A couple of hours in Nenagh

A day in which I don’t get to climb a tower but I do experience some Irish logic…
After an uneventful and fairly relaxing journey at the beginning of the month my first full day in Ireland started with the anniversary mass for Michael’s dad and Uncle Jimmy. It was too late afterwards for me to go anywhere which was any great distance away from Roscrea so I decided to go to Nenagh, just a 25-minute bus ride away, to repeat last year’s climb to the top of the castle tower. When I got there however I found that the tower was closed ; I knew there was a couple of days when it wasn’t open but couldn’t remember which days and unfortunately Monday was one of them. Having been up to the top of the tower once though I wasn’t too disappointed at it being closed this time so I decided to have a general wander around instead.
In the grounds of the castle tower an open gate was set in the wall on the far side and when I went through I found myself in a small garden set between the castle’s outer walls and the perimeter walls of both the St. Mary’s churches. Devoid of any colour in the flower beds it was still a pleasant and peaceful little place and would probably be very pretty in the spring and summer months.
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Round the corner from the garden and across the road was the last remaining (disused) block of the old prison built in the 19th century, and the octagonal governor’s house which is now a heritage centre and museum. Guided and self-guided tours can be taken and I would have loved to see the inside of the prison but just like the castle tower the place was closed ; now I may be missing something obvious here but I really can’t understand why many places are closed on Mondays.
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The former prison governor’s house, now Nenagh Heritage Centre
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The last remaining old cell block
Heading out of town I took a walk to Nenagh Town Park, built on a small flood plain surrounded on three sides by the Nenagh river, and opened in October 2014. I’d been there last year and wasn’t terribly impressed as it seemed to be little more than a kids’ adventure playground rather than a proper park, but it was only ten minutes or so from the town and the afternoon, even if somewhat chilly, was quite nice so a there-and-back walk was actually very pleasant and it was nice to get away from civilisation for a short while.

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On my way along the road back into town I cut down a side street to the remains of the Franciscan friary. Founded sometime before 1252 the friars lived there until being expelled by the Cromwellians, though it wasn’t long before they returned. A community stayed in residence until 1766 but even after they left some friars continued to work in the area as parish clergy ; the last Franciscan of Nenagh was a Fr. Patrick Harty who died there in 1817.
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Back on the main shopping street I turned right instead of left towards the shops. Just out of curiosity I wanted to see if there was anything worth seeing if I went out of town in that direction and I hadn’t gone far when I came across a large abandoned and seriously derelict building. There was nothing to say what it was or had been but it was worth a few photos and later information told me that it was an old military barracks. The complex was built in 1832 and occupied by members of the British army for the following ninety years, after which it was handed over to the new Irish State and was used for various purposes over the following years until the early 1980s. In spite of various proposals for preserving the barracks no work was ever carried out and the complex gradually became derelict. In 2009 the Department of Defence offered the property to the local authority but the proposal was turned down and since then most parts of the complex have become dangerous and beyond saving.
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Back in town I window-shopped up the main street until I ran out of shops, and that’s when I experienced some great Irish logic. Among the last few shops in the row was a hair salon with an A-board outside displaying the various prices and also the words ‘No appointment necessary’ and ‘Walk-ins welcome’. Looking through the window I could see there was no-one in there and as I badly needed a cut and restyle I decided to take the opportunity and get it done, however it wasn’t to be. With no customers in the shop, and the stylist just sitting having a coffee, I was told she could only offer me a 3.30 appointment, which would be too late if I wanted to get the 4.15 bus back to Roscrea. Needless to say I didn’t book it, but as I walked back out of the salon I did wonder what happened to ‘No appointments necessary’ and ‘Walk-ins welcome’!
A few yards along the street from the hair salon a right turn took me past another row of shops and on a corner I came to an old bell tower and what had obviously once been the entrance to something. There was a wrought iron gate across the archway but it opened when I tried the latch and I walked through into a small but pleasant cemetery. Many of the headstones were quite old but the more recent ones suggested that this place was still in use. Later information told me that the bell tower, gateway and attached mortuary chapel had been built in 1760, added onto an Anglican Church of Ireland church built forty years previously. The church was in use until 1865 then it was abandoned and eventually dismantled after the congregation moved to a new church ; the inter-denominational burial ground lies where the old church once stood and the bell tower and roofless mortuary chapel are all that’s left of the building itself, although strangely I’ve not yet been able to find out what the church was actually called.
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Those were to be the last shots I took in Nenagh ; no doubt the town had other interesting places to see but there was something I wanted to look for in one of the shops and I didn’t want to be late for the bus or I would be stuck there for another two hours. I arrived back in Roscrea to one of Nellie’s delicious cooked meals and the remains of the trifle from the previous day then spent the evening watching a bit of tv and planning my next day out, with fingers metaphorically crossed that the weather would stay nice for me.

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.

Limerick street art

In my recent wanderings around Limerick, and just after I’d come out of the castle, I spotted a couple of small murals painted on the wall of an empty shop. Photographing street art wasn’t something I’d been thinking about on this particular occasion but these were quite sweet in an amateurish way so I snapped a couple of shots and thought no more about it. However not far from St. Mary’s church I saw another mural, a huge one painted on a gable end wall, so having seen that one I decided to see if I could find some more while on my perambulations around the city.
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A shame someone scrawled a black mark on this one
The first large mural I saw was on the gable end wall of a house not far from St. Mary’s Church, with the second one on the side wall of an empty shop premises opposite the main entrance gates to the cathedral – I hadn’t noticed that one earlier as I’d been walking in the opposite direction. The main road past the cathedral gates took me into the town centre and quite by chance I found a large mural of geometric shapes on a wall down an alley off one of the side streets. Presumably whoever did it must have overloaded the paintbrush as there were paint runs down the wall in several places.
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The next one I found covered the whole length of the side wall of a building off one of the main shopping streets. It wasn’t easy to tell at first but in among all the geometric shapes and pink splodges were actually two faces looking in opposite directions. I found the last mural just after I’d seen the Terry Wogan statue on Harvey’s Quay, it was on the door and shutter of a premises which didn’t seem to have a name.
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Mural by Irish artist Maser and New Zealander Askew One
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And so to the brightly painted cottages I’d seen from the far side of the river earlier in the day. Although from a distance they did look like proper cottages they were anything but – yes, they were cottages but they were derelict ones, last inhabited over 40 years ago and left to the elements since then. Back in 2014, as part of a Limerick regeneration programme, 15 volunteers from the King’s Island area where the cottages are situated stripped, cleaned and painted the cottage fronts over the course of a week. It would certainly have brightened up what had previously been an eyesore but now, five years later and obviously lacking attention, the cottages are looking a bit worse for wear – a shame really as they look quite attractive, especially from a distance.
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So there you have it, just a few examples of Limerick’s street art found by chance on my day out in the city. I’ve no doubt there are probably several more murals dotted about the place so my mission now is to do a bit of research to see if I can find out the locations of any more – and hopefully a future visit to the city will produce some more street art photography.

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.

Arnside – a day out by train

An August bank holiday with glorious weather but no van, however I wasn’t going to let being without my own transport stop me from going somewhere so I decided to ‘let the train take the strain’ as the adverts used to say and for my Monday walk this week I would visit Arnside, a village on the River Kent estuary at the north east corner of Morecambe bay.
Letting the train take the strain was an absolute joke for the first part of the journey though ; the cancellation of the previous train and the one going to Blackpool meant that the one I was getting was already full to bursting when it arrived, with hoards of other people fighting to get on, and I only just about managed it myself. As I approached one of the doors a woman standing just inside said “You can’t get in here!” so I replied “Can’t I? Watch me!” and I heaved the dogs in and squashed in after them with seconds to spare before the doors closed – having just had a two-mile walk from home to the station there was no way I was missing that train and waiting an hour for the next one! Fortunately I only had to go as far as Preston before changing trains and the second one was fine, with plenty of room and a seat to myself, so the journey to Arnside was completed in relative comfort.
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The iconic station clock at Carnforth, seen in the 1945 film Brief Encounter – which, incidentally, I have never watched
Arnside village lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is situated on the West Coast main railway line. At one time it was actually a working port but building the viaduct across the Kent estuary in 1857 caused it to silt up, making the port no longer viable. The viaduct itself is 552 yards long with 50 piers ; it was rebuilt in 1915 and is a very prominent feature of the village, being more or less the first thing to be seen when coming into Arnside past the railway station.
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The Kent estuary and viaduct
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The promenade gardens
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Looking towards Grange-over-Sands
At the far end of the promenade I came to the private grounds of Ashmeadow House, a listed building which dates from 1818. A narrow path ran uphill alongside the hedge and a notice said that visitors were welcome to walk round the woodland and wildflower meadow so I thought I may as well take a look. The patches of shade in the woodland provided a lovely coolness away from the sun’s heat, and though the wildflower meadow seemed to be devoid of any actual flowers there was a separate area at one end which had been divided into several beds with different flowers growing in each one, although some of the blooms seemed to be past their best.
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Ashmeadow Estate woodlands
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Heading back downhill through the far end of the woodland I came to a slipway down onto the sand ; it briefly crossed my mind to head west and walk along to Silverdale but not knowing how far it was I decided against it and only walked a relatively short distance along before heading back to the village.
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Along the promenade I saw a sign for Arnside Knott, a high up place which would give me some great views over the estuary but again there was no indication of distance, however I did see a side road named Church Hill. A road with a name like that just had to lead to a church – I was right, and five minutes later I came to St. James C of E church. It was open to the public too and with a conveniently shady spot to leave the dogs I went in for a quick look round. Built between 1864 and 1866 and extended in 1884, 1905 and again between 1912 and 1914 it was a lovely place with some beautiful stained glass windows to photograph, though the bright sunlight shining through some of them made it difficult to capture the details.
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St. James C of E Church, Arnside
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The Truth Window (1919)
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The Oswald and George window
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The Great War Memorial Window (1919)
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The Good Shepherd window
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The main East Window (1880) – the first window to be installed in the church
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The Stephen and David window (1921)
Back on the promenade I went in search of somewhere to treat myself to coffee and cake. Arnside has a couple of pubs, a few cafes and tea rooms and even a fish and chip shop but the tables and seats outside all of them were occupied ; at least there was a Londis shop which was open so I resorted to a bit of D-I-Y and got a can of Coke and a snack from there then found a partially shaded bench at the far side of the promenade gardens where I could sit for a while and watch the world go by. A short stroll later to the end of the pier and back then it was almost time for me to catch the train for home.
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Not having been to Arnside for well over ten years I’d really enjoyed rediscovering it although it confirmed my opinion from all those years ago – there’s not much there. Saying that though, there’s just enough to make it interesting. It’s a very quaint and attractive little place so anything more than it has would spoil it – and anything it does lack is more than compensated for by the lovely location and wonderful views. Since getting back home I’ve found out that every so often there’s a tidal bore which travels right up the estuary and is apparently something worth seeing, so who knows – I may be making another visit to Arnside sometime in the future.

Thanks, and an update of sorts

First of all I must thank everyone for the comments and kind words on my previous post, and offers to share details of my stolen van in the hope that it can be found. To be honest I’ve been too tired and too emotionally strung out to reply to each comment individually but it’s good to know others are thinking of me and are willing to help where possible, so thank you everyone – and thanks also to Jayne for putting the van on her own blog.
Yesterday I had some news, positive in one way but still not good. I was at work just after lunch when the boss and one of the other guys came into the office to say that Maddie, who works in the office and had left for home earlier on, had phoned to say she had seen the van. It was on the M62 passing Ikea Warrington and heading west in the direction of Liverpool, towing a caravan and seemed to be in convoy with a green car behind it – Maddie had recognised it as she overtook it. I reported it to the police straight away but my worry now is if it’s been taken by travellers they may very well have changed the number plates, in which case it probably won’t be identified on any ANPR cameras or such.
Worst case scenario is it could probably end up in Ireland via either Liverpool or Holyhead, at best I’m hoping that whoever has it is has taken it just to have a holiday and it may end up back in Bolton, but to be honest I don’t think that’s likely. I’m glad in a way that it’s been seen on the road as it least it means that so far it hasn’t been broken up for parts, but it’s so upsetting to know that someone else is driving round in what, to me, was a big part of my life. I wonder if the scrotes who did this realise how much devastation and emotional upset they have caused? Would they care if they knew? Probably not.

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.