Our last week in the UK! (all fixed!)

Goodness time flies when you’re having fun – it is amazing to think we have almost been here a month!

We have had a few more outings, so let me give you a quick catch-up:

We visited the Stockport Hat Museum [as we had seen it from the train on our trips up to Manchester]. What a wonderful museum, giving a fascinating insight to the hatting industry. We spent hours here learning about the felting process, the hatting process and here about how the saying ‘Mad as Hatter’ came from the hatting industry as they used mercury in the felting process, which gave the workers mercury poisoning. Apparently the saying “pop goes the weasel’ comes from the hatting industry too. One of the tools is called a weasel, and when work was low they would ‘pop the weasel’ into a pawn shop so they could by ‘half a pound of tuppenny rice’ ….

Quarry Mill is a gorgeous property that is about 3.5km from where we are staying. It is an old cotton mill on the River Bollin, built in circa 1780’s. It has working machines from way back when, apprentice houses (for the children who started when they were aged 9!!), the Quarry Bank House and also Styal Village on the border where the adult workers lived. Such a beautiful place, but oh my, the horrors from that industrial revolution make our working lives today seem a bit easy!! When we visited on the Saturday they had some of the machines going and it was unbelievably loud. So not only were they deaf [from the noise of those machines], they also got ‘cotton lung’ [from inhaling the fluff]. We walked here twice as it is such a big property to explore. It is a lovely walk along the river and through the meadows.

Colin has family who live in Preston [his mum’s side], so we took ourselves on a journey up to visit them. We had to plan it for a Sunday as they were having strike action on the rail network on the Saturday. On the Sunday the services are a quite reduced, so what would be an hours drive took just over 2 hours on the train!! We were really only able to have lunch with everyone [Pamela (cousin) and David, Martin and Elaine, and their daughter Adelaide and Kyle and his fiancé Sally] before we had to take the train back, which took best part of 2.5 hours. We have made a commitment to care and fully look after this cat, so although she probably would have been okay, I just couldn’t leave her any longer. Pamela and David [who visited us in NZ 14 years ago with Martin and Kyle] very graciously came down to Wilmslow a couple of days later where we had a lovely long catch-up, and out for a pub meal, which was really lovely.

We visited the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, which is a bit like MOTAT in Auckland. Colin like it better than I do! Anyway, we had a visit here and all in all it wasn’t too bad! They had some working displays of the cotton weaving machines and some of the old generators, which complimented all the other industrial revolution things we had seen.

I read a wonderful book about a dog called Treo and his handler Dave and their deployment to Afghanistan as part of the bomb detection unit. It was funny, sad [I cried!] and gave me a completely different understanding of what happens for those soldiers when they are on an overseas deployment to a war-torn country. Anyway I discovered that Dave lived in Congleton when they returned and that Treo has a monument for his war effort there. It is not far from us, so we caught a train and a bus and went to this gorgeous village to visit. We found the memorial reasonably easily and I had a picture with the famous Treo.

So Louise and Tim have had us out a few night this week, as it sadly has to come to and end! So we went to the movies on Monday [to see Bohemian Rhapsody] and then out for dinner. Then we went to The Oak Wood for drinks on Thursday, out for Thai meal with the family on Friday and for a pub lunch on the Saturday [with Louise’s parents].

Louise also took us to All Saints Church in Daresbury to visit the Lewis Carroll memorial window, which depicts Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll as part of the window. It [the window] was commissioned to mark 100 years since the birth of Lewis Carroll – this name was only ever his pen name, his given name was Charles Lutwidge Dogdson. The church has built an annex with all things Lewis Carroll. A really interesting place to visit and easily missed if you are not in the know.

On Saturday after lunch we headed to Halifax where we visited Piece Hall and the markets. I had been here with Louise 30 years ago so it was wonderful to visit again. We had tea and cake [shared] before returning to Wilmslow via the Halifax Gibbet. The ‘Gibbet’ was installed in the late 1600’s and is a early type of guillotine. There is a plaque with names of the 52 known people to be beheaded!! A fairly brutal way for life to end when you are a petty criminal.

So as our week came to an end we had one more catch-up. This time is was Colin’s Cousin Keith and wife Eileen [his Dad’s side]. They were flying out of Manchester airport on holiday, so came down from Cumbria a day early to see us. We hadn’t seen them since they were in NZ 8 years ago, so it was great to see them again. After a having a coffee we headed up to Wilmslow and had a lovely meal with them. We had only just sat down and I knocked my half pint of lager over Colin!! Amazing how wet you can get from a half pint!! Keith very kindly took him over for a change of clothes!! [What a way to make an impression!]

So that brings our time in the UK to end for now. We have had an amazing time over the last month. Looking after Benson has been great, such a fun kitty-cat. Of course seeing Louise and Tim (and family) after 30 years was an absolute highlight and our time with them has been fantastic. We saw Colin’s cousins as well and have seen and done so many wonderful things AND had so many pub meals that we are on soup for the next two weeks.

So as I finish this we head to Ireland – a visit here was at the top of my ‘to-do’ list, as I want to explore places that are part of my Dad’s history. We have of course had the opportunity to meet Michael (Dad’s second cousin) and all going well, we will see him again in Castlederg, where he and Dad were both born.

So, we’ll see you in Ireland x

“The only impossible journey … is the one you never begin”

Ps: just a quick comment on the rubbish – to be fair to everywhere else I have commented on it!! The rubbish on the train lines, around train stations, along motorway junctions is an absolute disgrace … I just cannot get my head around why?!? It will be interesting to see if I noticed it at home?!?


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