Tuesday, 30 August 2011

First Blackberries

I picked my first little batch of blackberries today; enough to make a blackberry and apple crumble.

I recall that last year I picked them at Gibb's Island, Strangford Lough.

Pruning Apple Trees

There's an article by Tony Buckland in the Daily Telegraph today offering advice on how to prune an apple tree:

A lustrous green dome and branches heavy with rosy red fruit — that’s how an apple tree should look in August, but most garden trees fall well short of this orchard ideal.

Too often, crops are disappointing, with fungally infected, distorted leaves and an outline as lopsided as one of Lady Gaga’s hats.

Heavy-handed pruning is the usual culprit for this sorry state of affairs, followed by a period of neglect during which the tree fights back with rampant, unbalanced regrowth.

This emphasises the importance of buying an apple on the right rootstock in the first place — anything from M9 for very dwarfing to MM106 for a 15ft specimen.

Pruning is often the cause of the problem, but it can also provide the cure, bringing your apple tree back to health and productivity. Restorative pruning is usually done in winter, but, where crops are poor, there are advantages to doing it now.

With the leaves on the tree, it’s obvious what’s growing well and what’s dead. Removing the foliage also reduces the vigour of over-enthusiastic growers before they muscle beyond their bounds.

Don’t worry at this stage whether your tree produces fruit on spurs close to branches (spur-bearers) or on the tips (tip-bearers).

This exercise is about creating a strong, productive framework, but bear in mind that on tip-bearers, some of next year’s crop may be lost. Most trees are spur-bearers, with a few notable exceptions, including 'Discovery’ and 'Bramley’, which are both tip and spur-bearing.

Follow this advice for branches up to 3in across — for anything larger, I’d advise calling in a tree surgeon with a chainsaw.

You will need ...

  • Chalk
  • Secateurs
  • Bucket for collecting mouldy fruit
  • Folding pruning saw handy as you can stick it in your back pocket while climbing the ladder
  • Or a carpenter’s wood saw more economical to buy than specialist pruning saws and man enough (when new) to handle large branches, but less wieldy when climbing the ladder
  • Ladder and short length of rope to secure to the tree

Monday, 29 August 2011

David, Earl of Cardigan

The Daily Telegraph reports that Lord Cardigan, a courtesy lord and heir to the 8th Marquess of Ailesbury, is locked in an extraordinary legal battle with the trustees who have taken him to court claiming he is attempting to sell off the family silver to raise funds.

The two Trustees are Messrs Wilson Cotton and John Moore.

The so-called Savernake Club, the nucleus of which shall be Tottenham House, will open for business in 2015.

It is stated that Lord Cardigan owns 4,000 acres in Wiltshire at the heart of which lies Tottenham House, a Georgian mansion worth an estimated £8 million. 

Earlier this month a judge made an order temporarily preventing him selling estate "chattels" after his own barrister described him as a 'down and out' who needed to sell a set of antique silver bowls to 'put food on the table'.

Lord Cardigan claims that the Trustees are letting the house fall into a state of disrepair.

He said rainwater was pouring through his bathroom ceiling in Tottenham House and that he is being forced to use buckets to catch drops. An electrician described the wiring as “dangerous” and plaster is “hanging off the walls”, he claimed.

He further claimed he had been forced to take out an injunction to prevent a recent sale at Sotheby’s in his home on the estate.
  “It’s using up most of my cash trying to get rid of the trustees, and what makes it worse is that one of them used to be my best friend.
“I asked them for the accounts but they didn’t send them.
“I felt I couldn’t restore order from America so I had to come back. They have perpetrated such horrors that I will not rest until I have seized back control of the estate.
“If necessary I will break the bank to get rid of them. I shall not rest until I’ve unhorsed those two."
 The family name is synonymous with the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War.

At a related legal hearing at the High Court last week, a judge was told that Lord Cardigan was "to all intents and purposes down and out" and needed to raise money or "go hungry”.

But David Cardigan claims the trustees were trying to sell paintings to pay for work because they could not raise money from the bank because they have undervalued Tottenham House at "merely" £3m.

However, he told the Daily Telegraph:
“I attempted to sell 12 silver entrée dishes. We have a large collection and they are not used from one century to the next. When they built the place they bought these things in sets of 100. They were made for the house. They’re worth about £12,000. I needed the money to stop the trustees.”

He declined to disclose how much he had spent on legal fees but added: “I’m a bit pushed in ready cash but not in any sense down and out.”

Swimming Resumption

Hallelujah, exclaims Timothy Belmont. The old school Sports Club is expected to reopen on Thursday, 1st September at six o'clock.

The actual act of Swimming would be dependent on the pool being adequately heated; life-guards being present; pump and other essential technical equipment functioning, and so on.

We shall see.

Still, I have printed the application form from their website already and hope to be there on Thursday.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Hilden Beer Festival

BP assures me that it wasn't as busy as usual this evening at the Hilden Beer Festival. Hilden is on the outskirts of Lisburn, County Antrim.

We both took the train to the Hilden halt, which is conveniently located several minutes' walk from the Hilden brewery.

We Belmonts know when to exercise restraint, so I stuck to orange juice throughout the evening (readers should be aware that I overindulged on the red plonk last night). BP was in ecstasy, being an aficionado of Real Ale

The ambiance was jolly and lively, though. There was a fair number of characters, judging by some of the attire; and the large wigwam tent or tepee atmospheric with its hay-bale seating.

The slightly unseasonal weather was unkind and it was quite cool, so a few of those outdoor heaters would have been welcome.

We had burgers with a salad garnish, cheese and bacon (£5) and a small portion of exceedingly greasy chips (£2).

Overall I'd say it was a jolly enough evening and event, marred by poor weather. The conductor on the train from Hilden to Great Victoria Street was a comedian and cracked jokes every time he made an announcement.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Enniskillen Bash

The Army Benevolent Fund (ABF - the Soldiers' Charity) will host An Evening with Charlie Lawson in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, on Wednesday 7th September at 8pm.

I was at the old school with Charlie about thirty-five summers ago; and many will also recall him as Sergeant Jim McDonald of ITV's Coronation Street.

The admission charge is £10.00. Tickets are available immediately, and can be purchased from the Killyhevlin Hotel, by ringing Stuart on 07968 738491, or Nicola on 07872 395981.

E-mail requests can be sent to stuartbrooker@btinternet.com

A great need still exists to provide support to our injured troops and their families, at this time of conflict in many parts of the world.

Many are in need of financial and welfare support during their time of rehabilitation after injury, and, in the case of a serviceman or woman being killed in action, to offer support to the bereaved family at a time of great need.

Our support is needed in raising much needed funds, as well as an opportunity to enjoy an evening with one of Enniskillen’s most famous sons.

It is anticipated that this will be a very popular event. However, if for any reason you don't get a ticket, I've been advised that you can come along and pay your admission on the night.

ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is a Registered Charity No: 211645

Hilden or Botanic?

As it happens, I could be making an appearance (!)  on Sunday at either the Hilden Beerfest -

SUNDAY 29th August
2 – 9.30 pm    £7.50 -  free BBQ before 4pm

SONS OF CALIBER • Master and Dog •
Inishowen Gospel Choir • The 1930’s
Tipi Stage: Ben Glover • Anthony Toner • False relations
Allie Bradley and Aaron Shanley
Junior Johnson

Family Friendly Sunday
magic & puppet Show • face painting  • balloon modelling • games in the garden

Or the Belfast Mela at Botanic Gardens - 

Shimmering saris, fabulous food, and inspiring music and dance are just a few of the sights and sounds to expect from the Belfast Mela – Northern Ireland’s Largest Multi-Cultural Festival.
Celebrating culture and creativity, the Mela, meaning ‘to meet’, will display the sights, sounds and smells of ethnic origins, showcasing music, dance, arts and food from across the globe. The festival is the largest multi-cultural celebration the NI and crowds are in for a variety of treats as this year’s event is jam-packed with a show-stopping schedule, all taking place in Belfast’s beautiful Botanic Gardens
Admission £2 / £1 (Under 12s & Senior Citizens). No pre-booking required.

All shall be revealed tomorrow!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Friday Concert

The Ulster Hall, Belfast, was full tonight for a BBC Radio 3 Invitation Concert performed brilliantly by a large Ulster Orchestra.

The soloist for Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No 3 in D Minor was Sofya Gulyak.

The conductor was Alan Buribayev.

This season's theme has been Russian throughout.

My neighbour, whom I've encountered previously, obligingly offered me his newspaper to read during the interval; and a sweet, into the bargain.

Next Friday's concert features the Grand Mulholland Organ; the soloist, Colm Carey.

Devonshire House

London's legacy of Devonshire House: the mansion's former gates now form an entrance to the Green Park.

Devonshire House, located at Piccadilly between Berkeley Street and Stretton Street, was the London home of the Dukes of Devonshire from 1740 till about 1919. It was demolished in 1924.

Today, the site is occupied by offices, known as Devonshire House.

Following the 1st World War, many noble families abandoned their London homes and Devonshire House was to be no exception: it was deserted by 1919.

The demolition was mentioned several times nostalgically in literature. It caused Woolf's Clarissa Dalloway to think "Devonshire House, without its gilt leopards", (a reference to the house's gilded gates) as she passed down Piccadilly.

The reason for the abandonment was because the 9th Duke was the first of his family to have to pay death duties; these amounted to over £500,000. Additionally, he inherited the debts of the 7th Duke; and Devonshire House with its even more valuable three acres of gardens.

The sale was finalised, for a price of £750,000 (£26 million in today's money), in 1920 and the house demolished. The two purchasers were Shurmer Sibthorpe and Lawrence Harrison, wealthy industrialists who developed the site, subsequently building a hotel and block of flats.

Surviving fragments of Devonshire House include the gateway at the entrance to Green Park and the wine cellar (now the ticket office of Green Park underground station). Other architectural salvage included doorways, mantelpieces and furniture which were relocated to Chatsworth. Some of these stored items were included in a Sothebys auction, 5-7th October, 2010.

The wrought-iron entrance gates, topped with seated sphinxes, have been re-erected across Piccadilly, to form an entrance to Green Park.

Devonshire arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

I am minded to view The Duchess, which will be broadcast on BBC HD and BBC2 on Thursday evening at 9pm.

Almost precisely three years ago I viewed The Duchess, a 2008 drama film based on Amanda Foreman's biography of the 18th-century aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire.

I said this at the time:
          The new Odeon was not, at all, busy. Despite the tickets - £6.20 -  being numbered, you could really have sat anywhere; in fact I moved to another seat when the movie started. The Duchess, which refers to Lady Georgiana Spencer who married the 5th Duke of Devonshire, was not, for me, a particularly uplifting film. 
          It was well done, the costumes, props and settings were undoubtedly sumptuous; the Georgian grandeur magnificent. Still, I found it all quite poignant and sad.  
          Their Graces formed an unhappy partnership. It was, nevertheless, an interesting tale and remarkable to watch His Grace living in the splendour of his ducal residences along with his Duchess, Georgiana, and their close friend Lady Elizabeth - ultimately to become the Duke's second wife.
          Intriguingly, Lady Elizabeth was the daughter of the Earl-Bishop of Derry, one of whose residences was Downhill Castle in County Londonderry.

My rating for the The Duchess was three stars. The acting was competent enough; Keira Knightly ravishing, as usual.

Divis Board-Walk

When I visited Divis and the Black Mountain (above Belfast) a few weeks ago, I noticed the new wooden board-walk which has replaced a black plastic one.

What I did not realize, till today, was that it has taken three years to construct and was built by offenders as part of their community service.

The Probation Board for Northern Ireland teamed up with the National Trust to complete the project.

Paul Doran from the Probation Board said this kind of work benefited both organisations and offenders: 
"We believe that this project benefits the National Trust, in that it provides labour to keep the very good facility here going, but it also helps the offenders to keep out of trouble," he said.
"Research tells us that three out of four offenders who complete the community service order aren't re-convicted within two years."
Mr Doran said the Probation Board had over 300 partnerships with organisations throughout Northern Ireland and supplied over 160,000 hours of community service each year.

"We are always looking for new projects and if people want to contact us, to suggest new community service partnerships, we're very keen to hear from them," he added.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

18th Duchess of Alba

By Jove, the Duchess of Alba has more titles than Dame Agatha has written novels! I say this because the Duchess is re-marrying in the autumn of her life, at eighty-five years old.

She was born on March 28, 1926, at the Liria Palace, Madrid. The Duchess is the daughter of the 17th Duke.

The Daily Telegraph has an article about her, including many photographs. Granted, she is no beauty now; though the Duchess was prettier in her younger days, believe it or not.

The Most Excellent The Duchess of Alba de Tormes'  titles include:

Titles, styles and honours



  • 18th Duchess of Alba, Grandee of Spain
  • 17th Duchess of Híjar, Grandee of Spain
  • 15th Duchess of Aliaga, Grandee of Spain -Ceded to her son Don Alfonso Martínez
  • 11th Duchess of Montoro, Grandee of Spain -Ceded to her daughter Doña Eugenia
  • 11th Duchess of Berwick, Grandee of Spain
  • 11th Duchess of Liria and Jérica, Grandee of Spain
  • 3rd Duchess of Arjona, Grandee of Spain


  • 12th Countess-Duchess of Olivares, Grandee of Spain


  • 17th Marquesa of the Carpio, Grandee of Spain
  • 10th Marquesa of San Vicente del Barco, Grandee of Spain -Ceded to her son Don Fernando
  • 16th Marquesa of la Albaga
  • 16th Marquesa of Almenara
  • 18th Marquesa of Barcarrota
  • 10th Marquesa of Castañeda
  • 23rd Marquesa of Coria
  • 14th Marquesa of Eliche
  • 16th Marquesa of Mirallo
  • 20th Marquesa of la Mota
  • 20th Marquesa of Moya
  • 17th Marquesa of Orani
  • 12th Marquesa of Osera
  • 14th Marquesa of San Leonardo
  • 19th Marquesa of Sarria
  • 12th Marquesa of Tarazona
  • 15th Marquesa of Valdunquillo
  • 18th Marquesa of Villanueva del Fresno
  • 17th Marquesa of Villanueva del Río


  • 27th Countess of Aranda, Grandee of Spain
  • 22nd Countess of Lemos, Grandee of Spain
  • 20th Countess of Lerín, Grandee of Spain, Constabless of Navarre
  • 20th Countess of Miranda del Castañar, Grandee of Spain
  • 16th Countess of Monterrey, Grandee of Spain
  • 20th Countess of Osorno, Grandee of Spain
  • 18th Countess of Palma del Río, Grandee of Spain
  • 12th Countess of Salvatierra, Grandee of Spain -Ceded to her son Don Cayetano
  • 22nd Countess of Siruela, Grandee of Spain -Ceded to her son Don Jacobo
  • 19th Countess of Andrade
  • 14th Countess of Ayala
  • 16th Countess of Casarrubios del Monte
  • 16th Countess of Fuentes de Valdepero
  • 11th Countess of Fuentidueña
  • 17th Countess of Galve
  • 18th Countess of Gelves
  • 16th Countess of Guimerá
  • Countess of Modica (Kingdom of Sicily)
  • 24th Countess of Ribadeo
  • 25th Countess of San Esteban de Gormaz
  • 12th Countess of Santa Cruz de la Sierra
  • 11th Countess of Tinmouth
  • 20th Countess of Villalba


  • 12th Viscountess of la Calzada


  • 11th Baroness of Bosworth


  • 29th Lady of Moguer

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday Lunch

I lunched out today, at Donaghadee Garden Centre in County Down. I find their grub to be of a most acceptable standard; indeed, I always enjoy it.

Today I had the chicken and ham pie with mashed potato, carrots and peas; followed by a thick slice of pear and almond tart with whipped cream.

Well, it was good, homely, wholesome, unpretentious food, as ever. What more can I say?

They always have lots of tumblers of water poured out for anyone who wishes to help themselves (apart from a full range of beverages).  The meal set me back about £11.

Thenceforth I motored up the coast to Ballyholme and parked at the Banks car park, where I went for a leisurely stroll in the general direction of Ballymacormick Point (though didn't walk anywhere near it!).

So I am up to date, wetting the noble whistle with a beaker of tea at home.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Vote For Belmont!

Might I beg readers' indulgence by blowing my own trumpet? If I don't do it, I'm sure nobody else will!

This blog was voted Number Seven in the NORTHERN IRELAND category in last year's Total Politics Best Blogs Poll.

I don't regard it as political myself, more of a personal journal (or journey!).

Please cast your vote at the link HERE.


I received a message from an anonymous reader, suggesting that I explore the good work of the Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust (BBPT).

BBPT was founded in 1996 to protect, secure and enhance Belfast’s historic fabric and character. The Trust’s goal is to facilitate physical and social regeneration by using historic buildings. 

The Trust’s creation in 1996 was in response to arson attacks on two noteworthy buildings in Belfast. Having been badly damaged in arson attacks, St Patrick’s School and Christchurch were at risk of demolition.

Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle CBE, the first woman to chair Belfast Civic Trust, collected a group of people intent on action.

The BBPT endeavours to promote and encourage a stronger public consciousness of the importance of heritage-led regeneration to Belfast’s historic character.

I am glad that this organisation has been brought to my attention.

I hope to reveal the fine work that the Trust does through the Blog and I look forward to writing about some of their projects.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Country House Rescue

DO NOT MISS the new series of Country House Rescue which begins on Channel Four at 8pm this evening.

Ruth Watson helps to transform an ailing hotel into a revamped weddings and events centre with plush new décor and a new manager.

Gissing Hall in Norfolk is an impressive country mansion that was built in the early 1820s. It fell into a state of disrepair after years of neglect but was given a new lease of life when William and Ann Brennan bought it in 1986.

They put every penny of their savings into restoring it and making it their dream family home, but the colossal costs of running the country house got the better of the family and they were forced to open the doors to paying guests as Gissing became a hotel.

But the hotel business is struggling, and William and Ann have asked Ruth to help. Ruth wants the décor to change, the house to focus on weddings and events, and for the business to take on a general manager.

When Ruth returns she sees a brand new Gissing Hall, with a wedding fair in full swing and new staff beginning to coordinate the revamped business. William and Ann are relieved, and excited, to see their country house finally on the path to success.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Mongol Derby!

I take my hat off to Owen and Rose Paterson, who have completed a six hundred mile journey across Mongolia on horse-back for charity.

The Right Hon Owen Paterson MP is the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

I had no idea of this feat until Lord Brookeborough reminded us all about it at Hillsborough Castle last Friday.

The Patersons were the oldest of 23 participants who journeyed to Asia, to retrace the pony express communication trail, first set out during the reign of Mongol emperor Genghis Khan, more than 800 years ago.

It is the world’s longest horse race, across the Mongolian Steppe in 10 days to raise money for charity. They were the oldest competitors as well as being the only ones from the UK. They raised about £55,000 for the Royal Irish Regiment Benevolent Fund, the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries and Mercy Corps Mongolia.

One of the sponsors was the First Minister of Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA.

Mr Paterson added he was looking forward to collecting the money owed to him by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP: "Good businessman that he is, the chancellor promised me a cheque, but only on completion," he said.

Monday, 15 August 2011

NI Broadband Funding

Northern Ireland will receive £4.4m of broadband funding to bring super-fast connectivity to new areas.

The investment was revealed by the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, on Monday.

It is Northern Ireland's share — 0.8 percent — of the £530m fund to improve broadband infrastructure throughout the UK.

In the past 18 months, other projects in the area such as the Next Generation Broadband Project have already received £52m investment, nearly £30m of which came from BT.

Mr Hunt said that the fresh £4.4m would be used only to provide super-fast broadband for homes and businesses not covered by previous schemes.

"Broadband is essential for economic growth and increasingly for our everyday lives. Our investment will help provide everyone with decent broadband access and ensure no one is left behind in the digital age," Mr Hunt said in a statement on Monday.

Matching the investment will provide everyone in Northern Ireland with access to download speeds of at least 2Mbps, the DCMS added.

The Secretary of State also said the government was considering a pilot to find the best way of providing high-speed connections to all business and residential broadband customers in Northern Ireland, but that it will be the Northern Ireland Executive that decides how best to use the money.

In May, HM Government distributed the first funds from the pledged £530m investment, allocating around £30m for Devon and Somerset, £15m for Norfolk and around £4m for Wiltshire.

The money is being given to largely rural areas of the UK that would not normally attract investment from commercial ISPs due to low population density and the consequent distance the fibre would have to cover.

Wales has also been allocated £57m from the £530m fund.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Bus Overturns

What a dreadful incident to have occurred at East Bridge Street in Belfast, where a double-decker bus overturned and injured about thirty passengers and the driver.

It mounted a pavement at the main railway station terminus and fell on its side. Judging by the damage done to the bus's near-side, it must have hit the station building prior to flipping over.

Had any other vehicle - particularly a car or bike - been on the adjacent lane, the incident could have been even more serious. The bus could easily have fallen on top of any adjacent vehicle.

A Forgotten Demesne

I cycled over to Orangefield Park in east Belfast today, armed with my camera and two maps.

Alas there is absolutely to trace whatsoever of the once-great demesne of Orangefield: No walls, gates, lodges, features.

Belfast City Council, to its credit, has maintained the parkland to a large extent. Predictably, though, a thorough job has been done in the complete obliteration of one of the most significant demesnes ever to have existed near Belfast.

I have taken photographs of the locations where the main entrance once was; the Home Farm; and the Houston Park location of Orangefield House.

My project is completed, excepting any additional information or documents obtainable from sources.

I expect to publish the article, complete with a digitally enhanced photograph of Orangefield House in 1902, next week.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Montalto Article

Deirdre McQuillan, a columnist with the Irish Times newspaper, has written a good article this morning about Montalto, County Down, one of Northern Ireland's finest country houses and estates.

I have written about Montalto and its former owners myself.

Montalto's owners, Gordon and June Wilson, talk about how they acquired the demesne and restored the mansion.

Montalto is administered by David Anderson MVO MBE, former Household Manager at Hillsborough Castle.

The Wilsons are now engaged with another project, renovating an old stable yard on the estate with the same level of attention to detail and standard of finish as the house.

With its own separate entrance, this will be available for weddings, exhibitions or corporate events and is due to open next March, coinciding with the Titanic anniversary.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Beating Retreat

I was at Hillsborough Castle, County Down, this evening for a Beating Retreat in aid of the Army Benevolent Fund (the soldiers' charity), which was held on the lawn at the garden front of the Castle, beside the Rose Garden.

There was an assortment of colonels and other ranks wearing mess dress; while the rest of us wore dinner jackets. The ladies wore evening gowns. Gone are the days when there'd have been a general or two, GOC, etc. As far as I am aware the highest ranking officer in Ulster is a brigadier.

The buffet, consisting of sandwiches, cocktail sausages, sausage-rolls and what-not, was served on a table in the State Dining-Room, I think. Timothy Belmont drank one glass of orange juice.

It was here that my good pal David Anderson MVO MBE introduced me to a few of the guests including Lord and Lady Brookeborough; the Minister of State, the Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP; Jim McDonald CBE LVO KCSG GCHS JP DL  and many others. 

I also met the Minister of State's private secretary and, of course, sang the praises of Lord Belmont's blog!

In the Throne Room afterwards I met Janet Williamson MA, Principal of RBAI (inst), a lovely person indeed.

Miss Williamson was previously Principal of Antrim Grammar School and prior to Antrim GS had been Vice-Principal at Wilson's Boys Grammar School in London; an Oxford Scholar and past pupil of Glenlola Collegiate, Bangor.

David pointed out the main features in the Throne-Room, including the portraits of former Governors of Northern Ireland and an enormous Egyptian rug or carpet.

The military band (a Royal Engineers band, I seem to recall) played for us outside while we sat or stood in an open-sided tent.

All in all, it was a very good evening indeed.

The Petulant Duchess

Here is a neat little clip showing the Duchess of York manifesting her irritation on a television interview:-

The Duchess became angry when interviewer Michael Usher played a video of her telling an undercover reporter from the paper that the sum of £500,000 would “open doors” to Prince Andrew.

Shortly after she walked out of the interview and demanded the segment be cut. John Scott, her manager in Australia, claimed she had been “ambushed" and ridiculed during the interview. He said making the Duchess sit through the footage again was unnecessary, because she had obviously seen it before.

Hamish Thomson, the 60 Minutes executive producer, said that the Duchess had agreed to talk about the incident, although it was not clear if she had agreed to watch the footage during the interview.

McHugh's Dinner

Well, it is 2 o'clock in the morning and I have arrived home by taxi. I have spent the evening in Belfast; and, indeed, there were many foreign visitors and tourists.

BP and self dined at McHugh's, Queen's Square, and we chatted to three most agreeable German girls beside us. They were staying at the Obel Tower, Donegall Quay.

BP enjoyed the rock-fried sirloin steak, while I opted for the confit of duck with green beans and garlic roast potatoes.

The meal was concluded with Irish coffees. We humoured the tourists by responding agreeably to their talk of leprechauns and Irish hospitality.

From McHugh's, we ventured onwards to the Cloth Ear in Skipper Street, an appendage of the Merchant Hotel.

Several rounds later, we vacated that establishment and ambled up Hill Street to the Duke of York, which was closing, so we continued on to the John Hewitt bar in Donegall Street, where another few rounds were imbibed.

A taxi took us home.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Orangefield Project

I'd intended spending the day with the National Trust volunteers at Gibb's Island today, though I have been quite absorbed in my Orangefield project.

I even prepared an egg salad filling yesterday; still, it shan't be wasted, given that young Belmont considers himself a hearty trencherman!

I have received permission to publish Lady Mabel's photograph of Orangefield House (formerly the nucleus of a 5,500 acre estate).

I continue to make progress towards this end.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Progress at Lissan

I am delighted that the restoration is progressing so well at Lissan House in County Tyrone.

I wish to convey cordial compliments to all involved in such an admirable venture; and do eagerly anticipate visiting Lissan when it finally opens its doors to visitors.

Lissan was formerly the seat of the Staples Baronets.

Lissan House has published dozens of photographs which show various stages of the restoration, including the roofing, fenestration and wallpaper.

Orangefield Image

Timothy Belmont is singularly sanguine today, having been to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland - henceforth called PRONI -  and obtained a photocopy of Orangefield House, Belfast.

Orangefield was formerly the seat of the Batesons and Houstons, later Blakiston-Houstons.

I am currently seeking permission to publish the image in order that my loyal readership might see this rare photograph, taken by Lady Mabel Annesley.

I cycled onwards along the River Lagan to the Cutter's Wharf bar, where I lunched (egg and onion sandwich and fizzy orange) with a pal and follower of the Blog.

Thence I cycled home and my ticket has arrived for a special occasion being held this weekend. All shall be disclosed in the fullness of time. Intriguing, what?

Monday, 8 August 2011

PRONI Comes Dancing!

Having received my new cycle helmet (a Bell Venture, graphite grey) this morning, I donned the fluorescent "Sam Browne" belt and rode over to Belfast's Titanic Quarter, where the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland is situated.

By Jove, they aren't half tight on security - no pens, no mobiles, no cameras and what-not etc; still, I imagine they have to be vigilant.

There was a camera production team in the search-room, if that's its name, and I recognized the bloke being interviewed: Len Goodman, the head honcho on  the BBC series, (Strictly) Come Dancing.

He was there for an eternity and everyone was reverentially tip-toeing around in a hushed atmosphere; a dapper cove.

Lady Mabel Annesley photographed Orangefield House a long time ago and the document is "closed"; so I've applied for permission to see it and should know within a fortnight.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

To The Manor Reborn

Most of us of a certain classic vintage shall remember that stately television series, To The Manor Born, starring Penelope Keith CBE DL.

I am keenly anticipating a brand new BBC series, to be broadcast later this year, entitled To The Manor Reborn.

Avebury Manor in Wiltshire is to be completely restored for a new BBC One series presented by Keith. The four, hour-long episodes will see the National Trust property refurbished by a team of historians, experts, and volunteers.

Keith will be joined by the Flog It! presenter Paul Martin.The series will follow the refurbishment of the 500-year-old property in Avebury as it is brought back to life.

Teams of craftsmen, furniture makers and interior design experts will restore the interior of the Grade I listed house to reflect its long history.

Among the guests on To The Manor Reborn will be the excellent architectural expert, Dan Cruickshank.

Avebury Manor will be closed for much of the year while the series is being filmed. It will be reopened as an "immersive experience" in the autumn.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Minnowburn Five

Readers shall doubtless be relieved to learn that Timothy Belmont recovered his debit card from Molly's (bistro above) awhile ago. I strode in wearing my NT volunteer working apparel.

Earlier I was with four other volunteers at Minnowburn, one of the National Trust's most beautiful properties in Belfast.

We were removing a section of old fencing - including barbed-wire - and also partaking in a bit of balsam-bashing.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Открытки из России!

Timothy Belmont was in town this evening, at a BBC Radio 3 Invitation Concert in the Ulster Hall.

Earlier I had reserved a table at Molly's, a favourite of mine, where I had a fine gourmet burger with all the trimmings; and a peach and raspberry crumble with Crème Anglaise. When I arrived back at the Belmont GHQ I realized that I'd left my debit card at the premises. Fool, Belmont.

Tonight's concert had a distinctly Russian theme: The soloist was a most talented young cellist called Tatjana Vassiljeva. The conductor was a cove by the name of Pascal Rophé. Both performed brilliantly, as of course did the Ulster Orchestra with Bandana-man at the rear. 

The first five or six rows of seats in the stalls were removed, for some reason, and it was a full house.

The programme was designed most stylishly, as usual, by Marcus Patton OBE who, I believe, was in the audience.

By the way, the title translates: Postcards From Russia.

What Ho, Belmont!

Well, I have finally done it; And it's about time! I hear you say.

I have bagged the complete, digitally restored Jeeves and Wooster DVD set at a not unreasonable £12.97.

I've been viewing the series on ITV 3 and, if you heard Timothy bellowing with laughter, you'd know why I have acquired the aforesaid collection.

Royal Mail Nuisance

When I arrived home this morning there was yet another of those confounded Royal Mail Something For You cards on the floor.

I'd bought a cycle helmet on the web.

This is the second time this nuisance has occurred recently; dashed inconvenient.

Why on earth can't they hand it in to my neighbours, who are almost always in? Clearly they prefer "customers" to take the trek several miles to their sorting office.

I have arranged to have the item re-delivered.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Belmont Kedgeree

Timothy Belmont has donned the Number One nose-bag and devoured a sublime kedgeree from an ancient family recipe, retained from colonial Raj days of yore, when we ruled the seas and the Empire was virtually boundless.

This coveted recipe must have been retained by the 1st or 2nd Countess, loony as she was, I am reliably informed.

The Belmont GHQ does permit a degree of artistic licence nowadays, by whacking a little mayonnaise thereon, not to forget the Cornish butter, for creaminess.

# Lavender's Blue, Dilly Dilly #

What is that word which encapsulates a happy discovery of something agreeable or other? Serendipity. I was trawling the Internet - as one does - endeavouring to find information about something or other and stumbled upon another blog run by Stuart Blakley, originally from Northern Ireland though now living in the metropolis.

It is entitled LAVENDER'S BLUE.

I'll work my way through it; though, at first glance, there are terrific articles and pictures of Crevanagh House and Waringstown House.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Gooseberry

John Humphries and Sarah Montague, of the BBC's Today Programme on Radio 4, were leading a debate this morning about the humble gooseberry, its degree of popularity and why it is not produced commercially.

My dear grandmother used to have a gooseberry bush in her garden.

They couldn't concur on its pronunciation, either.

According to my Nuttall's, it is pronounced gooz-be-re.

Nuttall also, quite helpfully, has a definition for gooseberry-fool:-
Scalded gooseberries forced through a sieve and beaten up with cream (Fr. foulé).