Freiburg im Breisgau

I fell asleep to the internal echoes of Eddi Reader only to be woken up three short hours later.

Skip this paragraph if you like because here I will list all the things that went wrong. A proper whingefest if you like. I’d booked a taxi for 3am. The service had been totally reliable on previous occasions, but today, there was no sign of a cab. The three of us (me, Liesel and Leslie) were standing outside like an ugly flytipped sofa, waiting, waiting. No message, no email. After ten minutes, I went online and booked an Uber. He was five minutes away, so that’s not too bad. I went online again to cancel the original cab. Just as he turned up. I told him he was too late, and he replied by saying ah yes, the cancellation had just arrived. Now if they’d sent a message at 3am saying he was going to be 15 minutes late, that would have been ok. But again, a lack of communication caused a problem. A minor problem, yes, but an unnecessary one. On the way to the airport, I looked at my email to check my electronic boarding pass was still there. It wasn’t. Yesterday, I clicked the option to add it to my Google Wallet. Ok, it said. Well, I don’t know whose Google Wallet it was sent to, but it wasn’t mine. And it seems that in the process, it deleted the email because, well, obviously, I shouldn’t need it any more. I restored the email to my inbox, and took a screenshot of the QR code. Just in case. Not my problem I know, but I did feel sorry for the lady in the next queue to ours who wanted to go to Nigeria but she didn’t have the relevant travel documents with her so she wasn’t able to check in to her flight. So of course, I started to worry that I too might need extra documentation to travel to Germany. Security is always a lottery. This time, the Fast Track Security queue, for which you can pay an extra £5 to join, was upstairs, while Normal Security was downstairs. Today, we had to remove all electronics, and, for the first time ever, this included toothbrushes and shavers, anything with a battery inside. But we didn’t have to take our shoes off. Although I found out later that Leslie had had a pretty good pat-down and had had to remove her footwear. I groaned when I realised that again my bag had been pulled aside. Inside, in the depths of my toiletry bag, the officer found a tiny tube of toothpaste. So small that I hadn’t seen it when I recently repacked the bag. So small that it had somehow got through security when I flew back from Anchorage last time. ‘Let’s fill our water bottles’ suggested Liesel. But could I find a water fountain at Manchester Airport Terminal 1? Nope. I’ll just fill the water bottles from the water jugs at one of the coffee shops then. Nope. If you want tap water at one of these places, you have to line up and ask for it. What else? Oh yes. I don’t like escalators when the handrail moves at a different speed to the stairs. You either fall over forwards or keel over backwards. You don’t? Oh, it’s just me then. Actually, I felt nowhere near as panicky as I had on my last flight. The queue for Leslie to check in was long, yes, but we could see it was making progress. And, we had plenty of time.

Liesel and I took it in turns to visit a couple of the coffee outlets for a sort of breakfast. Yes, we had lots of time to pass before our flight. Too much time maybe, but I wasn’t going to worry about that.

Goodbye misty Manchester

The flight from Manchester to Frankfurt was uneventful and I kept my beady eye on the steward as he handed out the chocolates. The plan was for Liesel and me to escort Leslie to Frankfurt and make sure she caught the right plane back home to Anchorage. This we did and, bonus, she didn’t have to go through security a second time at Frankfurt. It was a quick farewell in the end and I think Liesel and I will both miss having her Mom around.

We now had a couple of hours to kill at Frankfurt Airport before catching our train. I thought I’d seen enough of the place after several bus tours around the ginormous airport over the last few months, but no, there is plenty more to see. The border official let us through without any awkward questions: nothing about Covid nor stuff we were bringing into the country and, I’m glad to say, no awkward questions about paperwork that we didn’t know we needed.

Oompah band

This band of merry musicians put a smile on everyone’s faces as they oompahed through the airport.

The railway station was a reasonably long walk away but we were glad to get the steps in. At least it was all under cover, we didn’t have to go to the outside world at all.

Pringles tree

There are designated smoking areas which of course we’re no longer used to, so every now and then, we’d walk through a cloud of carcinogens. The worst place was on the platform for our train, so we didn’t hang around there longer than necessary.

It’s just over two hours on the train from Frankfurt to Freiburg and the time flew by. I read a good chunk of my book and glanced out of the window now and then, but the landscape didn’t really engage as it passed by at 160 kph.

Big chocolates, so many flavours, at Freiburg station

Our hotel was not even a ten minute walk from Freiburg station. Yes, we’re in a hotel, a Best Western, also known as Hotel Victoria. We settled into our very comfortable room in what is one of the most eco-friendly hotels in one of the greenest cities in Germany. Allegedly. All the power in the hotel is generated from solar panels on the roof, wind and, er, the burning of woodchips.

Solar panels and smoke

We dined at a Morrocan restaurant just round the corner and we were surprised that they only took payment in cash. So, while they kept Liesel hostage, I went for a walk to get some money out of a machine. The machine conveniently located next door didn’t recognise my card. The machine all the way back at the station did so I took out as many euros as I was allowed. On my return, I was pleased to see that they hadn’t got Liesel to do the washing up for them.

Rain had been forecast for most of our time here, so the sunshine on Sunday morning was a bonus. We walked into town, the old town, where we admired the architecture, commented on and tried not to trip on the cobbles, noticed and tried not to impede the progress of the many cyclists in town.

The Visitor Information office is in the old town hall, next door to the new town hall. I downloaded an app that guided us around the town: at least the commentary was in English. There’s a lot of history here, including an old Roman wall, very similar to the one in Chester, what’s left of it.

I mentioned the cobbles. Most streets are cobbled, and there are smaller stones at the sides, for pedestrians. In places, there are mosaics. This is one of the first to catch my eye, outside the town hall, der Rathaus:

Guildford

Guildford is just one of Freiburg’s several twin towns and sister cities in and beyond Europe, each of which is marked by one of these mosaics, contructed using pebbles from the nearby Rhine. Guildford has been home to such luminaries as Nobel-prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, code-breaker Alan Turing and is the birth place of musician Mike Rutherford, DJ Tony Blackburn, and, er, me.

While sitting in the square waiting for the 12 o’clock chimes, we were mobbed by a swarm of sparrows. They detected my phone and were about to depart but they were just a second too late… The main danger though was bonkers. They’re like conkers, only they fall out of trees and bonk you on the head. There are chestnut and horse chestnut trees all over town, you can’t walk anywhere without encountering chestnuts or their spiky cases.

A flock of sparrows

Oh look. In my bag I have some salt-peter, some sulphur and some charcoal. I know, I think I’ll go out and leave these random chemicals unattended on the stove. Boom. I’ve invented gunpowder. Actually, this story is attributed to a monk, Bertold the Black, who supposedly lived in Freiburg in the 14th century. There is a statue here honouring the monk for his invention, even though the Chinese beat him to it by several centuries.

Berthold Schwarz

Other features that you can’t avoid in Freiburg are the tram lines and the little canals alongside most of the roads. These drainage ditches are dry most of the time, and if you’re unlucky enough to fall into one, you’re destined to marry a Freiburger. Children play with little wooden boats when there is flowing water in these Bächle.

A typical Freiburg street

We never made use of the service but we saw quite a few of the bendy trams in Freiburg. The Cathedral tower is an impressive 116 metres tall, and the building is, by coincidence, 116 metres in length. Just as you’re marvelling at the architecture and the stone masonry, you turn round and encounter some absolute kitsch, totally out of place.

Freiburg Münster
Cute, not cute

Before you ask, no we did not buy a souvenir cuckoo clock.

No new buildings in Freiburg can be higher than the top of the Cathedral tower. There are over 100 gargoyles protecting the fabric of the building from the worst of the rain. Most are monsters or people, but this one is the funniest.

Freiburg gargoyle

We admired many of the mosaics that remain outside shops even though the shop itself may have changed usage over the years. I don’t mind posing for a photo so I was delighted to sit next to this knife.

Mick the Knife
Pillar of the community

This chap is just one of many who we saw embedded in the walls around town. The steps here lead up a hill which we decided to pursue on another occasion. And sadly, even the most aesthetically pleasing of towns and cities have their unfair share of graffiti artists. Arstist? Vandals.

Black cat

Here is another mosaic that we liked, and then we found out its significance. You wouldn’t want to be taken to The House of the Black Cat, because that’s where the local executioner, the hangman, lives.

Record shop

Of course I checked the window display of this record shop, and was surprised but mostly disappointed to find absolutely no reference to David Bowie. So my theory needs a slight adjustment: Every record shop still existing in the UK has, in its window display, either a David Bowie record or some other David Bowie merchandise.

By contrast, the destroyed synagogue’s memorial fountain is quite moving. Its shape reflects the ground plan of the old synagogue and the mirror-smooth surface is the perfect place for reflection. Literally.

We dined at a Thai restaurant just round the corner from our hotel. It was Sunday and we hadn’t anticipated that most places would be closed. There was nothing wrong with Thai Chi, for that is what it was called. The experience led me to suggest that more restaurants should have model villages inside their dining tables.

Model village

Monday started with another big breakfast in the hotel before we set off through the town and back to the stairs that we’d abandoned yesterday.

The Monday market was set up in the Cathedral square, with lots of well presented, fresh produce, 27 types of ham, 49 species of sausage, 56 varieties of cheese and best of all, 19 types of locally baked bread.

Market wares

We didn’t buy anything now, but later on, on the way back, we did buy a punnet of raspberries.

I would like to tell you how many steps there were, but I soon lost count. Eventually they gave way to a path which was quite a steep slope. We were determined to reach a certain point though, however long it took, however many times we had to pause to catch our breath or just to admire the view over the town. And the views were spectacular. We kept a close eye on the Cathedral tower, waiting for the moment when we would be looking down on it. We were gaining altitude pretty fast, or so our bodies thought, but that tower was keeping its place.

Selfie of the day from halfway up Schlossberg

On passing a small group of students, we realised that we too could have taken the funicular railway but we’re glad we didn’t! Nor did we ride it back down later on.

Funicular railway

There’s a playground on the hill too, in which the equipment resembles weapons of war. Bizarre, I know. The cannon could be used as a slide or a tunnel. The poles are lances and spears.

This is not a cannon

I was surprised to see vineyards here too. Surprised because, at the bottom of the hill, by the stairs, there was a sign saying the the path would be closed whenever it’s too icy or covered in snow. We’re at the edge of the Black Forest here and obviously it must get really cold in Winter. So, not an ideal environment I would have thought for growing grapes. I suppose they know what they’re doing!

Vineyard above the town

On and on and up and up. The well-laid path gave way to a dirt track. Proper signage was replaced by spray-painted red arrows on trees and rocks, directing us to our goal for the day, the viewing platform that we’d seen from way down below in the city centre.

Public lavatree

I’m always on the lookout for comfort stops, although I felt this one was just a bit too exposed. But it was just a few hairpin bends away from Schlossbergturm or Aussichtsturm Schlossberg or Castle Hill Tower.

Schlossbergturm or Castle Hill Tower

We sat down for a few moments admiring this very basic structure, before setting off to climb the 153 steps. Do something scary every day. I climbed steadily to the top, and I mean the very top, as high as I could go. It is very hard holding on that tightly to the handrail while trying to take photos without dropping the phone while the whole edifice is swaying in the wind which is now so much colder than it was at ground level, some 35 metres below. Although it seemed much further away, from my scared vertiginous viewpoint. Another surprise was being joined by Liesel whom I’d left sitting on a bench way down below, ready to catch me or anything I dropped.

Some of the first few steps up the tower

Each of the steps has a message from someone who’d sponsored the construction of this viewing tower. I like Klaus’s: This tower has always been a dream of mine.

The view from the top

This picture was taken from the top and it doesn’t reveal at all just how much I was shaking at this point.

Near the base of the tower is a display which incorporates a pair of binoculars. And if you look through these, you see an image of what the site looked like hundreds of years ago, when there was a castle or a fort here.

What it used to look like

Walking back down the hill was a bit easier, but you couldn’t totally relax with those gradients. At the first sign of a coffee shop, we stopped, me probably more eagerly than Liesel.

Liesel got stoned and had to have a lie down

We dined in an Italian restaurant that evening. Yes, of course I had a pizza. Then back at the hotel it was time for some pampering.

Mechanical foot brush

This device doesn’t offer a full-on pedicure, but I was able to give my feet a really good scrub.

Tuesday started with a big hotel breakfast and then a long, long pause in the proceedings, in our room, reading, doing puzzles, neither of us wanting to move. Or something. Liesel gave in first and she went out for a walk. Then after a few minutes, I decided to move too. I was still listening to something fascinating, so I thought I’d visit the hotel gym and have a quick walk on the treadmill while still connected to my podcast. I managed 25 minutes but I hope I can get over the tedium of this form of exercise when we get home and make full use of the gym in Wythenshawe, the one we so rashly joined last week.

I met Liesel outside later despite the rain, but usefully, the hotel had plenty of umbrellas to choose from.

Selfie of the day if it were 1940

It didn’t take long for us to pack and move out the next morning. We left our bags at the railway station while we looked around the Cathedral. Even though there are big signs asking visitors to stay silent, I was surprised that it was so quiet inside, given how many people were walking around.

Inside the Cathedral

We paid a return visit to one of the cafés we’d visited a few days earler, only this time we sat inside for our coffee and tasty treats.

We walked back to the station and spent time exploring while waiting for our train. One retail space was full of vending machines, selling everything from snacks and drinks to items of clothing and toothbrushes. It was a bit like Japan in that respect. There was even a popcorn machine, but Liesel wasn’t tempted to use it.

Something happened at the railway station but we never did find out what. An alarm went off, and everyone was evacuated from the station concourse. Those of us already on the platform waiting for a train were allowed to stay. The train ride back to Frankfurt was uneventful. This was followed by a ten-minute walk to our hotel for just one night. And not even a whole night, as we had another early morning flight. As luck would have it, the railway station, our hotel and the airport were all within walking distance of each other: or maybe Liesel planned it that way?

Our alarms were set for 5am. Walk to the airport, through security, to our departure gate, coffee and quick breakfast, flew to Manchester, taxied home, collected the mail and that’s it. We’re back. Did it really happen? Yes. The rest of the day was a blur. I was occupied but I can’t tell you what I did. A quick walk in the drizzle but I timed it badly, no massage for me today.

On Friday, I met up with some people to talk about Thrive Manchester, what can they do to support people and how can whatever that is be better publicised. Boxx 2 Boxx is a great venue for such meetings.

At home, I made progress on a couple of my ‘to-do’ items. The lists still grow faster than items are crossed off, of course.

The radio show this week, recorded before we left for Germany, was Hundreds and Thousands. It was approximately the hundredth show I’ve put together. You can hear it here:

Final week in England

16th century beer was often strengthened by mixing it with lant (stale urine). So says a wall in one of the lavatories at Little Moreton Hall. Liesel and I took Leslie for a short walk here, and a small wander around the small house. I’d forgotten just how wonky the building is, with sloping floors and crooked windows. The National Trust check it every so often and they think it’s safe, it’s not going to topple over any time soon.

Little Moreton Hall

In the courtyard, one of the guides gave a brief history of the place. He was dressed for the part and he noticed that we, and many others, had gathered in the small area illuminated by the Sun.

Liesel and Leslie in the garden

We sat in Mrs Dale’s tea room for a cuppa before setting off for home. Briefly, we thought we were in France: we passed by a field full of sunflowers reaching for the sky.

I’ve mentioned Slitherlink a few times and this weekend, for the first time, I succeeded in completing one of the hard, huge, square Slitherlink puzzles in less time than the ‘median’ time they claim it takes. I shall add that to my list of personal achievements for 2022.

A couple of days later found us escaping coverage of the Queen’s funeral on TV. After ten days of mourning, the UK was in danger of returning to some degree of normality.

We drove to Alderley Edge having arranged to meet up up with Jenny and the family. Yes, Martha and William had the day off school. We thought we’d have the place to ourselves. Huh. Everybody else thought the same.

I tested myself by walking ahead and down a long. long hill, knowing I’d have to walk back up. I managed ok, thanks, no shortness of breath on this occasion. Martha and William showed me their new trick: jumping over a rift in the rocks.

The Veteran Tree

As requested, I took a careful look at this veteran tree and I memorised the text on a nearby sign.

A veteran tree has the same characteristics as an ancient tree, but these are caused by natural damage or by the tree’s environment, rather than its age.

The characteristics are:

► A low, wide and squat shape because the crown has reduced
► A broader trunk than those of the same species at the same age
► Evidence of decay, such as a hollow trunk, the presence of fungi known to cause wood decay, or rot holes where limbs have fallen off or the bark is damaged

Why are veteran trees important?

Veteran trees are habitats for many rare and specialised species of wildlife and fungi. Looking after these trees is a vital part of our conservation work. Tree branches and limbs which have dropped to the ground are kept, as they help protect the roots of the tree. Veteran trees that have fallen over are generally not removed, as they are still habitats and may even continue to grow, making them ‘phoenix’ trees.

I don’t recall what species of tree this is, though.

It was a beautifully clear day, but I was still surprised when I saw Manchester way over there in the distance.

Manchester

William probably walked twice as many steps as the rest of us. Well, ran, mostly. It was quite hard to find him a couple of times.

William in the den

Liam filmed Martha as she walked carefully along a fallen tree.

Martha on a balance b

I thought about suggesting she perform a forward roll on the log, like she does at gym, but I kept quiet: she probably would have taken up the challenge.

Liesel, Leslie and I joined the Wednesday well-being walk in Northenden. On this occasion, they went through the woods again, while I joined the group that walked a little further afield, along the river towards Didsbury and back. We spotted the heron, not in his usual place on the weir, which was unusually dry, but hiding under the bank. He was very still, just like the cardboard one that Liesel and I saw near Hampton Court that time, many years ago!

Heron on the Mersey

Later that day, Liesel and I collected Martha and William from school again and took them home to play. William wanted to join in with the craftwork, but he didn’t really move beyond cutting up pieces of paper with the many different pairs of scissors we have at our disposal. Pizza for supper with home made salad: it all went down very well. And it was then time for Martha and William to say their farewells to Great Oma, who would soon be flying home to Anchorage. I’m really glad they’ve met at last but I can’t help feeling sad that Klaus never spent time with our grandgchildren.

We haven’t been into Stockport for a long time, so I’m tempted to give you twenty questions in which to work out why we visited on this occasion. But that won’t work, because I don’t know when you’ll be reading this, and I certainly can’t think how to reply to your twenty questions in a timely manner. So I’ll just tell you: Leslie wanted to buy some locally distilled gin to take home for Aaron and Jodi, so we drove over to Stockport Gin. Leslie bought a bottle and some small bottles for Liesel and me.

Record shop

Of course I checked the window display of this record shop, and found the David Bowie t-shirt. So my theory is still looking good: Every still existing record shop has, in its window display, either a David Bowie record or some other David Bowie merchandise.

On Friday, Liesel and I were a little late for the well-being walk in Wythenshawe, but we soon caught up with the group. We tried hard to persuade, cajole, convince Leslie to join us, but she put her foot down and declined the invitation.

And then, in a fit of madness, after we’d had coffee, Liesel and I joined the gym. I know, I know, I said ‘never again’ after the last time. But we feel we should make more of a concerted effort to build up strength, stamina, and all that malarkey. We’ll see how it works out over the next few weeks and months.

The radio show this week had the theme of Photographs. Wythenshawe Radio however transmitted an old show, the wrong one. Oh well. But you can hear a couple of hours of photographic music right here on Mixcloud.

Leslie packed a huuuge case, which weighed in at 23 kg, so heavy, it nearly fell through the floor. Liesel and I packed our bags, 7 kg each.

In the evening we drove over to Castleton for a concert. I’d booked tickets for Eddi Reader a long, long time ago and I was able to purchase a third ticket for Leslie too. The car park at Peak Cavern was incredibly full. I was hoping we’d be amongst the earliest arrivals so we’d have a choice of seats.

Peak Cavern is also known as Devil’s Arse! and whoever came up with the idea of holding concerts here needs to be congratulated.

Welcome

It was quite a walk from the car park to the cave itself, but it sort of made up for the fact that we’d not paid a visit a few weeks ago when we’d been staying in Castleton. I don’t know what the capacity is, but we ended up sitting in what would have been row AZ if they’d been labelled. The benches weren’t very comfortable to be honest, I’m sure my fidgetting annoyed the people behind. Much like the big head of the tallest man in the world annoyed me when he sat down right in front of me.

Billy Big Bonce

Bats flew around while the support act, Jill Jackson told stories and sang some lovely songs. My old ears plus cavernous acoustics meant that I couldn’t really hear everything she was saying. Did I buy her CDs? Don’t tell Liesel, but yes, of course. Did I invite her onto my radio show? No, I was too intimidated by the long queue of people who also wanted a quick chat.

Jill Jackson

Eddi Reader was as gloriously entertaining as she always is. This show originally was meant to be part of her 40th anniversary of performing, but Covid ruined a lot of plans.

She sang a nice mix of songs we know and some that we’re not so familiar with. Did I buy any CDs of hers? Well, no, because we already have them, all the ones up for sale, anyway. She was joined on stage by Boo Hewerdine and her husband plus a couple of others whose names I missed. By the time Eddi appeared on stage, the bats had disappeared.

Eddi Reader

I went for a wander to try and get better photos, but actually it was much more enjoyable to just sit there, even on a hard bench, with my eyes closed and let her voice permeate my whole being. I was nudged a couple of times, allegedly for singing along too loudly. I suspect my drone has suitably enhanced the videos made by fellow audience members.

What a great way to end Leslie’s six short weeks here with us in the UK. Well, apart from having to now walk back to the car park, along a slippery path, in the dark!

Oh, and apart from getting to bed at about 11pm and having to get up again soon after 2am. But that’s another story…

Birds, flowers and bees

A message appeared in my Gmail inbox telling me that I could receive no further emails because I’d used up my free allocation of 15GB cloud storage. I would have to clear out whatever’s there, or pay for more storage. I don’t use that account much, so it’s no big deal, but <<something>> now keeps nagging me to either delete those files or pay for more storage. To be honest, I wasn’t aware that I was using any cloud space belonging to Google. But it seems that, until April this year, <<something>> had been uploading my photos to Google’s cloud storage. I probably ticked the wrong box at some point. So, my task was to delete those photos so that I could continue to enjoy whatever else Gmail has to offer.

And yes, I am aware, nobody really likes Gmail, for a variety of different reasons.

My first concern was that, if I deleted photos from the cloud, would <<something>> also delete them from my phone? In the mistaken belief that I didn’t want them at all? (It’s not such a crazy idea. I remember when Apple told me that if I wanted to add some specific music to my iTunes library, it would have to delete everything that was already there. Because, obviously, when I buy a new book, I have to burn all my old ones.)

So, I decided to download whatever was in the cloud. And this is not straightforward. I was doing this at leisure. But if I were downloading everything, my backup, because I’d lost my phone, I would be really annoyed. There should be a big red button saying ‘Download everything’  and it would do the job, even if it were to take several hours. But no. I could download one item at a time. Or I could select up to 500 at a time and it would, eventually, download a .zip file. But there were tens of thousands of pictures. I want them all in one go.

After a lot of Googling (ironic, I know), I found a tool called Google Takeout. This allows you to download everything, but if there’s too much (there was) it will break it up into smaller chunks.

It would prepare these files for downloading and then send an email with the relevant link, which would actually download those files.

But, I refer you to the first line. I can’t receive any emails right now because I’ve used up all my storage.

So that’s my silly-old-fart technophobe Luddite whinge of the week.

Other whinges here over the years include rants against fly-tipping. So I felt bad dragging the old futon downstairs and leaving it out on the pavement. It had to be done, we need the space.

Farewell, faithful old futon

But have no fear. I had arranged for it to be taken away and sure enough, a couple of hours later, a brace of strong young men arrived with a van full of other people’s dead mattresses, and they took it away. They took photos of it and our front door, so someone, somewhere, has a very interesting photo album.

I drove to the airport and collected Liesel and her Mom after their mammoth flights from Anchorage via Frankfurt. It was good to see them again after all this time (2 weeks), so to celebrate, when we got home, we went straight to bed! Well, it was nearly midnight by this point.

Two days later, I returned to the airport to collected Pauline and Andrew after their mammoth flights from Christchurch via Singapore. It was good to see them again after all this time (4 years) and to celebrate, when we got home, we all went for a walk.

These few days were very hot, so it was no real surprise to see a couple of people messing about in the river. And I don’t mean in a boat.

Man in the Mersey

The gate to the local allotments was open, unusually, so we wandered in for a quick look. We got caught though, as the Committee were having an Important Meeting and we Unauthorised People were not at all welcome. So glad we didn’t pick a couple of pears from the tree near the entrance.

Blackberries are out, some very nice and some quite bitter, but the only way to tell is to eat them. Andrew and I scrumped apples from the churchyard. Mine was delicious, Andrew’s was mouldy. Luck o’ the draw.

We walked around a bit, relaxed, and reorganised the flat to now accommodate 5 people, for a short while. Phew, it was hot!

Liesel drove her Mom to Fletcher Moss Gardens for coffee with the ladies of the WI while Pauline, Andrew and I walked over, along the river, to join them. The banks of the Mersey are being mown, because it’s that time of year, and I think it helps later on with any flooding issues, should there be any.

The best thing about Fletcher Moss? The public toilet is now open again after being closed due to Covid. Proof that the pandemic is, indeed, over. If only it were, if only it were.

The five of us drove over to Bridgewater Gardens, the RHS property, that Liesel’s seen, but only once. And what a delightful place to wander around. It’s only been there for a couple of years or so

Cardoon or artichoke thistle

There are some unusual plants, but all very well presented. We were hoping that the fresh air and especially the sunlight might help the travellers regain their natural circadian rhythm: there’s a lot of sleep going missing somewhere!

Vervena
Liesel and Leslie
Green wall

This Green Wall was interesting. I thought maybe we could do something like this at home, grow some plants up the walls of the block, since we don’t have a garden, but two things: I would probably lose interest soon after its implementation, leaving all the work to Liesel. And the Management Company would almost certainly object.

Sunflower with bees

There were plenty of bees around, which is always good to see. Wasps, not so much of course. And despite the signs advertising butterflies, I didn’t see any on this occasion. I’m sure that when some of the old farm fields have recovered, and they’ve reverted to being wild meadows, it will be a great place for insect spotting.

The location of this RHS site is Worsley. We’d been here before, but I didn’t recognise the name. Other than it bringing to mind Lucy, of that ilk. On the way home, we took a small detour to show Pauline and Andrew Worsley Delph, a local monument. Near the water was a heron, which I videoed because it looked like it was about to take flight. So of course, it didn’t.

Andrew spotted something, with Pauline

How many attempts do you think it takes before I manage to get a picture containing my own image plus a specific object? Far too many. All for the sake of a lame pun too. Remember the sweet counter at English Woolworths all those years ago?

Pick and Mick

No, you’re right, it really wasn’t worth all that effort. But a lot of the artefacts here remind us that it once was a very intensive, industrial area.

Another place we haven’t been for a while is Chester Zoo. Time to rectify that. And in the process, take advantage of the opportunity for all our overseas visitors to meet up with some young children, but not in an enclosed space, like someone’s house.

Helen (from Australia) took Martha and William to the zoo. Liesel (from Northenden) drove there with her Mom, Leslie (from Anchorage). And I accompanied Pauline and Andrew (visiting from New Zealand) after they’d picked up their rental vehicle. It’s up to one of them to document the actual shenanigans surrounding the collection of their vehicle, but in summary: what a palaver! We’d gone to the drop-off point rather then reception at first. I can blame the GPS, or the bus parked right in front of the Reception sign, which, to be honest, wasn’t all that prominent even without buses blocking the view. For more details, contact Pauline or Andrew. But we got there in the end.

Martha and William were in good form, meeting several people new to them in one go must be a bit daunting for a young child. Crumbs, I find it hard meeting lots of new people all in one go.

I didn’t know whether we’d see any animals or not, we often don’t with Martha and William, so I was pleased to snap this bird soon after we entered the zoo.

Starling

I had to stand on tiptoes and hold the phone up high, but I captured these giant otters having a nap in the sunshine.

Giant otters
Ibis

How strange, to see a pair of bright red ibises hiding amongst the flamingoes, we thought.

In the end, we saw plenty of animals today, we stopped for a picnic lunch, we played in the playground and, best of all, we avoided the shop and the bat cave, being indoor venues. Martha and William now have new cuddlies from Alaska, a sea otter and a mammoth respectively. Sadly, the mammoth has a fractured incisor. That’s what happens when you swing a mammoth round by its tusk!

After Helen took the children home, Liesel and Mom left too, leaving me and my sister and brother-in-law to have some fun our own. We found the aviaries and managed to get quite close to some of the birds.

Bali myna

I don’t know if they expected to be fed, but if so, they were disappointed by us three.

Java sparrow

While wandering around the Islands, a part of the zoo that we seldom reach, we noticed slow boats passing by underneath. Let’s go for a boat ride, we all said in unsion, with harmonies very similar to the Bee Gees. So we did. A nice 20-minute, slow journey, along the Lazy River.

Lazy River boat

From the boat, we caught sight of the orang utans but we saw them more clearly afterwards.

Orang utans

But what a lovely family day that was, if a little tiring.

Helen, Mick, Andrew, Liesel, Leslie, Pauline,Martha, William

And what a treat supper was: bangers and mash.

I hope you get a chance to listen to Mick’s Matrimonial Music Mix, two hours of songs about Love and Marriage. Visit Mixcloud and the new shows will appear here. It’s on Wythenshawe Radio WFM at 2pm Friday.

So, why that particular theme? Because my baby girl, Jenny, is getting married at the weekend. So it’s a very exciting time, we’re all busy preparing for a long weekend of jollity and fun and a wedding ceremony. Aha, you’re thinking, this is why people are arriving from all around the planet. Stay tuned for wedding antics and everything!

Adventures with hair

I don’t think I’d even heard of Clifton Country Park before being invited to join the family there. It’s in Stockport which I thought was just a dirty old town with a Media City to brighten it up. But no, there is green space and a wonderful playground.

It’s easy to find, unlike the pay stations. But that’s because they don’t actually exist: very unusually, there’s no charge to park here. Don’t tell anyone, they might get ideas.

It was lovely to see Jenny and Liam and the children and their Auntie Helen and it was really nice to see Amy again after all this time too. Amy is one of Helen’s school chums and I haven’t seen her since her now 13-year old was a wee toddler. 

Amy and Helen

Here’s the latest school photograph and I apologise for the flasher in the background, I didn’t notice him at the time.

As you can see, it was a gorgeous day and Martha and William made good use of most of the play equipment.

Martha the swinger

Well, we all did.

Martha, William, Helen, Jenny, Mick, Liam on the rope swing

Helen is still plying her trade as a hairdresser and at home, she was more than happy to shear us all. Anyone would think there’s a big family event coming up, or something.

Meanwhile in Anchorage, Liesel is trying to do too much in the time left before she returns home to the UK.

Liesel and Jyoti : Ladies of leisure lounging about but just for a moment

The first blackberry of the year was disappointingly bitter. I think other people may have picked the best ones.

A blackberry

The apples growing in the church yard looked good though, but I did not go scrumping on this occasion. I left them for the people who turn up each week to tidy up the church yard and cemetery.

St Wilfrid’s apples
A goose washing his hair in the river

I didn’t get my 10,000 steps in one day this week, but I certainly burnt some calories. I walked up and down the stairs probably a dozen times, mostly carrying heavy, bulky stuff to take to the storage unit. Anyone would think I’m trying to make space in our luxury apartment for visitors or something. During this heatwave, any form of activity is really difficult. But then, sitting around doing nothing in this heat is quite exhaustng too!

The walking group on Wednesday was very popular this week, with far more participants then usual and, unusual for me, I had an iced coffee back at the café. Yes, it was a hot day.

In the afternoon, I spent some time with Martha and William, blowing bubbles, in their garden.

William’s back and Martha’s bubbles

Their blackberries looked much nicer than the ones in the woods. But for some reason, I didn’t actually pick any.

Mostly this week though, I was ticking things off the ‘to-do’ list. I’ll never get to the end though, because part-way through some projects, I’ll think of one or two other things I need to do. Or, I’d like to do. One day, I must go back to the ‘big to-do’ list that has been going since about 2006, when I very successfully collated all my then on-going lists into one single mega-list. Well, it seemed important at the time.

Recording the WFM radio show this week was a bit quicker than last week, only interrupted by a couple of phone calls, which is unusual. The theme this week is ‘Doubles’, by which I mean musicians who have the same name as another. Or groups with duplicate names.

Evil peas

On my final full day in Anchorage, Liesel and I spent some quality time together in Klaus’s office. I used his Mac to determine what was on each of the CDs and DVDs in quite a large pile. One CD had photos from 2012, including our trip to Hawaii. Everyone was there, including Liesel’s parents, Aaron’s family, Liesel’s Aunt Buzz and family, my sister Pauline and Andrew, my daughters Jenny and Helen and her boyfriend Adam. That trip coincided with a visit from President Barack Obama which disrupted a couple of shopping trips and a game of golf played by Adam and Liesel’s cousin Andi’s bloke Steve. It was nice to see the old photos again of course but I forced myself not to be distracted. The other CDs and DVDs were all, as expected, but still disappointingly, blank.

Meanwhile, Liesel was working on her own laptop. Or maybe paying Tetris, I don’t really know, we were sitting back to back.

The plan was to have an Ethiopian meal in the evening with friends. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed and they didn’t return calls, so we resorted to Plan B: Pizza from Moose’s Tooth.

We drove over to Una and Phil’s house and later we were joined by Pam and Owen. Jyoti brought her friend Bill, the first time the rest of us had met him.

It was nice enough to sit outside and eat, so that’s what we did. It’s a bit disconcerting when you’re sitting there, soaking up the Sun, drinking some beer, chatting away and otherwise minding your own business, when a cat leaps up onto the table right in front of you.

The cat sat on the table

We left at about 10, and I bade farewell to everyone, knowing I wouldn’t see most of them again probably until next year. I couldn’t believe how busy the roads were on the way back home, it was like Piccadilly Circus out there.

Not really: empty roads

As we approached home, we saw a moose cross the road a couple of cars in front of us. I tried to get a picture as we passed, but the moose’s bum is just a blur in front of the sunset.

Blurry moose

The most recent post here details my horrendously stressful trip back home. I won’t dwell on it here other than to say it was three days before I felt normal again. Jetlag and lack of sleep don’t help of course, but that was the longest lasting attack of stress, anxiety, panic, that I’ve had for years. I was very conscious on arrival at home to do things that would help me recover. I wasn’t going to do anything that mattered for a while, I certainly wasn’t going to make any important decisions.

So, in no particular order, here are some things that cheered me up over the next few days:
🔴 Watching the last week of the Tour de France, even if the Freeview box decided it wasn’t worth recording the final two days. Oh well, I know who won.
🟠 Watching the England women’s football team beat Germany in the final of the Euros, if for no other reason than we might stop hearing about 1966 now.
🟡 Witnessing Jill Scott swear on the pitch during the game.
🟢 I didn’t see the race, but I was pleased to see that Laura Kenny won a gold medal for the track cycling scratch race at the Commonwealth Games.
🔵 Lying in bed a few times, drifting in and out of sleep, listening to the sound of seagulls outside, imagining I was at the seaside.
🟣 Seeing pictures of Martha and William playing on a beach for real, in the company of the other grandparents.
⚫ Walking by the river Mersey, yet wondering why there weren’t more people out and about: surely they’re not all away on holiday?

Jill Scott being congratulated by the President of the Football Association
Martha, the other Prince William and Papa
Ducks in a row

Oh, and I went for a massage and collected my new spectacles from the optician: Didsbury has everything.

Well, maybe not everything. As far as I know, it doesn’t have a football champion. Northenden does, and I was pleased to meet her in her natural home, Boxx2Boxx.

Jill Scott MBE and Mick

A few days later, Jill appeared on the TV show Football Focus. She talked about working in the café this week and how lots of children had come along to see her and wear the medal…

But Jill wasn’t the only superstar I met this week. Later in the day, I went over to Jenny’s where Martha and William were excited because Auntie Helen had arrived from Australia. She’ll be here for a few weeks, making a few side-trips to exotic places such as Surrey and Greece.

After our evening meal, Martha engaged me in a game, which she made up as she went along. It was based on a drawing she’d made.

Martha’s drawing

The sad faces are Carrot and Fish Finger. The large character is SuperTato or maybe SuePotato. I was chastised for calling him/her/it SuperPotato. In retrospect, that was a ridiculous suggestion. The task was to kill the evil peas: they’re the little chaps in the top right hand corner. When killed, the evil peas miraculously grow hair, which Martha drew in with much force. The one that looks like a rocket isn’t in fact lettuce, it’s Celery. The one with the crown is Broccoli. Or Tomato, depending. If you want more details about this game, please ask Martha, I found it quite hard to keep up with all the rules!

This radio show this week was very tasty, all about food, glorious food.

I had to re-record the voice track because the first attempt had an annoying high-pitched whistle throughout. Now you might think it probably sounded better that way, but no, it really didn’t! The source of the whistle took some tracking down. I turned off all the other electric and electronic equipment, in case something was emitting a whistle that the microphone could pick up even if my ears didn’t. I tried recording with different software, and this was perfect, so the problem was within my preferred sound recorder. And after digging deep through the options, I found the culprit. An inadvertent twitch of the mouse or rogue keystrokes had, at some point, changed one of the settings. You can hear the results of this chicanery here:

Party, plants and Petra

It was good fun going through photos for a couple of days, on Klaus’s computer, on Facebook and some really old, physical photos. They made for a fascinating slideshow at the party to celebrate Klaus’s life.

Klaus

Here is former marathon runner Klaus, with baby Liesel and her grandmother, with a freshly caught fish and barbecuing. Here’s Klaus’s obituary.

There was far too much food for the hundred or so people who turned up, so it’s been leftovers all week. Huli-huli chicken and kalua pig are two Hawaiian dishes that Klaus was especially fond of. The family have been enjoying the leftovers for a few days now.

Klaus was famous for his sense of humour. He was always telling jokes, so with that in mind, we set up a Joke Board, inviting contributions from the guests. Well, needless to say, some of the jokes are too rude for this family-friendly blog, but here goes anyway:

Joke board

Fifteen years ago, Liesel and I visited Bremen with Klaus and Leslie, a family reunion with some long-lost German relations. One of the side-trips was a tour of Beck’s brewery. Afterwards, we were given some samples to try: six, I think, small glasses of various beers and lagers. Which one did you like best, Klaus? To everyone’s surprise, he picked the non-alcoholic beverage. I imbibed some Beck’s today, it seemed the right thing to do. Prost!

Amongst the guests was Holly, our friend who flew up from Washington. Liesel and I were happy to give up our bed and sleep on the blow-up bed for a couple of nights, even if it did make farty noises every time one of us moved.

On one of our walks to Kincaid Park, Liesel picked both of the raspberries. Yes, there were only two ripe ones on the bush, but there’ll be plenty more soon. Maybe all that rain helped speed up the ripening process.

Yellow toadflax

It’s nice to be out in the Sun again, of course. And we do like seeing the odd splash of colour.

Red elderberry

At least, I think this is elderberry. But I wasn’t confident enough to pick the berries with a view to making elderberry wine. Well, I can’t help thinking about the times you were a wife of mine. You aimed to please me, cooked black-eyed peas-me, made elderberry wine. That Elton John song came to mind and was my earworm for the rest of the day.

Fireweed

Well, I think this is fireweed, it’s quite prolific in some places.

Selfie of the day: Holly, Jyoti, Liesel, Mick

I have to confess: Holly took this picture: if I’d tried to take a selfie, there would have been at least half of someone’s face missing.

There is a cat who lives in the house with Leslie. Her name is Petra and she is very shy, timid, secretive. I have often seen the tip of her tail disappear around the corner as she heads towards her favourite hiding place, the back of the closet. But one day, I was at home on my own, glanced down from the den, the upper landing. I saw the cat. The cat saw me. The cat crouched, ready to move off. I slowly extracted my phone. Turned the flash on. And I now have photographic evidence that the beast exists.

Petra

As you can see, her headlights are on full-beam. And this is the face that greets Leslie when she wakes up each morning. Luminous green, scary, starey eyes and everything.

Liesel, Holly and I walked on the boardwalk at Potter Marsh. One of those borderline days when even I was taking off and putting on my coat as the wind cooled and warmed up again.

The water in one of the streams was a bit murky, but it was good to see the salmon swimming upstream

Salmon

No birds to speak of, but I had some success with the dragonflies. One was on a lady’s shoe, so we helped it escape, and out of the way, we didn’t want anyone to stomp on it.

Dragonfly on a stranger’s shoe

And then there was this chap.

Dragonfly on the fence

He was very cooperative, he stayed very still, but at least he was alive. Or she, I don’t know how you can tell. I was able to get a nice close-up without him flying off.

Face to face with a dragonfly

We drove up to see Catherine and Hans. Their rhubard crumble was delicious. Holly knew Catherine from a long, long time ago. Holly and Liesel were travelling in Europe and spent some time with Catherine and Hans in the Netherlands. We had a good chat, enjoyed the view and the sunshine. George the Bernese mountain dog lives with Catherine and Hans. He wears children’s grippy socks indoors so that he can walk on the wooden floors without slipping.

George

When he’s out for a walk, he’ll let you know he’s had enough by lying down on his back, in the middle of the road.

Later that afternoon, Aaron, Jodi, Asa and Gideon came round with friends visiting from Germany: Fee, Jorn and Philip. It was a raucous evening, and again, there were stories about Klaus.

Jyoti, Liesel and I had a quick walk around Little Campbell Lake, also known as Beercan Lake. The ladies had a longer walk than I did, but it was nice sitting on the bench, watching the young people in their kayaks. This lake is where Liesel and I were married all those years ago. It was frozen at the time, so a very different vista today.

Beercan Lake

In Kincaid Park, near the chalet, we admired the multi-coloured bench.

Bench

It was windy here today, and a few people were flying kites. The clouds were fascinating to watch, swirling and whirling around. Someone suggested it was like a scene from Harry Potter.

Kites and clouds in Kincaid Park

Indoors, I was quite busy doing some DIY. The key lock box combination is … haha, I nearly revealed it. I tightened up the screws holding up the hanging basket bracket. I changed a lightbulb outside the garage, quite possibly the most awkward lightbulb in the world, in a brass and glass case, with a hole not quite big enough to fit a bulb and fingers at the same time. Duct tape, as is often the case in Alaska, was my saviour.

Last week’s radio show was themed around Religion, but as someone commented, it’s not at all dry and preachy. Please give it a listen here.

If you would like to see a list of all the shows that I’ve uploaded from Wythenshawe Radio and beyond, then please follow me, mick_the_knife, on Mixcloud, you’ll be notified every time a new show appears.

An unexpected job was to clear out some cr I mean rubbish, old stuff, from the garage. Some was thrown away but a lot was taken to the charity shop. This provided the day’s scary moment. Do something scary every day, someone once said. Well, I don’t manage to every single day, but I made up for quite a few days on this occasion. I had to climb up the ladder several times, to take things down from high shelves and to put other items up there. My palms were sweaty, but I didn’t show my fear to Liesel and her Mom. I am very proud of my stoicism. Ladders and me have never really got along. This was after Liesel had taken me to the local supermarket, Carrs, for my second Covid booster jab. I have a slightly sore arm, but otherwise, no problem. The bonus was, the pharmacist gave me a voucher, so we got 10% off the groceries we bought. $12 saved. That’s almost as good as the chocolate I was given with my very first Covid jab, last year. Almost! 

My time in Anchorage is nearly over. Before I arrived, Liesel and I had the following telephone conversation. (Remember, on my last trip, I ((very) briefly) swam in the lake at Nana’s Cabin in Talkeetna):

Liesel: When you come over, will you bring my swimsuit?
Mick: Yes, of course, where is it?
Liesel: Under the bed, I think.
Mick: OK. Why?
Liesel: We’re going to Talkeetna and I thought I might go for a swim in the lake.
Mick: Oh great, I’ll bring my budgie smugglers too.
Liesel: You’re not going.
Mick: Uh?
Liesel: I’m going with Mom and Jyoti after you’ve gone back home. (There was an evil cackle at this point, or maybe I imagined it.)

Huh.

Wows and woes

You’ve probably seen this picture before, but it was undoubtedly the best photo I saw this week, the first taken by the James Webb Space Telescope and released to the public.

Gaze in awe

Galaxies 13.5 billion years old with gravitational lens effects, I couldn’t stop gawping at this picture for a very long time.  It reminds me, I still want to be a spaceman.

Closer to home, these poppies brighten up an otherwise dreary part of Northenden.

Poppies

So where else have I been this week? The dentist where again the hygienist asked the same questions about my oral hygiene regime and I reminded her that I am 145 years old and I will continue to look after my teeth and gums as well as I can.

Not sure if it’s more exciting or not, but I took the car in to have a light bulb replaced. Not a 5-minute job as you’d expect, because they had to take out the wheel arch to access it. Why do they design cars that way?

What is definitely more exciting and interesting is that the heron was not in his usual spot this week, on the weir. He was in the river, halfway to Didsbury.

Heron

I went with Jenny and William and Liam to a suit hire shop, funnily enough to hire a suit, for a future event. Later in the week, I went clothes shopping, by myself, not my favourite pastime, and came home with a pair of shirts and a pair of shoes. Not trainers but actual, Italian leather shoes.

Martha and William both enjoyed their sports day at school, and not only because all the children got an ice lolly afterwards. It was a very nice day for the event.

Liesel reported a couple of earthquakes from Anchorage. At home, three pictures fell off the walls within 24 hours. Now, I’m not saying the earthquakes caused this, but what a coincidence. One frame broke and by luck, the glass remained in tact. Another one, I think the Blu Tack just melted in the heat, same as the rest of us.

I may have mentioned my very long to-do list from a few weeks ago. Mostly quick jobs that weren’t so quick in the end for one reason or another, mostly ticked off now, and this week I succeeded in preparing, recording and editing three radio shows. That was quite a feat, and I probably won’t repeat it.

In Anchorage, Liesel has been working with Amrit and Suvan again, staying out of the scorching Alaskan sunshine. There’s a heatwave here in the UK, but Anchorage was much hotter for a while.

I enjoyed a few walks locally this week, including a couple with the well-being walking groups. And in a repeat performance from two months ago, I got up ridiculously early on Saturday morning, to take a taxi to the airport for my flight to Frankfurt and then onwards to Anchorage for a couple of weeks.

This week’s radio show is all adverts. Well, a few actual adverts but mostly songs that have been used in commercials over the years. Sing along to a couple of old favourites!

Gathering in Gatley

As regular readers will be aware, I didn’t quite make it to Glastonbury Festival this year. But I did venture out to Gatley Festival. This has the advantage of being within walking distance. And a lot smaller. Just one performance area, rather than 96 stages. Lots of food stalls and some fairground attractions too. Perfect! Extra points if you noticed the musical allusion.

Eclipse Parade Band

The parade through Gatley consisted of a few bands, some school parties and other local groups. Those of us watching from the pavement (just outside a coffee shop, in my case, unbelievably) then followed the parade to the Festival ground itself, Gatley Hill.

Colin and Hayley from Wythenshawe FM were compèring, although the event wasn’t being broadcast live on the radio. I made up for it: see below.

Just one of many gymnasts plus Hayley talking to the tutor

We were able to enjoy some music and a gymnastics display, we could play rugby and lacrosse, we could have our faces painted and hair coiffed, we could splat the rat and ride a donkey. We could even drink and drive.

Gatley Driving School

There was a very long queue at the beer tent but it was good to see the vegan Indian stall, Bhaji Pala, being well attended too.  We’ve had meals from the restaurant a few times and can highly recommend it.

I met Neil, who will be rowing across the Atlantic later in the year for Alzheimer’s.

Neil’s boat

This isn’t the actual boat they’ll use but very similar. Follow his progress here and if you can, show your support!

Gatley Hill House

This is a new building to me, normally rooms are available for hire, but given the fencing all around it right now, I think it’ll be a while before we’re allowed back in.

The omelette I made for myself was very nice, but I’m no good at cooking, and rather than being one solid piece of food, it came out of the pan in several lumps. I’ll try again in another five years or so.

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to watch either of the children swimming, but I did take Martha for her lesson this week. She’s so confident in the water, swimming below the surface and later, treading water for a whole minute. As she explained, this is because if she falls out of a boat she might have to tread water for a minute, or ten minutes, an hour or ten hours or even longer.

Similarly, it’s been a while since I picked the children up from school.

Wild flowers

But I did this week and at home, we watched a YouTube video in which a couple of men dug a big hole in the ground to make a swimming pool, with a couple of slides and an underground house. Impressive work, as Martha said. We wondered where in the world this was taking place. When they began to chop down bamboo for making a fence and other decoration, Martha suggested it was China. Why? Because that’s bamboo, pandas eat bamboo and pandas live in China. Can’t fault the logic, there!

Meanwhile, in Anchorage, Liesel is enjoying a heatwave. There she was, relaxing in the Sun at Carrie’s house, when a visitor appeared.

Water moose

I think Liesel’s been walking a lot, probably more than I have here in Northenden, but she has also been in to work a couple of times.

On another occasion, she saw a baby moose with his big momma. And in an unexpected turn of events, Liesel has been bitten by a mosquito. Usually they go for me, but I’m several thousand miles away, out of sniffing range, so I guess even in the mosquito world, beggars can’t be choosers.

Didsbury in bloom

A nice explosion of colour here with the flowers and the bins. This is in Didsbury where I went for my annual visit to the opticians and while I was in the village, I went for a very welcome massage too. After which I wanted to sleep for the rest of the day.

But I didn’t.

This week’s radio show theme is Festivals. Glastonbury and Gatley, to be precise. Listen here on on WFM 97.2 next Wednesday at 10pm. A wonderful way to nod off at the end of the day.

Now it’s time for a whinge. The email says:

We look forward to welcoming you on board soon.

To start your journey well-prepared, we have compiled the most important information relating to travel during the pandemic

But they haven’t compiled the most important information at all. They just told me to check this and check that and in the process, introduced an unnecessary level of anxiety. Grrr. Yes, you read my palms correctly: I am going on a journey.

Here, there and everywhere

Never say never of course, but it’s very unlikely we’ll ever visit the Glastonbury Festival. The biggest and best festival in the world returned for the first time since the pandemic. And the thought of sharing a space with nearly a quarter of a million strangers is just too daunting. On the other hand, the site, Worthy Farm, is vast. See just how big compared with your neighbourhood here: just enter your postcode. (Thanks for this link, Jenny.)

I watched on TV from the comfort of my own sofa, enjoying beer from my birthday and from Fathers Day. The highlight for me was of course was Sir Paul McCartney. Seeing him live at the O2 a few years ago was the best Beatles concert I’ll ever experience.

Sir Paul McCartney

I was on my own at home so I sang along to all the songs: I had a wonderful little party, by myself! It’s mostly a young audience at Glastonbury and it was fantastic to see they knew the words to all the old Beatles’ songs, and to Diana Ross’s old hits, the next day.

Last time, I left you with the image of a small car parked badly on the island in the river. Well, someone waded in, retrieved and relocated it.

Rubbish parking

I went over to visit the grandchildren (and their parents) and their new pet.

Incey Wincey

This brought back unhappy memories of my time as a postman, walking through cobwebs at face height.

It was a joy to see William and Martha again after such a long time away.

Meanwhile, over in Alaska, Liesel went away for a quick break, visiting the little town of Hope, with her Mom and brother.

Aaron, Liesel and Leslie

On another occasion, Liesel reported seeing a porcupine walking along the road. Well, that puts the Northenden heron into perspective.

I couldn’t refuse the offer to look after William for a couple of hours one day, while Jenny and long-time friend Danielle had their hair done.

William and Grandad

I think this picture shows how absorbed William was and how bemused I was after watching several episodes and a full-length movie of Pokémon on TV. After a while though, William did get up and have a walk/slide around in his new footwear.

William’s new slippers

Slippers have never been more slippery.

In Anchorage, Liesel enjoyed a nice long hike up in the hills with Jyoti and Una.

Jyoti, Una and Liesel

If pushed, I’d probably have to admit that the scenery here is slightly more spectacular than anything Northenden has to offer.

This week I had reason to access Facebook, for a very specific purpose. And it annoyed me within two minutes. So no, I won’t be creating a new account for myself.

A much more uplifting experience was to be had on the two well-being walks I joined this week, one in Northenden and one in Wythenshawe.

Just a random garden in Northenden

This week’s photographic assignment was to capture a heavily laden bumble bee on this gorgeous hydrangea.

Hydrangea

But it would not keep still, flitting from flower to flower, and especially when I lifted up my phone to take the picture. Some beasties are intrinsically more cooperative, and stationary,  I’m pleased to report.

Snail

In sports news, local barista Jill Scott scored the fourth goal for England’s victorious football team, against Switzerland, in their final warm-up game before the Women’s Euro 2022 competition. A great advertising opportunity, of course!

Jill Scott
Boxx 2 Boxx

As I was walking through Wythenshawe, I noticed a plain concrete pillar in the middle of a fairly large area of lawn. I wondered if it might be an old milestone, it had that sort of shape to it. I couldn’t see any legible engraving, so I walked round to see what was on the other side.

No ball games

Well, we won’t be seeing any future Jill Scotts around here, I guess.

In Anchorage, Liesel and her Mom sat outside Carrie’s house, by the lake, enjoying the view and sitting in the Sun a little too long. This set them up nicely for a weekend camping trip to Willow, with Aaron and a group of friends. The last I heard, they were still partying well after midnight.

This week, I dedicated my radio show to the memory of Liesel’s Dad, Klaus, playing some of his favourite songs as well as some others in German.

Goodbyes

Going to bed late after a delayed flight, you think you’d go to sleep fairly quickly. Oh no, not me, not with my brain. I spent far too long counting, not just sheep, but the number of animals we’d seen in various airports: bears (polar and brown), moose and horses. Well, one horse.

Horse

This is Blackleaf, by Deborah Butterfield, 2017, taking pride of place at Seattle Airport.

Dall sheep

The glass cage at Anchorage Airport is not the Dall sheep’s natural habitat, they’re more commonly found in the mountains of Alaska.

So if I were counting sheep as an aid to sleep, I would have reached a grand total of one. But I got there in the end.

A bit of a lie-in was followed by a reasonably lazy day. The three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. And it was a delight to go back to bed at a more reasonable hour.

Sadly, in an almost repeat performance from a few weeks ago, in the middle of the night, Klaus fell out of bed on his way to the toilet. Three of us couldn’t help him climb back in so again, we called the paramedics. I think this one incident really confirmed to us just how ill he is now. No strength at all.

After breakfast, I wrote some more before Liesel took us over to Pam and Owen’s place for a barbecue. Well, we went to see Una and she drove us over to Pams’, with Monica. On this occasion, on meeting her, I did not give Monica a bear hug exacerbating her shoulder injury.

My eyes were watering and I put this down to hay fever. But no, it’s more likely to be smoke from bush fires quite a long way off, Una was suffering as well. And, sure enough, the mountains were all but invisible through the haze.

Mountains through the haze

From AP News: High winds have pushed a wildfire to within miles of an Alaska Native village in western Alaska, officials said Thursday.

No evacuation orders were issued for St. Mary’s though the East Fork Fire was within 8 miles (12.9 kilometers), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service said in a statement. No structures have been burned.

The 78-square-mile (202-square-kilometer) fire was started May 31 by lightning…

Meanwhile, back at the barbecue, burgers were the order of the day. Liesel enjoyed her first burger for six years or something. And I enjoyed the salads on offer plus possibly my favourite comfort food: cheese and tomato sandwiches, albeit in burger buns.

Thanks Pam and Owen for a nice afternoon: I think it’s fair to say the ladies managed to solve the problems of the world while Owen and I sat quietly in the background!

While we were driving home, Monica received a call from her husband Gregg saying that a tree behind their house had been set on fire. That’s pretty scary, especially when you have lithium batteries in the garage that don’t mix with heat nor with water that might used to put the fire out.

On Monday morning, Klaus visited his family doctor. Straightaway, because he looked so jaundiced, she sent him to hospital, where he spent the next few days. While he was there, we tried to make the house more accommodating for him on his return. With this in mind, Liesel, Jodi and I went to Bailey’s Furniture shop to buy a new chair for Klaus, a powered one that would help him to stand up, that massages and reclines to nearly horizontal.

But what a fascinating shop. Never mind the wonderful range of furniture, the place is decorated in style.

A plane in Bailey’s

And I’m sure a little girl I know would love this chair.

Not Klaus’s chair

Liesel uses some software to be able to work from home accessing Amrit’s computer. She got a bill claiming she hadn’t paid. Which she had. Prove it. So I looked at the relevant account on my phone and tried to screenshot the payment. Oh no. For security reasons, I can’t screenshot from a banking app. If Liesel had been around at the time, I would have used her phone take a picture of my phone’s screen. But she wasn’t. Instead, I had to use an elaborate system of mirrors, a split screen with the required data in one half and the camera in the other half and take a picture using the timer, then reversing the image. I say ‘elaborate’ and it would have worked if only I could have held the phone perfectly still for a split second. Technology, eh?

Liesel and her Mom spent most of the next day in hospital with Klaus. My task at home, on Klaus’s computer, was to make sure we knew his passwords: bills need paying and he’s usually responsible. Klaus uses an Apple Mac, so that was an interesting learning curve having been using Windows for decades! Fortunately, my daughter Helen was able to provide some technical support. Thanks Helen!

Jodi brought her friend, realtor Andrea, around to look at Leslie and Klaus’s house, with a view to selling it after thirty years. It needs some work but it’s not in too bad a condition.

After they left, I started walking towards Jyoti’s house intending to go for a longer walk with her.

Mountains again

It was reassuring to see the mountains more clearly today. And I had the pleasure of gently pursuing a dragonfly for a minute. Last time I was here in Anchorage, I was notoriously unlucky in trying to photograph these flighty beasts. But today, I took a series of pictures, each one a little closer.

Dragonfly

I am very pleased with this picture, although I would have preferred the background to be a leaf rather then the pavement!

I thought I was on a roll. But no, that was the extent of my success. Attempts to capture a beetle in all its glory failed abysmally.

Did we have a nice long walk? Not today. Instead, we got coffee at Kaladi and took it to Sand Lake, traipsing through the grounds of the Elementary School. Sitting in the shade by the water was so peaceful. Thanks for the time-out, Jyoti.

Sand Lake

We collected Liesel from the hospital and went home for a short while. We spent the evening back at Catherine and Hans’ again, enjoying good food, outside, watching the Sun go down. We talked about Klaus of course and music and radio.

Sunset over Turnagain Arm

Jyoti and I did go for a nice long hike the next day. She took me to Kincaid Park and we followed one of the trails. Well, maybe: we might have missed a turn somewhere, but it was still a very pleasant walk.

Basil

The only wildlife we saw was Jyoti’s dog Basil who probably walked and ran twice as far as we did and on little legs too. And how green is that vegetation? So lush. It’s hard to believe that it hasn’t rained here since the snow melted a couple of months ago, but further out of the city, as we’ve seen, there is a real risk of fire.

I’m sure Margaux was a wonderful person

On the way out, we saw this little chap just mooching along the pavement, minding his own bees wax.

Moose

At Fire Island, we bought some high-calorie content cupcakes for ourselves and for Liesel and Leslie who again had stayed with Klaus in hospital. And coffee again from Kaladi Brothers for us. Again, we collected Liesel and took her home.

Leslie returned a little later, after which we all went out to view an apartment that would suit Klaus and Leslie, should they decide to move.

We met Andrea and Jodi there and had a good look round. It seemed ideal, to me. If we’d seen such an apartment when we were looking four years ago, I think we would have seriously considered it. My job was to walk around with the walker to make sure it fits through all the doorways. In my head was Bill Withers: Lean on me. One selling point is that it’s quite close to Aaron and Jod’s house, as well as just over the road from New Sagaya, a supermarket and coffee shop.

We were told that Klaus was to be discharged. The house isn’t ready. So, in a rush, with the help of Asa, Gideon and their friends Addie and Alec, we moved the dresser out of the bedroom, lowered the bed and rotated it 90° to make it easier for Klaus to get up in the night.

Later, it emerged, he wasn’t coming home today, after all. Communication failure.

Still with a view to maybe selling this house, the next morning, Liesel, Jyoti and I threw away loads of food. Now, none of us like throwing away food, but this was all out of date. I don’t mean just a couple of weeks old.

Old, old, old food

Oh no. Some of it was years old. Even decades. The oldest items had no best before date, they were that old. But the record goes to Liesel who threw away something from 1992.

The plan is, eventually, to empty the pantry and move the washing machine and dryer to that space, up from the garage. This should be more attractive for any potential buyer.

Sorting through old food and disposing of it is ridiculously hard work. Luckily it was bin day, so much of it was taken away, leaving a nice empty bear-proof wheelie bin for the next few bags of old food.

I had a bit of a break by continuing with the passwords project on the Mac.

Liesel and I went to Walmart to collect some prescription drugs for Klaus, because he really was being discharged today. Good to see the pandemic’s over in the city. Very few other people were wearing masks.

Klaus came home, and sat in his new chair for a short while before going upstairs to bed.

And so, my time in Anchorage comes to an end. After saying goodbye to Klaus and Leslie, Liesel dropped me off at the airport. She was originally going to fly back with me but is staying on for a couple more weeks to help and support her Mom.

I went through security. That’s it. No trauma today. I had a middle seat so I looked around trying to predict which two fatties I’d be wedged between. But no. Both my seat-mates were skinnies. And,the young lady to my left moved to a different seat, leaving me her aisle seat.

Transit at Frankfurt was a doddle. A ten-minute walk from one gate to the next. It makes you wonder why USA has to make such a big deal out of these things. It certainly doesn’t make  us feel any more secure.

Clouds over Germany

As we flew past Cheadle, I took some pictures, hoping to be able to pinpoint Jenny’s house from the sky. This is still a work in progress.

I kept mine on, but just about everyone else removed their masks on disembarkation. Even when entering the overheated, windowless depths of Manchester Airport to go through security, which was a slow process.

I took a taxi home, and immediately felt very welcome. Jenny and Helen had left Fathers Day cards for me as well as a box of Maltesers and some beer. Cheers! I slumped for most of the day and went to bed really early. I never seem to get a proper sleep on an aeroplane.

And of course, I woke early, listened to a couple of podcasts and did my usual three puzzles, Wordle, Worldle and Nerdle. Horror of horrors: I lost my winning streak on the first two. I’d forgotten to play in the short ‘day’ between leaving Anchorage and landing in Manchester.

On my first full day back at home, I waited in for a grocery delivery from Ocado, ate Maltesers, wiped out the now empty fridge, after its inadvertent defrosting while we were away, and wrote for a while while listening to old, recorded radio shows. And, in an effort to convince myself I was doing something useful, I gathered together all the to-do lists.

On my second full day back at home, I ticked a few items off the to-do list. Don’t worry, I did them first. And there is still plenty to keep me occupied. I’m lucky to have the freedom to nap whenever the urge takes me.

At 4.50 in the morning, I answered the phone. It was Liesel telling me that her Dad had died. Just three days after I’d left. I really had said goodbye to him. Very sad, but not totally unexpected. We didn’t like seeing him in such distress and discomfort, and we’ll certainly miss him and his humour.

The rest of the day was taken up with mundane chores, nothing that required too much thought. In a bit of a daze, to be honest. I started putting this week’s radio show together and finished it the following day. I think this one took longer to prepare than any, since the very early days when the whole process was new to me.

You can listen to my Postcard from Alaska here. Or catch the repeat on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 at 10pm on Wednesday.

Some exciting, good news to end on. After completing enough tasks (an arbitrary target, I admit), my reward was to visit the local coffee shop here in Northenden. The latté art made me smile.

Very arty, very tasty

It’s reassuring to see that some things never change. I don’t think our heron has moved from this spot for at least five weeks.

Heron on the weir

On the other hand, car parking skills in Northenden haven’t improved since I’ve been away.

How did they end up here?