From home to Roscrea…

A journey during which I fell foul of airport security and an obnoxious staff member, and almost lost my phone…
My flight from Manchester to Dublin was at 12 noon with the gate closing at 11.30am and I arrived at the airport at 10.20 ; with no luggage to check in I had over an hour to go through security and get to the gate in plenty of time. Well that was the theory but it didn’t work out like that in practise. When I got to the security area the queues were horrendous, zig-zagging slowly round and round the barrier ropes, but eventually I got to the conveyors and put my jacket and small case in one tray and backpack in another. I walked through the body scanner with no problem and collected my jacket and case from the far side of the conveyor but my backpack was a different matter as it had gone down a different conveyor to be checked over by one of the security staff.
Now I don’t know what they thought they would eventually find but that backpack was sitting, the first in line, for fifteen minutes while the guy pulled off and checked several bags which were behind it ; time was getting on but when I mentioned to the security guy that any further delay would mean I would miss my flight I was told abruptly “Well you should have got here in plenty of time then!” to which I replied “I was  here in plenty of time, my bag has been sitting there for fifteen minutes waiting to be dealt with”. I then got the reply “Well those other people were before you!” I don’t know how he worked that one out as all the other bags he was dealing with were behind mine, however mine was finally brought over to me and I was asked to open it up, whereby he had the cheek to swab it for drugs then took it away to be scanned again. Eventually it came down the right conveyor and I was finally able to grab it and hurry to the gate for my flight ; luckily it hadn’t started boarding so I was able to get my breath back while I waited in the queue.
The flight itself, although it took off late, was uneventful and I left a dull day in Manchester to arrive in an equally dull Dublin, though by the time I’d got off the plane and through the airport to the bus stop the sun was starting to shine through the clouds, making the rest of the afternoon quite pleasant.
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Leaving England behind
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Approaching Dublin – passing Howth
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Portmarnock golf course, North Bull Island top right
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Approaching the airport
If the plane had left Manchester on time I would have been able to get the 1.30 Kavanagh’s coach to Roscrea, instead I got the 2 o’clock Bus Eireann coach although that turned up twenty minutes late. Now whether the driver was making up for lost time or he was late for his dinner I don’t know but he certainly got a move on, however when he had to slow down or stop for any reason he didn’t do it gently and more than once I was jerked forward in my seat. I reached Roscrea in one piece though and as soon as I got off the coach I reached into my pocket for my phone to text Michael – except my phone wasn’t there. I’d used it to check the time while I was on the coach so assumed that it must have come out of my pocket on one of the occasions when the driver slapped his brakes on, in which case it was still on the coach.
Luckily the coach was still at the stop as quite a few people were getting on, so I got back on and asked the lady sitting where I had been to see if she could see it anywhere – and she found it, stuck down the side of the seat. Panic over, I sent Michael a quick text then walked the few minutes down to the family home, to be greeted by Nellie and a very welcome mug of coffee, with Paul from across the road popping in a while later to give me a ‘welcome home’ hug.
Later on, after a good meal cooked by Nellie, I decided to walk up to Tesco to get some batteries for my camera as I’d forgotten to pack my battery charger ;  I’d just left the house when walking towards me was Laura, Michael’s new girlfriend, calling at Nellie’s to meet me for the first time. We recognised each other instantly as we’d spoken a few times via video chat (or whatever it’s called) on Michael’s phone ;  she came back to Nellie’s for a while then came up to Tesco with me, inviting me back to her house afterwards for a coffee and a chat and to meet her two adorable little dogs Mack and Opey.
It was lovely chatting to Laura and getting to know her a little ; Michael had said I would like her and he was right, I did, but all too soon the long day started to catch up with me and it was time to think about bed, so Laura drove me back round to Nellie’s and left with the promise to take me out somewhere over the weekend. And when I went to bed this time there was no sharing with Nellie as on previous occasions ; Michael’s absence meant I could have his room and bed all to myself – it was a perfect end to the day.
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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?

Irish Philosophy and advice

As I’m currently on holiday in Ireland I thought I’d share this great bit of Irish philosophy which I came across the last time I was over here –
There are only two things in life you need to worry about – either you are well or you are sick.
If you are well, then there is nothing to worry about.
If you are sick, then there are two things to worry about – either you will get well or you will die.
If you get well, then there is nothing to worry about.
If you die, then there are two things to worry about – either you will go to Heaven or you will go to Hell.
If you go to Heaven, then there is nothing to worry about.
If you go to Hell, you’ll be so damn busy shaking hands with your friends you won’t have time to worry!
And a quick lesson in how to speak Irish – say it fast – Whale, Oil, Beef, Hooked
This post has been pre-written and scheduled so I’ll reply to any comments when I get back next week, and I’ll leave you with this bit of Irish advice – Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or an idiot from any direction!

Grounded!

Initially I wasn’t going to put this post on here and I thought long and hard before I did but then thought ”what the hell, I’ll put it on anyway”. The last week has been one of the most awful weeks of my life and one I hope no-one reading this ever has to go through. Why? Because last Wednesday night, soon after 10pm, my van was stolen from right outside my house and I actually saw it being driven away but could do nothing to stop it. It had been locked and the key was in my pocket so whoever stole it had obviously broken into it.
I reported it to the police straight away but from their initial response, ie they ‘won’t actively be looking for it’, I’m not very hopeful that I’ll get it back. It’s not only the van that’s been stolen though – it was packed up with all my camping gear ready for my holiday in North Wales in early September, plus I had various personal items in there which were of great sentimental value to me though worthless to anyone else. Some of these were rosettes which my previous little dog Sugar had won at various shows – sadly she died of kidney failure the week before Christmas 2014 so those rosettes were very precious to me and can never be replaced.
Needless to say, my forthcoming holiday plans have been cancelled, as have any plans of going out somewhere over the bank holiday weekend or in the foreseeable future, and getting to work is now proving difficult in some cases as two of the places aren’t on direct bus routes so it means I have a fair amount of walking to do. At the moment I just feel that not only has the van been stolen but half my life has gone too – yes, all my camping gear can be replaced, albeit slowly and at great expense (the van not so easy) but nothing will erase the gut-wrenching, stomach-churning feeling of having everything ripped out from under me and actually seeing it disappearing.
I wish I could feel angry at the low-life(s) who did this but strangely I don’t as other emotions are keeping any anger at bay. I feel I was targeted – out of all the cars parked in the street why mine? – but more than that I feel shocked, sad and upset to the point of frequently bursting into tears, and just so incredibly numb. I’m back at work this week after taking two days off last week but I’m not really working, I’m just going through the motions ; my world has been turned upside down and I feel like I’m just existing, not living.
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My gut feeling is that the van is still somewhere in my local area but just in case it’s gone further afield I would really appreciate anyone in the UK reading this to keep an eye out for it and contact the police if it’s seen – with the eagle on the front and the patterns along each side it’s very distinctive and not easy to miss. My lovely blogging friend Jayne has also posted it on her own blog and asked her readers to share so who knows, the power of the internet might  just bring a result.

A temporary absence – off to Cumbria

Tomorrow morning sees the start of my 10-day holiday in north west Cumbria, camping at the same site I stayed at over Easter. Since late Monday afternoon the weather here has been abysmal with rain for most of every day so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that once I get up there things will change ; while I can’t expect to get the same continuously wonderful weather as I got at Easter I’m still hoping that most of the days will see some sunshine as there are so many places I want to see and explore.
The van has been packed up since Easter but it’s not as simple as just putting in a few last minute items and the dogs and setting off – my wonderful son has seen to that! After his night shift tonight Michael has four days off so he recently decided he would spend those four days over in Ireland ; with a relatively last minute booking his choice of flights was limited to early morning or late evening so to maximise his time there he chose the morning one, flying at 8am. And guess who he asked to take him to the airport?! So on the very morning I’m driving myself up to north west Cumbria I’m going in the opposite direction first!
Michael would normally finish his shift at 6am but he’s managed to wangle a 5.30 finish which will be better ; there shouldn’t be much traffic on the roads so early on a Sunday so unless there’s an absolute major motorway hold up I should be able to get him there in plenty of time. As it happens my pitch at the camp site won’t be available until 1pm so once I’ve dropped him at the airport I can have a good couple of hours chill out back here before I set off for Cumbria – and thinking about it, it seems weird that he will be on the coach to Roscrea before I even leave here, and he’ll be at the family home before I get to the camp site. Time and distance can seem so strange sometimes.
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At the camp site I’m booked on the same pitch I had at Easter so with good weather I should hopefully get more or less the same views as those above. I’ve been looking forward to this holiday for a while so with any luck I should be able to do lots of exploring and I’ll come back with a ridiculous amount of photos, many of which will no doubt end up on this and my other blog – so I’ll ‘see’ you all when I get back.

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.

A walk to Mount St. Joseph Abbey

Although Roscrea is only a small town and is surrounded by countryside there are no really good dog walks anywhere unless you take a long walk out of town or drive to somewhere so the only place I could reasonably go to with Trixie was Mount St. Joseph Abbey, two miles along the country road from the bottom of Nellie’s street. I’ve been there a couple of times before and in spite of the frequent passing traffic it’s a pleasant walk past open fields.
I wasn’t far from the monastery grounds when I experienced the second great coincidence of the holiday. Houses along the road were few and far between and as I got close to the last one a man suddenly appeared through the gate onto the road, startling Trixie and making her bark. He spoke to her in a friendly voice and apologised to me for startling her, we got chatting and I mentioned that Trixie wasn’t actually mine. When I said who she belongs to he told me he knew the family and Michael’s dad and said he knew a young lad from the family also called Michael – and he was really surprised when I told him that’s my son. That was so unbelievable – two miles from town in the middle of nowhere and out of the blue I meet someone who knows Michael!
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Wandering round the monastery grounds I noticed that the church door was open – I would have loved to go in and look round but I didn’t know if it was allowed and there was no-one around who I could ask so I wandered past the guest house and round to the back and discovered a lovely peaceful apple orchard with a couple of benches set alongside the paths. One of the paths led through an archway to a courtyard beyond, it looked a bit like a farm yard and as I didn’t know whether it belonged to the monastery or was private I didn’t go any further.
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The monastery grounds
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The guest house
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Part of the apple orchard
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Back on the main path I made my way round to the stream with the man-made waterfalls, and though it was in shade just like last year the full sunshine did make things a bit brighter. From the stream I made my way through the woods back to the main path then with the last three shots taken I set off on the 2-mile walk back to Nellie’s.
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Some local residents across the stream
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Back at the house, and tired out from her long walk, Trixie curled up on her cushion and didn’t move much until later in the evening – two miles each way is nothing to me but obviously she isn’t used to walking so far all at once. Later on I popped up the road to take some photos of the Christmas lights in the garden of the house a few doors away – they add something new every year and this time it was penguins and lights on the ground – then I settled in to watch tv for the rest of the evening.
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Before I went to bed I packed my case and backpack ready for the morning as I had a reasonably early start and I didn’t want to be on the last minute. It was strange though – compared to here at home Roscrea is such a small quiet town that I wouldn’t want to live there permanently, but over the last few days I’d got so settled that somehow I felt reluctant to come home. Michael’s dad may no longer be around but it’s nice to be part of his home and the Roscrea life for a short while, and I know it won’t be long before I go back there again.