Setting Sun

It’s been a miserable cold rainy month so far but our income from the solar panels over their lifetime has now reached £10,000 and look at this apocalyptic cloudscape. A1 is reading The Silver Collar* by Antonia Hodgson, an excellent historical novel mainly set in 18th century London, concerning the ramifications of the slave trade, the treatment of mental illness and the power of class. The antagonist is a bit over-the-top evil, but the two protagonists are well-drawn and sympathetic,  and the writing is sharp and witty. This is the fourth of four in the series (so far), and it would have helped to read the earlier volumes.
A2 is rereading Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff.

Manchester Pudding

To celebrate our return from Manchester, A2 looked for a regional dish and found this pudding. Recipe adapted to our gadgets: warm milk, sugar butter and breadcrumbs in microwave, beat in egg yolks, air fry on bake setting for 15 mins, stir, give it a couple more minutes, slather on the jam, dollop on the egg whites beaten with sugar, nuke it at 200° for 4 minutes. Done and yum!
A2 is reading Undoctored by Adam Kay.

Pet Shopping in Manchester

Off to Manchester again, for the Pet Shop Boys at the new mishap-prone Co-Op Live arena, which was clearly designed in Minecraft. We travelled by coach this time, after worries about Sunday railway timetabling, and arrived about midday.

After paying our respects to Alan Turing — holding an apple, perhaps a bit tasteless (Here are A1 giving Alan a respectful pat on the shoulder and A2 giving him a friendly cuddle)

— we visited the very Manchester-centric Science and Industry Museum. Much of this was closed for refurbishment, but enough remained to be of interest — including a BBC Micro, A1’s old 1980s machine, prominently displayed.

Much wandering (and aching legs) followed, both on foot and on Manchester’s free buses. It was rainy, cold and windy, more like March or April than June, which didn’t make that part of the day very enjoyable. We did find the old Roman ruins by the canal though, which made an interesting contrast with Manchester’s splendid crop of new skyscrapers.

Ancient and modern

Eventually we started to make our way to the venue, some way out of town next to a football stadium. This proved to be very difficult, due to A1’s lousy mapreading and the complete lack of signage. After a lot of faffing about we were directed to a tram station underneath the railway station, where it appeared that a van had blocked the tram system and there weren’t any running in our direction. So the station gradually filled up with PSB fans, complete with silly hats, while the display’s “next tram” time stayed still.

And then … the trams finally came. One after the other, all packed to the rafters. We managed to squeeze on one eventually, and it seemed we could have walked there and back a few times in the same time — it was only a couple of stops. We were a bit worried about paying, but it seemed it was all free courtesy of the Co-Op. No-one was checking tickets anyway.

And it was still raining. Of course it was. Bizarrely, they’ve built a new arena in Manchester, and among the weird list of banned items is … umbrellas. Fortunately everyone completely ignored this, including the security people. Also banned are plastic bottle tops for some reason. And nobody was allowed a bag bigger than A4 so there was no chance to go S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G.

Inception-style queuing

A2’s stick proved very useful again, as we got to queue-jump a bit thanks to the  generally very helpful (actually almost excessively helpful) and pleasant venue staff. The venue’s capacity is about 23,000, and we estimate it was about 90% full — which makes about 20,000 people in the queue.
Having had the experience of vertiginous seats at the top of the arena last time around, we had booked the more expensive seats much lower down, which involved a walk of shame for A2, holding onto A1 as we staggered down numerous steps. As soon as the show started the people in front of us stood up and could not be persuaded to sit down. So we ended up in the cheaper seats higher up, where we were much more comfortable, and once we were settled we thoroughly enjoyed the show. Two things we were promised which didn’t materialise: step-free access and freely available drinking water. Oh well. Never mind.

The band
A sample of the light show…

Finally, here’s It’s a Sin, one of the band’s signature tunes.


Cute baby starlings at feeding time. They fared better than the dead bird we found under the table wearing a ring that had been put on one day ago and 4km away. And the one that got away from the cat and spent hours flapping behind the sofa before A1 finally ushered it out. Same two things happened almost exactly two years ago.
We had three sorts of delicious burgers (meat, fish and pizza) with many accompaniments followed by fruit salad for our family dinner (thank you A1) and scored a below-par 8 on the GSQ.
A2 is reading Scatter Her Ashes* by Heine Bakkeid; another grindingly miserable book: divorced deposed detective on trail of missing children and serial killers.

Fried Alaska

Our attempt at making individual baked Alaskas in the air fryer as a coda to our family lunch of porky veg and rice. It worked very well so here is the recipe:
Cut a shop-bought Swiss roll into 6 pieces and put each piece in an empty Gü pot.
Fill pots to top with shop-bought ice cream.
Beat 2 egg whites with 40g of caster sugar until stiff and spoon on top of each pot.
Put pots in freezer until after dinner, then air fry at 200° for 3 minutes.
We did 2 weeks’ worth of quizzes and scored 12 in one and 10.5 in the other so still in double figures.
A1 is reading Strindberg’s Star* by Jan Wallentin, a kind of halfhearted attempt at a Swedish version of Katherine Neville’s The Eight: a conspiracy involving ancient artefacts with many real-life characters and events dragged in (the titular Strindberg and his brother, Himmler, Fritz Haber, Nobel, Swedenborg, etc etc). But unlike KN’s splendidly enjoyable effort, JW gives us an incoherent plot and a useless and uninvolving protagonist, and poor writing (not helped by a US translation). Rubbish — but not entertaining rubbish, sadly.
A2 is reading Hazards of Time Travel* by Joyce Carol Oates; a boring and pointless novel in which a bolshy teenager from an ultra-authoritarian USA is punished by being transported to the 1950s.
What We Missed
Last night was one of the best aurora displays of the past 500 years, easily visible from here. But we slept through it.

2 Years On

A trifling gift of socks for the cotton anniversary, and a socking great trifle.
We had a belated and depleted (no Dave, no Faye) family dinner of Vinyl Detective Macaroni Cheese (qv), salad and the aforementioned trifle. The quiz has been postponed until next weekend.

Thunderbolt and Lightning

Boom boom! An unexpected thunderstorm and 36mm of rain in four hours.
A1 is reading Bad for Good* by Graham Bartlett, and shouldn’t have bothered. With cover encomia from our favourites MW Craven, William Shaw and Elly Griffiths (among others), this terrible and unpleasantly violent book was written by an ex-cop who seems to enjoy depicting senior coppers as venal, murderous villains. Along with nearly every other character. Moral: Never trust blurbs!
Happy Cotton Anniversary G & D.

Flower of the Day: Tree Peony

We have had this lovely plant for a few years and each year it has had a maximum of one flower which is soon destroyed by wind/snails/squirrels. This year it has three. Onward and upward!
A1 is reading Eight Detectives* by Alex Pavesi, a kind of thought experiment in crime fiction: a collection of short stories by a fictional author embodying the various plots available to a crime writer, and enclosed in  another mystery … and all is not as it seems. Very meta. Readable, but not wholly successful.

May Day

The garden after the second coldest, third wettest and fourth least sunny April on our records, though yesterday was our warmest (20.1 °C) and sunniest (11.218kWh) day this year before the mist and clouds rolled in again. And the bluebells have overtaken the tulips once again, the magnolias are over, the foxgloves are gone but the apples are blossoming like crazy.
A1 is reading The Spy by Ajay Chowdhury. A2 is rereading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, which took ten days to read because it is so full of crunchy goodness.