Sunday, 29 June 2008

New Mayoral Limousine

I've found the very car for the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of Belfast: the Daimler Super Eight. The last time the First Citizen was chauffeured about in an automobile with status, presence and dignity, thirty years ago, that car was none other than a Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, its colour a dark blue.

Apparently there has been some debate from within the ranks of our City Fathers about this very matter.

So it is suggested, with the tongue stuck somewhat in one's noble cheek, that the next mayoral limousine be a Daimler Super Eight in dark blue with the Belfast shield of arms mounted on the roof above the windscreen and a banner fluttering from a front wing of the car. The cherished registration number to remain as 1 WZ.

On the other hand, perhaps, nowadays, the preferred mode of transport more in keeping with the Office might be a ministerial Skoda or a diminutive G-Wiz...

Blog Visits

It's interesting encouraging to see how many overseas' visitors I have to my blog, and you are all most welcome. Please feel free to comment should you wish.

Currently 53% of visitors are from the United Kingdom; 14%, USA; 9% unknown; 4% the Irish Republic; 4% Spain; 2% Belgium; and 14% from twenty-nine other countries.

Salt Island, Strangford Lough

Following our day on the island on 28 June, 2008, here are some more photographs:-

They show the rear of the bothy and a stone wall at the front. As I mentioned yesterday, we were endeavouring to piece together sections of the surrounding stone walls; it's like a jigsaw puzzle! If there are any experienced dry stone wall artisans reading this who'd like to join our volunteer group, I'm sure the National Trust would welcome you with open arms! It's not a huge task: there are mainly three walls and three stone pillars, one of which is intact; the two others require re-building.

Craig, the Strangford Lough warden, spotted recent traces of otter droppings at the remains of an old well on the western side of the island.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Field Day At Salt Island, Strangford Lough

I left home at nine twenty-five this morning in order to meet up with Craig and the others at Killyleagh Yacht Club, County Down, where we boarded the boat and headed in a southerly direction to Salt Island. I've stayed on the Island several times, about twenty years ago.

It took us about ten minutes to get to the Island. The area behind the renovated bothy is now wooded, since we planted saplings there two decades ago. The bothy looks very well indeed; the work men were already there, several labourers and a painter. There was a large tractor and a digger (they were brought over on a barge). The bothy has a new roof; the open fire has been replaced by a wood-burner; the interior has been completely redecorated and the floor painted red. It looks very well indeed and there'll be an official opening ceremony next Wednesday, the 2nd July.

There must have been about two dozen people there; we were gathering stones from the ground in front of the bothy and re-building the dry stone walls surrounding it. After lunch, I went for a walk around the island with Kevin and Craig. I hope there'll be an opportunity for us to stay at the bothy soon.

We had to walk across the island to the western side, at Brandy Bay, in order to board the boat for the journey home - the tide had dropped and the western side was muddy and without water!

The weather was sunny, dry and warm despite the weather forecast; about 23c.

Back on the mainland at Killyleagh, Helen, Kevin and I drove to the Dufferin Arms for a shandy afterwards.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Royal Underfunding

Our Royal Family costs the taxpayer a mere sixty-six pence each. That's amazing; I thought it would have been more than that. I propose that we increase the funding to a fiver each. Then our Royal Family could have a new, Royal Yacht in keeping with their status; two more modern, regally-fitted aircraft for an upgraded Royal Flight; and the maintenance of the Royal Train.

Sixty-six pence per taxpayer is derisory. I'd gladly pay ten times that amount.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Russian Triumph

It has to be said that the Ruskies don't half produce smashing tennis-players (is there a pun there?). I watched most of the all-Russian match this afternoon between Sharapova and Kudryavtseva. It was wonderful to see the young Russian girl beating the number three seed despite unsportsmanlike behaviour - relentless and aggressive screaming and bawling - from her opponent.

The international tennis federation ought to stamp down hard on such misbehaviour by a "three-strikes-and-you're-out " type of rule; it's intolerable for spectators and players alike.

China's Commercial Predominance

If you've perused my earlier posting you'll have noticed that I took delivery of a new toaster. It's made by a company called Krup and built like a German automobile. You shall also have gathered that it is made in China. Nothing unusual there.

I bought a pair of Peter Storm over-trousers yesterday and, once again they were made in China.

There appears to be a not inconsiderable fraction of goods emanating from China nowadays; it's the Chinese commercial and global predominance which is so remarkable.

Historical Research

The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is not on the move yet. I paid them a visit at their Balmoral Avenue, Belfast, offices this morning in order to undertake some research on Salt Island in Strangford Lough.

All I could find were several old charts and a few valuation records. The maps were nineteenth century and a 1932 chart. They were large, possibly three feet square, and I wanted an A4-size portion copied. The unhelpful and tiresome staff member told me that the whole map had to be photocopied at a cost of over five pounds - which I was not prepared to pay. On a previous occasion another member of staff did it without any fuss; however, I wasn't going to argue with him and didn't bother.

There wasn't a great deal of information on the map at any rate; details of some springs, fields, a cottage and a plantation.

I drove on to Fulton's restaurant at the Balmoral Plaza and had chicken & broccoli bake accompanied by coleslaw and salad, at a cost of six pounds eighty. Very good, as usual.

Homeward-bound, the petrol gauge was in the red so I filled up at Tesco for a whopping fifty-six pounds. Ouch!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Legging It To Millett's

I had some difficulty parking in Belfast city centre this morning; not unusual as I trawled up May Street, Upper Arthur Street, Montgomery Street and, in the event, managed to get parked in Adelaide Street.

The Dowager waited in the car while I made a beeline for the outdoor store, Millett's. Last Saturday morning my trousers were utterly saturated whilst working at Minnowburn. Some of the others had over-trousers or leggings, and I resolved to invest in a pair.

Millett's had a fair selection of men's, women's and kids. Sometimes I can get away with boys' thirteen year-old trousers, so I tried on a pair of waterproof, dark blue ones. Perfect fit and the right length too so, I tried to get them to reduce the price. They wouldn't budge (wish Dom Littlewood was there!), so I forked out the £14.99 and happily walked back to the two-seater.

Job well done, as they say.

Gearing Up For Trouble

For goodness sake, just ensure the right gear is selected before depression of the accelerator; especially if it's a Chelsea tractor!

This poor lady engaged the drive gear instead of reverse and ended up on top of two other cars, including an expensive Porsche.

The accident occurred on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Patak's Korma Sauce

We used to make our own, home-made curry sauce; it's so much easier to buy a good sauce these days that I don't bother. Patak's canned sauces are a case in point. I've tried lots of commercial curry sauces ranging from the finest to standard and I think Patak's are reasonably authentic. Tesco charged me 79p for a tin today.

We're fond of curry, and I think that the Patak's korma cooking sauce is very good; the tins are fairly good value too. I add sultanas, garlic, honey and banana slices to my curry as it simmers. I don't dilute it at all (they suggest that milk or water is added); I simply add cream at the end.

The very thought of it is making me peckish!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Condition Of Amy Winehouse

I find it quite shocking that one as young as the successful singer, Amy Winehouse, has the lung disease emphysema. I'm not a fan of hers, nor do I particularly find her musical style distasteful; I simply wish her well and merely hope that she can manage to cease the drug habit and dependency.

Twenty-four years of age is frightfully young to develop such conditions.

There But By The Grace Of God Go I

Sunday, 22 June 2008

The Holy Grail Of Toasters?

I'm a True Believer in Which?, the consumer magazine. I invariably refer to it before I make a larger purchase. The subject of my task on this occasion is the toaster. I had to send the Kenwood TT560 back - see my earlier posting - so I'm on the prowl again.

I was in Holywood, County Down, yesterday afternoon and popped in to the fine library there. I wished to see the January 2008 copy of the Which? magazine. Sure enough, it had a review of the latest toasters; so I spent ten minutes inwardly digesting their results. Most interesting. The toaster with the highest score of them all was the Krups FEM2 Toastexpert, which was given eighty-two per cent. It costs forty pounds.

Runner-up was a Magimix (81%); then a Russell Hobbs, and so on. The iconic Dualit had an entry further down the list.

On the strenth of these results I've gone ahead and ordered a Krups online from the John Lewis store group.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Tackling Himalayan Balsam At Minnowburn

It was dry when I left home this morning; however, it started to rain just as I arrived at the Warden's Office, Minnowburn, and the rain continued relentlessly all morning. There were eight of us today, including one new face.

We jumped in to Craig's pick-up truck and drove to the main car-park at the river. From there we walked to the meadow, near Shaw's Bridge. There certainly wasn't as much Balsam this year; we're getting on top of the stuff. It's an invasive weed. Its stem is hollow, like celery. Some of the larger ones were about five feet high; very easy to uproot though.

We worked till about midday, when we headed back to the Office for lunch and a natter. I was quite glad to get home to a warm house because my trousers were saturated.

I'm really looking forward to the Salt Island trip next Saturday.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Big Night At Castle Ward

The weather turned out really fine yesterday evening. When I set off from home it seemed showery and unsettled; however, in the event, I was able to enjoy my picnic in the walled garden as usual.

When I arrived at Castle Ward, I parked at the Old Farm-yard and strolled up towards the Temple Water. I was keen to have a look at the archaeological search for the original Queen Anne house at the top of the hill; a bit disappointing because, although several areas were cordoned off, the grass was still intact and there was no indication that any digging had begun.

I did an about-turn and headed for the Barn; they've done a lovely job there and there's now an elevated vegetable patch, bird feeders and various displays in the grounds surrounding the Barn.

Before the Show itself, I set up camp, figuratively speaking, in the sunken garden; it's a shame that Neptune's trident at the pond is now a prosaic black, rather than the original gold-leaf one which, I think, was stolen.

The M&S fare was very good; no complaints at all except the old principle of Diminishing Returns applies. The late Duke of Bedford always said he enjoyed a Big Mac as much as haute cuisine. I concur, and this applies to sarnies too!

I had a relatively good seat on the fifth row; a window seat, as opposed to an aisle seat. It was gratifying that the manager recognized me instantly and greeted me by name to show me to my seat.

The production, Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, was very well done indeed I thought. The conductor, David Angus, had conducted at the BBC concert I attended on Tuesday. His father was director of music at my old school. The principal singers were all very good too. This was Castle Ward Opera at its best. I believe they're struggling to make ends meet despite the corporate sponsorship; thus there has been only one opera produced for the last few years. I hope they can discover a few more generous benefactors soon, so that they can resume their two-opera season.

So, at a few minutes after midnight, the show finished and I motored home safely in the two-seater.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Here's A Toast To Sandwiches

Sadly, I have had to return the toaster I bought from Amazon, the mail order company. It's a shame and rather disappointing really; not Amazon's fault, I hasten to make clear. Amazon's service has, so far, been impeccable. They even make it easy and relatively simple, certainly straightforward, for customers to return items.

The toaster, a Kenwood TT560, simply refused to brown my toast; even on the maximum setting. It invariably popped up half done and I had to toast it a second time and keep an eye on it. Most disappointing, especially since it was a recommended Best Buy from Which, the consumer magazine. Perhaps the toaster they sent me just had a faulty timer control.

I made a quick dash into Marks and Spencer's Belfast store this morning. It's my Castle Ward Opera evening tonight and I fancy several rounds of delectable sandwiches. M&S have a far superior choice of sandwiches than most other supermarkets.

I have chosen Lochmuir smoked salmon, garlic & herb soft cheese, pickled cucumber & spinach on dark malted bread; king prawns with sliced avocadoes & a tangy cocktail sauce, lettuce & cucumber on oatmeal bread.

For dessert, I have selected Lemon Soufflé made with cream & lemon juice, hand-finished with caramelised orange shreds.

Furthermore, I have a miniature bottle of champers. All that is required now is some decent weather. I prefer to picnic al fresco.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

BBC New Generation Artists In Belfast

I attended a BBC Radio Three Invitation Concert last night at the Spires Centre in central Belfast. I managed to park outside the complex in Howard Street. The concert started at seven o'clock. There was queue outside the hall and it's just as well that I was brandishing my brolly because the heavens opened shortly before they let us all in!

The auditorium was about seventy per cent full; it's not uncomfortable though, I feel, not ideally suited to orchestral concerts. The BBC uses it occasionally when the Ulster Hall is unavailable.

It was an enjoyable performance, with fairly popular pieces. Eduard Kunz played Tchaikovsky's famous Piano Concerto Number One; the highlight of the evening for me, though, was the absolutely wonderful and poignant performance of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto by eighteen year-old Jennifer Pike. This girl is so gifted; she can make the violin sing so sweetly and vividly. Many of us were left with smiles on our faces when she finished.

I'll be keeping an eagle eye out for Jennifer Pike in future, be assured.

Monday, 16 June 2008

HRH Prince William Of Wales KG

Just days before his birthday, His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales has today been inaugurated as the one thousandth Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter in a ceremony at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Prince William is a Royal Knight Companion and now joins other senior members of the Royal Family in our oldest order of chivalry.

Amazon's Amazing!

As already mentioned in my earlier posting, I ordered a new toaster along with the paperback version of a favourite book, A Walk In The Woods, last Thursday. The best deal was obtained with Amazon, the online mail order business.

The door-bell rang this morning. A blonde woman from the Royal Mail stood on the door-step holding a large box. At first, I was slightly bewildered but suddenly realized that it was my aforesaid items from Amazon. That's impressive service indeed, especially since they estimated the delivery date as being the end of the week.

Very well done, Amazon.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Ballywalter Fishing Trip

Eric, a fellow National Trust volunteer, picked me up in his Land-Rover this morning at eight-thirty and we drove straight to the coastal village of Ballywalter in County Down, where his family has a holiday home. Craig and Anna met us there and we all helped to launch Eric's fishing-boat at the slip-way nearby.

We motored out towards Skullmartin rock and cast out the fishing-lines. Not a great deal to brag about, I'm afraid: two, smallish pollock caught. We stayed out for five hours; the weather was fine and there was a sea breeze. We'd all brought packed lunches, mine consisting of corned beef with salad-cream; followed by the favoured Tunnock's tea-cake.

We spotted several seals while we fished; they must have been somewhat bemused to watch our efforts at fishing.

On the way back towards terra firma, Craig suggested that we have a barbecue at Castle Ward on the evening of our trip to Salt Island on 28th June; most likely at Terinichol on the Estate.

It's the first time I've been out in a boat for ages.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Butter Barometer

The weather's a touch cooler. When I pushed the knife into the butter this morning it was noticeably firmer. I always find that butter is a reliable barometer of the general temperature.

The Queen's Birthday Honours List 2008

I'm particularly pleased to learn that the veteran BBC Antiques Roadshow pottery expert, Mr Henry Sandon, is now an MBE, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Many congratulations, sir.

Closer to home, Her Grace the Duchess of Abercorn becomes an OBE.

The full Honours List for Northern Ireland can be read here.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Spending Spree

There's a new toaster coming its way to me soon. Whilst our present one is OK, it's showing its age and no longer toasts evenly. I've done some research and the Which Magazine recommends a Best Buy; next step has been to shop around on the web.

Amazon sells the one I want and, owing to their "Free Supersaver Delivery" I've also bought a paperback version of one of my favourite books, A Walk In The Woods. If I'd purchased the toaster on its own, the total cost would have been £18.54; because the book purchase pushes the total to over £15, the final charge to me is £18.32.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The Queen's Birthday Honours Speculation

It will be interesting to see if the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Ian Paisley, MP, MLA, is offered or, indeed, is ready to accept a peerage yet in the forthcoming Queen's Birthday Honours List this weekend. His wife, the Baroness Paisley of St George's, is already in the House of Lords to welcome him.

It all depends on whether Ian Paisley is ready to retire from the House of Commons yet, thereby necessitating a by-election in his North Antrim constituency which, possibly, his son Ian Paisley Junior would fight.

In recent years, retiring Ulster Unionist Party Leaders have accepted Life Peerages.

Of course it is also possible that Ian Paisley could be offered an order of knighthood, should he wish to remain as the Member for North Antrim until the General Election.

It's all mere speculation on my part...

Garage Clearance

In preparation for our new central heating system, I've been clearing some of the clutter in the garage. Most of it had been accumulated by my late father. I simply cannot be bothered taking it all to a car boot sale or anywhere else; there's so much fuss these days about what can and cannot be sold for Health and Safety Reasons.

I've unearthed old cables, rope, time-clocks, sockets, lamps, aluminium sheeting, fibre-glass filler, wire wool, candles, tins, leather straps and much more besides.

When the plumbers and engineers arrive they'll require easy access to piping in the garage; thus, shelves must be cleared. At least I now know what remains and it shan't take long to move it to the other side of the garage.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

New Central Heating

We had an assessor today, surveying our present central heating system in preparation for its replacement with a new, up-to-date energy-efficient one. They will replace the back-boiler, install a new boiler, thermostatically controlled radiators, a new thermostat and more.

There will inevitably be a measure of inconvenience and upheaval; for instance, the lifting of carpets, moving furniture and other items. However, hopefully it will be worthwhile and our house should pass the new, stringent energy efficiency regulatory certification criteria.

They reckon it will be done soon and they'll give me notice. No Gain Without Pain.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Thomas Cook Airlines Inadequate Response

I commented, in a previous posting, about the delay in my flight from Tenerife back to Belfast, caused by the failure of its Captain to get to Bristol airport on time.

At the time I sent them an email. I've just received this response from them:-

"Dear Sir or Madam

Thank you for your recent email regarding your travel arrangements with us.

I am sorry for the delay to your journey home but I am sure you can appreciate the flight could not continue without the captain.

I do understand your comments about late reporting passengers but I am sure you can understand this is a totally different situation when relating to crew or flight deck.

Once again, thank you for taking the time and trouble to contact us,


What a feeble excuse! I'd have deemed it more important that the Captain made it his business to turn up on time for a full flight.

It's not good enough. I'm not going to waste any more of my time or energy or money pursuing this issue any further. I suspected as much anyway.

Significant Cartographical Error

I bought a new map of Strangford Lough yesterday. It's Sheet Twenty-one of the Discoverer Series by the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland. We already have an old, one-inch map emblazoned with the Arms of the former Parliament of Northern Ireland which cost the princely sum of thirty pence! The new map set me back six pounds: that's inflation for you.

I quickly spotted a significant cartographical mistake in the new map. Sketrick Island, near Whiterock, has been erroneously named Hen Island. What a bloomer! It doesn't matter so much to me, because I know Sketrick Island well - Daft Eddy's is there after all.

Sketrick Island's name has been utterly obliterated by OSNI. This must cause confusion for tourists and strangers at least. I certainly find it all rather bemusing. Hen Island is the minuscule islet just south-west of Sketrick.

I wonder if I could claim a refund. Only joking.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Fundamental Poultry Policy Change

I support Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his campaign for free-range chicken sales. Battery chicken farming is inhumane. Major supermarkets and, in particular, Tesco need to seriously consider their current policy and encourage more farmers to produce free-range chickens at an affordable price. Battery chicken production is really not acceptable.

Asking Hugh to pay the costs merely reflects their resistance to changing the present circumstances; especially since they generate such immense profits.

I freely admit that I still buy Tesco's standard, cooked chicken. The free-range cooked chicken on their shelves is negligible and considerably costlier. They could do more.

Salt Island, Strangford Lough

I hope to undertake some research on the National Trust's Salt Island in Strangford Lough. I spoke to Craig, the Strangford Lough warden, yesterday and he suggested that we both pay a visit to Rowallane House (NT regional HQ) in order to investigate relevant documentation more fully.

In the interim, I have the following factual information concerning the Island:-

  • Salt Island lies 1.25 miles south of Killyleagh in County Down
  • It is fifty-one acres in size
  • It was owned by Lord Bangor in 1836
  • It consists mainly of clay soil
  • There is one hill fifty-four feet above sea-level
  • There were no dwellings in 1836
  • A cottage did exist and its stones were used to construct the present bothy
  • In the Griffith's Valuation of 1863, Edward Hughes occupied Salt Island and paid rent to Lord Bangor

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Mid Island And Chapel Island Walk, Strangford Lough

I needed to leave home early this morning for the organized National Trust walk near Greyabbey in County Down. The walk began at nine o'clock, our meeting-point being the car park just south of the village. We were, yet again, blessed with fine weather (20c).

More than a dozen turned up for the walk. Craig, the Strangford Lough warden, led the group. I only recognized one other person but it was good to meet new people with similar interests and I chatted to three or four of them.

The tide was low, so we were able to cross the foreshore easily. We strolled towards South Island first and Craig showed us various little insects, grasses and seaweeds along the way. There's a causeway linking the mainland with Mid Island and South Island. By-passing South Island, we made for Chapel Island, where we admired the view across the lough while Craig told us a bit about the island's history and its connection with Movilla Abbey. Apparently, in the middle ages, one or two monks inhabited the island and were practically self-sufficient. The remains of a modest building still exist, though they're overgrown with brambles and bracken. We spotted a buzzard hovering high above.

On the foreshore, we saw the remains of wide, stone walls which were a few hundred yards long and had been possibly five feet high. The monks from Greyabbey used these walls to entrap fish and sea-food: when the tide was high, the fish landed among the stones at the top of the wall; when the tide dropped, many fish became trapped. This was an ingenious means of catching sea-food, not only for themselves but also, ironically enough, for soldiers and warriors!

From Chapel Island, we walked over the shore to Mid Island which is wooded and has a white-washed cottage with outbuildings; it's in very good order and obviously still used, though not inhabited. I gather there's still a link with the Montgomerys of Rosemount Estate nearby. Craig led us to the remains of a five thousand year-old wooden sailing vessel several hundred yards away on the foreshore; whilst there's not that much left to see, it's still remarkable that such a vessel remains.

Most of us had packed lunches at the car park and three of us collected litter from the bay at Skillin's Point till three-thirty.

Motoring homewards, with the hood down on the two-seater, I stopped at Asda to re-fuel and they charged 114.9 pence per litre.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Salt Island Bothy, Strangford Lough

I haven't been to Salt Island for many years. The last time I stayed there was twenty summers ago, when we created an elevated grass terrace at the front of the Bothy; saplings were also planted behind the Bothy. About ten years ago we enjoyed the occasional picnic there, travelling on our boat from Strangford. The weather was always fine and sunny, the tide was high - it was idyllic.

Salt Island must be forty or fifty acres in size. It is owned by the National Trust. The Bothy is the only building on the island and it is on the eastern side. There is a modest stone jetty near the Bothy and you walk through a little field to reach it. Killyleagh is the closest village to the island.

The Bothy itself was vandalized and has only recently been renovated; it will be ready for habitation next month. In fact, we plan to visit it on 28th June in preparation for its re-opening. I'm looking forward to seeing the island again after so many years; seeing the trees we planted such a long time ago.

The Bothy is modest in size, clad in vernacular stone and rectangular with a sloping roof. It is well built, the first layer being breeze-block; then polystyrene insulation; and finally thick stone. It had a supply of bottled gas and running water. It also had toilet facilities, a drying-area, an open-plan kitchen and dining area; and a living space with an open fire and wooden platforms for sitting and sleeping on. We also had cooking utensils. I expect it will remain much the same as this now. There's a picture of it above.

I've stayed on the island with other NT Volunteers on three occasions, for two nights at a time.

M&S Fine Sandwich Selection

It has to be said that Marks & Spencer's M&S's flagship Belfast store has a fine selection of sandwiches; much superior to, say, the large Tesco store at Knocknagoney outside Belfast. If I'm ever buying sandwiches, I usually nip in to Tesco's for their cheese-and-onion variety. However, I'm thinking ahead to a night at the opera on the nineteenth of June.

I'm definitely tempted to visit Marks-and-Sparks that day to choose from an excellent selection of top-notch sandwiches, like smoked salmon with various fillings and others. Obviously they all make big profits by selling a sandwich for £2.50 or more, bearing in mind that two slices of bread costs them a mere, few pence. I'd be curious to know what the mark-up is.

I haven't decided, yet, whether to bring a simple helping of fresh raspberries and cream to the opera evening; or some sort of trifle or fancy pastry.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Garden Weeding

I took a notion, this morning, to begin a front garden weeding blitz. This inclination does not happen often, so I brandished the wheel-barrow, spade and gloves forthwith. It's satisfying enough when you get down to it; I managed to dig out a barrowful of weeds. The brown bin still has plenty of room left, mind you.

Later, we drove to Holywood Exchange where I purchased a low-energy light bulb at B&Q; I had a quick browse around too and a fine cylinder mower caught my eye: an ATCO Windsor 12S. It was tempting, another toy for me to play with; however, at £320 it was no bargain. I've noticed them being sold online for £260 (and when the terms are checked, many suppliers don't deliver to NI or charge extra).

I still have B&Q gift vouchers for fifty pounds; probably best to put the ATCO out of my mind.

It seems to be taking an eternity for them to open the Holywood Exchange shopping centre adjacent to IKEA; I wonder if they're having difficulty letting out the shop units...

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Demise Of The Paper Boys & Girls

We have never got newspapers delivered. My father always bought the newspaper from his newsagent on the way home from work. I don't even bother buying them now; I bought my first newspaper in years, the Daily Telegraph, a week ago when I was at Portballintrae. I invariably read the Sunday Times online these days.

I was somewhat surprised a few months ago, when a free newspaper, the Belfast News, was delivered to our door; mainly because we seldom get free papers delivered. The publishers seemed to be experiencing difficulty in recruiting paper-boys to do the rounds in our area.

So the Belfast News is now being pushed through our letter-box weekly, which is certainly better than nothing.

If it's still being delivered this winter I can use it for lighting the occasional log fire!

Belmont Post Office Closure

Belmont Post Office will close down soon, along with thirty-seven other post offices in the Province; only four offices have been saved.

I have commented about this matter on a previous blog, expressing my support for Belmont and my opposition to its closure.

It is, indeed, most disappointing and really does mark the end of a local era.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Home-Made Cheeseburgers

We've had a lazy day today, basking in the sunshine at home. The old tan is definitely well topped up now.

Home-made cheeseburgers were the order of the day. There was half a pound of lean mince-steak in the fridge. Generally speaking, it's never minced finely enough for hamburgers. In my experience the burger falls apart in places. So, the secret is to put the mince-steak in to a food processor along with seasoning, tomato purée and garlic; mince it all up finely for fifteen or twenty seconds; then shape your burger. This technique always works without fail.

I made a smaller one for the Dowager and a more substantial one for myself with lettuce, tomato, a slice of cheese, coleslaw, oven chips and onion rings.

By the way, the burgers stayed together completely.