Newburn to East Wallhouses

It will take a while to adapt to these early starts. No lie-ins for a while. Our breakfast girl was very friendly and bonny and we fueled up well before setting off for Day 2.

Tyne Riverside Country Park was very quiet, apart from the birds and the wind rustling through the trees. Yes, we heard the odd loud vehicle, but that didn’t detract from our enjoyment of the countryside and the fresh air.

Fact-filled bench

A lot of the path was along a disused railway line, so very straight for long periods.

Every now and then, we caught a glimpse of a bright yellow field, rapeseed. Glimpse? The yellow flowers just draw your gaze, they’re so bright.

Field of rapeseed

We encountered our first serious hills today too. Nothing too onerous, I just find a rhythm and stick to it, until I have to stop or change my pace. I think we all have our optimum speeds on different terrain,  but on the whole, our group of five stuck together very well.

Heddon-on-the-Wall: I wonder why it was so-called? We followed a sign and snuck behind a hedge and saw the first secton of Roman Wall that we knew to be genuine. This was an exciting moment for us!

The Wall with Jyoti, Liesel and Teresa

One thing they’re not short of in the north of England is sheep.

How now, brown sheep?

Lots of lambs, and a surprising number of twins, as far as we could see. Sometimes though, the sheep looked a bit other-worldly.

How now, brown cow?
Gnarly tree occupant

At the risk of repeating myself, the views were spectacular today.

What a nice view

But never mind the views of the landscape, one thing I noticed was that in just two days, Tammy had gone through five different hairstyles. And while we ate dinner later on, a sixth one, a French plait executed by Jyoti, was on display!

It rained very slightly and ponchos and raincoats and backpack covers were deployed. Thankfully, it didn’t last long and we arrived at our final destination for the day, the Robin Hood Inn at East Wallhouses.

Our tired and achy bodies enjoyed a drink and a meal before taking to bed early.

As the week went on, the walking days became longer, and so I neglected this blog. I will catch up properly when we get home.

I know you’ll want to know about this week’s broadcast Wythenshawe Radio show, which I recorded a long time ago now, or so it seems. The theme was,of course, Walking and you can listen right here.

The same guy that served us last night brought our breakfasts this morning. I don’t think he has a home to go to. But he did very kindly take a group photo for us outside the Robin Hood Inn.

Jyoti, Mick, Liesel, Teresa, Tammy

Thanks Tammy for the picture!

Most of the walk that day followed a main road, the B6318, so traffic noise was a potential problem. But in the end, it wasn’t such a big deal. The path stayed close to the road, with a wall or something separating us. It was sometimes muddy, sometimes grassy, and on the whole, much more comfortable to walk on for long stretches than the road itself.

To be continued…

Thanks, Mancs and Diolch, Cymru

I missed the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on account of not being born yet. The Coronation of King Charles III was on TV in the background while I was doing other things, such as writing and looking out of the window and making coffee. I didn’t really go out and buy a hat as previously suggested. But Liesel and Jyoti went out shopping and missed most of the so-called Event of the Year.

King Charles and Queen Camilla on the balcony of Buckingham Palace

Liesel collected her new prescription sunglasses from Didsbury, and while they were in the village, she and Jyoti bought treats for me (and for themselves). So we had scones for breakfast on Sunday morning, with clotted cream and jam and no arguments about which to put on first.

Our walk through Kenworthy Lane Woods on Saturday afternoon was uneventful, no moose nor bear encounters.

Jyoti and the scone

No matter how careful you are, you (or is it just me?) always end up with sticky fingers after eating anything where jam is involved.

With our energy levels suitably boosted, we took a bus into Manchester. And yes, of course we saw the back end of a bus disappear up the road as soon as we turned the corner, walking towards the bus stop. Yesterday, when Liesel and Jyoti walked to the village, I said I’d catch up and, for the first time ever, a bus arrived at the bus stop just as I got there, so I boarded it, overtook the ladies, travelled as far as the next stop, disembarked and met them.

Liesel and I enjoyed showing Jyoti the sights of Manchester including the Central Library, although it seemed to be closed. So we mooched around the Art Gallery for a while.

Golden Monkey

You can just see Jyoti’s reflection to the left of the golden monkey, who sits on top of a large urn made by top artist Grayson Perry, and he wasn’t afraid of incorporating images of his own face throughout the design.

In a few galleries, several objects are on display as if they are in storage, still in crates, and grouped together in unorthodox ways, such as by material, by object type, by size, rather than by country of origin or by artist.

Just bung them in here for a minute

Some works of art make us laugh for the wrong reason. For instance, this pot of kitchen utensils is very similar to one we have at home.

Work of art and Liesel’s version at home

One of the coolest items was a dress make up from 43 kg of dress pins.

One dress, many pins

I tried to count the pins, but someone interrupted and I lost count at about 13,000 and I wasn’t even up to the waist.

By accident, we ended up at Gooey, a cake and cookie shop that Liesel was aware of and which she’s been lusting after for a long time. We bought doughnuts and after enjoying mine, overflowing with raspberry jam, I vowed never to look at a Krispy Kreme donut again. And yes, my fingers were sticky.

We paid a quick visit to the Cathedral where we witnessed a small band rehearsing, including a harp player. I’ve never been that close to a harp but I resisted the temptation to wander over and have a pluck. I don’t think Liesel would have let me, anyway, never mind the harpist.

Harp and musicians

We walked towards Castlefield Viaduct, passing a few places of interest, such as what’s left of the old Roman Wall. Rather than sit on this historical artefact, Jyoti chose to sit on the sheep. A premonition, maybe.

Jyoti and the sheep

It was a first visit to the Viaduct for Liesel and Jyoti, and I hadn’t visited since I went with Pauline and Andrew last Summer. It has matured since then, many of the plants are now in full bloom and some of the beds are even overgrown.

Selfie of the day

As you leave, you’re surprised to see yourself in a reflective surface. You’re supposed to reflect on what you’ve seen, the flowers, the local communities and groups that have contributed to the project, the plight of the world what with climate change and all that, but all I could think of was, I look a bit distorted in that mirror.

A quick pitstop at the Museum of Science and Industry was followed by the slog back to the bus stop. Our pedometers confirmed that we’d far exceeded our 10,000 steps today, so the sit down on the bus back to Northenden was very welcome. We dined out at Chennai Dosa before making our way home.

I had a few little admin jobs to do on the computer before packing for a few days away. We d drove off and on a long section of road, we watched as several thousand vehicles were returning from their long weekend away, it was a bank holiday, and they may have all gone to Wales to escape the Coronation. Yes, Wales, that’s where we went, Snowdonia to be precise. Liesel had booked a National Trust Cottage just up the road from Craflwyn Hall. Why this area? Many years ago, Liesel and I enjoyed a Bicycle Beano cycling holiday there during the course of which I undoubtedly had a whinge about the hills. Especially the ones that go up.

Bwthyn Mai is a cute little cottage: most of the pictures on the walls are William Morris prints from an old exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum, the bedrooms are on the top floor, the bathroom on the middle floor, the living room and kitchen down below. Yes, it was built on a hill, a long, long time ago. The doors and floorboards squeak a symphony as you walk around.

And outside, we can watch the sheep as they upturn furniture, take shelter under the picnic table, rub their bums against the fences and gate posts, we can witness the lambs barging into their mums for a quick feed, and generally gambol like sheep do. Jyoti took many, many pictures of sheep. And I took a couple too.

A sheep

The only downside to this accommodation, to the wider area as we discovered, is that there is no 4G coverage, and our cottage has no WiFi either. Not a problem, I thought, but as time went on, we all realised how dependent we’d become on having access to the internet. Someone had left me a WhatsApp message but I was unable to acknowledge it for a couple of days. We couldn’t quickly check the weather forecast. When faced with a problem or a question, the first thing we think is, I’ll just Google it. Can’t do that. When reading a book on my Kindle, if I want to look up a new word, I just click on it and it tells me via a dictionary or via Wikipedia. Similarly if I want to remind myself about a certain character, just touch the name and it tells me. Not now I’m out in the sticks. What’s the news? Probably the same old depressing nonsense  but we shall remain in blissful ignorance.

From my point of view, the worst thing was the possibility of losing my winning streaks on a couple of puzzles that I do every day. This really is a ridiculous first-world problem I know, but this is how tangled our lives have become with the many tentacles of the internet. And I haven’t even mentioned Twitter, Instagram and email yet. Who’s been communicating with me?

On the other hand, what a great opportunity to get away from the modern e-world for a few days. Except, everywhere we go, we’re checking for a 4G or even a 3G signal, and whether shops, cafés, galleries have WiFi.

Chessboard

I asked Liesel whether she fancied a game of chess on this board in the gardens of Craflwyn Hall but she politely declined, which is fair enough: she doesn’t know how to play.

Liesel and Jyoti set off for a walk and I followed a little later. The path was steep, rocky and damp, it had rained a lot overnight.

Steep path

After lunch, Liesel drove us to Rhyd Ddu from where there is a trail leading to the summit of Yr Wyddfa which is the new (old original) name for Snowdon. It started off as a well made path, no water running down this one, and yes, of course, walking up a mountain, it’s going to be steep. Liesel and Jyoti climbed a lot further than I did because, annoyingly, I had to stop due to my old shortness-of-breath issue. Maybe I should have trained longer and harder up hills, not the flat plains of Northenden. Maybe I should have persevered on an inclined treadmill at the gym. In any case, I had to stop and sit on a rock for a while, soak up some sunshine and convince my body that it can manage.

Liesel and Jyoti lead the way

It was a beautiful day, though, no complaints there. I walked back to the car park, slowly: it took a ridiculous amount of time before my breathing was back to normal.

Rhyd Ddu is a station on the railway line between Caernarfon and Porthmadog. While pottering about, listening to the birds, I heard the whistle from a train in the distance. I also saw a red dragon on the platform.

Welsh dragon

Eventually, the train that had been tooting arrived at Rhyd Ddu and I took a few pictures of the engine.

The Harbourmaster

At which point, my phone died. No internet and now, no phone, no camera, no more pictures today, then. So I missed getting photos of the second train as it arrived from the opposite direction. Many people disembarked maybe with the intent of hiking some of the way up to the summit of the mountain. No pictures of them either, some dressed like me, in t-shirt and shorts, some with several layers of waterproofs and a full backpack including a tent.

Liesel, Jyoti and I met up and compared notes, especially regarding tired aching calves. After dinner, we turned the TV on and Jyoti and I watched the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Conest. The whole event is new to Jyoti and semi-finals are a new experience for me. A good nights sleep should have been a dead cert.

The weather didn’t look so good in the morning. Aches and pains determined that we should therefore have a bit of a rest day. Last night, a sheep had a fight with one of the benches outside. The bench lost, and we found it with its legs in the air. One of the sheep was limping and we wondered whether he was the one who beat up the furniture.

We drove to the nearest town, Beddgelert, where we resisted the temptation to have an ice cream. We did buy postcards and stamps and other cards and pottered about a bit. Outside the church, St Mary’s, we saw a well-preserved gravestone for a William Parry and I wondered whether he was a local hero of some description.

William Parry

Many scenes for the film Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman, Curt Jurgens and Burt Kwouk were filmed in the area in 1958. I wonder if this explains the presence of this Chinese dragon which is stylistically very different to Welsh dragons.

Chinese dragon
Bridge over the river Colwyn in Beddgelert

There was a touch of mizzle in the air and at one point Jyoti commented that she couldn’t understand why I didn’t put a coat on. Well, it wasn’t raining that hard and I didn’t feel cold. I said that, equally, I couldn’t understand how she could keep taking her coat off and putting it back on every time the temperature changes by a degree or two!

We’d been through Betws-y-Coed before, on the occasion of our cycling holiday, so we knew it was a (relatively) big, busy place. Liesel came up with the idea of parking outside the town and walking in. And what a great decision that was because we saw a wonderful heron down by the riverside.

Ooh a heron

We found a place to eat by the railway station and looked forward to using their WiFi to catch up with some totally unimportant stuff. So imagine the heart-wrenching disappointment when we saw this on the wall.

No WiFi here

The food was great though, especially the Victoria sponge. On this beautiful day, we should maybe have done a tour of the the local waterfalls, since they are so well signposted.

Waterfalls

Liesel confessed to her love of bridges, so we walked to Sappers Suspension Bridge, but it’s not open to the public at the moment. Further along the road, (and who would have guessed that we’d ever be walking along the A5?) we saw Waterloo Bridge, a small edifice compared with its namesake in London, but so called because it was first built in the same year as the Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

Waterloo Bridge

Even though this was supposed to be more of a rest day following the exertions of all the climbing yesterday, we still did a lot of walking.

Deciding where to visit on our final whole day in Wales was hard, so much depends on the weather and of course, we can’t look up a weather forecast because we have no internet. In the end, we drove to Beddgelert Forest where we planned to walk to around a lake. Well, we never did find the lake. The trail was marked but somehow all three of us, I think, missed a vital pointer so we ended up well off course. But it doesn’t matter, we enjoyed the walk, the views, the weather, the fresh air, the birdsong and the fact that there were very few other hikers, cyclists and no horseriders at all. The forest itself is very lush, so many different greens from olive to almost dayglow.

50 shades of green

Once we realised we were off course, we decided instead to follow the trail into Beddgelert itself. It was a much more pleasant experience than one of our earlier plans which was to walk from the Forest car park to the village along the road, with no footpath. We lost count of the number of streams and rivulets. It’s a very wet forest but today, we were lucky to be out in the sunshine, and the threatening grey clouds never came too close.

Snowdon aka Yr Wyddfa under the clouds

We’ve been wondering which peak was in fact Snowdon, Yr Wyddfa, and today a very helpful sign showed us. What a shame the actual summit was shrouded in cloud!

We had lunch at the Prince Llewelyn public house in Beddgelert, grateful for the opportunity to sit down for a while after quite a long walk. Oh, and they weren’t afraid to let us use their WiFi so I caught up on a few things, nothing of any importance of course.

Before setting off for the car, retracing our steps, we had an ice cream. What a joy to be sitting in warm sunshine eating an ice cream.

I heard a dog barking and a man telling it to be quiet. Round the corner, and we saw a flock of sheep in the road.

A flock of sheep

The man had two dogs that very skilfully herded the sheep through a gate. I thought it was unusual to hear a sheep dog being so vocal, though.

Finding another cute little bridge, I thought it would be rude not to take a picture of it for Liesel. So here she is, with Jyoti, about to walk across it.

Bridge with bonus Liesel and Jyoti

By the time we found our car in the car park, we had walked over 20,000 steps, so probably between 8 and 9 miles. Very good training for what we’ll be doing next week. My body behaved much better than yesterday. I found my rhythm and walked up a very long hill and was hardly out of breath when I got to the top, a totally different sensation to the shortness-of-breath episode I’d had yesterday.

Back at our cottage, we had some coffee then supper and in the evening, Jyoti and I enjoyed the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest. I now realise what I’ve been missing for several years!

A good night’s sleep was interrupted by a very early rise and an early departure. One aspect of the cottage that I didn’t mention was the beam in the room.

The offending beam

I must have banged my head on it a thousand times over the course of four days, thus keeping Liesel fully entertained. How I can bang my head, utter ‘ouch’, glance down, forget the beam’s there, stand up and bang my head again so many times is a question that will only be answered by the pathologist who dissects my brain post mortem.

The day back at home was quiet, I worked on a radio show, processed the week’s accumulated mail (one item) and in the evening, we met up with the family for dinner at a pub called The Pointing Dog. Martha was but a small baby when she last met Jyoti but what a fab reunion.

Jyoti, Martha, William and Liesel

As mentioned a couple of times, this is Eurovision Song Contest week, and the competition is being held in Liverpool, on behalf of Ukraine, last year’s winner, and we’ve had a lot of coverage on TV and radio. So of course, my own show on Wythenshawe Radio has a Eurovision theme, and you can catch up with it here.

Oh and by the way, I didn’t lose my winning streaks on the puzzles that I do every day, just because there was no internet access. It seems that if you don’t or can’t attempt the puzzle one day, that doesn’t count against you. Phew, I am so relieved.

And, as I discovered after we returned home, the Wikipedia entry on the Welsh Red Dragon is a fascinating read. Highly recommended.

I could find no evidence that the William Parry whose gravestone we found was a celebrity in any way. But Parry is a very common name in the Beddgelert area, certainly in the graveyard.

One out, one in

All good things come to an end and such was the case with Leslie’s visit. We took her as far as we could, Security at the airport and she then enjoyed (?) an uneventful series of flights back home to Anchorage. Where, unbelievably, there was one more, final snow flurry before, maybe, possibly, Alaskans can finally bid farewell to a very long Winter.

Liesel’s been a fan of Duran Duran for most of her life and we had tickets to see them in concert many years ago but we didn’t make the show on that occasion due to indisposition: this was well before the days of Covid.

So imagine the delight on Liesel’s cute little face when she found out that they were playing in Manchester within two weeks. In a rare moment of spontaneity, she booked tickets for us, and so it was, we found ourselves in Manchester on a Saturday night, visiting the Arena for the very first time. In general, we try to avoid large stadiums, other than Hyde Park, but we had a very good time.

Before the show, we found something to eat and, eventually, somewhere to eat it! Not many flat surfaces (aka tables) to sit at or even stand by, given the place has a capacity of 20,000 and presumably, most of them want to nosh on something before the show.

AO Arena
Liesel with Duran Duran

There were two support acts, both of whom seemed very excited and pleased to be supporting Duran Duran.

Lia Lia

Lia Lia is German Chinese but some of her dance moves were, we thought, Japanese influenced. And yes, we were quite a long way back so no there was realistic possibility of close-up pictures on this occasion.

The next guy seemed familiar and it took a while before it clicked: in his shiny silver suit was Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters.

Jake Shears

The best I could do from a photographic point of view was to wait for a close-up to appear on the TV screen. He was very energetic and he knew the audience wanted him to sing some old Scissor Sisters songs as well as his own.

And then the moment Liesel’s been waiting for for forty years: Duran Duran. Their show was very visual and amongst all their big hits, they performed some new songs, both genuinely new and some just new to me.

Duran Duran
Liesel with the band

I think it’s fair to say the conditions for me to take pictures with my phone were less than optimal! Some of the stage lighting was so bright, I had to look away and then blink away the green blobs before my eyes.

Save a Prayer

In the olden days of course, all these lights would have been cigarette lighters. We welcome the reduced fire hazard, but what a strange custon, when you think about it, to illuminate your phone’s flashlight just because a particular song is being played.

As advised, after the show, we didn’t rush to leave, and it was about 45 minutes before we were able to leave the car park. If we ever visit the Arena again, I think we’ll be going by public transport. Or at least, parking down the road in a totally unrelated car park.

Manchester Victoria Station as seen from the car park roof

The day after the gig the night before was quite relaxed. Did we go out at all? Probably, briefly. But the following day we went for a really long walk, towards Sale Water Park, mostly along the river. In places, the bank is being reinforced. And near Sale as with Didsbury, the paths beside the river are in a much better state of repair than those in Northenden.

River bank

It was nice to see so many ducks out and about, and especially nice to see this heron.

Black heron

To be honest, I’m not sure this is a real heron perched up there on a gate post, its eye looks a bit googly. We stopped for a break at a pub, where we had a plate of chips each. Perfect preparation for the wander back home.

Some of the gardens in Northenden are now beginning to show the results of all the occupants’ hard work.

Tulips
Azaleas

For the first time in many, many years, I watched some of the final of the World Snooker Championship from The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. I watched it on TV, of course, I didn’t schlep all the way over there to Sheffield. Luca Brecel from Belgium won for the first time, becoming only the fourth non-UK player to become World Champion. And some of his shots appeared to defy the laws of physics, he might be some kind or wizard or something.

One of the most exciting sightings of the week was in Wythenshawe Park, we we saw a peacock butterfly. Lovely to see one, but it would be so much nicer if there were flocks of them like we used to see.

Peacock

I approached very slowly but even so, it flew away before I could get a close-up. Maybe I should just get a zoom lens for my phone. Or even, as I keep saying, take out my real camera.

Robin

I showed Liesel the bench, commissioned by Netflix and Campaign Against Living Miserably, as featured in the TV series After Life. As we walked away, this chubby little robin came to say hello. We think he’s a very young one, and hopefully he’ll look better when he sorts his feathers out.

Did it feel strange, now, just being the two of us? Well, yes. Leslie didn’t join us for many really long walks, but it doesn’t take long to adapt to having a third party join us, out and about while she was here. And now there were two. But not for long.

Just a few days after Leslie returned home, we were joined by Jyoti. After not sleeping for the duration of her flights, needless to say she was a bit tired. But we all went for a brisk walk to Fletcher Moss Park.

Selfie of the day

From the boardwalks near the park, we spotted a thousand tadpoles in the water below.

Tadpoles

And on the way home, we saw more ducks in the river including a family of ducklings. Another encouraging sign that Spring is here.

After a jolly good night’s sleep, Jyoti and Liesel were raring to go for another long walk. After a false start, when we got as far as the landing before it started raining, Liesel and I retraced our steps, more or less, towards Sale Water Park, this time with Jyoti. On this occasion, en route, we walked around Chorlton Water Park, just to get a few extra steps in. I rescued a small beetle from Liesel’s shoulder, and it sat on my finger for the whole circumnavigation of the lake.

Liesel and Jyoti by the river

We revisited Jackson’s Boat for lunch and then wandered back to Northenden on the other side of the river. And what a good day for bird watchers. More ducks of course, plus a ring-necked parakeet and even a great tit. But on the river itself:

Cormorant
Heron

In the evening, I went to Tea and Talk at Benchill Community Centre where a few people from Factory Internatioanl were doing work in and for the community, as well as telling us about Manchester International Festival. I wasn’t expecting a meal but that was very welcome, and it was good to see some people I knew.

The room was decorated in preparation for the Coronation. Lots of red, white and blue plus posters of the new king who I pretended not to recognise.

Benchill Community Centre

Which is an amazing coincidence, because my Wythenshawe Radio show this week was inspired by the Coronation. Two hours of songs about or by Kings and Queens. You can pay homage here.

Terrific Pacific

After a relaxing day, we drove into Manchester. Time for a gig. We throughly enjoyed the performance by O’Hooley and Tidow at a fantastic venue, new to us, Hallé St Peters. The show was to promote their new record, Cloudheads, but of course, we’re special, and we received our CD, signed, a couple of weeks ago.

Hallé St Peters

We found seats just four rows from the front and before the show proper began, we were digging the music, man, songs by Rodriguez, whose story is interesting but quite sad, really.

Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow sang songs old and new, told funny stories, and the audience was spellbound. Nobody was chatting and apart from a couple of glasses being kicked over after the interval, there was no disruption.

I had a quick chat with Belinda in the interval, told her I’d played their records on my show, and when I told her my name, Mick, she knew my surname straightaway. I’m not quite on the A-list, but getting there!

O’Hooley and Tidow with a young fan

I received my postal vote: there are local elections in May. I knew who I was going to vote for, and, given all the election literature I’ve seen so far, I was beginning to think there was only one candidate standing. So what a surprise to see some others on the ballot paper. I was tempted but in the end, I didn’t vote for Sir Oink A-Lot, of The Official Monster Raving Loony Party, because, well, I’m not entirely sure he’s taking it very seriously.

In our local church, St Wilfrid’s, there was another celebration of Sir Edward Watkin. I paid Geoff for the book of his I’d bought a few nights ago and he told me about a painting that had hung at Rose Hill for many years. Someone wanted to sell it for charity, expecting to raise about  £100. In the end, it was valued at £4 million.

Sir Edward funded some of the stain glass windows in the church, and they are indeed very bright, even on a cloudy grey day such as this was.

St Wilfrid’s

The Millennium Banner was obviously a labour of love. The wall hanging which stretches along one side of the church was made in 1999, mostly by members of the Women’s Group, to mark the turning of the millennium. It shows scenes and motifs from the history of the previous 2000 years, some very local, others national, global or even cosmic. Spoiler alert: this is how it ends:

Millennium Banner

I’d gone along because The Edward Watkin Society, also known as WatSoc, had organised the week of events. On display here today were several letter sent from or to Sir Edward. The handwriting was beautiful, and neat, but very hard to read.

While talking to someone, my phone went off. “Is that your phone?” “I think it’s everyone’s phone” I replied, because all of a sudden, the room was full of alarms.

Severe Alert, said my phone

This is a test of Emergency Alerts, a new UK government service that will warn you if there’s a life-threatening emergency nearby.

In a real emergency, follow the instructions in the alert to keep yourself and others safe.

This is a test. You do not need to take any action.

Needless to say, I took no action. But, being Brits, we all rolled our eyes and tutted at the inconvenience.

So why was I here at the church by myself? Because Liesel and Leslie were travelling south to visit cousin Andi and Steve in Richmond. Andi I think particularly wanted to catch up with her Auntie Leslie.

One morning, Liesel got up early and went for a long solitary walk taking in Richmond Hill, Petersham Common and Richmond Park.

Terrace Gardens, Richmond, overlooking the river

They all visited Bushy Park too one day, where the deer wandered over to say hello.

Let’s return to the saga of my phone. To recap: I took my phone in to have its battery changed. That worked out OK. But, the fingerprint sensor no longer worked. I went back to the shop, he couldn’t get it to work, so ordered a new sensor. A couple of days later, the new sensor didn’t work either. I would have to leave my phone with him overnight so that some internal connection could be soldered. Couldn’t do it over the weekend because it was Eid.

So, as requested, I took my phone in on Monday with a view to collecting it the following day. It wasn’t ready. In fact, it wouldn’t be back until the next day. My doubts were now growing. I insisted I needed my phone that day. Tell me where it is, and I’ll go and collect it if necessary. He didn’t want to do that. He called someone and then told me to return in the afternoon. Good thing I didn’t have a job to go back to. He said if it wasn’t back by about 3pm, he’d deliver it to my address after closing time.

I felt a wave of relief when I picked up my phone in the afternoon. Fixed. The fingerprint sensor was now working. Where’s my case? I asked. What case? The protective case that I always keep my phone in. He couldn’t find it of course. I suspect it’s still at the other, top secret venue. So he gave me case off the shelf.

I didn’t pay for anything. By now, I was so peeved, I resolved never to darken his doors again. Whether incompetent or criminal, I don’t think I can trust him again. So much so, back at home, I checked the phone for malware. I also checked that no cash had been taken from any of the online bank accounts. He wouldn’t know my passwords, and he didn’t have my fingerprint, but, I have no idea how dodgy or technically agile he and his brother-in-law are.

Later, I realised the volume controls were no longer working. I use those to take screenshots and to take photos as well as adjusting the volume. I’ll be taking my device to a proper, qualified Samsung repair facility, where I’ll have to recite this whole sorry tale, probably.

Liesel and Mom returned but they didn’t join me for the the long Thursday walk. After which, at The Forum, I saw my mugshot on the noticeboard outside the radio studio.

Wythenshawe FM presenters

At least one member of my family asked if this was a Wanted poster? Is there a reward?

And the excitement is building in the area as we approach Coronation Day.

Flying the red, white and blue

I’ll probably tweet this nearer the time but when people ask whether I’ll be watching the Coronation on TV, I usually say “No, because, by coincidence, I’m going out to get a new hat that day too.”

The three of us did join the walking group on Friday though, for one final forced march, as Klaus would have said.

And, as it was Great Oma’s final day here in England, she treated us to a meal at a Japanese restaurant over there in Cheadle Hulme. Jenny and Liam brought a very excited but tired Martha and William. The children had been introduced to Japanese cuisine while in Australia over Christmas. Today, we all enjoyed our meals, even though for a long time, Martha and I were sitting in actual warm sunshine. Even Liesel was beginning to turn pink.

William and Martha

Once William got going, he demolished his plate of food, and both he and Martha are very happy with sticky rice, because it’s easier to eat with chopsticks!

This week, they celebrated ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, and, by coincidence, that was the theme of my Wythenshawe Radio show this week. If you would like to catch up on two hours of Aussies and Kiwis singing for your pleasure, you are very welcome to listen here.

The Moon and Liverpool

Jodrell Bank is always good for a visit, and the grandchildren, astronauts of the future, had a great time there.

Martha and William on the Moon

Martha later commented that the spacesuit wasn’t particularly comfortable. So let’s hope that when they do pay a visit to the Moon, the attire is more cosy.

Meanwhile, Liesel took her Mom to the coffee morning over in Didsbury. I met up with them at the pub after a very pleasant walk along the fast-flowing river. In the sunshine.

A spot of colour at Northenden Golf Club

The birds were enjoying the day, but there was no sign of a heron today. I had a cup of coffee before Liesel kindly drove me home again.

What else has Liesel been up to at home? Making bees via the medium of crochet. Sometimes, the colour of the yarn available doesn’t match the instructions, so she invents brand new species.

Fish bee

Or so we thought. Just a few days later, I happened to see this online and I thought, Liesel’s well ahead of the game.

Northern blue-banded bee

Of course, these blue-banded bees are native to Australia and all I want to do now is go to Australia to see them in the flesh, in the wild.

Early one morning, Liesel and I wandered over to Fletcher Moss where we were the first customers at the café. Halfway through April and Spring still hasn’t come in fully. Its foot is in the door, but the cold wind from the north is still a reminder that Winter just doesn’t want to end.

In technical news, I took my phone to the local tech shop to have its battery replaced. That went well, my phone no longer goes from 15% charge to 0% in a few seconds. But, the fingerprint sensor no longer works. I returned to the shop and it seems the problem can only be resolved by soldering something deep in the bowels of the phone. Meanwhile, I have to type in a 4-digit passcode every time I want to use the phone, wasting almost a whole second on each occasion. Nightmare.

Northenden probably isn’t the most exciting place in the world, but one day, Palatine Road ground to a halt when it was blocked by a crane from the local building site.

Crane
Puffin

There aren’t many puffins in Northenden, so it was a delight to see this one. I confess, it wasn’t here in real life, it was on the screen where I watched an Open University presentation and discussion about the TV series Wild Isles. This was the reason I didn’t go to the choir rehearsal this week. Actually, I’m not sure it’s for me, so I’m still thinking about whether to pursue that particular activity.

In another minor contribution to my fifteen minutes of fame, I appeared on Instagram in an advert for Boxx2Boxx.

Boxx2Boxx

This is the Wednesday walking group and Lois brought us our coffees and teas with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. And no spillages.

Liesel and I last visited Liverpool in 2009, I know, we should go more often. Well, we paid a visit this week, not to the city centre, but to Speke. We parked up at Speke Hall and joined a group for a tour of the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. I was hoping for a Magical Mystery Tour bus, but it was just an everyday 12-seater.

Tour bus

Both houses are presented as they would have been experienced by the young Beatles-to-be, including candlewick bedspreads very similar to what my sister and I were brought up with. The guides were very informative and, I assume, have to be a bit of a Beatles fan to go for those jobs.

John’s house, with blue plaque
Old crockery

We weren’t really allowed to take pictures inside the houses, but I couldn’t resist this crockery. It took me back to my first Saturday job at the Co-op, when amongst other duties, it was my job to unpack crockery from the crates it was delivered in. This was before the days of bubble-wrap, and the packing material was straw. Can you imagine the sneezing fits I had unpacking the plates and cups and saucers?

Paul’s house

Paul’s house doesn’t have a blue plaque because he’s still alive. And, apparently, in any case, the blue plaque scheme has been discontinued in Liverpool, which is a shame. Nobody was brave enough to have a go on the piano in Paul’s front room, the room in which he and John wrote some of their first songs.

The bus took us back to Speke Hall and after a quick coffee and lunch, we had a look around the old house. There was an informative guide in each room, and some, in costume, haunted the house and told their own stories.

Speke Hall
Ceiling

The ceiling ornamentation in some rooms reminded us of just how dull and boring the ceiling is in our luxury apartment.

The drive back home in the sunshine was uneventful, though we did have to cross back over the Mersey Gateway Bridge. The signs told us that we had until midnight the following day to pay the tolls. We didn’t know there were any tolls in England other than the M6, so that was a revelation. And lots of pressure not to forget to pay the fee in a timely manner.

Mersey Gateway Bridgeee

Liesel and Leslie went off to the WI knitting group in the evening while I supported our local theatre here in Northenden. The presentation on Edward Watkin was good, the local lad did well for the people of Manchester, he was behind the Great Central Railway and he had a hand in establishing modern day Canada. He started digging the first channel tunnel, but didn’t get far.

Edward Watkin as played by Geoff Scargill
Children from local schools

I couldn’t resist buying the book, written by Geoff Scargill so I’ve added that to the TBR pile.

The radio show this week featured songs that include at least an element of Whistling. So, if you like whistling along to songs, catch up here.

Seven is a magical number

We all have one every year and some of us have had way too many but when you’re turning 7, your birthday is still very special. And so it was with Martha. Liesel, Leslie and I had a wonderful time celebrating with Martha, her immediate family, her cousins, aunt, uncle and the other grandparents. Thirteen people in all, but not at all unlucky.

There was a bit of running about and it was warm enough to go into the garden for a while. One thing I never expected to see was Papa, the other grandfather, standing on his head in the garden. Such poise, such strength, and of course, I didn’t have a go.

Martha

Neither did I take part in the head-over-heels competition. Or roly-polys. Or somersaults.

William was especially pleased that Papa John pizza  was the main food item for this party. Although the cake was pretty good too.

Blowing out the candles
A rather handsome family

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Helen was spending her Easter weekend laying new decking outside her apartment.

Helen’s decking

If you want decking, let us know and we’ll put you in touch. Well done Helen!

On Easter Sunday, we went for a walk along the river and again bemoaned the fact that the Sun was out but the cold wind was winning. For the first time since about November, we saw the heron. In fact, we saw two or three herons. Not sure because numbers 2 and 3 might have been the same one, they do look very similar.

1,2 or 3 herons
Speedwell

We don’t really like the cold wind and by this time of year, it really should be a bit warmer. But at least it’s not snowing here like it is in Anchorage. Yes, Leslie is missing out on what must surely be the largest ever Winter in the lrgaest state in the union.

At home, our evening meal was enhanced by the presence of a bipedal carrot. Very nice, very tasty.

Carrot

Another day, another walk, this time to Chorlton Water Park, partially along the river.

Chorlton Water Park
Where ya bin?

The bin seemed happy to see us, as well as the joggers and dog walkers and jog walkers and doggers, not to mention the cyclists on the path. Next time, if we’re up and about that early in the morning, we’ll be taking a picnic breakfast with us.

Week 2 as a member of the choir, and when I was about to leave home, the rain was torrential. Not wanting to sit and sing looking like a drowned rat, I drove to the Social Club. And I’m glad I did, because when I left, it was bitterly cold outside, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed walking home in that! As for the singing itself, I was much more conscious this week of my drone not quite being in tune with the other tenors.

The last time I appeared on a podcast was December 2019, so it was a joy to join Danny Baker and Louise Pepper again this week for the Treehouse Podcast episode 324.

Because of the Zoom call, I was late for the walk on Wednesday but I eventually caught up with the other walkers. Back at Boxx2Boxx, it was nice to see Jill back, I don’t think I’ve seen her since before she went into the jungle for I’m a Celebrity. As usual, she was very generous with her time, and was happy to share her Euros medal with the children.

Jill Scott making some children very happy

Don’t talk to us about the Thursday walk. Liesel and I went along but nobody else did. So we followed the route to the best of our memory, but it’s surprising how most woods look alike and Wythenshawe’s residential roads are all very similar too. I suppose the lesson here is, when someone takes you for a walk in a new area, pay closer attention to where you’re going.

And don’t mention the Friday walk, it was cancelled this week.

But despite getting in a few tens of thousands of steps this week, I did spend some time on the computer, trying to get a bit ahead with the radio shows. This week’s theme was Puns, Parodies and Spoofs, two hours of wonderful music not to be taken too seriously. Be the first on your block to listen to it here.

The Long and Winding Road

The three of us drove over to Jenny’s on a beautiful Saturday morning. After William’s success last week, we thought it would be nice to watch William and Martha swimming again. We all walked down the road to the pool  and were entertained by two young but very competent swimmers for half an hour. I feel good in a special way, I’m in love and it’s a sunny day. Walking back afterwards, we passed some really lovely gardens, well-tended and for a brief moment, I wished we still had a garden.

A host of golden daffodils

A lot of daffodils are now past their best-before date, but there are still a few bright patches here and there. Little darlin’, it’s been a long cold lonely Winter, little darlin’, it feels like years since it’s been here. It really is uplifting to be out and about in the sunshine, even if it’s not that warm. It is strange to be walking along, feeling the heat of the Sun on your back while feeling a cold wind on your face.

Later in the day, we met up with the family at Quarry Bank Mill for a quick walk. Martha and William followed the trail which entailed some fun activities such as doing star jumps and even a wheelbarrow race. Desmond has a barrow in the market place, as they say.

Wheelbarrow race

The really exciting part, though was at the end. On completion of the nine tasks, they received an Easter egg. I wish I’d picked up an instruction sheet, now. I am the egg-man, they are the egg-men, I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.

Trip-trapping over the bridge

At this point, Martha and William were miles ahead of us so-called grown-ups. They were heading for the playground. We’d had coffee and they’d had ice-cream so the energy levels were high. I get high with a little help from my friends.

Martha up the pole

In the evening, Liesel, Leslie and I visited our local theatre to watch Northenden Players Theatre Club’s production of Ladies Down Under. It was a full house, well, the capacity is 60 I think, and the play was very well performed. She’s got a ticket to ride. The action mainly takes place near Uluru, and mention was made of staying underground at Coober Pedy, bringing back memories of my trip there in 2002. The set was very clever too, very atmospheric.

Uluru at Northenden Theatre

Its been a long time, so I paid a visit to Rose Hill Woods, one of Northenden’s best kept secrets. There’s no getting away from the hum of the motorway, but it’s a very peaceful place. Especially when there are no other people about. And I did wonder whether the proximity of the M56 and its noise was responsible for the birds seemingly singing more loudly than usual. And your bird can sing. I’d forgotten how well made the path was too.

Watkin Memorial Stone

This is a memorial to Absalom Watkin who campaigned for electoral reform and for the repeal of the corn laws. It’s amazing to think that a UK government would bring in laws that result in food shortages, huge profits for wealthy landowners along with widespread poverty. It would never happen in the 21st century, of course. Baby you’re a rich man.

Absalom’s Bridge

Liesel’s a fantastic cook and so it was, she prepared some Indian dishes which we took over to Jenny’s. Don’t worry, we had been invited, it wasn’t a case of just turning up and thrusting our food upon them. It was of course delicious. All together now, all together now. And we had a lot of fun with the children and their marble run. I suspect there are still some marbles under the sofa.

William and Martha

As we’re ‘in training’ for a long walk next month, Liesel and I wandered over to Wythenshawe Park, and walked the boundaries. This Park isn’t as hilly as the long trek we’re planning, but it’s better than nothing. The long and winding road, that leads to your door, will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before. It’s good the see the path being used by cyclists, not so good to see piles of evidence that horses also use it.

Wythenshawe Park

We stopped for coffee just before closing time and as we were leaving the park, we saw smoke over by the field with the horses. We think it was probably someone with a disposable barbecue and we suspect the evidence will still be there. Good job there are litter pickers in the park, eh? Help! You know I need someone! Help!

I joined the choir. Yes, I know I can’t sing for toffee but, ‘do something scary every day’. I met Dan last week, had a chat, he kept a straight face as he said I should come along, so I went along. There were far more people than expected, between 50 and 60, and about 10 of us tenors. I’m a tenor! Fortunately, Roger and Nick are very loud tenors and my warblings are nicely drowned out. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.

Sadly, here is some sad news. I’m too emotional to write my own words, so here are details straight from the source.

The old oak tree

Over 500 years old, this is the oldest oak in the Dunham Massey deer park: it even predates the historic buildings!

As you can see this special oak is starting to lean towards the moat, this is due to a variety of factors from root compaction to recent storms, as well as the sheer age of this veteran tree.

The Rangers started work in Autumn 2022, thinning some of the older, more ridged branches from the crown of the tree to reduce the sail area, working to prevent the wind from catching it as much as possible. Thinning the top branches has also helped to take some of the weight off, lessening pressure on the root system

Next, in February 2023, they installed a prop to help support the weight of the oak, as this section of the tree will get heavier as the top foliage starts to grow. Help! You know I need someone! Help!

The propped up oak tree

It was another very pleasant walk, again with cold wind in one direction and warm Sun in the other. And I say it’s alright.

Liesel, Leslie and cherry blossom
Snake’s head fritillary

Leslie, Liesel and I joined the walks on Wednesday and Thursday, warm Sun, cold wind, not as cold maybe but noticeable. I can’t measure it scientifically, but it seems to me that ever since I had Covid last year, I have noticed the cold much sooner than I used to, even the slightest of cold draughts. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind, possessing and caressing me.

Sale isn’t that far away, but we’ve seldom been there. We had a lunch date with some folks from the choir, and their spouses. Spouses? Spice? And all the people that come and go stop and say hello. Alanya in Sale was very nice and before we went in, we had a wander around the town. Lots of charity shops and betting shops, even a games arcade.

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Liesel and I left Mom at home while we went for an early evening walk along the river. It was very pleasant, mainly because there were so few other people around! Not even on the golf course. In fact, more than pleasant. In fact, it was so warm, we took our coats off, and that’s a first for this year. I also should have worn shorts. Let’s hope for a nice, long, warm Summer. Here comes the sun king, everybody’s laughing, everybody’s happy, here comes the sun king.

Selfie of the day

That was the week leading up to Easter, so guess what the radio show was about this week? That’s right: Japan. Some Japanese music, plus songs about Japan or that mention the land of the rising Sun. If you missed the Wythenshawe Radio transmission, you can catch up here.

One major disappontment this week. One day, I went out for a walk and left the pedometer at home so there is no step count available. Not once, but twice that day. This will severely affect any statistical analysis that may ensue.

Highlights

The highlight of the week was the first classical concert I’ve been to for a very long time. My friend and fellow Wythenshawe Radio presenter Hayley is a professional soprano and she was a guest soloist with St George’s Singers. The choir performed Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonnelle.

St George’s Singers

No, I didn’t sing along, not being entirely familiar with the tunes. There is more about this piece of music at the end of this post. But I was listening and watching the performers closely. Some of the choir kept their eyes on the conductor more or less all the time. Others were focused on their manuscript, just glancing up every now and then.

It was a delight, after all this time, to see Hayley in her natural habitat. The venue was St Michael and All Angels Church, Bramhall, so not too far away from home.

Terence Ayebare, Alexander Grainger, Jessica Conway and Hayley Swanton, soloists

I suppose one highlight of the week was the start of British Summertime. We put the clocks forward, giving us an extra hour of daylight in the evenings. Which means of course, we can see the gloomy, dark, menacing, grey clouds for a little longer before bedtime each night. We are surprised by the odd, pretty sunset, but not this week.

Blossoming tree sneaking up on a telegraph pole

Well done William! He earned his 5m backstroke swimming badge this week, and that must qualify as the highlight of the week.

William with badge

The highlight of the week was of course the radio show. The theme this week was Cats, even though most of the cats being sung about are actually people. Three cool cats, what’s new pussycat and that sort of thing. I didn’t forget lions, tigers or panthers. If you’re feline so inclined, catch up with the show here.

I am, of course, teasing. The actual, real, biggest highlight of the week was the return of Liesel from Alaska, hooray! I say ‘from Alaska’ but in fact, much of the state came back with her. In fact, she had so much stuff from Anchorage in her bags, that she and her Mom had to return home to Northenden, from the airport,  in an industrial sized taxi. And yes, sometimes I wish our little block of flats had a lift.

Liesel and Leslie about to depart from Anchorage

A couple of days of jetlag and everything’s right with the world. I am once again enjoying Liesel’s culinary expertise which makes a change from the glorified snacks that I’ve been preparing for myself. Welcome home Liesel and welcome to our humble abode, Leslie!

Liesel missed the dentist so much, she just had to pay a visit at the earliest opportunity. Hopefully the pearly whites will last a long, long time.

Walking around Northenden this week was uneventful. The river’s still quite high but the really bad and sad news is that we haven’t seen our heron for quite a while. I hope he’s having a good time upstream with a nice lady heron.

Liesel and Leslie went along but I missed the Friday walk this week, and it wasn’t because I needed time away from them! No, I had another meeting with Dave from Thrive Manchester and Mary at Boxx 2 Boxx. Afterwards, I had a quick chat with Dan the choir-master and I think I said I might go along next week and join the choir. I know, I should probably take along a box of earplugs for the other members, but, like I often say, I’ll try anything once.

Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle is a musical composition written by the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini in 1863, later in his life. Despite its name (which translates to “little solemn mass”), the piece is quite grand and complex, requiring two pianos and a harmonium, and is known for its intricate harmonies and melodic beauty.

The piece was originally written for private performance and was not intended for public performance. However, Rossini later authorized a public performance of the work in 1864, which was received with great success.

The Petite Messe Solennelle is considered one of Rossini’s most important works and is regarded as a masterpiece of sacred music. It has been performed and recorded numerous times by various orchestras, choirs, and soloists around the world.

Meetings

I don’t know why, but out of the blue, I remembered a pair of bookends that I had when I was a child. They were wooden. One had a dog and the other had a cat and, when propping up books, it looked as though the cat was about to leap over the books onto the dog. Very cute. And I thought, you don’t see bookends much any more.

It’s always a bonus when you can walk home from a gig. On this occasion, I walked up the road to Northenden Theatre to watch an evening of comedy. Plane Comedy was one of the events that made up Northenden’s Arts Festival a year or so ago. Plane Comedy returned with six comedians. The only thing wrong was, they were all men. Out of six, I can’t believe they couldn’t drag at least one female comedian along to participate. Still, it was a very good evening, hanks to Mike Carter, Charlie Lewis (yeah, him again!), Jack Miller, Ben Hodge, Eddie Fortune, Stan Ridgeway and the MC, Lewis ‘Big Lou’ Jones. I was even able to enjoy alcohol during the interval.

Plane Comedians

The next day was Mothers’ Day, something that I was totally oblivious to until Liesel mentioned it in passing. She’s still in Anchorage with her Mom and I’m glad to report there hasn’t been any more snow recently. She’s coming home soon so I’ve got to tidy up a bit, and hide evidence of all the rowdy parties I’ve enjoyed.

The first person I met during a busy week of meetings was my GP. We discussed the results of my recent echocardiogram which showed that really, there’s nothing wrong with the old ticker, and I should go back in three years’ time for another echo.

Next up, in Didsbury, I met Chris Mitchell, DJ and entertainer. We met in Didsbury and I recorded our chat for this week’s radio show. It’s his birthday this week too.

Chris Mitchell

Walking the back streets of Didsbury, and guess what I came across?

Bookends

That’s right, bookends, in the form of two red Ford Fiesta Zetecs. What are the chances?

To conclude a busy day, well, busy by my standards, I attended a meeting in Wythenshawe for us volunteers at the local, community radio station. I’m slowly putting faces to the names and the voices.

It was my turn to collect the children from school this week, and I took them to Quirky Misfits, the coffee shop in Northenden. Martha was delighted to be able to buy the ‘Love Potion’ pendant that she’d asked for last time. Of course, it was only fair that William buy something too. I would never have guessed that he would choose… a pair of halloween socks. ‘It’s not halloween for a long time,’ I said. ‘In this shop, it’s halloween every day,’ said Lydia! Quite right too.

William concentraing

There are some games in the shop too, and William recognised Ker-plunk from school. His level of concentration while putting the device together was lovely to see, even when things didn’t quite go right.

Warning

Thankfully, they were both very well bahaved, enjoyed their drinks and snacks. William had a nice brownie, while Martha went for a slice of Cookie Pie. What’s in a Cookie Pie? Cookies around the outside, cookies on the base and  all filled with cookies. It was too much: Martha took half of it home in a box. A couple of days later, this advert appeared on Instagram.

Cookie Pie advert

Before taking them home, we went for a play in the Riverside Park playground. Yes, after all that sugar, their energy levels were maxed out. I’m not sure William’s quite got the idea of ‘slides’…

William on the slide

Nor of monkey bars…

William on the monkey bars

Oh well!

After taking Martha and William home, I set off for Salford. Liesel and Leslie should have been with me, to watch Danny Baker again. The show was similar to the Buxton edition a few weeks ago, but as time goes on the stories change and morph. Another three and a half hours non-stop talking and pacing up and down the stage.

Danny Baker on stage

After the show, I asked a member of staff to take me ’round the back’ to meet Danny. He’d invited me (well, all listeners to his Treehouse podcast) to go round the back whenever we saw him.

We had a nice chat and he gave me a terrific voicenote/jingle thing for my own radio show. Tune in to hear it sometime! Of course, in the heat of the moment, I forgot to take his picture in the luxurious dressing room. And I forgot to show off my collection of the giveaways from various incarnations of his show over the years. And I think he is genuinely looking forward to retiring, to his third act.

And lo, it was my birthday. I feel I’ve had enough birthdays. So, treating it as a normal day, I went out for the second of three organised walks this week. Today’s was a bit wet. Light drizzle mostly but quite a downpour for a couple of minutes. So much so, that one of our number took a tram back to the Forum. The rest of us merely took a shortcut, missing out some potentially slippery woods.

William and Martha invited me out for a birthday meal, so I went round to their place and we all walked over to Gusto.

William and Grandad

Very nice, very tasty, thank you.

Back to Wythenshawe next day for another walk followed by a coffee! In the afternoon, I witnessed the event of the week in Northenden. The official opening of the Little Library in the Riverside Park playground. We’d seen it there when we went to play after school, but I didn’t realise at the time that it had only been intsalled the previous day.

Northenden’s Little Library

Anyone can leave, borrow or take books, so I hope it gets well used.

Dave cutting the ribbon

It was nice to see a few local celebrities there too, Dave the chief local litter-picker, Mary the ex-councillor and Pam the poet who recited one of her poems.

On this week’s radio show, I had a chat with Chris Mitchell (as mentioned before) and I also celebrated my birthday so if you missed it on Wythenshawe Radio, click here to catch up.

Swimmin’ and women

It’s been mentioned before, I’m sure, but sometimes our flat feels colder than it is outside. We open the fridge and the light comes on, inviting us into the warmth. Venturing outside, I exclaim, ooh, it’s warm out here. Not this Saturday though. It was cold, but at least I didn’t have to scrape ice off the car. Martha and William both have swimming lessons on a Saturday morning now, and I drove over to watch them. It was warm inside.

Swimming gallery

It’s a nicely heated venue of course, and upstairs in the viewing platform, the Sun was streaming it. It felt fantastic on our backs as we watched the children ploughing up and down the pool. Martha earned her 10-metre certificate today.

After the lesson, I drove back to Jenny’s, walked back to the pool and accompanied Liam, Martha and William on their walk back home. My reward for all this exercise? Jenny cooked up a gorgeous roast dinner for me. Well, for all of us, thanks, Jenny!

William asked me to help him build his Lego police car. He really didn’t need my help. Dozens of very small parts, and he managed very well.

Lego police car

While I was watching William not needing my assistance, Martha went out with Liam and came back with dessert. I think William enjoyed his chocolate cake.

William v Cake

Later in the week, I saw this.

Scary error message

There’s not much more likely to cause a panic attack than seeing this on a screen, like we’ve gone back to the 1990s or something. Anyway, all sorted now. It also took way too long to get the printer working. It went ‘offline’ but I could find no easy way to put it back ‘online’. I ended up reinstalling it as if it were a brand new device. I think this is something I’ll never understand about technology: why does something work flawlessly for two months then suddenly stop? I wonder how many printers have been thrown through windows in frustration?

I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, to myself at least: Do the shredding little and often. Don’t save it up for years and years. I spent several hours this week shredding old, unwanted but confidential paperwork. One thing I realised though is that once it gets going, our shredder puts out more heat than the actual heating system in this flat.

But I’m not the only one having major issues this week.

Palatine Road planter

Someone had a slight altercation in Palatine Road. There’s a bit of a mess here. I don’t know whether the torrential rain that we had affected his driving ability. Torrential? At times yes, but there was just a lot of rain over a few days. The river was high again.

The Island

Walking around Northenden and Wythenshawe this week was uneventful. Rain was threatened a couple of times but we stayed dry, just a bit of drizzle.

There was more rain to negotiate when I drove to Darwen. I’d never been before, so I left really early so I could see some of the town. Good job too. There was a long hold-up on one of the motorways, so I went a different, longer way, but quicker, if Google Maps is to be believed.

A bit of Darwen
The Weaver Bird

This artwork celebrates the proud industrial heritage of Darwen. Please help us to look after it by not touching or climbing it. The edges may be sharp to touch and falls can cause injury. What a shame the plaque didn’t credit the actual sculptor.

I was delighted to see The Weaver Bird because five minutes earlier, I was very nearly locked inside the market. After parking up, I went downstairs to a deserted market, glad to find a public toilet. When I came out, the Men were walking around locking all the doors. I followed them round like a hungry puppy until they let me out.

India Mill Chimney

This India Mill Chimney is one of Darwen’s most famous landmarks, the last remaining chimney standing as a memorial to the local cotton industry.

Supper was taken in a bank. Yes, really, it’s a pub called The Bank and it really was a bank, once. The barman asked a few times whether my meal was good. Well, yes it was. In the end, he admitted that this was something new on the menu. I can recommend their sweet potato and chilli curry, if you’re ever in Darwen, and hungry.

I was here to see Martha Tilston in concert. We’ve not seen her for about five years, and Liesel and Leslie should have been here too, but are still over there in Anchorage. So, I had three seats to choose from. One minute before show began, in came the inevitable tall man with a big head and I knew exactly where he was going to sit.

Teri Birtwistle, local to Darwen, supported Martha beautifully. I had a quick word with her in the interval, promising to play her music on my show.

Teri

I also spoke to Martha’s accompanist Matt in the interval, passed on my regards to Martha and her Mum Naomi, whom I got to know, crikey, thirty years ago now, when we were on the same creative writing course. St Patrick’s Day came up in conversation and I boasted that I was playing Martha’s song Over to Ireland in my radio show this week. So imagine my delight when she played that song on stage, even though it wasn’t on her playlist originally. Matt just went with the flow!

Martha
Matt with his 5-string fretless bass

The drive home was much faster, the motorway had been unblocked. But a long drive, late at night, isn’t something I’m used to, so I woke up far too late the next day to go for a walk with the usual group. Instead, after another spot of shredding, I went back down to the river here in Northenden: it was still flowing high and fast.

I’ve mentioned it already, and this week’s Wythenshawe Radio show marked St Patrick’s Day, mostly Irish singers and songs about Ireland. Catch it here.