Monday, 30 November 2009

Remove the Big Wheel

The elephantine monstrosity, which still occupies the grounds of Belfast City Hall, has overstayed its welcome and must be re-located somewhere else. I have complained about its siting previously, because I believe that the grounds of the City Hall are singularly inappropriate for such a structure.

The Belfast Titanic Society has, quite correctly, complained about it. The structure obscures - even blocks - the Titanic Memorial in Donegall Square East. The Lord Mayor of Belfast's response yesterday to this criticism was, to my mind, inadequate; speaking of which, how did Councillor Long vote, presuming there has been a debate about the structure's location?

For the Lord Mayor even to suggest that the Titanic Memorial could be re-located is surely an indication as to her thinking on the matter; and where her priorities lie.

I wish the Lord Mayor to make a statement today, saying that the grounds of City Hall are inappropriate for these kinds of structures; and that she will actively lobby for its removal forthwith.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

London Flights

I've been having a quick look at the various airlines and flights from Belfast City Airport to London. FlyBe remains competitive, it would seem; British Midland - BMI - is another option, though availability and flight times are naturally a factor. A flight at 06:50 in the morning wouldn't be my first choice, lest it were literally free, or a couple of quid.

The other factor to take into account is the journey from the airport into central London; so it is the overall figure, including taxes and flight times, that is of more relevance to me. I may well be able to get a flight from one airline that costs £51 return; though the onward trip by train could cost another £20.

Incidentally, a small hotel in Bloomsbury - a part of the metropolis still largely owned by the Duke of Bedford, it seems - which attains a high rating on TripAdvisor, has caught my eye: the Ridgemount. I am a great believer in TripAdvisor, by the way. I invariably check a hotel's ratings with them before I book anywhere.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Canon Powershot

I'm wondering whether it might be a better idea for me to consider a more up-to-date compact digital camera. My Kodak C310 simply refuses to recognize any SD memory cards at all.

I 'm thinking along the lines of something like a Canon Powershot A480, which does accept SD cards and is, I think, 10 mega-pixels. They can be purchased from Amazon for £81.50.

Surely my Dell desk-top will accept uploads from this little digital camera?

Friday, 27 November 2009

No Memory

Amazon, to their credit, have sent me an email informing that they will refund me the full amount for the Flip camcorder, plus postage costs. This service is more than fair; very good indeed, in my book. There was, after all, nothing wrong with the camcorder, except the fact that it took an inordinate amount of time - 100 minutes - to upload a 6-minute video.

This problem, I suspect, now lies with my five year-old computer, which may not have high-speed USB ports. Perhaps I need to be considering a state-of-the-art desk-top computer instead! That all-on-one Dell Studio One 19 looks handy...

In a final, last-ditch attempt to get my Kodak C310 camera to accept a memory card, I have bought a Kodak 258mb memory card on Ebay for £3.99. If that doesn't work, nothing will. I already have a useless collection of SD memory cards: one 1gb and one 512mb.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Enter The Demesne

One of the joys of keeping a blog like mine is that, from time to time, I receive messages from folk who tell me that they have stumbled across it whilst searching for something else. It's hardly surprising, I suppose, since my scope of topics is practically limitless; and I basically write about whatever takes my fancy.

I have written articles about Donard Lodge, the former marine residence of the Earls Annesley. Of course the mansion is long gone; though remnants of the demesne can still be traced. The present Donard car-park formed part of the grounds.

One such person to encounter my blog has been John, who now lives in Staffordshire, though has strong connections with Newcastle in County Down. John sent me this lovely poem which evokes fond memories of his childhood spent near the old demesne:

Enter The Demesne

Just to enter the demesne amongst the thickness of the trees

My minds still active my memory still sees

I remember the Annesley family’s summer home, in ruins but the building still standing.

To have it demolished there’s just no understanding

It was damaged in the sixties by fire

But as a boy to go inside was my only desire

Empty haunted dangerous and falling

Id get closer and closer to going inside, then I would here my dad calling.

It stood with the trees tall and proud,

But look at it dad I would shout out loud

It was such a beautiful building to knock it down I am sure they regret

But it's still part of me and I'll never forget

We had such good times as children following all of the paths

I can recall all of the fun and still here the laughs

But there’s another side to the demesne a darker side that I find daunting

I always feel a presence, something haunting

You here things in the bushes but never quite see

I always get the feeling there’s something watching me

Was it a trick of my imagination or something I saw?

Perhaps a banshee a big cat or maybe even a wild bore

John Lenaghan

Putting Fitness First

I have joined the health club, Fitness First, today. I was a member a few years ago and, since then, I've belonged to two other clubs.

Are there Fitness First clubs in the USA or Canada; or Australia?

In my experience they all have their deficiencies; and, sometimes, it can be a case of "out of the frying-pan and into the fire", "the devil you know..." and all that rot.

Still, I wish for a change again; so I called with them today and suffered the usual sales pitch, the obligation to disclose my phone number et al. I provided my mobile number: I rarely have it with me, so it is almost as good as no number! They can always pester me by my tertiary email address.

It never does you any good to discuss what deal you negotiate - or strike - with fellow members, since the deals vary so much. I was sufficiently satisfied with mine to go ahead: £23.33 per month for twelve months - no administration or joining fee either. They all probably seek new members, especially at this time of year; so I didn't have to try hard.

The Connswater branch doesn't have a swimming-pool. No matter, I swim at the old school anyway.

I'd better say my "goodbyes" to a few chums at the old club tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

At Linen Hall Library

I was in Belfast briefly this morning, in order to do a bit of research, again, at the Linen Hall Library in Donegall Square North. What a most civilized place it is. I entered by the Donegall Square entrance and complimented the door man on the gleaming brass-work. There is something comforting about this old library - it's definitely evocative of times past, with its carpeting, brass features, wood panelling; even creaky floor-boards. I am fond of the old girl.

Whilst there, the large, hardback book by Sir Charles Brett about the Buildings of County Armagh caught my eye. If you really wish to study Armagh's historic buildings, look no further. My modest articles "pale into insignificance", by comparison.

I endeavoured to find some information about Lizard Manor in Aghadowey; and Stuart Hall, near Stewartstown, erstwhile seat of Lord Castle Stewart.

I'd considered having a bite to eat at Alden's in the City; however, in the event, I ambled into Marks and Spencer's and dashed out again with three packets of fish; a packet of chicken legs; and two packets of their most excellent fruit pastilles under my arm, literally (I'd forgotten to bring a carrier-bag).

Stuart Hall Estate actually has a phone number, so I called them and left a message on the answer machine.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Gloom & Despondency

I have been feeling a bit gloomy lately, what with the incident concerning the Dowager a week ago and all that that entailed. You're cruising along quite happily, and then this sort of "challenging" matter occurs.

The stress of the Dowager Incident, coupled with my futility and frustration at being unable to upload images satisfactorily with the new camcorder; and returning it; trying desperately to get SC memory cards to work on the little Kodak camera - seemingly the camera is technologically obsolete and I kept being asked what age it was, as if it was a Kodak Brownie! It cannot be much more than five years old.

So there it is. I can only hope that life gets back to the old routine again soon. At least I'm still posting these dispatches on the blog.

I've been doing a spot of research on country houses in County Londonderry. Is there anyone reading this from that county? This shall be the subject of a future project. A few familiar names are popping up, viz. Drenagh, Ballyscullion, Bellarena, Downhill and, of course, Springhill.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Flip Flop

My expectations were too high. Typical. I do not doubt that the Flip Mino HD camcorder is able to take videos of up to an hour in length; that, for its size, it takes very good pictures; and that it is "user-friendly" - simple to operate - also.

What I didn't realize was how long a five-minute video would take to upload. Blogger accepts AVI, MPEG, QuickTime, Real and Windows Media, up to 100 MB maximum size. How does the Flip relate to this, if it is so blogger-friendly?

Must I accept that any video I take can be a mere couple of minutes' length?

I started to upload a five-minute video to You Tube last night and it indicated an upload time estimate of 100 minutes!

Is there an answer, I wonder? Will I lose interest in taking short video clips and let my £120 Flip gather dust in its box?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Upload Failure

I have been trying to upload my first video all morning and I just want to remove the software completely! It simply shan't upload. I have a video of my goldfinches.

There must surely be an easier means of uploading Flip videos to my blog...

The Plum Pudding

Despite the fact that I only ever indulge in it at Christmas - usually - I adore plum pudding. That is the old-fashioned, traditional - even archaic - name for it. Call it Christmas pudding, if you prefer.

There are some very good plum puddings on the market, without the need to make one yourself.

Marcus Wareing, Gordon Ramsay's erstwhile protégé, has been out and about testing several of the best supermarket ones and, unsurprisingly, the Tesco Finest, 18-month Matured pudding is impressive. Tesco are proud of their "premium" plum puddings; especially since Her Majesty has presented them to her staff - or some of them - at Christmas in the past. That's what I've heard, at any rate.

Wareing's comparison is selective and he tries a mere six puddings. Nonetheless, it is still quite interesting. Judge for yourself...

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Royal Promotions

I have learned today that Rear-Admiral HRH The Princess Royal is to be promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy with effect from the 1st December, 2009.

Captain HRH The Duke of York, Royal Navy, is to be promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral in the Royal Navy on his 50th birthday, the 19th February, 2010.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Burlington Arcade

Rejuvenated from her official visit to Canada, the Duchess of Cornwall has switched on the Christmas lights at the splendid Burlington Arcade in the metropolis.

The arcade was built to the order of Lord George Cavendish, younger brother of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, who had inherited the adjacent Burlington House on what had been the side garden of the house and was reputedly to prevent passers-by throwing oyster shells and other rubbish over the wall of his lordship's home. It consisted of a single straight top-lit walkway lined with seventy-two small two storey units. Some of the units have now been combined, reducing the number of shops to around forty. The ponderous Piccadilly façade, in a late version of Victorian mannerism, was added in the early 20th century.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Flippin' Heck!

I have "splashed out" on a little camcorder called the Flip Mino HD. The best deal I could find was on the mail order company, Amazon.

This tiny, mobile-phone-sized camcorder sounds impressive to me, at £120. My fellow-blogger, Alan in Belfast, wrote a review of it in May, 2009; and there are innumerable positive reviews of it on the Web generally.

It will arrive imminently. Watch this space...

The Hospital Trip

I must give credit indeed to the Ulster Hospital; particularly their Casualty Unit and Observation Ward, for a competent, efficient and assiduous process from Tuesday through to Wednesday. This competence and impressiveness was not reflected at the GP surgery end, if you know what I mean - district nurse excepted.

The first ambulance - non-emergency - failed to arrive on Monday afternoon, because the GP at the surgery forgot to inform them. I phoned the next morning to let them know. The second ambulance arrived when I was out at an appointment - and I had expressly told the doctor that I'd be out between 10.30 and 12.30. The third ambulance did turn up mid-afternoon and the Dowager was taken to "A&E".

I know that surgery receptionists have a job to do, apart from protecting and shielding their doctors from "nuisance patients"; and, consequently, they operate a rigorous regime. Nevertheless, they can, in stressful situations, be utterly insufferable and tiresome. Little wonder people can resort to superciliousness with them, as opposed to rudeness.

However, at the hospital the Dowager stayed in the ward overnight; and I collected her on Wednesday afternoon. To one's relief, she only has a sprained ankle - no fracture - so she has been provided with a "zimmer" and a carton of co-codamol tablets. We have Ibuprofen ointment at home as well, and this could be beneficial.

The administration of the Ulster Hospital persists in ripping off and depriving patients and their visitors of cash perennially by means of car parking charges. I paid £1.80 on Tuesday; and £1 yesterday for about 15 or 20 minutes. If the Northern Ireland Assembly and its Executive is worth its salt - or anything at all - it is long overdue the time that this extortion was prohibited and that the senior executives running our hospitals made accountable for such disgraceful tactics.

I've been told that some Ulster hospitals even charge in-patients for the "privilege" of watching television! The present Health Minister and his colleagues are sitting on their hands, as far as these scandals are concerned.

They keep claiming that they have no money or insufficient funds. Eh? They seem to have an abundance of funds for innumerable commissions, Ombudsmen, quangos, certain dubious benefits ad nauseum.

I compliment the nurses and staff at the hospital; I condemn the administration for the bureaucracy.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Valete: Lady Mairi

The sole surviving daughter of the Most Honourable Charles Stewart Henry Marquess of Londonderry, KG, MVO, TD, and Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, Lady Mairi Bury was married to Viscount Bury who, in turn was heir to the 9th Earl of Albemarle.

Lady Mairi lived at Mount Stewart House and estate, near Newtownards in County Down, throughout her life; Mount Stewart is now a property of the National Trust. Her nephew was the 9th and present Marquess. Lady Mairi's niece was Lady Annabel Goldsmith.

A memorial service was held for Lady Mairi's father, the aforementioned 7th Marquess, at Belfast Cathedral on the 16th February, 1949; and at Westminster Abbey the following day. Lord Londonderry was buried at the Family's burial ground above the lake at Mount Stewart, Tir-N'an Og.

Lady Mairi's interests included philately.

The Londonderry Family once owned one of the grandest homes in London, Londonderry House, in Park Lane, which is now the site of the Hilton Hotel. The title is, incidentally, pronounced "London-dry".

Lady Mairi Bury 1921-2009

I am saddened to learn that Lady Mairi Bury, from Mount Stewart House and sole surviving daughter of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Londonderry, has died. It is believed that Lady Mairi passed away on Monday evening.

The BBC has an article here. The coat-of-arms is shown by kind permission of European Heraldry.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

A Terrible Day

I've had a ghastly day. The Dowager sprained her ankle on Sunday, while we were at Daft Eddy's on Sketrick Island. I've endured a steady stream of calls from the district nurse; the doctor; the ambulance service ... and I've had to be "in attendance" all day.

The first ambulance didn't turn up because the doctor forgot to inform them. The second ambulance turned up this morning while I was away - and I expressly told the doctor that I had an appointment between ten-thirty and noon.

The third ambulance arrived mid-afternoon. I followed it in the baby two-seater; accompanied the Dowager into Casualty in the Ulster Hospital; waited for a few hours; and, when they x-rayed the ankle, there was no fracture.

The Dowager is being kept in an observation ward overnight; and I'll collect her tomorrow.

I still managed to swim my sixty lengths this evening. On the way home, I stopped at a new kebab house, Lydia's, at 38, Belmont Road, fancying some comfort food. This takeaway seems clean and tidy; and the staff also seem to be agreeable.

I ordered a doner kebab with pitta bread and garlic mayonnaise. It was the best kebab I have eaten for many years indeed: Crispy, fresh salad; lots of meat; and thick, tangy garlic mayonnaise - not that runny, diluted stuff you sometimes get. Great value for £3.50. I shall definitely return.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

3-D Week

Picked up your free pair of 3-D glasses from Sainsbury's this week? I have! There was a pile of them in a tall carton at the entrance of the store.

3-D Week begins on Channel Four from next Monday. Tim Heald tipped me off about it; and the free glasses.

I'm certainly curious to learn how effective the experience will be.

And don't forget that the new series of the BBC's flagship motoring programme, Top Gear, begins tonight at 9pm on BBC HD and BBC2.

The Panda Encounter

I phoned up Alden's Restaurant yesterday in order to reserve a table for my birthday next month. I enjoyed a good lunch at their city branch during the summer; and it's ages since we last ate at their main restaurant.

Last night I met up with an old school chum, Pete, at the Odyssey Pavilion in Belfast. Despite there being an ice hockey match, the ambiance in the pavilion was subdued and quiet - no buzz about that huge Mecca of entertainment at all.

We dined at the Red Panda Chinese restaurant on the first floor, which was certainly doing a steady trade. Although the outside seating was empty, the restaurant was moderately full; though we were shown to a table immediately.

We shared a starter of shredded crispy duck with very thin pancakes, finely cut celery - was it celery? - and a sort of hoisin sauce. You make it up yourself by placing the ingredients inside the open pancake and rolling the lot up. This was very tasty indeed.

Pete had chicken with chili and honey sauce; while I ate the chicken with Peking sauce. My meal was, ironically, hotter than Pete's! I wondered whether they'd brought me the wrong dish, because any Chinese meal I've had with Peking sauce is usually sweet, rather than hot. I still enjoyed it, though.

The portions were fine; the bill, including two drinks and coffees, came to about £40.

The atmosphere in the Red Panda was quite jolly, there being a birthday party.

Pete was telling me about the neighbours beside his old family home on the road into Donaghadee in County Down - the road which looks on to the Copeland Islands. Seemingly the neighbour is a wealthy "builder" (read developer) and Pete initially wondered whether they were building a small hotel! It's no hotel: it's their residence. And it boasts a heli-pad; and a games-room with a billiards table at one corner of the room. It appears that this chap owns - or partly owns - a race-horse called Monty's something-or-other which won a few races.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Poor Memory

Not self, I hasten to add, on this occasion! Timothy Belmont's memory is tip-top, I am glad to report.

I refer to an inexpensive digital camcorder I purchased about ten days ago at a prominent stationer's in Donegall Place, Belfast.

I used it for the first time the other day and its internal memory is utterly pathetic! Eighteen seconds, or thereabouts. It would have required an SD Card for extra memory. I returned it today, in its original packaging; and, to the stationer's credit, they didn't quibble at all. The £39.99 was credited to my account.

I have a trusty little Kodak C310 digital camera, which suffices for me. Remarkably enough, its internal memory is quite good; and it would improve a deal more with an "SD Memory Card".

1GB should be sufficient for me. That is the maximum size of memory recommended for my camera anyway. I have just bought a new one from a business seller on Ebay, for £2.99 including free postage.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Royal Trip to Canada

TRH The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have completed an official visit to Canada by planting a commemorative oak tree at the Governor-General's residence in Ottawa yesterday.

They have timed it well: Prince Charles's 61st birthday is tomorrow.

Princess Royal in Ulster

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal is in Northern Ireland today, presenting medals to Territorial Army soldiers at Hillsborough Castle in County Down.

The new Lord-Lieutenant for County Down, Mr David Lindsay, welcomed HRH.

A Pee Please, Bob!

I always suspected as much. It's good for something, at any rate. After dinner in the evenings, we always used to blame the ringworm after urinating on the lawn in front of the odd country house, lest it discoloured the grass.

Now I am relieved to hear it!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Coal Tit Frenzy

I've been viewing a pair of delightful coal tits, darting to and fro from our feeder station in the front garden. If you blink an eyelid you'll miss them!

They are fond of black sunflower seeds. I've been told that coal tits are like squirrels, in so far as they are hoarders; and they habitually secrete their food stocks for the winter months.

"My" goldfinches happily perch at their nyjer seeds, munching away; oblivious to the tits in their frenzy.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Civic Pride

Perhaps I'm being a trifle paranoid, but I am sure that the City of Belfast's Christmas tree - the one erected at the front of City Hall each year - is diminishing in size.

I seem to recall the tree being loftier a few decades ago. Could the dimensions of the tree be a reflection of the city's lack of pride or self-esteem? Or is this yet another cost-cutting measure by Belfast City Council? Health and Safety "Euro-Gobbledygook"?

The Council, in its wisdom, sold their last great motor-car, viz. the Rolls-Royce Phantom VI.

I happened to be at the Linen Hall Library today, undertaking some research pertaining to County Armagh.

I have selected an old, traditional font for what you are reading now: Garamond.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Hard Disc Space

I have been experimenting - as you may, or may not, have noticed - with new fonts for my title and description. I have chosen Edwardian Script for the former; Copperplate for the latter. My original preference was for a font called "Palace Script"; but since this isn't available on Microsoft Works 9, I've settled for the other.

When I was using my diminutive notebook computer downstairs a few days ago a message popped up advising me that there was less than 5% disc space remaining. I haven't even been able to de-fragment it because, seemingly, it is ineffective if the available space drops below a certain level.

I "surfed the Web" in order to see what was recommended; and I encountered this article, Six Ways to Increase Available Disc Space.

Most of the recommendations are utterly incomprehensible to me; nevertheless, I persevered and did what they said.

It has worked. So far, so good. My disc space has increased from about 5% to 45%. That's remarkable, isn't it?

If any readers try this, I'd be most interested to hear how you get on...

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Brown Misspelling

I think I'll give the Prime Minister, Mr Brown, the "benefit of the doubt" in this exceptional instance. He wrote a letter to the grieving mother of Guardsman Janes, killed on active service last October whilst in Afghanistan.

Mr Brown is practically blind in one eye; and, to be fair, this is the most likely reason for the misspelling (presumably he wrote "James" instead of Janes).

Having said that, surely it must be of the utmost import that Mr Brown gets this kind of personal correspondence checked, either by his wife or by an aide, owing to his handicap?

My distaste for Mr Brown and most of his socialist colleagues is doubtless reciprocated, in equal measure, by their loathing of the Great Lady, whom I hold in inestimably higher esteem!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Conservation at Glastry

Yet another day of toil; a labour of love. We - the NT Volunteers - met at Glastry today. Glastry is a very small hamlet, about a mile from the fishing village of Ballyhalbert in County Down.

It is generally unknown to the general public that the National Trust owns the land which was once the old brick-works at Glastry. It closed a long time ago, in 1872.

The former clay pits filled naturally with rain-water; and now form a series of ponds surrounded by a lovely nature reserve.

We were cutting away gorse bushes today; and removing long, coarse grass from a row of saplings. There were about twelve of us today, and it wasn't half muddy! I munched contentedly at my smoked salmon sandwiches. I'd brought a dozen mini muffins along, too; so I handed them round at lunch-time.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Great Armagh Landowners

My small piece about the Earls of Gosford and their former seat, Gosford Castle, has whetted my appetite for a little more research; so I shall be writing and, indeed, focusing during the next few weeks, from time to time, on the topic of the great landowners of County Armagh a hundred years ago.

As a general introduction, I shan't dwell on any particular country house or family.

Among the greatest landowners in County Armagh during the 19th century was the Viscount Charlemont and his descendants. They owned Charlemont Fort; and their seat was Roxborough Castle, which was actually in Moy, County Tyrone. In 1876, Lord Charlemont owned 20,695 acres.

The 2nd Baron Lurgan built Brownlow House, near Lurgan. Lord Lurgan and his successors owned 15,166 acres. Brownlow House was sold to the Orange Order in 1903.

The Dukes of Manchester owned large amounts of land in County Armagh. Their Ulster seat was Tandragee Castle, which is now the premises of a well-known potato crisp factory. The Dukes of Manchester owned 12,298 acres.

The Earls of Gosford, whose seat was Gosford Castle, near Markethill, boasted a fine estate which extended to 12,177 acres.

The Synnot family lived at Ballymoyer House which, I think, is near the village of Bessbrook in the county. They owned 7,371 acres.

The Verner baronets lived at Verner's Bridge, of which I know little or nothing. Do any readers have any further information? The Verners owned land at Churchill, near Loughgall, amounting to 5,436 acres.

The Stronge baronets, of Tynan Abbey, near the village of Tynan, owned 4,404 acres.

The Molyneux baronets, of Castle Dillon, owned 3,416 acres. I am presently researching Castle Dillon. A sumptuous new country house has been built in the county, and it has been called Castledillon House. Do any readers have further knowledge of this?


I inadvertently omitted two major landowners in the county, which I now include as follows:-

The Cope family owned 9,367 acres at the Manor, Loughgall.

The Close family's estate, Drumbanagher,near Poyntzpass, comprised 9,087 acres. The Drumbanagher Shoot is still flourishing though, sadly, the great House was demolished many years ago.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Tesco Belmont Closure

A significant matter has just been brought to my attention this morning, which concerns people living and working in the Earldom.

The Tesco store at numbers 1 to 3, Belmont Road in Strandtown, Belfast, is to close down on the 31st December, 2009. It may, or may not, re-open in eighteen months' time. I phoned the store today and this news has been confirmed.

Eighteen months seems a long time for a small supermarket to be closed to me; indeed it dismays me. We do use this store occasionally.

So it would seem that the future of the store, and its staff, is uncertain.

If any readers have any more information about this, please do let me know.

I believe that the site at 1-3, Belmont Road, was a national school 100 years ago. It eventually became the premises of Buckley Brothers, hardware merchants; followed by a Stewart's Supermarket.

Medal Polishing

I took my late father's medals out of their cabinet this morning in order to polish them. I had the miniature ones re-mounted several years ago; and these are the ones I occasionally wear at Remembrance ceremonies.
You are supposed to wear full-size medals with overcoat or lounge suit!, I hear you exclaim; which is correct. However, it is not so important because they weren't awarded to me and I wear them on the right-hand side.

I think miniature medals and decorations are only meant to be worn with dinner jackets, mess dress or full evening dress.

The CVO - Commander of the Royal Victorian Order - in the cabinet belonged to another ancestor.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

At Horse Island

I'm just back from a sixty-length swim up at the old school, having whacked a pizza in the oven earlier.

I spent all day, with five other volunteers, at National Trust land beside Horse Island, near Kircubbin on the Ards Peninsula.

We are making satisfactory progress. This is quite a large plot of land, and the perimeter is overgrown with gorse, briar, ivy and other undergrowth. The perimeter will soon be ready for the new fencing.

The Property Manager turned up at lunch-time with a camera-man. The Trust is making a short film about volunteering in Northern Ireland which, seemingly, will be sold in their local shops. The camera-man filmed us during the afternoon; and then conducted short, two-minute interviews with us all!

On my way home towards Belfast, there was a police speed unit consisting of two policemen, one pointing a speed gun at the traffic as it drove down the steep hill on the dual carriageway towards Dundonald; the spot where the 70mph speed limit drops suddenly to 40mph. I was reducing my speed at this point. They didn't flag me down so, presumably, I was OK.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Morning at the Museum

I've been seeking a black silk tie with minuscule scattered white spots for some time now. These sorts of ties were in evidence last night on the telly, the actors playing Churchill and several members of his war Cabinet sporting similar ones; though I've been looking out for one since long before that.

I finally found one at T M Lewin's shop in Howard Street, Belfast.

Thence I motored in a southerly direction, up Bedford Street, Dublin Road and University Road to my destination, the Ulster Museum.

Readers from Northern Ireland shall know that the Museum has been closed for several years due to major refurbishment.

On this occasion, I stayed for about an hour, sufficient time to get a flavour of the new Museum. It must be said that its transformation is a great improvement, despite my being slightly disappointed that there were no "old master" paintings on display - and there shan't be for another three months.

I viewed some of the most notable items on display, viz. the insignia of the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick which, in this case, once belonged to the 9th Earl of Shaftesbury; and the Toilet Service commissioned for the 19th Earl of Kildare (whose son became the 1st Duke of Leinster). Doubtless the newly-created Duke would have commissioned a new toilet service, as befitted His Grace's rank, with a ducal coronet on the silverware.

Sadly the mantle (below) and sash riband of the Order were not on display, though they can be seen on my blog!

The taxidermic bird collection is very good indeed.

I lunched at the new Girona Restaurant on the ground floor. To my mind it is more akin to a self-service café; though I am sure it compares well with its peers in many other provincial museums. Simply do not have high expectations and you shan't be terribly disappointed.

There was a short queue today at midday, so I waited for about ten minutes. The audible "pop music" being played did not agree with my ears! The staff all seem to be mostly anxious to please and reasonably diligent. I gave my order at the counter: breast of chicken, with small "roast" potatoes, carrot and turnip batons and some kind of sauce. I also ordered the citrus tart with double cream; with a pot of tea.

I told the cashier that I had ordered the citrus tart, which the chef advised he'd bring to my table later. The bill came to £8.70. Bearing in mind that the chicken was £7.50, I suspect that they omitted to charge me for the pudding which was, incidentally, quite good.

The chicken meal was perfectly acceptable. The potatoes were certainly in their "jackets", though didn't seem roasted to me. I'd get a similar result if I boiled them or cooked them in a microwave oven. The chicken breast was large, the number of little potatoes generous.

My main gripe was the temperature of the meal. By the time I sat down to eat it, it was lukewarm; and half-way through, it became cool. Believe me, I am not fussy about piping-hot food, so heaven knows what a fuss-pot would have done - taken it back for a "blitzing" in the microwave, presumably.

They had a very good display of scones, muffins and pastries, by the way.

I expect I'll revisit the Museum in three months' time, when the "old master" painting collection returns.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Sorry, Greenfinches

When I returned from my two-week vacation, I noticed that the bird-feeder containing sunflower hearts was still full and untouched. Most curious; nevertheless, I replenished the other feeders.

One week later, the same feeder was still full. This I could not fathom. Why wouldn't they eat the seeds?

Fool, Belmont. I scrutinized the feeder and, to my surprise, saw immediately what I had done: I had filled the nyger seed feeder with the bigger sunflower hearts, which meant that it was practically impossible for the birds to remove them! I had filled the nyger feeder with the wrong seeds.

Still, all's well that ends well. The sunflower seeds are particularly favoured by tits and greenfinches; so hopefully the news shall spread about my silly little error!

The Canadian Wilderness

I've been avidly watching Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness since it began on BBC HD a week ago. To my mind, anything associated with him promises to be very good indeed; and his epic Canadian adventure trail re-affirms this.

This series is superb. It encapsulates a measure of what the Corporation excels at; so much so that, every time I watch the programme, I wish I were there!

We, in Ulster, have maintained close ties with Canada. Heaven knows how many unknown cousins, several generations removed, are living there today.

The 2nd Earl of Gosford became Governor-General of the Canadas in 1835, during the reign of HM King William IV.

The 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava
(then Earl of Dufferin) was appointed the 3rd Governor-General of Canada in 1872 by HM Queen Victoria. There is a memorial to the 1st Marquess in the grounds of Belfast City Hall.

TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall leave today for an official visit to Canada
. The trip ends on the 12th November, two days prior to Prince Charles's birthday on the 14th. This will be the Duchess of Cornwall's first visit to Canada.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Thank You, Sainsbury

Whilst at the check-out of Sainsbury's store at Holywood Exchange yesterday afternoon, I accidentally dropped a large tub of their Greek-style yoghurt with honey. I had been slightly distracted by a brace of charity "bag-packers" standing beside me, offering to pack the groceries.

The tub in question dropped to the floor, beside my shoe, split open; and the contents splattered everywhere, including the top of my shoe!

The staff at Sainsbury's were most helpful. The check-out assistant alerted another member of staff, who cleared up the mess immediately; I was given some tissues for my clothing; and another tub of yoghurt was purveyed to me forthwith.

I checked the bill at home and was not charged for the breakage.

I reckon that was jolly good service on their part, don't you?


I look forward to visiting the newly renovated Ulster Museum shortly. It re-opened while I was abroad.

This article by the museum has caught my eye: Their new Girona Restaurant has served 8,500 meals in the first week. Have any readers eaten there yet?

The contract for the new restaurant was granted to the Stonebridge Group, based in County Armagh.