Thursday, 30 September 2010

Corralejo: II

I have spent the day at the charming little coatal village of El Cotillo, or, rather, the beach which has Torino's Bar overlooking it. In fact Bill, Torino's father-in-law, waved at me as I passed by. It has been very windy here today. The waves have white crests.

I've been suffering from a few "flashbacks" of that ghastly night when my mother passed away in hospital. It's just a phenomenon which will gradually disappear in the fullness of time. That I know, my father having died in 2002. I'm in good form, though. That old, celebrated Timothy Belmont Tan is re-emerging again, just in time for the CCB Class of '78 Re-Union bash when I return to the United Kingdom.

I heard about the death of Tony Curtis on Sky News today. Sir M Caine gave a great and amusing anecdote about Curtis putting his hand inside Caine's jacket and throwing all his cigarettes into the fire!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Beach Loafer

Having acquired essential provisions, viz. a bottle of Tanqueray - I am well embedded in the resort and I can assure readers that I have had a sufficient amount of the Devil's Brew already: Three measures of gin - 25ml - at base and another at dinner for even better measure.

Methinks I shall spend yet more time on the beach tomorrow. Forgot to inquire: What's the weather like in Old Blighty?

Corralejo: I

Corralejo: Day One; or Letter From Corralejo.

I am presently - at eight forty-five - sitting on a sunny terrace viewing the isle of Los Lobos and the old harbour of Corralejo, Fuerteventura, Canary Islnads.

I had an uneventful and smooth enough journey yesterday. First port-o'-call must be the supermarket in order to procure a bottle of Tanquerey, a juicy lemon and some sparkling tonic water.

I've become fond of the cafe condensada served to locals here; which reminds me, I have to buy some thick, condensed milk.

Monday, 27 September 2010

New Variety Store

I was at the gym this morning and see that there is a new store opening in east Belfast, at Connswater Retail Park, B&M Retail Limited, a variety store whose GHQ is in Liverpool.

It's opening at the former premises of Budget DIY. The shopfitters were fitting it out today, so I expect it shall be opening quite shortly.

Personally I'd never heard of it until now.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Bountiful Blackberries

I drove straight to Gibb's Island, a property of the National Trust beyond Killyleagh, County Down, today; my purpose being to collect some blackberries for a blackberry and apple crumble. It was fine and sunny. I walked up to the perimeter of the copse at the top of Gibb's and ambled round, picking a modest number of the berries; sufficient for me, though, and plenty for others, too. Nature is bountiful and the fruits of the forest are free for us all. Wild blackberries have such a wonderful flavour; and I've been eating them on every occasion that I've been out with the NT volunteers.

The Galloway cattle, numbering about four, were grazing contentedly while I passed.

Later I motored into the village of Killyleagh, where there was a lot of activity and a crowd. I'd encountered a village festival and, there was indeed a carnival atmosphere. The grounds of the Castle were open for the chocolate festival.

Ambling back to the car, I heard a voice: "Tim!", and I immediately turned round to see Craig, a fellow-blogger. This was a pleasant surprise. I think Craig must have spotted me as I passed the Picnic Deli.

All in all, another agreeable day out. I shall get out the frying-pan and enjoy an Ulster Fry this evening, having bought a tomato and large mushroom today.

Prince Michael of Kent

One of the first articles to catch my eye in the paper this morning is an intriguing little piece in the Telegraph about His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent GCVO.

Now I believe that HRH holds a most strong affinity with Imperial Russia, as grandson of King George V and Queen Mary. The Tsar was Prince Michael's grandmother's first cousin.

Prince Michael can speak the Russian language quite fluently and also bears an uncanny likeness to His late Imperial Majesty Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias (1894–1917).

In 2002, Prince and Princess Michael were asked by the Queen to vacate their grace and favour five-bedroom apartment at Kensington Palace - or pay a market rent.

TRH, who had been given use of the apartment as their wedding present, were devastated. Eventually, they were permitted to stay and the Queen agreed personally to pay their rent - now £120,000 a year - for seven years. Since last January, TRH have paid it themselves.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Allotment Bench

The weather has been much kinder today. I was at Minnowburn, beside the River Lagan at Shaw's Bridge near Belfast, a property of the National Trust.

Today we were erecting a new wooden bench overlooking the allotments. The sun shone and we could strip down to polo shirts. I'd brought two hamburgers, rolls and coleslaw with me because we lit a barbecue at the garden beside the warden's office.

There were about half a dozen of us working today, though the numbers swelled to about double that figure when the barbecue was ready!

The photograph taken this afternoon shows the new gazebo and the allotments. Hopefully we might acquire a suitable weather-vane for the top of the gazebo at some stage.

Friday, 24 September 2010

BBC Confusion

The BBC has stated that "The threat level to Britain from Irish-related terrorism has been raised from moderate to substantial".

Of course the BBC's terminology, in line with Irish Nationalists, defines "Britain" as the mainland of Great Britain.

Whereas in most instances the term, Britain, is merely "short-hand" for the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland, like Scotland, England and Wales, is an integral part of Britain, or the UK. So the BBC and, in particular, certain demi-literate individuals working in BBC Northern Ireland, doubtless accorded a Degree at some institution calling itself a university, ought to be more accurate and less loose with their terminology.

Mr Martin needs to understand that Northern Ireland is analogous with the term, Britain:- "BBC Belfast correspondent Andy Martin said: "There is no indication that there is a specific target or indeed that there is capability of dissident republicans to mount an attack, but there is no doubt a desire to mount an attack on Britain."

Pound Wise

I was collecting a prescription at Boots' pharmacy this morning and passed that remarkable emporium, Poundland.

The reading glasses are extraordinary value at - you guessed it - one pound. Now that my distance vision has been lasered, I require reading glasses more often, you see.

I bought two pairs this morning, one for the bedroom; another for the computer room. I have a third pair for my sitting-room! Even my aunt is keen to acquire a pair now!

I also spotted mini cans of WD40 oil at, indeed, one pound; so I bought two.


Thursday, 23 September 2010

Ballymacormick Path

It has been another dreadfully wet day, as far as our weather is concerned. I have been helping other National Trust volunteers in re-constructing a footpath which runs from Groomsport to Ballymacormick Point in County Down.

Despite being reasonably well prepared, with waterproof over-trousers, anorak, cap etc the rain still managed to find its way into my boots and socks!

Nevertheless, we did make good progress with the path. We were with a working party which was staying at the Base Camp (former gamekeeper's cottage), Castle Ward. I told two of the girls that I'd love to have stayed over and joined them in a few drinks, though logistics (driving!) prevented this. If they ever offered to put me up, I may be unlikely to refuse, though.

We lunched in a damp mini-bus and I munched my ham-and-salad-cream sandwiches. Somebody had baked a fresh walnut and date cake, so I readily accepted a chunk thereof.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Not The Stig!

The Daily Telegraph makes several amusing suggestions - or not, as the case may be - for non-successors to be declined the dignity of the title, The Stig.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Yellow Door Lunch

I lunched with a friend at the Yellow Door deli on the Lisburn Road, Belfast, today. It's the first time I've been to the Yellow Door, though they have catered at Castleward Opera in previous years, I think.

I parked at Cadogan Park and we strolled to the Yellow Door from there. I had the chicken and bacon Ciabbata sandwich with salad and Parmesan cheese.

I enjoyed it and the Yellow Door is a pleasant little place.

It has been suggested that I expand my County Landowner and Country House series to include the Irish Republic, so I'd be eager to receive feedback from readers about that proposal, please. This would entail a considerable undertaking, given that there are potentially 260 articles, at ten per county.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Mattress Arrival

The new mattress has arrived unexpectedly this afternoon. I'd been advised to expect it between the 21st and 23rd, so I hope to have heavenly slumber now and forever more! It has been fitted already. The Council will collect the old one as a bulky item. The third paragraph of the care instructions advises that "the majority of Hypnos mattresses are now made No Need To Turn", which is welcome.

I was in central Belfast this morning for an appointment with the eye clinic: All is well and fine. They tell me that my right eye will continue to improve (it's good already) and that my eyes will "balance" eventually.

I bought a few euros for a forthcoming foreign trip as well.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Botanic Garden Party

I passed an agreeable few hours at Belfast's Botanic Gardens this afternoon, the occasion being the Taste Northern Ireland Garden Party organized by Tesco and Belfast City Council.

My first port o' call was the Tropical Ravine, where the basement floor was open. I cannot recall ever having been in the basement before; just the gallery. They requested donations of a pound for some good cause or other; I'm quite sure I chatted to Frank Caddy at the door.

Outside in the Gardens there were enormous marquees and it was like London Underground's Piccadilly station at the rush hour in July; such crowds. Still, I had plenty to eat. Think Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game and trying to remember as many items on the conveyor-belt as humanly possible: Golden Cow garlic butter with bread; Coleraine Cheddar cubes; cocktail sausages; savoury sausage bites; sausage roll; Bailey's cream cake; Mash Direct leek-and-something; Irwin's breads; Ormo pancake; and more, like thimble-sized amounts of Black Bush whiskey, Bailey's liqueur and Smirnoff Apple vodka. I consumed that list, as if you didn't know.

I was given two 150g tubs of Country Kitchen Select Coleslaw and I mentioned the fact that their cheese variety is my perennial favourite and that I've already written about them and given them the sought-after Belmont Warrant (ha!). Irwin's Nutty Crust High Fibre also has the Warrant.

I concluded the afternoon with a brief visit to the Ulster Museum, which is also in the Gardens.

Battle of Britain Sunday

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Air Chief Marshal His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall and Flight Lieutenant His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales will attend the annual Battle of Britain service of thanksgiving and rededication to be held in Westminster Abbey this morning at 11 am.

This year’s service, which marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, will be broadcast on the same day on BBC1 between 12 noon and 1.40pm

This annual service commemorates the remarkable victory, and loss of life, by Royal Air Force pilots and aircrew during the Battle of Britain in 1940 and is an occasion to mark the nation's gratitude for the service and sacrifice of those who took part in this critical phase of World War Two.

The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely in the skies. When the battle was over 544 RAF pilots and aircrew were dead. The conflict brought together a truly multinational force comprising 574 British, 139 Poles, 98 New Zealanders, 86 Canadians, 84 Czechoslovakians, 29 Belgians, 21 Australians, 20 South Africans, 13 French, 10 Irish plus others from the USA, Jamaica, Palestine and Southern Rhodesia.

It was Churchill who said on 20 August 1940: "The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

The pilots and aircrew are commemorated in the RAF Chapel at the east end of the Abbey's Henry VII Chapel where a magnificent stained glass memorial window designed by Hugh Easton was unveiled by King George VI on 10 July 1947.

This year's service will end with a RAF flypast.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Coffee Morning

I was in Holywood, County Down, this morning with my aunt and Pat. We had coffee and scones in the Coffee Yard café. Their breakfasts and scones are certainly good. The very sight of those cooked breakfasts, some consisting of smoked salmon with bagels; others being scrambled egg with bacon rashers and fresh toast and any combination thereof, made me envious! I must treat myself to the full works some time, though I invariably have a calorie-ridden dinner on Saturday evenings.

Outside the library I noticed a large car - parked on the zig-zag pedestrian crossing - getting a ticket, quite rightly. It had been parked and there was nobody in it. Inside the library I perused the September copy of Which? Magazine.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Routemaster's Son

I caught an interesting little story at the tail end of the news last night. The BBC reporter, Tom Edwards, had travelled to Ballymena, County Antrim, in order to view London's latest reincarnation of the venerable Routemaster bus.

The managing director of Wrightbus, Mark Nodder, told Edwards that, without the £7.8 million investment, the radical approaches to design and technology wouldn't have happened.

The project itself is just half complete with the actual unveiling at the end of the year in London. The first bus will be tested in Spring 2011 with the first five prototypes hitting the streets of the capital by Spring 2012. It will be a hybrid bus with low emissions, good fuel consumption and it has brakes that recharge the battery.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Yes! Saddle Seat

The new “saddle” seat, to be unveiled at a conference this week, increases the number of seats an airline can have in its cattle - sorry, economy - class. The design, named the “SkyRider”, allows just 23 inches of legroom, which is about seven inches less than the average seat's space of 30 inches.

Shaped similar to a horse saddle, passengers sit at an angle, with their weight taken on by their legs. It allows seats to be overlapped. The seats would also offer storage space including a shelf for carry-on bags and hooks to hang a jacket or a handbag. The makers say the seat would allow budget airlines, such as Ryanair, to cram more passengers into their tight cabins.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Sudden Oak Death

Lord Rathcavan has already suffered the misfortune of having to eradicate eight acres of woodland and he'll also have to pay the hefty bill.

Now, it would seem, up to five more woods in the Province might have the disease.

This must be rather alarming news for the owners of country estates.

Chapel Island Day

I've spent the day with other National Trust volunteers on Chapel Island, Greyabbey. By Jove, the weather was quite awful - blustery, wet, lashing rain at the northern end. We were doing a litter lift and repairing some fencing.

There were about seven of us and we had our lunch at the side overlooking the mainland. The quad bike was driven over with a trailer in order that we could carry the litter back.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Grease Paint!

Timothy Belmont went on a few little errands this morning. First stop was Homebase at Galwally, where I returned a can of Farrow and Ball paint in exchange for Dulux Invisible Green paint: [Georgian] Made popular by the landscape gardener Humphry Repton, who recommended it for fencing and railings so that they would blend better with the background vegetation They mixed it for me.

I inquired about something to remedy a tight faucet on my kitchen mixer tap, if that's the right word. The helpful chap suggested adjusting the little screw at the back of the unit. Well, I've tried it and think I require some of that plumber's silicon grease stuff - Black Swan or whatever they call it.

I have a feeling there's a plumber's merchant on the Newtownards Road, so I may well pop in this afternoon and see if they have a small tube of it.

The electrical retailer is collecting my faulty DVD HDD recorder on Thursday and, when they receive it, they'll send me a replacement. I received my fancy QED HDMI cable - which is purple! - in the post today.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Faulty HDD Recorder

Adrian the technician arrived this afternoon in order to fit extra cabling from the satellite dish to my new Panasonic DVD HDD Recorder. The two cables were plugged in; the recorder turned on; the set-up process began... and the screen advised us that there was no satellite signal detected!

We tried again; and again; and reset everything. Then Adrian unplugged the cables and inserted each one into his £400 satellite meter: 100% signal.

The conclusion was that the brand new machine had either a faulty processor or tuner. I phoned up the retailer and they are going to replace it, though it has to be collected and they shan't remit a replacement till they receive the faulty one.

What a nuisance!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Dunluce & Benvarden

This morning I drove along the coast a bit, to Whiterocks Beach. What an idyllic beach indeed; little wonder the surfers make a bee-line for it. I really must visit it more often.

On the way back to Portballintrae I stopped at Dunluce Castle, which was free today as part of the European Heritage Open Days scheme. This has to be one of our greatest historic monuments. In the exhibition-room a video was playing and the Hon Hector McDonnell (Lord Antrim's brother) recounted his family's connection and pride for Dunluce (Antrim arms above).

I motored back to the Port, packed up and made for Bushmills Garden Centre where I had some lunch. What terrific nosh they create here! I had the steak pie with mashed potato, carrot-and-parsnip mash, peas and lashings of butter. By the way, there is an uninterrupted view of Dundarave House from the car-park.

After lunch I drove straight to Benvarden, which was also open as part of the EHOD scheme. This remains a sizeable estate, extending to about 600 acres. The Montgomerys were welcoming visitors and Benvarden House itself is large. Most of the reception rooms were open to view, as were about three bedrooms. I will be writing an article about Benvarden in the future.

The tennis-court is within the walled garden and boasts a charming little wooden viewing-hut. The court doesn't seem to have been used for awhile.


I heard on the radio this morning that the Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover KG has donated £25 million to the British Museum, thought to be the largest single donation to the Arts since the great philanthropist, Sir Paul Getty KBE.

Northern Ireland needs a few more philanthropists, albeit on a smaller scale. I'm aware that national institutions like the British Museum are free and open to everyone; nevertheless, on a smaller scale, Castleward Opera was dependent on the NI Arts Council for its survival and anything similar would require subsidization of several hundred thousand pounds, surely chicken-feed to a potential Ulster philanthropist on the Sunday Times Rich List?

Were their properties large enough - and many certainly would be - they could be used as the venue for a country house season.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Ulster Television

I've had to suffer Ulster Television while I'm up here at the Port, what with those silly advertisements and local garbage. When I changed my television almost two years ago, I began watching ITV 1 London and haven't looked back since. Ulster Television - or UTV as they call themselves - don't even have the option of high definition; and the ennui of those boring parochial marketing ads. I see they paste their pathetic logo up on the left-hand side of the screen indelibly.

The sooner ITV buys them out or merges with them, the better. At least the ads on ITV 1 are unashamedly British in content.

In Coleraine

I've spent a few hours in the fine town of Coleraine, County Londonderry. I arrived before nine-thirty, so managed to get a space relatively easily. There's a little shop tucked up a narrow street which sells Barbour apparel and accessories; and I usually pay them a visit, as was the case today. I noticed a casual Barbour Somerset jacket, though it was size XXL. They never have my size!

The weather has been fairly good up here, so far. Sweeney's bar has closed down. I really am tempted to revisit the Ramore wine-bar again. Perhaps on Sunday.

I intend to visit Benvarden, as part of the Heritage Open Days, on Sunday. I've never been there before, so it would be a good opportunity to see it.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Bravo Ramore!

I ate in Ramore wine-bar at Portrush harbour this evening. By their standards it wasn't too busy; just the right ambiance and buzz for self, though. I was given Table 28 at the window, overlooking the Portrush lifeboat; and I had a copy of the Heritage Days brochure with me for perusal.

It didn't take me long to decide on the chilli fillet beef in pitta bread with coleslaw and French fried onions. This was a delicious meal: tender beef strips, chilli sauce, lettuce, mayonnaise; large onion rings and a home-made coleslaw. The latter two items were extra, by the way. I find FFO and slaw difficult to resist.

The tried and tested format of ordering at the bar, giving table number, settling the bill beforehand works very well and means that patrons can take their leave immediately after the meal. It works well.

I like this place. I could easily return tomorrow again, though I feel I ought to spread the old largesse elsewhere. Ha!

I squeezed the baby two-seater into a dubious slot at the harbour.

At Portballintrae

I have arrived at Portballintrae, County Antrim, for a few days. To my surprise I am now able to connect to the Internet here via BT Openzone. I tried three months ago and could merely manage the Bayview Hotel's free wi-fi connection.

I am minded to have a meal at the Ramore Wine-Bar in Portrush this evening. As my aunt had advised me, Sweeney's bar is presently closed down, presumably awaiting a new lessee.

Earlier in the day, my new DVD Recorder and shirts arrived and I signed for them. I haven't opened the packages yet. I ordered two "everyday" shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt, a royal blue, single cuff and a cutaway collar, single cuff white, both poplin.

Chase's House Picture

Click to enlarge

Here is a photograph of Chase's House at Campbell College ca 1975-6. It was taken in the Quadrangle outside the main College building. The young Timothy William, Viscount Sydenham, stands stoically in the second row at the extreme left. The house-master was one Major D Grant; while his deputy, Dr I Pollock, sits supportively beside him.

Other boys include Copeland, Love, Marshall, Spence, Rollins, Harrison. Atkinson. McKinlay, Forbes, Hermon, Holmes, Hepworth, Barr, Beverland, Horner, Buller, Ball, Forbes, Luney, Speers (Paul!), Smyth, Knight, Erskine, Douglas, Piggott (Jay, now Headmaster), Horner, Perrioli, Parker and Smyth.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

On Island Taggart

Island Taggart is a property of the National Trust on Strangford Lough, County Down. It lies between Ringdufferin directly to its north and Killyleagh, the nearest substantive village, to the south. The size of the Island is roughly 92 acres in extent and there are the remains of one farm-house and three cottages; a well; kelp kiln; orchard; hedgerows and ruinous stone walls. The Shrigley Monument can clearly be seen from the island.

Simmy Island, residence of Sir William and Lady Hastings, lies at Taggart's north-western tip; while the Dunnyneill Islands are to the south-east.

I spent the day on Island Taggart with seven other volunteers. We took a little boat from an old quay just south of Simmy Island.

There was an abundance of brambles with ripe, sweet blackberries on the island. Today we were clearing the newly-planted orchard - adjacent to the old farmstead - of long grass and weeds. We also tidied the whole area at the kelp kiln, which is now clearly visible from the east of the lough.

I'd brought along a carton of mini blueberry muffins to share; oh and, by the way, my sandwiches today were lean corned beef and salad-cream with wholemeal bread!

We all suffered a slight mishap during the afternoon: the boat accidentally overturned at its mooring and the outboard motor was unserviceable as a consequence; so we had to row back to the mainland! More exercise and calories burned on top of the sixty lengths I've just completed in the swimming-pool.

Lisgoole Pictures

A good friend - not only of this blog but also of County Fermanagh - Udo Vogel, has kindly sent me some photographs of Lisgoole Abbey. As far as I am aware these are the only images of the House on the Internet, so far:-

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Faulty Programmer

When I awoke this morning I heard the creaking pipes, which normally indicates that the central heating is coming on. Surely not? It was before six-thirty in the morning.

I got up and went downstairs to see the electronic Danfoss programmer on with all the lights on but no time on the digital reader. I began pressing buttons and nothing happened. I tried almost everything to no avail; turned the room thermostat right down; went into the boiler-room and switched off the boiler itself at the mains.

The programmer is still on! I finally phoned the electrician, who told me that I'd probably require a new programmer - despite the present one being a mere couple of years old. He mentioned £55 plus fitting or thereabouts.

Typical. I turned the boiler on for the first time last night in ages. That must have been what did it all!

Monday, 6 September 2010

New DVD Recorder

I have finally taken the plunge and purchased a new DVD video recorder to complement my Panasonic integrated Freesat HDTV. I "shopped around" on the Internet and found the best price I could for delivery to Northern Ireland (£245).

It's a Panasonic DMR-XS350 High Definition DVD Recorder with HDD (250GB), Twin HD Satellite Tuner, SD Memory Card Slot and USB Terminal.

Because the recorder is equipped with two HD digital tuners, two different TV programmes can be recorded simultaneously. There is no need to worry about missing out on recording a programme when two programmes overlap.

In DR mode, the DMR-XS350 can record digital broadcasts in Full-HD picture quality. These models are compatible with the VIERA CAST function, which allows you to access YouTube™, Picasa™, and other various contents. You can also check weather and stock information on other sites.

These DMR-XS350 is equipped with an SD Memory Card Slot and USB* terminals. You can immediately view motion images recorded with an High Definition (HD)/ Standard Definition (SD) camcorder in AVCHD/ MPEG2 format** and with the Lumix in AVCHD Lite and JPEG images.

Intelligent Auto Standby After watching and listening with the compatible recorders, the recorders automatically turn off when you return to the TV using the VIERA remote. VIERA TV Standby Power Save The recorders with Power Save function will turn on/off when TV is turned on/off.

Shortie Record

A 24-year-old Colombian has taken the title of the world's shortest man, measuring just 27 ins high (70cm).
They say Mr Hernandez's reign is not likely to last long, however: Khagendra Thapa Magar of Nepal is expected to take over after he turns 18 on Oct. 14. He measures about 22 ins (56cm) and is currently recognised by Guinness as the shortest living teenager.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Long-Tailed Tits

The bullfinches have been regular visitors to my feeders this week. There is a male, a juvenile and possibly a female. They seem to be quite shy and are easily spooked.

Yesterday I was delighted to see three long-tailed tits at the peanut feeder. They remained for a few minutes.

Interest Rates

"The Bank of England is this week set to hold interest rates at 0.5pc, with a growing expectation that when rates do start to rise they will do so quickly."

That's fine, as long as it applies to savers as well as borrowers. Savers have been receiving paltry rates of interest on their investments for years.

Were interest rates to rise rapidly to, say, six or seven percentage points I, for one, would be utterly delighted. That would give savers a half-decent rate of return.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Dirty Duck Night

I spent the evening at the Dirty Duck Ale House in Holywood, County Down. This atmospheric bar-restaurant is invariably busy, to a greater or lesser extent. Tonight we were fortunate enough to get a seat immediately.

I had my usual, customary Tanqueray gin and tonics throughout the evening. I've already eaten scampi and lamb rump this week, so I opted for their "deli-burger" with all the trimmings tonight; while Big Pete had the Thai curry which, he professed, was very good indeed.

There was a good selection of Blondes in the bar tonight. One married young woman opposite was particularly jolly, having imbibed a substantial amount of something or other!

It's a popular spot, this Dirty Duck.

Belmont Crown

I had a new crown fitted by my dentist yesterday. Thank heaven that is done, though it cost an arm and a leg! I had it done privately. Is there any major difference between having a crown fitted privately or under the NHS? I was told, somewhat vaguely, that the standard, quality and treatment is superior when it is performed privately - attention to detail, materials used etc. Is this true? How should I know. Are there any dentists out there prepared to provide his lordship with a fair and true account?

I still have a protective contact lens on my right cornea, having had it lasered on Wednesday. Initially it was really rather sore, causing inflammation inside my eyelid; hence the use of anti-inflammatory drops. I'll be glad to have it removed tomorrow.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Royal Tea-Leaves!

I bought two packets of loose-leaf tea today: Twinings Breakfast variety and Yorkshire Tea. It will be interesting to compare the two.

R Twining and company have been purveyors of tea and coffee to the Royal Household for many years; while Taylors of Harrogate supply beverages, such as Yorkshire Tea, to the Prince of Wales.

Until recently I have been using tea-bags, though I've taken a notion to begin using loose-leaf tea lately.

Plummy Greengages

My aunt brought me several greengages yesterday afternoon. Now I have to admit that I know nothing whatsoever about greengages.

Having consulted my trusty Nuttall's, I discovered that greengages are a kind of plum, introduced to England by Sir William Gage Bt KCB ca 1725 when he obtained a supply from France. According to Nuttall they are pronounced Green-gage.

Apparently greengages are treated in exactly the same way as plums, re consumption.

EH Open Days

I have received a timely reminder that the annual European Heritage Open Days (EHOD) weekend takes place on the 11th and 12th September, 2010.

There will be numerous historic places and landmarks to visit. My list would include Netherleigh House (which, at one time, belonged to my old school); The Moat (McConnell Baronets); Drumalis (Smiley Baronets); Galgorm Castle; Benvarden; Armagh Gaol; Richhill Castle; Newtownards Priory; Ballywalter Park; Crom; and Parkanaur Manor-House.

The list is exhaustive, so be selective!

This year’s European Heritage Open Days (EHOD) will take place on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 September. There are over 260 events and properties for you to visit during the weekend and they are all free of charge.

You can view all the properties and events by county:

You have option of downloading a printable version of the brochure also.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Hail Vintage Apparel!

I couldn't agree more with Prince Charles. Don't become a slave to Fashion. Buy apparel because you admire and like it for its style, cut and quality of cloth; even its origin.

Practically all of my favourite clothes are quite ancient! My dinner jacket was made ca 1934; Churches shoes made ca 1982; a 1983 Burberry trench-coat; a 1982 Oxford grey lounge suit... I could carry on ad nauseum.

Mind you, technology does progress and change: I do trust that HRH has a state-of-the-art television set!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Stig the Perfidious

The BBC has lost a legal fight to stop publication of a book which reveals the identity of Top Gear's driver, known as The Stig. The High Court in London refused to grant the BBC an injunction blocking the publication by HarperCollins of an autobiography that unmasks the character on the BBC Two show.

For what it's worth, they ought to sack him, get a replacement and tighten up their terms, conditions and legally-binding obligations.

Lasered Eye

Well, I had the right eye lasered this morning in Belfast. The procedure was quicker than before because there were no other clients waiting; ergo they treated me sooner. The laser itself takes a mere five or so minutes.

I know the procedure well: Take eye drops four times daily for the first week; wear supplied goggles at bed; avoid anything silly like dusty environments; refrain from rubbing aforesaid eye for at least a week. I return for an initial check-up tomorrow morning; then the protective contact lens is removed, probably on Saturday.

Earlier, at Ross's, I encountered Anthony Malcolmson upstairs in the sale-room. He used to be the Supremo at PRONI.