I’m not a complete idiot…probably

Saw this in Portumna, Co. Galway. For some reason it makes me think of social media…

Well I’ve never been more grateful that I write a blog… well I haven’t actually written a blog post since March but I’m still grateful I wrote a post in March. Let me explain… it’s been 5 months since I wrote to you and a lot has happened.

Wild flower. Not weed!

The website (https://permission.cards) has changed utterly. The cards are different. And I think it’s possible I’m different too…for one thing I’m making videos. Yes, I don’t know what inner voices I shut down to do that but I shut them down. And now I’m talking to camera like it’s ok, like I’m not a complete idiot, like I’m even comfortable exposing myself (fully clothed at all times.) And I am comfortable. Mainly.

Got a new coffee jug

I’m comfortable until I wake up with a thought in my head that I’m a fraud or too old or ugly or a failure. Those days are hard because it’s kinda natural to want to hide away on Bad Thoughts Days. And sometimes I do hide. Do you have this experience where you start the day with those thoughts and you go into social media and every post you see confirms your thoughts? I have. So on the really bad bad thoughts days I can’t go into social media and I can’t post anything. And posting on social media is kinda my whole marketing strategy (that’s a blog all to itself!)

Muddy track near Shannonbridge Co. Offaly

Funnily enough though, this routine of posting to social media makes me notice those bad thought days in a way I never noticed before. In the midst of a Bad Thoughts Day I think every day is a Bad Thoughts Day. I completely forget that yesterday wasn’t. I think “this is going to go on forever” and sometimes I believe that thought longer than I need to.

Having to post everyday makes me realise Bad Thoughs Days are not everyday. My posts show me that I must have been grand on lots of days because I have lots of posts.

Big sky near Fethard-on-Sea Co. Wexford

And why am I’m grateful I write blog posts (even inconsistently..)? Because when you’re in the middle of change you don’t notice it and you don’t think anything is happening. And maybe it’s time to start having Good Thoughts Days… what do you think? Wishing you good thoughts about yourself ❤️ Mairéad.

End of the road

(Here’s our entire route from the Rego app…)

Thank you for being with us on the journey, now we’re all back where we started. We’ve been back a week and have managed to do some travelling in Ireland in that time. It’s just as beautiful here as it is in France and Spain and Portugal, by the way. The weather? Not as different as we used to think.

(Listening to a busker at the Rock of Cashel)

Ruby has been emptied, the washing machine has been filled and emptied many times and we are getting used to having extra space, extra power sockets, unlimited electricity, unlimited data and a wild garden. We’ve noticed having a car makes us walk less as does having a washing machine. During our forced stay in Benet I hit my step count just by going over and back to the laundry machines.

(Noticing sunset near Cloyne)

I am, as I decided when we reached the journey ending, at a beginning. It’s up to me to decide what this is, what I want to be telling myself and you for the next few months. Do you think it’s possible to live intentionally with a story you tell yourself? I think we live in stories we tell ourselves all the time, just accidentally. Telling an intentional story would mean choosing what you really want to be, do, feel, think.

(Smiling at the cute postbox in Dungarvan)

Our attitude to the weather is an accidental story we tell ourselves. In Ireland we believe the weather is supposed to be good, we are disappointed when it’s not. We complain about it all the time. What if we believed the weather was supposed to be terrible? On a wet and miserable day we would nod our heads and carry on. But on a day when the sun rose to a cloudless sky (like today) we would be astonished, in awe. We’d still just carry on but we’d notice the beauty… and we’d feel it.

(Remembering Lisbon scooter rental at the bike rental in Dublin)

I am quite nervous about sharing my plans for this beginning because I’m not at all confident that I can successfully complete them, so maybe I shouldn’t even start them. Weirdly, that’s a helpful realization and leads me to the first intention: to notice myself thinking, you never finish anything, you won’t be able to do this and carry on doing what I’m doing anyway.

(Listening to the son making music…)

So here’s my intentional story for the next few months… I will compile the blog posts over these last eighty-something days into an ebook and put it up for sale on Amazon. You never finish anything, you won’t be able to do this. When that’s done I will create a short and simple video course about how to compile your writing into an ebook and sell the course. You never finish anything, you won’t be able to do this. I will get up every day at 6am to get this work done. You never finish anything, you won’t be able to do this. I will incorporate healthy habits, like walking, eating well, practicing mindfulness and noticing beauty. You never finish anything, you won’t be able to do this.

I’m just getting started, Mairead.

What were you thinking?

(Nighttime in the sand dunes of Figueroa da Foz)

Next morning we headed for Figueira da Foz. This town was recommended by a Portuguese Camino walker friend who was here. It is lovely, thank you!

(An adorable statue gifted to the town for their role in world peace)

There’s a huge, gigantic sandy beach and huge sand dunes. Huge in coastline and in distance from land to water. Very impressive. There’s also a cute little old town with plenty of cafes and restaurants and even a casino.

(Wording at the statue)

We were in a restaurant in the old town on Monday night when we saw Notre Dame was in flames. (Did I mention every restaurant has a tv or two playing constantly?) It was a strange moment of disbelief, shock and sadness.

(Our view)

Since then I have been wondering why I was so affected. Yes, I have seen the cathedral in real life. No, I was never inside. No, I have no special memories attached to it. No, I’m not (secretly) French. And yet… I was upset. On top of that I had this intense interest in discovering if it was an accident or an attack.

(There was an old fort across the road with bunting)

It turns out it’s not the cathedral burning that’s upsetting me. It’s the meaning I was applying to the burning of this famous place that’s upsetting me. You can see a hint in the fact that I am so interested to discover if it was an accident or an attack. I have given that meaning too.

(Huge art piece on the boardwalk)

So what meaning is my mind giving to this situation? My mind thinks that if a huge part of the definition of Paris can be destroyed then nothing is safe. If nothing is safe then I’m not safe. That’s very upsetting indeed to my mind. And what about my interest in the cause of the fire? The difference between an accident and an attack? An accident is less frightening because there are no baddies when it’s an accident. No baddies means no future danger to me, just an accident, all over now.

It definitely upsets me to realise I’m so self-centered, Mairead.

(Here we are on the map. Free parking in the car park near the fort at the beach near the old town)

I can’t wait for it to be… right now

(Smelling the flowers)

I’ve been thinking again… not always to be recommended, about how I help myself feel better when I feel down. I’ve read a lot of books about this and talked to a lot of wise friends and I am now convinced that we have a choice of ways to help ourselves but we tend to go for the same things every time. Even when those things don’t work. So, for example, I head to the kitchen. A biscuit or a two or maybe a packet. Something sweet always makes me feel better… while I’m eating it. But then I feel bad again and in fact worse because now I feel guilty about those carbs. A glass of wine has less carbs but I have to wait until the afternoon and one glass isn’t working as well as it used to…

(Appreciating the lichen)

Then there’s planning. Planning is another of my choices. I love planning. I plan a new trip or a new pair of shoes or a new project. The problem with the planning is as soon as I’ve planned something the down feeling returns, because I have to wait until I get what I was planning. Shoes are a great plan because as long as the money is available they can arrive straight away. Great, I feel better. Until I feel guilty about buying the shoes and how could I think shoes would make me feel better? And now I feel bad about the money and the cause of my feeling down is getting more complicated. A trip, planning a trip is much better… go away, forget everything. I can’t wait. But I have to wait. I can’t wait to feel better, only four weeks to go and I’ll feel better. Yaa! I can’t wait. Pity I have to wait so long to feel better. I feel down. Life is hard.

(Can’t have too many flowers!)

A big project, a big project is probably my favourite choice to feel better. It’s grand. It promises wealth, purpose, meaning. Yes a project always makes me feel better. I’ll plan a project. I’ll write another book and it’ll be great, it’ll say exactly what I want to say and it’ll be really easy to understand. I can’t wait until it’s written and published and bought and… oh, it’ll be great when I feel good about having accomplished that. I’ll have plenty of money and I’ll be able to buy those shoes I was thinking about… oh, I can go on a permanent holiday so I’ll never have to wait to go away. I can’t wait… to feel good about writing a book… It’s a pity I have to wait so long and what if it doesn’t sell or what if no one understands it? Oh, I feel a bit poorly and purposeless and meaningless and down. Life is very hard. I’ll have biscuit. What time is it?

Boy, this is complicated.

(Or too much lichen!)

I mentioned earlier about the books and the friends and the more choices for me which all led me to finding a new and very simple way of feeling better. I just have to choose it. Why wouldn’t I choose it? It’s simple! It works! Well, although the old ways don’t work they are very familiar and they’ve become a bit of a habit. Not to mention biscuits taste so good, wine is so much fun, shoes are so pretty and having purpose is so attractive… But they’re complications plastered on to cover up a feeling. Biscuits don’t change the feeling. Wine doesn’t change the feeling, it even makes it worse. Shoes don’t change the feeling. Concocting a purpose doesn’t change the feeling. The simple solution to feeling better… is to feel. Just feel. It won’t last long, about 90 seconds. Then I’ll go back to doing what I do, writing or making. The feeling will come back, so there’ll be plenty of opportunity to turn this new simple choice into a habit. But I won’t have complicated it, I won’t have plastered stuff onto it, I won’t have forgotten that it’s just a feeling and feelings pass.

Feeling the feeling, Mairead.

Beware of: Beware of Pickpockets!

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(Black and white and red and green Lisbon…)

It’s 4am. I’m awake. I think. This week has been like a dream, maybe I’m not awake…

Here’s what happened at the workshop (and here’s a link to the website: thecreativityworkshop.com) Shelley and Alejandro said some stuff and now I believe I can be a fairy princess… No, no, not can be, I believe I am a fairy princess.

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(Go left, that is unless…)

Here’s what happened… there was an exercise on the first day called the Interview. You had to pair up in your free time with another participant and interview them with the purpose of introducing them to the group the next day. So I’ve been to enough workshops to recognise this exercise but, there’s a twist. When you sat in front of the group the next day you were your partner. (Note: I forgot to ask my partner for permission before she left yesterday so I won’t be using her real name or her details but I hope you’ll still get the gist.)

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(Tiles in Colégio Militar, my metro station by the big scary bridge)

My partner’s name is Virginia (note: see previous note, her name is not Virginia…) So when I sat in front of the class I said My name is Virginia and I come from Wales, the one in America (note: no she doesn’t…) and then proceeded to tell a story about Virginia. As if I was Virginia. Right, I’m going to assume you’ve got the idea. The being-your-partner twist might seem like a small twist, it was not a small twist for me.

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(Mats in Sintra)

Anyways, going back to the day of the interview. Day 1 of the Workshop, the day I got lost and un-lost going to the workshop and also got lost and un-lost returning from the workshop: In order to interview Virginia (who was determined to get to know as much of Lisbon as she could in 5 days) we travelled to the other side of the city for lunch and a flea market, as you do. So I was perfectly placed for the getting lost part of this story. I got lost. (As an aside I almost met, but didn’t because she didn’t know my name yet and felt shy of calling out, Hey you from my workshop, Karen (from Canada, who never reads blogs) had also travelled with her friend all the way across Lisbon, coincidentally, to precisely, exactly the same spot I got lost in… are you getting this? I hope you’re hearing Twilight Zone music.)

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(Fountain in Sintra)

Moving along and returning to the point. Picture this, I am losing myself in the tiny crowded streets of Lisbon. I have a backpack the size of a small child on my back carrying everything I might need (except plasters, but that’s a different story.) Google still doesn’t know where I am and the only thought in my mind is, beware of pickpockets. (I need to jump aside here again, to say: Beware of thinking: “beware of pickpockets”!) So that when Karen saw me, she said I was moving in a determined fashion (she used other words but this is a mixed audience, no just joking, I can’t remember her exact phrase.) What she didn’t know was that I had lost my mind (… to thinking). The moment I found my bus to the campsite, I remembered Virginia. Oh my god, Virginia’s story is amazing. Followed by, I wonder if she knows it’s amazing? All the way home on the bus and later in the camper van I was preparing for my starring role as Virginia. Not in the, oh holy god how will I get up in front of all these people I’ve just met? No, instead, I could hardly wait to get up in front of everyone! I imagined how I would do it. I would persuade Virginia that we should volunteer to go first! Neither Virginia nor Mairead seem like the volunteer-to-go-first types. But they did volunteer to go first and they told their stories first.

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(Cheese wrapper from keep-in-touch dinner in Sintra)

I want to tell you Virginia’s story, but as I mentioned earlier I forgot to ask and it’s a bit personal, so I will have to change it a little… but I’m tired now, so I’ll tell you tomorrow… or the next day.

Night, night, Mairead.

Only one more sleep

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(View over the rooftops, Ericeira)

We’re in Lisboa, at a different campsite. I’m almost set to participate in the workshop tomorrow and, the sun is shining! We did all the washing in Ericeira and now Ruby is as squeaky clean as the clothes. I’ve packed my bags with all the required supplies and set out what I will wear. I have my bus timetable, my travel card and my phone is charged. It’s like a first day at school. I’d ask Denis to take a picture of me on my way but it’ll be a bit too early. Might try a selfie…

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(More narrow roads)

This experience has reminded me that I can only prepare so much, I have to turn up and trust that I will be flexible enough to cope with whatever crops up. Stuff happens… maybe the bus will be late, maybe I’ll miss the stop to get off, maybe there’ll be a strike, maybe I’ll get lost. I was wondering, isn’t this a kind of creativity?

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(Lace made of marble)

I know when I make something, especially in mixed media, I have no idea what it’s going to be when it’s finished. I also don’t know how to finish it when I’m half way through it. I call it Not There Yet, it’s between the Hopeful Beginning and Triumphant Finished where I think, this isn’t going to work, no it’s not any good, oh no it’s actually terrible! When I let go and flow from Not Working Yet to Breathlessly Waiting and hang out there a little while… I’ll soon hear myself saying, oh hang on I see it now!

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(This is the library at Palace of Mafra. They have over 30,000 books!)

Not Working Yet is a scary place, I don’t like it much. I love Hopeful Beginning, Breathlessly Waiting and Triumphant Finished. Maybe Not Working Yet knows I don’t like it… What if I made friends with Not Working Yet? In the situation of preparing for tomorrow’s journey to Lisboa, I haven’t practiced a trial run of the public transport route from this campsite. Not Working Yet is: I don’t know what the bus stop will look like, I don’t know where to go when I get off the bus, I don’t know where to go when I get off the metro. I will be depending on the kindness of strangers and my google map app. Actually, when I think of it that way, I am a bit excited, because this country is full of kind strangers.

Only one more sleep, Mairead.

To Lisbon by river…

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(Art in the park… looks like LEGO but made from plastic crates)

After the ruins we moved an hour further south to a small town called Villa Nova da Barquinha. It is right on the river Tagus. That’s the river that starts in Spain and runs out to the sea at Lisbon. When we arrived we parked as close to the river as we could. I did think, what a fast flowing river. It was definitely rushing past.

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(Another art piece, my favourite, stone columns with wire trees)

Also, the reviews in the parking app. mentioned that it was a quiet spot by a nice park and although it was beside a nice park, it wasn’t very quiet. Cars arrived constantly all afternoon and even thought it was raining most of the time, the occupants would hop out and go down to the edge of the water. Then they’d get back into their cars and drive off. By 6pm it was getting dark and the arrivals and departures had decreased.

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(Can you see the crime scene tape? The river was the suspect… That’s our parking space on the right)

Denis had just put on the burgers when a knock came to the door…. that’s unusual. A woman from the neighbouring (Belgian) camper was telling us that the police (who were just outside erecting crime scene tape…) had arrived to tell us all to move further away from the water for our safety. They (or maybe the water board) would be opening a dam tonight because of all the rain and there may be flooding!

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(Three meters deep here)

The cooking stopped and everything got fired into a cupboard (except for the frying pan, it was still hot so I held on to it) and we started moving away from the water. We moved about 200m up the road, me with the frying pan still in my hand directing the reversing. Denis returned to the cooking and I retrieved the things from the cupboard.

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(At least the ducks are happy)

Later that night I realised all the cars during the day were checking out the river, it’s probably not normally so high or so fast flowing. The cars continued to visit and so did the police but I fell asleep without too much trouble. But then at midnight… I’m awake, wide awake. Every sound is the sound of a river flooding and taking the van and us off to Lisbon… and not in a good way. I eventually got up and made myself a calming cup of Camomile tea while silently repeating that’s just a thought, that’s just a thought. Last time I looked it was 2am and then the alarm went off at seven.

While I’m feeling a little tetchy with the tiredness I am grateful we weren’t transported to Lisbon, Mairead.

Linda’s Craft Kit

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(The craft kit Linda made up especially for me so that I would always have something creative at hand when I am away❤)

When I woke up this morning I was thinking about the craft kit Linda gave me the week we left Ireland. I was thinking, it’s a great kit and isn’t she very smart and doesn’t it look so neat and didn’t I get great use out of it already… Then I realised I was thinking and I was doubly pleased! Thinking for me is talking to myself and it starts first thing in the morning and goes on all day until I fall asleep. There’s brief moment or two of no thinking/talking when I am meditation or napping or engrossed in a craft. Other than that the day is full of me talking… to myself. And I rarely notice I’m doing it so when I noticed this morning I was chuffed.

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(Close up of some quilling I made using my kit)

When I first encountered meditation (and for many years after that) I thought it was all about clearing my mind, making it completely silent in there. It’s not. It’s just about noticing when I’m thinking and then going back to whatever I’m doing, like breathing (something else I do all the time.) So in fact every time I find myself thinking when I should be meditating I am actually meditating! (Did you get that? The “finding myself thinking” is the key! My sister has a term I like: the gift of failure.) But there’s even more important things about meditation. It’s not just the sitting there practicing… it’s what happens when I’m not sitting there meditating. Like this morning when I woke up thinking about Linda. The fact that I noticed that I was talking to myself is a BIG thing.

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(These are the quilling papers from my kit)

Because if I notice I am talking to myself then I can notice what I’m saying… this morning it was something nice. Often it’s not something nice, often it’s something horrible… about me! So imagine the scenario, you’re sitting there looking at a beautiful sunset and from nowhere comes the thought, you should be doing something more productive! Which leads on to an uncomfortable feeling and another thought, you’re a lazy lump! Which feels even more uncomfortable and leads to another thought, this is completely useless, in fact you are completely useless sitting here! Well, you might as well be sitting with someone who hates you! But no, you’re with the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with – You! Don’t be mean to you! But how can you stop being mean to you? You don’t even know you’re talking to yourself!

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(Here are the stones and glue that I can use to make pebble art)

And that’s one of the gifts of meditation! A different thought pops in to tell you, that’s a thought! At first you can’t hear this new thought and you carry on being mean to you. But one day, you hear, that’s a thought! And your eyebrows rise and you smile and you say, yes, that’s a thought, I’ll go back to looking at the beautiful sunset, sigh.

It’s just a thought and you are not your thoughts, Mairead.

PS If you want to hear Linda’s thoughts go to https://www.facebook.com/mindcraftie/

Furadouro by the sea

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(That’s the Atlantic Sea out there)

We’ve travelled a little further south and now we’re in a car park behind the sand dunes at Furadouro. It rained when we got here. It rained all night. Really. All. Night. It’s raining now. But would you believe as I’m writing the rain has stopped! It has.

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(A sign…)

I’m still reading the 10% Happier book I was telling you about and the idea that things change and nothing, neither good nor bad lasts…. well when it rains as much as it has been here one might fall into the belief that it will never stop. One might become a little anxious and stir crazy. But I’ve been noticing… it isn’t raining all the time. It is raining more than one might expect as a visitor to Portugal, but it does stop from time to time. It stopped at 6.35pm last evening and we went out for a meal. Then it started again 90 minutes later when we were back in the van, which could be considered fortuitous. Very.

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(The neighbours)

It could also be considered very fortuitous that the good stuff doesn’t last either… during last summer there was a week of a heat wave, do you remember? Well, it was too hot – I know unbelievable, but I remember thinking, “this is way too hot”. Well that didn’t last either, a week later, I was cycling in the rain wondering if the sun would ever come back out…

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(The main street)

So here we are escaping the snow but getting rain instead, it would be absolutely fantastic if I could uncover a little life message… wouldn’t it? Well, it would and I think I have. You see I had heard of the nothing lasts thingy before and I was “duh! Yes I know nothing lasts, so what?” Here behind the sand dunes of Furadouro with the sound of rain pelting against the tin (poetic licence) roof, I think I finally understand what the so what is…

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(Even the fences are relaxed)

It’s to do with our thoughts and our feelings. When we think the rain will never stop it makes us feel something like frustration or maybe fear but definitely annoyance. Now, we might know the rain will eventually stop but… we don’t allow that knowing into our thinking. So we wander around in this thinking and we feel so very, very frustrated because the rain is never going to stop. We actually forget the rain always stops. On top of that we don’t even notice when the rain does stop because our thinking isn’t interested in stopped rain it’s searching for something to be thinking about that makes us feel frustrated or annoyed.

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(I finally asked someone if I could take their photo – can you see them up there?)

Once upon a time there was a woman living beside a lighthouse. She was a very unhappy woman. This woman loved the dark. But every night just as darkness fell instead of feeling happy this woman felt annoyed… because that’s when the lighthouse started to shine… all through the night. She had put up blackout curtains but still felt annoyed with the light. One night there was a terrible storm and a small boat was wrecked on the rocks under the lighthouse. The following morning the woman was walking along the cliff when she saw the wreck and climbed down to check for survivors. She found the sole occupant of the boat, a child, barely alive and carried him up to her house. Within a few weeks thanks to her care the boy had recovered enough to enquire where he was and what had happened. The woman had to explain that sadly his boat had been destroyed and he had had a lucky escape. But the child was very confused because he had no memory of a boat, he had no memory at all.

(You might remember this lighthouse…and what a blue sky looks like)

In spite of that he continued to recover and soon the woman found she was very glad of his company around her little house. He was very helpful and before long was even cooking simple meals for them. There was one thing though, the boy hated the dark. So much so that as soon as night fell he became afraid. And it was getting worse. The woman felt so grateful to him for the difference he was making in her home that she wanted to do something to help… so she took down the blackout curtain in the boy’s bedroom and explained that the lighthouse would shine on him all night long. In the middle of the night the woman was awoken by the child’s crying. Racing to his side she asked what was the matter, “the light keeps going off”, he cried. The woman was astonished, she looked out at the lighthouse and for the first time noticed that the light went on and off, on and off, it didn’t shine all night long. In that moment she lost her annoyance with the lighthouse. She held the boy’s hand until he fell asleep and then she removed all the blackout curtains from her home. Next morning the boy’s parents arrived (the story had gone viral on Facebook) and took him home…

Even good stuff doesn’t last, Mairead.