From home to Roscrea

A grey and very windy morning on Thursday November 29th saw me leaving home at 8.30am for a mini break in Ireland during which I would attend the second anniversary mass for Michael’s dad and uncle Jimmy ; Michael was also travelling over that day but while I was going on the mid-day flight his wasn’t until 3.15pm. Leaving the van with Sparky the mechanic so he could do a minor job on it while I was away I got a taxi to the station and was just in time to get the 9.20 train to the airport ; I had loads of time to kill once I got there but I’d rather be early than on the last minute.
With only a very small case on wheels and a small backpack I had no luggage to check in so I just went straight to the security check area, and that’s when I had a very odd experience. I made sure I’d put my phone, all my money and anything else in my backpack so I had nothing on my person at all ; the backpack, case and my jacket all went through the scanner with no problem but as I walked through the body scanner a young woman pulled me to one side, asked me to sit on a chair and take my trainers off. These were then sent through another scanner, which was fine, but then she asked me to hold my right leg out and she patted it down from my knee downwards – how very bizarre! As far as I know my right leg is exactly the same as my left so why she would want to check one and not the other seemed very strange to me – I don’t know what she thought she would find but I was given the all-clear and was then free to collect all my belongings and make my way to the boarding gate.
By the time the plane had arrived at the gate it was absolutely pouring down, and with the high wind as well I fully expected to hear a ‘delayed’ or ‘cancelled’ message but everything went ahead as normal and take-off was just a few minutes after mid-day. Above the rain clouds it was gloriously sunny and looking out at the cotton wool clouds beneath the plane it was hard to believe that somewhere underneath all that lot it was probably still pouring down. It wasn’t quite as sunny on the approach to Dublin airport and it was still very windy so I expected a bit of a bumpy landing, but whoever the pilot was he was certainly good at his job as the landing was so smooth it was hard to know when the plane actually touched the tarmac.
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Waiting for take-off
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Somewhere out of Manchester
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A big contrast to down on the ground
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Approaching Dublin – Lambay Island
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Rogerstown estuary
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Close to landing
With no luggage to wait for I was soon out of the main part of the airport ; I had an hour to wait for the coach to Roscrea so I got myself a sandwich, a drink and a magazine and spent some time in a reasonably quiet corner before making my way out to the airport bus station. The route from the airport to the city centre goes through a tunnel nearly three miles long and when the coach emerged at the city end the sun was shining properly ; travelling along the south side of the River Liffey I couldn’t resist getting a shot through the coach window of the Custom House across the other side then I settled down for the rest of the journey to Roscrea.
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The Custom House
It was almost dark by the time I got to Nellie’s ; the door was unlocked so I just walked straight in (which is what everyone else does) and this time I felt more comfortable about doing so. Trixie got all excited to see me and spent several minutes doing zoomies round the room and throwing her tug rope about so I made a big fuss of her while Nellie made a coffee. By that time Michael had landed safely at the airport and was waiting for his 5.15 coach ; it wouldn’t get into Roscrea until 8.15 so once I’d had a meal with Nellie, washed up the pots and put them away I walked round to the bus stop to meet him when he arrived – and that’s when I met with the strangest of coincidences.
There was a young woman waiting for the coach and I’d been standing there for a few minutes when she mentioned that someone across the road was trying to attract my attention – it turned out to be Nellie who was on her way out somewhere and she just wanted to let me know that she had left the door unlocked for me. When I got back to the bus stop the young woman asked me how I knew Nellie and when I said she’s my son’s aunt a look of incredulity spread over her face as she realised who my son is – and it turned out that she was Tina, one of Michael’s friends who he’s mentioned often in conversation with me but who I’ve never met.
It was lovely to meet Tina but we didn’t have time to chat as the coach arrived, and when Michael got off he was just as surprised to see her. With a quick hug she was on the coach and gone and Michael and I walked back to Nellie’s where we spent the rest of the evening watching tv before turning in for a relatively early night. Just as I’d expected I was bed sharing again with Nellie but this time I didn’t feel too bad about it, and anyway by the time I went to bed I felt too tired to care!



Sometimes I don’t know why I bother going away….

As I often seem to come back to a load of hassle. What is it they say about things going in threes? – well you can almost times that by three with the amount of problems I’ve had in the last 48 hours.
It all started late on Monday afternoon while I was still over in Ireland. Having used my phone several times in the course of the previous few days, all with no problems, I suddenly found that it wouldn’t send any texts and neither could I make a call – all I got was the message ‘no network coverage’ which was odd as Michael is on the same network and he didn’t have any problems. Thinking it may have something to do with having automatically changed to ‘roaming’ while I was in Ireland I thought it would be okay once I got back over here yesterday but unfortunately it was still the same so I’d been unable to let Michael know I’d landed safely back at Manchester airport.
The second problem was more of a minor inconvenience rather than an actual problem. By the time I’d got off the plane, through the airport and done the 10-minute walk to the airport station I’d just missed a train home and had to wait half an hour for the next one, which was a bit of a pain when I’d been travelling since 9am and just wanted to get home. At least when the next train arrived I was able to get a seat which I was glad of as it filled to what I’m sure must have been over its legal capacity as so many people got on at the various stations through Manchester.
The third problem came when I went to collect the van as I was on my way home. I’d left it with the mechanic, Sparky, for him to do a minor job on it while I was away, asking him to leave the key with the people at the corner house near his premises if he closed up before I got back. Having got the bus from the station I arrived back at Sparky’s at 5pm and found the workshop closed with the van locked up and parked outside, but when I went to the corner house to get the key the lady there said it hadn’t been left! So unable to get into the van I walked the mile-and-a-bit home from there dragging my small case and backpack behind me and thinking that if I hadn’t had to wait half an hour at the airport for a train I would probably have been back at Sparky’s before he closed up for the day.
Once at home I managed to solve the phone problem by putting the sim card into an older phone and it worked fine, so I assume that the fault is with my usual phone. Then came problem number four – I turned on the pc to be greeted by several messages from ebay saying my username and password had been changed and welcoming me to a business account, but to contact them if I hadn’t done any of this. All this activity had taken place since I left home at 8.30am last Thursday so it would seem that my account had somehow been hacked – it took me an hour to sort things out through customer services but it wasn’t to my satisfaction. Because I hadn’t contacted them within three days of their last message a block had been put on my account, which is fine as it stops any further unauthorised activity, but it also stops me  from using it and as I can’t prove that I’m actually me the block can’t be lifted. So I’ve had to get myself a new ebay account with new security details and a different email address to use specifically for ebay – and all the 100% feedback which I’ve accumulated since 2004 now counts for nothing as I’m back to square one.
So this morning, with no van, I had to get a taxi to work and another one from work to Sparky’s place. My morning job is down at the bottom of a country lane and not the easiest place to find so when I was leaving I walked up the lane onto the main road for my taxi – it was pouring down with rain, the taxi was stuck in traffic and by the time it finally arrived I was thoroughly wet through in spite of having an umbrella. When I finally got to Sparky’s I was greeted with “What are you  doing here?” – he’d mistakenly thought I wasn’t home until tomorrow and he hadn’t so far done the work on my van, intending to do it today. I couldn’t leave it there any longer though as I now need it for work and a pet sitting job so I just said I’ll drop it off at a time when I can do without it for a few hours and he gave me they key back – and that’s when I discovered the final problem.
While the van has been parked on the street outside Sparky’s workshop some nameless cretin has smashed the nearside front mirror, making it totally useless – luckily I’ve been able to source a new one on ebay so earlier on I made my first purchase using my new account. Hopefully the mirror will arrive by the weekend and I can get it sorted – I hope so as trying to park next to a pavement in the dark without being able to use the mirror just doesn’t work properly!
So aside from all the above problems since I got home I actually did have a nice few days over in Ireland. It’ll take me a while to sort out all my photos – believe it or not I took 380 in those few days! – but once that’s done I’ll be writing an account of my break. That will of course include the tale of the nightmare coach driver last Sunday but then that’s another story!


An autumn walk to Smithills Hall

My Monday walk this week was taken the day after my walk through Sunnyhurst Wood but this time actually started direct from home. Across the field at the end of the street, through the bottom end of a nearby large housing estate and across a local park brought me to Smithills Wood, and though there wasn’t as much blue sky as the previous day there was enough sunshine to bring out the colour in the trees and the leaves on the ground. It was very pleasant walking through the wood and I saw no-one and nothing other than a few birds and a couple of squirrels playing ‘chase’ through the trees.
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Smithills Wood
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The path through the woods took me to the lane leading to Smithills Hall in one direction and through Smithills Open Farm and back towards home in the other – I opted for having a wander round the grounds of Smithills Hall so went left. With the autumn leaves and lack of colourful spring and summer flowers and foliage the gardens looked vastly different to when I was there in late May but it was still nice to wander round and in a slightly secluded part of the garden I even discovered something I’d long since forgotten about – the grave of Little Bess.
In 1870 Colonel Richard Henry Ainsworth inherited Smithills Hall on the death of his great uncle, and he and his wife Isabella Margaret, usually known as Sally, lived there until 1900 before moving to a smaller house in Northamptonshire. Sally was a kind and gentle person with a great affection for animals and Little Bess was one of her favourite dogs. A small white marble headstone, now rather discoloured with age, marks the burial place of Little Bess, and though some of the words are hard to make out the inscription reads “Multum in Parvo” (meaning Much in Little) “In memory of Little Bess, in whom we lose sagacity, love and fidelity. She was of the rarest beauty and though the smallest of her race was possessed of the most lion hearted courage. January 13th 1873 at the age of 6”. Although a bit overgrown with weeds the grave was decorated with a few pots of artificial flowers and even a plaited dog lead had been left there at some time so maybe it’s tended on odd occasions by members of the Friends of Smithills Hall group.
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The lane to Smithills Hall
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Above the entrance to Poppins tea room in the west wing
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A strange lop-sided old door in the east wing
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The grave of Little Bess
Across the far side of the lawns I spotted a small splash of pink within the green hedge and on closer inspection found it was the remains of (I think) a couple of rhododendron flowers – very late for the time of year and rather an unexpected surprise. Close to there half a dozen steps took me down to a path which meandered a short distance through the trees and I came across something which, although I knew of its existence somewhere on the land, I’d never seen before – a small lake. It seemed to be a bit overgrown in places but with the autumn colours of the trees it still looked quite pretty and was worth a couple of photos.
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From the lake I retraced my steps back along the path and made my way round the back of the hall and out onto the lane. The sunshine seemed to have deserted me by then so with one final shot of the lane itself I headed up to the farm, back through the park and towards home for a much needed coffee.
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There’ll be no Monday walk next week as I’ll be somewhere in Ireland with no access to a computer but hopefully I’ll have time to post again before I go on Thursday, and as I still have a few walks in hand I’ll catch up with those once I’m back here and settled back into my normal routine – whatever ‘normal’ is!

An illuminating experience

For the last month several different events have been held at various venues in and around my local town centre, all with the theme of ‘light’ and ending with the switch-on of the Christmas lights last night at 7pm. As part of these events, and to celebrate 21 years of the town’s art initiative, last Friday and Saturday evenings saw the town hall lit up in a dazzling display of colours and images projected onto the front of the building and which changed to accompanying music. I actually knew nothing about this light display until I was reading the local paper online last Friday morning ; the article had a photo of what the town hall would look like and it had such a ‘wow’ factor that I decided to go with the camera after work to see if I could get some photos of my own.
The newspaper article said that the display was on ‘from 5pm’ on both days but didn’t say how long it would last, and as I didn’t finish work until 6pm on Friday it was 6.15 by the time I got there. Thinking I may have either missed the action or that the town hall square would be packed with people I was quite surprised to see only a handful there although the display was in full swing. From a good position directly in front of the building I got several shots but I was quite disappointed when only five minutes later the music stopped and the display ended – I must have just caught the last few minutes of it but what I had seen had been really good.
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The town hall as it normally looks….
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….and with the light display
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Determined to see more of this light display I went back again on Saturday, this time getting there well before the 5pm start. Again I expected to see quite a crowd of people there but again there were very few, which I thought was odd given that it had been a very busy weekend shopping day. I stood in the same place as the previous day and the light display began a couple of minutes after 5pm though much of it turned out to be the same as before – and by 5.20 it was all over ; to say I was confused-dot-com was an understatement as I’d expected it to last a long while.
Talking to the guy standing to my left I got the distinct impression that he had also expected the display to last much longer and was disappointed that it didn’t, though the guy on my right said that it was on the hour from 5pm until 7pm with the ‘main event’, whatever that was, being the one at 7 o’ clock. However, as much as I would have liked to stay to try and get some better shots I’d got enough for what I wanted and it was turning quite chilly – I didn’t fancy standing there waiting for the next display, especially if it would be the same as I’d just seen, so I cut my losses and set off for home.
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While the display had been on a young woman had been going round handing out leaflets which, in her words, ‘tells you what it’s all about’ so I’d rather hoped that there might be some proper information on the times rather than the vague ‘from 5pm’ which I’d read in the paper, however there was nothing of the sort and in fact the leaflet gave very little useful information. Since last weekend I’ve tried in vain to find out more about the light display timings to see if I did actually miss anything but I’ve come up with nothing, so I’d love to know where the guy who I was talking to got his information from and if it was right.
Reading the follow-up comments in the local paper several of them state that the event was very poorly advertised, which possibly explains the lack of people when I was there – a shame really as the light display was exceptionally well done and was really amazing. I don’t know if this was a one-off or if it will be a yearly event but if it is staged again in the future then I hope it’s much better advertised with proper details as it’s certainly something worth seeing.

Sunnyhurst Wood in autumn

A very pleasant day at the very end of October saw me driving a few miles from home and taking the dogs for a Monday walk through Sunnyhurst Wood in Darwen in the hope of capturing some nice autumn photos before the colour left the trees. Parking up at the roadside I noticed that the path down from the main entrance was completely in shade, and knowing how tall the trees are I hoped I wasn’t about to embark on a wild goose chase but I needn’t have worried as things became brighter once I got to the visitor centre at the bottom of the hill.
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Sunnyhurst Wood visitor centre
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The Olde England kiosk and function venue
Past the Olde England kiosk and the second bridge over the brook I came to the informal paddling pool and was quite surprised to see that since my last visit in late spring, when I’d unfortunately forgotten my camera, much of the top end of it was covered in grass and various weeds which sprang up from the water in large patches. The pool looked nowhere near as attractive as I’d seen it previously, in fact it looked a mess, and I felt quite sad that for whatever reason such a pretty place had been left to grow like that.
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The paddling pool
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From the paddling pool the path led a short distance along the riverside to the bandstand in a clearing in the woods. I’d photographed this particular structure last year but only from a few yards away, however this time I decided to see what the inside of the roof looked like. With its many beams and cross-members radiating from a central structure it looked rather like a giant spider’s web and was actually quite attractive.
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The bandstand
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From the bandstand the path continued through the woods, eventually taking me up a long steady incline with a gate at the top, and I emerged onto the wide tarmac track which crossed the Earnsdale Reservoir dam. At the far side of the dam I was undecided whether to continue along the track and try to make the walk into a circular one but not knowing exactly where or how far the track would take me I opted to retrace my steps back through the woods and take some photos in the opposite direction to earlier.
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Earnsdale Reservoir with Darwen Tower up on the hill
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Two fishermen – the only people I saw during the whole of my walk
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Darwen Tower – another place to explore
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The tops of the trees in the wood
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It looks like a cannon but it was part of an old water pipe
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Looking down the path from the gate
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When I got back to the paddling pool I found that the sun had moved round a bit and the side which had previously been in the shade was now in the sunlight so I took another couple of photos and a shot of the waterfall just down below the bridge at the bottom end then continued back to the van without stopping again.
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The top end of the paddling pool
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Back at home I checked Google maps to see where the track at the far side of the reservoir dam would lead to and found that I could have made my walk into a circular one, so maybe I’ll do that next time I go there. A brief history of Sunnyhurst Wood and its bandstand, and some photos of the paddling pool without the overgrown mess, can be found here in my post from May last year.

This time I’ve really lost the plot!

Having already been to my main evening job yesterday I went straight from there to my twice-a-week evening job at the accountant’s. It’s not a big place – a Georgian-style, bay windowed terraced house, one of a row of several which have been turned into offices – and the people who work there aren’t messy so it’s an easy job and only takes an hour. I have three keys on a ring, one for the back door and two for the front (a Yale key and a mortice key) and I always use the front door and leave the keys in the same place while I’m working. When I got there yesterday evening I found that two of the guys were working a bit later than usual but they left about half an hour after I arrived.
So I finished my work, turned out all the lights, set the alarm and went out through the front door, pulling it shut behind me ; with the Yale lock already on I only had to lock the mortice lock but where were the keys? And this is where it gets stupid – convinced I’d left them in the building I let myself back in, turned off the alarm, switched on all the lights and spent almost ten minutes going in and out of every room and up and down the stairs looking for them but couldn’t find them anywhere. I could only think that one of the guys who had been working late had picked them up by mistake, in which case I would have to ring the boss and tell him I couldn’t lock up properly. I was just about to get my phone out of my pocket to ring him when I realised – the keys, which I’d just used to get back into the building, were actually in my hand and had been all the time!!
I honestly don’t know what made me think that I’d left the keys in the building once I’d got outside, and the fact that I’d had to use one of them to get back in there should have told me that they were actually in my possession – this was more than just a ‘blonde moment’, my brain just seemed to have gone completely awol. Needless to say I had a good giggle at my own stupidity and Michael was amused too when I got home and told him what I’d just done. So if you don’t hear from me for a while you know I’ve been carted off by those little men in white coats!

In remembrance – 100 years

This may seem strange to many people but I have to be honest here and say that in the past I’ve never really given much thought to ‘poppy day’, mainly because I have no living relatives, and nor do I know anyone, who lived through either of the two wars of the 20th century. I know that my dad served with the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) on the ambulance train somewhere in Europe during WW2 but that’s all I do know as he and my mum very rarely spoke about it, and to be honest I couldn’t blame them – if you’ve lived through the horrors of war why would you want to remember it?
My dad would have been 22 at the start of WW2 ; no doubt both then and in WW1 there would have been some young men in the forces who were even younger than him. Young men, barely more than children, who went willingly to fight knowing that they may not come back, and many of them didn’t. It’s a very sobering thought, and as this year marks 100 years since the end of WW1 I decided to take some time out from my busy day yesterday and photograph some of the many displays and tributes which have been created and put in various places by local groups, schools and businesses, as well as the cascade of poppies down the steps of the town hall.
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Dunscar war memorial in the Egerton area of town, poppies made by local school children
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On the A666 not far from home, display done by the Friends of Astley Bridge group
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The cascade of poppies down the town hall steps
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A bench on the A675 close to home, decorated by the Friends of Astley Bridge
This bench overlooks some lovely open countryside just up the road from home – countryside which I love and never tire of, but which those who gave their lives for us during the two wars would never have the pleasure of seeing.
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One of several painted boards fastened to the railings of my local park
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In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, May 1915  (a shortened version)
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly.
We are the dead. Short days ago
     We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
       Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
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