Friday, 29 November 2013

The Yorkshire Pasty


Belmont has excelled again, with grub fit for a gnasher which has suffered dental surgery in preparation for the noble crown thereon.

We have before us the Yorkshire pasty, onion mash, broccoli, tomato, and lashings of farmhouse butter.

The nose-bag performed well.

Food-Bank

All is well, readers. I spent an hour in the Dentist's Chair this morning. The rear gnasher - the one that broke - was being prepared for a crown.

Abundant drilling, grinding and scraping ensued; before a temporary crown was fitted.

The numbness is beginning to disappear.


LATER, I happened to be at Knocknagoney, County Down, replenishing the jalopy's petrol-tank. I ambled into the supermarket.

Two ladies stood at the entrance, handing out food-bank leaflets.

This is a dashed good idea. I made a point of buying two cans of value meat-balls and curry; and handed them to the food-bank staff counter on my way out.

I'm glad to support those who genuinely need extra food this winter. A can of "value" meat costs a mere 50p or 70p.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Heritage Apple Trees


I spent today at Bar Hall, a property of the National Trust close to Ballyquintin Point, on the Ards Peninsula, County Down.

We all met at the old Mount Stewart estate schoolhouse, from where the trucks were loaded with spades, stakes, mulch sheeting and, of course apple saplings.

We have established a new orchard at the side of a sheltered field near the entrance to Ballyquintin Farm.

The little apple-tree saplings are not ordinary ones. They are heritage varieties, including Bloody Butcher, Lady's Finger of Offaly, Ballyvaughan, Ballyfatten, Ross Nonpareil, Widow's Friend, and Kemp.

Eighteen saplings were planted and they cost about £200.


Therefore, unsurprisingly, we devoted the day to planning the layout, planting at appropriate distances, ensuring that no same varieties were planted together; and stakes were hammered in at a 45-degree angle.

There was fresh manure in the field, which we put to good use.

The mulch sheets will protect the little trees from long grass and weeds, thereby fostering growth and providing them with the best chance of flourishing.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Stuart Hall Billets


A reader has kindly sent me this photograph of Stuart Hall, County Tyrone, dated ca 1941.

Nissen huts seem to be in the process of construction, presumably for troop billets during the 2nd World War.

Stuart Hall estate is the ancestral seat of the Earl Castle Stewart.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Right Hon Michael

I'm looking forward to the Right Honourable Michael Portillo's Great Continental Railway Journey from Prague to Munich this evening.

Mr Portillo has proved himself to be as able and competent in his railway journeys throughout the British Isles and Europe, as his political prowess, as an erstwhile cabinet minister, in the Conservative interest.

Next on my televisual agenda shall be Morcambe & Wise: The Whole Story.

Both of these productions are on BBC Two.


I HAD a bizarre dream last night: None other than Sir William Hastings, CBE, knight and celebrated Ulster hotelier, had received new armorial bearings from the College of Arms; and his coat-of-arms was henceforth replacing the Guinness harp logo throughout his hotels.

I must be steeped in Heraldry.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Acapulco Restaurant

Ballyhackamore, a "village" on the eastern outskirts of Belfast, was buzzing last last. It has a considerable number of restaurants, as divers as Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Indian, and last but not least, traditional British fare like good old fish & chips.

I was with a pal from the old sports club.

The intention had originally been to dine at an establishment called Graze, though it was full; so, instead, we ambled across the Upper Newtownards Road to a little bistro-type restaurant by the name of Acapulco, which serves Mexican grub.

We were seated beside a birthday party of ladies, who, as it happens, were all in a rather festive mood.

We ordered the burritos. I chose the beef; NCS had the pork version.

Having perused the wine-list, I quipped that the Hamster (Top Gear) suggested the second-cheapest on the menu; which we proceeded to do. And we were not disappointed, either.

The staff are lovely here: They bring little samples and even a tiny glass of the wine before we decided to "go for it".


My nose-bag was firmly attached and the trusty gnashers were in overdrive for my tasty beef burrito.

So far, so good.

During the meal, we befriended one of the girls beside us and we all had a very jolly time. They very kindly gave us a few pieces of the birthday-cake.


Pudding was churros with a cinnamon dip: a kind of doughnut, though crispier, with abundant sugar-coating.

We were the last to leave Acapulco. I cannot even recall what time it was, though it was surely after midnight.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Lord High Commissioner


THE QUEEN has approved that His Royal Highness The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex KG GCVO ADC be appointed as Her Majesty’s Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 2014.

The Lord High Commissioner is the Sovereign’s personal representative to the Annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

He attends the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on behalf of the Sovereign.

He makes the opening and closing addresses to the Assembly, and carries out a number of official functions at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and official engagements around Scotland as the Lord High Commissioner.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Another Crown

I don't know whether you recall my telling you about a tooth breaking last Thursday?

I had an appointment with my dentist this afternoon. He X-rayed the tooth and advised me to have a crown fitted.

Consequently, I'll revisit the surgery in about ten days time (unless there's a cancellation, in which case I could be seen sooner).

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Shoulder of Lamb

Slowly cooked shoulder of lamb is the bill of fare at Belmont GHQ this evening.

It has been cooking since ten o'clock this morning, with whole shallots, carrots, parsnips and thyme sprigs.

It literally falls off the bone, like snow from a ditch.

Pudding will be home-made blackberry sponge with crème fraîche.


LAST NIGHT I motored into town in the two-seater and endeavoured - in vain -  to find an on-street parking space.

The intention had been to spend the evening listening to the live musician in Bert's bar at the Merchant Hotel.

Despite circling round the block thrice, there were no available spaces at Skipper Street, High Street, Bridge Street, or Waring Street.

I threw in the towel and drove home.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Whalley's Scone


A small cup of regular coffee with a freshly-baked fruit scone, butter, raspberry jam and thick cream.

I have to say that it was very good indeed.

Whalley's Cafė is at High Street, Holywood, County Down, near the may-pole.

Unfortunately wi-fi still seems to be unobtainable here; even BT wi-fi.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Broken Tooth

A large chunk of my tooth broke last night. The tooth at the bottom right, second from the end, that is to say.

I was vigorously brushing my teeth when it happened.

In a way I'm quite glad because the tooth was causing me some pain; not chronically, though every time I bit into a peanut, roll and so on.

I phoned my dentist and I've an appointment on Monday.

Bubba!

I nipped into town for a few hours this morning. Having spent an hour in the Linenhall Library, I ambled hither and thither.

I passed a restaurant at 12 Callender Street, called Bubbacue. The length of the queue outside - about fifteen yards - was impressive.

Inside, eager diners were tucking in to succulent meat with all the trimmings.

I felt I ought to give it a try some time.
Callender Street dates from about 1791. Numbers 8-14 are now the location of Bubbacue restaurant on the ground floor. In 1888 it was the site of Murray, Sons & Company's tobacco factory, when there must surely have been a heady aroma of that addictive leaf for passers-by. When Murray's relocated, it was occupied for a period by Hanna and Browne's furniture showroom. This premises, like others on the street, has been linked by common ownership to adjacent buildings in Arthur Street.
The "sit-mat" which I ordered on Ebay arrived today. It's an olive colour, folds up with velcro and shall be most useful for my volunteer days with the National Trust.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Bargain


By Jove, £52.50 for bed and full Ulster breakfast at the Old Inn, Crawfordsburn, County Down, in December.

I'm attending an annual National Trust bash.

That's not far off the price of a dress circle cost for a grand opera or Gilbert & Sullivan at the Grand Opera House, Belfast; when they used to produce decent grand opera in our capital city.

Of course, the polyester suits and skirts in the GOH now appeal to the more popular - or populist - taste.

Ooops. Sorry; that is not politically correct.

Blackberry Pudding


The signature blackberry sponge pudding, made with the finest County Down berries - from Rowallane and Portavo - is baking at a very low temperature in the Belmont oven.

The time-honoured nose-bag is well prepared for said repast this evening.

Down Lieutenancy

Cordial congratulations to the County Down lieutenancy in establishing a website, the first that I'm aware of in Northern Ireland.

Let us hope that this initiative only encourages the remaining seven Ulster lieutenancies to follow suit.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Old Gas-Works

I 've spent the day at the Gas-works, a part of Mount Stewart estate managed by the National Trust.

The Gas-works is almost opposite the main public entrance to Mount Stewart, where the little Gothic gate lodge is situated.
This is the only surviving gas-works in Northern Ireland, built about 1850 for Lord Londonderry in order to generate gas for the estate. Coal was brought to the works by boat and the gas was piped into the house, to fire ovens and provide lighting. It was in operation until the early 20th century.
There were about eight of us today. We were clearing scrub and filling in some pot-holes.


We had our packed lunches at the site and I enjoyed my usual cheese & onion with a good beaker of tea.


A sycamore tree had to be felled.

3rd Viscount Brookeborough


The Rt Hon Alan Henry [Brooke], Viscount Brookeborough and the Viscountess Brookeborough live at the stately mansion and demesne of Colebrooke Park in County Fermanagh.

The estate extends to 1,000 acres.

Colebrooke Park is situated in east Fermanagh, roughly between the villages of Fivemiletown and Brookeborough.


Like many of Ulster's country estates, Colebrooke used to be considerably more sizeable, at 28,000 acres in 1876.

This figure was not uncommon in the county: Castle Archdale comprised 27,410 acres; Ely, 34,879 acres; Florence Court, 29,635 acres; Crom, 31,389 acres; and, at one time during the 19th century, Lord Belmore, whose seat was Castle Coole, owned in excess of 70,000 acres.

Lord Brookeborough's grandfather, the 1st Viscount, was the Rt Hon Sir Basil Brooke Bt KG CBE MC, third Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. The present Lord Brookeborough is also the 7th Brooke Baronet.

The Brookeborough family has always maintained strong connections with the Army, Unionism and Agriculture.

Alan Brookeborough has been Lord-Lieutenant for County Fermanagh since the 9th July, 2012.

Since 1997, Lord Brookeborough has been a Lord-in-Waiting to HM The Queen; he also became an honorary Colonel of the Royal Irish Rangers.

Lord Brookeborough's heir is his younger brother, the Hon Christopher Brooke.

First published in September, 2009.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Princess Anne in NI

The Princess Royal has today visited the University of Ulster at Jordanstown, County Antrim, to meet staff and students at the occupational therapy training centre.

HRH was received by Mrs Joan Christie OBE, Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim; the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard Barnett, and Professor Alastair Adair, Provost of the Jordanstown campus.

While on campus, The Princess Royal, who was joined by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP,  toured a workshop and exhibition showcasing the work of the University in the fields of occupational therapy, research innovation and knowledge transfer.

HRH met University staff and students as well as senior representatives from the College of Occupational Therapists, charities, voluntary and community groups and companies whose work has benefited from the knowledge, expertise and innovation of University researchers.

Her Royal Highness, Patron, the Royal College of Midwives, this afternoon visited the Maternity Unit at Lagan Valley Hospital, 39 Hillsborough Road, Lisburn, County Antrim.

The Princess Royal later opened Bangor Aurora Aquatics and Leisure Complex, 3 Valentine Road, Bangor, County Down, and was received by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of County Down (Mr. David Lindsay).

Her Royal Highness afterwards opened the new Gymnastics Centre, Rathgael Gymnastics and Tumbling Club, Unit One, Saba Park, 14 Balloo Avenue, Bangor.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Alcohol Substitute

Listening to the BBC's Today programme this morning, an interview with Professor David Nutt aroused my interest.

An alcohol substitute that mimics its "pleasant buzz" without leading to drunkenness and hangovers is being developed by scientists.

The new substance could have the added bonus of being "switched off" instantaneously with a pill, to allow drinkers to drive home or return to work.

The synthetic alcohol, being developed from chemicals related to Valium, works like alcohol on nerves in the brain that provide a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation.

However, unlike alcohol, its does not affect other parts of the brain that control mood swings and lead to addiction. It is also much easier to flush out of the body.

Finally because it is much more focused in its effects, it can also be switched off with an antidote, leaving the drinker immediately sober.

The new alcohol is being developed by a team at Imperial College, London, led by Professor David Nutt, the UK's top drugs expert who was recently sacked as a government adviser for his comments about cannabis and ecstasy.

He envisages a world in which people could drink without getting drunk, he said.

No matter how many glasses they had, they would remain in that pleasant state of mild inebriation and at the end of an evening out, revellers could pop a sober-up pill that would let them drive home.

Professor Nutt and his team are concentrating their efforts on benzodiazepines, of which diazepam, the chief ingredient of Valium is one. Thousands of candidate benzos are already known to science.

He said it is just a matter of identifying the closest match and then, if necessary, tailoring it to fit society’s needs.

Ideally, like alcohol, it should be tasteless and colourless, leaving those characteristics to the drink it’s in.

Eventually it would be used to replace the alcohol content in beer, wine and spirits and the recovered ethanol (the chemical name for alcohol) could be sold as fuel.

Professor Nutt believes that the new drug, which would need licensing, could have a dramatic effect on society and improve the nation's health:
 “I’ve been in experiments where I’ve taken benzos. One minute I was sedated and nearly asleep; five minutes later I was giving a lecture. No one’s ever tried targeting this before, possibly because it will be so hard to get it past the regulators. Most of the benzos are controlled under the Medicines Act. The law gives a privileged position to alcohol, which has been around for 3,000 years. But why not use advances in pharmacology to find something safer and better?”
Getting the drug approved could be hard for the team as clinical trials are expensive, and it is not clear who would pay for them, according to Professor Nutt.

He said that the traditional drinks industry has not shown any interest, however some countries might be persuaded to sponsor the team.

Some countries have more liberal regimes than others, though, and Professor Nutt thinks Greece or Spain could lead the way.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Castle Ward Visit

I spent a very agreeable afternoon at Castle Ward estate, formerly the seat of the Viscounts Bangor and now a property of the National Trust.


The estate was looking splendid. The former estate forge or smithy is above.

I parked the two-seater in the old farm-yard, donned the wellies and began my walk, in the direction of Temple Water.


I wandered through the woods until I emerged at the Downpatrick gate lodge, now a holiday cottage.

I'm not entirely convinced about the brown paint on the trellises, door and windows. What, I wonder, was the colour in Victorian times?


The armorial bearings of the Viscounts Bangor adorn the gable of the lodge, overlooking the main gates.

I christened my new Jack Pyke Wellington boot socks and I can apprise you, readers, that they remained "up" the entire two hours. I like them and intend to wear them every time I have the wellies from hereon in.


There is a little duck-pond near the farm-yard.

There was a craft fair at Castle Ward today. Many craftsmen and women had their stalls in the mansion-house.


This afforded me a wonderful opportunity of viewing many of the more obscure portraits of such coves as an Earl of Peterborough, a Viscount Claneboye, and a Lord Bishop of Meath (Maxwell).

Within the old Castle Ward in the farm-yard, there was a permanent exhibition and studio run by two artists, possibly mother and daughter.

I had a lovely chat with them and reminisced about the property manager's father and brother (whom I was at school with).

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Blueberry Muffin

I met my aunt and Pat at The Coffee Yard, Holywood, in County Down, this morning for the customary chin-wag and elevenses.

It was particularly busy.

Earlier I had ambled up the High Street and, spotting some battered scampi in the window of Orr's the Butcher's, I bagged four pounds' worth.

Today I opted to have the blueberry cheesecake muffin with mocha coffee, for a change.

They do a roaring trade in their Ulster Fry and, admittedly, it looks delicious.

I really must try it some time.

I encountered an old acquaintance today and he asked if I knew about the new café restaurant at Stormont called Storm In A Teacup (I didn't).

Have any readers tried it yet?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Ballyquintin Revisited


By Jove, it was chilly today at Ballyquintin Point, an exposed location at the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula, County Down.

There were four of us, giving some barn doors their first coat of red paint.

I ate healthily today, munching on an apple, clementine, and a banana sandwich at lunchtime.

I used two slices of my favourite Hovis granary wholemeal bread.

The pot-holes we filled in during the summer have appeared already, to my slight irritation.

Seemingly there were workmen travelling along the track in their van for a few weeks.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Belmont Stew

The ancient Belmont nose-bag was attached this evening for home-made beef stew, with boule aux graines.

This was a very simple recipe comprising lean beef, potatoes, onion, garlic, carrots, tomato puree, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, and seasoning.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Korean State Visit

Tuesday, 5 November, 2013

Morning:

The President of the Republic of Korea is met privately by The Duke of York on behalf of The Queen.

His Royal Highness accompanies Her Excellency to Horse Guards Parade.

Afternoon:
Ceremonial Welcome on Horse Guards Parade and Inspection of the Guard of Honour, followed by State Drive to Buckingham Palace;
Arrival at Buckingham Palace;
Luncheon;
Exchange of Gifts and Royal Collection display of items relating to the Republic of Korea;
Korean War Memorial Ground-Breaking Ceremony;
Visit to Westminster Abbey;
Visit to the Palace of Westminster;
Call at Buckingham Palace by the Leader of the Liberal Democrats;
Call at Buckingham Palace by the Leader of the Opposition
Evening: 
State Banquet at Buckingham Palace. 
Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Morning: 
Joint Economic and Trade Committee and CEO Forum at Lancaster House. 
Afternoon: 
Visit to No. 10 Downing Street;
Visit to Imperial College London;
Private Korean Diaspora Event at Royal Garden Hotel;
Visit to the 2013 London Korean Film Festival at Cineworld Cinema, Haymarket;
Reception and Banquet at Guildhall. 
Thursday, 7 November 2013

Morning: 
Formal Farewells at Buckingham Palace.

Bird Nest Removal

I removed the blue tits' nest from the north-facing bird-box this morning.

I heard the chicks in June and, of course, the dutiful parents flying back and forth directly into the box at the blink of an eye.

However, they had all fledged and vacated the nest before I could see them again.

The actual spot where the bird laid its eggs was beside the rear-facing side of the box, at the wall.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Supermarket Deception

My attention was drawn to an article in the Daily Telegraph this morning about the tactics some supermarkets use regarding wine prices:-

Major wine brands at Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda are put on sale at artificially high prices so they could be reduced to appear a bargain, critics claim.

Supermarkets have been accused of conning customers on wine promotions by ramping up the price artificially then claiming to sell the bottles at half the price.

Nine out of ten bottles of wine drunk in the UK come from major supermarkets, and 60% of those are on offer. But a new investigation has revealed that shoppers may not be getting the bargain they think that they are.

Tracking the prices of major wine brands over a year, mySupermarket.co.uk discovered a zig-zag pattern at major stores including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda.

The price of the wine was “established” at what critics claim are artificially high levels and then cut to give the impression of a deal.

On some occasions the “half price wine” cost more than shoppers were being charged just months earlier, the investigation for the Guardian found.

Wine writer and broadcaster Oz Clarke, who carried out a similar investigation for the BBC's watchdog, has claimed that some of the wine on sale is not worth what customers are paying for it when it is half price. He said:
"The truth is that the only way to make a profit out of these wines they sell so many bottles of is if the wine was never worth more than £5 in the first place".
There is no suggestion the supermarkets are breaking any laws on price promotions, which state that a product has to be on sale at the full price for a certain period before it can be marketed are reduced.

Former director of wine at Sainsbury’s Allan Cheeseman, who has left the supermarket and works as an industry consultant, said that some of the offers at major stores were “blatantly manufactured”, adding: “The problem is that as a nation we have become promotion junkies."

A spokesperson for Asda said that they would never deliberately mislead their customers, adding: “As Britain's lowest price supermarket our simple aim is always to offer the lowest prices for the longest."

Tesco issued a statement saying:
"As the UK's largest seller of wine, we take our responsibility to our customers very seriously. Customers have repeatedly told us they really enjoy the variety and great value our wine selection offers and both the Ogio and Hardy’s wines are extremely popular. We realise that not every wine will be to the particular taste of every customer, but our half price wine offers remain popular, indicating customers are satisfied with both the quality and value for money."
Sainsbury’s said that wine prices were dependant on a number of factors and they tried their best to mitigate these changes. The research did not cover Morrisons or Aldi.

Ted Sandbach, founder of independent wine distributor the Oxford Wine Company, said that while some people may see the promotions as clever marketing he saw it as "downright cheating".

Caveat Emptor. This practice is cheating customers and certain supermarkets ought be be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.