Back to Ireland – Day 3

Our last morning in Roscrea arrived chilly but sunny and after breakfast I went out for a final fling with the camera. The coach back to the airport didn’t leave until 11am and the castle wasn’t too far from the house so I had time to go and have a quick look round. The main part of the castle – what there was of it – was closed but the courtyard and gardens were open; with no summer flowering plants between the well-trimmed low hedges the place was rather devoid of colour but it was still worth taking a few shots. While I was wandering round I came across a couple of cats; they were very shy and ran away as I got close to them but I managed to get a snap of each of them before they both disappeared.
Roscrea Castle gardens
Back at the house Michael and I packed our bags then Nellie made us a final brew before going up to town, saying she would meet us up at the bus stop. Trixie took advantage of Nellie’s absence and hopped up onto Michael’s dad’s bed; Nellie doesn’t really like her being up there and normally I wouldn’t encourage it but Michael’s dad likes dogs and she’s company for him. While I’d been out Mari and Paul had arrived so I knew when we left he would be in safe hands but neither of us wanted to leave him. He was far more frail than he had been a month ago and it was hard to say goodbye knowing that his life is slowly and surely ebbing away and there’s nothing anyone can do.
Trixie on the bed
When we got to the bus stop there was no sign of Nellie; if the coach came we would have to get on it and probably miss saying goodbye to her but she arrived a few minutes later clutching a wrapped chicken salad baguette in each hand – she’d got them for us so we didn’t have to buy expensive airport food while we waited for our flight. The coach was actually twenty minutes late but it didn’t matter, our flight wasn’t until 4pm so we had plenty of time in hand.
The two-hour journey to the airport seemed to pass fairly quickly; I managed to get a shot of some of the countryside as we sped along the motorway but as we got further north the clouds crept in so I abandoned the camera and spent the rest of the time reading. Dublin turned out to be just as dull as it was when we arrived two days previously so the few photos I got while going through the city centre were deleted not long after I took them.
Somewhere along the motorway
The clouds gradually started to clear while we waited for our flight and by the time we boarded the plane a very late afternoon sun was starting to come through. The take-off was smooth and as the plane turned to head east the sun cast an orange glow on the wings; above the clouds it was like being in another world completely though the sun soon went down and by the time we were over the English mainland again it was almost dark.
Waiting for take-off
Somewhere above Dublin
Sunset above the clouds
With no luggage to collect it didn’t take us long to get through the airport at Manchester, although once we got outside the terminal building it was a ten-minute walk to the station. Luckily when we got there we found a train on the point leaving so at least we didn’t have to wait for one and we were back home soon after 6pm.
As I settled down in my own bed later that night my thoughts went back over the last couple of days – it had been good to see Michael’s dad again and I know he appreciated us going even though he couldn’t speak much. No-one knows how long he has left but even though it’s such a desperately sad situation I’m happy knowing that he’s being cared for round the clock by his family and an army of friends and neighbours – neither I nor Michael could ask for any more than that.

Back to Ireland – Day 2

After waking briefly three times during the night due to the odd sleeping arrangements I got up on Tuesday morning to see thick frost on the pavements and roof tops; it looked cold but the sun was shining so I looked forward to going out later on to do a bit of exploring. Michael was already up when I went downstairs so Nellie made us both a brew then while she was cooking breakfast I grabbed the camera and went out to photograph a couple of things nearby. First was what’s known locally as the ‘fancy fountain’ – it doesn’t seem to have a proper name – then the ancient entrance to St. Cronan’s Church. Both were only a couple of minutes walk from the house so I was back before breakfast was put on the table.
Fancy fountain, Rosemary Square
Entrance to St. Cronan’s Church
We had just finished our second brew when Paul arrived and we were banished to other parts of the house so he could give Michael’s dad a wash and shave and change his pyjamas; this was a good opportunity to go out again as there was a caravan/camping site a couple of miles away which I wanted to check out for sometime in the future. Nellie was quite surprised when I told her where I was going – she considers two miles to be a long way but that’s nothing compared to the miles I can cover when I’m walking Sophie and Poppie on a nice day. I did actually suggest taking Trixie with me so she was dressed in her little jumper and off we went.
Trixie looking cute
The first thing I came to, only a couple of minutes walk from the house, was the entrance and tree-lined driveway to someone’s property; it looked so nice with the sun shining through the trees, so with no-one around and no gate to prevent access  I couldn’t resist taking a few steps past the stone gate posts to snatch a quick photo. My walk took me along a country road which ran past a patchwork of fields dotted with cattle, sheep and a few farm buildings and eventually I came to the camp site I was looking for. Unfortunately it was closed for the winter and the gate was padlocked so I couldn’t get in to look round, but it was in quite a nice location so it could possibly be a place to stay sometime.
Another quarter of a mile took me to the Cistercian monastery of Mount St. Joseph Abbey where visitors are welcome to walk round the grounds or have a cup of tea in the guest house. A long driveway led through the landscaped grounds to the abbey itself and at the side of the guest house several paths ran through an area of woodland. Most of the trees still had plenty of leaves on them and the autumn colours in the sunshine were so beautiful I was glad I had the camera with me.
Monastery entrance gates
Monastery grounds
Mount St. Joseph Abbey
A walk through the woods
After almost an hour of wandering round the abbey grounds I set off on the pleasant two-mile walk back to the house. I don’t think Trixie had walked as far for a long while as when we got back she hopped up onto one of the chairs, curled up and went to sleep, and stayed there for quite some time. While I’d been out Mari had arrived, plus another lady called Noreen who also helps out – she was very friendly, easy to chat to and I liked her straight away. Like Nellie earlier on she was surprised that I’d walked all the way out to the monastery and back, though she was suitably impressed when I showed her the photos on my camera.
When Mari and Noreen had gone Nellie served up an early cooked meal for tea – it was so filling that I felt like I couldn’t have eaten another thing for days but only three hours later she came in with a stack of sandwiches and another brew. I didn’t really want a sandwich so she disappeared back in the kitchen and returned with the remainder of the previous day’s cream cake cut into three large chunks and told me to eat it up. I settled down with my book after that and spent the evening reading, though the rather loud volume on the tv (Jimmy is a bit hard of hearing) encouraged me to go to bed much earlier than usual. It was gone 11pm when I noticed that the tv had been turned off and the house was finally quiet – Nellie had been in bed for a while by then and though I still wasn’t fully comfortable with the strange sleeping arrangements I could manage for one more night.

Back to Ireland – Day 1

Earlier this week my son Michael and I made another trip over to Ireland to visit his dad. Things had happened since we accompanied him home a month ago; he’d only been there a week when he ended up in hospital, and though he should really have gone from there into a nursing home he was released back to the family home until a place became available. Speaking to his sister-in-law on the phone I was told he was very weak, and when my son spoke to him briefly he was asking when we were going to go back to see him, so we decided to get flights as soon as we could and to hell with work.
So on Monday we left a very rainy Manchester on the noon flight and landed in a dry but very cloudy Dublin. The take-off had actually been delayed but fortunately not by much so we were able to get the 2pm express coach from the airport – the one we missed last time – and with plenty of empty seats I was able to hop across from one side of the coach to the other and snatch a few cloudy but reasonable photos as we went through the city centre.
Samuel Beckett Bridge
Custom House
Ha’penny Bridge
We arrived at the family home in Roscrea just a few minutes after 4pm and I was surprised to see that the settee had been taken from the living room and Michael’s dad was ensconced in a hospital-type bed; sadly he was much thinner than when we’d left there a month ago and his whispering voice was barely audible but he was still very pleased to see us. Nellie made us a brew – fortunately she remembered that I prefer coffee – and we got ourselves settled in, then a while later she asked us if we wanted to take our bags upstairs. That’s when confusion invaded my brain – with only two bedrooms in the house I assumed that Michael would be in his dad’s room but there’d been no mention of going across the road to Paul’s like we’d done previously so where would I be sleeping? It turned out that Jimmy sat up all night to watch over Michael’s dad so I would be sharing with Nellie – not an ideal situation but I could cope for a couple of nights.
It was while we were having our meal that the first head appeared round the doorway and said hello – it was Alice from next door (that really does remind me of the 1970s song Living Next door To Alice) and she stayed chatting to Nellie for a few minutes before she disappeared again. Not long afterwards Paul appeared and a while after that a lady arrived carrying a large cream cake; this was Mari, she came in every day and helped to care for Michael’s dad. Another brew was made, the cake was cut and we all enjoyed some pleasant conversation before she took herself off back home.
Just before 10pm I decided to take myself off to bed and read for a while; I wasn’t really tired but I knew Nellie didn’t stay up late anyway so I said goodnight to Michael, his dad and Jimmy and left them watching tv. Nellie came up a while afterwards and was soon asleep; it was gone midnight before I finally settled down and I wasn’t sure if this strange bed-sharing arrangement would give me any proper sleep but if I could get at least a couple of hours I’d be happy.

Sunshine after the rain….

And snow, and everything else the weather gods threw down on this area in the space of a couple of days. After glorious weather earlier in the week I got up for work early on Thursday morning to find a thin covering of snow on the ground and for the whole day it was alternately raining and sleeting until early evening. Friday and yesterday we had thunder and it rained most of the time – at least it got rid of the snow – then after a fine night this morning started dry and dull, but by 11am the sunshine was back and it turned into a really lovely day. Although I had a lot to do it was far too nice to stay in so on went the wellies and I took Sophie and Poppie for a walk round the fields just up the road from home. The ground was a bit sloppy underfoot in some places but considering the previous three days’ weather most of it was still reasonably dry, and though it was much cooler than last weekend the sunshine made it a very pleasant walk.
The West Pennine Moors a few minutes walk from home





Wherever I go when I’m out with the dogs I always try to take a circular route and today as I was heading along a lane back towards home I was struck by the bright colour of a couple of trees showing above a hedge. One was a really vivid orange and the other was bright red, and together they made a really good splash of colour against the green of the hedge below them. I don’t know what sort of trees they are but I was glad I’d taken the camera with me as they were well worth a couple of photos.




The dogs were a bit on the muddy side when we finally got back home but a good rub down with a couple of towels soon sorted that out. It had been a good walk and we’d all enjoyed it – fingers crossed that the winter weather won’t be too severe and there’ll be many more country walks to come.

The latest mouse

Almost a week since I added the last mouse to my collection the latest one arrived today. As usual I got it off ebay, though I must admit I had my doubts when I first saw it. It was described as being ‘handmade’ but I knew the mouse itself wasn’t as I already have three of that type – one with a mushroom, one with some peanuts and one with an acorn, though there’s nothing on any of them to say who they were made by. However, this one looked quite pretty in its little nest so I decided to take a chance on it, and as I was the only bidder I got it for 99p plus less than three quid postage so it hardly broke the bank. It arrived just as I was going out to work this afternoon and I didn’t open the parcel until I got back – and when I saw it I was absolutely thrilled.
The nest seems to be made from a large flat mushroom with the inside scraped out then dried and folded over, and the flowers, berries and grasses are a mixture of dried and artificial ones so in that respect it has indeed been handmade by the seller – it must have taken her a long while to do it as it looks like each bit has been individually stuck on. It’s really pretty and certainly very unusual so I’m glad I took the chance and made a bid for it – now all I have to do is find a suitable space for it.


Another sunny dog walk

Another sunny autumn day saw me out with the dogs again, this time for a walk round the lakes at Moses Gate Country Park, three miles south of the town centre. I hadn’t originally intended taking Sophie and Poppie with me as I was actually going to visit some friends, but it was such a nice day it would have been a shame to leave them behind and the country park was on the way to where I was going anyway.
An area of some 750 acres, the country park lies on the Kingfisher Way which runs from Clifton Country Park about three miles south up to the Jumbles Reservoir on the northern outskirts of the town. The three lakes are often referred to locally as Crompton Lodges as they were originally mill lodges supplying water to the nearby Crompton’s Paper Mill back in the 19th century. The mill closed at the beginning of the 20th century and the area fell into ruin, and it wasn’t until the mill itself was  finally demolished in 1972 that there was local interest in developing the site as an area of recreation. Over the next decade the site was cleared and the country park was created, and ongoing work in the years since then has transformed the place into what it is now.
Parking is free in the large tree-shaded car park, there’s an adventure playground for kids and miles of riverside and woodland paths. Of the three lakes one is reserved for fishing, one for water sports such as canoeing, and the third and largest is a nature reserve for migratory birds and other wildlife. That one was absolutely teeming with hundreds of birds including seagulls, mallard ducks and Canada geese, and several families with young children were throwing bread and wild bird food to many of the eager web-footed residents.
Fishing lake



Wildlife lake




It was lovely walking round with the dogs, and strange to think that even though the place is only five miles from home and really easy to get to I very rarely go there. Looking at the photos I got though, I think that matter will be rectified soon and another dog walk round there will be on the cards in the very near future.

Another one for my collection

Today I added another mouse ornament to my collection. It’s one from the Country Artists range, dated 1999, and is titled Pair of Mice & Old Bike Saddle. At just less than 3 ins tall it’s quite a delicate little piece and really quite pretty, though the photo doesn’t do it justice. I got it off ebay, which is where a great majority of my collectibles have come from, and it was a steal at just a couple of quid with a very reasonable postage charge.
In actual fact, earlier this evening I quickly checked ebay and found another mouse of a different make, with the auction ending round about 11pm, so I used an auction sniper to put a bid in for me in case I went to bed before the auction finished. I didn’t however, and while I was typing the above paragraph I got an email to say I’d won the mouse for the ‘extravagant’ sum of 99p – now that’s definitely a bargain!

Same thing, different place

Last night I got a text message from the boss at the place where I clean three mornings a week – “Can you please clean hallway tomorrow”. Now I also clean his house, which is currently up for sale, and when he has a viewing booked he’ll text me so I can go and do a quick bit of tidying up before the estate agent shows people round, so not sure whether his message referred to his house or work premises I replied “Home or work?” and the text came back “Work”. I thought that was rather odd as I vacuum and mop the hallway  every time I’m there, though it doesn’t take much as it’s never normally messy.
This time however it was different – when I got there first thing this morning I found dirty footprints and brick dust, plaster, flakes of paint and bits of plastic all over the place. This is the only job I have where I’m not a key holder – I have no need to be – and the guy who opens up told me that in the early hours of yesterday morning the place was broken into for the second time in three weeks. The first time was put down to being an opportunistic coincidence as one of the window shutters hadn’t been pulled down and the thieves had broken the window to get in – they’d tried to rob the vending machine but only succeeded in damaging it, other than that they hadn’t taken anything even though there were power tools and other things lying around on various work benches.
They came prepared this time though – they’d drilled out the lock on the shutter over the front door and smashed in the large bottom door panel. The vending machine had been damaged again, and though nothing had been taken from the offices or the upstairs work area several power tools had been taken from the work benches – there’s no definite proof that this was the same people as before but it doesn’t take a genius to connect the two occurrences. So yesterday cabinets were installed to lock away the power tools, the front door and shutter were repaired and bolts which shoot into the walls and floor were put on the doors leading into the workshop, hence all the mess in the hallway – it took a while to clear it all up but once I’d finished it looked like nothing had ever happened.
One thing has just occurred to me though – I know it’s only a coincidence but that’s two places where I clean which have recently been broken in to, although neither incident has had anything to do with me. I hope it doesn’t happen anywhere else I clean or I’ll be thinking of myself as a jinx!

An autumn afternoon dog walk

A long spell of gloriously sunny and very mild weather lasting from mid September finally ended last Friday – it was wet all day, with a mixture of prolonged periods of fine drizzle and shorter bursts of really heavy rain, but on Saturday the sun came back and the weekend has been glorious. It was far too nice to stay in all the time so yesterday I took Sophie and Poppie (and the camera) for a long walk through part of the local countryside so I could capture some of the remaining autumn colours before all the leaves completely disappeared from the trees.
My walk started by the local River Croal where it flows under one of the main roads south of the town and from there I made my way to the upper part of the old Manchester, Bury & Bolton canal. Built between 1791 and 1808 to link Bolton and Bury to Manchester the canal was originally just over fifteen miles long, but it’s been disused since the 1960s and many parts of it have been filled in over the years to make way for various roads, housing developments and industrial estates – only 40% of it still contains water, with many parts very overgrown with reeds, grasses and surface weed, but the canalside path makes for a very pleasant walk on a sunny day.
River Croal
Top canal basin
Top canal
Top canal and old bridge
Just by the first of the old bridges a wide gravel path took me down a steep slope to the lower canal; the two parts of the canal were once joined by two sets of three staircase locks, and though the lower staircase was filled in many years ago the remains of the upper staircase can still be seen. Not far from there a rather overgrown aquaduct took the canal over the River Irwell and from there my walk took me past open fields on one side and a farm and a recently-built small housing development on the other, though this was shielded from the canal by plenty of tall trees.
River Irwell
Lower canal and packhorse bridge
Looking overgrown
Eventually that section of the canal came to an end and I made that my turn round point, though when I got back to where the old staircase locks used to be I didn’t go back to the upper canal – instead I turned left through a kissing gate to where a path bordered an open field and eventually took me through a large area of woodland. I’d been that way one day back in early May and had been surprised to see a couple of young deer running across the field and into the woods so I rather hoped I would get lucky and see them again but other than a squirrel and a couple of other dogs with their owners I didn’t see any other signs of life.
From canal side to woodland
A walk through the woods


The end of the walk
The woods ended in another open field with a bridge across the River Croal and at the far side was the car park where I’d left the van. I hadn’t been watching the time so when I got back there I was quite surprised to realise that my walk had taken me two hours – I didn’t think I’d been out that long but it had been a very pleasant time, the dogs had enjoyed it and I’d got some good photos, so I considered it to be two hours well spent.


Fortunately not me personally but the place where I work in the evenings. There are three car parks on the premises, each separated by a high metal fence and heavy steel gates which are closed and locked in the evenings. The rear parking area is currently being used by a company working in conjunction with the company I clean for, on a major contract in connection with the disposal of nuclear waste. On Monday evening, just before 6pm, a white van entered the main gates, drove round to the rear parking area then drove out again; I didn’t see it as I was busy working in the upstairs offices but the works manager saw it as he was getting ready to leave the building.
On Tuesday when I went to work I was told that from now on the gates between the car parks would be closed at all times during the day to stop anyone unauthorised from driving straight through, and as I’m the last to leave the premises in the evenings I have to be extra vigilant when locking up the works, the offices and all the gates. Today when I went to work I was hit with the news that sometime during the early hours of this morning the premises were burgled – bolt croppers were used on the locks on all three sets of gates and the office and storage portacabins belonging to the company using the rear car park were broken into. Several thousand pounds worth of stuff was stolen, including laptops, power tools and a huge generator which could only be moved by being towed behind a vehicle, so it seems like the white van which drove in earlier in the week probably had something to do with it – it’s too much of a coincidence not to be connected.
So as from today, even though it’s rather like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, security has been stepped up and there’s now a dog patrol on the premises at night, with the first guy coming in at 5.30pm – I met him this evening, his dog is a gorgeous dark-coated German Shepherd called Rex. As part of my work involves taking several black bags of rubbish round to the skip at the far end of the middle car park (I drive round in the van as it’s quite a way to walk) it means that I now have to ring the security guy to tell him I’m driving through so I don’t unintentionally end up as a dog’s dinner – Rex is very friendly and playful when not on duty but I wouldn’t like to mess with him when he’s working!