A great weekend in North Wales

On Tuesday afternoon I got back home from a long weekend at Manorafon Farm camp site in Abergele, North Wales – a weekend where, for once, I hadn’t been camping alone as Michael had been with me. I’d actually asked him last Tuesday if he wanted to come with me as I thought a few days of sea air might help his continuing recovery from the broken ankle but he’d refused and said he was quite happy to stay at home. I’d left the van packed up from my Anglesey holiday a few weeks ago so his refusal meant that I didn’t need to re-organise and re-pack it with extra stuff for him, however at half past midnight last Friday he suddenly said he wanted to come, the deciding factor being that as there would be electric on my pitch he would be able to charge up his phone. So at 6.30 on Saturday morning I was busy packing the van with camp bed, mattress, extra bedding and food etc, and instead of leaving home at my intended time of 7.30am we didn’t leave until 8.30.
Although it had been rather overcast when we set off the sun started shining not long into the journey and from then on the weather just got better and better. My usual route down the M56/A55 was abandoned for once in favour of the A548 running close to the River Dee estuary as I wanted to stop at Greenfield Dock to take a few photos – I’d read about this little place on Ruth’s blog but when I wanted to find it for myself last year I’d missed the turning off the main road so didn’t get there. There was nothing much there other than a little creek with a handful of small fishing boats beached on the deep mud banks but in the sunshine the views across the Dee estuary were worth a couple of shots and it was nice to have a short break from driving.
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The Dee estuary from Greenfield Dock
I’d originally intended to make a stop at Talacre beach further along the coast, but the later-than-planned start to the journey meant I was running out of time as I’d arranged to meet my blogging friend Eileen at 11am and I didn’t want to keep her waiting too long. Having met properly for the first time last August it was lovely to see her and her adorable little dog Annie again and a very pleasant couple of hours was spent chatting over a coffee and a walk round her local boardwalk before we said our goodbyes. It was just after 1pm when I got to Manorafon – I’d been able to select my pitch when I booked online back in May so I knew exactly where I was going and with Michael’s help, albeit limited because of his foot, the tent was soon put up and pegged down and the inside sorted out, then the rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the sun.
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Manorafon Farm
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One of the site’s many residents
Late morning on Sunday saw us driving the 43 miles to Anglesey; although it was only a few weeks since my holiday there I was going for a particular reason – to photograph Parys Mountain with the heather in full bloom, which it hadn’t been back in July. And it was certainly worth going – in the six weeks since I last walked round there the mountain had burst into colourful life with pink and purple heather everywhere, and needless to say I took far more than just a handful of shots. My walk round the mountain was followed by a drive up to Penrhos for a cheeseburger then it was back across the island to Benllech where we spent some time by the beach before finally leaving the island and going back to the camp site.
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Parys Mountain in bloom
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Benllech beach
On Monday, while on a morning dog walk, I discovered that the old castle up the lane from the site was partially open to the public so Michael and I had a walk round up there. It was good to see what progress had been made in the restoration over the last year but I was rather disappointed to find that the most interesting parts of the place have been closed off since I was at the open day last August. Later on we had a drive along the coast and I finally found Talacre beach and its lighthouse and got the photos I wanted, then on the way back to the camp site I called at Eileen’s with a brochure which I’d forgotten to give to her on Saturday. I’d left Michael at one of the amusement places down near the beach and on my way back to collect him I managed, from Eileen’s directions, to find and photograph a possible ‘escapee’ from the local zoo peering over someone’s high hedge.
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Gwrych Castle
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Talacre beach & Point of Ayr lighthouse
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Anyone lost a giraffe?
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The Pantri Bach Cafe, Pensarn
After some overnight rain Tuesday was dull and overcast though the sun did keep trying to break through the clouds. A leisurely breakfast was followed by the packing up process and by 11.15am we were ready for leaving the site; a dog walk down on the beach was followed by an early lunch in the nearby Pantri Bach cafe then it was time to set off homewards. The day brightened up as we got further north and we arrived home at 3.15pm in glorious sunshine, a fitting end to a very varied and enjoyable North Wales weekend.
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Never put the tile grout near the soap powder

It’s not often that anyone is in when I go to clean the boss’s house but today he and his partner were both there. She was in the process of loading the washing machine and he was just about to go out, and as he got to the door he jokingly said to her “Get the right packet this time”. I had no idea what he was talking about but after he’d gone she enlightened me.
The cupboard next to the washing machine is where all the laundry and dish washing items are kept and last weekend, seeing what she thought was a new brand of soap powder, she tipped some into the drawer of the washing machine. It was only after she’d done it that she thought it looked rather strange for soap powder, and when she looked at the packet properly she realised it was white tile grout. Luckily she hadn’t started the machine so she scooped out as much powder as she could, took all the washing out and ran the machine on an empty cycle to get rid of the residue from the drawer. She had been teased about it a couple of times over the last few days but when she showed me the packet I had to agree that with the name, the colours, and no actual wording saying ‘TILE GROUT’ it did look like it could be soap powder.
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It was an easy mistake to make though lucky that she realised what it was before she started the washing machine otherwise the clothes could have ended up a total mess. But then it wouldn’t really have been her fault – only a man could put tile grout in the laundry cupboard!

A Rivington ramble

After doing the long walk round Anglezarke reservoir several weeks ago I decided that when the opportunity allowed I would do the much shorter walk round the neighbouring Upper Rivington reservoir, and this decision was reinforced recently when I came across a map of the walk while tidying some papers and magazines at the boss’s house where I clean. The map listed a few points of interest which would be worth looking out for so yesterday I set off with the dogs and the camera to explore.
My walk started on the Rivington Embankment, the road which separates Upper Rivington and Lower Rivington reservoirs – Lower Rivington was constructed in 1856 with Upper Rivington being completed in 1857 and Anglezarke being constructed the same year. Just up the road from the end of the embankment a kissing gate set in the wall opposite Rivington village green took me to a footpath bordering farmland; according to the map a stone face, which had once adorned a local village inn which was demolished in 1903, could be seen on the gable end of a nearby barn but with no barn in sight anywhere I came to the conclusion that it must have been demolished since the map was produced and the face no longer existed. The path eventually took me downhill, across a narrow stream and through a wooded area before reaching more open land where a rough track took me up towards Yarrow reservoir.
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The track to Yarrow reservoir
Now although I’d started the walk in bright sunshine the once-fluffy white clouds had amassed and joined forces to obscure the blue sky and by the time I’d reached the reservoir the afternoon was looking decidedly dull and grey. According to the map there was a face carved on the front of the drystone wall opposite the reservoir embankment – it was believed to represent a foreman who worked on the reservoir’s construction and had been carved by one of the labourers, but if there was a face there at all it was so obscured by overhanging foliage that I couldn’t find it no matter how hard I looked. I gave up eventually and instead climbed over the gate at the bottom of the embankment and walked up to the top to see what was up there. Constructed in 1868, with the embankment being raised in 1875, Yarrow was smaller than either of the Rivington reservoirs, and with views across to Winter Hill it would have looked quite nice if the sun had stayed out.
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Yarrow reservoir looking north
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Looking towards Winter Hill
From the reservoir a wide track led down through another wooded area and eventually brought me out onto Knowsley Embankment, the road which separated Upper Rivington reservoir from Anglezarke. Nearby, and supposedly worth a visit, were the ‘waterfalls’, the overflow from Yarrow down into Anglezarke, but looking at all the green covering the floor of the channel I would assume there had been no water flowing down there for quite some time.
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The waterfalls
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South end of Anglezarke from the road
My walk continued along the road to the far end of the embankment then a wide tree-lined track marked ‘Private Lane’ took me off to the left. Passing a couple of stone cottages I came to The Street, an imposing residence built in the late 19th century for a local industrialist and set in its own landscaped and terraced gardens. The map had told me that close to there was a pet’s grave and though I couldn’t find it at first I eventually saw it, or rather the top bit of the headstone, sticking up close to the top of the steep bank on the right. It was far too steep for me to climb up there for a proper look so that was the third thing to go un-photographed, though I did get a shot of some of the brightly coloured flowers at the driveway entrance.
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A short distance past The Street the path emerged onto open land, running first between fields then widening out into a tarmac lane alongside the west bank of Upper Rivington reservoir. A handful of cars were parked along the lane and when I looked over the wall I could see several people fishing from various spots along the water’s edge. A short distance through another wooded area and I was on the road across Rivington Embankment where I’d parked up, then with one quick shot of the village green I returned to the van and set off for home.
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Upper Rivington reservoir looking north
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On the skyline – Winter Hill tv mast, Pigeon Tower & Rivington Pike
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Rivington village green
Upper Rivington Reservoir walk
My walk, anti-clockwise from yellow spot
To be honest I have to admit that hadn’t been the best of walks as I’d found the wooded areas quite boring, and apart from the reservoir views much of the countryside had been uninspiring. I arrived home thinking that I probably wouldn’t do that one again but maybe it would have been a whole lot nicer if the blue sky and sunshine hadn’t disappeared. It was only a short walk too, just two-and-a-half miles all the way round, so who knows – maybe sometime when I’ve an hour or so to spare on a really nice day I’ll go back and do it again. And as for the dogs, well they are happy wherever I take them.
I’m linking up with Jo’s Monday Walk this week where black-and-white buildings, quaint shops and a beautiful old church make for a lovely stroll around Church Stretton in Shropshire. If, like me, you’ve heard about it but never been there then this walk, seen through Jo’s camera lens, gives a lovely insight into the place.

A strange occurrence on the plane

After having Monday’s frustration of trying to sort out Michael’s flight to Dublin I dropped him off at Manchester airport at 2pm on Tuesday in plenty of time for him to get through security and get to the boarding gate for his flight at 3.15. At 2.45 he sent me a text to say he was in the queue waiting to board the plane and he would text me again when he landed, so I sent a jokey reply telling him not to get off before it got to Dublin!
Now I know from the experience of going over to Ireland myself three times last year that whatever time you land in Dublin you can guarantee you’ll have a long wait for a connecting coach to Roscrea as the times never seem to coincide. Michael would just miss the 4pm Bus Eirann coach (the equivalent of our National Express) and would have to wait until 6pm for the next one, so before I went to work at 4.30 I had a look on the internet to see if there was an earlier alternative and found one going at 5.15. I sent him a text to tell him and immediately got the reply “Still at Manchester, not gone anywhere yet” so I rang him to ask why. He said he couldn’t really tell me just then as there were too many people around so he would ring me once he’d finally landed in Dublin.
He rang me at 6.15, the flight had finally taken off just before 5pm and must have taken a reasonably direct flight path as he’d managed to get out of the airport just in time to get the 6pm coach. The reason for the flight delay seemed rather odd to say the least. His seat was an aisle seat just three rows from the very back of the plane and it seemed that a couple further down the plane had been sitting in seats booked by someone else so the other people had asked them to move, which they did and they went to sit somewhere else. Then two other people had come along and ousted them from those seats too and they ended up sitting across the aisle from Michael. He said there had been no shouting or arguing at any time and he’d actually got talking to the guy who seemed to be quite a pleasant person, but then a cabin crew member had come along and asked to check the couple’s boarding passes. The next thing he knew the steps were put up at the back of the plane, a couple of police officers arrived and escorted the couple off the plane and into a waiting police van.
Unfortunately that hadn’t been the end of the delay – the couple had baggage in the hold so everything had to be taken out to find what was theirs then it all had to be put back in again afterwards. Apparently a big cheer went up when the plane finally started taxiing to the runway ready for take-off, an hour and forty minutes after the scheduled time. Assuming that the couple in question had the correct boarding passes – they must have had to be able to get on the plane in the first place – it remains a mystery as to why they were taken off the flight. I suppose the incident added a bit of excitement to Michael’s day but he wouldn’t have been a happy bunny if he’d missed his 6pm coach because of it!

Going round in circles

Yesterday (Monday) Michael decided he was  going back to Ireland asap as it’s a distant cousin’s birthday tomorrow and he didn’t want to miss out on a really good ‘do’, so off he went into town to book himself on the Holyhead/Dublin night ferry with the relevant coach connections at each end, only to find that the coach places at this end were fully booked and he couldn’t go. Now under normal circumstances he could have got himself to Holyhead by train and got on the ferry as a foot passenger but as from last Saturday our local station is closed for two weeks while the main Manchester/Preston line is being electrified; although alternative bus services to Manchester are being provided it would have been far too much hassle to do it that way, certainly on the last minute, so he decided he would fly instead. At least that way he would be in Roscrea in just a few short hours and on the same day.
Checking the flight availability online showed there was no way he could have gone that day as even a late evening flight cost almost £200 one way and he certainly didn’t want to pay that much, however I managed to find a flight leaving Manchester at 3.15pm today for a more reasonable £84 and a return flight next Tuesday evening for £79. As all his details are saved in his online Ryanair account/journey planner the booking procedure and payment was straightforward and within a few minutes I got a confirmation email with a flight reservation number. Thinking that I may as well check him in and print out the boarding passes straight away I clicked on the ‘check in now’ link in the email – and that’s where the fun began.
Although the return journey was showing up and I was able to print out the boarding pass for it there was no boarding pass showing up for the outward journey and it actually said ‘this flight departed on August 15th’. So I’m now thinking I’ve somehow got the wrong date but checks on three calendars, my phone and the pc told me that it was still only the 14th so why the strange message? Three separate attempts to check in and get the boarding pass resulted in the same message each time so eventually I found a number for Ryanair customer services and phoned them – and that’s when I almost lost the will to live.
Having explained the problem to the woman at the other end of the phone (who’s first language obviously wasn’t English) she asked me for a few of Michael’s details – and this was the conversation
Her – “Madam, I can see you have checked in for the return flight but you must first check in for the outbound flight before you can get the boarding pass”
Me – “I know that but the system isn’t allowing me to check in, it keeps saying the flight has already departed even though it’s not until tomorrow”
Her – I’m sorry madam, I don’t understand what you are saying. You must check in for your flight before you can get the boarding pass”
Me – “But it isn’t allowing me to check in, even the ‘check in’ button is blanked out”
Her – “I don’t understand what you are telling me. What is your flight reservation number madam?”
Me – “It’s 14**GR”
Her – “I’m sorry madam, that is not the correct number”
Me – “Well that’s the number in the confirmation email”
Her – “That is not the correct number. The number should begin with a letter”
Me – “Well that’s the only number I’ve got”
Her – “Madam, that is not the correct number. You must first put in the correct reservation number then check in before you can get the boarding pass”
Me – “Look, that’s the only reservation number in the confirmation email. It must be right as I’ve checked in and printed out the boarding pass for the return flight but there is no boarding pass showing up for the outward flight”
Her – “Madam, you will not be able to get the boarding pass until you check in first”
And so it went on….
Now it takes a lot to get me angry but this conversation was just going round and round in circles and I was getting more and more frustrated by the woman’s lack of understanding and a solution to the problem, so I cut the call before I said something nasty to her. Even Michael was getting annoyed just listening to my side of the conversation. The only way round it that I could see would be for Michael to get to the airport well ahead of his flight time and check in at the normal check in desk although this would incur a €50 check in fee, but then he was taking a risk that if the reservation number really was  incorrect he may be refused on the flight. By the time my scrambled brain had returned to something like normal it was time for me to go to work so I said I would have one last ditch attempt at customer services when I got back home, and if that failed then I would print out all my information and purposely drive to the airport and hopefully sort it out there.
The second attempt at going through customer services couldn’t have been more different. This time I got a really helpful guy with a softly spoken Irish accent, and within seconds of explaining the problem and giving him all Michael’s details he was telling me that the flight was now checked in and if I logged out of Michael’s account then logged back in again I would find the boarding pass ready for printing. So that’s what I did and sure enough there was the boarding pass – I don’t know what the guy did at his end but it certainly worked. Needless to say Michael was very much relieved when I went in his room and presented him with both boarding passes – and I’ve printed out extra copies just in case. I’m taking him to the airport later on today and all being well he’ll be on the 3.15 flight to Dublin – and I just hope that next time he goes over there, whenever that may be, the online booking system runs with no more problems.

Broken ankle update

Yesterday was the day of Michael’s hospital check-up on his broken ankle. His appointment was 9.30am and though we expected he would have to wait a while he was seen straight away. The plaster cast was cut off and more x-rays were taken, with the verdict being that although the breaks were healing they weren’t healing as fast as they should be (the fact that he’s been hobbling about on it hasn’t really helped but he wasn’t telling the doctor that!) so rather than another plaster cast he’s been given another boot as it will give more support to the underside of his foot as well as round the ankle itself.
Broken ankle
He said that having the boot strapped up his leg made him look like Robocop (it does a bit, especially when he’s wearing his black jeans) so he asked for another one to make his other leg match but unsurprisingly they wouldn’t give him one. He has to go back for another x-ray in three weeks time, until then he’s to continue with the DVT prevention (his skin is black and blue where he has to inject himself) and rest the ankle as much as possible. So far he hasn’t mentioned going back to Ireland, which he’d originally said he would do after yesterday’s hospital visit, but anything’s possible so I won’t be surprised if he suddenly decides to go, although a recent conversation has me thinking he may consider coming to Norfolk with me next month – I’ll just have to wait and see.

Only my son could do this

Back towards the end of June Michael, through no fault of his own, managed to accidentally break his ankle, resulting in a trip to A & E . X-rays showed it was a very bad break and he came out on crutches and wearing a supporting boot strapped up his leg, with an appointment to go back for another x-ray six days later when it would be decided if he needed a plaster cast or not. He came back from that appointment still with the boot on, another appointment for the following week and some medication which he had to inject himself with to prevent a DVT – that was assuming he did nothing but sit or lie and rest, however within minutes of getting back home he decided he was going to Ireland that night!
So in spite of having other things to do (I was having a weekend away myself and needed to sort things out) I spent the next hour or so on the pc, organising his journey. He couldn’t fly out as he needed a doctor’s note authorising the syringes he had so I booked him on the Holyhead to Dublin night ferry with coach connections at both ends then a flight back from Dublin to Manchester the evening before his next hospital appointment the following Friday. He had already left home when I got back from work that evening but he rang me at various stages of the journey to let me know he was okay and he arrived safely at the family home in Roscrea the following morning. All went well until the evening he was due to come back home then everything went pear-shaped, producing a string of complicated and confusing events.
The flight back from Dublin on the Thursday was 9.30pm and I’d arranged to pick Michael up from Manchester airport an hour or so later, however at 7.15 he rang me and his first words were “Mum, I’ve messed up”. Now to put you in the picture, over the last few months he’s become friendly with a girl in Roscrea and he’d called to see her before setting off to come home, only to be told by her next door neighbour that she’d had a bad epileptic seizure and had been taken to hospital 35 minutes drive away. As the coach to Dublin passed the hospital where his friend had been taken he’d decided (not very wisely as it turned out) to stop off there to see if she was okay, only to find out when he got there that she’d recovered from her seizure, checked herself out and presumably gone home. By the time he’d come out of the hospital and made his way back to the main road he’d missed the next coach to the airport and hadn’t a cat in hell’s chance of getting there in time for his flight so the only thing he could do was get the next coach back to Roscrea and start again the following day. He would miss his hospital appointment but it could be rearranged.
So once again using the trusty pc and various timetables found on the internet I came up with an alternative. Flying back was now out of the question as Friday and weekend flights are very expensive, so it was decided that he would wait until Saturday and come back on the night ferry; Saturday was also the day when I should have gone to Anglesey but there was no way I was going until I knew Michael was safely back home. Unfortunately there was nowhere in Roscrea where he could make a direct ferry booking, he couldn’t make an internet booking using his phone as for some reason he couldn’t get into the system, and I couldn’t book it for him from here as he would need a printed ticket, so the only thing he could do was get to the ticket office at the bus station in Dublin and make his booking there.
Now not knowing what time the Dublin ticket office closed I suggested that he get the 1pm coach from Roscrea which would get him to Dublin by 3pm, so assuming that the ticket office closed early at maybe 4pm he would be in plenty of time. However, even that didn’t go according to plan; at 1.45pm on the Saturday I got a text ‘Still waiting for coach’ so I rang him. The 1 o’clock coach hadn’t turned up and there was no timetable at the bus stop so yet again I got on the pc to check, only to find that the timetable I was looking at then wasn’t what I’d been looking at the previous day – it had changed overnight and there wasn’t now a coach at 1pm. The next one was 3 o’clock, which got Michael to Dublin bus station a few minutes after 5pm – just five minutes too late for the ticket office! The only thing he could do then was get a taxi to the port and see if he could get on the next ferry as a foot passenger, though he would have to sort out his own way of getting home from Holyhead once he got there.
However, for the first time since all this mess began he actually had a stroke of luck – the young woman in the ticket office got into the booking system and he was booked in on the night ferry for the full journey from there right back home; all he had to do was wait for the coach which would take him onto the ferry then he could relax for the rest of the journey. He did text me at one point ‘Now on ferry, just set sail’ to which I jokingly replied ‘Well don’t get off anywhere!’ and back came the text ‘Even that would be impossible for me now!’ He eventually arrived home just after 7 o’clock on the Sunday morning, the coach having dropped him off at the local Asda store ten minutes walk away – and I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to see him.
I finally went to Anglesey two days later than planned, leaving Michael home alone, and he went to his rearranged hospital appointment on the Friday that week. This time his foot was put in a plaster cast which goes halfway to his knee – and on his way back home he stopped off in town and booked himself on the ferry back to Ireland that night! He would have been going anyway as it was his birthday a few days later and he’d already booked the time off work as a holiday so he wasn’t wasting it. The following Tuesday I got back from Anglesey to an empty house and Michael finally arrived back the Sunday afterwards, though even that journey hadn’t been without incident.
For some reason the driver of the coach from Roscrea to Dublin had taken a different route round the city and hadn’t stopped at the main bus station where Michael had to pick up the coach for the ferry; when he realised that the coach was heading towards the docks on the way to the airport he had to ask the driver to stop and let him off. He then had a choice – a taxi back to the bus station and risk missing the ferry coach or onwards to the port. He chose the port, and though he had to wait a while he was able to pick up the ferry coach there. He’s been at home since then but I know he’s planning on going back to Ireland after his next hospital check up at the end of this week; if he does then hopefully things will all go according to plan but if they don’t…..then watch this space!