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.
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.
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.