Tuesday Dec. 6th
I got up early again that morning and just like the previous day I had the fire lit and the living room cleaned and tidied by the time Nellie came down. It was while she was cooking breakfast and I was up in the bedroom packing my things that I heard a man’s voice at the front door saying something about wanting a pan of water, which I thought sounded rather odd, but I carried on packing my things and thought no more about it. It was when I went back downstairs that I found out from Nellie who it was and why he’d wanted the water; he was a neighbour from a few doors away and he’d been just about to leave for work when he noticed smoke seeping out from the wheelie bin outside Nellie’s door
It seems that when I’d emptied the ash pan before I lit the fire there were still some very small fragments of coal still glowing, though I hadn’t noticed them in all the ash and I’d emptied the whole lot into the ash bin. Unfortunately someone had put some very dead and very dry flowers in there and the glowing bits of coal had started them smouldering, but thanks to the neighbour the pan of water had doused everything before any proper flames took hold so disaster and damage was averted. Thinking about it though, I had to wonder why, when so many people there have proper fires, the local council provide them with plastic wheelie bins for the ashes – I’m sure it would make more sense to put them into metal bins to avoid just such an occurrence.
With that little drama over I sat down to the breakfast Nellie had cooked, then after a quick check to make sure everything was packed I went up to town; my coach wasn’t until 11am so I had a couple of hours spare and there was something I wanted to do. Michael’s passport still hadn’t turned up so I began to think that maybe he’d been mistaken about leaving it on the table and he’d actually lost it outside somewhere – after all, the day of the funeral had been a rather mixed up and emotional time. So although it was a long shot I went up to the local Garda (police) station to see if it had been found and handed in – it hadn’t, so it very much looked like I would have to send over a copy of his birth certificate once I got home, and if the passport still hadn’t turned up by Friday that could be used as ID for him to travel back on the ferry instead of flying back.
It was while I was walking back to the house that I suddenly had a light bulb moment – what’s the one thing that many women, when going to church, carry with them? A handbag! I was sure that Nellie had had one with her at the funeral so maybe, just maybe…..That thought lent wings to my feet and I ran the rest of the way back, where Nellie confirmed that she had indeed had a handbag with her that morning and she would go and check it straight away. A couple of minutes later she shouted me and there she was, standing at the top of the stairs with Michael’s passport in her hand – it had been in her handbag all the time. I was so relieved I just grabbed hold of her and gave her a big hug – the crisis was over. We couldn’t think why it had ended up there though – Nellie knew she hadn’t put it in there so we could only assume that whichever friend cleared the table after the funeral buffet must have thought her handbag was mine and popped the passport inside it thinking that was mine too. Well however it came to be there I was just so glad that it had finally come to light.
With the passport problem solved there was just one more thing I wanted to do. Michael came with me and we went round to the flower shop to choose a couple of things to go on the grave. He got two plaques, one for Dad and one for Uncle, and I chose a white lantern with a red candle in it, then as we were leaving the shop the lady gave me a lovely Christmas decoration to add to them. I did ask her how much it was but she’d known Michael’s dad and Jimmy and said it was a gift so she didn’t want paying. Michael came up to the cemetery with me and we placed everything on the grave, then we went back to the house to collect my case.
Nellie came up to the bus stop with us and they both waited with me until my coach came; I felt sad to leave, especially as Michael was staying on for another few days, and there were a few tears from Nellie but I promised her I will go back to see her when I can. My flight wasn’t until nearly 4pm so once I got to the airport I had plenty of time to look round the shops then relax with a coffee and something to eat. The pilot must have taken the most direct flight path this time as the plane was no sooner up in the air than it was ready for landing again and I arrived at Manchester at 4.30. Once I got to the airport station I didn’t have long to wait for a train, and with a taxi from my local station I was back home just after 6pm.
Thinking back over the last few days I realised that even though my reason for being in Roscrea was a sad one I felt like I’d almost fallen in love with the place. I wouldn’t want to live there as it’s much too small and quiet for me and too far from many other places, but having familiarised myself with the town and got to know Nellie and some of her community of friends and neighbours I almost feel as if I belong there. Michael’s dad may no longer be around but in a strange way I feel that I can always refer to Roscrea in the same way he did – home.