Monday, 28 February 2011

New Series

I was lying in bed during the early hours of this morning, thinking about the Duke of Northumberland accompanying his daughter, Lady Katie, to her wedding, when I had a Eureka Moment.

I am minded to begin a new series on the non-royal Dukes of the United Kingdom. There must be a few dozen, so that seems a nice project for old Belmont to get his gnashers into.

I've introduced another poll to the left-hand side of the Blog.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Duck's Lamb

Northern Ireland Railway's choo-choo train was punctual this evening and I found a pretty Blonde conductor irresistible so offered her the £1.60 on the journey back to Sydenham halt at ten forty-five this evening.

BP and self spent the evening at the DD in Holywood, and very satisfactory it was, too.

We had to wait, as usual, for a table; however, eventually we got one beside the fire-place at the front of the bar downstairs.

We ordered food, which was delicious: I had the slow-cooked lamb shank with pesto mash, carrot and parsnip and the meat literally fell off the bone. It was sumptuous, with an abundance of lean meat.

BP treated himself to the sirloin steak- medium- accompanied by chips and French-fried onions. BP pronounced the steak very good indeed: pinkish in the middle; tender; flavourful; very lean. What more can one say?

The evening at the DD cost us about £60, which included at least six rounds, Bombay Sapphire gins and ale.

A lively band began playing after ten, including a saxophonist and a trumpeter; and they were good. However, we were compelled to vacate the premises owing to the last train at ten forty-six or thereabouts.

New Minnowburn Wood

The lark was on the wing and the snail on the rose-bush this morning, as Bertie Wooster might have said. It was a fine morning for planting young trees.

We, the National Trust Volunteers, numbering a mere two, were augmented by thirty others from the Lagan Valley group.

We walked to a area of about twenty-five acres and planted rows of Belvoir oak, ash and birch at Minnowburn; approximately 500 saplings in all. I gather that in excess of 20,000 saplings have already been planted in what will be a new wood.

Buzzards were gliding and calling plaintively above.

Afterwards we assembled at the Warden's Office for a chin-wag; then I filled two sackfuls of logs for self from the barn. The stock-pile is well depleted, though I expect it shall be replenished during the summer months.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Donegall Street Walk

I was stocking up on some (expensive) nyjer seeds today at a shop in North Street, Belfast, when I encountered David Thompson, who recognized me from the Blog.

We had a good chin-wag for ages outside the former Assembly Rooms of 1769 (latterly a bank) at 2 Waring Street.

David urged me to have a look at a painting by J W Carey RUA, of St Anne's Parish Church, Belfast (top), being sold at auction next Wednesday in Ross's auction-house. St Anne's stood on the site of the Cathedral.

I ambled further along Donegall Street and stopped at St Patrick's Presbytery (above) at 199 Donegall Street, a Georgian building of ca 1820. This is a three-storey, red brick house adjacent to St Patrick's RC Church. It still has a splendidly gleaming brass-covered door with a fanlight over a lintel supported by Ionic columns.

The Presbytery was originally an episcopal palace, the first prelate being the Bishop of Down and Connor, William Crolly, in 1825.

193-195 Donegall Street was originally St Patrick's School for boys and girls, built in 1828. The stone plaques above double Tudor-style doors display the entrances to the Christian Brothers and National Schools.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

CEO Email Addresses

I like doing my readers favours and spreading the Belmont Gospel, in this case at least. Why? My aunt has been experiencing dreadful problems having a new landline installed by her telecommunications provider, BT.

This issue has been ongoing for weeks, since she moved house in fact.

She phones them and gets the usual series of options; then an Indian call centre, heaven knows where.

Apparently a former BT head honcho once claimed on breakfast television that he regularly received emails from BT customers with grievances; and that he ensured they were dealt with by fast-track.

Well, I don't know about that. Still, here is a website with email addresses of many large corporate CEOs (it might not be entirely up to date); and according to the information is BTs boss.

Cerebral Food!

Timothy Belmont, Gourmand Extraordinaire, has enjoyed a fine, simple meal this evening which consisted of undyed smoked haddock in creamy parsley sauce, baby boiled potatoes tossed in Cornish butter, green beans and home-made coleslaw.

I purchased the fish from my old pal Ivan at the bottom of the road this morning and it was literally skinless and boneless. Not one bone. I drizzled lemon juice over it with seasoning; enveloped it in tin foil; and baked it for fifteen minutes in the oven. It came out cooked perfectly - so flaky and delicate.

Another success, thanks to Ivan, Coffey's and Something Fishy!

Mouse Eradication

I found a second dead mouse this morning in the garage. It was very small, a greyish colour. It, like the other one, had consumed the bait I had laid a week or two ago.

Having to do this is not something I'm proud of; though I could hear the mice scraping and gnawing above the sitting-room ceiling and there is silence now.

I merely wish that the little devils had vacated the Belmont household of their own volition!

The garage floor has been hosed and cleaned; and, from now on, the bird food will all remain firmly sealed in plastic containers.

Show of the Week

I've been recording the 1969 documentary series, Civilisation, by the late Kenneth Clark (the Rt Hon the Lord Clark OM CH KCB).

Needless to say, Lord Clark was illustriously decorated:

  • Member of the Order of Merit
  • Companion of Honour
  • Knight Commander of the Civil Division of Most Honourable Order of the Bath

Kenneth Clark
's landmark series tracing the development of civilisation is being shown in high definition for the first time on the BBC HD Channel.

The acclaimed thirteen-part series was first shown on BBC Two in 1969 and swiftly became one of the most important arts series of its time.

Civilisation is being shown weekly on BBC HD, Wednesdays at 10pm.

Kenneth, Lord Clark, was a remarkable character, having been appointed Director of London's National Gallery at 30 years of age.

Clark's elder son, the Rt Hon Alan Clark, became a prominent Conservative MP, a writer-historian and celebrated diarist; and I have to say, as I have stated on previous occasions, I hold a sneaking admiration for him despite his flaws and perceived caddishness. I certainly share some of his sentiments with regard to politics.

I have Alan Clark's collection of Diaries and a terrific book about motoring (from Clark's perspective) and his collection of classic cars entitled Back Fire, which I thoroughly recommend.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Exemplary Lord Hutton

A fellow Old Brackenbrian, whom I saw at the annual old boys' bash in the Europa Hotel a mere week ago, has hit the headlines.

How admirable, charitable, altruistic ... I could go on. Brian Hutton (the Right Honourable the Lord Hutton PC), a former Law Lord and Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, is helping at a church hall in west ­London, where he can be found working at a homeless shelter.

According to an article by the columnist Richard Kay in the Daily Mail, he helps to cook meals and hand out roll-up mattresses to the 30 or so men and women at the centre.

When on duty, he wears a hand-written tag marked simply with his first name, Brian. ‘Most people have no clue who he is or that he once sat in the highest court in the land,’ Kay is told.

Twice-married Hutton attends one of seven refuges set up under the auspices of West London Churches Homeless Concern.

‘He is there most weeks when he is in London,’ adds Kay's source. ‘On one occasion, Lord Hutton was chopping the carrots and peeling the spuds before even the cook had got to work.’

As well as helping with the food, Hutton talks at length with those staying at the shelter, many of whom suffer from mental health problems.

Monday, 21 February 2011

GCVO Conferral

THE QUEEN has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following promotion in the Royal Victorian Order:


To be a Knight Grand Cross:

His Royal Highness THE DUKE OF YORK, KG, KCVO, ADC.

(To be dated 19 February 2011, HRH's Birthday)

Jubilee Emblem

Buckingham Palace and the BBC’s Blue Peter programme today announced details of the official emblem (above) chosen for Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

The emblem is the winning design following a national competition for children aged between 6 and 14. It was designed by 10-year-old Katherine Dewar, from Chester in Cheshire.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Which Sausage?

I had a brief look at the Which? Magazine and they have been reviewing supermarket bangers:-

  • First: Marks and Spencer British Outdoor Bred Pork Sausages. They scored 76% and cost £2.69
  • Second: Tesco Finest British Traditional Pork Sausages. 68%. £2.59
  • Third: Sainsbury's

Saturday, 19 February 2011

A Little Sage

I have to profess that I have a considerable amount of admiration for the late Right Honourable Alan Clark MP (d 1999) and his father Kenneth, Lord Clark (d 1983), who has been appearing on television narrating his landmark series, Civilisation.

Lord Clark always wears the same - or similar - outfit on the programme, which includes a light green shirt.

I don't possess a green shirt, so I had a look at Marks and Spencer's website and, Hey Presto! they sell "pure cotton herringbone twill" shirts in a colour they call sage.

Rather impulsively, I made a beeline for the store and bagged the shirt.

I have a green check suit I purchased in Aquascutum of Regent Street, London, about ten years ago and the sage shirt, dark blue tie and suede shoes would go well with it.

I'll be writing a bit about Lord Clark, Civilisation, Back Fire and his son next week.

Feeder Success

I peered out of the window this morning, as one does, and thought I saw a bird pecking at my apple feeder. This feeder has been suspended from a branch for weeks and nothing appears to have shown any interest in it whatsoever; until now.

I produced my binoculars and, on closer observation, can confirm that the apple-lover is a blackcap!

I am hoping that there'll be more to follow.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Auction of Paintings

I've been sent notification for an auction of paintings being held at Ross's auction-house, Montgomery Street, Belfast, on Wednesday evening, the 2nd March, 2011, at seven o'clock.

The painting above, Slemish, 1986, by Lindy Guinness (the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava) is expected to fetch £700-£900.

USA State Visit

The President of the United States of America, Mr Barack Obama, has accepted an invitation from THE QUEEN to pay a State Visit to the United Kingdom from Tuesday 24th May to Thursday 26th May 2011.

The President will be accompanied by Mrs Obama and will stay at Buckingham Palace.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Save Red Squirrels

The Prince of Wales has launched a conservation project which he hopes will realise his dream that red squirrels can thrive again. I am delighted that Prince Charles is lending his support to such an admirable project.

As patron of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust (RSST), Prince Charles praised the partnership between the RSST, Natural England, the Forestry Commission and the Wildlife Trusts.

HRH spoke of his own bid to save a red squirrel at home in Scotland last month:-

"I put nuts in the lobby and leave the door open and the red squirrels come up the steps into the house," he said. "Very often you get four or five running around inside the house, chasing each other to get at the nuts.

"One squirrel was found lying on the floor later on in the afternoon while I was out so we tried desperately to bring it back to life but sadly at the end of the day it died,

"So my effort is to have another small squirrel. My great ambition is to have one in the house, I hate to tell you. Sitting on the breakfast table and on my shoulder!"

Prince Edward in NI

The Earl of Wessex has today presented thirteen inmates at Hydebank Young Offenders’ Centre in Belfast with Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award certificates.

HRH was greeted by Mr David Lindsay, HM Lord-Lieutenant of County Down and went on to meet Mr David Ford MLA, Minister of the Department of Justice; Mr Colin McConnell, Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service; and Governor Gary Alcock, Hydebank Young Offenders’ Centre.

Before the award ceremony His Royal Highness, accompanied by Governor Alcock, visited residential accommodation within the centre and took the opportunity to meet a number of inmates and prison staff.

His Royal Highness went on to meet with the award winning inmates and in the company of Ms Valerie Pitman OBE, DofE Officer from the Probation Board of Northern Ireland and invited guests, presented the coveted awards in recognition of each inmate’s outstanding achievements.

Prince Edward was presented with a gift of Belfast crystal and later accepted an invitation to sign the visitors’ book.

His Royal Highness was greeted by:

  • David Lindsay, HM Lord-Lieutenant of County Down,
  • The Worshipful the Mayor of Castlereagh,
  • Stephen Reid, Chief Executive, Castlereagh Borough Council,
  • David Ford, Minister of the NI Department of Justice,
  • Nick Perry, Permanent Secretary, NI Department of Justice,
  • Colin McConnell, Director-General, Northern Ireland Prison Service,
  • Gary Alcock, Governor, Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre.

Later His Royal Highness, on the third engagement of the day, visited The Spectrum Centre, Shankill Road, Belfast, to celebrate the success of the Belfast Activity Centre (BAC) with their ‘Youth Building Programmes’.

HRH was greeted by Dame Mary Peters DBE, HM Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast.

HRH accompanied by Ms Julie Andrews, General Manager, Spectrum Centre met representatives of the Greater Shankill Partnership Board, local community representatives, FASA/”Safe Together” suicide awareness group, funders and supporters, and Sure Start/Early Years representatives.

Moving to the Projection Gallery HRH met Mr Bobby Foster, Spectrum Centre Events manager and a number of centre staff.

Following the presentations HRH accepted an invitation from Mr Tom Scott OBE, Chair Greater Shankill Partnership Board to unveil a plaque commemorating the visit.

HRH was presented with a gift of Irish Linen, Shankill Motif, by Ms Zoe Warnock, a student at the Girls' Model School and a Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award participant.

Prince Edward was greeted by Dame Mary Peters DBE, HM Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast and went on to meet:

  • Councillor William Humphrey MLA, Deputy Lord Mayor, Belfast City Council,
  • Councillor Ian Adamson OBE, Sheriff for the County Borough of Belfast,
  • Mr Nigel Dodds MP, MP for North Belfast,
  • Mr Alex Attwood MLA, Minister, NI Department for Social Development,
  • Mr Nelson McCausland MLA, Minister, NI Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure,
  • Mrs Rosalie Flanagan, Permanent Secretary, NI Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure,
  • Mr Tom Scott OBE, Chair, Greater Shankill Partnership Board,
  • Mr Tom Winston, Chair, The Spectrum Board,
  • Mr Jackie Redpath MBE, Chief Executive, Greater Shankill Partnership Board,
  • Ms Julie Andrews, General Manager, Spectrum Centre,
  • Mr Stephen Dickson, BAC Chief Executive Officer.

Prince Edward in Ulster

His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex has arrived in the Province and has visited Belfast Activity Centre (BAC), Barnett Demesne, in Belfast joining the celebrations of the organisation's 21st birthday.

HRH was greeted by the Mrs Joan Christie OBE, HM Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim and went on to meet Glen Couser and Hannah Hamill, BAC participants who accompanied Prince Edward throughout the engagement.

In the Adventure Learning Park and cave chamber HRH met a group of visually impaired young people from the Royal National Institute for the Blind preparing for a cycling trip to Holland as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.

Nearby at the high ropes area HRH watched young people from Glenveagh Special School taking part in a number of activities as part of their DofE Bronze Award before meeting a number of Award participants and their parents.

Later in the Conference Suite the Earl of Wessex listened to a few words from the BAC Chairman, Tom Scott OBE, and the announcement of the formation of the Charitable Limited Company and a new team of BAC Ambassadors.

During lunch HRH had the opportunity to meet around seventy guests; later, Pamela Ballantine, a BAC Committee Member and television presenter, invited Prince Edward to view a montage of newsreel footage about BAC over the past 21 years.

Mr Scott went on to invite Ian McCluney, a young BAC participant, to present gifts of a waterproof BAC’s jacket, a DVD of the newsreel footage and a ceremonial key to the building to His Royal Highness and invited him to sign the visitors' book.

Also in attendance were,

  • The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of Belfast
  • Mr David Traill, Sheriff for County Antrim ,
  • Mr Tom Scott OBE, Chairman, BAC,
  • Mr Stephen Dickson, BAC Chief Executive Officer,
  • Mrs Nicola Campbell, BAC Senior Project Worker,
  • Mr Glen Couser, BAC Participant
  • Ms Hannah Hamill, BAC Participant

Hugo Swire MP

I have learned, slightly belatedly, this morning that the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office, Hugo Swire, has been appointed a Privy Counsellor; and henceforth is to be known as the Right Honourable Hugo Swire MP.

Her Majesty's Ministers who are Privy Counsellors; that is to say all Cabinet Ministers and a number of junior-ranking Ministers.

Membership of the Privy Council brings with it the right to be called "Right Honourable".

The Privy Council still meets regularly, on average once a month, but, as with the Cabinet, most of its business is transacted in discussion and correspondence between its Ministerial members and the Government Departments that advise them.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Think Zinc!

The sun shone and my goldfinches were of good heart this morning, so Timothy Belmont ventured into central Belfast, armed with the Mini 9.

My first port-of-call was Boots the Chemist, where I sought a bottle of zinc tablets. They are sold in ten milligram doses, one a day; thence over to Marks and Spencer's for two pairs of extra long thermal woollen socks.

I heard on the BBC Radio Four news bulletin this morning, and also reported in the Daily Telegraph, that Zinc appears to have been reaffirmed as the most favoured preventative supplement for the common cold. Who am I to argue with them?

At noon, I ambled into Caffè Nero at Fountain Street, ordered a chicken-and-stuffing sandwich, an Americano coffee and sat down on a leather armchair. The interior prospect can be seen from the picture at the top; and the Cairns' arms are to be seen on the screen!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Show of the Week

This is my Programme of the Week: One Man And His Campervan. I've been recording it because I'm usually swimming at the time that it's broadcast.

It is broadcast on BBC Two at six thirty on most evenings. Over one glorious summer, the camper-van lover and passionate "foodie", Martin Dorey, journeys around Great Britain on the ultimate escapist adventure - celebrating the freedom of camper van living.

Travelling to ten very different regions, in each self-contained episode we see Martin immerse himself in the idyllic places camper van living allows him to reach, befriending the locals and cooking some great local food along the way.

The journey will take Martin to some truly stunning settings on beaches, in woodlands and on cliff tops, taking in regions including the north-east of Scotland, the Lake District, Yorkshire, Devon, Norfolk and more.

I find this little programme cheerful and diverting.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Order Appointment

St James’s Palace, London S.W.1

11 February 2011

THE QUEEN has been graciously pleased to appoint Admiral Sir Peter Charles ABBOTT, GBE, KCB, to be King of Arms of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the room of Air Chief Marshal Sir Patrick Bardon HINE, GCB, GBE, who has retired.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Brackenber Dinner

Peter Clarke has kindly sent some photographs of the Brackenber House Association's annual dinner held at the Europa Hotel in Belfast.

In my estimation there were about fifty Old Boys at the function. It was a splendid occasion and everyone seemed to enjoy what proved to be a fraternal and convivial reunion.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Ballyquintin Hedges

I spent the day hedge-laying with seven other volunteers at the National Trust's Ballyquintin property at the southern-most tip of the Ards Peninsula in County Down.

Ballyquintin is a 64 acre farm set amid rolling drumlin countryside at the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula, beside the Ballyquintin National Nature Reserve. The property is located in one of the most secluded parts of Northern Ireland and is great for walking with stunning views across the Strangford Narrows to the Isle of Man, and of the Lecale coast stretching south towards the Mourne Mountains.

A path, suitable for wheelchair use leads to an old World War Two lookout tower.

The land is let for farming and is managed to provide habitats suitable for the Irish Hare and a number of species of bird that are declining nationally. An increase in the quality and quantity of the hedgegrows is particularly important towards achieving this aim.

There have been quite a few hedge-rows at Ballyquintin and we wish to encourage wildlife, such as yellowhammers and other small mammals; indeed we spotted a buzzard hovering near us today.

Hedge-laying is a craft and it takes time to master it. It's something one gets a feel for - sensing how far to give a hawthorn branch its first cut; where to begin the cut; when to stop sawing and start using a bill-hook to prise the remaining "ligament" in order that the branch bends sufficiently without breaking it (which does occur!).

We all took a sack of hawthorn logs home with us.

I am for the Dirty Duck Ale House in Holywood this evening, though I'll drink fruit-juice.

Brackenber Dinner


I had a wonderful evening at the Europa Hotel, Belfast, this evening. I took a taxi to the hotel from my house at about six o'clock.

Having had a modest restorative at the Piano Bar on the first floor, one of the most civilized places to have an aperitif in the City of Belfast, I entered the elevator and rose to the twelfth floor, where the Penthouse Suite is situated.

On entering, I was greeted by my old school pal, Howard Hastings, and Gordon Harvey. We chatted for a while, before I made for the bar and ordered another snifter, which was on the house.

I had a marvellous evening. How wonderful to meet so many old pals and Brackenbrians. Brian, Lord Hutton was there; and Judge McKee.

I had a lengthy chat with Howard Hastings (we were pals at Brackenber); and Michael Pierce, Patrick Lowry and Patrick Cross.

The dinner was very good indeed: The soup was delicious; as was the beef. I've posted the menu. It was just so marvellous to meet so many old chums; and it is so important to keep Brackenber's memory alive, one feels.

I sincerely hope that we can meet again during the summer months.

A huge Thank You to Howard, Gordon and the staff for ensuring that the evening was so memorable.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Cast your Vote!

I have introduced a poll on the left-hand side of the Blog, regarding a new series. I wish to gauge readers' opinions.

New Warrant

By Appointment to the Right Honourable the Earl of Belmont



His lordship's trusty bicycle is in the frame and Ivan is open for business as usual every Thursday at one end of Circular Road in east Belfast.

They always have a good range and variety of fresh fish and seafood and I particularly enjoy their battered County Down scampi.

The new Warrant takes immediate effect. I understand that Coffey's have a regular stall, Something Fishy, at St George's Market, Belfast.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

New Royal Colonel

Her Majesty The Queen has been pleased to give her formal approval to the appointment of His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales, KG as Colonel of the Irish Guards.

HRH will take over the appointment from Major-General Sir Sebastian Roberts, KCVO OBE.

The regiment was formed in 1900 by order of Queen Victoria. Based in Victoria Barracks, Windsor, but currently deployed to Afghanistan, the Battalion is made up of five companies and a variety of supporting elements.

This is Prince William’s first honorary appointment in the Army, and he will be the Irish Guards’ first Royal Colonel. HM The Queen is Colonel-in-Chief.

His Grace the Duke of Abercorn, KG (above) was Colonel of the Regiment for eight years, until 2008.

Another Dilemma

Business seemed to be very quiet in Belfast today. I had the Mini 9 netbook with me and spent about half an hour in the Linenhall Library, that esteemed seat of learning at Donegall Square North.

Thence I paid a visit to Lunn's, jewellers, at Queen's Arcade. They know how to treat their customers, swiftly bringing me a cup of coffee and a little biscuit while I waited.

I've been agonizing over a particular matter relating to the Dowager - who keeps telling me Don't do it! So I have prevaricated for the fifth time.

My next stop was Ross's auction-house, where I talked the matter over with Daniel Clarke, reminiscing about Brackenber House, John Craig et al. I was so fond of that place; the annual dinner takes place at the Europa Hotel tomorrow evening, by the way.

The Murine Sting

The scratching noise above the Belmont sitting-room has persisted; and my suspicion that it is a mouse has been confirmed.

A pest controller from the Council called recently and advised that baits and traps be laid; and gaps filled with expanding foam.

This has already been done and, this morning, when I was in the garage, I spotted the culprit! A little mouse.

It managed to run into the gap before I plugged it; and later in the morning I could actually see its feet endeavouring to burrow through the expanded foam.

Decisive action has been taken and the poor little creature really ought to vacate the Belmont Household forthwith, or face the inevitable consequences.

I was roused from the slumber this morning, having had to endure that most excellent master Blusterer-in-Chief, the Right Honourable the Lord Prescott PC. Gawd help us, what an odious man; cannot the BBC simply ignore him and invite a more civil - no, civilized - personage on to the airwaves?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Craigavon's Silverware

The silver collection of the Right Honourable Sir James Craig, Bt, later ennobled as 1st Viscount Craigavon, is to be presented to the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

Danny Kinahan MLA, who valued the silver when he worked for the auction-house Christie's in the 1980s, said it was "probably the most important collection of silver from the history of Northern Ireland."

Mr Kinahan has declined to provide a current valuation.

A Splendid Tiff

Richard Kay, columnist at the Daily Mail, has reported an incident between the BBC's Business Editor, the Hon Robert Peston, and Eddie Mair of the PM Show:-

Another clash between the BBC’s self-regarding business editor Robert Peston and Eddie Mair of Radio 4’s PM show.

Their spat last night began with Mair saying: ‘Although I argued vociferously against it, our business editor Robert Peston is here.’ Later, Peston notes: ‘I’m sorry you’re still reluctant to have me on the show. I mean, well, I thought that went all right didn’t it? Did it leave you with a bad feeling?’

Mair responds: ‘To be honest, it’s over. Would you mind going?’

He then introduces Lord Oakeshott, who complains that Peston ‘went on and on’. Mair: ‘You have to excuse me. I’m having a feud with him.’

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Go For It!

What ho! I had an appointment with a Government agency called Go For It, at the East Belfast Enterprise Park this morning in order to discuss Lord Belmont and his Blog.

Nobody would begrudge his lordship making a few pennies in order to keep the home fires burning, would they?

The trick is to keep its integrity, independence, liberty and freedom of expression (viz. my own!) whilst, at the same time, earning a bit for it.

Let's just say that I'm exploring the concept; no more than that.

They're sending me on an intensive three-day course next month, covering such topics as Business Planning; Market Research and Planning; Financial Planning; Managing Finances and Taxation & Book-Keeping - we know why that topic comes last!

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Big Boot!

Now there's a jolly good idea. Why didn't Timothy Belmont ever consider that? What with all the admirers and followers flocking to self like an industrial magnet.

Follow Prince Harry's example, I hear you clamour, and jump into the boot of a Jaguar car - or, for something more commodious, a Bentley - in order to elude the masses.

The former couple were reportedly driven away from private members club Beaufort House in the boot of a Jaguar at 4am.

Luggage was cleared to the front seat of the chauffeur driven car before security staff helped HRH and Miss Chelsy Davy into the boot, according to The Sun.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Top Shows

I've been recording a great little series entitled Great British Railway Journeys, and mine host is that redoubtable former Cabinet Minister, the Right Honourable Michael Portillo.

I wish the corporation would produce more of these kinds of series instead of the drivel and mass fodder broadcast at prime-time on Saturday evenings.

One programme I never intentionally miss is Top Gear; and very well done, chaps, for such a brilliant programme. Keep up the good work and never bow to the Politically Correct Lobby; actually, tell 'em to go forthwith and boil their heads, in your own inimitable language, that is!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Dirty Duck Night!

I met my aunt and Pat at the Coffee Yard Cafeteria in Holywood, County Down, this morning. I managed to find a parking space at the dental surgery nearby. The others were slightly detained, so I went in to the cafe on my own, ordered an Americano coffee and a fruit scone with butter, and found a table.

The coffee and scones are good here. Personally I still enjoy the Bay Tree, though the others prefer the Coffee Yard.

This evening I took the train to Holywood, County Down, where I met up with Big Pete and we walked to the Dirty Duck Ale House.

At the Dirty Duck there were several Rugby football supporters frequenting the bar tonight; still, no matter, we eventually found a place behind the bar and imbibed for the duration.

Nosh this evening consisted of cod-fish and chips for Big Pete; and the Gourmet Burger with all the trimmings for self. Yum yum! The noble feed-bag overfloweth.

As usual the train trundled along the track at about ten forty-six and we jumped on.

Prince Charles in Belfast

HRH The Prince of Wales yesterday visited St Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church, Alfred Street, Belfast, to view the result of a £3.5 million restoration project.

HRH was greeted by Dame Mary Peters DBE, HM Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast.

Outside, Prince Charles listened to a brief overview on the restoration work to the outside of the church from Reverend Father Martin Graham, Curate of St Malachy’s, who accompanied HRH throughout the engagement.

In 1941 a Luftwaffe bombing raid resulted in extensive damage to the original windows and they were temporarily repaired using concrete.

In 2006 the Diocese of Down and Connor embarked on a project to restore the external historic church fabric, install disability access and a full internal restoration based on historic records and research.

Father Graham invited Ms Elizabeth McLaughlin, Secretary of Saint Malachy’s Pastoral Council, to present the Prince of Wales with a gift of a montage of photographs depicting Saint Malachy’s Church before, during and after the restoration. HRH also accepted an invitation to sign the visitors’ book.

The project was funded by the Diocese, including parish funding and a substantial grant from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (Historic Buildings Grant).

In the nearby Parochial House His Royal Highness met privately with Bishop Treanor, Bishop Walsh, Father Curran, Father McGinnity and Father Graham over light refreshments.

At a separate meeting, His Royal Highness chaired a discussion with a number of church representatives and other stakeholders to consider the role of redundant and distressed churches and church estates in the heritage-led regeneration of communities.

Also in attendance were:-
  • The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of Belfast
  • The Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA, First Minister of Northern Ireland
  • Councillor Ian Adamson OBE, Sheriff for the County Borough of Belfast
  • Mr Peter McNaney, Chief Executive, Belfast City Council
  • Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP, MLA, MP for South Belfast
  • Mr Edwin Poots, MLA, NI Minister of the Environment
  • Mr Leo O’Reilly, Permanent Secretary, Department of the Environment
  • The Most Reverend Dr Noel Treanor, RC Bishop of Down and Connor
  • The Most Reverend Dr Patrick Walsh, RC Bishop Emeritus of Down and Connor
  • The Reverend Michael McGinnity, Parish Priest, St Malachy’s Church
  • The Reverend Father Martin Graham, Curate, St Malachy’s Church

Duchess of Cornwall in County Down

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, Patron of The National Literacy Trust, yesterday visited Dundonald Library near Belfast and read a story to around twenty children from local primary schools.

On arrival HRH was greeted by Mr David Lindsay, HM Lord-Lieutenant of County Down.

Her Royal Highness, accompanied by Ms Irene Knox, Chief Executive, Libraries NI, went on to meet Ms Viv Bird, Chief Executive, Booktrust; Mr Jonathan Douglas, Director National Literacy Trust and representatives from Libraries NI; Mrs Kim Aiken, Learning Development Manager; Ms Valerie Christie, Children’s Services Manager; and Dr David Elliott, Chairman, Libraries NI.

Later HRH met a number of Fosters carers and children, School principals, Libraries NI Board members and Libraries NI Staff.

Following a few words of welcome from Ms Irene Knox, Her Royal Highness accepted a gift of three children’s storybooks entitled “Lost and Found” by Oliver Jeffers, “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney and “Owl Babies” by Martin Waddell from eight year old Emily Stothers, a pupil of Dundonald Primary School.

HRH also accepted an invitation to sign the visitors’ book commemorating the visit.

Also in attendance were:-
  • Mr Ian Webb, Sheriff for County Down.
  • The Worshipful the Mayor of Castlereagh, Councillor Mrs Vivienne McCoy
  • Mr Stephen Reid, Chief Executive, Castlereagh Borough Council
  • Mrs Naomi Long MP, MP for East Belfast
  • Mr Nelson McCausland MLA, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure
  • Dr David Elliott, Libraries NI, the public library service for Northern Ireland
  • Ms Irene Knox, Chief Executive, Libraries NI.

Friday, 4 February 2011

The King's Speech

Well I finally went to see the film, The King's Speech, this evening; and very well done it was, too, I thought. Curiously enough, I actually found parts of the film quite poignant. Colin Firth played the role well and generated a fair degree of sympathy for the King's innate affliction, a form of shyness.

I do agree, having viewed the film, that His late Majesty King GEORGE VI bore the heavy burden of kingship with immense fortitude; not forgetting the equally great support of Queen Elizabeth.

I think I spotted the sky-blue ribbon of the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick on the King's uniform, which would be historically correct, since His late Majesty was a Royal Knight - probably the last.