The City Slicker



This tale will oft time be told with a snicker, of the visiting city slicker who failed to heed advice, re crossing country roads after a month of flooding rain.

The nightly news foretold that those who took chances considered bold, by attempting to drive, swim or row through flowing waters, may soon witness their ego on the wane.

In apprehension he shuddered when on observing saw the road ahead was flooded, surely they wouldn’t have to turn around and head three hundred k’s back home again.

When a woman driver full sass, just chasséd through the shimmering mass, this naturally he construed to read, it’s only a wet country road not the river Seine.

Didn’t want to appear silly and follow past warnings scattered willy-nilly, as obviously others forge ahead from updates he had as yet to ascertain.

With no experienced preparation suddenly causing heart thumping trepidation, the choice to follow the example of a local proved somewhat in vain.

Didn’t even make it halfway to the other side when the car sputtered, gurgled and died, implanting the hapless embarrassed travelers in a negative domain.

Trapped, feeling like a galoot when a red bearded bushy in his Ute arrived, calling hang on a minute mate I’ll back up and give you a tow, I’ve a heavy chain.

Alighting from the cabin door dressed in skimpy BVD’s nothing more, he waded through the depths to marry both vehicle together … whoa its cold …his only refrain.

Without a buy your leave the chain gave a mighty heave getting all to dry land, after which the cocky gave a wave … a token reward he refused to entertain

‘Twas with tear moistened eyes the city slicker acknowledged his auto’s demise, seemingly totally stunned at the result of using his car like an aquaplane.

Can happen quicker than a blink, when driving through the drink says our now foot weary hero, struth! It was so much more fun to drive our car than having to catch a train.

There’s a car salesman out there grinning, thinking of the commission he’ll be winning when he sells them a newbie, albeit leaving the slicker in financial pain.

As always there is a moral to the story, being there are more sensible ways to bask in glory that don’t end with foolishness not that easy to explain.

The day of the Squirrel

Day 30 Red squirrel

Monday … 1st June …6am … And here is the Sun accompanied by a gentle breeze, this could be a good day … turned out to be freezing cold outdoors, and when the rain started about 5pm, it continuing until past bed time.

Today Norma drove us to visit a very friendly and welcoming couple I had met earlier on a number of occasions, her cousin Olwen and her Hubby Ken who live in Formby …    a town in Merseyside. The area is a civil parish and within the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton in Merseyside, England … a fair distance to travel from Hindley, but being a new comer to the area I personally enjoyed what appeared to me to be a very scenic route.

            On our arrived we were given a hot drink and nibbles, all set out on the table in a warm and welcoming, what we Aussies call a sunroom, whereas the English call it a conservatory. This annexure predominately constructed of glass extended out into the closed in back garden, giving me the impression of sitting in a fish bowl looking out upon a beautifully cared for garden of flowers, trees and bushes encircling a manicured lawn.

            Ken pointed out in a corner of the yard adjacent to a corner of the house, a small BBQ area, set up on a paved section that included a cane table and chair setting. On the fence just above one of the chairs he had affixed a metal flip-top metal box with a glass front panel and a little front standing platform,  in which from time to time he would drop a handful of  in-the-shell peanuts for a family of red squirrels that lived in the tree near his back fence

            In time we were invited to make ourselves comfortable in the dining section of the home where Olwen had set out a variety of tasty sandwich fillings along with a selection of breads, and we were invited us to help ourselves. Again, I marvelled at the generosity and friendliness I have experience since my arrival in this country.

            Following lunch Olwen and Ken drove us to the National Trust Formby Pinewoods… …where a renowned Red Squirrel walk is located, although we had a bracingly cold wander around the park, we were not lucky enough to see any of these delightful little creatures. Since the introduction in 1876 by a Mr Brocklehurst, of the first pair of Grey squirrels that were released in Henbury Park, Cheshire, Grey squirrels are thought to steal nuts and seeds from Red squirrel winter stores, resulting in weight loss in Red squirrels, and therefore reduced breeding success, as Red squirrels need good body fat reserves in order to reproduce and successfully rear young in the spring. Being so cold it’s no surprise the inhabitants of these woods were not out running around.

            On returning to the home we again ventured into the conservatory with our hot drinks to thaw out, even though the sun had been shining the bitter winds blowing had chilled us to the bone. We had only been sitting chatting for a little while when a movement in one of the bushes, had us on alert with Pat and I grinning like Cheshire cats, for there, running across the lawn was a red squirrel. We watched hushed and unmoving, as it ran over a flower bed jumped up on the seat of a cane garden chair, then leapt onto the top of the back rest, hesitate for a minute and finally sprang up onto the platform, there it sat looking through the glass at the goodies inside. Much to our astonishment, using both adroitness of mind and body the creature stretched up and with it’s pointy little nose lifted the lid, wiggled into the container and removed a peanut, placed it in his mouth then clambered out of the feed box onto the platform, down on the chair back, across the seat and scampered across the lawn into the shrubbery.

         Enthralled we watched this nature pantomime for over an hour, during which we observed not only that one squirrel but two smaller ones, who had joined in the action of quickly removing the peanuts, then either racing away with their loot, or sitting to remove the outer casing and nibble the exposed nut.

            With the depletion of the nut supply, all three little actors withdrew from the main stage to behind a curtain of spring flowers and bushes, while we the audience adjourned to the dining room, where we were treated to an evening meal of delicious meat casserole, slow cooked in a rich onion and mushroom gravy, accompanied by a side dish of roasted spring vegetables, a platter of crackers and a cheese selection to please any palate.

            It was three rather contented ladies that wended their way home, all with their own individual special memories of an afternoon spent with close cousins, distant family, best friends and three little red creatures that not only melted a couple of hearts, but delighted us all.

A rest before the birdsong

Days 24 and 25

Tuesday … 26th … looking out my window I see patches of blue here and there, the leaves on the tree near the front entrance are dancing to what I assume is a chilling breeze.

After all the excitement of yesterday we decided to have a take it easy day today, we did have to go to the supermarket, so took a leisurely stroll around Wigan, I bought a little gift for Bindy, seeing I missed her birthday.

            Following lunch, because Norma’s lap top had had a seizure and died she’d given it to John to do his magical resurrection trick, so she ventured out into the hothouse, she is taking an interest in the little seedlings, repotting some and sorting out those she doesn’t want, to be  given away to those who want them.

            Pat and I went on our lap tops sorting photos, catching up on friends and family news on F/B, and typing our diaries, until a knock announced Ian’s arrival for a cuppa and chat. By the time Ian left it was time for dinner, which consisted of a toasted cheese sandwich in front of the TV, It as a pleasant and restful day. 


 Wednesday … 27th … and again today my window reveals a gloomy view.

We seem to be turning into late starters, too many good late TV shows I reckon, so by the time we finish brekkie and clean up it was time to leave. Today the three of us headed out, taking what Pat and I appreciated as a very scenic route, albeit as Norma commented, it was owing to the fact that she had taken a wrong turn, had she gone the correct way it would have been a shorter and less interesting drive to arrive at Slimbridge, a village near Dursley in Gloucestershire, and the home of Martin Mere Wetland Centrewetland nature reserve, managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust  which was our destination.

            We wandered around this tranquil wetland oasis for about four awe inspiring hours, I personally was enthralled by the feeling of serenity I experienced while visiting all the different sections. It was astounding to see so many different duck species, and copious breeds of bird life happily co-existing together, albeit the outstanding flamingos, both the Greater and the Chilean breeds are separated by fences from each other as well as all other birds.

            In our meandering we came across a ticket office for guided boat tours, the next tour was to leave in twenty minutes, so we decided to be brave and bought three tickets; being it was well past midday and we could see a hot dog stand close by, you guessed it, we bought one each for lunch … well we had twenty minutes to fill prior to the boat tour start, so what better way to do it.

            After getting on the boat our nerves soon abated, as it was well balanced with seating enough for, I would guess ten to twelve, as well as the driver; our tour only had ten passengers so there was ample room. The driver who was also shouldering the guide responsibility, was not only well informed in reference to the waterway and it’s history itself, but to everything that lived in it, his vast knowledge and cheeky wit he passed on to us, and was happy to answer any question we hurled at him.

As he guided the boat silently through the water channels, we could see the different ducks some swimming along side, or playing in the long reeds that lined our path. Some of the children on our boat had purchased a bag of feed, they were tossing that over board and the birds and ducks would swim for it, the ride went for about forty five minutes, but like all good things it came to an end.

            From the boat we continued our journey by wandering through corridors formed by thick bushes, brightly coloured spring wild flowers and  copious  trees, these form a lacy canopy overhead sheltering the hundreds of small birds that flitter through the foliage while filling the park with a birdsong chorus that is gentle on the mind, these particular walking tracks led to the  … Hides … thoughtful structures scattered intermittently throughout dense foliage areas for unobtrusively observing the birds. We came across many passionate bird watchers sitting in them with binoculars as well as camera’s, we were lucky enough ourselves to see a pair of swans with six little cygnets happily swimming around, unaware of our presence while we were sitting in one.

            By four o’clock the overcast sky had started to look rather threatening, the cold gusty wind that had been whipping through the trees all day was starting to almost freeze the smiles on our faces and every now and again we could feel a sprinkle of rain, so we decided it was time to head for the car. We had only gone a couple of miles … yes distance is measured in miles here … when the weather broke and the rain started, it  stayed with us all the way home, during dinner, TV time  and was still falling when we went to bed, but I didn’t mind , it had been another wonderful day.

Day 22

Sunday … 24th … Open the drapes to be greeted with a cold wet day being fanned into life by a gentle breeze, I silently closed the blinds and crawled back under the covers, 🙂

Eventually I have to get a grip and except  not every day can be sunny like yesterday, so I get out of bed, it is now seven am and not a sound from down stairs. I check my email, type up some notes and still no sound, so type up more notes, eventually there is movement in the rooms below mine, I try to be quiet as I go down the stairs, albeit in the silence it sounds like I have football boots on.

            I enter the kitchen to find it empty, although there is signs of a coffee having been made and I assume taken back to bed with the perpetrator, being by nature an early riser, to be in a home full of people still sleeping at nine am is so foreign, leaving me unsure of what to do, so I made myself a cuppa and took it back up stairs.

            Eventually  I hear Norma and Pat chatting so I wander down and join them in the kitchen,  by  the time showers are over and brekkie is all finished it’s almost eleven.  We hadn’t planned anything for the day and the rain had stopped, so we decided to chance it and head off to a pet welcome public Oasis, called Pennington Flash, a 200-hectare country park. Located between Lowton and Pennington, Leigh in Greater Manchester, it contained all the ingredients for a fun family day, colourful playground equipment for children, food and ice-cream vans doing a roaring trade, public utilities intermittently scattered throughout.

            One of the premier bird watching sites in the North West a haven for geese, white swans, ducks and an assortment of bird life, all happily coexisting and running up to any newcomer in the hopes of being thrown a scrap of food, We were lucky enough to see two parent swans with their three little Cygnets, a little further along a mother duck busily gliding along the water’s edge surrounded by six tiny little fluffy ducklings.

            Had it not been for a freezing breeze whipping off the water, through the foliage and down the tracks, it would have been perfect walking down the somewhat rustic pathways, flanked either side by tall trees that not only shaded and protected the lush undergrowth of bushes and colourful spring flowers, but played host to the many tiny birds flitting almost invisibly through the canopy of leaves, while filling the air with enchanting birdsong.

            With time getting on, combined with the exercise, our thoughts turned to food, because of the late brekkie none of us had eaten lunch and it was almost four pm, so we set off to the nearest family farmhouse-style Harvester Restaurants. Being Sunday, it was rather crowded, four squealing children running wild between the tables bought no interference from a doting young mum, sigh.The food menu offered was  fairly extensive albeit inexpensive, the servings were generous, self serve salads aplenty were available as were a variety of sauces and condiments. Both Pat’s gammon and Norma’s ribs were delicious, although my choice of creamy pasta with pulled pork was rather bland, this wouldn’t stop me returning at another time, but I would defiantly not be choosing pasta.

            We eventually arrived home feeling very satisfied with our day, all the walking around the park  had left us all a tad tired, so armed with a hot drink we headed to the lounge room for the ritual TV session before heading off to bed

Day … 18


Wednesday … 20th … The world through my window is again grey and bleak looking, has been raining all night.

Even though it’s raining again Norma has decided it’s laundry day because it will be a few days before things slow down enough for us to do it, so we ended up with two airers full of wet washing in the lounge room, I of course hand washed my jeans again as the blue dye still runs. It had stopped raining  and although it was overcast it was windy, so I took a chance and hung them on the line, much to my amusement they actually dried.

Norma ducked down to the shops as she wanted to get a copy of the local paper to check if it contained the family’s death and funeral notice, and we needed some nutmeg and bread.

‘iwas my turn to cook dinner for tonight, so  had offered to make us an Aussie meat pie, I cooked the mince this morning,  leaving it to cool, while we all had some lunch after which I made the pastry, and cleaned up the kitchen, I do tend to spread a mess  when I cook

While Norma was visiting her friend next door, I ran the vacuum over the dining room carpet and Patricia polished the buffet and arranged all the sympathy cards in a manner that allowed the family easier access to read them.

After Norma returned bearing a gift of three delicious looking homemade thanks to that wonderful lady next door mince tarts, she decided as she isn’t too keen on mashed potato she’d prepare some tiny ones to boil, and Pat cooked up her root-veggie mash.    Norma then had to go out and collect Harry from school, he didn’t get a bacon snack today but chose to have an ice-cream instead, Ian called to collect him, he stayed chatting to everyone for a while before they both set off for home.

We three sat down to dinner, and I’m pleased to say Norma did enjoy her Aussie pie but she wouldn’t eat it with sauce as we do. Again finishing the day by doing the usual kitchen cleanup routine before hitting the lounge room for a bit of TV before bed.


Days 16 and 17

Monday … 18th Not a nice looking day at all,

Woke about 6am, open the drapes and immediately felt that sinking feeling I get when there’s no sunshine, only rain steadily falling from a flat slate gray sky, not even looking through a window that appears to be covered in little crystal tear drops can enhance the miserable view.

            After brekkie it was off to the shops again, the time had arrived to start preparing for the influx of family members and close friends expected to drop in home following the funeral and the usual meet and greet with refreshments,  which because of the number of Joe’s friends expected, is going to be held at an appropriate venue.

            Our return to the car from the shops was harrowing; ‘twas absolutely pouring rain and the wind roared around the top deck car park without a doubt doing its best to outshine any icy blast ever to blow out of Antarctica, this of course insights in me the tendency to giggle, believe me among the three of us, I am alone with this reaction, no matter whether the wind be cold or warm the effect on me has always been the same.

            Poor Norma was finding this wintery blast in her spring time a personal insult, as for Pat, the cold had set her arthritis ricocheting every which way but loose, although once in the car with the heater cranked up high they were more comfortable.

            It’s all systems go once we arrived home, I set about slicing and dicing the vegies that combined, make up a delicious coleslaw that stays crispy and fresh even when made a week before serving, while Pat got busy creating a lemon syrup cake as well as another batch of her chocolate topped caramel slice and Norma set too doing some house cleaning.

            Once all the cooking mess had been cleared away Norma started to prepare dinner myself and the two fish lovers, who sat down to what they assure me was a delicious meal of salmon, as was my pork chop, both dishes having been served with a side salad, then it’s again dishes time and into the lounge room for some well earned R and R before bed.

Tuesday … 19th Woke this morning with the sun glare rudely trying to penetrate through my eye lids, albeit within fifteen minutes the sky had succumbed to rolling black clouds, driven by a strong winter blast, that within a short period of time develops into a rather forceful rainstorm mercilessly pummelling the roof tiles, this hopefully not setting a pattern for the day ahead.

It was a rather restful lazy morning, some light housework, sorting through and checking that there will be ample seating and glasses for the expected invasion on Friday after the funeral, albeit the family have also decided to come here Thursday evening for dinner and a final check through the arraignments.

This afternoon young seven year old Harry’s grade three are giving an African drum playing demonstration for parents and friends, as both Lindsay and Ian work, Norma being Grand Mother naturally had to go, as did Pat and I, we collected cousin Gemma and set off for school.

The kiddies where so very sweet, all dressed in school uniform, looking very shy as we filed in, shyness instantly evaporated as their instructor directed them to assemble ready to play. It was of course rather loud as one can expect with about twenty-five or so seven year olds pounding on drums with wild enthusiasm, being a lover of the drums from way back, I thoroughly enjoyed their performance.

As it was last period of the school day Harry came home with us, Gemma set about cooking him his favourite after school snack of bacon on waffles, go figure. Norma then insisted on driving Gemma to her evening science lecture, Ian and Lindsay arrived shortly after to collect Harry,

Pat set about cooking her oat covered chicken in special sauce, and potato chips, we also served the coleslaw I had made the day before, Pat and I waited in anticipation for Norma’s verdict, one mouthful and she smiles and says it’s delicious, tastes just like sauerkraut, now never having tried that particular dish I wasn’t sure it was a complement until she took a second helping.

‘Twas then time to tidy the kitchen and settle in the lounge room to watch a two hour crime investigation show called Waking the Dead, that both Pat and Norma had been looking forward to for a couple of days, I don’t think I will be watching further episodes once I return home.

Then off to bed.