A thoughtful gift from a neighbour

Last Sunday evening I was sitting here chatting on the phone to a friend when Michael came in with an envelope in his hand, saying he’d heard a noise at the front door and found the envelope on the floor behind the door. It was a previously used envelope folded over, had my name and a message written on it and contained something solid; the message read “The paint is acrylic so waterproof for the garden – I hope you like it”. ‘It’ was from Fiona, my young next door neighbour, and was a piece of slate with Sophie’s name painted on it in different coloured letters – something simple to mark Sophie’s little corner of the garden but also something very unexpected and so very thoughtful.
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Yesterday I popped into my local Asda to get a few bits and pieces and on my way to the book section I noticed a box of very small animal ornaments on sticks for putting in plant pots. There were foxes, squirrels and just one little rabbit – the rabbit was the cutest so I got it to put in the little pot of flowers in Sophie’s corner.
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The bricks are only a temporary measure to keep the plant in place, once the soil dries out properly I’ll rake it over, maybe plant some grass seed and hopefully (as I’m not a gardener in any way, shape or form) I can turn Sophie’s little corner into something much nicer.

Wonky crumpets and pale ale

Most of my regular readers will know that my son Michael works at a local well-known family-owned bakers, a firm which has recently produced the UK’s first ever crumpet beer. In an effort to reduce food waste the company has teamed up with Toast Brewery to create a light session IPA made from crumpets classed as too ‘wonky’ to go on sale.
Made by replacing some of the malted barley in the beer with crumpets, sugars and starches are extracted and broken down into fermentable sugars meaning the crumpets do more than just flavour the beer. At 4.2% The Toasted Crumpet is Warburtons first non-baked product in the company’s 140-year history.

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Photos from Warburtons website
Initially only available from the Warburtons website as a limited edition the beer could be produced on a larger scale if there’s enough demand; it only went on sale two weeks ago but Michael has told me that it’s already sold out although he hasn’t had any as it’s not his thing. I don’t drink anyway but to be honest, as much as I like Warburtons crumpets, I wouldn’t want to drink crumpet flavoured beer – a bit of an acquired taste I think.

 

The best laid plans of mice and men…

Can sometimes go more than a little bit wrong for me, resulting in much frustration and a wish that I’d never got out of bed, which is just what happened yesterday.
Following on from last week’s visit to Hornby Castle for the snowdrop weekend I wanted to go to Lytham Hall this weekend to see the snowdrops there ; weather-wise Saturday wasn’t good and several checks on various weather forecasts and live webcams showed me that yesterday wouldn’t be too clever either so I had a change of plan and decided to go somewhere where I would be indoors.
My intended destination involved getting the train to Manchester so after checking and double-checking various times on the internet I got the bus from home in time to get the 10.45am train. The electronic information board near the station’s ticket office told me that the train was on time, as did the board down on the platform, however there was no sign of the train after a few minutes so I assumed it was running late. I’d been there for quite a while when one of the station staff told me that there were no trains at all going to Manchester but there was a replacement bus service from outside the station. Needless to say I was more than a little annoyed at the previous lack of information ; nothing on the internet, nothing on the information boards at the station, no announcements – zilch, nada, nothing.
Back outside the station I found where the replacement bus would go from only to be told that it would be another ten minutes before it arrived ; adding that to the time it would take to get to where I was going I didn’t want to waste any more of the morning, so I just got the bus back home to work out another change of plan. Lytham Hall was still out of the question so to salvage something from the day I decided go shopping for some items of camping equipment which I still need to get.
My first port of call was the Winfields store at Haslingden ; I wanted a blue camping chair in the same style as my previous one which I got from there a couple of years ago, also a few smaller accessories. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the smaller things I wanted but I did get lucky with the chair – the only blue one of that style in the shop, it was the right price and I even managed to negotiate a small discount because the carry bag had a small tear in it. Well if you don’t ask you don’t get, do you? – and the tear can easily be repaired with some fabric glue and a bit of strong tape.
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With the chair stashed away in the van I decided to go across to the store’s café for coffee and cake, however that part of the store, a homeware, gifts and clothing section in a separate building to the main store, was undergoing a refurbishment and the café had been moved to a much smaller area downstairs. It was full, and there was hardly any cake left ; I didn’t want a full meal as I would be going out for tea later on so I decided to drive on to my next stop, Go Outdoors at Blackburn – and that was when I remembered why any previous visits to Blackburn have always been undertaken by train.
Driving along the motorway to the northern outskirts of the town was no problem but getting into the correct lane on the ring road, then finding the road I wanted once I got into the town centre was a nightmare. I knew where I wanted to go, could even see part of the right road at one point, but with various side streets blocked off and the stupid one-way system taking me where I didn’t want to go it took me ages to get to Go Outdoors. Finally pulling up in the car park I was definitely ready for a drink and a snack so I went in search of something, finding a small cafe a distance along the main road. But it was just my luck that they were ready for closing and had very little left, certainly no cake, so I got a take-away coffee and a large sausage roll – big mistake. The coffee was strong and just about drinkable – well by my standards anyway – but the sausage roll was diabolical.
Although I prefer to eat sausage rolls cold (I find warm ones too greasy) this one wasn’t just cold it was positively chilled – the outside edges of the pastry were hard, the meat wasn’t exactly soft either and after a few bites I gave up. Pulling off the rest of the pastry I found the meat was covered in a white film, a sure sign that the thing had been frozen but hadn’t thawed out properly. Needless to say it was consigned to the nearest bin, and as I’m sitting here writing this I’m happy to report that it didn’t give me galloping gut-rot.
Go Outdoors, when I finally got in there, wasn’t exactly a roaring success either. As far as camping stuff goes they hadn’t a lot of anything, certainly none of the items I was looking for, so all I bought was a slab of Kendal Mint Cake which I only ever seem to be able to find at camping stores. In all fairness to the store though, it is still early in the year and they won’t be fully stocked with camping stuff yet so I can always go back in a few weeks.
It was still only mid afternoon when I got back home so I made a coffee and had some of my own cake as it would be quite a while before my evening meal out with Michael, then I went out to put a small pot of flowers on Sophie’s patch of garden. They are supposed to be planted in well-drained soil but the newly turned earth is like a big pudding with all the rain so until it dries out enough to rake it over I’ve just left the pot as it is but surrounded by bricks to keep it in place.
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Overall my day hadn’t exactly been a good one but at least I’d got the camping chair I wanted so that’s one item to tick off my list – and the next time I go to Go Outdoors I’ll go direct from home, a straightforward drive right to the store without the need to go anywhere near Blackburn town centre!

 

Thank you

I’ve been sitting here in front of the computer, staring at the screen for an hour, wondering what to write and how to write it. I’m not usually lost for words when it comes to writing a blog page but this time I am ; I actually started this post twice but deleted both versions after just a few sentences. Monday’s post about my afternoon out on Sunday was written on a relatively good day but at the moment I’m not having many ‘good days’ – my emotions after losing Sophie are still very raw.
It’s early days for me yet ; my work/home life goes on as normal and a lot of the time I feel okay, but then something will remind me that there’s a very special little dog missing from my family and I feel overwhelmed all over again. However I know from experience that this will eventually pass ; the pain will subside to a dull ache which will eventually disappear and the hole in my heart will heal in time, though the memories of sweet little Sophie will always be with me along with memories of other little four-paws I’ve loved and lost.
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Anyway, I’d just like to say ‘thank you’ to everyone for commenting on the post I wrote about Sophie last Friday. I haven’t replied individually to any of the comments, mainly because my replies would all have been roughly the same, but that doesn’t mean the comments were ignored or weren’t appreciated. They were  appreciated, very much so, and it’s been good to know that so many people understand the feelings of grief and loss which I’ve been going through – so thanks once again, it means a lot. And as they used to say at the BBC when a tv programme was momentarily interrupted – normal service will be resumed soon.

A message from my friend

Back in the early days of this blog I wrote a post about a scatterbrained and ever-so-slightly eccentric friend of mine, and I have to say that in the sixteen months since I wrote that post her dottiness hasn’t improved any. Today I got an email from her which made me giggle so I thought I would share it with everyone – I know she won’t mind.
To put you in the picture, she lives in a village three-and-a-half miles up the road from me, a village which has no post office, shop, or any other businesses, so whatever she wants or needs she has to drive down to the local shops near here. Unfortunately she’s recently become another victim of the Aussie flu and as she lives alone I rang her yesterday morning to ask if she needed anything from the shops; she said she didn’t but today I got this email from her, and I quote –
“There is one thing you could do for me please but only if you’re passing and can park. I left my glasses and a book at Platinum hairdressers last time I was there – if you could pick them both up for me at your leisure and bring them next time you come up I’ll be very grateful. Normally leaving them there for now wouldn’t be a problem but I sat on my other glasses yesterday and they don’t fit properly now”
It was the last line which made me laugh. Collecting her book and second pair of glasses from the hairdressers isn’t a problem as it’s only a 10-minute walk down the road, but it’ll be interesting to see what shape the first pair of glasses are now!

I’ve started a new blog

Following on from my previous post about the challenge I’m taking on next month, I’ve started a new blog for it. Unless I’m missing something which should be obvious there doesn’t seem to be anywhere on my fundraising page for me to post regular updates of my progress, and I don’t feel it’s right to ask people to sponsor me or make donations if they can’t see how I’m doing. Then again, if I post updates on this blog they may very well get lost among all the other things I write about so a dedicated ‘challenge’ blog seems the way to go.
My new blog can be found here and as always any comments really will be much appreciated  🙂

Another trip to Ireland

Tomorrow I’m making my third trip over to Roscrea in Ireland and this time I go with a heavy heart – my son’s dad sadly passed away in the early hours of this morning. Michael had booked to fly back next Monday to see him, coming back on Friday, but at lunch time yesterday we had a phone call from Nellie to say that his dad had been moved from the family home to a hospice nearby and he needed to get there as soon as he could, so I managed to rebook a flight for him to go tomorrow. Then about 6pm Nellie phoned again to say that Jimmy had been so upset and stressed that he’d had a heart attack and been taken to hospital – that was bad news enough but just after 1am today Michael woke me up to say that Nellie had phoned again with the sad news that his dad had passed away peacefully not long before. Needless to say Michael was absolutely heartbroken – even though we knew this would happen it was no less upsetting when we got the news.
Today I arranged for compassionate leave from work next week then set about trying to book myself a flight for Saturday, assuming that the funeral would probably be on Monday, but then we got another call from Nellie to say that the funeral was actually to be on Saturday – now I know that over in Ireland they like to do things like that fairly quickly but I didn’t expect it to be so quick. Luckily I managed to get a flight for myself tomorrow, although it means us travelling separately – Michael will be going on the same mid day flight as last week and I’ll be on the 3.15pm one – once I get to Dublin I’ll have to wait until 6pm for the coach, meaning I won’t get to Roscrea until just after 8pm, but at least I’ll be there.
Just at the moment my head feels as if it’s about to explode with everything I have to think about and all the last minute organising that needs doing, in fact I’m only taking the time to write this now because I’m sitting having a much-needed coffee – the first one in several hours. Once I get on the plane tomorrow afternoon though I’ll be able to relax a bit, and although this is the one journey I’m not really looking forward to I’m determined to stay strong so I can support Michael as he says goodbye to his dad for the final time.

Tired, emotional and ‘jet lagged’

It’s taken me a couple of days to get round to writing this as after my recent quick trip over to Ireland I’ve been feeling very much as the title suggests. The journey from home last Wednesday with my son and his dad started off well but went downhill at Manchester airport when the plane was delayed – it seemed that, for some reason, one of the runways had been closed and the plane coming in from Ireland was late landing, so with the turn round time our flight was an hour and a half late taking off and we were all feeling tired and fed-up before we’d even gone anywhere.  I was quite surprised though that even though all my information told me the flight time was an hour it was actually only thirty five minutes, which would have been a bonus, but the delayed take-off meant we missed the coach we wanted to get from Dublin airport and had to wait until 3.15pm for the next one. After a 3-hour journey on that we finally arrived at the family home nearly ten hours after we first set off from home in the morning, and with my son’s dad completely exhausted and looking not at all well.
The next few hours for me passed in a confused and rather bewildered blur – being welcomed into the family home by relatives who my son knew well but I had never ever met before, having a meal and being given endless mugs of tea, making friends with Trixie the adorable little family dog, being introduced first to Alice, the next-door neighbour, then to Paul, a guy who lived across the street, and being told that my son and I would be sleeping at his house that night, which I thought was totally weird though it was explained that the family home only had two bedrooms. My son’s dad took himself off to bed at 9pm as he was totally whacked out, then Paul came to take us over to his house about an hour later. I was so tired by then that I was almost asleep on my feet so he showed me to my room and I left him and my son watching tv.
The following morning I got up at 7.30 and thinking my son would have been sleeping on the settee in Paul’s living room I went to wake him up but he was nowhere to be seen – totally confused again, and hearing noises in the kitchen, I went to find Paul and he told me that my son was in a small bedroom just off the back corridor. Once he was awake and dressed we went back across the street to the family home where breakfast was waiting for us, then before long it was time to leave as we were getting the 9am coach back to the airport. My son’s dad was still in bed and saying goodbye to him was really emotional; he looked so frail, and as I hugged him I wished more than anything that I could take away his pain and get him well again. It took several minutes in the kitchen on my own before I felt ready to leave the house; my son was sitting on the front step, he didn’t say much but I knew he was feeling the same way as me.
The journey back home was, fortunately, much more straightforward than the previous day. A neighbour, Kathy, took us and Paul up to the bus stop in her car and Paul waited with us until the coach came. This one was from a different company and used a more direct route to the airport so the journey time was only two hours, though we had quite a bit of time to kill once we got there. The plane took off on time just before 2pm, our friend was waiting for us when we landed at Manchester, and with no delays on the motorway we were back home by 3.30pm. An hour later I was at work and as I went through my normal routine I found it hard to believe that only a few hours previously I’d been somewhere in the middle of southern Ireland.
It was the following day when the events of the previous two days caught up with me – the long and tiring journey on the first day, meeting several different people for the first time, sleeping in an unknown house, then saying goodbye to my son’s dad with the possibility of never seeing him alive again, and the journey back home, all condensed into a little over thirty hours -the whole experience had left me with a feeling of surrealism and confusion, as if I’d ‘time travelled’ and been somewhere but hadn’t, or maybe had an out-of-body experience, and the tiredness I felt was overwhelming. I know you can’t get jet lag from just a thirty minute flight but I really did feel totally wiped out. I’m hoping I can go back soon to see my son’s dad again while he’s still alive but if and when I do I’ll make sure I take more time off work – even just one more day would make a big difference.
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Trixie

“Where’s my bath plug?”

I have a friend who, although very intelligent – she was a historian and university lecturer before she took early retirement – is often very scatterbrained and absent-minded. She’s only 63 so not exactly old but she’s the epitome of a completely dotty old lady and some of the things she says and does are often a source of great amusement. At least she has the ability to laugh at herself though so I know she won’t mind me posting an example of her scattyness on here.
A few years ago I took her camping with me to a small site in Northumberland, and though my van and drive-away awning were pitched on the main part of the site her tent was pitched in the next field and just the other side of the dividing hedge. On the day we were coming home I was busy packing up the van when I noticed my friend walking across the site – thinking she was taking some rubbish to the bin I didn’t give it much thought and carried on with what I was doing. I was just about to start taking the pegs out of the awning when she came across and asked me where her stuff was. What stuff?….The stuff she’d just piled at the front of the van ready for packing, it had taken her five journeys to carry it all across.
Well I hadn’t seen her stuff and there was definitely nothing in front of the van so where the heck was it? We were both totally confused, and she was just beginning to think that someone had somehow managed to swipe the lot when I went for a scout round and found it – she’d piled it up at the front of someone else’s caravan two pitches further along!! That must have been where she was going when I’d seen her walking across the site earlier on, but how on earth she’d managed to mistake a large white twin-axle caravan for my grey van and awning I’ll never know. I’d actually seen the occupants of the caravan going over to the shower block a while before so heaven only knows what they thought when they got back and found all that stuff piled up at the front of it! That incident has come up in conversation more than once over the last few years and we always have a laugh about it.
So this morning at 11am my friend phoned me and her first words were “Where’s my bath plug?”. Not “Hi, how are you?” or “Sorry to bother you if you’re busy” just “Where’s my bath plug?” Now unfortunately I don’t have the ability to see up the road, round corners and through brick walls so my reply was “How the heck do I know where your bath plug is?” I clean the house for her once a week and it’s only a few days since I blitzed the bathroom and left the plug on the side of the bath so I suggested that was where it probably still was, though she swore blind it wasn’t there. However, about half an hour ago she phoned me again and this time her words were “I’ve found the bath plug” so I just had to ask her where it was. “On the side of the bath” came the reply – which was exactly where I’d said it would be. It seemed that while having a shower she’d put the long-handled back brush on the side of the bath right where the plug was – so was it a case of she couldn’t see for looking or hadn’t she looked properly in the first place? I don’t know, but what I do know is that it won’t be long before the next scatty episode occurs – I wonder what it will be next time?