Echoes of Homeward Bound

No doubt many people will be familiar with the Disney film Homeward Bound, in which two dogs and a cat trek across America to find their family; well this story is in my local paper today and though the journey is nothing like crossing America it’s still impressive for a little dog so I thought I’d share it.

Lost dog Patch’s incredible eight-mile expedition to find his mother

PATCH the Jack Russell has an extraordinary ‘tail’ to tell after he went missing and turned up eight miles away at his mum’s front door.
The little five-year-old was out walking in Hall i’th’ Wood on Sunday evening when he got lost in the woodland. His family desperately searched for him to no avail . . . but the next morning he was found sitting on the doorstep of his mum Bess’s home in Westhoughton.
Patch has lived with Lisa and John Hilton and their children Annabel, aged 15, Oscar, aged 12, and Millie, aged nine, since he was a puppy while Bess, aged 12, lives with Lisa’s father, Edward Horrocks, aged 90. The family, who live in Crompton Way, were shocked and delighted to discover he was safe and sound, but are completely amazed by the unusual journey.
Mrs Hilton, aged 47, said: “It has been a traumatic experience, but we are so glad it’s a happy ending to the story. We have always gone to my dad’s house in a car. Sometimes the windows are open and maybe that’s what led him there. I said to the kids, ‘when you are vulnerable who do you want? It’s your mum’.
“That little dog of ours, we can’t believe he made it all that way and what he might have gone through when you think about all the roads and roundabouts he would have had to cross without getting run over. We don’t know how many miles he ran – he’s absolutely exhausted now but he’s our little hero!”
Patch — who is microchipped — was walking in the woods off-lead with Mr Hilton, aged 53, when he disappeared at around 4pm. Panicked, the family gathered around to hunt for him, handing out numbers to passing dog walkers and posting Patch’s picture on Facebook. Meanwhile it’s believed the dog made his way to Crompton Way and started his journey west.
It is not known exactly what route Patch took, but his family believe he could have travelled along part of Moss Bank Way and through Johnson Fold before arriving at Landedmans in Westhoughton some time between midnight and 6am, when a neighbour spotted him sitting obediently outside Mr Horrocks’s front door.
That morning, after a sleepless night of worry, Mrs Hilton received a call from her dad. She said: “He asked if I was sitting down and I thought the worst, then he said ‘You’ll never guess who’s sitting next to me!’
“It went from tears to thinking what a clever dog we have got. He wasn’t hurt, just a little shocked and tired. We are thrilled he’s back home now though and just hope he doesn’t do it again!”
Patch
Patch
Bess
Bess
I know the place names won’t mean anything to anyone else but the Hall i’th’ Wood area isn’t far from where I live and I’m familiar with where little Patch ended up – I know it’s quite a trek from one place to the other so it beats me how on earth he managed to find his way. An in-built homing instinct maybe? A desire to find his mum driving him on? Who knows, but whatever it was it just shows that dogs aren’t as ‘dumb’ as many people think they are.
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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.

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!

 

A permanent ‘lodger’ and a room upside down

Back towards the end of January Michael came back to stay for a few days, but due to certain circumstances the few days turned into several weeks and he’s still here. Then one evening last week, while he was at work and not long after I’d arrived home from my own work, four large boxes and several black bags of his stuff were dumped in my front garden – it looked like his temporary stay here had become permanent. Of course I couldn’t leave everything in the garden so it was all stacked in my living room until he had time to deal with it all.
Now I don’t know about anyone else but when you live mainly alone for eight years in a 3-bedroom house your own stuff tends to breed and accumulate in various places, and the wardrobe in Michael’s room was full my ‘I probably won’t wear it again but it’s too good to throw away and I still like it’ stuff, including all my old dancing gear – leotards, glittery costumes, Latin American dresses, ballroom shoes, ballet shoes, tap shoes, various exotic (and even erotic) outfits from my nightclub dancing days in the 90s, and other accessories I couldn’t house elsewhere, plus access to the wardrobe itself was blocked by my large gym-spec treadmill. So far Michael hadn’t needed or wanted to use the wardrobe but with the arrival of all his stuff it looked like things would have to be re-arranged to make room for everything else.
I started the major sort out last Sunday afternoon, and what an afternoon it turned out to be. Michael’s room isn’t exactly the biggest, it’s an odd shape and there isn’t a lot of floor space, so the sort out wasn’t particularly straightforward. First I had to move a bookcase-sized cabinet to gain enough room to get the treadmill through the door; the cabinet was dragged onto the landing and left outside my own bedroom door, then the treadmill was pulled out. That wasn’t without its problems though; as I pulled the machine through the bedroom doorway I also had to negotiate an awkward corner and at one point it was completely stuck, tilted to one side and with one of its legs part way up the wall. I freed it eventually though and it was put in its new home in a corner of the landing near the bathroom – thank goodness I have a large landing in a square U shape otherwise I don’t know where I would have put it. Next I pulled all my dancing gear out of the wardrobe; there was so much of it that it took ages to sort it all out but finally the wardrobe was empty. With the carpet vacuumed I dragged the cabinet from the landing and put it back in its place in the bedroom then brought the bags of Michael’s stuff from downstairs and dumped them on, and at the side of, his bed for him to sort out later.
Once I’d finished my afternoon’s efforts I sent Michael a text – “The good news is, you can get into your room and the wardrobe is now empty, the bad news is, you can’t get into your bed!” Back came the text – “Not a problem, I can sleep on the floor!” He was actually only joking when he sent that text, but as it turned out that’s exactly what he did. I met him from work at 6pm and we went out for a meal, then when we got back he made a start on sorting out and finding a home for all his stuff, but it wasn’t exactly a simple task. Because everything had obviously been packed very haphazardly he had to open all the bags to find things, and he ended up with so many clothes, shoes and dvds on his bed that it looked like an explosion in an Oxfam shop. He hadn’t a hope in hell of getting everything put away by the time he went to bed so he had a choice – dump it all on the floor and get into his bed (and the following morning risk standing on, and possibly breaking, something that mattered) or leave it all where it was and sleep on the floor. He chose the second option, which seemed to be the easiest, so I found him a very thick king size duvet which he could double over and use as a mattress, a couple of pillows and a warm fleece blanket, and he bedded down in the space between the side of his bed and the chest of drawers.
Believe it or not he slept like that for three nights. After working a full 12-hour shift he’s understandably fairly tired when he gets home so sorting out all his stuff has been a slow process, though it’s finished now and he’s back to sleeping in his bed again. It’s good to have him back home again permanently though, even if I did turn half my life and my house upside down to accommodate him; he may be a bit of a pain sometimes even though he’s an adult, but at the end of the day he’s still my son and I love him to bits.

An unusual present and a nice afternoon

I don’t suppose there are many mums who can say that they got two packets of hot dog rolls, two packets of teacakes and a packet of sandwich rolls as a present on Mother’s Day but that’s just what Michael gave me yesterday morning. Yes, my son definitely has a daft sense of humour! He actually works where these things are made so he often brings stuff home for me and it’s not the first time he’s given me things as ‘presents’ – a couple of years ago I got three packets of crumpets and a toastie loaf for my birthday!
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Fortunately those weren’t the proper present(s). Along with a lovely card he’d actually got me chocolates, a dvd, a book, and a lovely pot of pink chrysanthemums in a pink basket which looks nice on the unit in my pink bedroom, and he also took me out for a meal – well I took us out as he can’t drive but he paid for the fuel to get there. We took the dogs and went to St. Annes on the coast, had a nice walk along the beach followed by a lovely meal in the Beach Terrace Cafe (one of my favourite eateries for many years) then another walk along the beach before returning home.
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The weather was glorious and although there was a cool breeze blowing along the beach the sun was fairly warm so it was a very pleasant afternoon, and all in all I had a really nice day. We don’t really make a fuss about Easter so the next special occasion is my birthday in June – maybe I’ll get lucky and get a packet of bagels or some spiced fruit bread for that one!