Sunday 27 September 2009

Back to his green roots

Click on the photographs to enlarge.

Two weeks ago, yesterday, we set off on our pilgrimage to Ireland. Husband had wanted to make this trip for some time. His maternal grandparents were Irish and he has got hooked on tracing his ancestors. This was our first time on the Holyead to Dublin ferry. When we had booked it, via the Internet, we were given the option of booking seats and we thought that we had better do so, otherwise we might have to stand. I vaguely remembered that one of the perks of booked seats was complimentary refreshments, which I expected to be a drink and a bag of nuts, similar to those offered by airlines. Well, we were amazed to find that the complimentary refreshments were a buffet fit for a king. Why had we bothered to bring our own sandwiches?

It was a fine sunny day and we had a smooth crossing to Dublin, followed by a pleasant drive to Ennis in County Clare, where we were to spend three nights. Ennis is the county town of Clare and we had chosen it because the county archive is located in the library there. It is an attractive medieval style market town of narrow winding one way streets on the River Fergus. That evening we ate at Brogans where we opted for the typical Irish dishes of Irish stew for husband and bacon and cabbage for myself. Later we had a nightcap in the hotel's bar and enjoyed the traditional Irish music played on flute, fiddle and accordion.

On Sunday morning we headed off to the village of Whitegate, where husband's grandparents hail from. Whilst taking photos he got talking to some locals sitting outside the village bar who gave him contact details of the local historian. From Whitegate we moved on to the nearby small town of Mountshannon, where we found the graves of several of husband's family buried in St. Caimin's churchyard. Then it was down to Mountshannon harbour on Lough Derg, where we came across the local historian who also runs boat trips to Holy Island in Lough Derg. Husband had a good chat to him and came away with a book that the historian had written about the area.

Our next port of call on Monday morning was the archives in the library. Amongst the documents that we looked at was a transcription of the protestant Church of Ireland vestry meetings to approve the church's annual expenses. Included in amongst the cushions, surplices, bells, lead and brushes needed for the church maintenance was 'a popes head for sweeping cobwebs from the ceiling'!

Tuesday morning saw us moving on to Doolin on the north west coast of County Clare. Now we had time for some sight seeing. Driving from Ennis to Doolin, we made a detour to the spa town of Lisdoonvarna, now best known for its' 'Matchmaking Festival' which is held during September. This was in full swing when we visited with posters all over for speed dating and dances. After lunch at Ballyvaughan we drove down the coast road to our hotel at Doolin. This area of County Clare, known as the Burren, is a limestone plateau of about 100 square miles with the appearance of a lunar landscape which varies between vast limestone pavements and areas of lush vegetation.

One of the must sees of the area are the Cliffs of Moher, to the south of Doolin which we visited on Wednesday. These 700 ft (200m) high cliffs which stretch for five miles (eight km) are particularly stunning with the waves of the Atlantic crashing against them. We climbed, along with a host of visitors of all nationalities, to the well organised viewing area to take the photo to the right.

The three Aran Isles lie off the coast of Galway Bay. There are boat trips from Doolin to see the islands. We saw one of these boat trips returning and the passengers that got off it were dressed for the Antartic. One of these trips was not an option for us as we had not brought enough warm clothing with us. Perhaps this explains the profusion of shops, in the area, selling Aran Sweaters.

By Thursday husband had found another archive to visit in Corofin. So we briefly stopped off there on the way to Galway. Unfortunately the records that he was interested in were moved to Dublin, for safe keeping, then in 1922 they were destroyed by fire. The drive from Doolin to Galway took us through some breathe taking scenery of wet lands, the greenest grass you have ever seen and grey dry stone walls. Sorry no photos. My little camera would not have done justice to the scenery.

On Friday we started our journey home, driving to Dublin where we stayed over night. The hotels in Ennis and Doolin had been surprisingly good. The hotel in Dublin was a disappointment, but we have learnt from the experience so future visits to Dublin should be better. And I know that there will be future visits, as husband is planning more research into his ancestors.

Monday 21 September 2009

Back and on the roller coaster again

On Saturday lunchtime, as we waited to board the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, I received a text message from my brother informing me that Mum had had a fall and was in A&E at Arrowe Park Hospital, which is about 15 miles from where we live, waiting for the results of an x-ray. I have lost count of the number of falls that she has had. She has been like a cat with nine lives. Until now she has got away with nothing more that minor cuts and bruises. Her luck must have run out. Then just after we had arrived in Holyhead I had a phone call from him. Mum had broken a bone at the bottom of her back and the hospital would be keeping her in. He then went on to tell me that the consultant who had seen Mum had said that when she was able to be discharged, that she would need nursing care rather than residential care. The residential home that she is in had said that they would not have her back if she needed nursing care and that the nursing home on the same site as the residential home did not have a vacancy. It seemed to me as if I was going to be spending the next few weeks looking for another home for Mum, when I was not busy driving the 30 mile round trip to visit her at the hospital. Why hadn't they taken her to the nearby Countess of Chester Hospital, which is about three miles from where we live? The signal on my mobile phone in the Holyhead area of Wales was almost non-existent, so I was concentrating on listening to what my brother said and not really analysing what he was saying. It was not until we had got back to the cottage that it registered with me that the home have to give four weeks notice if they can no longer cope with my Mother. They can not just decide that they don't want her.

On Sunday morning, after about 15 minutes on the phone I managed to find the ward that my Mother was in and was very surprised and somewhat relieved to be told that she was being discharged back to the residential home later in the day!

Friday 11 September 2009

I'm leaving the country

That's it. I've had enough. I'm going.

On Monday morning I loaded up the washing machine and pressed the buttons to set it going. The lights came on, but it refused to work. This was all I needed as we are going away on Saturday and before we go there will be a fair amount of washing to do. Washing machine repair man No 1 said that he would be round on Monday afternoon but did not turn up. Repair man No 2 arranged to come on Tuesday afternoon and kept to his word.

Late Monday afternoon I had a phone call asking me to work on Tuesday to cover sick leave. 'Sorry' I said 'my car is going into the garage.' 'I am sure that we can pay for a taxi' the little voice on the other end of the phone said. 'I am not supposed to be working tomorrow. I've got a hair appointment and I have already had to cancel it twice.' I know how important these hair appointments are. I had a quick chat with husband and agreed to work a few hours to help out. About half an hour later both husband and I realise that there was more to Tuesday than a car and washing machine repair and that we have tied ourselves in knots. Never mind, we manage to work something out.

By Tuesday evening the driver's door window of my car was opening once again for an eye watering cost of £xy1.70 and the washing machine was repaired for about a quarter of the cost of the car repair.

Now we are just about all ready to go away and we shall be off to the Emerald Isle on Saturday morning.

Whilst I am away I shall leave you a photograph of this stunning dahlia which has just come out into flower in our garden. Hope it is still flowering when we get home.

Back in ten days.

Friday 4 September 2009

The roller coaster ride continues

Life has once again got in the way of my blog. I started to write a post about two weeks ago, but at the time I was also busy getting ready for the gathering of my husband's family to celebrate his big zero birthday. Trying to clean the cottage from top to bottom in four days ready for the sergeant-major's (mother-in-law's) inspection, then prepare a cordon bleu meal for Saturday lunch. Everything was going to plan. We had just returned from the supermarket and unloaded several bags of shopping from the car, when the phone went at lunch time on the Friday, which was actually my husband's birthday. It was the residential home that mother is in phoning to say that she had collapsed and they had called for an ambulance. Could I go to A&E at the local hospital? My plans to spend the afternoon cooking and preparing for tomorrow's lunch were suddenly up in the air. We did not want to have to cancel the next day's meal as it had taken us four years to persuade my husband's family to visit us up here in Cheshire. Then there was the food. I quickly worked out that most of it could be frozen, otherwise it would have to be binned as we were due to go away for a few days on the Monday. The home kindly sent one of the carers to A&E with my mother and I phoned A&E to enquire about my mother when I estimated that they would have done a preliminary assessment of her. I was advised that she would be having X-rays and tests and to phone back in four hours time. Phew! My bacon was saved and I could spend the afternoon in the kitchen as planned. When I phoned back four hours later Mum had been admitted to the assessment unit. It was then a quick dash to the hospital to visit her. This was all new territory to us and I had heard a lot of complaints about parking at the hospital, so my husband took me with the idea that he would sus out the parking whilst I visited my mother. There are several small car parks in the hospital grounds. Once in the one of the car parks the only way out of it is by purchasing a token from a machine in the hospital. To exit the car park you drive up to the exit barrier, open the driver's door window and put the token in the machine and the barrier opens for you. Fine in my husband's car. Small problem in my car as the driver's door window stopped opening in some time ago and I have not got it fixed as I so rarely need to open it. By Sunday it looked as if Mum would be discharged back to the residential home on Monday so we went away as planned. On the Monday Mum was seen by the consultant who ordered more tests and on the Tuesday I realised that my mobile phone was no longer working. Could anything else go wrong?

Mum is now back in the residential home and I have bought myself a new mobile phone. The driver's door window on my car will be fixed next week. The family gathering for my husband's birthday went well and they were all impressed with the work that we have done on the cottage and the garden since their last visit back in 2004.

So again I am behind with my blog - posting, visiting and everything in general. Husband had planned a week at home from August 7, which is when I last posted. I decided to have some time at home with him and the week has now become a month. If there is anybody out there still reading my blog please take this Spread the Love award with my love.

It was kindly given to me by Akelamalu some time ago. I have not obeyed the rules attached to the award but I am hoping that she will understand. Please display it on your blog and pass it onto ten more bloggers.