It’s a start

While Helen’s here, obviously we want to see her as much as possible. On the other hand, we don’t want her to catch some nasty contagious disease and take it back home. So we’re all doing Covid Lateral Flow Tests much more often now. And my daily sneezing fit is now more often caused by sticking a pipe cleaner swab up my hooter. But the negative tests give us enough confidence to be able to spend time together. It was a full house at Jenny’s and it was lovely to witness the antics of two very excited grandchildren on Christmas Day. The other grandparents, Alan and Una were there too. So with Helen, that was nine in the house. I think we’ll get away with it if we call it a business meeting. Yes, one of the talking points was the government’s flagrant breaking of rules that they themselves had put in place. Oh well. It’s Christmas, we were there to have fun and plenty of food.

It’s Christmas!

So many parcels, so many presents, books, and toys, so much food. And lots of photos.


Thoughts of a late afternoon walk were soon discarded, but at least Liesel and I had made the effort earlier in the day. And we did burn off a few Christmas calories at Daddy’s disco later in the day. Lots of dancing and playing musical bumps and musical statues.

Daddy’s disco lights

Thanks Jenny for putting up with us all! And thanks for inviting us back a couple of days later, I guess we didn’t embarrass ourselves, or you, too much. We played a game of Junior Cluedo with Martha and William, and it was interesting watching them play well, concentrate and interact.

Princess of Wales and Colonel Mustard
Another photo

More food of course: Christmas cake, cheesecake, peanut butter and chocolate fudge, chocolates, oh and lots of real, proper food too.

And yes, we pulled Christmas crackers. The jokes don’t improve over the years, do they?

Guess who?

Spending time with the family was of course the highlight of the week, we didn’t go far from home, otherwise. A surprise bonus of some mild weather finished off 2021 nicely and the sunsets were a little unusual too.

Sunset over Northenden

One thing I’ve always wanted to see is a two-headed skeletal dog, and my wish came true this week.

Woof woof

I came across this monstrosity in Quirky Misfits where I bumped into a friend so we had a coffee. Yes, there’s a sign on the door saying dogs are welcome, but there are limits: skeletal bicephalids?

The river is rising again after a lot of rain. So much so, that the Mersey is bringing trees down from its upper reaches, in Stockport.

Trees and logs

The roiling river didn’t look very inviting, to be honest. But why the short post last week? Because we were invited over to spend some time in a hot tub. Helen rented it for a few days, a most unusual Christmas gift, but I hadn’t been in a hot bath like this since we were in Japan. Time for a wash.

In the hot tub: William, Helen, Martha, Jenny

A good way to start the new year, I think you’ll agree. But that feeling of well-being can so easily be squished by industrial levels of incompetence.

When I need my prescription renewed, I send a message to my GP, they send it to the pharmacy, the pharmacy sends me a message when the meds are ready for collection. Not this time. In other news, both Liesel and I have received the Collection Codes that we now need to pick up Lateral Flow Tests from the pharmacy. So, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and pay a visit, even though I hadn’t received the expected message after several days. I queued for over half an hour.

On CCTV waiting to get over the threshold

They’re short-staffed due to Covid. They’d run of of Lateral Flow Tests, which many other people in the queue were also waiting for. But had they put a notice up in the window to save people time? Nope. Never mind, I can still get my prescription. Oh no I couldn’t. Despite there being a pharmacist behind the scenes, they weren’t fulfilling prescriptions either. Was there a sign in the window to this effect? Nope. Instead, the assistant gave me a printed copy of my prescription to take somewhere else. I asked why they hadn’t sent a message telling me that they were unable to help on this occasion? I got a funny look and directions to the nearest other pharmacy. Where, after a short walk along the road, I was given my drugs within ten minutes of arrival. Fantastic service. Unfortunately, they too had no LFTs in stock. Luckily, Liesel and I have also been ordering them online. Most often the site says none are available, but we have hit the jackpot a few times. We’re now testing after we’ve been in crowded places, which hasn’t happened recently, and each time before we see the family. We don’t want to give anyone Covid, especially Helen. But, in another quirk of misfortune, Helen has succumbed to a nasty bug leaving her hoarse and coughing and just not feeling very well. What she needs is some of that New South Wales sunshine. I think we all do.

Actually, waiting in that queue for half an hour wasn’t really a big deal. Liesel brought us coffees from a nearby emporium. And we would have been loitering for at least half an hour anyway, because we were waiting for Liesel’s iPhone battery to be replaced in the local electronics shop.

My insomnia isn’t helped by the fact that I’m not going out as much as I should. The weather’s just horrible. So much rain, sleet, snow, thundersnow, cold wind. Oh stop moaning about the weather, Mick. Unlikely.

One night, instead of podcasts, I started listening to CBeebies Radio. Between 9pm and 6am, they play Calming Sounds. I thought this might help the old brain to switch off. One night it was birdsong, and it was lovely, very relaxing. Another night, it was the sound of ocean waves. A lovely background noise, it relaxed my brain beautifully, but my bladder reacted in a totally different, and unhelpful, manner.

We had a couple of nice, local walks recently. One day was quite windy and there were crocodiles floating by on the river.

Not really a crocodile

And I did walk over to Jenny’s one day, too, making a detour by Micker Brook.

Micker Brook

The original plan was to meet Jenny and Helen and all by the Brook, but in the end, we all went for a walk in their neighbourhood, Martha on her bike and William on his scooter.

Back home, Martha continued with her project of mixing a potion.. What’s it for? Well, it’s poisonous but it also makes you invisible.

Martha and her potion

Liesel drove over and we later collected a takeaway from Bhaji Pala in Gatley. Why did we go all the way over there for our meal? Because it was Monday, Bank Holiday, so all the fish and chip shops were closed. The food was delicious. And a little bit late, maybe, but we had Christmas pudding too.

Flaming pudding

Liam drowned the pud in brandy and set it alight, much to the bemusement of the children. When I was a child, there would have been a thrupenny bit or even a sixpence inside, but we don’t do that sort of thing any more, apparently.

A couple of days later, I went over to babysit while Jenny and Helen went to the shops.

Green Goblin

William is now The Green Goblin thanks to some temporary hair colour that Helen applied. Martha’s hair was more variegated. I allowed my hair to be coloured a striped orange and yellow, but all this did was to highlight my bald patch. The photos have now been locked away in a vault somewhere.

I am working on what will be the first radio show to be broadcast solely on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2. But one afternoon I was distracted by the urge to tidy up the Studio, the Office, the so-called third bedroom. I say I got the urge, but in reality, the urge was imposed upon me by Liesel. Who shouldn’t even be here*! Yes, everything’s been put in its new location, plenty of stuff has been disposed of, and over the next weeks and months, it will undoubtedly once again revert to its status of ‘tip’. Sorry, there are no before and after photos. But we did come across tonnes more paperwork that we’re not sure we need to keep. So, add this to the list, Mick: go through each of those boxes again, again, again.

*Yeah, what do I mean, Liesel shouldn’t even be here? Well, she’d planned to fly off to Anchorage to see her family on January 6th. Iceland Air would take her via Reykjavik and Seattle. Unfortunately, the flight was cancelled due to expected bad weather in Iceland and by the time Liesel spoke to someone, the next flight was a week away. So that’s all rebooked now. But If you want to reminisce about bad quality 1970s style phone lines, feel free to call Iceland Air in London. Even the hold music sounds like the old Björk tape has been stretched a bit too much.

And again today, I awoke to the sound of rain being hurled at the windows. I don’t know if the glass in our windows is just intrinsically louder than what we had in Chessington, or if it really does rain harder sideways here in Manchester, but, man it’s loud!  

Happy New Year

We wish you a happy and prosperous and a very healthy 2022.

This is the sort of thing Twitter was invented for. Thank you @fermatslibrary

Normal service will be resumed very soon. But I have probably spent too much time fighting this puzzle:


Nearly ten hours including a few false starts.

My final Radio Northenden show is here. But be quick, the Mixlr account will be closing very soon. I’ll be back on Wythenshawe Radio from next week.

Surprise, Surprise

If all goes to plan, this post should be published on Christmas Day. So let me be the four hundred and ninety first person to wish you and yours the merriest of Christmases. You have many better things to do than read this, I know, but there are some surprises within, but probably nothing as exciting as your new socks.

I don’t think I’d heard of knafah cake before, but I was pleased to meet The Knafah Girl at Boxx 2 Boxx. I could have had a cake and a coffee and kept quiet about it, but instead, I bought a larger cake to take home. And it was delicious. Liesel and I agreed that we will repeat this experience. Pistachio and rose, since you ask. Did I take a picture of the very pretty middle eastern inspired dessert? No, sorry, but their website is very interesting.

Whenever I’m accused of playing a game on my phone, my response is that it’s not a game, it’s a puzzle. I’m still attempting slitherlinks and taking far too long to solve them. But I’m getting there. Just look at this one.

Finished at last

A supposedly easy puzzle that should take five minutes to solve. It took me well over two hours, on and off. But it passes the time, keeps the brain ticking over and makes a change from sudokus. And as for it being a puzzle rather than a game? Well, the app describes itself as a game, so I think I’ve lost that argument.

It looked like a nice day outside, so we thought we’d go and pick litter in the industrial estate, which we thought was particularly disgusting a few days earlier. Eight bags collected, a record for us in one day. There are no litter bins in one particular road, not that that would necessarily help with the problem, there are just too many lazy litterbugs.

What a mess

And then look at this. These bins haven’t been emptied for weeks, maybe months, and I’m sure this doesn’t help with the litter problem in the area. Just one windy day is all you need, and we’ve had a few of those lately. I hope that image hasn’t put you off your Christmas dinner.

But you’re not here for rubbish content. We enjoyed more pleasant walks along the river to Fletcher Moss Park and to Didsbury, under battleship grey skies.


Some people are leaving the purchase of their Christmas trees very late. Not sure about the one shrouded in spiders’ webs, but £20 is quite a bargain really.


The thought occurred: if someone offered me roses, would I expect a bunch of colourful flowers or a plastic tin of chocolates?

So, what’s this slitherlink thing, Mick? According to Wikipedia, “Slitherlink is played on a rectangular lattice of dots. Some of the squares formed by the dots have numbers inside them. The objective is to connect horizontally and vertically adjacent dots so that the lines form a simple loop with no loose ends. The number inside a square represents how many of its four sides are segments in the loop.” Other patterns are available too, and there is no limit to the size of the puzzle. Here’s one I completed later in the week to my delight and to Liesel’s shake of the head.


Only four times the expected solution time on this occasion, so yes, I think I’m getting there! The people over the road have been more gainfully, and seasonally, employed. Their front garden is beginning to look a bit like Christmas.

It’s Christmas!

Jenny sent a message inviting us over to try the cakes that Martha and William had made. Well, it would be rude not to. I was just putting the finishing touches to this week’s show and Liesel was playing with glue and cookie dough, although I am assured these were two separate projects.

We drove over to Jenny’s and rang the bell. I was all for singing carols on the doorstep but that idea was vetoed. William opened the door and close behind was a very excited Martha. Once inside, Jenny greeted us too, then a strange apparition appeared. Father Christmas, was here. Well, someone in an inflatable Santa outfit at least. I thought I recognised the face behind the beard. It took a minute for the cogs to engage but eventually, it clicked. This was Helen. My Helen. Here from Australia. What’s she doing here? How did she get here? I was stunned, almost speechless, my mind was blown and my gob was smacked. Really? Helen? Here? What a lovely surprise! But, really? I gave fat Santa a hug and expressed my surprise, a secret that she and Jenny had kept very well. I didn’t have a clue. A video was made of our arrival so my reaction is preserved for posterity. We also watched the video of Martha and William opening the door to Father Christmas earlier in the day, and within a second, Martha identified Auntie Helen!

I’d been led to believe that Helen was working right up until Christmas and then, Covid restrictions permitting, going off to Queensland, camping, or, I thought, more likely glamping. But no, here she was, in England, Plague Island. Yes, there wll be Covid tests and isolation but wow, what a lovely Christmas surprise for me. I couldn’t think of the words to express my delight. Still can’t, to be honest. We’ve seen Helen since that first meeting, so I know she really is here, and it wasn’t a dream, but still, at a deep level, it’s unbelievable.

William and Martha with Auntie Helen

What a strange feeling. Surprised that Helen’s here but, at the same time, it seemed perfectly normal to be in her company at Jenny’s place. As someone remarked, it’s a good job I hadn’t planned to go and surprise Helen down under!

As a bonus, the cakes baked and decorated by the children were very nice.

By comparison, the news that Greater Manchester is to get a Clean Air Zone seems pretty mundane.

Clean Air Zone

Liesel and I had a nice walk but we avoided the muddy woods. We kept to residential roads, even at the risk of being splashed as cars ploughed through the puddles.

Later on in the afternoon, we had visitors: Helen and her hosts Jenny, Liam, Martha and William. We gave the children an early present, because we thought they’d enjoy playing skittles in our long hallway.


Liam was a good backstop, the balls were returned with remarkable efficiency.

Somehow the seven of us sat around our dining table without too much jostling of the elbows. Liesel’s home-made Indian food, since you ask, and very nice too. Followed by cookies which we all enjoyed decorating.

Cookie pride

There were some works of art here, such a shame that they’d all be consumed within a day or two. Some didn’t even survive a whole minute.

Jenny, William, Liesel, Martha, Liam, Mick, Helen

Thanks to Helen for taking this group picture, which is far, far better than my attempts.

And so the Big Day is looming over the horizon. But my penultimate show on radio Northenden went pretty well, I think. Listen to another two hours of Christmas music here. Or if you can bear to wait, it’ll be reapeated on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 next Wednesday at 7pm.

Merry Christmas, chaps and chappesses.

Blood, Bond, Broadband

It rained so much, the river was in full flow, so the birds migrated to the newly flooded golf course.

Birdies on the golf course

This was witnessed by Liesel, on an early morning walk, while I remained warm and comfortable in my pit.

A million congratulations and thanks to Wythenshawe Waste Warriors: they (we) have collectively picked up over 10,000 bags of litter this year, so far. Liesel and I added another small contribution, just walking up and down Royle Green Road and some of the sideroads. Bottles and cans should have a 10p (or more) deposit on them, that would help. There was a lot of drugs paraphernalia too, including for the first time a hypodermic needle. Very close to a school. But as I’ve mentioned before, we could do a roaring trade in used, discarded face-masks. If there were a market for such a thing.

Oversize mushroom

It’s been ideal weather for supersized mushrooms too. I suppose they’ll deal with the leaf litter and eventually take over the whole world.

500 years from now, people will look back at our times and laugh at the range of jobs people had. In the same way we cringe at Henry VIII’s master of the stool: not a pleasant job at all. In our case, they’ll be looking down their noses at leaf-blower operators. What’s the point of blowing leaves around? But we witnessed a whole different level of ridiculosity.

Leaf washer downer

I’ve concealed his identity to save him embarrassment. He was hosing the leaves off the pavement and grass verge, onto the road, eventually to block the local drains.

On a brighter note, we did visit a cinema, for the first time since before the world turned upside down. No Time To Die is the latest, much delayed, James Bond film. And jolly good it is too. People said it was too long, but it certainly didn’t drag. My only criticism is that some of the dialogue was hard to hear because of the background music and sound effects, which were very bass heavy. The Savoy Cinema in Heaton Moor is a good place, we sat on a sofa, but we declined the offer of coffee and wine in the auditorium.

Liesel suggested going on the well-being walk at Newall Green. It was a nice day, so why not? We walked to the venue, the Firbank Pub and Kitchen, arriving just on 11am, but there was nobody else there. Oopsie. This is an afternoon walk: we were two hours too early. So we had a quick look at Rodger’s Park, just over the road, before walking home.

Trees in Rodgers Park

I was missed out the next day too: I missed the Northenden walk, because I was on the phone. Two different people called me within half an hour, which is most unusual, I very rarely receive phone calls. Well, it was lovely to speak to Helen of course, from the comfort of my own bed, where I was lying, while soaking up the Sun.

We upgraded our Broadband connection this week, and the process was unexpectedly straighforward. The downside is, we’re now paying a lot more for it each month. But comparing the price with other providers, I think we’ve been lucky to have it so cheap for so long.

We walked to our GP’s surgery where my blood was taken to be sampled. We both commented on the amount of litter in some places, especially in and around the industrial estate. One day, we might venture that way with our bags and pickers.

Thursday is our child-minding day, and usually we take Martha and William home to our place to play. This week, we went a bit further afield. We saw The Lanterns at Chester Zoo. These are animals, made from paper (or a waterproof, paper-like membrane), illuminated, with many being animated. It is, as they say, totally enchanting. Martha really wanted to hug the butterfly as she slowly wafted her wings. Father Christmas was there too, and William really wanted to speak to him.

Penguins in Technicolor®

I tried to tell her that they were just ordinary wolves, but Martha insisted on stroking the werewolves.

Martha and the Werewolf

We arrived just before 5pm and it was of course already dark. Which is good, it makes the illuminations all the more impressive. But it also makes it harder to track down your children when they run off. And William loves running. Even in the dark.

The artificial snowstorm
Awestruck in the presence of greatness

Father Christmas was a jolly old soul, he managed to get the crowd to join in with his ho, ho, hos and his Merrrrrry Christmases. 

Dancing in the lights

We did wonder whether the real animals were impressed by the light show. Or scared. Or sedated.

Both William and Martha fell asleep in the car on the way home but the big surprise is that I didn’t.

The final Wythenshawe walk of the year was very enjoyable, just the four of us on this occasion, plus a dog who thinks he’s a meerkat.

Sandy the wannabe meerkat
Painswick Park

Yes, the Sun was out, the pond was pretty, the geese were chatty and all’s right with the world. Meanwhile, Liesel was in the Lifestyle Centre, volunteering. She got up at stupid o’clock while I just rolled over. Between 8am and 1pm, she witnessed and helped out as 600 people received their Covid booster jabs. Yes, we are aware of the irony of being in a closed space with hundreds of strangers, while still debating whether or not to go into people’s houses.

Painswick Park

A quick glance at this picture reminds me of Japan: that fence could easily be one of those cute little bridges in a Japanese garden.

Breakfast for me is usually a combination of blueberries, muesli, Weetabix and Shreddies. It’s a carefully honed operation, combining the ingredients in exactly the right proportion, while waiting for the kettle to boil and the tea to brew. So imagine my dismay when I caught myself pouring the Shreddies into the Weetabix tin one day instead of into the cereal bowl. The virus that causes such senior moments is very contagious. Later in the week, twice, Liesel was unable to locate the notebook she uses for her legal work. Once, it had fallen behind the sub-futon drawer where it usually resides, but the second time, it was in a different room altogether. I suggested tying it to a piece of string so she could hang it around her neck, but that idea didn’t go down well.

This week’s Radio Northenden show, my antepenultimate one, was two hours of Christmas songs. You can listen here.

I have just two more shows on Radio Northenden, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Radio Northenden has different plans for 2022, all change here. My little show will continue on Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2, initially pre-recorded at home, but I hope to broadcast live from the studio eventually. I hope to find a way to upload my shows for people in different timezones who like to listen later on. Or they could get up in the middle of the night and tune in of course.

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. As usual, Liesel has done a brilliant job decorating and lighting up our living room. We don’t have room for a tree, sadly, something we never considered when looking at the place all those years ago.