Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Vegetable Soup

A very simple cream of vegetable soup, made here four hours ago, with an onion, three carrots, three sticks of celery, three potatoes, seasoning, water, milk, and cream.

I had it with some rustic bread.

It was, I have to say, delicious.

The Clear-Out

I went up to the Sports Club for my first swim of the summer term. The water was as warm as a bath, though the showers were cold.

Still, I managed to swim the customary sixty lengths.

*****

THE Monster Clear-out at Belmont GHQ is gathering pace. A local charity collected lots of stuff yesterday; I have large bin-bags full of junk; and at last I can see the floor in the loft.

What a job!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Days of Yore

Here I was, in the 1960s, with my darling mother, probably in Ulster's glorious and legendary mountains of Mourne.

Which Toothbrush?

I have been undertaking a major "clear-out" of unwanted junk and accumulated stuff at Belmont GHQ.

The attic is a veritable disgrace and looks as if it has been ransacked by a common burglar.

Whilst sifting through a cabinet, I unearthed a collection of toothbrushes of varying types, some of which are your standard economy types; others, the more expensive de-luxe versions.

For the last number of months I've been using a more expensive toothbrush which proclaims itself be be for professional dental experts, or words to that effect in the marketing jargon thereon.

I used the premium-priced toothbrush, as usual, this morning. Then I used a cheap, medium bristle standard economy one.

I invariably brush the ancient gnashers with considerable gusto, which was the case today.

When I used the former brush, the foam from toothpaste was emitted.

When the latter brush was used, the emission was slightly bloody and, more to the point, the trusty gnashers felt as if my dentist had just cleaned and polished them.

My personal conclusion is that cheap and cheerful toothbrushes with firm bristles produce the same efficacy as "premium" ones; or, dare one say, better.

By the way, I do have an electric toothbrush, but seldom use it.

Friday, 25 April 2014

New DL

APPOINTMENT OF DEPUTY LIEUTENANT

Mr Denis Desmond CBE, Lord-Lieutenant of County Londonderry, has been pleased to appoint

The Rev Canon Samuel McVEIGH MBE TD
The Rectory
Limavady
County Londonderry,

To be a Deputy Lieutenant of the County, his Commission bearing date the day of 15th April 2014

Signed: Denis F Desmond,
Lord Lieutenant of the County

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Belfast City ~ London City


I'm pleased that the airline Flybe is to offer flights from London City Airport after signing a five-year deal.

The airline will offer services to and from Belfast City, Edinburgh, Inverness, Exeter, and Dublin.

Flights are due to begin on the 27th October, 2014, and Flybe estimates the routes will carry about 500,000 passengers a year:
"Today's announcement is a significant landmark in the re-birth of Flybe," said the airline's chief executive, Saad Hammad. "We are delighted to re-enter the London market at London's most convenient airport."
London City Airport DLR station is a station on the Docklands Light Railway which serves London City Airport. It opened on the 2nd December 2005.

Trains run westbound to Bank in the City of London and eastbound to Woolwich Arsenal. The station is located in Travelcard Zone 3.

New KGs


THE QUEEN has been graciously pleased to make the following appointments to the Most Noble Order of the Garter:-

The Right Honourable Mervyn Allister [King], Baron King of Lothbury, KG, GBE, to be a Knight Companion;

The Right Honourable Elizabeth Lydia [Manningham-Buller], Baroness Manningham-Buller, LG, DCB, to be a Lady Companion.

One vacancy remains within the Order.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Jamaica Inn

How remarkable. I thoroughly enjoyed the BBC's first episode of Jamaica Inn last night.

Within five or ten minutes, I found it difficult to pick up parts of the speech.

This necessitated turning on subtitles.

I wondered whether it was just me, or if I ought to consider a hearing test.

The Daily Telegraph reports today that the BBC adaptation of Jamaica Inn suffered from “sound issues”, the corporation has admitted after hundreds of viewers complained they were unable to make out the mumbled dialogue.

The three-part Daphne du Maurier drama starring Jessica Brown Findlay began on BBC One last night.

When the Lord Hall of Birkenhead, CBE, was appointed as director-general of the BBC, he singled out poor sound quality as one area he was determined to tackle:
“I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old man, but I also think muttering is something we could have a look at. Actors' muttering can be testing – you find you have missed a line. You have to remember that you have an audience."
Jamaica Inn drew an audience of 6.1 million, but the BBC’s online messageboard was filled with complaints from disgruntled viewers.

The negative reception from viewers will be a huge disappointment to the BBC, which had marked Jamaica Inn as one of 2014's flagship period dramas. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

At Home

Unfortunately it's been hard to keep up to date with the usual postings since Good Friday. We have been staying at my aunt's holiday home in Portballintrae, County Antrim.

The only internet access we've been able to use has been that at the Bayview Hotel in the village.

We had a lovely time, dining at Tartine-Distiller's Arms, the Bayview Hotel and 55 Degrees North restaurant in Portrush.

Friends invited us for coffee and pavlova this morning at their holiday home in the village.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

55 North Restaurant

We're awaiting our meal at a restaurant called 55 Degrees North, at Causeway Street, Portrush, County Antrim.

This modern restaurant overlooks the old Arcadia Ballroom and the Atlantic Ocean.

The weather has been lovely here since Good Friday. 

Last night we dined at the Bayview Hotel in Portballintrae.

Some friends called with us unexpectedly at home his afternoon.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Tartine

We dined last night at the Distiller's Arms, also known as Tartine, in Bushmills, County Antrim.

I drove through the courtyard into the private car-park, though it was full; so I had to reverse the two- seater back to the street (parking sensors bleeped merrily).

The restaurant was busy and we were shown to our table. 

We had a bottle of Chilean house red wine. 

My aunt had a duck confit and I had the rump of venison with shredded red cabbage and potatoes.

We shared fruit cranachan pudding.

I'm fond of this restaurant. The staff are excellent and friendly. 

The menu is at the top.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Lidl Sherry Trifle

My health club is at a retail park which includes a branch of the budget chain, Lidl.

I ambled in after a work-out on the rowing machine today. 

Litres of milk cost 55p, I think.

However, I spotted their 'deluxe' amontillado sherry trifle. Was it £2.69?  It weighed 700g, which is one and a half pounds in British currency.

At any rate, I scoffed a hefty portion of it today and, to my surprise, it was good.

Moreover, I reckon it tasted equally as good - if not better - than the main supermarkets.

Quelle surprise.

Copper Pans

The kitchen at Belmont GHQ has been treated to a new set of copper pans. They were on offer at at half-price in a local supermarket, viz. Sainsbury's, hence about £100 was saved.

The one in the foreground is a diminutive 14cm version.

Mind you, they have not been christened today: the celebrated (!) Belmont pasta casserole was cooked in a very large, heavy and ancient pot.

I'm rather partial to the said supermarket's Barber's Mature Cheddar coleslaw and, indeed, their large honey-roasted peanuts; so the opportunity was taken to purchase these, too.

Their Greenall's gin is on offer, at £15 for a litre. Have any readers tried this gin?


I AM very gratified to apprise readers that the new apple corer does a splendid job.

It's from Marks & Spencer (can you discern M&S at the side?). It cuts very neatly through the core, leaving minimal wastage.

I usually eat an apple a day (the Jazz variety).

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Civic Jaunt

I cycled into town this morning, directly over Sam Thompson (!) in fact.

Seriously, though, the trip through the newly-beautified and improved Victoria Park is delightful.

Passing through Queen's Square, where a fair number of costly paviours - granite or otherwise - have been carelessly replaced by tarmac (how on earth can the city fathers and roads service inspectorate let them away with shoddy workmanship?).

AT the Linenhall Library, which is being redecorated, I undertook a spot of research on the Johnstons of Lisgoole Abbey, the Herdmans of Sion House, and the Frasers, formerly of Gortfoyle.

Moving on to Marks & Spencer's store, I purchased a broad-striped purple shirt and an apple corer.


FINALLY, en route along High Street, I stopped off at Pâtisserie Mimi, where the exquisite tartlets and hot cross buns proved to be irresistible.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Oliver!


The toast or porridge was omitted from the nourishing breakfast at Belmont GHQ this morning. I did, however, have the customary beaker of tea.

Instead, I decided to darken the threshold of a brand new café on Belmont Road, Strandtown, viz. Oliver's Café.

I recall The Rose Bowl, a defunct tea-room, being here formerly.

I managed to get Little Grey parked further down the road and, armed with the iPad, ambled in.

It's an atmospheric place, totally transformed in character since its predecessor.

Clearly a lot of time and effort has been spent on its decor and fittings.

The staff are friendly and helpful, and Ashley runs the show with great aplomb.

There were about five or six on duty today, including my good pal and fellow-swimmer, NCS.


At the counter, resplendent with a tempting miscellany of cakes, meringues, scones and artisan biscuits, I ordered creamy scrambled eggs with lean back bacon, on a muffin.

My order arrived within five minutes and the Belmont nose-bag earned it's keep instanter.

I relished this breakfast, scoffing it down rapidly.

I think they serve the traditional Ulster Fry on Sunday mornings.


NCS asked me if I'd fancy a speciality tea, so the Earl Grey with a piece of Chocolate Biscuit Cake arrived within two minutes.


The tea was served in a dainty little transparent glass pot, cup and saucer.

As I tap the keyboard, I shall absorb the buzz for awhile.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Belmont Stew


Timothy excelled today. A good portion of the Belmont Irish Stew was unearthed from the deep-freeze.

It was defrosted slowly during the night and - Hey, presto! - devoured forthwith on the umpteenth day of Pistorious's trial.

I had it with a boule, viz. the Marks & Spencer mature cheddar and red Leicester cheese version.

I had consumed a glass of red plonk, though felt like a Tanqueray & tonic; ergo, the second glass of red Shiraz was distilled back carefully into the bottle.

No matter. All is well.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Gorgeous Tits

Great news! I have a pair of lovely little blue tits, actively swooping in and out of the North Nest Box, creating a new nest.

I had a family of blue tits in 2013. I wonder if they are related...

I can see them flying directly in towards the box from the kitchen window, with green moss in their beaks.


*****

MY great pal A from Narrow Water always wonders whether my sauce is red or brown, regarding the evening fodder.

Well, A, I can apprise you that it is brown - no! - red; well, its matured, home-made red onion marmalade, actually.

I had a hefty dollop of it with my venison bangers earlier.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Haddock en Croute


On the menu tonight: Smoked haddock en croute, with a medley of vegetables; annihilated in the customary Belmont fashion.

The trusty gnashers performed akin to the cogs on full power at Patterson's Printing Press; the nose-bag remained steadfast.

Sam Thompson Bridge

Hall of Narrow Water Castle

I cycled into town this morning in the trusty two-wheeler and, let me say, first of all, that the new route through Victoria Park and the brand new Sam Thompson Bridge is excellent.

I wondered initially whether it would shorten the speed of my journey - heretofore my route has taken me along the River Connswater, Mersey Street, and the Dee Street flyover.

Now I'm convinced that it's quicker, not to say much more agreeable.

Hearty congratulations to all involved in the transformation of Victoria Park.


AT the Linenhall Library I undertook some research, viz. the Halls of Narrow Water Castle, and the Clelands of Stormont Castle.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Cambridges in NZ


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge have arrived in New Zealand for the beginning of their Royal Visit.

Grey misty clouds and drizzle greeted Their Royal Highnesses as they arrived at Wellington International Airport, but eight-month-old Prince George seemed oblivious to the cold conditions and waved his arms and legs.

The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon John Key MP, was waiting on the tarmac to greet Their Royal Highnesses, but they received the full splendour of a traditional Maori welcome at nearby Government House, the official residence of His Excellency the Governor-General, Lieutenant-General the Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae GNZM QSO.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Gobbins Path


The Gobbins cliff path on Islandmagee, County Antrim, is about half a mile long.

It was built in 1902 and in its heyday was more popular than the Giant's Causeway.

It was a commercial venture from the outset, designed and constructed by Berkeley Deane Wise.


But the attraction - with 15 bridges and a path carved into the cliff-side - fell into disrepair after the 2nd World War.



Several attempts have been made over the last forty years to raise the funds needed to restore the path, but all efforts have been in vain, until now.


Work on a new visitors centre will start this summer and work on the cliff face path will begin in September.

It was closed to the public sixty years ago.

The cliffs are home to the largest seabird colony along the coast of mainland Northern Ireland - only Rathlin Island has a larger colony.


Ian Enlander, from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, said it is a unique place:-
"It's designated as an area of special scientific interest because of the breeding kittiwake and razorbill,"
The new path will include reconstructed versions of the tubular bridge and a 25-metre suspension bridge which were once part of the route.

Morgan Haylett, the project manager from RPS Consulting Engineers, said he believed it would be a challenge to construct the new path,
"Access is either from the top of the cliff or via the sea. Back in the days (when it was built), the bigger bridges were floated in and then lifted into place and it may very well be that that has to happen this time round too."
Visitors will be transported from the visitors centre in groups of 12 by minibus to the entrance of the path. They will then be given a guided tour. Final ticket prices have not been set, but the estimate is £6 per person.

Geraldine McGahey, chief executive of Larne Borough Council, said the new path would bring thousands to the area:-
"In the first year we expect around 50,000 visitors, now that is a very pessimistic projection, but we like to err on the side of caution. Underestimate and overachieve. This is the pinnacle of everything that the council have aspired to give to the ratepayer as a legacy of what the council stood for and delivered."

Sunday, 6 April 2014

St George's Market


St George's Market, East Bridge Street, Belfast, thriving at lunch-time on a Sunday.


The ambiance is vibrant: Dozens of stalls sell everything, ranging from seafood to fruit and vegetables; bric-a brac; art; vintage clothing; food & drink.


Be advised that parking is difficult, though having driven round the block twice, I eventually found a space at Hamilton Street (named after the Dukes of Abercorn, who once owned a town-house here).

Friday, 4 April 2014

Red Roses

Two dozen red roses for my cousin and her husband on their joint birthday celebration this evening, at a venue near Belfast.

"No Gifts" was stipulated, though it's comme il faut to bring a token, isn't it?

Belfast IMAX?


A giant of the cinema world arrived in Northern Ireland thirteen years ago and opened its doors on the banks of the River Lagan, at Queen's Quay.

The £1.5m IMAX screen at Belfast's Odyssey Pavilion was higher than four double-decker buses.

Its projector was the size of a small car. It was the biggest cinema screen in Ulster.

A local entrepreneur, Peter Curistan, who brought the large screen to the Province, said at the time:
"The experience is immersive and you do really feel that you are part of the action. I'm very proud to bring it to Odyessy. I'm very proud to bring it to Northern Ireland and I think we really have something of truly European standard."
The first film to open at the centre was Everest.

The chief projectionist at the centre stated that the staff had to undergo weeks of training to get to grips with the new technology:
"It's very, very hi tech actually. We would have three computers to manage the system. The soundtrack is put onto disc into a hard drive, so you have to synchronise the film with the soundtrack which is very, very important. It's a totally different concept to what normal film would use."
Alas, the Belfast IMAX closed down in September, 2007. Mr Curistan was declared bankrupt in 2013.

I enjoyed the experience and went to quite a few movies there.

It's a shame that it lies empty. Indeed I wonder if the fixtures and fittings are still in place, including the costly projector and technical equipment.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Royal Photo


Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall sign the Visitors' Book at Florence Court House, County Fermanagh, on Tuesday, 1st April, 2014.

TRH in County Down


The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall yesterday spent their second day of engagements in County Down.

His Royal Highness attended a Historic Royal Palaces meeting at Hillsborough Castle.

The Prince of Wales, on behalf of The Queen, afterwards held an Investiture at Hillsborough Castle.

HRH, President, The Prince's Foundation for Building Community, subsequently held a Meeting at Hillsborough Castle.

The Prince of Wales, Colonel-in-Chief, The Mercian Regiment, and The Duchess of Cornwall, later visited 2 Mercian Regiment at Palace Barracks, Holywood, County Down.

Her Royal Highness spent time with families at the Barracks before joining children for an Easter egg hunt in the garrison church.

His Royal Highness, Colonel-in-Chief, Army Air Corps, visited 5 Regiment Army Air Corps at Royal Air Force Aldergrove.

The Duchess of Cornwall met Royal Horticultural Society Britain in Bloom finalists at the Courthouse, Hillsborough, to mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of the campaign, and was received by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of County Down (Mr David Lindsay).

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Chicken Dinner


Having spent a fortnight on the Continent ~ or the Canary Islands, at least ~ I fancied some traditional, unpretentious, British fare today.

Thus, the elementary Belmont Chicken Dinner: Said fowl; mashed potato; broccoli; tomato; sage & onion stuffing; and lashings of farm-house butter.

Royal Visit

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall have begun a two-day visit to Northern Ireland.

Their Royal Highnesses were welcomed at St Angelo Airport, County Fermanagh, by the Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, the Viscount Brookeborough, accompanied by the Rt Hon Andrew Robathan MP, Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office.

TRH then travelled to their first engagement of the day – the Fermanagh County Museums.

After a warm welcome by the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Irish Regiment, the Irish Arms Re-enactment Group and the Aughakillymaude Mummers in the Courtyard of the Castle, the Royal Couple visited the Drumclay Crannog Exhibition.

Sarah McHugh, Manager of the Fermanagh County Museum invited Her Royal Highness to view a painting depicting Her Majesty The Queen’s historic visit to St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, following the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Service at Enniskillen Cathedral, and met the artist, the Hon Hector McDonnell.

The Duchess of Cornwall also viewed a display of Belleek China, for which the county is famous.

HRH then attended a reception in the 1881 building which was attended by around 120 guests drawn from a wide range of organisations associated with the museum.

The Prince of Wales received a Lough Melvin Gosling Trout Fly in a presentation frame, hand-crafted by Frankie McPhillips.

Her Royal Highness received a Fermanagh Silver Birch Wooden Bowl, handcrafted by local woodturner, Brendan Bannon.


AT Florence Court demesne, the Royal Couple were met on arrival by Roy Bailie OBE, Regional Chairman of National Trust; Heather Thompson, Northern Ireland Director, National Trust; and Jim Chestnutt, National Trust General Manager.

TRH were invited to tour the Pleasure Gardens and the Summer House where they met Alan Houston, Head Ranger, and Gerry Cassidy, Gardener.

Their Royal Highnesses also had the opportunity to view the restored 1848 Sawmill and Waterwheel.

The Royal Party continued to make their way to the Kitchen Garden, where they met a number of National Trust volunteers.

Moving to the House, TRH viewed some of the rooms which have been restored to a high standard and are now open to the general public during tours of the House and Garden, and were invited to view the proposed plans for the new Visitors’ Centre.

TRH took the opportunity to meet with a number of National Trust personnel.

Before departure, Their Royal Highnesses received a gift of a small cutting from the mother plant of the Irish Yew Tree, which was discovered near Florence Court in 1767.


IN the evening, Their Royal Highnesses arrived at Hillsborough Castle, County Down, there they were greeted by the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; Arlene Foster, Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment; and Dr Howard Hastings, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

TRH were introduced to a wide spectrum of guests involved in the Northern Ireland tourist industry.

Throughout the evening, guests were entertained by a range of local musicians, including James Patience playing the harp, and the Arco String Quartet, one of Northern Ireland’s leading professional and dynamic groups of musicians from The Ulster Orchestra, who have performed all over the world.

The Belfast City Gospel Choir and Ibuki Taiko also performed.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Drenagh For Sale

I am taken aback to learn that Drenagh, a Georgian mansion within a 1,000 acre country estate near Limavady, County Londonderry, has been put up for sale.

Of course Drenagh is the finest country house in the county and one of the very greatest in Ulster.

The business, known as Drenagh Farms Limited, employs six people and will continue to trade.

The house was built for the McCausland family in 1837 and was designed by the architect Charles Lanyon.

"Recent tough economic times in the leisure market has put unsustainable pressure on cash-flow," a statement from administrators FRP Advisory read.

It added Drenagh is "one of the great country estates of Northern Ireland."

In recent years it has been managed by Conolly McCausland, whose family has owned the estate since the 1700s and built the Georgian mansion in 1837.

"The administration process provides a cushion for the estate to run as normal while a new ownership structure can be established, " said Jason Baker of FRP Advisory.

"The estate will continue to run as normal and the number of bookings is a testament to the popularity of the house, its grounds and its professional staff."