2017 – Looking back

As we come to the end of 2017 I thought I would look back on some of the events in my life over the last year. The first few days of January were very cold and frosty but with clear blue sky and sunshine it was great dog walking weather. My New Year walk was taken along a section of the Bolton to Bury canal which I hadn’t been along for about fifteen years, and it was during this walk that I had the lovely surprise of seeing a beautiful Mandarin duck swimming around in a clear section of water.
It was towards the end of the month that Michael finally called time on a very bad 10-year marriage and came back home; initially I expected him to stay only for a few days like he’d done on many previous occasions but this time he stuck to his guns and he’s been here ever since – and I have to say that although I like living alone it’s been good to have his company.
Early February saw me taking the dogs for a walk along a section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal, a walk which turned out to be much longer in distance and time than I remembered it to be. Needless to say, the dogs and I were glad of a rest when we finally got back home! In the middle of the month my bedroom tv finally died a death after eight years of faithful service and it was replaced by a pink model of the same make but a bit larger, then towards the end of the month Storm Doris arrived and caused a fair bit of havoc, though locally the day afterwards was beautifully calm and sunny and I got some nice photos while out on a dog walk.
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Snowdrops after the storm
Locally March turned out to be quite a rainy month so there wasn’t much opportunity for any decent dog walking, but a couple of dry sunny days in the middle of the month gave me the chance to walk up to the top of Winter Hill which, although only three miles from home, is somewhere I hadn’t been for many years. There’s a lot of local history attached to the place and it was good to find and photograph various points of interest. Mother’s Day at the end of the month brought me an unofficial ‘present’ of two packets of hot dog rolls, two packets of teacakes and a packet of sandwich rolls courtesy of Michael’s daft sense of humour, although he did give me some proper presents as well, and as it turned out to be a nice day we drove out to the coast for a meal and walk along the beach.
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Winter Hill
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One of my ‘official’ Mother’s Day presents
The first Sunday in April saw me having a major clear out in Michael’s room to make way for all his clothes and other possessions which had been dumped in my garden one evening, and during the proceedings I managed to get my large gym-spec treadmill wedged in the bedroom doorway with one of its legs part way up the wall, though I freed it eventually and found a new home for it on the landing. The following weekend turned out to be glorious so I did a two-part walk, going up Winter Hill for the second time in three weeks then driving round to Rivington and walking up to the top of Rivington Pike on the far side of the moor – the path wasn’t the easiest and the climb was steep but it was worth it for the views when I finally got there.
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Rivington Pike tower
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View from the Pike
The Easter holiday was spent camping at the lovely quiet and peaceful little site of Felin Uchaf near Corwen in North Wales, and apart from my first full day which was reasonably sunny the weather was mainly cloudy and grey though it didn’t stop me from getting out and about. On a visit to Bala lake I encountered the most difficult stile I’ve ever had to climb over, at Chirk Castle I came across the prettiest garden view I’ve ever seen, and on the way to a llama trek I got shouted at by the most verbally aggressive and awful woman I’ve ever met – not an experience I would want to reapeat.
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Bala lake
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Gardens at Chirk Castle
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Eddie and Kubera
In May my scheduled camping trip on the first bank holiday was reluctantly cancelled as I felt it was too soon after Easter; that was the weekend we heard scratching noises behind the wardrobe in Michael’s room and thought we had an unwanted rodent living there but it turned out to be the neighbours scraping wallpaper off the wall in the adjacent room next door. Weather-wise it was a bit mixed but the sunny days were lovely and I went on several good local walks with the dogs; it was on one of these walks that Sophie went for an unexpected swim when she fell into a stream. Sticking with the ‘animals’ theme it was while I was at work one morning that I found the tiniest little baby frog behind the kitchen bin; it was scooped up to safety and released in the nearby woodland, hopefully to find some friends and live a nice life.
The bank holiday at the end of the month saw me camping again at Felin Uchaf but after several previous days of glorious hot sunshine and blue skies the weather let me down and became very grey and wet, though on a second visit to Chirk Castle I did manage to get some reasonable shots of the many colourful rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom.
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The creek where Sophie fell in the stream
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A grey damp day at Chirk Castle gardens
June was the month in which I undertook to ‘Walk All Over Cancer’ and raise money for Cancer Research by walking a minimum of 10,000 steps every day for the whole month in memory of Michael’s dad who passed away six months previously. With plenty of sunny days and lots of dog walking I exceeded the target every day and at the end of the month I’d done 336,151 steps and walked a total of 66.5 miles. A hot sunny day in the middle of the month saw me going for a longer-than-expected walk round a local reservoir and a couple of days later Sophie went to the vet’s for an operation to remove a small non-cancerous lump from her front right leg. Less than a week later Michael had an accident and broke his left ankle quite badly, ending up with a late night visit to the local hospital.
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View over Anglezarke reservoir
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Sophie post-op
The first weekend in July was spent camping in glorious weather at Elvaston Castle Steam Rally; it was also the weekend when I gained the first tear in my much-loved tent. Just over a week later, on the first day of my Anglesey holiday, the tent finally died a death when it gained a much larger and probably irreparable tear across the roof, though I’d already got a back-up plan in place so it didn’t really spoil the holiday. Weather-wise the days were mixed but there was more sun and blue sky than anything else so I got some good photos on my travels both on and off the island. This was also the holiday when I got cut off by the tide while looking for and photographing an out-of-the-way beach, though fortunately the situation wasn’t too serious and I was able to wade the short distance back to dry land.
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The fairground at Elvaston Castle
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Nefyn beach
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Sunset over the camp site
August was very much hit-and-miss weather-wise with not many sunny days so I didn’t do any really good long dog walks. With Michael being unable to work because of his broken ankle he was spending a lot of time in Ireland and one day in the middle of the month saw me almost losing my patience and the will to live because of a glitch in Ryanair’s online check-in procedure and the apparent  incapability of one of their customer services staff to sort out the problem. The weather improved for the August bank holiday and Michael and I spent a great weekend camping at Manorafon; on the way there we met up with my blogging friend Eileen and her little dog Annie, then over the course of the weekend we visited Gwrych Castle not far from the camp site, Talacre beach and Barkby beach, and Anglesey.
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Manorafon camp site
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Talacre beach
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Parys Mountain, Anglesey
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Benllech beach, Anglesey
September started with the mother of all disasters when a shelf fell out of a kitchen cupboard while I was cleaning at the boss’s house and several items of crockery got broken; it was a complete accident though and luckily the boss was very understanding about it. My camping holiday in Norfolk was full of mishaps and disasters right from the start and it turned out to be the wettest holiday I’ve ever had there – I only had three really nice days out of the ten and one of those was the day I came home. It was so bad that at one point I was really considering giving up and coming back early, though I did manage to get some nice photos on the days when the sun came out.
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Overlooking California beach
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Potter Heigham on the River Thurne
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East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens
A grey start to October saw me attending the autumn Open Day at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary, then a couple of weeks later Michael and I spent a gloriously sunny afternoon at Southport, a place I hadn’t been to for several years, and where a meal in the lovely old fashioned Westminster Tea rooms made me feel like I’d stepped back into the 1920s. That month also saw me joining Postcrossing and to date I’ve sent 24 postcards and received 24; it’s a great hobby and I’ve had some lovely cards from different people in different parts of the world.
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Some of the Bleakholt residents
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Southport – Marine Lake
A sunny Sunday in early November was a great opportunity for a dog walk along part of the local canal and the last day of the month saw me flying over to Ireland for a memorial mass for Michael’s dad and uncle Jimmy on December 2nd. November was also the month when Michael brought me the wrong bread from Asda, not once but twice!
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Bolton – Bury canal
My five days in Ireland at the beginning of this month were very enjoyable and with some good weather I was able to explore a couple of different places and get some good photos. A couple of weeks ago, after looking to make a complaint at the local hospital, Michael finally got an appointment to see a specialist about his still very damaged ankle. At the moment he’s still a touch off colour with the bug he’s had for the last week but he’s getting better slowly and tonight we are driving up to the moorland road not far from here, where we can see all over the town and for miles beyond so we can watch all the fireworks going off in various places.
So there you have it, a round-up of my year, although to be honest this post has turned out to be a lot longer than it was intended to be – I hope I haven’t bored anyone! All that remains now is for me to thank everyone for visiting this blog over the last twelve months and wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year – I hope 2018 is a good year for everyone.

A pineapple remedy

December 29, 2017
Christmas in the Mouse House unfortunately turned out to be rather a non-event this year as Michael hasn’t been at all well over the last few days. Whatever bug he’s caught started last weekend and by Christmas Day he was so unwell he never got out of bed, so needless to say I didn’t bother doing Christmas dinner for us. It was Wednesday evening before he decided to try having something to eat and then it was only half a can of soup ; yesterday was marginally better and he actually had a whole can.
Of course my son doesn’t do things by halves and along with the bug he’s now got a mouth infection – he stuck his tongue out at me last night and it was so white it looked like he’d been licking a block of lard. Today I Googled it and found out what it is and apparently it can occur when one’s immune system is low, which figures as he didn’t have it before he became ill. It seems there’s no over-the-counter remedy for it so it looked like a visit to the doctor’s was on the cards, but at the end of the week and almost on the New Year there wasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of getting an appointment before at least next Tuesday, however he rang on the off chance and was told to go in at 5.15pm today – we think maybe they’d had a cancellation as under normal circumstances he wouldn’t have got an appointment so soon.
The doctor he saw confirmed my own Googled diagnosis and gave Michael a prescription for some medication to use four times a day; he also suggested that it would help to chew some fresh pineapple – neither of us had heard of that before but on the way home Michael duly called into the local Asda store and arrived back with said fresh pineapple.
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The first fresh pineapple ever to appear in the Mouse House
At the moment it doesn’t look particularly ripe, and maybe by the time it’s ready to eat Michael’s mouth infection will have gone anyway, but as it’s probably the only fresh pineapple we will ever see in this house I thought I’d take a photo of it before we cut into it – and hopefully Michael will soon be back to normal with or without its help.

Merry Christmas everyone

After a really busy five days during which I had an absolute pig of a day on Tuesday, I finally finished work yesterday until Jan. 2nd, and with no private house cleaning to do over the festive period I’m really looking forward to having some much-needed chill out time. The shopping was all done yesterday and with only myself and Michael here I didn’t buy much more than I would for any normal week ; his presents were bought and wrapped before I went to Ireland and I hand delivered the last two remaining Christmas cards last night while taking the dogs for their late night walk, so I have nothing to do now except relax and wish everyone who reads this blog a very Merry Christmas.
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And for those of you who also read my other blog this means that you get two lots of Christmas wishes for the price of one, and that can’t be bad! So thank you everyone for visiting my blog(s) over the last twelve months – enjoy yourselves this festive season and have a lovely time!

A microwave mishap

Over dinner yesterday Michael and I were having a general discussion about Roscrea and his time spent there while he’s been off work with his broken ankle, and the conversation turned to something which happened while he was there a few months ago. It wasn’t funny at the time but it makes me laugh so I thought I’d write about it here – I know he won’t mind if I share it.
It was round about the time of his birthday in mid July, just over three weeks after he’d broken his ankle. Nellie was going away for a couple of days with one of the groups from church and on the morning of the day she went she prepared an evening meal for Michael and left it plated up in the microwave ready to heat up when he wanted it. Come the evening and he duly warmed up the meal but it was when he wanted to take it out of the microwave that disaster struck.
The microwave door was one which you just pull open and Michael, unable to put much weight on his bad foot and therefore leaning on crutches, overbalanced slightly and stumbled backwards while opening the door. Fortunately he didn’t fall but unfortunately the microwave did, straight off the worktop, and having detached itself from its own door it landed on the floor leaving the door in Michael’s hand. Needless to say, the dinner which had been inside was a complete write-off ; the plate was smashed, there was mashed potato, carrots and gravy plastered up the front of the fridge, bits of chicken on the floor – and a rather stunned Michael wondering what the hell just happened.
Once he’d got his brain back into gear, and with the help of Trixie, who ate up most of what was on the floor, Michael managed to do a reasonable clean up job and make himself something else to eat, then he went to bed to ponder on the problem of the broken microwave. The following morning, with the help of Paul who lives across the road, he got it sorted ; he hopped up the road to the electrical shop in town, bought a new microwave and asked them to deliver it as he was unable to carry it himself, then with the new one in place Paul took the old one away, though Michael didn’t ask what he did with it.
Nellie arrived home the following day while Michael was out and when he got back he fully expected her to mention the microwave but she didn’t, even though it was obvious that the one she had come home to wasn’t the one she had left. Now we don’t know whether Paul ever said anything to her when Michael wasn’t around (I’m sure he must have done) but to this day she’s never mentioned it – obviously if she ever does then Michael will tell her exactly what happened but until then I think he’d rather keep quiet about it, even if it was  an accident. It does make a funny story though!

Yet another broken ankle update

Following a CT scan and an MRI scan on Michael’s ankle almost a month ago he’s heard nothing from the hospital since. On Wednesday he had a physio appointment with the first physiotherapist he saw, and again the guy was puzzled as to why he was there as he’s had no treatment on his ankle so far. The results of the scans etc are showing that he has a ‘floating bone’ in that one side of the ankle has healed but the other hasn’t and, in the words of the physiotherapist, “needs to be pinned”. It seems that the only reason he can walk about on it without support is that the ‘good’ side is compensating for the bad side, but it’s obvious things aren’t right as not only is he still in a certain degree of pain but the whole ankle is completely out of shape and looks a bit like a dog’s back leg.
Yesterday, while cleaning at the boss’s house, I was talking to his partner who is a doctor – actually a consultant paediatric cardiologist – and I said I was seriously thinking about taking legal advice regarding the situation of Michael’s ankle and what we consider to be the lack of proper treatment, and she told me the first steps to take in making a complaint direct to the hospital before going down any legal route. First he needed to get a leaflet and a form from the hospital reception so as soon as I’d finished my work I collected him from home and took him up there.
I waited in the van while he went to get the form but he was quite a while and when he came back – minus the form – he said that as soon as he’d told the receptionist that he wanted the form to make a complaint another woman took him into a side office, took his name and got all his details up on her pc. It seemed that for some reason the scan results weren’t showing on his file so she said to leave it with her and she would try to find out what was happening – and less than two hours later – surprise, surprise! – Michael got a phone call with an appointment to see the specialist on January 3rd! Seems to me like they don’t want the hassle of an official complaint!
In just over a week’s time it will be six months since Michael first broke his ankle and he’s still no further forward. He’s still off work too so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that this next appointment will finally see some proper action being taken to sort it out once and for all – and if it doesn’t then I will  be taking things further. And I may not turn green like the Incredible Hulk but they won’t like me when I’m angry!

A long walk before home time

Just like the previous day the morning started off rather dull but it did brighten up as time went on. With only a small cabin bag and a backpack it didn’t take long to pack my things for coming home then I took a walk up to town as there was one thing I wanted to do – get something suitable to leave at the grave. Sometime during the summer Michael had added half a dozen solar lights and only a few days previously had put two vases of fresh tulips there ; Nellie had added a remembrance plaque for Jimmy, the lantern which I’d left there last year was still lit, and with the remembrance plaques Michael and I had put there last year and another couple of flower arrangements, albeit artificial, the plot looked quite pretty, but I still felt like I should add something. Eventually I settled on a bunch of  red and white flowers and and a small plaque and made my way up to the cemetery.
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Back at the house, and with some time to spare, I decided to go in search of something I’d only found out about since my stay there last year – a stream with man-made waterfalls running through the grounds of Mount St. Joseph Abbey, which I hadn’t seen when I walked round there last November. Having previously promised Trixie that I would take her for a walk sometime I clipped the lead on her, grabbed the camera and off we went ; it was 11.15am and my coach wasn’t until 3pm so I would have plenty of time to walk two miles to the abbey, find and photograph the stream and walk the two miles back again.
All the time I was walking the weather was brightening up until eventually the sun came out and blue sky appeared, and my brisk pace made me so warm that I ended up taking my jacket off and tying it round my waist. I reached the monastery in forty minutes and following Michael’s directions went past the parking area and round into the woods where I found the stream quite easily, and realised that if I’d walked just a little bit further into the woods last year I would have found it then. Being surrounded by trees it was a bit gloomy but I got a handful of photos and made a mental note to revisit, if possible in spring or summer next time.
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The abbey grounds
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It was 1.15pm when I got back to the house so I’d only been out a couple of hours, and I hadn’t been in long when Nellie put a dinner on the table for me – she said she didn’t want me travelling home without having had a decent meal even though I told her I could get something at the airport. Michael was out but he came back in time to come up to the bus stop with me – he wasn’t coming home with me but staying on for another week. Nellie said she would come too as she needed to post a letter, so after saying goodbye to Trixie who was curled up on her cushion we all walked up to town together.
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Recovering from her long walk
Now while I may have had no problems at all on my journey from home to Roscrea the same couldn’t be said of the reverse. The coach to the airport arrived bang on time at 3pm and it was a very pleasant ride up to Dublin although with traffic building up through the city centre the coach was twenty minutes late at the airport, but that didn’t matter as my flight wasn’t until 7pm so I had plenty of time. The delay was actually with the plane itself ; wherever it had come from it was late, and though the departure gate closed at 6.30 there was no sign of any staff or any indication of when boarding would start.
Eventually, just before 7pm, the staff arrived and after a load of faffing about started the boarding process ; I was third in the queue but it didn’t make any difference as everyone had to queue up again and wait for the door onto the tarmac to be opened. Then when we got to the plane we had to queue up again  before they would allow us on as they were still trying to clean and tidy up. Finally we were allowed on, and it was obvious they’d only done a quick job as there were crumbs on the three seats and the floor where I was, and probably in many other places as well. Eventually the plane took off forty minutes late and finally landed in Manchester at 8.15pm, but even then my problems weren’t over – and this is where it gets ever-so-slightly stupid.
On my three trips to Ireland last year, on all outbound and return flights and the flight to Dublin a few days previously, passengers have always walked the very short distance from the plane to the airport building but not this time. When everyone got off the plane we all had to queue to get onto a couple of shuttle buses ; I thought maybe the plane had pulled up quite a distance from the entrance we had to use so that’s why we had to go on the buses but in actual fact the plane was right where it should be and the buses just turned in a big circle and pulled up right outside the building! Of course the second bus, which I was on, had to wait until everyone had got off the first one and it had driven off before it could pull up to the entrance – yet another few minutes delay and there were grumbles coming from several passengers. Honestly, it would have been quicker to walk across the tarmac as on previous occasions! I really couldn’t understand the reason for all that at all, and I’ve actually done a very  rough drawing to illustrate it – as you can see, I’m no great artist!
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This just didn’t make any sense at all
By the time I’d got through the airport and done the ten minute walk to the station Sod’s Law decreed that I would just miss a train and I had twenty minutes to wait for the next one. Fortunately it only made three brief stops going through Manchester so I was back in my home town a bit sooner than I expected. With a taxi from my local station I finally arrived home almost eight hours after I left Roscrea; needless to say the dogs were pleased to see me so I took them for a quick walk then made a coffee and retreated to my bed – any unpacking could wait until the morning. I’d had such a tiring and frustrating few hours I just wanted some chill-out time and a good night’s sleep – and with the whole bed to myself I was sure to get it!

A visit to Nenagh

Sunday morning December 3rd was very much a chill-out morning after the previous rather uncomfortable night. Nellie had gone to morning mass so I made myself some coffee and toast and took it back to bed to relax with my book for a while, only getting up when she came back in. Even though I said I’d already had breakfast she insisted on making me another one and did me some more of her divine scrambled eggs – I don’t know how she does them but they really are delicious.
Although the day had started off dull it brightened up by late morning so I decided to take myself off to Nenagh, a half-hour coach ride away from Roscrea ; Nellie had told me that although the town centre wasn’t a big place there was a nice church and a castle there so it would be worth going to take a look. As the coach got further west the day brightened up even more until I arrived at Nenagh in bright sunshine with blue sky – that would do for me.
Nellie had told me that if I turned right when I got off the coach I would find most things of interest close by so that’s what I did. The first thing I came to was the Courthouse, designed and built in 1843, and in the very pleasant grounds were the bronze sculptures of three Olympic gold medallists with links to Nenagh. Next was the gatehouse to the old prison which now has only one cell block left intact and with its unique octagonal governor’s residence is classed as a historic monument.
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Nenagh Courthouse
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L-R Matt McGrath (weight thrower) Johnny Hayes (athlete) Bob Tisdall (athlete)
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Old prison gatehouse
Further along the road I came to St. Mary’s of the Rosary Catholic Church, a neo-gothic church built in 1895 – and this must be the most spectacularly ornate church I’ve ever been in so far. The whole place was truly beautiful and it was hard to know what to look at first – if I’d been using 35mm film I would have used up more than one roll. As it was, with limited time if I didn’t want to fall foul of the odd bus times back to Roscrea, I stuck to just over a dozen photos but that’s one place I will definitely return to at a later date to get some more shots.
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St. Mary’s of the Rosary Church
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Out in the grounds, and adjacent to this church, was the smaller St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, built in 1862 and seemingly a much simpler building than its more ornate next door neighbour. Any intention of looking inside though was forgotten about when I saw that the castle keep was right next door, separated from the church grounds by a tall wrought iron fence and gate. Unfortunately the gate was locked so I took a shot of the keep through the bars then went off in search of another way in.
I was destined to be disappointed however, as when I did find the official entrance that gate was locked too and a notice informed me that the castle isn’t open on Sundays, so I had to be content with a couple of shots from a nearby car park down a narrow side street. Also down the side street was the back yard wall of a pub which fronted onto the main street, and set into the wall was a very colourful mosaic picture – pubs and alcohol don’t interest me but the picture was worth a photo.
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St. Mary’s Church of Ireland
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Nenagh castle
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Mosaic picture set in a wall
From there I made my way round to the main street to have a look at the shops. The town centre was a bit bigger than Roscrea but it didn’t take long to look round ; I only went into two shops though I didn’t buy anything from either of them, and just two hours after arriving in Nenagh I was back on the coach to Roscrea. I hadn’t been in the house long when Nellie said dinner was ready ; it was a lovely meal and I couldn’t have eaten another thing afterwards. As soon as it had gone properly dark I nipped out to take a shot of the Christmas display in the garden of a house a few doors away then I settled indoors for the rest of the evening.
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There’s more but it wouldn’t all fit in the shot!
Nellie told me that the people who live there add one extra thing every year – it certainly looks pretty and it brightens the street but I wouldn’t like to get their electricity bill afterwards!



A grey day in Roscrea

December 2nd, the morning of the memorial mass for Michael’s dad and uncle Jimmy, arrived cloudy and grey and with a touch of rain in the air. The service was at 10am so Nellie said she would just do coffee and toast for breakfast then do a fry-up when we got back from church, which sounded like a good plan. The service itself wasn’t exactly what I was expecting – well, to be honest, not being particularly knowledgeable about the Catholic faith I hadn’t really known what  to expect, and neither had Michael, but even so it was a nice way of remembering his dad and Jimmy. Afterwards Michael and I went up to the grave and spent a few minutes there then we went back to the house for the fry-up Nellie had promised us, and it didn’t disappoint either.
The rain in the air hadn’t materialised into anything major but it was still too dull to go anywhere proper so after lunch I took the camera and went for a wander round town and to find Roscrea’s own Round Tower which was situated near the Tesco supermarket. Dating from the early 12th century the tower was originally 80ft tall but the top floor was demolished in 1798 after an insurgent sniper used it’s prime position to fire at sentries in the nearby barracks ; it now stands at just 60ft tall and with its flat top it looks nowhere near as impressive as the one at Kildare.
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Roscrea Round Tower and museum
While I was round that way I went for a mooch round Tesco and the nearby Dunne’s store then from there I went back to St. Cronan’s church to photograph some of the stained glass windows which I didn’t get shots of last year. Unfortunately though a funeral was taking place so I couldn’t go in ; instead I just wandered round and took a couple of shots of the nearby river before making my way back to the house.
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Bunnow river and Glebe Park
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The river running through the church grounds
With Michael off out with some friends my evening was spent reading my book, watching a bit of tv and playing with Trixie, but when the time came to go to bed I encountered a bit of a problem. Nellie had gone up quite a while before me and was well into the land of nod but instead of being on her own side of the bed she had moved into the middle and had her head almost on my pillow, meaning there wasn’t much room for me. I didn’t want to disturb her though so I got in gingerly and spent a very uncomfortable and sleep-deprived night right on the edge of the mattress. This bed sharing lark was all very well but I certainly wouldn’t want to do it too often!

A visit to Kildare and Portlaoise

The first day of December arrived cold but with lots of blue sky and sunshine so not wanting to waste such a glorious day I decided to take myself off to Kildare for a bit of exploration. On my first trip to Ireland last October the coach from the airport had turned off the main route and gone to Kildare Village, which isn’t an actual village but a very attractive shopping centre just outside Kildare town, and it looked so nice that I’d put it on my list of places to visit when I had the opportunity. Allowing for three stops en route it was an hour by coach from Roscrea so it was doable, though the stupidly infrequent coach times meant that (a) I may not have very long there or (b) I would be there longer than I wanted to be before making the return journey.
After a late-ish breakfast of the most divine scrambled eggs on toast done by Nellie I got the 10.30 Kavanagh’s coach from the stop round the corner from the house and arrived at Kildare Village an hour later – and for anyone who likes designer and expensive stuff it’s definitely the place to go to as every single shop was a big name. Calvin Klein, DKNY, Karen Millen, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Ted Baker, Versace, Cath Kidston, Kurt Geiger, Heidi Klum, Nike, Lulu Guinness, Armani, Swarovski….. those were just some of the names among the 90-plus shops, and even though most of them were advertising ‘discounts’ their stuff was still expensive. I don’t ‘do’ designer anything though so the only shop I went in was the Lily O’Brien’s chocolate shop – I may have given up eating cake several months ago but I do like a bit of chocolate occasionally so I treated myself to a bar of Salted Caramel and one of Malted Chocolate Crunch then spent most of my time taking photos.
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Kildare Village
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One of several reindeer in set displays around the village
One of the side ‘streets’ of the village led to a children’s play area and a boardwalk running between two pleasant grassy areas to a main road a couple of hundred yards away, and about halfway along was what seemed to be an old ruined church. With a couple of shots taken from the boardwalk I went along to the road to see if I could find a way in and discovered an information plaque set in the boundary wall – this place was the Grey Abbey, named from the colour of the habits the resident monks wore.
The ruins occupied one corner of an obviously still used graveyard but with the entrance gate locked my only means of access was via a primitive stone ‘stile’ which went up and over the wall; a wire fence separated the ruins from the graveyard and a large notice said ‘Danger – Keep Out’ but part of the fence had collapsed to ground level and it was obvious that others had gone before me so in I went. The ground was very overgrown and there was nothing in there other than a couple of simple but very rusty metal crosses standing side by side and looking very unloved, so with just a couple of shots taken I made my way back through the graveyard to the main road.
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Grey Abbey ruins from the boardwalk
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Inside the ruins
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Following my nose a few minutes walking took me to Kildare town centre – what there was of it, which wasn’t much – and a walk along Market Square got me to St. Brigid’s Cathedral and Kildare Round Tower which was set in the cathedral grounds. At 108ft high it’s Ireland’s tallest accessible Round Tower, with seven levels of floors and ladders (installed in 1874) to reach the top; I would have loved to do the climb but unfortunately both the tower and the cathedral were closed for the winter so I had to be content with taking a few photos from the grounds, though I’ve put them both on my ‘places to visit’ list for another time.
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St. Brigid’s Cathedral
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Kildare Round Tower
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With nothing much else to see or photograph I returned to the Village for another quick look round the shops then went to get the 1.50pm bus back to Roscrea, though as I still had a big part of the afternoon left I decided to stop off en route at Portlaoise (pronounced Port-leesh) and have a look round there. Michael had previously told me in conversation that there wasn’t much there but although the town centre wasn’t a large place it was actually bigger than I expected. There was a nice modern indoor shopping centre there too, with many of the shops we see here in the UK, though I didn’t find anywhere or anything worth taking a photo of so my visit only lasted just over an hour before I got the 3.40pm Bus Eireann coach back to Roscrea, arriving back at the house at 4.15.
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Sunset through the coach window
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Wind turbines at sunset, viewed from the moving coach
As soon as I walked in Nellie had a mug of coffee on the table for me then not long afterwards she produced a large plateful of stew with potatoes and veg – and very good it was too. Michael spent most of the evening in his room reading a book he’d recently bought and Nellie and I watched the soaps and a couple of other programmes, punctuated by playing tug-of-war with Trixie and an old cushion cover, until it was time for bed. Still not entirely comfortable with the bed sharing thing I let Nellie go up first and waited until I knew she would be asleep before I went up, then after reading a couple of chapters of my book I finally settled down for the night.

Off to Ireland

A chilly but sunny morning on Thursday Nov. 30th saw me travelling over to Ireland for the forthcoming memorial mass for Michael’s dad and uncle Jimmy, and for once everything went according to plan. I’d arranged to have a couple of minor jobs done on the van while I was away so I left home at 8.30am, dropped the van off at my friendly mechanic’s workshop then phoned for a taxi to take me to the station. I was aiming to get the 9.35 train to the airport but when I got down onto the station platform I found there was an earlier train just about to leave so I got that instead and arrived at the airport well ahead of schedule.
Having had no breakfast – not even so much as a mug of coffee – I got myself and my bags through the security check straight away then went to find something to eat and drink and a comfy seat where I could relax while keeping an eye on a nearby information board for my flight details. As soon as the gate number appeared on the board I made my way there – fortunately I didn’t have far to go – and with no delays in boarding the flight took off on time at noon.
Up in the air, and with clear blue sky and sunshine, I could see for miles, and as we passed over Manchester city centre I recognised Old Trafford football ground and cricket ground, and The Quays at Salford, home to The Lowry theatre and gallery complex. A couple of minutes more and I saw the wind turbines on Scout Moor just above Bleakholt animal sanctuary, then the Winter Hill tv mast came into view and I could just make out the steeple of the church in Belmont village just up the road from home – and of all the flights I’ve made over the last twenty two years this was the first time I’ve ever been able to recognise anywhere in the UK from up in the air.
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Above Manchester city
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Winter Hill and the tv mast just left of centre
The good weather lasted all the way across to Ireland and I arrived at Dublin in more glorious sunshine ; the coach to Roscrea wasn’t until 2pm so I had plenty of time to get myself another coffee before the last leg of my journey. Michael met me at the bus stop in Roscrea just after 4pm and within minutes of arriving at the house Nellie was putting a hot meal and a mug of coffee in front of me – and only having had a sandwich at Manchester plus the coffee at Dublin airport I was more than ready for a good meal.
The conversation that evening turned to Michael’s recent achievement in one of the local pubs, something which he’d told me about the last time he was home. He’d gone there with some mates and somehow had been coerced into taking part in a friendly darts competition even though he swore he couldn’t throw a dart to save his life – and somehow, after literally giving it his best shot, he ended up as runner-up and got a trophy for his efforts, a trophy which now sits proudly on the unit in Nellie’s living room.
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A couple of weeks ago, here at home, Michael and I had been discussing the sleeping arrangements for my few days stay at the family home, and bearing in mind that last year I’d experienced the strange situation of sharing the bed with Nellie I’d said that I’d be quite happy sleeping downstairs on the settee – at least that way I could watch tv until late if I wanted to and I wouldn’t be disturbing anyone when I finally decided to turn in for the night. However, when Michael recently put that suggestion to Nellie she wouldn’t hear of me staying downstairs, so when my long day finally started to catch up with me I crept upstairs for my first night of bed sharing, hoping that I would at least be able to get some sleep in spite of the odd arrangements.