Autumn Colours

Sunday morning, Leslie and Liesel went to the shops. I declined the invitation to join them: instead, I caught up with emails and other admininstrative tasks. They brought me back some Japanese noodles for lunch, in an attempt to expand my Japanese palate.

We went for a quick walk in the afternoon before being joined for dinner by Aaron, Jodi, Asa and Gideon. Enchiladas, since you ask. And yes, plenty of leftovers.

Next day, Liesel went to the dentist very early. We then drove to Girdwood, just to see the colours of the trees changing. First stop was Kaladi Brothers for coffee. There are a couple of pictures on display here that we’d like to buy. The one I like is, of course, the more expensive. The one Liesel prefers will match our new curtains better!

Autumn’s Glory by Teri Lidseth – Liesel’s pick
Serendipity by Teri Lidseth – Mick’s pick

The views were really gorgeous, especially when the Sun was out. We stopped for an early lunch at The Bake Shop in Girdwood but decided it was too misty and murky to take the lift up the mountain on this occasion, but I hope we do so before we leave Alaska.

A bit of a storm on the way home

After driving back to Anchorage, Liesel visited the physio again while I listened to a lovely hour of radio. On BBC 6 Music, Tom Robinson interviewing Eddi Reader and playing many of her songs. Catch it while you can!

After stopping at Carrs, a supermarket, Liesel drove home while I walked the three miles or so. It was windy but warm and very pleasant. And very colourful. The snow on the distant mountains is called ‘termination dust’, as it’s an indication of the end of Summer.

Snow on the mountains

Scandal

Liesel’s birthday was celebrated in style. Her Mom made her famous pull-aparts for breakfast! No birthday cake, though. One highlight was a video from lovely Martha wishing her Oma a happy birthday.

Gita took us to see Josh, who was working today in the nearby Nehalem Bay State Park, with plenty of food for his very late breakfast. His commute between here and Portland is quite a long one, so he sometimes kips in the car near the park. Staying in a house with us all for a few days was luxury.

I walked back to our accommodation, not sure whether I should be talking loudly to myself or singing: I didn’t think to ask if there were bears in the area.

But there are elks. I didn’t see one, but I did see the warning sign on our drive to Seaside later in the day.

Gita drove us: it rained a lot on the way. The main attraction for the ladies was the outlets. I didn’t need to see any shopping centres, I’ve seen the mall, as they say.

So after agreeing to meet up with them two hours later, I went for a walk. I was on the search for coffee. What a disaster that was. Number 1 didn’t look very nice. Number 2 looked interesting from a distance but was closed due to refurbishment. Number 3, despite calling itself a café, only sold wine and beer. And Number 4 was a drive-through coffee shop and I would have felt totally stupid queueing behind a huge 4×4. So, no coffee for me, at that time.

But I did enjoy the walk to the actual beach, infinitely more enjoyable than walking round shops when you know you shouldn’t be buying stuff!

I would have gone for a dip… but…. shark??
Mountain mist

It’s halfway through September so I suspect this little front garden cemetary has nothing to do with Hallowe’en:

Spooky

On my return to the shops, I met Liesel, Gita and Jyoti. Liesel had bought me a couple of shirts (hooray!) and some other bits and pieces for the little people we know back home.

I described my lack-of-coffee experience so Jyoti used her nose and her phone to Google local coffee shops and found one a few blocks away. We drove there and had a great coffee. The barista was very cheerful, happy and smiley, jolly and full of fun and laughter, with red hair and tattoos. I asked for a latte with whatever drugs she was on. (No, of course I didn’t, but I thought about it.)

Seaside Coffee House, a fun place

We’ve noticed that as well as playing Beatles and other British music, many coffee shops support local artists by displaying their works. Most of it is fantastic, some (to me) is nothing special but every now and then, we see a picture that we’d really like to own.

Happy eagle, sad fish

The weather had changed for the better, so on the drive back to Manzanita, we were able to see things. beautiful things, the sea, stacks, so we stopped at a few of the viewpoints and wandered down to a beach.

Liesel and Jyoti with a sea stack
The Oregon coast is wonderful: trees right up to the beach

We didn’t see elk or any other wildlife larger than a seagull and a squirrel. The most unusual creature was a hairy, yellow caterpillar just over an inch long.

It was too cloudy that night to try for more photos of the stars. And the next day, we had to leave this little paradise and return to Anchorage.

Liesel drove along The Pacific Highway, 101, most of the way back to Seattle International Airport.

The music played by my phone was different today. We heard songs from people we hadn’t heard before on this trip. Tom Hingley, Terra Naomi, Bic Runga, Tom Robinson, Pink Floyd, Björk all made a welcome appearance or two. Mary Hopkin’s new recording of Those Were the Days is stunning.

We stopped to have a look at and climb up Astoria Column for a terrific view all round.

I counted 164 steps up the spiral staircase only to find that at the top, every one of those steps was numbered and sponsored by an individual.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge
Astoria Column
Detail from Astoria Column
A windy selfie

We’re planning our 2044 holiday already. We want to be here for the opening of this time capsule:

One surprise was when I looked down at the GPS display and it told us we were at Lake Tahoe. I thought we were driving north to Seattle, not south to California and Nevada. How do you explain this? No prizes, just for fun.

Lake Tahoe

We drove over a really long bridge into Washington state: another fantastic feat of engineering.

Astoria-Megler Bridge – the longest continuous truss bridge in north America

Autumn really is coming on, here, the leaves are turning yellow and are just waiting to be blown off the trees.

Our GPS had a couple of hiccups. After we joined the I-5, it tried to take us off on and drive an extra loop before rejoining the highway. Not once, but twice. And as we drove through the Lewis-McChord military base. the GPS displayed no features other than the road itself. Everything else was greyed out.

We dropped the car off, and entered the airport. Good news: the rocking chairs were good fun. Bad news: we sat to eat at a table that was located right by the toilets.

Rock me gently, rock me slowly
Breast-feeders in here

It was nice to see facilities provided for breast-feeding mothers. Or: it was very disappointing to see that breast-feeding mothers are supposed to hide in a cupboard in case somebody takes offence at the sight of a baby with a boob. The hard plastic seat inside didn’t look very comfortable, either.

Well, the flight was OK, I played a couple of games, thrashed the aeroplane at backgammon, I listened to the new album by Florence + the Machine, the one that Felix had played for us the other day. And I read a lot.

Florence

Liesel’s long time friend Amy was kind enough to come out at nearly midnight to pick us up from Anchorage airport. Liesel and I are spending a couple of nights at Jyoti’s house as our room at Liesel’s parents is currently occupied by two young German visitors.

I incurred the first serious injury of the trip when the car boot door tried to break my nose. Fortunately, my glasses were not affected.

We’ve had a couple of relatively quiet days based at Jyoti’s. Reading, listening to radio programmes, binge-watching old series of Scandal. I walked up to the bluff for the scenic view, and into the woods a bit.

A quick walk in the woods

I would have gone further but I kept hearing animal noises. Scary.

We set out to walk back to the folks’ house, a couple of miles away, but Klaus drove by on his way back from the supermarket and gave us a lift home. On the path, though, I did manage to get a couple of photos of dragonflies. Not the pretty blue ones we’d seen close to water. And not on a nice, green, leafy background either. But it was good to see that they can sit down and have a little rest for me.

Dragonfly (good) (background rubbish)

After a sandwich at home, Liesel drove to the physio again for more dry needling. I walked to a coffee shop and met Liesel at Carrs for more food shopping. I was pleased to see the full and correct name of a popular time traveller:

Upstairs to the Tardis?

Today, we went out for a walk with Una at noon along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. We passed many other walkers, runners and cyclists. In fact, at one point there is a display showing how many cyclists have passed by today, this month, last month and the yearly total.

Countless cyclists
Eagles

The photo doesn’t show the display correctly, but there were over 700 today and 58,000 this month. Quite impressive.

Una returned to work at the courthouse and Liesel and I went for a brunch / lunch at The Beartooth.

At Kaladi Brothers Coffee over the road, I confirmed why the world is in such a mess, Bexit, Trump, everything. Someone summed it up in one succinct scrawl:

Reality TV –> Apprentice –> President Trump

Liesel dropped me off to buy some apples and I walked the last mile back to Jyoti’s

Jewel Lake

Jewel Lake is a very pretty lake and there were a few people fishing from the jetty. Close to Jewel Lake, we find Emerald Drive, Jade Street and Topaz Avenue. There’s a theme here, I thought. But I was walking along a big spelling mistake: W Dimond Boulevard. Oops, no. It’s named after Anthony Dimond, a local politician from way back.

Oh: Lake Tahoe. No, we weren’t there, obviously. The screen also displays the name of the song being played at the time and Lake Tahoe is by the fabulous Kate Bush.

The Drive to Portland

Wednesday was a sad day. We said goodbye to Holly and her family. We hope to see them all again soon, sometime, somewhere and of course they’ll always be welcome to visit us in Manchester when we’re back home!

As soon as Liesel started the car today, the audio system started playing music from my phone. Without asking, the Bluetooth connected and turned on my music-playing app. I’ll never understand this technology. A few days ago, the car and my phone didn’t want to talk to each other at all. Today, they couldn’t wait to rush into each other’s arms.

Also, it started to rain again more or less straightaway. So again, we didn’t see much from the I-5. Cascades? Over there somewhere, through the murk.

Liesel requested shuffle mode on the music, so we had quite a variety. Neil Diamond was the first artiste to give us two tracks while Seth Lakeman was the first to 3 and to 4. Not that I was counting. But the view from the car was disappointing. We’d not seen anything on the drive north the other night because it was dark. Today, it was raining. Raining so hard that Liesel was being hypnotised by the windscreen wipers.

Most of Washington state looks like this, apparently

We stopped at the first Panera Bread we found for coffee and a loaf of cheesey bread. The assistant apologised for cutting it thin instead of thick, but we didn’t mind, it wouldn’t last long! Like a good novel, it was unputdownable.

What a strange juxtaposition: Elbow followed by Slim Dusty.

I was quite happy that there were no duplicates played and no MP3 radio programmes being played. At least, not for a very long time. Much later, I had to hastily turn off episode 9 of the latest series of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

I commented on the absense of songs by Björk but of course, Liesel was quite happy about that. She said at one point, pretty soon you’re gonna have to start taking notes! I told her I already was. Liesel rolled her eyes.

Before Seattle, we were able to use the HOV lane. That’s for buses and cars with 2 or more occupants. We found out that HOV just means Heavily Occupied Vehicle. As we passed dozens, scores, hundreds of almost stationary cars in the other lanes, I said “so long, suckers”. Well, karma came up and bit us on the ass: we turned off the road by mistake, towards the Park & Ride car park, and lost a lot of time trying to rejoin the interstate.

Jyoti sent a message to say that she was already in Portland, it was sunny and she was cooking. It was hard to believe the weather would change that much during the next 80-odd miles. All we could see was black clouds and rain.

I wondered why the Highway numbers on the GPS and on road signs had a mushroom cloud as a background image. But on close inspection, I realised it’s a profile of George Washington!

Nuclear explosion or George Washington?

I chuckled at an Ian Dury song that came on: Razzle in my Pocket. I thought I should create a playlist from our music collection consisting of funny songs: that would certainly lift the mood on a long drive like this.

Because I’m a wimp, I’d decided I wouldn’t drive this car on (to me) the wrong side of the road, but I did feel a little bit bad that Liesel was doing all the hard work, especially in such conditions.

Just as I was thinking how well the roads were constructed and how good they were at dealing with all this water falling from the sky, the spray from the other carriageway swept over the central reservation: we had our own little Niagara Falls.

It was a long drive and the music was varied, but even so, we were now hearing several songs from the same artistes and I realised that I should have copied over an even more extensive subset of our music collection. The other problem was, some tracks were a lot quieter than others, and not just because some are downloaded MP3 while others are copied from CDs. Plus, I do miss hearing new (to me) music from time to time such as you’d get from Cerys Matthews on 6 Music.

And as I was thinking that, along came Ruarri Joseph. Yes, we have the CD, but we’re not that familiar with it, yet. Good stuff!

As I was looking out of the right side of the car, Liesel told me Mount St Helens, the volcano, was on the left side. Somewhere. Through the murk! We’ll just add it to our list of places to go back to sometime.

Lo and behold! The Sun came out just as we heard sunshine from the car’s speakers: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole singing Panini Pua Kea in Hawaiian!

We passed close by Vancouver but this was a different, smaller one, in Washington. In fact, it’s a suburb of Portland, Oregon. One city divided across two states by the Columbia river. When we drove over the bridge, we felt we were nearly there.

At one place, two lines of traffic merge. The lights quickly flip from green to red to green, letting just one car at a time from each lane move forward. That’s strange, but it seems to work and you’re not relying on other drivers being courteous.

One of many Meccano bridges

The first stop was Beaverton, the location of our Airbnb. It’s just along the road from Nike’s world headquarters and they’ve been in the news recently for using Colin Kaepernick in their adverts.

Tyler met us at the door, showed us round. There is a white noise machine in our room, in case we need help getting to sleep: some noisy neighbours, apparently! What we didn’t realise was that the only noise would come from our hosts, Tyler and David, doing their laundry late at night!

We set off for Gita’s place in the centre of town. Not far away, but really awkward to get to. In the end, Gita and Jyoti came out on to the street to jump about and wave so we could see where we were trying to get to!

In the apartment, Jyoti gave us donuts and a coffee that she’d bought for me earlier.

It was good to meet Gita again after all this time. We’d last seen her in Italy a couple of years ago.

Gita’s partner Josh returned from work: this is the first time Liesel and I had met him although we’d heard a lot about him from Jyoti!

Over the course of the evening, Jyoti’s brother-in-law Eric arrived with his wife Laurie as did some of Gita’s friends from Portland State University. I think there were 13 people in the apartment at one point, plus a dog. Again, Jyoti’s food was the main attraction and brilliant it was too. And so much of it…

Gita’s Uncle Eric was chatting and as he moved back, he stood on the dog’s squeaky toy. This made eveyone laugh, but outside, there was an immediate and very loud clap of thunder. Eric won’t be standing on any squeaky toys for a little while! It rains a lot here, but apparently it’s very rare to have a thunderstorm.

Liesel drove us home and I think we were both asleep very quickly. Liesel was obviously worn out from all the driving but I’d had limited exercise all day and somehow still felt exhausted. Sympathetic fatigue, probably.

Plan B

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve looked at the wall where the clock used to be. It’s a surprise every time. Then I remember, it’s been packed. All the pictures have been taken down too and bubble-wrapped. We have twelve boxes of books, seven of CDs and DVDs and several more boxes yet to fill.

Yes, we’ve caught the disease from Jenny and our house is sagging under the weight of filled and empty cardboard boxes. Aha, so we have a moving date in mind, you’ll assume. Well don’t assume anything, as they say, you’ll just make an ass of u and me.

We received an email from our solicitor this morning telling us that our vendors are still waiting for replies to their searches and enquiries. A process that we followed several weeks ago, and we assumed they had too. See what I mean about making assumptions? We thought the hold-up at their end was that their new-build house isn’t finished yet. But no, it’s admininstration that could and should have taken place weeks, if not months, ago.

The sellers’ agent waffled a bit while I was on the phone, I didn’t get  a definitive moving date, so reluctantly, we threatened to pull out of the whole thing.

We want to get out of this house so that we can get on with our travels. There are reasons why we want to be in Alaska as soon as possible and not just because of its blink-and-you-miss-it Summer.

Plan B is to put all our stuff into storage for a year so that’s what we’ve arranged. A nice Big Yellow Storage room in (or somewhere close to) Cheadle. We’ll be homeless, yes, but the stuff will be as safe as possible, and we can look for a house when we get back. Scary, Mary. Ideally, we’d prefer Plan A, to move into the flat, which is still the best one we’ve found while searching online. And far better than any of the others that we actually went to look at.

This week, then, we’ll carry on with the packing up, dismantling the old stereo system and shelf units, disposing of items that we’re not keeping and that our buyer doesn’t want us to leave behind. We believe she’s keen to exchange soon and to complete maybe within a couple of weeks. And if we get the bulk of the packing done, we’ll celebrate by going into London and having some fun at the weekend.

I can’t remember the exact details but I suspect that this is the sort of nonsense that led Sarah and I to vow that we would never, ever again, move house when we first moved here, 33 years ago.

While we’re looking back: On this day in 2011, Liesel and I saw Alison Steadman in Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit at London’s Apollo Theatre. We enjoyed her performance…

In 2007, we were having our new kitchen installed. This is the day on which Richard the plasterer plastered the kitchen. In the process, many water and gas pipes were hidden within the walls, giving us much more wallspace for storage.

In years to come, I hope we can look back at today’s conundrum and just laugh it off. We’re listening to some nice, relaxing songs. Moving house and all that is frightening but the music is soothing and we both started grooving, yeah, yeah, yeah…

Sorry if you were hoping to read something about Plan B, the musician!

When I Live My Dream

On this day, June 1st, 51 years ago, David Bowie released his first eponymous album. Obviously, we were oblivious to this at the time. The BBC Light Programme would never play it, maybe one of the pirate stations did, and David Bowie never really came to prominence until Space Oddity in 1969, two years later.

Bowie-davidbowie

Nobody could have predicted that the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released on exactly the same day, would have achieved so much more publicity and airplay!

I first heard the David Bowie album in 1973 and thought it was OK, actually. The songs are simple, cute and sometimes very funny.

Once when I went home for the weekend from university, a singer in a local pub covered Uncle Arthur, and I’m sure my Mum and Dad didn’t believe that this was an early David Bowie song.

I think my favourite song is ‘When I Live My Dream’. I used parts of it when I was courting Sarah. And I emailed the lyrics to Liesel when I was wooing her. When we watched the film A Life Aquatic, I was delighted to hear Seu Jorge’s Portuguese version. That was great. I was, however, miffed when, a few years ago, London Heathrow Airport used it in an advert to celebrate its 50th anniversary. No! Sacrilege!

Today is the 68th birthday of top singer/songwriter Tom Robinson. On this day, eight years ago, Liesel and I saw him and his band in concert at Shepherds Bush Empire. The gig, celebrating his 60th birthday, was titled ‘Glad to be Grey’, a fantastic pun on one of his best-known songs, ‘Glad to be Gay’.

tom robinson 1475
Tom Robinson

He sang a medley of his greatest hit, ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ as he had done when he performed at my 50th birthday party, some years earlier. Yes, my very good friend Tom was good enough to visit Chessington and entertain us for an evening. Top bloke! I’d first met him at a writing retreat in 2002. This was less than a year after Sarah had died and I was still feeling very fragile. He was incredibly helpful and supportive and the group from that weekend kept in touch for many years afterwards. In fact, we met up with Marko beforehand for a quick drink. Cheers!
(I know what you’re thinking. ‘Hey Mick, you’re writing this nonsense 16 years after attending a writing workshop? You should ask for your money back, mate!’)

The gig took place during a campaign to save BBC 6 Music, our favourite music radio station, from being closed down. Tom was and is a presenter and several other presenters turned up to wish him a happy birthday with a cake designed to look like the 6 Music logo, which itself resembles a record player.

finale 1937

Other guest musicians include Toumani Diabaté on the kora (don’t tell Tom, but I could have listened to Toumani’s kora all night) and Nitin Sawhney.

Overall, a fabulous night. And happy 68th, Tom, possibly greyer and gladder.

So, to summarise: David Bowie, the Beatles and Tom Robinson are amongst my favourite artistes of all time. And BBC 6 Music is still a favourite radio station.

Dublin again

Two days in Dublin’s fair city and yes, the girls are pretty. The city itself though will look a lot prettier once the referendum is over and the big ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ posters are taken down. At Heuston Station, we apologised for not being able to vote as we were just visiting, but we assured the ‘Yes’ campaigners that we were on their side, for what it’s worth.

When we first went to buy tickets for Kilmainham Gaol Museum, the only timeslot available was for 5pm, so we decided to buy tickets for the next day instead. Managing the queues to get inside to join the queue to buy tickets was a tough job. Dave coped quite well, though, even turning a group of six away who would not get in this day.

It would be easier to get into this gaol by committing a criminal offence, I thought.

No? Dave the queue handler wasn’t too impressed by this throwaway line either.

Today we retuned and after a quick coffee (but no cake) in the café, we joined a group of about 40 in the holding cells. Pat was the guide’s name. He showed us around the old gaol, telling us about its history and indeed the struggle for Irish independence. There was a lot of history here that I certainly didn’t learn at school. Sometime it’s hard to be English when you learn how we treated peoples from pretty much everywhere else on the planet. Plenty of tragic stories to be told, here.

20180521_1328144882631355931057768.jpg

The museum, as is often the case, had too much to digest in one visit. Lots of documents and photos.

Just down the road and through the park is the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Its design is based on Les Invalides in Paris. I noticed a sundial and the following dialogue took place:

Mick: Looking at the sundial, I reckon it’s about ten past twelve.

Liesel: But the Sun’s not even out.

Mick: So? Not bad, though, my Fitbit says is 12:02.

Sundial at IMMA

Temple Bar is a famous name and we spent some time in this pub two days running. On the first occasion, there was a small band playing Irish folk songs and other songs. Today, there was a solo performer, also singing Irish folk songs as well as songs by Cat Stevens, Johnny Cash and George Harrison. On both occasions, we heard about Molly Malone and about The Belle of Belfast City.

Cornucopia was a good find, a veggie restaurant on Wicklow Street. So good, we went there twice, too. The weather was OK both days, not a lot of sunshine, not much of the predicted rain either, but today was very close, very humid, and we were flagging by mid-afternoon.

Our main mode of transport has been the Luas Tram network. The signs and announcements are all in two languages, and after a while, you get a feel for the Irish words. Some are similar to English, some are similar to French and other langauges, but nearly always, by English standards, there are far too many letters in Irish Gaelic words! It’s easy to love the Luas Tram Rad Line with colourful station/stop names such as Blackhorse, Goldenbridge, Bluebell and Red Cow.

It’s usually taken us to and from our b&b in Tallaght, to the south of Dublin, but I don’t know if we would have chosen to stay here if we’d known its etymology: plague pit.

But today, after our meal at Cornucopia, we caught a 49 bus, knowing it would cross a tram line at some point, where we could change. But, fortuitously, it took us all the way to Tallaght, and a ten-minute walk later found us back in our room, preparing for our early departure tomorrow, listening to the radio and looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

Emerald from the bus
Emerald from the bus

Belleek Forest Park

Melinda was mine ’til the time
That I found her
Holding Jim
And loving him

So begins Neil Diamond’s song, Solitary Man, which shuffled into play in the car a few days ago. This song went through my mind today when I was in the depths of the forest. Not that I’m a solitary man, and I don’t think I’ve ever known a Melinda, but I was making the most of my solitude.

Today is the seventeenth anniversary of Sarah’s departure from us. Another Thursday 17th May. In some ways, it’s a lifetime ago but in other ways, it’s such a recent event.

I took advantage of the opportunity to go for a long walk my myself, while Liesel went shopping, did some cooking and otherwise had a relaxing day.

Within walking disance of Catherine’s house in Ballina is Belleek Forest Park. It was quiet, peaceful and I saw very few other people. The paths are well maintained, well sign-posted and there is a lot to look at.

I followed the river Moy for a while too, thinking I might get as far as where it enters the Atlantic, but looking at a map afterwards, that was far too ambitious.

The Crete Boom is a ship made of concrete that was used by the Royal Navy but now sits gathering moss and seaweed in the Moy.

Crete Boom
Crete Boom

I was surprised to see warning signs of Japanese knotweed in a couple of places: not the vegetation I would have sought out. The forest was of course full of trees, some of which I could identify and some of which I identified from the flyer I’d picked up. Sycamore, lime, beech, oak, willow, elm, hornbeam and Monterey pine trees are all there, standing tall and proud. And putting all the world’s problems into perspective: I didn’t want to think about Brexit, Trump, Iran, North Korea, Israel, Palestine, plastics in the oceans. I wanted to spend time with Sarah, who has missed out on all our adventures over the last seventeen years, missed out on meeting her grandchildren, and I tried not to go through the cycle of thinking how unfair it all was, and what if, and if only.

Instead, I recalled the happy times we’d had together, with regret that those times didn’t last longer, but equally pleased that we’ve all moved on. I am so proud of Helen and Jenny and I’m sure their Mum would be very proud too.

There are red squirrels in the forest, but I didn’t see any. I didn’t see any rabbits either, nor any other animals bigger than birds. But it was a beautiful day to commune with nature while my thoughts meandered backwards and forwards through time.

Hmm, yes, I was enjoying communing with nature. Meanwhile, some other folks had been closely communing in nature.

Ring Fort with a used condom packet, some folks have all the fun
Ring Fort

When I left the forest, I walked along the road for a while, having seen a sign for Moyne Abbey. I thought that would be a good place to stop, but after every brow of a hill, I could see no sign of an abbey. So as a last resort, I looked at the map on my phone and realised I was still an hour’s walk away. I went back to the forest, again saying hello to the cows and the bulls and the donkey and standing well to the side of the road when a tractor appeared.

In the forest, I followed different paths until I found Belleek Castle. Yesterday, Catherine had said there was a coffee shop here, so that became an urgent destination. Coffee and a scone. I recalled the holidays Sarah and I had had BC, before children, often in the Cotswolds, often in the rain. Tea shops rather than coffee shops usually supplied the scones for afternoon tea, but it’s funny to note how things have changed over the years, but not much, really.

Belleek Castle
Belleek Castle

Yes, I’m sure we will always miss Sarah, she and Liesel would have a lot of laughs at my expense, I’m sure, if they’d ever met.

Back at home, we enjoyed the pasta salad and the banoffee pie that Liesel had made, along with a bottle of beer from Catherine that Lochlainn has chosen for me!

Solitary Man? Not me, I’m a very lucky bloke, I’ve met and fallen in love with two wonderful women, I have two beautiful daughters and two fantastic grandchildren. This is what’s important, not the stupid stuff that I tend to whinge about a bit too often.

So, a million thanks and lots of love to all of you who have made and who continue to make my life as fantastic as it is.