Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Pashley Sovereign

Should I treat myself to one of these? The very best of British craftsmanship: The Pashley Roadster Sovereign.

Is it worth £645? Would owners not be wary of leaving it parked somewhere?

Black Mountain Trek

I motored up to Divis and the Black Mountain today, a property of the National Trust. The prospect from here is normally excellent over Belfast, though there was low-lying cloud and mist on this occasion.

Nevertheless, I parked the two-seater, donned the waterproof clothing and began my little trek. Today I traversed the hills via Tipperary Road, described as "moderate" in its degree of difficulty (or ease).

The Trust has made a few improvements, viz. more stone benches and wooden platforms on another route.

Were extra funding available, a basic shelter here and there would be useful; as would a bench or two along the heathland of the Tipperary Road.

I had been looking forward to the Warden's office at the Long Barn being open, so that I could have my packed lunch and shed the wet attire though, unfortunately, it was closed today.

Divis Lodge, with its temporary roof, still awaits funding for restoration.

On the way home I called in at Halford's cycle store and admired a black Pashley Roadster Sovereign cycle, which cost £645. It appears to be a superb bicycle. Is it worth that price? I covet one!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Phillips Marriage

The marriage has taken place place today of Miss Zara Anne Elizabeth Phillips MBE (daughter of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal and Mark Anthony Peter Phillips, Esq, CVO) and Michael James Tindall, Esq, MBE.

The wedding was held at Cannongate Kirk, the parish church of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh.

Senior members of the Royal Family attended.  A reception is being held at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The couple hosted a pre-wedding party on HMY Britannia, which is moored in Leith, on Friday night.

Zara Phillips, 30, will keep her maiden name when she marries. It is understood this is because of her sporting career in equestrianism.

       Zara Phillips is believed to be setting a royal precedent by not taking the surname of Mike Tindall. Even when they marry commoners, Royal brides have always adopted the family name of their partners.
       When Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, daughter of Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon, wed Daniel Chatto in 1994 she took on his name. 
       Miss Phillips' decision appears to be based on the fact she wants to preserve her sporting persona and business interests. 
       The former equestrian world champion is known throughout the sport as Zara Phillips and she has signed a number of deals which help fund her sporting interests.

Mr Tindall, from Otley in Yorkshire, plays for club side Gloucester and has been capped more than 60 times for his country.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Royal Millinery

A collection of over twenty hats worn by Her Majesty The Queen between 1970 and 2010 will be on display at Hillsborough Castle, County Down, from the 1st to 27th August, 2011.

The hats, designed by top British milliners, can be seen as part of the normal summer tour programme at Hillsborough. Two were worn on official visits to Northern Ireland whilst another was worn by Her Majesty to Prince William’s passing-out parade at Sandhurst.

The collection is normally kept at Buckingham Palace and this is the first time it has been on display and has come to Northern Ireland.

Following the display at Hillsborough Castle, the collection will once again return to Buckingham Palace.

Hillsborough Castle will be open to the public for general tours from August 1st until 27th August. All tours must be booked in advance by ringing 02892682244 or 02892689406. Opening Hours are:- Monday to Friday, tours commencing at 2pm and 3.30pm; Saturday 10.30am – 4pm

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Darragh Island Day

There was a good gang of us today. Regular National Trust staff were augmented by a working party, swelling our numbers to eighteen.

We assembled at Whiterock and Hugh shuttled us over in the little boat to Darragh Island.

Darragh Island, a NT property on Strangford Lough, lies east of Killinchy. Its shape reminds me of a lobster.

We passed Conly Island on the way, a heavily wooded isle with a holiday cottage in a secluded location overlooking Darragh.

Our main task today was to round up a small herd of wild goats, in order that their hooves could be trimmed. They numbered four.

We also dug out two ponds for the benefit of grazing cattle, which shall be introduced to the island shortly, thus negating the necessity for the goats.

Darragh Island has few features, though there is a small kelp kiln, ruinous, and a kelp store (seen in the picture), partly used for other purposes nowadays. It is believed that there are the remains of a dwelling at the northern end of the isle.

I devoured a round of fresh egg salad sandwiches today.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Grand Breakfast

The attention to detail is one important ingredient which makes this hotel de luxe and the best of its kind in Belfast.

By way of example, when I returned to my room last night, some member of staff had wafted in and brought out the tray with tea, coffee and biscuits; and there were many other little touches of detail, too. The curtains had been drawn and my bed sheets neatly pulled back a few feet.

Breakfast was fit for a merchant prince. As one would expect, it was superlative.

I breakfasted in the Great Room of Belfast's Merchant Hotel, once the banking hall of the Ulster Bank headquarters. The domed ceiling and surrounding plasterwork in this room is indeed superb, what with putti and angelic figures looking down on us, many of them gilded.

The seating and upholstery is luxurious, an opulent maroon velour with abundant gold detailing.

I was shown to my table and asked if I'd like some fresh fruit-juice and tea or coffee. Having a brief perusal of the menu, I chose the full, cooked breakfast.

It arrived speedily, as did the selection of toast and pastries.

Breakfast was served on a large plate and consisted of sausage; two rashers of lean back bacon; half a tomato; a large whole mushroom; two thick slices of black and white pudding; an egg, a little disc of potato bread; and soda bread. Have I omitted anything? I think not.

Of course the menu had other items thereon, including smoked salmon and scrambled egg.

I think I'll go for a stroll now, perhaps towards the Cathedral Quarter.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Table at Bert's

A four-seater table close to the trio at Bert's Bar, Merchant Hotel, Belfast.

Bert's Bar

Good old Bertie! This cove knows how to look after his clientele. Bert's Bar is an appendage of the Victorian Merchant Hotel, Belfast. Bert's can be entered via High Street.

There's a three-piece jazz band - double bass, drums and piano - playing here as I write.

Despite it being a Monday,  the dining-room is fairly busy. I was brought a bowl of fresh, crusty bread with a ramekin of butter and minced olives.

My dinner has been very good, consisting of a kind of egg and ham croquette with a salad garnish; then confit of duck with Lyonnaise potatoes and fresh, seasonal vegetables.

To be truthful, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It must be nine-fifteen and I'm listening to the trio with a modest glass of Beefeater, opposite St George's Church in High Street.

Pre-Dinner Snifter

The Cocktail Bar of Belfast's Merchant Hotel is an agreeably civilised place. The plasterwork and chandeliers on the ceiling give the room a distinct air of grandeur.

I have a dinner reservation at eight o'clock, and I'm spending awhile in the bar prior to donning the feed-bag.

I whiled away an hour in the spa pool on the top floor earlier with some convivial company of other residents, including a pleasant South African  lady who lives in southern Spain.

Grand Merchant of Belfast

Timothy Belmont has arrived at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast for an overnight stay. I have a commodious and well-appointed bedroom on the second floor; and it's in the original Victorian section.

I have been shown the main reception rooms, including a gymnasium and spa-pool on the sixth floor which is at the top and affords a splendid prospect of the city.

I am presently in the Cocktail Bar, which overlooks Waring Street and  boasts a magnificent ceiling and opulent furnishings.

A  gold-coloured Rolls-Royce Phantom is parked within feet of me.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Kilbroney Forest

Timothy Belmont has enjoyed a memorable day out at south County Down today, passing through Newry, Warrenpoint and the charming little village of Rostrevor. The two-seater averaged 44.2 mpg.

The signs are all bi-lingual here, in Irish Gaelic and English, a jolly considerate idea for any of the local populace who might encounter difficulties speaking English.

I passed the splendid Narrow Water demesne and the Halls' august Victorian pile, Narrow Water Castle, which looked spectacular.

I stopped en route to admire the Ross monument.

Kilbroney must surely rank among the most picturesque of our forest parks. The lofty forestry on the side of the mountain and the flora were all evocative of a miniature version of Switzerland.

I trekked up as far as the Cloghmore Stone, a large boulder perched half-way up the side of the mountain. Think of circumventing Miss Widdecombe and you'll get the idea.

At the picnic area, where the cafeteria is, I placed my rug on the lawn, donned the feed-bag and munched a round of corned-beef salad sandwiches with a beaker of tea.

It would seem that this demesne was once owned by a  Miss Bowes-Lyon, who lived at Kilbroney Lodge. I must investigate this further.


On exiting the forest park I turned left, towards the Ballyedmond Estate, a seat of the richest cove in the Province, Lord Ballyedmond.

The palatial gates were, as one would expect, firmly closed, though his lordship's coat-of-arms (OBE badge included, suspended therefrom) adorn a blue plaque.

Within the gates there seems to be a deer-park and I spotted one or two of the animals grazing contentedly on the emerald-green lawns.

He could even have gone a step further and stuck a  few baronial coronets atop the gate-posts!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Island Taggart Day

I have spent a wonderful day on Island Taggart with seven other National Trust staff and volunteers. We embarked from Killyleagh Yacht Club and motored northwards to the isle.

Today we were clearing a large field of thistle; and we also tidied up the little orchard beside the derelict farmstead, giving the trees "breathing-space".

We lunched beside one of the ruinous dwellings to the north of the island, self munching corned beef salad sandwiches and tea.

Island Taggart is now a property inalienably held by the National Trust. It lies between Ringdufferin directly to its north and Killyleagh, the nearest substantive village, to the south. The island is one mile long and a quarter of a mile wide at its widest point; a total area of 94 acres.

Its length and the height of its two drumlins make it particularly attractive in the southern half of Strangford Lough. From the higher points there is a fine prospect of varying habitats: from the eastern side, the main body of the lough with its marine life, sea-birds and the landscape of the Ards Peninsula; while, to the west, the sheltered mud-flats and salt-marshes with their population of waders and waterfowl.

The principal farmstead (top) with its stone-built, erstwhile slate-roofed, single-storey derelict farmhouse with its farm buildings (a store; cow byre; calf-boxes; and hay-store) are all stone-built, partly slate. An old well is located just to the side of the sunken lane which runs from the east shore up to the farm; and there is an orchard nearby.

One small, ruinous cottage is at the northern tip of the island; two other cottages, which are within fifty yards of each other, lie at the eastern side of the island about two-thirds of the way up from the southern tip; and the main farm sits at the top of the hill in the middle of the island.

The main farm, with farm-house, outbuildings directly opposite, farm-yard, walls and pillars with "bap" toppings, an old orchard, a stone well, privy and other features, is substantial enough and could conceivably be restored at some future date. A lane ran from this farmstead down the hill, past the well (marked on the map), to the eastern shore and still exists today. Two further wells served the cottages to the north of the island.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

New Baronetcy Article

I have been researching the Verner Baronetcy, of Church Hill in County Armagh (now Peatlands Park) and I expect to publish the new article imminently.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


I hear that the price of gold has hit a new record price of $1,610 (ca £1,000) an ounce as debt worries in the US and Europe have intensified.

Good Lord! So a 22 carat gold item of jewellery weighing 1½ ounces would be worth about £1,500?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Darren's Round!

BBC Northern Ireland has a jolly good piece about our latest Ulster golf champion, Darren Clarke. As soon as he won the Open, he phoned the Bayview Hotel at Portballintrae, County Antrim, and announced that the drinks were on him:-

The 42-year-old has been known to savour a pint or two in the surroundings of the Bayview Hotel in Portballintrae on the County Antrim coast.

Its owner Trevor Kane confirmed that Clarke rang to pay for a round of drinks for those fans who watched his triumph on television, shortly after collecting the Open trophy. "We had a big contingent of Darren's fans in the hotel on Sunday," he said. 

"His sister Andrea and his brother-in-law also came round later with Darren's two boys and their cousins. "Darren put a call through to Andrea to set up a round of drinks for everyone at the bar, it was quite a celebration. 

"Some people got squirted with champagne." "Darren would come into the bar and have a pint or two - he would give me a bit of banter," he added. "He has brought the boys home and they are settled now. 

"He had to dig deep at the weekend and to win the Open is brilliant." 

Sunday was not the first time this year Clarke has celebrated a title win by buying a round. In May, the Ryder Cup star bought an entire plane full of passengers a drink to mark his Iberdrola Open success in Majorca.

Darren Clarke

I am delighted that more congratulations are due to another Ulster golfer, Darren Clarke, so soon after Rory McIlroy's triumph. He brings pride, glory and honour to Northern Ireland.

Darren Clarke, originally from Dungannon, County Tyrone, becomes the latest in a long line of British and, specifically, Ulster golfers and sports people to bring esteem and honour to the Province.

Of course our other Ulsterman, Graeme McDowell MBE, won the US Masters Championship in 2010; Rory McIlroy won it this year, 2011; and now Darren Clarke has won the Open Championship in 2011.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Goody! De Luxe Muesli

When I was at Minnowburn on Saturday, a fellow NT volunteer, Heather, apprised me of what she regarded as an exceedingly good muesli. Heather asked me if I consumed the stuff and I replied that I ate the Alpen Original variety; whereupon she scoffed and urged me to try her preferred muesli.

It is sold by a German "value" supermarket chain which uses an Eire website in Northern Ireland, a practice of which Timothy Belmont disapproves; moreover, many of the perishable groceries emanate from the Irish Republic, too.

I am of the opinion that this German business ought to show some respectfulness by using their UK web address and supporting more UK produce in Northern Ireland.

Nevertheless, I ambled in today and sought this muesli. It is in a foil bag; weighs 750 grams; is called Goody Special  Luxury Fruit & Nut Muesli. It contains:-
  • raisins 
  • sultanas
  • pineapple
  • banana pieces
  • dates
  • papaya
  • oat flakes
  • barley flakes
  • nuts (coconut, almonds, hazel nuts, pecan nuts)
  • wheat flakes
  • pumpkin seeds.

It costs £1.89.

Heather was right. It is very, very tasty; the description of ingredients is true and accurate. I haven't tasted a shop-bought muesli before with so many wholesome and nutritious ingredients.

Crown Prince Otto, 1912-2011

The funeral of His Imperial and Royal Highness Crown Prince Otto of Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia.

In 1922 he became Head of the House of Habsburg:-
By the Grace of God, Emperor of Austria; King of Hungary and Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia and Lodomeria; King of Jerusalem, etc; Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and Bukowina; Grand Prince of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Silesia, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Guastalla, Auschwitz and Zator, Teschen, Friaul, Dubrovnik and Zadar; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trento and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Silver Service


16TH JULY, 2011










Another chip shop has opened with the Exempt Jurisdiction of the Earldom, at number 301, Holywood Road, Belfast, viz. The Silver Leaf.

Have any readers tried it yet? Is it fair value? What are the standards? Feedback would be appreciated.

I've lost count of the numerous takeaways which have "made a go of it" on these premises, the most recent being one amusingly named For Cod & Ulster.

In the sixties and seventies one John McCollum, pharmacist (whom I remember), traded here.

It's as simple as this: They need to have consistently good standards which are as good as or, preferably exceed, John Dory's chip shop further along the road.

They'll get a fair wind. If they are better than the competition, they should flourish and prosper.

Balsam Bashing

Himalayan Balsam is a particularly prolific weed. There are areas at Minnowburn where it returns every year.

We were endeavouring to eradicate the stuff at a spot in the woods today. There were a mere five of us, though a few "regulars" were on holiday.

At lunch-time we lunched in the warden's office; and later had a look at the Minnowburn allotments.

Inverary Castle

Matthew Dennison of the Daily Telegraph has written a good article about Inverary Castle, Argyllshire, seat of His Grace the Duke of Argyll.

The Duke and his family – his wife Eleanor, the Duchess of Argyll, and their children, Archie, Marquess of Lorne, 7; Lord Rory, 5; and Lady Charlotte, 3 – inhabit a 'house within a house’ covering two floors of the south and western sides of the castle and bookended by two crenellated circular towers.

There, after a two-year renovation project that involved the installation of 12 bathrooms and the creation of a family kitchen designed with an emphasis on childproofing, the latest generation of this ancient Scottish family lives 'above the shop’.

Their new central heating system, the first the castle has ever had, is powered by wood-chip from the estate’s extensive forestry. 'Most of all, our lives have been transformed by having radiators,’ the Duchess says, in reference to the 120 that they have installed. 'We no longer need to run from one room with a fire to another.’ 

Inverary Castle is surrounded by the estate's 60,000 acres.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Fitzwilliam Hotels

ARMS: Quarterly:  1st and 4th, Lozengy Argent and Gules 
CRESTS: 1st:  Out of a Ducal Coronet Or a Triple Plume of Ostrich Feathers Argent 
SUPPORTERS: On either side a Savage Man wreathed about the head and waist with Leaves and in the exterior hand a Tree eradicated the top broken all proper
MOTTO: Appetitus Rationi Pareat

The Fitzwilliam Hotels in the cities of Belfast and Dublin confirm that their name emanates from the noble Earls Fitzwilliam who owned much of the land in central Dublin at one time (not to say 90,000 acres of County Wicklow and 22,000 acres of Yorkshire).

There have been several Fitzwilliam creations, including a barony, a viscountcy and an earldom. The coat-of-arms of the Earls Fitzwillam is illustrated above. The earldom became extinct in 1979.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Signor Carluccio, OBE

I was listening to BBC Radio 4's PM Programme, hosted by Eddie Mair, and he conducted an agreeable little interview with that maestro of the culinary taste-buds, Antonio Carluccio OBE.

Antonio Carluccio's recipe, as broadcast on PM last night is as follows:

A Simple, Quick and Tasty Tagliatelle with Bolognese Sauce

Serves 5 - 6

100g dried egg tagliatelle per person

For the ragu:

8 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
500g minced beef
500g minced pork
500g passata (Tomato purée)
1 small glass of white wine
1 cup chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste
Salt and pepper

To make the ragu, heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and fry gently until soft. Add the minced meats and stir with a wooden spoon to break them up into smaller chunks.

Cook for about 10 minutes (depending on strength of burner) until meat is brown, stirring occasionally so the meat doesn't stick. Then add the wine and bubble until the alcohol has evaporated. Stir in the passata, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook for ten minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook the tagliatelle in boiling salted water until al dente, then drain and mix with the sauce.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A Pedant's Point

The Mass Media, including some who should know better, continually allude to TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as "the Duke and Duchess".

Of course, most people in this egalitarian world couldn't care less about Correct Form nowadays.

Nevertheless I shall remind the Daily Telegraph and the British Broadcasting Corporation or, more specifically, the staff whom they hire, of the errors of their ways.

The Term Duke and Duchess rightly refers to a non-royal duke and his wife.

Royal dukes and duchesses are traditionally referred to (in this context) as Their Royal Highnesses, His Royal Highness or Her Royal Highness, often abbreviated to TRH or HRH.

I sometimes vary the appellation by calling the Duke of Cambridge "Prince William" or "HRH"; and his wife, "Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge" or "HRH".

As a royal couple I'd refer to them as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Their Royal Highnesses or TRH, never as the Duke and Duchess. A royal duke, certainly in past times, was never referred to as "the Duke".

Might I suggest that the Corporation and other media obtain a copy of Debrett's Correct Form?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Fort Sydenham

The enormous bonfire, comprising old tyres, wooden palettes etc, waiting in readiness for ignition later. It is located at King George V Playing-Fields, adjacent to the Oval football-grounds.

Observers are advised to bring sausages and hamburgers for cooking from a safe distance!

Surely it must be forty feet tall?

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Boat Trip

I decided to take Craig up on his generous offer of an organised boat outing on Strangford Lough today. En route I stopped off at a supermarket and bought a punnet of large, juicy and sweet strawberries.

We congregated at the quay-side in Strangford, County Down, where the MV St Brendan arrived at about 1pm. There'd have been about two dozen of us altogether, I suppose.

We headed southwards, hugging the western side of the Lough, passing Cloghy Rocks and Kilclief Point, where we turned and cruised northwards along the eastern side from Bar Hall Bay.

The boat skirted Chapel and Jackdaw Islands, whence we circled the Dunnyneill Islands (above). At low tide Dunnyneill appears as one island; whereas, at high tide, it splits into the main island, above, and a much smaller isle.

On our return, we passed Audley's Castle and Strangford Bay; the Old Court demesne, wonderfully picturesque seat of the Lord and Lady de Ros (aka Peter and Sian Maxwell), with its splendid little private chapel.

The relatively modern Old Court House is pictured (from the sea). The de Ros family live in another dwelling within the grounds.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Hacking Scandal

The manner in which certain newspaper titles have acquired their information - scoops - has been unethical and reprehensible.

Journalists employed by such titles must be under extreme pressure to produce sensational results, thereby generating massive sales figures; and, in turn, providing such publications with an advantage - or edge - over their rivals.

It is inconceivable that the proprietorship of such titles has been completely unaware of  the circumstances.

Ignorance, let alone negligence, of the Law is no excuse.

It remains to be seen whether there shall be any sustained boycott, or lack of support, for the titles involved. People, and those who support newspapers through advertising, have a habit of returning to them after a period.

Personally, I seldom buy any newspaper at all nowadays because I obtain news from other media, including the Internet.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Admirable Fellowes

Judith Woods of the Daily Telegraph has a splendid article on Julian Kitchener-Fellowes, now sitting in his rightful Place as the Right Honourable Julian Alexander Baron Fellowes of West Stafford DL.

And a good egg he is, too. I thoroughly approve of, and rarely miss, his productions, or any broadcast with his good name thereon.

Lord Fellowes is possibly most famous for his screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.

"Fellowes, 61 – a clubbable, hearty, high church Tory in mandatory Viyella shirt and Harris tweed jacket – regrets coming across as such a churl and hopes to enter the forthcoming Downton Abbey fray in a more relaxed frame of mind. He understands now that audiences gripe because they feel intensely involved with and proprietorial towards Downton, even if they have a peculiar way of showing it.

The phenomenal viewing figures, which topped 11.6 million, made Downton both a critical and commercial triumph and ITV’s most successful costume drama since Brideshead Revisited. Yet Fellowes claims he was taken aback by the groundswell of enthusiasm. He describes himself as a lone Right-winger in the predominantly Leftie television industry, who was forcibly told on more than one occasion that Toff Television was infra dig.

The second series opens during the Great War. Downton has been converted to a convalescent home-cum-hospital for injured officers, run by the family physician Dr Clarkson.

Fellowes took up his seat in the Upper House earlier this year, sitting naturally on the Conservative benches, which is for the best, as his wistful evocations [and Timothy Belmont's] of the Empire and an age when Great Britain truly was Great, might not play so well on the other side of the chamber".

'Downton Abbey’ returns for a second series in the autumn.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Costly Tardiness

Well done to His Honour Judge Burgess, Recorder of Belfast. A defendant habitually failed to turn up at court on time, so Judge Burgess whacked him in jail till his next appearance.

Judge Burgess had told his victim's family his non-appearance was "very unsatisfactory but we have the ways and means of getting people to court".

KCVO Appointment


5 July 2011

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


To be Knight Commander:

Major-General William George CUBITT, CBE. On relinquishing the appointment of Major-General Commanding Household Division.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Royal Expenditure

Timothy Belmont never ceases to be astounded at how economical, mean and stingy successive governments have been towards the Royal Family.

Readers will be aware of my utter loyalty to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family.

I remain, and have done since I wore short trousers, a fervent royalist.

It is my opinion that HM former Yacht Britannia ought to be re-commissioned and refitted, if necessary, for the Sovereign.

Failing that, sufficient funding must be made available for a new royal yacht.

The Royal Flight should be enhanced, with a small fleet of medium size aircraft painted in royal livery.

The crumbling fabric of Buckingham Palace must be restored forthwith by the State.

I am only too well aware of the vociferous minority of anti-royalists. My Blog shan't be a playground for republicans of any hue or colour.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Lounging with Berries

The birds are singing; the pigeons frustrated by Eagle Owl observing them with its beady eyes in the front lawn.

Timothy Belmont is spending an idle, relaxing day.

I cycled to the gymnasium this morning and have been lying on an old lounger at home, basking in the kindly Ulster sunshine. Beside me, I munched a small punnet of friends' strawberries and raspberries, sweet and juicy. Heavenly.

Ethereal bliss, what?

Last night I entertained my Godmother to dinner at the Belmont GHQ, donning the feed-bag for slow-cooked lamb shank with seasonal roasted vegetables; small, steamed potatoes tossed in garlic and herbs; cauliflower cheese; closely followed by Eton Mess; along with a few gins and plonk, for good measure.

Today is booze-free in the household, readers shall be relieved to learn.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Pigeons Beware!

In an attempt to deter feral pigeons below my bird feeders, I have invested in a large, plastic, owl costing £6.99, at a local store called Wyse-Byse.

It shall be interesting to see whether this action produces the desired effect.

Apparently eagle owls enjoy a pigeon or three for dinner, if they can gets their talons on them.

The Ebullient Horatio

Horatio Todd's is an establishment which appeals to a variety of tastes; the reason, perhaps, why it is so popular (and the fact that there is not a great choice of decent bars in the vicinity).

For those living outside the Earldom, I should explain that Horatio Todd's is a popular bar-restaurant, part of a chain of bars run by a larger company, at Ballyhackamore in east Belfast.

You can go for a meal in the restaurant; or find a comfy sofa, provided they’re not all taken; or stand at the bar which, last night, was like a jungle. Frankly, I did not appreciate the Experience at all. It must be my age!

BP and self were shown to our seats in the restaurant at eight-thirty. BP ordered the "Prime 10oz Char-grilled Northern Irish [sic] Sirloin Steak", at £18.95;  while I had the "Crispy Confit of Silverhill Duck with Lyonnaise potato, apple, plum and ginger chutney and crispy leeks", costing £11.50.

We shared onion rings, at £2.95.

BP professed to enjoy the steak. I also enjoyed the duck, which was certainly tender, though the thick fatty skin was soggy and not crisp as stated on the menu. The portion of duck was small, to the extent that I had finished the meat on my plate long before the rest of the vegetables.

For pudding, I had the Rhubarb Crème Brûlée with a flamed crisp caramel top, £4.50; while BP had Classic Eton Mess: cream, summer berries and raspberry coulis, at £4.50. No complaints with the desserts.

After dinner we removed to the human jungle at the bar. I am afraid I was out of my comfort zone in Horatio’s on Friday evening and didn’t appreciate standing all night, with demi-drunk revellers bumping into me, very loud music later on, taking ages to buy a drink (not the fault of staff - just very busy).

Give me a cushy sofa, waiter service, with convivial company any day. Horatio did have plenty of sofas - they were simply occupied long before my arrival at seven forty-five.

I am convinced that one of the clientèle had taken some kind of tablet owing to his jerky movements and yelping noises; and he was no spring chicken, either. I did say it was a jungle! There was very loud music later in the evening. Many, including ourselves, stood outside with the smokers.

Despite my impressions, Horatio Todd's is undoubtedly very popular with a broad spectrum of humanity, young and even middle-aged. Many, I suggest, simply go for a meal and avoid the boisterous atmosphere at the bar.

I think I'd have been more content, had I been comfortably installed in a sofa tucked away from the madding crowd.

I cycled home at about one-thirty.