A new addition at the farm

As there’s no Monday Walk this week I thought I’d post something which definitely has the ‘awww’ factor. On November 21st Smithills Open Farm, just fifteen minutes walk from home, welcomed the arrival of a miniature Shetland pony born to Shetland parents Dinky and Stuart Little. It’s the first Shetland foal ever to be born at the farm and though its arrival was a bit later in the year than would normally be ideal mum and baby – apparently smaller than she looks on the photos – are bonding well and both are very healthy.
As from last Saturday – November 30th – the little foal will be going into the pets corner at the farm and the farm staff will be running a competition to choose a name for her. I’d love to go and see this adorable little foal for myself but at £8 per adult I think the admission price to the farm is a bit steep, so I’ll have to be content with these photos – which obviously aren’t mine, they come courtesy of the local paper.
**As I’m currently on holiday in Ireland and have no internet access this post has been scheduled so I’ll reply to any comments when I get back at the end of the week – and maybe by then the little foal will have a name.

 

The dog ate my mouse!

And I don’t mean a computer mouse either, so if anyone is a bit squeamish then don’t read any further – though it is rather a funny story.
So a few weeks ago I was cleaning at the boss’s house and even though it was raining it was still quite mild so I’d left the back door open for Dylan the cat to wander in and out while I was working. I was just about to get ready to leave when I found a dead mouse in the middle of the kitchen floor – Dylan had brought me a present. Now I read somewhere ages ago that if a cat brings you a present you shouldn’t dispose of it while the cat is there or it will feel very insulted – I don’t know who thought that one up or even if it’s true but I didn’t want Dylan to think I didn’t appreciate his gift so I wrapped it carefully in some kitchen roll and put it in a small takeaway-type plastic carrier bag, to dispose of it when I went out.
Now to be quite honest, being the soft-hearted person that I am where animals are concerned, I felt quite sorry for the little mouse having lost its life to a big fluffy cat ; it didn’t deserve to be just dumped in the bin so I brought it home with the intention of digging a small hole with my trowel and burying it under the fuschia hedge. However, by the time I’d walked the fifteen minutes back home it was raining harder then ever so I popped the mouse, in its bag, in the top of the planter near the door with the intention of burying it once the rain eased off.
So much later on, with the rain having finally stopped and totally forgetting about the mouse, I let Sophie and Poppie out for five minutes in the garden, but when I opened the door to call them back in I found bits of shredded carrier bag all over the path. At first I couldn’t figure out where it had come from but then realisation hit – with the absence of a little furry body it seemed that rather than the mouse going into a hole under the hedge as I’d intended it had gone into one of the dogs instead.
At that point I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was no use being cross with Sophie and Poppie as I didn’t know which one had eaten the mouse but I felt a bit upset that the poor little thing had ended up like that. Fortunately neither of the dogs suffered any ill effects afterwards, and I was just glad that the little mouse had actually been dead before it ended up as a dog’s dinner.
Now I realise that anyone reading this will probably have come to the conclusion that I’m completely bonkers, out of my tree, totally insane and needing a visit from the men in white coats but that’s just me, I love animals and hate to see dead ones however they came by their demise, and though it was a sad ending for the little mouse it does make rather an amusing story.

From Roscrea to home

Where I begin to lose the will to live and almost miss my flight…
The morning of my homeward journey arrived bright and sunny with a cloudless blue sky and after an early breakfast I went out to take a few last photos. Across the street from Laura’s house was a pretty corner with a couple of flowers beds and benches and from there I went round to the castle gardens. I’ve only ever been there in winter when any foliage has either been withered or non-existent so I rather hoped that there would still be some colour around the place this time ; there was some but not as much as I hoped as most of the flowers in the borders were already withered and dead, however I got a few photos then made my way back ‘home’ for a quick coffee before saying goodbye to Nellie and Trixie and setting off for the airport.
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A pretty street corner
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Roscrea castle
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The Roscrea street I call ‘home’
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The coach to the airport was at 10.15am and as going through Dublin’s security was an easier process than at Manchester I should have been in plenty of time for my flight at 2pm, but I hadn’t reckoned on the coach driver who seemed to be doing a good impersonation of a snail. Of course the coach was late arriving in Roscrea but I would still be at the airport in time, however even though most of the journey was on the motorway the driver was going much slower than he could have done. At first I wasn’t too worried but as time went on the journey began to get really tedious and I started to realise that I was in danger of missing my flight if this guy didn’t get a move on. I finally got to the airport at 1.20, over half an hour late, and it was a mad dash then to get to the Ryanair gate which was due to close ten minutes later.
With no queue at security I got through straight away but when I checked one of the screens for the gate number I saw the one thing I didn’t want to see – GATE CLOSED. There was nothing I could do except carry on and hope for the best and luckily the gate I needed was one of the nearer ones ; ironically I’d paid extra for priority boarding but when I got there everyone else had already boarded. Fortunately I was still allowed on and once I was settled in my seat I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief – I’d just about made it, but with no thanks at all to that snail of a bus driver.
My mad dash through the airport did produce quite a good photo though. One of the things featured in my ‘111 places’ book was the old airport terminal which can be seen from the ‘skybridge’ leading to and from the pier where most Ryanair planes arrive and depart. I’d noticed the building on previous occasions and thought how attractive it looked but never realised just what it was until I saw it featured in the book, so my dash along the ‘skybridge’ was paused very briefly to snap a quick photo through the glass.
Construction of the terminal was started in 1939 and completed in 1942, with the four-storey structure considered to be Ireland’s first modernist building. After experiencing very quiet years in the early 1940s flights and passenger numbers began to steadily increase over the years until the terminal could no longer cope with the demand, and after various expansions to the airport during the 1950s, 60s and 70s the old building finally became redundant for passenger use, although to this day it’s still used in various ways by airport staff.
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The original 1940s terminal building
My flight took off just a few minutes after 2pm and with clear weather all the way across the Irish sea I was able to get several shots from the plane window. Back at Manchester, and after the interminably long 10-minute walk to the airport station, Murphy’s Law decreed that I would have a 20-minute wait for a train; by the time it came the tedious coach journey earlier on had taken its toll and I just wanted to get home so I was quite relieved when I finally got to my own front door just before 5pm.
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Leaving Dublin – Skerries and Skerries islands
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Liverpool docks
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The Mersey estuary with New Brighton on the left
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Heading for Manchester
Apart from that morning’s coach journey it had been a good holiday and although fairly short it had been just what I needed at a time when I needed it. I’d certainly packed a lot into it and over the days I’d discovered a few places which definitely need revisiting – hopefully some of them before too long.

A puzzling email and a surprise gift

A week ago last Sunday, late in the afternoon, I got an email from a courier company informing me that a parcel was to be delivered to my address within the next two days. This was really puzzling as I hadn’t sent for anything from anywhere and neither had Michael so at first I thought this must be a mistake, however when I checked the link in the email I realised what it was and where it was coming from – it was a dog quilt for Sophie and Poppie, made by my blogging friend Jayne.
Now I’d known for a while that Jayne was making a quilt to send to our blogging friend Eileen for her dog Annie and I’d been asked to keep it a secret, but I hadn’t known that she was also making one for me so the email from the courier company, as well as being puzzling, was also surprising. The quilt arrived on Tuesday afternoon last week, I have to say it’s a beautiful gift and the photo doesn’t really do it justice. It also came with a very sweet letter from Jayne’s dog Daisy to Sophie and Poppie, which I thought was a really lovely touch.
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Sometimes saying ‘thank you’ for something doesn’t seem enough somehow but I don’t really know what else to say. So thank you Jayne and Daisy for the very lovely and very thoughtful surprise gift, it’s much appreciated – Sophie and Poppie love it and so do I  🙂
Edited on Saturday March 2nd to add that sadly Jayne had to say a very loving goodbye to Daisy earlier this week, so this quilt and Daisy’s letter has become even more precious than words could ever say.

Sophie at the vet’s but it’s good news

A few months ago I noticed that Sophie had developed a small lump under the skin on her lower abdomen ; it wasn’t bothering her so I left it alone but kept an eye on it, however quite a while later I noticed it had grown and two more lumps had developed close to it so I booked a visit to the vet’s. I was told that these were probably mammary tumours and she would need an operation called a ‘mammary strip’ – it wasn’t a small operation though and the recovery time would be quite lengthy so as I was due to go to Ireland at the end of November I postponed it until after I’d got back home.
I finally booked Sophie in for her operation on December 17th but when I took her in that morning I was dealt quite a blow – she had developed some more lumps on the other side of her abdomen near her chest and though they were only tiny at the time they would grow and would eventually need removing. The vet said that all the lumps were probably caused by a hormonal imbalance and recommended that I have her spayed asap, which left me with three options – (1) have the original operation which I’d already paid an expensive amount for, then have a second operation at a later date which would be another expensive amount, (2) have the original op plus the spay (an added cost) then the second op another time (again, another expensive amount) or (3) have the whole lot done at once, in which case they could reduce the combined extra cost. It was a no-brainer really, apart from keeping the cost down I couldn’t put Sophie through two or even three separate operations so I agreed to have the whole lot done there and then.
I’d been told I would be able to collect Sophie that evening but I got a phone call to say that even though the operation had gone well and she was in recovery they were keeping her in overnight just to monitor her. I finally collected her at noon the following day along with three lots of medication and strict instructions – plenty of rest, peace and quiet, no walks except once round the garden on a lead, no running, no jumping, no picking her up etc. and I had to take her for a post-op check three days later.
Now I personally don’t agree with confining dogs in cages unless it’s for transport purposes but knowing that I would need to keep Sophie separate from Poppie I’d put them both in a cage each before I went to Ireland. For one thing it was easier for my friend Lin to deal with them while I was away and also it would get them used to being separated, although the cages are next to each other. So since Sophie came home she’s been in her own little den with a new bed and a hot water bottle, and post-op care has consisted of medication three times daily, a slow circuit of the garden every three hours and a hot water bottle refresh 3-4 times a day. For the first couple of days she was a bit subdued but since then she’s come on in leaps and bounds (almost literally) and for the last few days has been back to her lively little self.
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Coming home in the van
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Today I took her to have her stitches out and the vet was very pleased with her. The test results showed that the lumps were non-cancerous, the mammary glands and all the lumps had been removed and she has also been spayed to sort out the hormonal imbalance, so there is now only a very very slim chance that this will ever reoccur. So Sophie has been given a clean bill of health and can now start going for walks again, although they will only be short ones to start with. The whole procedure may have been a very expensive business but when I get a paw on my leg, a tail wag and her little face looking up at me I know it was worth every penny.

A few days on Anglesey, now back to reality

Just as in June circumstances beyond my control decided to wreck my recently planned 10-day holiday away so instead of going to Norfolk as I normally do at this time of year, a change of destination and departure day saw me heading off on Thursday morning last week for another few days on Anglesey. I stopped off en route to visit my blogging friend Eileen and just as I was leaving there it started to rain – and that set the tone for the next couple of days. It was still raining when I finally reached the camp site, it was windy too, and with no chance of putting the tent up I spent the rest of that day and all the following day living in the van. It did turn out really nice later on Friday afternoon though so I took advantage of it and took the dogs down on the beach, and with not many people around it was vastly different to when I’d been there in June.
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Day 2 – Benllech beach
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I woke early on Saturday morning and found that the wind had gone, there wasn’t even the whisper of a breeze, so I took advantage of it and got the tent up while the going was good – I was really only using it to store most of my stuff as I’d already decided to continue sleeping in the van. The day was really grey and cloudy but after spending most of the previous two days cooped up in the van I was still determined to go out somewhere, and after having the van cleaned as part of a charity car wash at the local fire station I went over to Llanberis on the mainland to explore round an old castle which I’d found out about in June. The only part of it still standing was the tower and it was possible to climb the steps inside it but being extremely steep and narrow they are definitely not for anyone with claustrophobia or vertigo.
Also while in Llanberis I looked round a lovely old church and the Snowdon Mountain Railway station – and with the high prices charged for a ride to the top of the mountain I certainly won’t bother going up there. On the way back from Llanberis I called to see my cousin Dave in Llanrug then with the weather improving I stopped off at Port Dinorwic, where I was lucky enough to see a heron ‘posing’ on the end of a seaweed-covered breakwater.
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Day 3 – Steps in Dolbadarn Castle tower, Llanberis
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Port Dinorwic marina
Sunday started off cloudy but came nicer as the morning went on and by lunch time it was lovely so I took myself off to explore a part of Parys mountain I hadn’t previously seen. From there I went to Llanbadrig church, which I’d missed while on my quest to find Porth Wen brick works in June and where I learned some interesting history, and my final stop – via a cheeseburger from Pete’s Burger Bar at Penrhos – was Soldier’s Point and the marina at Holyhead.
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Day 4 – View from the slopes of Parys Mountain
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The Sanctuary in Llanbadrig church
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Holyhead marina
Monday was just like the previous day, starting off cloudy but coming nicer as the morning went on, and this time I went to explore a corner of the island I’ve never really been to – a stretch of the coast towards the south side of the island alongside part of the Menai Strait. From there I went to the outskirts of Newborough to find the Giant’s Stepping Stones then into Newborough itself and through the forest to Llanddwyn Island – by then the weather was getting better and better and the views across to Snowdonia and the Llyn peninsula were beautifully clear. There was a BBC film crew making a documentary about life on the island at the beginning of the last century and though I couldn’t go near the old cottages I was able to wander round the rest of the island and I got some beautiful photos.
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Day 5 – Along the Menai Strait
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A strange ‘sculpture’ in a car park
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Phoebe, an adorable little dog I met along the way
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Newborough beach, looking across to Snowdonia
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A beach on Lladdwyn Island
Tuesday was coming home day and the morning was partly sunny/partly cloudy and also very windy – taking the tent down wasn’t too much of a hassle but I had to fight with the groundsheet before I finally bundled it up and got it into the van. I left the site at 10.45 am, much earlier than I would normally leave but with it being so windy there was no point staying any longer, however over on the mainland the weather got better and it turned into a gloriously sunny day so I stopped off for an hour or so in Conwy. As a long-time follower of the Quest tv programme Salvage Hunters, just for curiosity I went to look in Drew Pritchard’s shop, and though there were a couple of things I liked most of the items were grossly overpriced and horrible – it beats me why anyone would want some of the things that were on display.
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Day 6 – Conwy Castle
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Conwy quayside
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Lancaster Square and the Prince Llewelyn statue
On the way from Conwy I called to see Eileen again but unfortunately missed her this time as she was out somewhere, so I continued homeward and arrived back at 3.30pm – and since then I’ve really known that the holiday was over. Less than a couple of hours after getting home I had a call from the PA at my evening job, she had mistakenly thought I was back at work that day so wondered why I hadn’t turned up. At my morning job yesterday no-one had done anything in my absence so I had lots to catch up on, then later on I went out to the animal hospital to collect Aphra’s ashes for my friend Janet, though she’s asked me to keep them until she feels more able to deal with things.
We also have workmen in the empty house next door, yesterday they were rewiring the whole place and the drilling and banging were horrendous – Michael is currently working 12-hour night shifts but couldn’t get any proper rest because of the noise, and it was so loud at one point that we couldn’t hear each other speaking even though we were only three feet away from each other. After the previous few days peace and quiet on a relatively empty camp site that sort of noise is the last thing I want to hear – fortunately they seem to have been fairly quiet today but any more noise like yesterday will have me wishing I could go straight back to Anglesey!
*Larger versions of these photos and more will eventually be part of a full update on my camping blog, including some interesting history and facts about a few places I’ve seen while away – now all I have to do is get round to writing everything up!

A sad and emotional day

Today has been such an emotional day that there’s no way I feel like sorting out photos and writing a Monday Walk page – sadly my friend Janet had to have her lovely dog Aphra put to sleep at the animal hospital and as she was in no fit state emotionally to drive herself there I took her and stayed with her.
Aphra was a Bearded Collie and only six years old but for the last couple of years has been beset by one medical problem after another, with visits to the vet’s every few months and being on an almost constant supply of various forms of medication for whatever was wrong at the time. A few weeks ago she started with what we thought could be a urinary tract infection – a course of antibiotics failed to clear it so she was booked in for tests and scans and it was found that her bladder wasn’t functioning properly. Janet had to take her every day for a week for a particular injection and tests at the end showed that things had improved quite well, however she then developed a bacterial gut infection for which she had yet more medication.
Last Wednesday evening Janet phoned me to tell me she wouldn’t be in when I went to do her cleaning the following day and also said that Aphra had become very listless and didn’t want to eat or go out – indeed when I went up there the dog was very quiet instead of being her usual bouncy self, and though I did manage to take her for a short walk she just trailed miserably along behind me. Late on Friday afternoon I got a very distressed call from Janet to say that she had taken Aphra to the vet’s earlier and they were transferring her to the animal hospital nine miles away as she was so ill, then yesterday the vet at the animal hospital rang Janet to say that Aphra’s kidneys were damaged to the point of shutting down, and though they would make one last ditch attempt to stabilise her she would probably have to be put to sleep.
This morning Janet rang me in tears again to say that the vet had phoned and told her Aphra was no better but they were willing to give her until 3pm to see if there was any positive change – unfortunately there wasn’t, Aphra was now suffering so it was time to say goodbye, although Janet asked them to wait until she could get there. With a heavy heart I picked her up from home and she was in tears all the way to the hospital – we were taken into the family room, and though I expected to see Aphra lying semi-comatose in a cage she was brought out to us, and to see her it was hard to believe anything was wrong. Although she wasn’t her usual lively self she was happy and her tail was wagging, and she made a big fuss of both of us, although she tired very quickly and went to lie on the blanket provided for her.
The vet made us a coffee and said we could take as much time as we liked to say our goodbyes – Janet was too upset to make any rational decisions for afterwards so with my guidance she asked for Aphra to be kept at the hospital and arrangements would be made direct with the pet crematorium tomorrow for her collection and individual cremation, then when she was ready she signed the consent form and sat on the blanket with Aphra, holding her and stroking her while she went to sleep for the last time. We were then given as much time as we wanted to sit with her until Janet felt ready to leave – there was a big white board on one wall of the room with a glue stick and a supply of leaf-shaped post-it notes for people to leave memorial messages, so I wrote one for Aphra and stuck it on the board before we left.
Janet has asked me to make the arrangements with the pet crematorium as, according to her, “I know what I’m doing” so that will be my first job tomorrow morning, although it’s not something I’m looking forward to as it seems so final. Although Aphra wasn’t my dog I’ve become quite fond of her over the years so today hasn’t been the easiest – and though I mainly managed to keep my emotions in check at the animal hospital I’ve cried since I got back home. Although some people might say that Aphra was ‘only a dog’ she was Janet’s friend and constant companion – mine too when I looked after her during the times Janet was away – and she will be very much missed in many ways.
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RIP Aphra – always loved and always remembered  xx