An Irish holiday

Well I got back home on Tuesday after my short holiday in Ireland, a holiday which was badly needed to recharge my mental and physical batteries and to use up some of the time I had off work. It was a holiday of contrasts – dull days, sunny days, cities, countryside, rivers, a gorgeous lake, castles, churches, museums, a 108ft high tower, ponies and horses, bus drivers both fast and slow and those with only half a brain, things I knew about and those which I found unexpectedly, Irish times and distance as opposed to English times and distance, and lots of street art. Oh, and I also got ‘thrown out’ of a quarry for ‘trespassing’!
From taking off at Manchester airport on Wednesday last week to landing back there on Tuesday this week I took a total of 951 photos. Yes, you read that correctly, 951 – so I’m now in the slow process of sorting out, editing and resizing the ones to put on this blog, and day-by-day accounts of the holiday will follow in due course.
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I’m not sure if I’m glad to be home or not. In a way yes, as relying on public transport to get to anywhere over there limited my options of places to go to, but the weather here is currently sunny with blue sky so it’s making me want to be back in Roscrea. There’s nothing like being contrary is there?
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The joy of texting

Those with elephant-like memories may remember my post from last October when I mistakenly sent a text to Michael instead of someone at work and he had replied with a silly text of his own. Well I managed to do it again a couple of months ago, though this time the intended recipient was my friend Lin.
It was when Michael had gone to London for a concert and she’d asked me to let her know how he went on ; he rang me on the journey back to say he was at Manchester Piccadilly station waiting for the next train home so I sent Lin this text to let her know – “I’ve just spoken to Michael, he’s at Piccadilly station on his way back”. Back came the reply “I know, I am  Michael!” I don’t know how I managed it but I’d sent the text back to him instead of to Lin!
So this got me thinking about all the daft messages. either intentional or unintentional, that we’ve sent each other over the last few years – actually more sent by him than me – and I’ve thought some of them were so amusing (eventually) that, sad person that I am, I’ve actually made a note of them, so I thought I’d share a few of them on here as follows –
“She took one of everything we make, she also visited the Heinz factory so I guess she had beans on toast for tea”  This was when the Queen visited Warburton’s a few years ago and I’d sent Michael a text asking if she was given any complementary bread ; somehow I can’t see the Queen tucking into beans on toast but you never know….
“Just flooded the kitchen, cats are paddling”  This was before I dragged myself into the 21st century and still had a twin tub washing machine ; Michael was looking after the cats while I was away on holiday and he decided to do some washing one day. While filling the washing machine with a pipe connected to the tap he’d momentarily wandered off to do something else, forgot about the machine and returned to find it had overflowed and the kitchen floor was awash with water. I don’t think the cats actually were  paddling but the mental image was amusing.
“That one just blew me across the kitchen, I’m not going near it again!”  Another washing machine incident, this time at my mum’s old house when the washing machine there developed an electrical fault. He’d already had one minor shock off it and got another one a few minutes later ; the washing machine went to the local tip not long afterwards.
“Help!! Nellie’s keeping me prisoner, she’s locked me in and I can’t get out!”  While over in Ireland a couple of years ago he was in his room at the family home when Nellie went out somewhere and locked the front door, not realising he was in. He could have got out if he’d really needed to though, and Nellie did arrive back before too long.
“I’m at accident and emergency, I’m okay”  Err, no Michael, if you’re at A & E you are not  okay. That was the night a couple of years ago when he broke his ankle.
“I get put to sleep in 20 minutes”  That sounded like he was about to be euthanised at the vet’s but he was actually in hospital just about to undergo an operation to put right the broken ankle.
“Iffits”  A one-word text from me replying to one from Michael asking what I was doing for tea, as in “If it’s in the freezer I’ll cook it” meaning it could be anything. We ended up going out for tea.
“Mash it to mush”  My instructions for feeding a cat with a delicate stomach while I was away. Although it could eat normal cat food anything with chunks in it had to be mashed into a smooth mush-like consistency.
“Mum, you have got to come home, I just got a full cooked chicken in Asda for 3 quid and your bread is 10p a loaf!”  The silliest text to date, sent while I was camping in Cumbria earlier this year. He does love to get a bargain when it’s near to the store closing time but I certainly wasn’t going to come back home because of it.
So there you have it, just a small example of some of the texting madness from the Mouse House. I sometimes wonder if other people send each other texts as daft as these – or maybe it’s just us….

A mixed up, muddled up weekend

Last weekend it was my birthday – Sunday to be exact – and as Michael was originally to be off work that day we had planned on having a day out somewhere and maybe stopping off at a car boot sale, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like that. When he got his shift rota for the week he was down to work that day and because of some stupid football match on Saturday no-one would swap shifts with him as they all wanted to go to the pub, watch it on tv and no doubt drink enough beer to render themselves unfit for work the following day. After working a 12-hour night shift on Friday Saturday was supposed to be his sleeping day but he said if I woke him at lunch time we could go out then instead of Sunday and he would catch up on his sleep later on.
So that’s what we did and we had a drive out to St. Annes as I wanted to go back to Ashton Gardens to take some more photos now the trees are in full leaf, except the weather was so dismally dull and grey that the photos I did take aren’t worth bothering with – most of them will be deleted and certainly none of them will make it into a blog post. After a meal in our usual café we just came straight back home, but because our trip out was something we would normally do on a Sunday I had the confusing feeling that it was  Sunday, although to be honest I felt like I’d only gone out for the sake of going out.
On Sunday itself, to make up for missing a proper day out with Michael, I planned on taking myself and the dogs out somewhere, however the weather wasn’t the best so with a cash gift from Michael I decided to go in search of a new folding camp bed, something I’ve been wanting to get for quite a while. The Blackburn branch of Go Outdoors is an easy drive away and not far from there is Witton Country Park so I could kill two birds with one stone – a look round Go Outdoors first then a dog walk round the country park afterwards.
I found the camp bed I wanted in the store but the one on display was the only one they had and there was a slight fault with the mechanism so they wouldn’t sell it to me, however the very helpful assistant phoned the Preston store to see if they had any – they had, so they put one aside for me to collect later on. Unfortunately when I came out of the Blackburn store it was raining hard – a walk round the country park was out of the question so I just drove straight over to the Preston store and picked up the camp bed from there. With the on/off rain and no umbrella there was no point going anywhere else so I just came straight back home and the dogs never got their walk after all.
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The camp bed – it’s a single but extra-wide as I like a lot of space (photo from the internet)
Michael arrived home from work at 5.30pm that day and we went to our usual eaterie, the Black Dog at Belmont, for a proper birthday meal. I don’t usually have a dessert but this time I did – salted caramel and vanilla ice creams with fresh cream, chocolate sauce and crushed Maltesers ; it was divine. Back at home I spent the rest of the evening reading a book which I’d recently got as a birthday present to myself. It had been an odd sort of day – well an odd sort of weekend really – but that was then, and I’m now looking forward to a nice long camping holiday coming up in a couple of weeks time.

 

 

Well done Michael!

Just over a week ago Michael got a letter from Warburtons congratulating him on his ten years service with the company For that ten years he now gets £100 to spend on Extra Dough (the money variety, not the sort you make bread out of!)  and he can choose whether to have it added to his wage, spend it on the website or take the equivalent in vouchers. The letter was followed earlier this week by a card personally signed by Brett Warburton, executive director and co-owner of the company.
Now just to avoid any possible confusion, Michael is actually his middle name and he’s always been called that by me, family and close friends, but for some reason at work everyone calls him by his first name, Sean, and that’s who the letter and card were addressed to.
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The Warburtons bakery isn’t far from home and I remember if we ever passed nearby when Michael was quite young he always said that the aroma of baking bread smelt more like toast, so it was always a joke between us through the years that Warburton’s were making toast again. Right from being so young he always said he wanted to work there and when he left school at 16 it was the first place he applied at for a job but unfortunately he didn’t get taken on at the time.
Fast forward through several years and other jobs and he eventually went to work at Warburtons through an agency ; he was with the agency for just over four years before being taken on as an official Warburtons employee and since then has worked his way up to a job which carries a fair amount of responsibility. His shifts are long – usually 12 hours – but the work is varied, he enjoys what he does and he gets a decent amount of days off and holidays. Neither of us knew, all those years ago when he was very young, that he would eventually achieve his goal and work for the largest bakery brand in the UK – as his mum I’m proud of him. And yes, it does still smell like they are making toast!

From Roscrea to home

My final morning in Roscrea saw me getting the 9am coach to the airport ; my flight wasn’t until 1.50pm but I would have been cutting it a bit fine if I got the next coach at 11am, especially if it was late, so I was better being on the safe side. Michael wasn’t coming home until two days later but he came up to the bus stop with me to see me off and for once the coach was bang on time. With a slight delay going through Dublin city centre I arrived at the airport at 11.20 with a good couple of hours to kill, and once I was through the security check (with no problems) I spent some time looking round the shops before getting a sandwich and a drink and whiling away some more time in a quiet corner.
As I’d been walking through the airport building I’d noticed a run of large back-lit pictures on the walls, advertising Skoda cars – the pictures were based on several Irish myths and legends and though each one prominently featured a car I thought they were lovely enough to take a photo of. Luckily that section of the airport wasn’t too busy just then so I got my shots without anyone getting in the way.
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St. Patrick
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The Children of Lir
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Cu Chulainn
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The Salmon of Knowledge
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Tir Na Nog
Although the plane from Manchester a few days previously had been packed the one going back wasn’t ; I’d pre-booked the same window seat but with no-one sitting in the two seats next to me I could have spread myself out if I’d wanted to. There was no-one in the two rows of seats behind me or across the aisle and only one person in front of me – that’s the first time I’ve known a flight to or from Manchester not to be full.
As we got over to the English side of the water I tried to make out where we were but though the day was cloudy and I didn’t recognise anywhere I still took a few photos. It’s only since I’ve been back home and done a lot of studying of the map book and Google Maps that I’ve realised exactly where we were – passing a part of North Wales which I’m very familiar with.
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Turning towards the Dublin coast
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Right : Anglesey and the Menai Straits – centre : cloud over the Snowdonia mountains – centre foreground : Conwy estuary, Great Orme – moving left : Llandudno, Rhos-on-Sea, Colwyn Bay
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Right : Barkby beach – centre : Talacre beach
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The Dee estuary – right : Talacre beach – left : Mostyn Dock
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The River Mersey – right : Birkenhead – left : Liverpool
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Approaching Manchester airport
It was 2.40pm when the plane landed at Manchester and by the time I’d got through the airport and walked all the way to the station I’d just missed a train and had to wait half an hour for the next one. Although it wasn’t ideal it was only a minor irritation and I could live with it, but what I didn’t know then was how many things would go wrong in less than 24 hours. But regardless of any disasters to come I’d still had a really nice time in Ireland – and my day in Dublin had inspired me to want to go back to see more in the not-too-distant future.

From home to Roscrea

A grey and very windy morning on Thursday November 29th saw me leaving home at 8.30am for a mini break in Ireland during which I would attend the second anniversary mass for Michael’s dad and uncle Jimmy ; Michael was also travelling over that day but while I was going on the mid-day flight his wasn’t until 3.15pm. Leaving the van with Sparky the mechanic so he could do a minor job on it while I was away I got a taxi to the station and was just in time to get the 9.20 train to the airport ; I had loads of time to kill once I got there but I’d rather be early than on the last minute.
With only a very small case on wheels and a small backpack I had no luggage to check in so I just went straight to the security check area, and that’s when I had a very odd experience. I made sure I’d put my phone, all my money and anything else in my backpack so I had nothing on my person at all ; the backpack, case and my jacket all went through the scanner with no problem but as I walked through the body scanner a young woman pulled me to one side, asked me to sit on a chair and take my trainers off. These were then sent through another scanner, which was fine, but then she asked me to hold my right leg out and she patted it down from my knee downwards – how very bizarre! As far as I know my right leg is exactly the same as my left so why she would want to check one and not the other seemed very strange to me – I don’t know what she thought she would find but I was given the all-clear and was then free to collect all my belongings and make my way to the boarding gate.
By the time the plane had arrived at the gate it was absolutely pouring down, and with the high wind as well I fully expected to hear a ‘delayed’ or ‘cancelled’ message but everything went ahead as normal and take-off was just a few minutes after mid-day. Above the rain clouds it was gloriously sunny and looking out at the cotton wool clouds beneath the plane it was hard to believe that somewhere underneath all that lot it was probably still pouring down. It wasn’t quite as sunny on the approach to Dublin airport and it was still very windy so I expected a bit of a bumpy landing, but whoever the pilot was he was certainly good at his job as the landing was so smooth it was hard to know when the plane actually touched the tarmac.
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Waiting for take-off
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Somewhere out of Manchester
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A big contrast to down on the ground
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Approaching Dublin – Lambay Island
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Rogerstown estuary
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Malahide
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Close to landing
With no luggage to wait for I was soon out of the main part of the airport ; I had an hour to wait for the coach to Roscrea so I got myself a sandwich, a drink and a magazine and spent some time in a reasonably quiet corner before making my way out to the airport bus station. The route from the airport to the city centre goes through a tunnel nearly three miles long and when the coach emerged at the city end the sun was shining properly ; travelling along the south side of the River Liffey I couldn’t resist getting a shot through the coach window of the Custom House across the other side then I settled down for the rest of the journey to Roscrea.
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The Custom House
It was almost dark by the time I got to Nellie’s ; the door was unlocked so I just walked straight in (which is what everyone else does) and this time I felt more comfortable about doing so. Trixie got all excited to see me and spent several minutes doing zoomies round the room and throwing her tug rope about so I made a big fuss of her while Nellie made a coffee. By that time Michael had landed safely at the airport and was waiting for his 5.15 coach ; it wouldn’t get into Roscrea until 8.15 so once I’d had a meal with Nellie, washed up the pots and put them away I walked round to the bus stop to meet him when he arrived – and that’s when I met with the strangest of coincidences.
There was a young woman waiting for the coach and I’d been standing there for a few minutes when she mentioned that someone across the road was trying to attract my attention – it turned out to be Nellie who was on her way out somewhere and she just wanted to let me know that she had left the door unlocked for me. When I got back to the bus stop the young woman asked me how I knew Nellie and when I said she’s my son’s aunt a look of incredulity spread over her face as she realised who my son is – and it turned out that she was Tina, one of Michael’s friends who he’s mentioned often in conversation with me but who I’ve never met.
It was lovely to meet Tina but we didn’t have time to chat as the coach arrived, and when Michael got off he was just as surprised to see her. With a quick hug she was on the coach and gone and Michael and I walked back to Nellie’s where we spent the rest of the evening watching tv before turning in for a relatively early night. Just as I’d expected I was bed sharing again with Nellie but this time I didn’t feel too bad about it, and anyway by the time I went to bed I felt too tired to care!

 

Sometimes special offers aren’t always the best bet

Back at the beginning of August Ryanair were advertising on tv a big ‘flight sale’ with thousands of seats for only £9.99. That sounded like a good deal so having already planned to go over to Ireland at the end of this month I decided on my dates and got on the Ryanair website to book my flights. The flight from Manchester to Dublin was indeed only £9.99 but there was nothing so cheap on the day I wanted to come back so the return flight cost £31.60.
Now as from January this year Ryanair’s revised baggage policy only allows just one small bag per person on the plane where previously it’s been two, so for the privilege of taking a second bag on board and using an overhead locker you now have to purchase ‘priority boarding’, otherwise the second bag goes in the hold. For the sake of a few days I only take a small backpack and a small wheeled pull-along case so as I don’t want all the faff of checking a bag in before departure then waiting for it to come round on the carousel at the other end I purchased the priority boarding at £6 each way. Then there was the cost of reserving my seats – £3 each way – so the total for both flights came to £59.59 ; I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t get both flights for the advertised £9.99 but compared to other airlines the cost was still cheap enough.
Up to yesterday Michael hasn’t known what his shift pattern for the next few weeks at work would be so I couldn’t book his flights until last night ; with his days off plus a couple of days holiday he’ll be going over on the same day as me but coming back two days after me. As our little sojourn is only four weeks away I expected the flights for him would cost as much as, or even more than, mine, so I was quite surprised last night to find that they were only £9.99 each way, and that’s without  any deals or special offers. Adding on the price of reserved seats the total cost to him is just £25.98 – admittedly he hasn’t added on the cost of priority boarding but he doesn’t need it as he’ll only be taking a backpack, but even if he did have that extra cost the total price would still be over £21 cheaper than my flights.
So on those prices I think maybe for any future trips to Ireland I’ll ignore any of Ryanair’s ‘deals’ or ‘special offers’ and just book a couple of weeks or so in advance. Of course there’s a chance that any future flights on the days and times I want them may not be as low as £9.99 but it’ll be worth a try – and last night’s experience just goes to show that sometimes special offers and deals don’t work out as good as you think they will.