Dublin’s Georgian doors

Heading back to Ireland for my post today, and after photographing a few of Dublin’s Georgian doors last September I went back in December to get some more shots. Back in the 18th and early 19th centuries Dublin’s Georgian houses were characterised by a uniform style to conform with building regulations at the time, which meant that all new properties in a particular area looked exactly the same, though there are a few urban legends behind the reasons why the door colours were eventually changed.
One story leads back to the Irish writer George Moore who painted his door green in an effort to stop another writer, Oliver St. John Gogarty who lived on the same street, from mistaking Moore’s house for his own when coming home drunk from the pub, then in retaliation Gogarty painted his own door red. Another story came from the poet W B Yeats who wrote that Moore painted his door green for artistic reasons, being of the opinion that ‘the whole decoration of his house required a green door’. Whatever the true reason was, Moore is widely documented as having fought many times with his neighbours over his green door.
Whether or not George Moore did actually start the door-painting craze is uncertain but it did catch on and eventually many of the residents decided they wanted to express their individuality by not only painting their doors in bright colours but also adding wrought iron boot scrapers to the front steps and changing the knockers and fanlights to make each house distinctive from its immediate neighbours.
Although, on the north side of the River Liffey, there are several streets which still have Georgian houses with colourful front doors the most popular ones are concentrated in an area on the south side of the river, so join me on my ‘door walk’ as I wander along three sides of Merrion Square and the south side of St. Stephen’s Green.
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Today most of the houses still have their original fanlights and some have even retained the box-shaped glass recesses in which a lamp would have been placed. There were so many nice doors it was impossible to photograph them all ; I didn’t even venture into Fitzwilliam Square and the other streets in the area so maybe I’ll make that a mission for the next time I visit Dublin.

 

This is what you get when…

You ask for ‘a bit of cheap cake that will go with a brew’.
A few days ago Michael was popping down to our local Asda store and asked me if I wanted anything while he was down there, so I asked him to get me a bit of cheap cake which would go with a brew – I was thinking along the lines of maybe a box of individual apple pies or Viennese whirls, a couple of those go well with a mug of coffee. Half an hour later he was back – with a leopard print party cake which, according to the box, would serve 14! And it was all for me as he said he didn’t want any of it.
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At first I couldn’t see how it would serve 14 people as it wasn’t really that big, but having sampled a slice I realised why it would. It’s very sweet and not the sort of thing you would want a lot of so a thin slice is quite sufficient, though I must admit to putting some squirty cream with it – and very nice it is too. So bang goes the healthy eating for this week – I’ve still got quite a bit of the cake left so the diet can start next week!

 

Bury Parish Church – some history and photos

This week’s Monday walk, if you can call it that, features a wander round a church about seven miles from home in the next town. The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin is situated right on the edge of Bury town centre, just a couple of minutes walk from the interchange and the main shopping centre and not far from the well known open market. Church records suggest that the first church on the site was a wood and thatch structure which was replaced in the late 16th century by a building in the Gothic style ; between 1773 and 1780 the main body of this church was demolished and rebuilt although the spire wasn’t touched.
The spire itself was replaced in 1842 but by 1870 the timbers in the rest of the church had rotted and another new building was needed. The current church was designed on a much grander scale by architect J S Crowther and was built leaving the 1842 spire in place ; construction took five years and the church was finally consecrated on February 2nd 1876. The interior features hammerbeam and tie-beam roof trusses, decorative mosaic flooring by Minton and stained glass windows by Clayton & Bell and Hardman & Company, while the tower houses eight bells, six of which date from 1722.
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The nave is 84ft 6ins long, 30ft wide and 76ft 6ins high, with the windows on the north wall depicting Old Testament figures while those on the south wall depict those from the New Testament. Unfortunately most of the windows were so high up that I would have needed to use an exceptionally long step ladder to get good clear shots of them. The west wall rises in four stages to the great rose window and was inspired by Westminster Abbey, while the pulpit was given in memory of Reverend Roger Kay who re-founded Bury Grammar School in 1726 ; it’s believed that he is actually buried beneath the pulpit.
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The nave and sanctuary
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The ornate sanctuary screen
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Looking down the nave from the sanctuary
The organ was at one time situated above the west door but it was relocated to its current position when the church was rebuilt in 1876. Originally a tracker action organ electrics were eventually installed and the console was moved to the south side of the chancel where it faced east. The organ was rebuilt in 2007, keeping some of the original pipework and giving it a French sound, and the console was turned to face south.
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Flooring in the South Chapel
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South Chapel reredos – Mary and child flanked by patron saints of Britain
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Looking down the nave to the west wall
The church is also the garrison church of the Lancashire Fusiliers. On April 25th 1915 the Lancashire Fusiliers were involved in taking West Beach at Gallipoli, for which the regiment won six VCs, and each year a service is held on the nearest Sunday to that date to commemorate those who took part in Gallipoli and subsequent battles. For anyone interested in regimental history the church has a number of colours hung on display along with memorial tablets, record books and other artefacts, with a dedicated museum in the old Fusiliers building round the corner.
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The Fusilier Museum
I hadn’t originally intended going into the church as I was in Bury for an entirely different reason, but when I saw the ‘church open’ sign on the outside railings I thought I may as well pop in for a quick look and I’m glad I did. It’s a lovely place with many interesting features, more than I realised at the time, so it would be worth making a return visit the next time I go to Bury – and with a nice little café just across the road I can treat myself to coffee and cake as well.

Fingers crossed for Sophie

A week ago, completely out of the blue and without me being aware of it, Sophie suffered what has turned out to be a stroke. She had been absolutely fine during the day but when I took her and Poppie for their bedtime walk she was behaving really oddly – going round in small circles then walking sideways and stumbling as if drunk, then stopping and staring into space, it was if she had suddenly developed dementia. A visit to the vet’s the following morning confirmed that she’d had a stroke and really needed an MRI scan which would cost in the region of £3,000. Yes, you read that correctly – three-thousand-quid! With the greatest will in the world, and as much as I love my dogs, there’s no way I could find that sort of money straight off so the vet said the best thing to do would be look after her as much as I could and take her back on a daily basis to be monitored.
The second visit to the vet’s wasn’t very encouraging at all. I saw a different vet, younger than the first one, and after giving Sophie a very cursory examination I was told that I should book her in for the following day to basically ‘say goodbye’ – no suggestion of any medication or treatment, just ‘say goodbye’. No way was I going to do that! I firmly believe that our pets will let us know when they’ve had enough, you can see it in their eyes, and I could tell that Sophie wasn’t ready for giving up yet so I decided there and then I would nurse her myself and try to get her through this with or without the vet’s help.
After the first couple of days, when I had to spoon feed her and give her water from a syringe, she’s been eating and drinking from a bowl while supported on my lap – she’s had pilchards, sardines (I seem to permanently stink of fish!) KFC, cat food chunks (easier to manage than dog food) honey roast ham, chicken roll, pork luncheon meat and normal fresh cooked chicken. She lost a lot of weight very quickly so I’m giving her whatever she will eat to try to put some of that weight back on. I’m also taking her for several short daily walks along the street, it’s a slow process and she now has the attention span of a gnat – she looks at the same stone every time we pass it as if she’s never seen it before – but she’s still very much aware of things going on around her and indoors she will watch me as I move about the room. Her sideways walking has improved a lot too and she can now get up and down the front step and the pavement edges without using the dropped kerb parts.
Yesterday I took her to see a vet at a different practice, I needed a second opinion and this guy was recommended by one of the bosses at my morning job. This vet was really nice, gave Sophie a thorough examination, watched for any responses for certain things and how she now turns in a circle – he said that ideally she should have had a scan as soon as she became ill but as she didn’t there’s no point having one now as it would only tell him what he already knows by seeing her. Thankfully he was able to prescribe something which should help her and I’ve now got some mild steroid tablets for her, one per day in the morning, and I have to take her back in a week. He was quite impressed that she has already come as far as she has since this happened last week – although she’s still a very sick little dog she’s showing no signs of wanting to ‘give up’ so with lots of home care from me she should recover sufficiently well.
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Sophie wrapped in a very pilchard-stained towel after just being fed
I’m under no illusions though, there’s still a possibility that she could have a relapse and I could lose her, but at least I’m giving her a chance, which is more than the other vet wanted to do last weekend. Getting her well again is going to be a long slow process but this little girl means the world to me so I’m not giving up on her, neither is she giving up on herself – she may never be the lively run-around little dog she used to be but fingers crossed she’ll get through this and hopefully may be well enough to enjoy camping again in the not-too-distant future.

 

Carmelite Church, Dublin

The Carmelite Church in Dublin, official title the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel but usually referred to as Whitefriar Street Church, is a place I discovered more or less by accident while roaming the city’s streets a few weeks ago in search of street art, and with my liking for stained glass windows I decided to go in and take a look – and I have to say that I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
The first Carmelites arrived in Ireland in 1271 and settled in Dublin in 1280 ; they stayed until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century then later returned and established themselves in the oldest part of the city in the early 17th century. Although there’s been a church in the location of Whitefriar Street since then the current church wasn’t founded and consecrated until 1826/1827.
By 1840 the building had become too small for the congregation so a new nave and north aisle were added, with the existing church becoming the south aisle of the new church ; these additions effectively tripled the size of the existing church and established the building as one of the largest churches in the city. By 1951 the entrances on the narrow Whitefriar Street to the west of the church had become inadequate and indirect as traffic gradually increased, most of it coming from the east end of the building, so a plan was put in place which involved only minor structural alterations. The interior of the church was completely reversed, placing the high altar at the west end, adding on a sacristy and making a direct entrance off the main thoroughfare of Aungier Street.
With its relatively small entrance in the centre of something resembling a large apartment building the church didn’t look much from the outside, but this was very much a case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ as the fairly unassuming façade really belied what’s inside. Through the outer wrought iron gates and double doors I found myself in a pleasant atrium with patterned mosaic tiling on the floor and walls painted in contrasting colours. In the centre was a shrine with an almost-life-size depiction of Calvary, and set back in an alcove on the right was the shrine of St. Albert of Sicily and two brightly coloured stained glass windows.
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Carmelite Church entrance
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St. Albert of Sicily was born during the 13th century in Trapani and entered the Carmelite Order as a young man, then after his ordination he was sent to the priory at Messina. He was a man of prayer and penance and a lover of solitude but he was also very active within the church and spent much time studying, being regarded as the patron of Carmelite studies. He spent the last years of his life living in a hermitage near Messina ; he died in 1306 and though he was recognised as a wonder worker during his lifetime miracles and cures continued to be attributed to him after his death.
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Mosaic tiling on the atrium floor
At the end of the atrium another set of double doors led into the church itself ; everywhere I looked were beautiful stained glass windows and as well as the two shrines out in the atrium there were several shrines within the church, including one to Our Lady of Dublin and the one most popular with couples, the shrine and relics of St.Valentine.
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Looking down the nave to the sanctuary and high altar
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The dome of the high altar with its angels and gold dove

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Gold dove on the underside of the pulpit canopy
The church’s early pipe organ had been replaced in the 1960s by an electronic instrument but in the early 1980s the then Prior of Whitefriar Street, in consultation with the Carmelite Community, decided to install a new tracker action pipe organ. It was built by the renowned firm of Kenneth Jones & Associates of Bray, Co. Wicklow, and though much of the material was new some historical pipework by noted 19th century Irish organ builders John White and William Telford was sourced.
A tracker action organ is an instrument where all the parts are mechanical rather than electrical. Although electricity is used to power the wind blowing apparatus and the lights at the keyboard all the connections between the pipes and the keys are achieved mechanically. In total the organ contains more than 2,200 pipes ranging from the size of a small pencil to 16ft in height, and it’s one of the finest tracker action organs in Ireland.
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St. Therese was born in France in 1873 and at the age of 15 entered the Lisieux Convent with three of her sisters, where she was appointed assistant mistress of novices five years later. While in the convent she wrote a brief autobiography and account of her spiritual teaching and asked one of her sisters to edit her writing wherever was necessary – this was done and in 1898 the convent had 2,000 copies printed. Although some Carmelite convents didn’t like the new book it sold 47,000 copies in twelve years with demand continuing to rise. Unfortunately Therese never got to see what a success the book became as she died of tuberculosis the year before it was published.
With the success of her book the previously unknown Therese was acclaimed as a saint and a great spiritual teacher. She had said that she wanted to spend her time in heaven doing good on earth and it seemed that those who prayed to her for help were finding their prayers were granted – she was beatified in 1923 and canonised in 1924. The Shrine of St. Therese was blessed in 1955 ; the marble statue of the saint is a replica of the statue which stands over the high altar in the crypt of the Basilica in Lisieux and the mosaic background depicts Our Lady of the Smile which was originally designed in 1750 for a church in Paris.
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Shrine of St. Therese of Lisieux
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The sculpture in the centre of the shrine to Our Lady of Dublin is a life-size figure in oak and probably dates from the early 16th century. Originally it would have been brightly painted but sometime over the centuries it was whitewashed over ; the removal of the whitewash in 1914 unfortunately also removed the ancient surface underneath but after it was cleaned and restored the shrine of Our Lady of Dublin was formally erected in 1915.
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Shrine of Our Lady of Dublin

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In the early 1800s, during the restoration of a religious site in Rome, the remains of St. Valentine were discovered, along with a few artefacts relating to him. In 1835 a well-known Irish Carmelite preacher was visiting Rome and such was his fame that he was given many tokens of esteem by Catholic Church leaders ; one such token came from Pope Gregory XVll (1831-1846) and were the remains and relics of St. Valentine. They were received into the Whitefriar Street church in 1836 but interest in them died in time and they were put into storage.
During a major renovation of the building in the late 1950s/early 1960s the relics were returned to prominence with an altar and shrine being specially constructed to house them ; the statue was carved by an Irene Broe and depicts Valentine wearing the red robes of a martyr and holding a crocus in his hand. Today the shrine is visited by many couples who come to pray to Valentine and ask him to watch over them in their lives together.
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Turning my attention to the colourful stained glass windows I didn’t know which to photograph first as they were everywhere, some nearly 140 years old and all very lovely. Some windows were single ones, some were in twos and others in sets of three or even four. The Immaculate Conception windows were originally crafted in the 1880s by the renowned Franz Mayer & Company of Germany and are fine examples of what’s known as the ‘Munich Style’ of stained glass. Some of the most beautiful windows were the Rosary Windows, crafted in the 1930s by Earley & Company of Dublin ; these and the Immaculate Conception windows were all restored in the 1990s. Also featured in individual windows were the Carmelite Saints, the Irish Saints and the Holy Family – mouse over the bottom of each image for the description, although the first two and the last one aren’t named.
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Looking from the sanctuary
After spending half an hour looking round this lovely church it was time to get back to my original search for street art. On such a brief visit I hadn’t seen or photographed everything that the church had to offer but it was such a lovely place that I’ll certainly make a return visit in the future as I’m sure there’ll be many more wonderful things to discover.

A short visit to Southport

After most of December being damp, grey and miserable the day before New Year’s Eve turned out to be fine and sunny with plenty of blue sky and as I’d been unable to take Laura anywhere decent since she came to stay with us we decided to make the most of the nice day and go to Southport. The drive out there was very pleasant and the sun was still shining when we got there, however it wasn’t to last long.
Parking up in the car park just off the main esplanade and overlooking Marine Lake we realised that none of us had any change for the ticket machine so Michael said he would pay by card. Now we had never paid by card before so weren’t familiar with the procedure, however he put his card in the machine and tapped in the amount he wanted to pay but other than the screen saying ‘please remove card’ nothing else happened – no printed ticket, nothing. So he tried it again and got the same result, which then had us thinking that the machine was faulty and it had taken the payment twice without giving us a ticket – and we were even more puzzled when the guy behind us put cash in and it printed him a ticket.
Not knowing whether we had actually paid or not, and not wanting to leave the van if we hadn’t, I rang the number on the side of the machine and after pressing 1 for this and 2 for that etc I spoke to a very helpful guy who said that if the machine hadn’t printed a ticket then we hadn’t paid, and if we paid by card or on the app we wouldn’t get a ticket anyway. He took the details of the van and our payment over the phone and assured us that we had up to four hours in the car park – and after almost half an hour of messing about we were finally sorted.
Leaving Michael and Laura to their own devices I took Sophie and Poppie and went for a walk along the lakeside, though I only managed to take one photo before the sun went in and the sky clouded over big style. Very disappointing but I made the best of it and continued my walk round the lake, through the gardens, down to the beach and back onto the pier, and the sun did come out again briefly a couple of times though the clouds were very grey.
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Marine Lake and Marine Way Bridge
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King’s Gardens
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Street art under a lake bridge
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Colourful walls at the skate park
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A very busy pier
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Although there hadn’t been many people down at the lakeside the pier was very busy, and when I got down to Lord Street it was even more so there – I would never have expected to see so many people on a winter’s day but presumably most of them had been attracted by whatever sales were on in the shops. Across the road from the shops and outside The Atkinson theatre and arts venue was a tall ‘Christmas tree’ type structure with lights which constantly changed colour ; I watched it for a while and took several photos but even though it wasn’t yet 2.30pm the grey sky meant that the light was already fading – time to give up, meet Michael and Laura and find something to eat.
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St. George’s Place gardens
I met Michael and Laura near the beginning of the pier and we went to the nearby Waterfront, a Hungry Horse pub/restaurant, for our meal. By the time we came out of there the daylight had almost disappeared and as there was nowhere else to really go to we returned to the van and drove home. Thinking back it had been a bit of a disappointing day really – this holiday for Laura was the first time she had come over to England and so far she had experienced nothing but damp days and grey skies ; with the morning sunshine and blue sky I’d really wanted to give her a nice day out but the change in the weather put the kibosh on that. Hopefully though, the next time she comes to stay the weather will be much better and I’ll be able to show her how nice Southport can be.

Looking back – 2019

As this year draws to a close it’s time to look back on some of the events which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months. January started with a New Year’s Day walk round a large local park which I hadn’t been to for many years but for once I was on my own ; Sophie was on the long road to recovery following a recent major operation and couldn’t go out so it would have been unfair of me to take Poppie and leave Sophie behind. Also that month Michael was rewarded for ten years continuous service at work with £100 of ‘extra dough’ to be paid as either a tax-free lump sum or vouchers to use wherever he wanted.
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New Year’s Day walk in Leverhulme Park
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Sophie post-op
February started off with a few days of snow and though it was bitterly cold there was also lots of blue sky and sunshine so the first of the month saw me taking a very snowy local dog walk to Smithills Hall ; although not too far from home it was Sophie’s first post-op walk of any distance and she was absolutely fine. Later in the month I got the surprise, and much appreciated, gift of a beautiful dog quilt hand made by my blogging friend Jayne and I had my first visit to Lytham Hall for a snowdrop walk. Then in contrast to the cold start to the month the weather became so unseasonably warm and sunny that I was able to wear a t-shirt and cycling shorts on my dog walks – something previously unheard of in February!
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A snowy walk round Smithills Hall gardens
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Snowdrops at Lytham Hall
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A very precious dog quilt
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Hard to believe how warm it was on this dog walk
In contrast to the unseasonably warm weather of late February March was mainly grey, wet and windy so decent dog walks were few and far between. At the beginning of the month I treated myself to a new camera and on a dog walk round a local nature reserve tried out some of the settings on shots of various wildlife around the lake. March was also the month when I found myself locked in the front porch at work one day and spent quite some time sitting on my upturned mop bucket while waiting to be rescued by the boss’s son.
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Domestic Greylag Goose at the nature reserve
April started off with a beautifully pleasant sunny day on the 1st of the month so taking advantage of it I visited a local park which I hadn’t been to for over 40 years, then a week later I discovered the very lovely Ashton Gardens at St. Annes, gardens which I hadn’t known about until someone at work told me about them. The good weather continued for most of the month although the early mornings were a bit chilly, then a long sunny and very warm Easter weekend saw me making my first foray into the north western Lake District, camping at a wonderfully peaceful farm site north of Bassenthwaite Lake and actually coming home with a suntan.
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The sunken garden at Queen’s Park
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The colourful entrance to Ashton Gardens, Lytham
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View from my pitch at the camp site
May brought more good weather and after finding out about it on the internet I paid two visits to the secluded village of Sunderland Point on the River Lune estuary. The only road access to the village is by a tidal causeway which is several feet under water twice a day so I timed my first visit for when the tide was out, then to get a different perspective I went again when the tide was in, parking a mile or so away from the village and walking the rest of the way along a footpath. May was also the month when my pc decided to give up the ghost big style and I had to work from a borrowed laptop until I could get a new desktop model.
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View from Sunderland Point at low tide
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High tide at Sunderland Point
Early June saw the arrival of my birthday and a cash gift from Michael gave me the opportunity to buy a much-longed-for and rather expensive folding camp bed, then later in the month I returned to Cumbria for a 10-day holiday, camping at the same site I’d stayed on at Easter. The weather was mainly good and taking some suggestions from the book ‘111 Places in the Lake District You Shouldn’t Miss’ I discovered and photographed several places I wouldn’t otherwise have known about.
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The camp site wildlife lake
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View over Loweswater
I don’t, as a rule, frequent cities as they hold no attraction for me at all but mid July saw me going to Manchester, not once but twice. The first time was a visit to the Cat Café which, given the not-exactly-cheap cost, was a one-off experience, then after some internet research my second visit to the city was to track down some of the many murals and works of street art dotted around the Norther Quarter. July was also the month when I accidentally managed to get a large and very solid traffic cone wedged firmly under the back of the van when I was at work, and being unable to free it I ended up calling out the AA. Fortunately there was no damage to the van though the situation did give the AA guy a good laugh.
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Savannah at the Cat Café, Manchester
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A Manchester mural
August started off well with a lovely walk along a section of the Lancaster Canal and a wander round Garstang, plus two visits to Blackburn in search of some street art, but the month went badly downhill when my van was stolen complete with all my camping gear which was packed in it ready for a planned holiday to Anglesey. However, in spite of the emotional and practical upset I was determined not to let it stop me from getting out and about and the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend saw me having a lovely day out at Arnside, and after driving everywhere for ten years it made a change to go by train.
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The Lancaster Canal at Garstang
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Arnside beach and viaduct
September started off with glorious weather and two weeks after my day out to Arnside I went by train to Morecambe and walked from there to Heysham Village, another lovely little place I hadn’t been to for many years. Three days later I went over to Ireland for a week where, among other things, I spent two days roaming round Dublin photographing street art and other things, climbed six near-vertical ladders up the inside of Kildare tower, visited the Irish National Stud, explored a haunted castle and went to the lovely little village of Dromineer on the east shore of Lough Derg. Over the course of the week I took 951 photos and once back home it took me a month to edit them all and write my holiday posts on here.
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Cottage Tea Rooms, Heysham village
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The supposedly haunted Leap Castle, Co. Offaly, Ireland
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The lakeside at Dromineer, Lough Derg
October for me was very much a ‘nothing’ sort of month. The good weather of September had finally disappeared and with the exception of just a couple of dry days it rained almost constantly so any dog walks were kept local and short. The highlight of the month was the day when a large tree fell across the lane leading down to one of the places where I work, completely blocking any access ; it took several items of heavy machinery and half a dozen guys with chainsaws to cut it up, move it and unblock the lane.
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This was much bigger than it looks
October’s rain continued into November and made it another ‘nothing’ month with no good dog walks and no days out. My camera card somehow decided to corrupt itself and I couldn’t download the most recent photos to my computer, and though it was mildly annoying it wasn’t the world’s greatest disaster as the photos were only local ones which could be taken again another time. After getting a new media card I took the camera to work one morning and got a couple of nice shots of the early morning sky through the trees ; it had the makings of being a nice day but less than two hours later the rain was back. November was also the month when a cute little mouse (fortunately already dead) ended up not as the dinner of the cat which caught it but as the dinner of one of my two dogs!
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Early morning sky through the trees at work
And so to the events of this month – another short holiday in Ireland where I photographed lots more Dublin street art, and a visit to the Trafford Centre to see the Coca-Cola truck. Michael came back from Ireland on the 14th and brought his girlfriend Laura to stay until after New Year ; Christmas was a quiet affair with just the three of us. More damp and gloomy weather has prevented us from having a decent day out though yesterday we actually had some sunshine and blue sky so we had a drive to Southport and back. Tonight we’ll probably go up to the moorland road near here and watch the fireworks going off all over all over town – Michael told Laura about our annual ‘tradition’ and she specifically asked if we can go.
So there you have it, some of the highlights of my year. All that remains now is to welcome any recent new readers to my blog and thank everyone for visiting ; if it wasn’t for my readers there wouldn’t be a blog, so I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – have a good one!