Floods and food

This was another wet week, extremely so later on. Another week of not doing much, really. But another week closer to the end of lockdown and returning to some sort of normality. We’re still pounding the local beat, and I think the furthest away from home I’ve been is to the medical centre in Benchill for my annual MOT.

Flooded field

Often, we have a chat with the horses in this field, but I think they must have migrated to the nearby shelter.

The heron is becoming braver. I was fully prepared for him to take flight, he doesn’t usually let humans approach this closely, never mind dogs.

A very brave heron

But it did remind me that in order to get decent, sharp, photos of the heron on the other side of the river, I really do need to take my proper camera.

We had an unexpected visitor one day this week, in the pouring rain. Yes, the window cleaner turned up. He was using a long pole to reach the higher windows, squirting water from a reservoir in the back of his van. Or maybe he was just making use of the free rainwater.  A box ticked, no doubt, but what a wasted effort.

Liesel and I managed one nice long walk by the river this week, but maintaining a safe distance from everybody can be difficult.

Seems like a coach party walking towards us

I know there’s a foreshortening effect, but by any standards at the present time, that is a lot of people walking towards us. We decided on this occasion to take the low road, closer to the river, even though it does tend to be more muddy there.

It’s the middle of January and yet there are already signs of Spring.

Over-exposed bulbs

We couldn’t work out whether somebody had planted these bulbs and forgot to fill in the hole afterwards, or whether someone or some animal had tried to dig them up. I assume they didn’t survive events later in the week.

Selfie of the day

Some exciting local news. The Northern Den has had a makeover. The windows have been redecorated. We treated ourselves to something sweet this week to go with the coffee.

The Northern Den

As I came to life one morning, I noticed a pink glow in the sky. Straightaway, I took a couple of pictures before crawling back into my nest. The pictures were nothing special, the sky appeared washed out, so I made some adjustments.

A Northenden sunrise

And the sky came out more orange than pink.

Some exciting local news. Salutem has had a makeover. The windows have been redecorated. We treated ourselves to some bagels this week to go with the coffee.

Salutem
UFO

I have no idea what this object is but it’s very well protected. I suspect the rest of the rocket or nuclear power plant or whatever will be delivered soon.

But never mind local news. This week, Northenden made the national news. And not for a good reason. We’d noticed the Mersey rising and falling but this week, it threatened to overflow and flood the area. Several people were evacuated as a precaution. The sluice gates were opened, and the flood basins filled to capacity. In the end, Northenden and Didsbury were OK, but people in other place such as Lymm and Northwich weren’t so fortunate.

As if the threat of floods wasn’t bad enough, the prime minister decided to come and pester the Environment Agency workers in Didsbury.

The new wellington boots are great, very comfortable: the rim at the top doesn’t dig into my shin bones, sheer luxury. Let me know if you want my old boots, size 10, probably best worn with wicket keepers’ pads.

These boots are made for wading
Bridge over troubled water

Sometime, we walk along this path under the main road, going towards Chorlton. Well, not today. Not even with the new wellies. The following day, this whole stretch of path had been fenced off.

Even away from the river, the ground is very saturated. Any dip or indentation is filled with water. Storm Christoph came with a lot of rain, a months’ worth in a couple of days.

Sign o’ the times

That big puddle is in Kenworthy Lane Woods. The gate is telling the truth.

Here is Ford Lane, probably our most-often visited walking route, as seen on BBC News at Six.

Six O’Clock News

Yes, we obviously couldn’t walk along here this week. But there is one benefit of this road being flooded: there won’t have been so much fly-tipping!

Floods? In the middle of the night, we had a blizzard too, wind and snow, just what the police officers needed while knocking on people’s doors, advising them to evacuate.

Receding river

Later in the day, the river had subsided significantly. This fence had been totally submerged the previous day.

Liesel has been learning a new skill this week: quilling: curling or rolling up thin strips of paper to make very pretty designs.

Quilling

I wish I could say I was being creative in some way, but my pastimes all involve using the PC, in the studio. When I’m not preparing a radio show, or throwing together a blog post, I’m still processing the thousands of photos from our travels. There are a couple of other projects on the go as well, and these too require acces to the PC.

I woke up this morning and was shocked, shocked I tell ya, to see it was snowing. Heavy, massive snowflakes, but the storm didn’t last long, and it soon started to melt. Then we had a second snowstorm, and so far, at the time of writing, it seems to have settled more permanently.

Let it snow

Yes, the snow’s quite pretty when it falls, but the background in my picture isn’t so attractive. Maybe I’ll photoshop in a mountain scene or something.

We’ve been watching more of the Celtic Connections shows online this week, and this gave me the idea for my radio show: lots of songs by Scottish singers. You can catch up here if you want to enjoy some old and some modern Scottish songs.

What a strange week. Another one bites the dust.

Bowie, birds and bagels

Last weekend was a big David Bowie commemoration. We should have been celebrating his 74th birthday but instead, the world marked the fifth anniversary of his death.

I watched Lazarus, the musical that was one of Bowie’s final pieces of work, online, a recording of the London performance that I saw twice with our friend Helen, with Liesel joining us on one occasion. Liesel and I also saw Lazarus in Melbourne, and that seems a long time ago now.

And yes, it was just as enthralling for me the fourth time round.

Sophia Anne Caruso and Michael C Hall

Photos from TV screeens will never be as good nor as clear as those taken inside a theatre, of course. But you’re not supposed to take pictures in a theatre, apparently.

I stayed up late to watch A Bowie Celebration. This concert was put together by Bowie’s long-term piano player Mike Garson, and was shown online at 2am our time. Sadly, it was postponed for 24 hours, so I had to stay up late for a second night in a row, and that hasn’t happened for a long time. Actually, I grabbed a few hours kip before getting up, just in time, to enjoy three hours of wonderful and sometimes very moving music.

In real life of course, I would have run up to the stage and stolen the set list. Luckily, we can see the full set list here. Also in real life, Liesel would probably rather not let me run up to the stage!

Ian Hunter

It was good to see Ian Hunter perform his tribute to David Bowie, Dandy as well as All the Young Dudes and what’s scary crazy is, he’s 81 years old and still rocking and rolling. Many other Bowie alumni took part, including Tony Visconti (although we never saw him) and Rick Wakeman (confined to a very small box on the screen).  Yungblud never worked with Bowie of course, and I think he was trying to do a Covid test on himself with the microphone.

Other than those two events, there were about twenty shows on radio to enjoy, BBC and elsewhere, never mind what was on TV. I’m still catching up of course, and what with a slight backlog of podcasts, it’s a good job we’re in lockdown and I don’t have to go to work! Always look on the bright side, as they say.

[10,000 words omitted]

Well, if Robert Heinlein can use that device in his novels, so can I in a blog. I could have written so much more about the David Bowie weekend but that’s for another place. Maybe.

The week was full of four letter words: rain, snow, cold, wind, dull, grey. Despite that, we did venture out a few times, but again, we confined ourselves to our own postcode.

The river was surprisingly low early in the week, we could even see the bricks that make up the weir. And our old friend the heron was sitting there wondering where all the water had gone.

Heron

But no need to panic. Within a couple of days, the river was as high as before, totally hiding the weir and covering the island. Anyway, our friend flew off, of course, and we next saw him standing on the grass. So here’s a bonus portrait of the heron.

Bonus heron

One day, we’ll go along with some fishes in our pockets to feed him.

The larger volume of water just a couple of days later was enough to shift large bits of, if not whole, trees.

Tree bashing one of the pillars holding up the M60

There’s a new lake in Wythenshawe Park.

A big puddle

A few seconds after taking this picture and putting my phone away, those two dogs had a really good time running through the puddle and shaking water over some other passers-by. A big puddle, yes, and the grass on both sides was under water too. Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, we’ll have to turn round and go back the way we came.

What a nice young van

The sentiment on the back of the van: seconded!

In other local news, as well as coffee this week, I bought some bagels from Salutem. Possibly the best bagels I’ve had since we were in Anchorage over two years ago. Anchorage: that city so well-known for its bagels.

The drizzle didn’t prevent me from walking to the GP for a quick visit. I certainly didn’t expect to see flamingoes, but there they were, two of them, large as life in somebody’s garden.

Pretty flamingoes

To be honest, I’m not sure they’re real life flamingoes, I couldn’t see a pond  anywhere nearby.

Yes, it was only drizzling lightly, but the puddles in Sharston Road were out in force. You have to time it right as you walk on by.

43 bus making a splash

I’ve always wondered, given that Manchester is famous for its rain, why is its drainage so bad? This should be the capital city of run-offs and storm drains.

Karine Polwart

The end of the week saw the start of the 19-day long Celtic Connections. Liesel and I have wanted to visit Glasgow for a while for this music festival, but obviously, not this year. Instead, we’ll enjoy it online, like everything else. But we’re certainly not alone in wanting to be able to see live music again, sometime.

One day this week, I poured out my breakfast cereal only to realise I’d finished off the milk in my first cup of tea. Fresh milk would be delivered later, so I was reluctant to open the emergency bottle of long-life milk. And there’s no way I was going to separate the Shreddies from the muesli and the blueberries, not to mention the Weetabix crumbs, and return all the cereal to the various correct containers. Only one thing for it. I poured on the last of the Christmas Baileys and had a very nice start to the day, thank you very much.

This week on Radio Northenden (newly updated website, go and have a look), we went back to school, had a few lessons and said thank you to our teachers. Catch up here.

When will I see you again?

There’s a new word to describe the no-man’s land between Christmas and New Year: Merryneum. The time of year when even more than usual, we don’t know what day of the week it is. And it still doesn’t matter really. Except when we miss Doctor Who because they showed it on a Friday, which is just bizarre.

It was much colder here in Northenden* and we took a break from our (not quite) daily strolls. *I know, it was colder everywhere, but Northenden is our universe for now.

Blue sky after rain

Blue skies are always welcome of course, along with bright sunshine. The Sun’s low, just above the horizon, even at noon, this time of year. So sun-hats are no good, the brim will never be wide enough. I am now wearing my beanie hat, to keep my the ears warm.

Following all the recent rain, the river is really high. The weir is totally submerged, its location given away only by surface turbulence.

The site of the weir

And what a shock to wake up one morning to the sight of snow. Yes, it was forecast, but it was still a surprise.

Fresh snow of Northenden

It soon melted, only to be replaced the following night. The clatter of the snowflakes pounding against the window disturbed my slumber.

More snow in Northenden

I took some pictures and crawled back into my pit.

Martha and William built a superb Snowman and Snowdog way over there in Cheadle. Sorry we couldn’t help out on this occasion.

William, Snowdog, Martha, Snowman

When William was asked why he’d put a glove on the side of the Snowdog, he pointed out that that’s what a Snowdog looks like. And, sure enough, Raymond Briggs’s Snowdog does have this embellishment.

I don’t know who built a snowman in our car park, but the next day, all that was left was his nose.

Snowman’s nose

We did come across this little chap on one of our walks. If we’d known, we would have brought the discarded nose with us and performed a transplant.

Snowman in Northenden

We felt it was probably too slippery and muddy on the river banks, so we gave them a miss this week. (Translation: we are wimps.) Looking down from the bridge, that was a wise move, I think.

The River Mersey

So, a pretty lazy week, really. Every noise outside is an invitation to look through the window. ‘What’s goin’ on?’ we ask, like some freak from EastEnders. Someone in the flats over the road received a delivery. When she answered the door:
Liesel: Is that the girl who goes out sunbathing sometimes?
Mick: I don’t know, I don’t recognise her with her clothes on.

What did we achieve this week? Well, Liesel completed her jigsaw puzzle, thank you Helen and Jenny.

Liesel’s 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle

And my New Year’s Day radio show is here.

As a special treat, we enjoyed our first Samosa Box. The food was delivered, still hot from the oven and the samosas were delicious. Support your local business!

Samosas and chips

Here are some statistics from 2020.

The good news is, I read more books this year than previously, thanks to the opportunity presented by lockdown. 41 books, 21 of which were by female writers. This is probably the first time I’ve read more books by women than by men, a conscious effort on my part. (2019: 33 books, 13 by women.)

On the other hand, I walked only 1530 miles in 2020 compared with 1748 in 2019, but we were on our Travels for half of that year. And, walking locally, it’s so easy to think, ‘oh that’ll do, I’m going home now’.

It was a funny old year, but I think we got by OK. We are looking forward to 2021. Happy New Year and thank you for joining Liesel and me on our antics. When will we see you again? Sometime soon, we hope. Why did that song come to mind this week? Because the temperature was Three Degrees.

Yes, we’re looking forward to the new year, but I can’t help but look back on decades past.

I always listen to Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70s and last week’s episode was especially good. Johnnie’s wife Tiggy talked to him about his broadcasting career during the 1970s, and they played some of his favourite songs from that decade. Listen again here before it falls off BBC Sounds.

Out of the 16 tracks played, I’ve seen most of the artists either in concert or in passing.

1 Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

Liesel and I saw them at a reunion gig in Hyde Park, one of the first shows we saw together. Liesel was intimidated by the large crowd, she wasn’t used to that sort of thing. It was a great show, of course, all their songs are wonderful. But sadly, there was no chemistry between them, no eye-contact at all. The support act was The Everly Brothers.

In a previous life, I saw Simon and Garfunkel at Wembley Stadium, in about 1982, with Sarah and my sister Pauline and her then boyfriend John. Jobsworth Security Man wanted to take my camera away, no photos in those days. I followed him a short way to wherever he was leading, chose my moment, ran off, took off my jacket, and joined the others in the auditorium. My photos were of course rubbish. But the show was great.

2 Derek and the Dominos – Layla

Sarah and I saw Eric Clapton on the same bill as Elton John and Bonnie Raitt, at Wembley Stadium in 1992. The performance was good but maybe a bit subdued. It was a year after the tragic death of his 4-year old son Conor. He performed his very moving song Tears in Heaven, written in memory of Conor. We saw him again at Masters of Music in 1996.

3 Neil Diamond – I Am… I Said

Sadly no.

4 The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again

As part of Masters of Music for The Prince’s Trust, The Who performed Quadrophenia on a cold June day in Hyde Park in 1996. It was so cold, I bought myself an extra t-shirt to keep warm. I know. Sarah, me, Jenny and Helen were here for a full day of music. We also saw Alanis Morissette and Eric Clapton again. But it was so cold, we, along with many hundreds of other people, left as Bob Dylan took to the stage.

5 Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side

Sarah and I saw Lou Reed at Hammersmith Odeon around the time of his Magic and Loss album, March 1992. A great show but when on arrival, we saw him sitting at a bar, having a quiet drink, we were too intimidated scared to walk up and say ‘Hello’.

6 The Steve Miller Band – The Joker

Sadly no.

7 David Bowie – Life On Mars?

Sarah and I saw David Bowie five times in concert: Wembley Arena twice, Earls Court, Milton Keynes Bowl (with baby Jenny, 1983) and at the awful short-lived London Arena (with Jenny, 1990, and yes, she fell asleep again). We saw him again at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley Stadium. But the only time I met him was outside the gallery hosting his art exhibition in 1995. He was coming out just as Sarah and I arrived. I shook his hand and thanked him for the music and asked for an autograph. ‘I’m gasping for a cuppa,’ he said, ‘I’ll be back in ten minutes’, he said, walking away with his assistant. Two hours is plenty of time to feign interest in wallpaper designs and other weird paintings. I’m still waiting for my man to return.

8 Cockney Rebel – Judy Teen

I saw Steve Harley, the lead singer, as a guest at a David Bowie Celebration in 2017. The band was put together by Mike Garson, Bowie’s long-time piano player, along with many other musicians who have played with Bowie. Steve Harley sang his own song Sebastian as well as a David Bowie song. I have a photo of the setlist. The woman was holding on to it really tightly, fearing I might run off with it.

9 John Lennon – Stand By Me

Sadly no.

10 Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

Sadly no.

11 Elton John & Kiki Dee – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

We saw Elton once with Eric Clapton (see above) and once before then at the Royal Festival Hall. The night before had been a Gala performance for a Royal personage which he must have found challenging, because he told us that tonight he could relax. The percussionist Ray Cooper stole the show.

Sarah and I also saw Kiki Dee at the Royal Albert Hall. She performed Don’t Go Breaking My Heart as a solo, despite the fact that from our lofty seats, we could see Elton lurking backstage. Good for him for not stealing the limelight.

12 The Eagles – The Last Resort

Sadly no.

13 Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK

Definitely no, I’m not even going to say I was at the famous 100 Club gig with 20,000 other people who were there in the tiny 350 capacity, iconic venue.

14 The Undertones – Teenage Kicks

Sadly no.

15 Patti Smith Group – Because The Night

I haven’t seen Patti Smith in concert, but I have had a deep and meaningless conversation with her. She curated the Meltdown Festival in London, 2005. As well as putting on several shows, she did some work with students from local schools. One lunchtime at the Royal Festival Hall, our paths crossed. I said ‘Hello’. She said ‘Hello’.

16 Jackson Browne – Running On Empty

Sadly no.

Liesel and I are looking forward to more live shows later in the year, as I’ve said before. Until then, radio and online gigs will have to do!

 

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.

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 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!

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.

Ammies and mushrooms

It’s been a wet week weatherwise. So much rain, so many deep puddles. The only good thing about the torrential rain is that, when it peppers the living room windows with millions of raindrops, we can’t see the leaden grey sky behind.

The raging torrent that is the Mersey

Again this week, we didn’t venture far afield, we just walked everywhere, in all directions, mostly avoiding the rain.

Where’s the heron?
The geese are back in town

We haven’t seen the geese for a while, we thought they’d migrated, but apparently not.

Wythenshawe Park is a nice big space, and there’s always something interesting to see.

Flaming Nora
This would make a nice jigsaw puzzle
Big stick, little dog

No, of course I didn’t laugh when the little dog tried to carry the huge stick through a gap that was too small. I did laugh though when it looked at me as if it were my fault.

Red lorry
Yellow lorry
Holly berry

I’d forgotten there were tennis courts in the park, and a few people were having a good game, but the girls weren’t grunting like they have to at Wimbledon.

Liesel and I might take up tennis one day, when ‘this’ is all over. My worst ever tennis related injury, years ago, was blisters on my hand from gripping the racquet too tightly.

All sorts to do
More mushrooms

Mushrooms are taking over the world, or at least, our small corner of it.

Another day, we watched a couple of people playing golf on one of our local courses.

Ball in a bunker

I suggested to Liesel that she bury the ball in the sand, just for a laugh, but she declined the offer.

Liesel and I might take up golf one day, although my GP advised me not to while I was having back issues when I was a postman. Sarah and I used to play Pitch and Putt when we lived in Peterborough. My claim to fame is that one day I pitched the ball so hard, it hit a passing bus.

It was my turn for a flu jab this week, so I walked to the GP surgery, hoping it wouldn’t rain until at least I was on my way home. Did I mention we’ve had a lot of rain recently?

Colours over the motorway
Oopsie

It looks like this small, bright yellow, protective barrier wasn’t up to the job after all.

I had a fantastic idea as I passed by this residence:

Solar panels

Rain panels. There must be a way of harnessing the energy generated by falling rain. And, as I may have hinted, there’s a lot of rain about at the moment. I just need to work out a few technical details.

I walked through Hollyhedge Park, another peaceful place, although you can still hear the hum and rumble from the nearby motorway.

Northen Etchells Bowling and Social Club bowling green

Liesel and I might take up bowls one day: we had a go in Chessington a few years ago and apparently, I’m a natural. A natural what, our host didn’t say.

Deserted playground

We’re looking forward to the time when we can once again take William and/or Martha to a playground. Or anywhere, really.

Wythenshawe AFC stadium

This is the home of Wythenshawe Amateurs Football Club aka the Ammies. Which is confusing, because nearby Salford City FC is also known as The Ammies. There’s a lot about football that I’ll never understand.

Liesel and I might take up football one day but, no, actually, it’s very unlikely. My games teacher at school knocked any real interest in football out of me, and Liesel doesn’t like being out in the rain.

But, if Martha or William take up any of these wonderful sports, or anything else, we’ll definitely be there to support them, whatever the weather!

Ooh, exciting: here’s Northenden’s latest tourist attraction.

Fly-tipping capital of the world

If you need a three-piece suite, it’ll be in Homewood Road for a few more days.

We didn’t quite make it all the way to Didsbury this week, guess why?

Flood
Flood

Liesel and I might take up jogging one day, it looks so much fun, we just love running with shoes full of water, although I do realise that’s not compulsory.

Much more mushroom

Listen to Mick’s Multi-lingual Music Mix on Radio Northenden, very nearly three hours of music from 6 continents, 29 different languages, OD on DB, plus, enjoy my Album of the Week: Where Does It Go by Denise Johnson.

I’ll take that as a compliment!

Mushrooms mushrooming

It’s a thin line we’re treading at the moment, all of us, during the coronavirus pandemic. We’re fighting off the mubble-fubbles, that feeling of despondency and sense of impending doom. A word brought to my attention this week by Susie Dent, and as I promised myself at the time, I have now used it. Yes, it’s a thin line between staying safe and staying sane. I think Liesel and I are managing OK, but the sudden change in weather conditions can so easily affect our mood.

This week, we stayed local, walking as far as Gatley one day, and driving as far as the GP in Benchill one day. It’s flu jab time. Liesel’s had hers, I’ll have mine next week.

One of the trees nearby, on our default walking route by the river, has decided to grow some mushrooms. We watched their progress during the week.

Mushrooms

For a change one day, we walked in a westerly direction beside the river, on the south bank on the assumption that there would be fewer people on that side.

Take-off on the Mersey

But we’re never too far from some rubbish being dumped in the river, of course.

Heron looking forlornly at the rubbish

New ducks

We haven’t seen these ducks before, and we’re not sure what they are. They have the brown head of a pochard, the long bill of a merganser and the grey back of a widgeon. And in flight, the silhouette of a cormorant.

Mushrooms a few days later

Reflections of my life

This was a nice clear day, the river was low and as still and calm as we’ve ever seen it.

Autumn crocus


Online entertainment this week included Jessica Lee Morgan performing her ma, Mary Hopkin’s, gorgeous album Earth Song/Ocean Song in its entirety.

Jessica and Christian


I didn’t count them all individually, but I’m fairly certain I generated as many goosebumps as I did the first time I heard the LP, nearly half a century ago.

I also watched Terra Naomi online, and she was kind enough to give me permission to play one of her songs on my radio show this week. Which one? Listen here to find out. The theme was Medical Complaints, hosted by me, Doctor Mick. There’s a David Bowie song for every occasion, and I always play a record from my Mum and Dad’s collection. That’s the plug for my show this week. No more adverts.
Our Ocado order was delivered and as usual, I went straight for the bread. Quite expensive, but it was very nice, very tasty, thanks for asking. So what was wrong with it? The packaging. So much packaging. It arrived in a paper tray, like you would usually expect to find a cake in. This paper tray was inside a wooden crate. I’ll say that again. We had a loaf of bread in its own wooden crate. Which was made in and imported from France. This whole was enclosed in a paper bag, which, on its own would be quite adequate.

OTT wooden crate

All we can do is apologise to the planet, and move on. ‘Look up, look down’, they say. But if I do that, all I see, mostly, is battleship grey clouds where the blue sky should be! Oh well, mustn’t grumble. Sorry.

We walked to Gatley again, for the benefit of Liesel’s eye-lashes, which to me, now seem darker, longer and thicker, but they were really just tinted.

Multi-coloured leaves

While waiting for Liesel’s treatment to finish, I got my kicks at Lounge 66, the coffee shop just a few doors along the road. I sat outside because I felt there were too many customers inside.

It started raining, absurdly loud on the awning above: I was worried about having to walk home in the shower, but it only lasted a minute or two. The newly washed blue sky with its clouds was reflected in my coffee.

Clouds in my coffee

Clouds in the sky

Hang on, blue coffee? Well, it was the correct colour, but I played with the hue in my phone’s photo editor.
Northenden is rapidly becoming the fruit capital of north west England. Believe that and you’ll believe anything. We’ve had blackberries yes, and we missed out on the apples in Kenworthy Woods. But walking home a slightly different way, guess what we found?

I heard it through the grapevine

Grapes growing in someone’s garden, just round the corner from where we live.

Pears in a pear tree

And pears.

How are the mushrooms coming along?

Mushrooms another few days later

They are bigger, more numerous, and spreading up the tree.

Yellow bobbly things

By the river, we passed some yellow bobble plants. Small yellow balls against the green foliage. Again, my Masters in botany has let me down.
Finally, it’s conker time! I really want to play conkers with Martha and William, but we still have to maintain social distancing, and I don’t think playing conkers with string two metres long is very practical.

Conkers