when I did eventually fall asleep, were ridiculous. For instance, if in real life, I’d asked my Mum to check that I’d left my mobile phone at home, she wouldn’t have a clue. And if I’d said I needed it to book an Uber, well. It was a different world thirty years ago.
Before we left home, I pre-recorded two radio shows, the first of which is now available. It’s on the subject of Weights and Measures. First on Wythenshawe Radio and now, here on Mixcloud.
As hinted at earlier, next week’s show is in the can and might have something to do with Laughter Therapy. Wythenshawe Radio, Friday 2pm, 97.2 FM, online, TuneIn app, smart speaker.
Never let it be said that Liesel and I don’t know how to have a good time, whether together or separately. On this fine Saturday, Liesel went for coffee with her WI chums leaving me to my own devices at home. But not for long. I paid a quick visit to Wythenshawe Forum for my Covid booster jab. No chocolate biscuits on this occasion, but neither did I have to rest for 15 minutes before being kicked out. All I need now is my flu jab and I’ll then consider myself fully Winter-proofed.
The walk home, the long way, took me by the river where I was delighted to see the heron attempting to hide on the island.
There are of course a zillion things more romantic than a Northenden sunset, but we have to make do with what we can get.
I have been tempted to paint a mountain view on the windows, but that idea has been vetoed by my wife. What about a stain glass window, then? If not mountains, what about a beautiful seascape? Nope. And nope.
We paid a return visit to Jodrell Bank where we met up with Jenny and Liam and the children. It’s been a while since we were last there, and the layout of the place and the car park all seemed unfamiliar.
We watched a couple of short films in the Dome, and even though it was warm and dark inside, I didn’t fall asleep.
The main attraction was the playground, where William and Martha had a great time climbing the frame and spinning fast on the mini roundabout made from an old washing-up bowl.
We had lunch before wandering over towards what should be the main attraction, the James Lovell radio telescope. On the way, we encountered some strange, almost extraterrestrial lifeforms.
We also admired pictures from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, now in its 13th year. I would love to claim credit for these photos, but I didn’t spend hours, days, even weeks, outside, in the cold, taking multiple time exposures and stitching together several elements. I just walked along a path and took a few quick snaps with my phone.
‘High clouds on Jupiter create intricate and beautiful shapes that swirl all over the planet. To get a colour image when there are only three colour channels (red, green, blue), some sort of filter-to-channel mapping must be done. PixInsight was used for the rest of the processing: custom white balance, deconvolution and wavelet transformation for detail enhancement, contrast and saturation curves. The resulting image, in CIE-LAB colour space, was then converted to RGB.’ – Sergio Díaz Rulz
This Image takes the Annie Maunder Prize to a new level this year. By using real data from a NASA research programme, the entrant has managed to encode the filters used to study Jupiter into shape and colour, creating a new and unique way to see the largest planet in our solar system.”
‘When I took this photo it was -16°C and the air was filled with small ice crystals that made this halo possible. This regular 22° halo is more commonly seen around the Sun. The moonlight needs to be quite strong to make the halo visible, so it’s more common around the days of a full moon. To the left you can see the city lights of Östersund, Sweden, and in the foreground you can see the tracks from a rabbit that hopped up to the trees.’ – Göran Strand.
“I really love this picture as it beautifully captures the Moon in a way we rarely see it, showing us that even on a calm winter’s night, it can still take your breath away.” Melissa Brobby, Judge.
The fly is a bit annoying but feel free to believe it’s an alien spacecraft if you like.
Martha was impressed at the scale of the telescope, even if she didn’t quite understand how it worked. We tried to walk around it but sadly, some of the grounds are out of bounds. William and Martha enjoyed the scientific exhibits outside, demonstrating such things as the conservation of angular momentum. I’m sure there used to be ‘toys’ to play with indoors too, but as I said, it’s been a long time since our last visit.
For some reason, the children weren’t interested in the wooden radio telescope prototypes that I found behind the scenes.
On our baby-sitting day, we collected them both from school and brought them straight back to our luxury apartment. Mummy and Daddy were off to school for Parent Teachers evening. I told Martha it was so the teachers could tell the parents how bad the children had been. She immediately corrected me, “How good we’ve been!”
At home, using some colourful, fallen Autumn leaves, some washi tape, paper and sellotape, they had fun making some bookmarks. At school, William had made a card each for Oma and Grandad which was very cute, even if his teacher had to help spell ‘Grandad’.
For the radio show this week, I played lots of black music to mark Black History Month.
Something went wrong with uploading to Mixcloud, I had several attempts and it didn’t work. I wondered at my incompetence, or if I’d hit some limit that I was unaware of. But no, it turns out there was a problem on their site. So, overnight, all three of my attempted uploads successfully completed. Anyone looking at my profile would wonder why there were three shows with almost identical names! Technology eh?
In medical news, I visited the dentist, the hygienist and the barber. My neck feels much colder now. I also visited a periodontist for the first time since we moved away from Chessington. I won’t go into details but you know that song Unfinished Sweet by Alice Cooper? That. On the way home, I thought I’d go for a wander in Wythenshawe Park while I processed a lot of information. I texted Liesel and we agreed to meet there.
We had a nice walk around the park, following the new cycle/pedestrian path. It looks pretty good, although it ‘s recommended that you cycle in one direction only, widdershins. In places, there are extra loops and bumps and challenges for wannabe mountain bikers.
It started raining a few minutes before completing the circuit so we arrived back at the car a bit more damp than planned.
On TV, we’ve been watching the World Track Cycling Campionships and feel a bit sad that some of our favourite cyclists from 2012, London Olympics, are no longer competing, and we don’t know the current team nearly as well.
Never say never of course, but it’s very unlikely we’ll ever visit the Glastonbury Festival. The biggest and best festival in the world returned for the first time since the pandemic. And the thought of sharing a space with nearly a quarter of a million strangers is just too daunting. On the other hand, the site, Worthy Farm, is vast. See just how big compared with your neighbourhood here: just enter your postcode. (Thanks for this link, Jenny.)
I watched on TV from the comfort of my own sofa, enjoying beer from my birthday and from Fathers Day. The highlight for me was of course was Sir Paul McCartney. Seeing him live at the O2 a few years ago was the best Beatles concert I’ll ever experience.
I was on my own at home so I sang along to all the songs: I had a wonderful little party, by myself! It’s mostly a young audience at Glastonbury and it was fantastic to see they knew the words to all the old Beatles’ songs, and to Diana Ross’s old hits, the next day.
Last time, I left you with the image of a small car parked badly on the island in the river. Well, someone waded in, retrieved and relocated it.
I went over to visit the grandchildren (and their parents) and their new pet.
This brought back unhappy memories of my time as a postman, walking through cobwebs at face height.
It was a joy to see William and Martha again after such a long time away.
Meanwhile, over in Alaska, Liesel went away for a quick break, visiting the little town of Hope, with her Mom and brother.
On another occasion, Liesel reported seeing a porcupine walking along the road. Well, that puts the Northenden heron into perspective.
I couldn’t refuse the offer to look after William for a couple of hours one day, while Jenny and long-time friend Danielle had their hair done.
I think this picture shows how absorbed William was and how bemused I was after watching several episodes and a full-length movie of Pokémon on TV. After a while though, William did get up and have a walk/slide around in his new footwear.
Slippers have never been more slippery.
In Anchorage, Liesel enjoyed a nice long hike up in the hills with Jyoti and Una.
If pushed, I’d probably have to admit that the scenery here is slightly more spectacular than anything Northenden has to offer.
This week I had reason to access Facebook, for a very specific purpose. And it annoyed me within two minutes. So no, I won’t be creating a new account for myself.
A much more uplifting experience was to be had on the two well-being walks I joined this week, one in Northenden and one in Wythenshawe.
This week’s photographic assignment was to capture a heavily laden bumble bee on this gorgeous hydrangea.
But it would not keep still, flitting from flower to flower, and especially when I lifted up my phone to take the picture. Some beasties are intrinsically more cooperative, and stationary, I’m pleased to report.
In sports news, local barista Jill Scott scored the fourth goal for England’s victorious football team, against Switzerland, in their final warm-up game before the Women’s Euro 2022 competition. A great advertising opportunity, of course!
As I was walking through Wythenshawe, I noticed a plain concrete pillar in the middle of a fairly large area of lawn. I wondered if it might be an old milestone, it had that sort of shape to it. I couldn’t see any legible engraving, so I walked round to see what was on the other side.
Well, we won’t be seeing any future Jill Scotts around here, I guess.
In Anchorage, Liesel and her Mom sat outside Carrie’s house, by the lake, enjoying the view and sitting in the Sun a little too long. This set them up nicely for a weekend camping trip to Willow, with Aaron and a group of friends. The last I heard, they were still partying well after midnight.
This week, I dedicated my radio show to the memory of Liesel’s Dad, Klaus, playing some of his favourite songs as well as some others in German.
Setting off for a long drive is quite an adventure. Finding the I-5 and being told to stay on it for 267 miles before the first turning brings it into perspective. That’s longer than the drive from Northenden to Chessington when all sorts of ‘interesting’ roads are involved.
We crossed the border from Oregon to Washington across one of many truss bridges. The first stop was for coffee and scones in Vancouver WA at a place called Thatcher’s, a name I’m not usually fond of.
On the journey north, we received some devastating news from home. Helen checked in on our flat and, holding her nose against the pervading stench, made the discovery that we’d turned our fridge and freezer off at the mains before our departure.
The food was no good, the freezer had defrosted but at least there was no major flood. High-five from the I-5, Helen, glad you were able to help!
There was a bit of a traffic jam before Seattle, but the queue of traffic on the other side, heading south, was much worse. We ignored plenty of rest stops as we enjoyed music from my phone, played on the car’s speakers via bluetooth.
I think I’ve commented on Samsung Music’s shuffle feature before: it’s not very intelligent. Today for instance, every 4th or 5th track was by David Bowie. And hardly any songs by female artists were played. To the point that Liesel even cheered when Björk turned up, and Liesel isn’t the biggest fan in the world!
This was a surprise too, seeing a sign for Vancouver BC so early. Have no fear, we’ll be there in a couple of days time!
A few spots of rain surprised us, but an even bigger surprise was finding the windscreen washer bottle was empty. So now, we wanted it to rain even harder to clean the windscreen a bit better.
Apparently, this is Mount Vernon, through the murk. Well, there hasn’t been a mountain picture for a while.
We arrived in Ferndale and it was great to see Holly again after all this time. If it weren’t for Covid, I think she and Jaxon would have come our way in 2020. So hello Holly, Pat, Jaxon, Damon and Kira. Newly-weds Tove and Sam weren’t around unfortunately.
After eating, all I wanted to do was sleep, really, so I can only imagine how tired Liesel felt after driving all day.
As is often the case, after completing my puzzles in the morning, I nodded off for a bit before getting up for breakfast. Pat went out for a walk with a friend while Holly took me and Liesel out for a bit of a drive.
Holly showed us the local High School which is huge, several buildings. There was a nice view of the mountains though. And, speaking of spectacular views, how about this? Chuckanut Drive was built in 1896 to connect Whatcom County wth places to the south, journeys previously taken by canoe, steamboat, sailing ship or train.
What a peaceful place this is, Samish Bay. Only enhanced really by meeting a couple of cyclists who live in White Rock, BC, but who hail from Glasgow. I admitted to living in Manchester to which the guy asked ‘Manchester United?’ I replied that I was aware of their existence. They support rival teams in Glasgow, Celtic and Rangers, but seem to get on alright, out on the bikes.
Back in Bellingham, we walked along the boardwalk to Boulevard Park. We stopped for a coffee at Woods and I probably made a mistake by ordering such a large one. Especially when I had two more coffees later in the day, all non-decaffeinated.
We spent a long time in Colophon Bookshop. I have so many book recommendations on my list, yet I can browse a bookshop and find dozens more that look interesting, intriguing or just fun. But I can’t keep adding to my list. In fact, I think there are enough books and people should stop writing them, give us a chance to catch up.
Here I am with Daniel Jefferson Harris, founder of Fairhaven, the part of Bellingham that we found ourselves in. We ate lunch at Colophon Café, and I think it’s fair to say I ate too much.
Naturally, I knew this was honeysuckle just as soon as Liesel and Holly reminded me.
Fairhaven has a very good toy shop too. I wanted to buy some of the jokes for myself but no, in the end, we just bought something for Martha and William.
Back at home, we ate salads for supper, solved the world’s problems, wrote some stuff and watched a Netflix show about a man and his octopus. Liesel couldn’t watch it all, but I’ll certainly watch it in full on another occasion.
I forgot that today marked the 49th anniversary of the removal of my appendix (and as a side effect, falling in love with a nurse). Right in the middle of ‘A’-level exams, and I even sat a couple of papers while in hospital. Maybe I’ll have a party for the 50th anniversary!
As I should have anticipated, I took a while to get to sleep after all that coffee in one day. I won’t make that mistake again.
Nonetheless, we got up early to say goodbye to Holly: some folks still have to go to work, unfortunately.
After breakfast and a nice chat with Pat, Liesel and I left to continue our trip northwards to Canada, land of the free, and of legal weed. On the way out of Ferndale, Liesel pointed out Mount Baker, 25 miles or so away.
Of course I had to stop for another mountain picture. They’re still a novelty – especially when you live in Northenden, flat as a pancake.
The border guard was terse but efficient., asking whether we were carrying guns, alcohol or tobacco. Of course, the correct answer is, ‘I didn’t know we were supposed to be’, but common sense prevailed and I kept quiet.
So here we are in the best place on Earth, Beautiful British Columbia. Onto highway BC-99 to Vancouver, a relatively short drive away. They’re all short drives for me, Liesel does all the driving. I do the navigating and we usually end up in the right place.
On our walk to Didsbury, we encountered more fly-tipped rubbish. We didn’t investigate but there may well have been evidence identifying the perpetrator of the crime. I always take a picture of this sort of rubbish with the intention of reporting it to the council. But I invariably forget to do so and then I find the picture a few days later, groan inwardly and tell myself that surely by now, somebody else has reported it.
Unusually for us, we had breakfast in out, by which I mean, we were inside a café, but out, not indoors at home. If you see what I mean. We live in a freedom-loving country of course (I know, I know) but who knew that nearly fifty years ago, it would no longer be legal to do much at all in some locations.
We walked back home a slightly longer way because we had errands to run. In Marie Louise Gardens, we collected a bag of sticks and fir cones. This is for a future project in which Liesel will construct some bug hotels with the ladies of the WI. We had some items to buy at the Co-op, and I let Liesel have the pleasure of going inside, masked of course. But most importantly, we collected a parcel from the Post Office, 3 kg of plastic dinosaurs, newly arrived from Liesel’s Mom in Alaska. And as someone suggested on Twitter, plastic dinosaurs are the most realistic replicas possible. Plastic comes from oil. Oil comes from dead, squished dinosaurs. So a plastic dino might easily contain some genuine dino DNA. We could in theory create our own Jurassic Park. We didn’t do that though, oh no. Instead, the following morning we left a trail of dinosaurs up the stairs and leading to our luxury apartment. From above, I watched William as he spotted one. Then another… Then another…
William brought his family over for brunch, but don’t worry, they had been invited and were all very welcome, and Liesel cooked up a magnificent banquet which we all throughly enjoyed, thank you.
“Do you like dinosaurs, William?” “Yes, but I couldn’t eat a whole one.”
It was such a nice day, we all went outside and sat in the shade of our old oak tree. The one we usually play hide’n’seek around. Or ‘tag’, even, but without actually touching because of Covid!
And we painted rocks. Well, I say rocks, but they were just small stones that we could find in the the confines of the communal car park. I remember burying some painted pet rocks before we moved away from Chessington. You can read about it here if you like.
Now we have a few more stones for someone to bury in future years.
We all did very well, didn’t we? And then indoors again, the contents of the toy box were investigated and distributed. Every now and then, William would remember there’s a baby in the flat below ours and try to keep quiet for a while. It’s becoming a habit, but he ate a raw carrot, straight from the fridge and scrubbed under the tap. This, despite the fact that the last time he consumed a whole carrot, it resulted in the production of large orange poo the following day! To protect her identity, I won’t name which one of us two produced purple poo the morning after consuming beetroot salad. Oh and speaking of poo, this is the class of advert we’re seeing at local bus stops:
OK, I’ll try not to mention poo again. Except to say that I will soon be receiving my bowel cancer testing kit, a biennial event that I always look forward to. Sadly, for me, Liesel provided an old tub to use, so I had no reason to buy a new one, one containing ice cream, for example.
Sometimes on a local walk, we retrace our steps, and that can be rewarding. We did so this week to stay in the shade of the local woods just a little longer on what was a surprisingly hot Summer day. And there’s nothing wrong with this little piece of uplifting philosophy, which I think we’ve probably walked by several times, and missed, as it’s on the other side of the gate post.
Some medical news, hooray. I went into Manchester to give blood and again, this was no problem, except I had to have a cold drink afterwards, not tea, but I did enjoy my Club biscuit and ginger nuts.
We both received text messages from our GP inviting us in for our flu jabs. Liesel called to make appointments for us, and after being on hold for 45 minutes, was told that there were no more appointments available. And there probably wouldn’t be until November. Hmm. Meanwhile, Liesel had also received an email from a pharmacy also inviting her in for a flu jab. We called their local branch and were able to go along later that same day to be jabbed. A couple of days afterwards, I received an email inviting me to come along for a Covid jab, which was very tempting. Yes, I am fully vaccinated already, but a trip to Manly, New South Wales, even if to visit this particular pharmacy, is very appealing right now!
Well, I don’t know if it was the flu shot or the reduced volume of blood in my system, or a combination of the two, but the following day, I just felt really tired, and breathless. This didn’t prevent us setting off to watch the nearest stage of the Tour of Britain bike race. We drove to Quarry Bank National Trust and then walked for about half an hour to our chosen viewing location on Mobberley Road.
It was another warm day, and I was conscious of walking much more slowly than my usual pace. Along the path, we found some nourishment in the shape of blackberries and damsons.
We set up camp by a bus stop and after consulting various sources, realised we had about an hour to wait. Why so early? Well, on one occasion, we just missed a race by a few minutes because roads were closed and we had to park further away than planned. The road closures seem to be better managed these days. We thought we’d have a good view of the cyclists coming towards us, and I took many, many test photos of the many, many police motor bikes as they preceded the race, checking the route and telling car drivers to get out of the way when necessary.
A local man came along and he wondered why the race was on a weekday, not at the weekend. Maybe he didn’t realise it was a stage race, a different route for eight consecutive days. He went home when he realised there was still quite a long wait. But didn’t make it back to join us, probably because one of the police officers was keeping traffic off the road. He also told us that as this very spot a few months ago, two buses had crashed into each other, head on, in the middle of the road. He pointed out the exact spot. He thinks nobody was seriously injured.
And then, suddenly, at 50kph or more, the leading group of five riders appeared, surrounded by cars and more motor bikes.
This leading, breakaway group, consists of Jacob Scott, in green, current leader in the King of the Mountains and Sprint competitions; Nickolas Zukowsky; Christopher Blevins; Leon Mazzone; and Robin Carpenter, who won the stage in Exeter, three days earlier.
If you think racing on a bike, 152.2 km, from Alderley Park to Warrington is hard, you should try watching the incredibly fast cyclists, taking some photos and applauding and cheering them on, all at the same time. No, actually, just cycling 152.2 km on a day out would be hard enough. That’s about 94 miles, a distance I’ve cycled maybe a dozen times or so, ever, and these guys do it every day as fast as their little legs will carry them. Châpeau, as they say!
Just a couple of minutes later came the peloton. 90+ cyclists at full pelt, and I’d forgotten how noisy a large group of cyclists can be. In a flash, they were gone. More motor bikes and cars and a long, long way behind, one lone rider who stopped and asked when the next bus was due. No, he didn’t, but I wonder if it crossed his mind.
A long time away from home for a mere two minutes of entertainment, then! Yes, of course, we watched the whole race on TV when we got home, but we didn’t make it on screen, which may be a blessing.
The Global6 support team parked up near us, for a natural break. Their bike wheels have green rims, and after the Tour is over, those wheels will be auctioned off to raise funds for Refugee Action.
As we walked back to the car at Quarry Bank, we ate some more damsons. I warned Liesel to watch out for the nettles, just as my shin found a particularly potent nettle bush. Thank goodness for Germolene.
We didn’t wander round the venue, but we did find our way to the restaurant and had a nice cup of National Trust decaff coffee plus a slice of raspberry Bakewell slice. It felt good to be building up my strength again after that relatively short but ridiculously knackering walk.
We were very lucky with the weather, we just felt a few spots of rain. But the cyclists had to contend with much worse on their way to Warrington.
This is the view from the comfort of our living room, gorgeous landscape and menacing dark clouds.
Another wander around Northenden was quite good for us wildlife fans.
The Jolly Roger is still flying at The Crown for the boat race a couple of weeks ago. I hope the pink bunny is soon reunited with her child. The squirrel posed beautifully. The heron was in its usual spot and he seemed to be finding things to eat in the very low river.
The shortest duration job I ever had was working on a building site in Notting Hill. I lasted one day and one hour. On the first day, I had to shift a load of toilets from there to over there. The next morning, I was told to move them all back again. Well, what a waste of time that was, I thought. But what drove me away was that is was raining hard all the time, plus the steel toe cap shoes I’d borrowed off my Dad, two sizes too small, had given me so many blisters, I just couldn’t get comfortable. But I did come away from the job with the ambition of being a hod-carrier. Yes, I wanted to be the bloke that carried dozens of house bricks or roof tiles on my shoulder while climbing a high, ricketty old ladder. Sadly, it seems that ambition will never be fulfilled. Local builders have installed a sort of conveyor belt to carry the tiles up to the guy on the roof. So that’s another ancient skill that will be forgotten in time, along with mining and sweeping chimneys.
The good news of course is that my real-life ambition of being a radio presenter is being realised, to a certain extent. This week’s show on Radio Northenden was presented from a desert island beach, with very few other people around, the waves crashing and I played lots of sunshiny, laid-back, chilled music, mostly evoking nice, peaceful places we’d all like to be sometimes, away from the hurly-burly and the hustle-bustle of every day life in the city. You can listen here.
And yes, of course we watched the next stage of the Tour of Britain on TV, the one from Carlisle to Gateshead.
Those meteorologists don’t know what they’re talking about. First, they say Friday is the hottest day of the year so far. Then they say Saturday is the hottest day of the year so far. Well, which is it? Certainly we’ve had a few incredibly hot days this week, not quite 30° here in Northenden, but hot enough. I refuse to say it’s ‘too hot’, just because it’s warmer than we’re used to, but admittedly, it is challenging. We’ve had to dig out the fans at home and blow the dust off. Actually, the fans could have just blown the dust off each other, I suppose.
We found ourselves walking in the shade of the woods a lot this week. Even the birds seemed more hot and bothered, and subdued, than usual. But the fairies have been busy.
The Rorschach Test at the top is new (to me) and my first thought was that it resembled two bottoms looking at each other in the room behind the window.
I know it wasn’t scheduled but I took this photo of this week’s transit of Venus.
What’s that? You don’t think it’s real? OK, it’s the straw through which I slurped my first mango smoothie of the season. While at Boxx 2 Boxx I bumped into Dan the choirmaster again. It didn’t cost tuppence to talk to him, even though he did recently meet the actual Queen when his Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus performed for Her Majesty recently.
Here are St Hilda and St Aidan, patrons of our local Catholic church here in Northenden. Now I know I’ve been out in the Sun a lot recently, but look over St Aidan’s right shoulder. Up in the corner of the picture. Is that really the hand of God holding a cigarette?
Something was a-tugging at my toes. In my early morning torpor, I thought I was being woken up to go for a local walk while it was still relatively cool outside. But no. Liesel took me to the seaside instead. We were on the beach at Formby by 9.30, well before most people arrived. The tide was high so it wasn’t too far to go for a paddle. The very slight breeze was refreshing and we shared the beach with, literally, hundreds of jellyfish. It’s sad to see so many stranded like that. The dead seal made us wonder whether there had been an ‘incident’ at sea. Maybe some toxic effluent had ‘accidentally’ been released again. I hope not.
Sadly, there was a lot of litter on the beach today, hundreds of people have enjoyed their days out and their picnics and they’ve left the evidence. Our litter-picking kit was at home, otherwise we might have done something about it.
We saw some ferries heading for Dublin and/or Douglas and we agreed that one day, we’d visit those places too. One of them was Stena Sealink. I got the look from Liesel when I told her that some of their ships operate just for women. Really? Yes, Stena Lady.
Again, we heard what sounded like gunfire from the beach. We concluded it must be bird scarers, there was no other explanation for the random distribution of shots. On the way home, we saw the sign for Altcar Rifle Range. Aha! Although, at times, it sounded more like Altcar Machine Gun Range.
We walked a long way today, along the beach, up and down to the water. Many more people were on the beach by the time we left. But the good news is, a proper toilet block has been built in the car park.
Back in Northenden, we enjoyed watching strange people out and about in the heatwave. There was a group of ladies doing exercises under a motorway bridge, tai chi or pilates, or maybe just gentle exercise. They were all in the shade of the bridge, apart from one perspiring glowing in the full glare of the Sun. I felt sorry for the dogs being taken out in the middle of the day, hot pavement, no socks or ice packs on their paws.
A couple of men were making signs at each other along the street, prompting us to wonder which house they were about to break into. More likely to be a drug deal, though, to be fair. We saw blokes wearing nothing on top and we saw people wearing thick anoraks. The runners looked even more miserable than usual and I thought, well, you could always stop for a minute. All carefully observed by us two mad dogs out in the midday Sun.
In the river, we spotted a supermarket trolley, a road cone and a chair all in one small stretch beyond Simon’s Bridge. And people were letting their dogs jump in to retrieve thrown balls.
We also saw people, humans, in the river, near the island. Swimming is understandable, but jumping in? Like the warning sign says, you don’t know what’s lurking beneath: sharp rocks, sharks, shopping trolleys.
We saw the heron most days but once, we saw an exotic white bird in the middle of the river. It was a great bustard. Well, I think that’s what I called it as it took flight before I even got my camera out. An utter, utter bustard. I was lucky enough to shoot some ducklings however.
Even this lovely family are swimming away from me and my camera. Lots of DAs on show.
In medical news, I am still finding new bite marks from the midges in Scotland. I mean, the marks are on my skin, the bites were acquired in Scotland: stop confusing me. They’re different from, for example, the spider that got me on the back of my elbow this week. A different quality of itchy irritation.
The radio show this week was mostly songs in which the singer or band namechecks themselves. I had a chat with Chantel from Thrive Manchester, whom we met on the well-being walk last week, and she picked a couple of bangers for the show too. Here it is, if you want to listen back.
Tokyo 2020 Olympics have started and we sat through the Opening Ceremony. The end was better than the start, in case you haven’t watched yet. We’re looking forward to seeing some different sports and I have had to promise my sister that I won’t whinge about the BBC’s presentation for the whole two weeks. What they did to the Men’s Cycling Road Race this morning was diabolical. Cutting away at an exciting time to interview someone who was watching from home? Interrupting to show a glimpse of a different sport? Having to switch from one channel to another several times? Oops, sorry, Sis.
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.
Mostly. High in the mountains, in ski country, the snow was still literally feet deep.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
As I’ve mentioned before, we love a splash of colour, that always lifts the mood.
As Liesel pointed out, this rhododendron is more of a tree than a bush.
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.
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:
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.