Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Blog Listings

Merely a timely reminder to new readers that I have many categories on the left-hand side of my blog, including an index of hereditary peers in Northern Ireland; baronetcies, both extant and extinct; major country houses, listed in a county basis, including lineages for their owners.

Most of my country house articles pertain to my native Northern Ireland; though I am currently adding many from the Republic of Ireland's counties.

I also have current lists of Lord-Lieutenants and Deputy Lieutenants in Northern Ireland; Honorary Burgesses of the City of Belfast; Illustrious Families and their lineages; and selective Belfast buildings and heritage, including Belfast castles.

Fuerteventura: XIV

I dined at La Taberna last night, with one of my friends from County Westmeath. Juan, the proprietor, was absent due to an important engagement (The Real Madrid soccer match!).

Nevertheless, the staff recognised me and suggested a good table at the window. As I intimated on a previous post, customers are afforded considerable courtesy at this fine little place.

The cutlery gleams; table-cloths are spotless; cloth napkins are used; and, not least, service is friendly and respectful.

During our meal, the waitress approached me to apprise me of a personal message from Juan himself, sending his compliments.

As was customary, very fresh, warmed, bread rolls were offered with their sublime alioli.

We ordered a bottle of Spanish white wine.

Cognizant that steak is a speciality at La Taberna, I ordered the beef fillet in Roquefort sauce. My partner chose the Beef Stroganoff.

My steak was medium-rare and completely lean - not one morsel of fat. It was served with thinly-cut saute game chips and their signature ramekin of home-made coleslaw.

We were given some complimentary Ron Miel liqueur prior to our departure.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Fuerteventura: XIII

Fool, Belmont! I have suffered a modest spot of sun-burn on top of my head, having spent yesterday afternoon with my friends, enjoying a few glasses of white wine at a pavement cafe.

I possess every conceivable kind of hat for most occasions. I have a rather fine, foldable Panama hat which I could have brought with me.

Next time I spend an hour or two in a similar situation, I must resort to wearing a cheap Bandanna I brought with me for the beach.

THIS EVENING I am dining with my County Westmeath friends at a favourite restaurant of mine, La Taberna.

Juan always treats his customers like royalty, so I look forward to introducing my friends to his restaurant.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Fuerteventura: XII

An absolutely remarkable coincidence occurred today: At about noon, I encountered my dear pals from County Westmeath, whom I had met about eighteen months ago on Fuerteventura.

I waa strolling past Music Square, when I heard my name exclaimed..

My friends were enjoying a San Valentin and some carrot cake; hence I joined them and, despite my pledge not to have any alcohol today, imbibed their tipple.

I told them about Michael Portillo's Great British Railway Journeys

We enjoyed a great chin-wag: I recounted my delight at meeting them.

After several more glasses of wine, we agreed to meet at La Taberna on Tuesday evening for dinner.

Railways Future

I have read that there is to be a public consultation on the future network infrastructure and development of railways in Northern Ireland.

I am generally enthusiastic and in favour of the re-establishment of former railway lines, where the track-bed remains.

I believe that, in 2008, an independent proposal was suggested to Translink for a £460 million expansion of the network called Northern Ireland Network Enhancement (NINE).

This proposed the re-introduction of the network to several towns that have not had access to rail services for many years.

The main part of the proposal was that the Londonderry-Portadown line be re-opened, which would link Omagh, Strabane and Dungannon with branches to Enniskillen and Armagh.

In addition, this plan would see the re-introduction of services into the centre of Newry through a short spur from Goraghwood; and the introduction of the long-proposed rail link to Belfast International Airport via the Lisburn-Antrim line.

It is a pity that the Belfast-Newcastle line cannot, presumably, be re-instated. Do any readers know how much, or to what extent, the track-bed remains on this line?

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Fuerteventura: XI

Yesterday proved to be an eventful day for Timothy Belmont. I decided to take the bus to El Cotillo, a fishing village round the coast from Corralejo.

I have a plastic bus card for this service, so I duly boarded at Corralejo for the ten o'clock service.

It's not possible, in my experience, to know exactly what the balance is on the island's bus cards, since there is no paper ticket issued.

I arrived at El Cotillo at about ten-forty and walked in a northerly direction towards the lovely little beach, where there is a beach-bar called La Concha.

As I unpacked my towel, pillow and sun-cream from the bag, it suddenly dawned on me that I'd forgotten to bring my little wallet, which contained my cash, key, EU health card and other bits & pieces.

This made me wonder ~ and hope ~ that I had an adequate balance on the bus-card to get me home.

IT SUBSEQUENTLY became very windy, so I packed up and left the beach in order to get the three o'clock bus back.

When I placed the card on the reader beside the driver, he pressed a few buttons and exclaimed " One euro". I had dreaded this moment. I tried to explain that I had no money, to no avail. The driver was adamant.

He got off the bus for a smoke, where I asked him what direction to take in order to walk back: "Walk? You go by the beach; it is fifteen kilometres".

I desperately asked a few passengers if they had a euro, a waste of time and effort.

I proceeded to walk, wearing my flip-flops, as best I could along the rugged coast. I trekked for miles, one hour and forty minutes. There was a rough track, no tarmacked road.

Eventually, a car approached me and a middle-aged couple slowed to speak. They were my saviours. I told them my story. It transpired that they were from Norway, staying very near me in Corralejo, close to the harbour.

"What a coincidence!" I exclaimed.

The distance back was certainly further than I'd imagined, and I intimated that I was very glad and grateful for their lift back.

The first thing I did, when I retrieved my money from my room, was to buy a box of chocolates (Cadbury, of course, given my nationality) for them. I immediately conveyed the choccies to their apartment and, again, expressed my appreciation.

So there you have it, dear readers: Never forget your wallet or purse. Or else.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Fuerteventura: X

The trusty old nose-bag was in overdrive last night for another grand nosh-up at The Temple, an oasis of culinary delight in central Corralejo.

John, originally from Belfast, capably runs and, indeed, is its proprietor.

I sat up at the bar counter, where I sipped a modest cola "light".

I was presented with the menu and ordered the stuffed chicken with vegetables. When it arrived, it was as tasty as usual, in its creamy sauce.

The dish of vegetables comprised whole baked potatoes, carrots and cauliflower.

Alas, I simply hadn't sufficient room for pudding; which is a shame, because the dessert menu includes cheesecakes, apple crumble and chocolate fudge cake.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Fuerteventura: IX

Last night's Flamenco performance was terrific. This was a small troupe, comprising two dancers, two singers and a guitarist.

They are based at On The Beach cocktail bar, which is at the sea-front in Corralejo. The head honcho is called Juan Jose Amador.

They seem, to me, like a small, traditional, authentic folk group.

Earlier in the evening, I encountered a young German couple from Hamburg. Since they were fluent in English ~ unlike my school-boy German ~ we conversed easily.

They told me that they were on holiday for a week.

I remained at On The Beach for the duration, until about twelve-thirty.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Fuerteventura: VIII

I spent an idle day at the beach today, a very long stretch of sand running from the outskirts of Corralejo in a southerly direction.

Despite the forecast anticipating cloud, it was mostly sunny.

This evening I had a fruit salad at the apartment, comprising strawberry, banana, apple, pineapple, Greek yoghurt and condensed cream. I do declare that it was truly delicious.

I've strolled to a pleasant cocktail bar at the seafront called, rather appropriately, On The Beach. I checked that they had wi-fi; and accordingly installed myself on a large, cream leather banquette, where tonight's restorative of choice is Bacardi & Coke.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Fuerteventura: VII

I have spent the day at base camp, Belmont GHQ Canary Islands. There have been sunny intervals; it has been warm enough when the sun shows its face.

It was here that I ate this evening: A very large, home-made beef burger, Hawaiian style, with pineapple slice, finely chopped onion and seafood sauce.

Curiously, the beef was a bright red. I noticed this at the supermarket, thinking it would brown when cooked; though, despite a good ten minutes at a high temperature, it remained reddish (although the exterior was browned).

Nevertheless, it proved to be a truly meaty specimen of its kind.

TONIGHT I'm seated outside the Kactus cafe bar, sipping a lovely Bacardi and Coke. The ice-cubes are almost the size of squash balls.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Fuerteventura: VI

I revisited The Temple restaurant last night. I fancied one of their sumptuous puddings, so I opted for a starter in lieu of a main course.

I had cod fish cakes. These were good; in between the size of a tennis-ball and a golf-ball; lightly-battered; served with an aesthetically-pleasing little salad and a ramekin of tartare sauce.

To accompany these, I had cheesy garlic bread.

For pudding, I had The Temple's signature home-made cheesecake with Bailey's liberally doused thereon. This is real cheese-cake, to my mind; and it's about three inches in thickness, at least.

Including a cola, the meal set me back about €13.

John was running the restaurant himself last night. His chef and a sous-chef were in the kitchen.

I overheard a party of four ~ two couples ~ chatting about this and that. One couple was English; the other sounded Scandinavian to me.

The English fellow, a middle-aged man, was telling his counterpart about a convertible "Roller" at home in England, which he drove occasionally during the summer months. I wondered if it was a vintage Corniche Convertible.

Venomous Mantel

What ever has our most beautiful and serene Duchess of Cambridge done to incur the venomous tongue of the prize-winning author, Mrs Hilary Mantel CBE ~ who, incidentally, is a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire?

I hesitate to remind Mrs Mantel that Her Royal Highness represents everything that she can and never will be. I am confident that Hilary would beat HRH with ease in the race to the food-trough.

Physically, HRH has an admirable figure: Slim, shapely, feminine; unlike Mrs Mantel's ample frame.

HRH is kind, gracious and a person whom, I am in no doubt, shall prove to be a superb mother and queen.

Mrs Mantel should mind her language, which, to some, is grossly ungracious and ignoble.

The woman ought to stick to her novels, instead of insulting The Duchess of Cambridge.

Her Royal Highness will do well to ignore such spiteful comments.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Fuerteventura: V

Yesterday was an alcohol-free day at the Belmont Household in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands. I spent several hours at the grand beach, which stretches for miles.

In the evening, I visited my Canarian friends at the Kactus Cafe, a tapas lounge bar, where I sat on an armchair at the pavement, perused the menu, ordered a Kactus Cocktail (all freshly-blended fruit, including strawberries, orange, pineapple).

Later I enjoyed some tapas: Tortilla with chorizo; and albondigas (meat balls) with black olives.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Fuerteventura : IV

I spent a beautiful day at the little fishing village of El Cotillo yesterday. I walk briskly in a northerly direction, towards the old lighthouse, and install myself on the beach, where all that can be heard is the lashing of white waves and human chitter-chatter.

After lunch, I ambled up to the beach bar formerly called Torino's, though now La Concha. It was quiet and I ordered a Bacardi rum and cola.

I'm wondering if I'd have the will-power to "do a Peter Oborne"? Namely, to abstain from alcohol for an indefinite period.

I dislike the after-effects of drinking too much: The Hangover. I find it hard to stop drinking after, say, two drinks; and the measures are, shall we say, more generous here than at home in the UK.

None of my close pals have ever told me that I drink too much. When my parents were alive, we tended to adhere to two whiskies or gins on Friday and Saturday nights. This worked well. My father was really quite abstemious, in retrospect. Perhaps his army days taught him this.

LAST NIGHT I dined at The Temple restaurant, owned by my friends John and Sharon. I had his signature cod and chips, which was as splendid as ever. I think it cost about €10.

When I arrived, I sat up at the bar, where John poured me a large Gordon's gin, on the house.

We had a chin-wag about this and that. I asked him if he had horse-meat on the menu (!).

John told me that this is customarily a quiet month in the resort.

I imagine that many businesses must merely survive by cutting back on staff and cost-cutting perhaps in whatever way they can.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Fuerteventura: III

The sun had his hat on yesterday: Hip hip hooray! The Factor Twenty was slapped on and a spot of solar worship called for.

Alas, I indulged in a few more Tanquerays at the apartment ~ Belmont GHQ ~ prior to gracing the town with its presence (!).

I accosted Sarah again. She has a fourtenn month old son, she apprised me. She was too preoccupied with drumming up business to chat to me.

I felt like some fresh pasta last night, so ventured into a little bistro called Trattoria Nonna Pasqualina, where I ordered a kind of ravioli in sauce; followed by panna cotta.

Despite rather enjoying the meal, it didn't fill me to a massive extent; to such an extent that I had buttered toast with raspberry jam when I got back to Belmont GHQ.

Readers, please do not be too critical of spelling errors; or, rather, typingand errors. I am using the little Dell Mini 9, and these things tend to happen occasionally.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Fuerteventura: II

As I write, it is sunny and quite warm this morning, at eight-fifty. The waves are rolling in, vigorous and white-crested; a Fred Olsen ferry approaches the little port.

Last night I dined at The Temple Restaurant. John, the restaurateur, was off, so his partner Sharon was managing the place.

The resort generally appears quiet; many bars and restaurants have only a few diners. Survival of the fittest, I suppose; sorts out the wheat from the chaff, and all that rot.

I gave Sharon the eight potato farls and white pudding I'd brought over from the UK. Later she asked me how much I owed her. I smiled and told her that it was my treat.

I had the sea-bass with a Hollandaise sauce, accompanied with little potatoes in their skins, carrot, cherry tomatoes and green beans.

I do like sea bass: such an inoffensive fish; mild and complemented well by a rich, creamy sauce.

I'd already indulged in a few Tanqueays back at Belmont GHQ, so I drank cola light.

I pretty girl called Sarah accosted me on the way home. She was touting for business outside her employer's restaurant. Perhaps I'll see Sarah again today.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Fuerteventura: I

You shall be glad to learn that I have arrived safely at Corralejo. I am settling in already and I've procured most of the essential necessities.

I must get some sun cream and after-sun lotion, though it's actually cloudy and cool here, as I write.

Factor Twenty ought to do the trick.

I might dine out this evening; so, if I can get web access, I will report beack, dear readers.

Hasta Luego!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Dublin Airport

Timothy Belmont has arrived at Dublin Airport, en route to the Canary Islands. My flight departs at two-twenty.

Terminal Two is a fair hop, skip and jump from its counterpart, Terminal One, where I alighted.

I have acquired a beaker of tea at the Oak Cafe Bar, where I am seated.

Packed in the luggage is a round of smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches; a little helping of fresh fruit; and some fruit juice. I'll consume the juice and fruit before departure; and retain the sandwiches for the flight.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Papal Resignation

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has announced his resignation, with effect from the 28th February, 2013, due to his advanced age (85).

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Nambarrie Tea

Nambarrie is the brand name of a tea company formerly based in Belfast, now owned by R Twining and Company.

Twining's, tea and coffee merchants, are by appointment to HM The Queen.

Nambarrie Tea Company Ltd now operates delivery depots at Mallusk, County Antrim, and Glasgow.

It is reputedly the largest brand in Northern Ireland; and the third biggest brand in Scotland.

I should imagine that Nambarrie, given its long tradition and heritage in Northern Ireland and Scotland, is well suited to the Ulster-Scots palate.

They created a blend which complements the Province's soft water.

Founded in 1860, the company began trading in York Street, Belfast,  originally as Pratt and Montgomery.

However, during wartime bombing in 1941, the company's premises in Tomb Street were completely destroyed, reportedly leaving only a horse drawn delivery van intact.

The company moved to new premises at Victoria Street and the corner of Waring Street.

Their other brand was called Namosa Tea.

In 2008, Nambarrie announced its plans to close its factory in Belfast. The factory is now closed and production currently takes place at Andover, Hampshire.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Minnowburn Woods

Despite the inclement conditions, two dozen of us assembled at the National Trust's wonderful Minnowburn property this morning.

There were young people with us, several of whom were hoping to achieve their Duke of Edinburgh awards.

The purpose today was to clear an area of ground in the middle of the woods, for future use as an educational and adventure point.

Phil and self sawed large logs for use as seating; while Anna provided us all with a practical and instructive lesson on how best to light a Kelly kettle, using a magnesium flint fire striker, cotton wool, wood shavings and kindling.

Afterwards, we re-assembled at the car-park, where some of us took advantage of the quirky mobile diner a la français: A fifty-year-old Citron van converted for use as a mobile food service.

Later, a few of us returned to the Warden's office, where we chatted and had coffee.

Colin tells me that the large, green barn beside the office will be demolished shortly; thus providing much-needed space for car-parking.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Speedy Blackadder

The Daily Telegraph's Victoria Ward apprises us that the actor and comedian, Rowan Atkinson, presented his insurance company with a £910,000 repair bill after crashing his beloved McLaren F1 supercar, it has emerged.

He span off the road and crashed the high-powered vehicle into a tree in August, 2011, suffering a fractured shoulder blade in the process.

Technicians spent four weeks analysing the damage in a bid to determine how much it would cost to repair.

Atkinson’s insurance provider was then left to decide whether to repair the car or to replace it, eventually realising that it would be cheaper to repair.

The car then spent more than a year in the hands of McLaren's expert technicians in Woking, Surrey.

The avid car enthusiast bought the 240mph vehicle for £640,000 in 1997 with the proceeds from his first Mr Bean film. But its value has significantly increased over the last 15 years - with one sold last year for £3.5 million.

After getting back behind the wheel 16 months after the crash, Atkinson said it was “like putting on a familiar sweater”.

He told this month's Classic and Sports Car magazine that he was not a fan of hiding cars away like toys and insisted they should be used:

"I'm not a collector. I don't like the toy cupboard syndrome that causes so many good cars to evaporate. It depresses me that they are hidden away like investment art, or gold ingots in a Swiss vault. The McLaren is just so usable, it is a crime not to use it. No gritted teeth, you just get in and drive."
Atkinson crashed the car on the A605 near Haddon, Cambridgeshire, not far from his Northamptonshire home. No other vehicles were involved.

Its 6.1-litre BMW engine can take the car from 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds.

Royal Visit to Rome

THE QUEEN, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, will visit Rome from Wednesday, 6th March, to Thursday, 7th March, 2013.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness are visiting following an invitation from His Excellency the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano.

Her Majesty is a Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

His Royal Highness is a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

Both Honours were conferred in 1958.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Cycle Lanes

I cycled into town today. A sunny day invariably encourages me to get some fresh air and exercise, into the bargain.

I have a bone to pick, though: Black taxi cabs were parked right along the green, designated cycle lane on Amelia Street, adjacent to the Crown Bar.

Now I have the utmost respect for the Belfast constabulary, though I seldom witness huge numbers of them plodding the beat in central Belfast. Perhaps I am simply not there at the right time.

Surely the police have a responsibility to enforce illegal parking? Or traffic wardens?

I agree that it must be tricky to slap a ticket on a cab's windscreen, if cabbie is present; so they should be prosecuted, shouldn't they?

Might I suggest that, if black taxis continually park with impunity on green cycle lanes, it makes a nonsense and mockery of parking laws and by-laws?

Furthermore, if such laws are practically unenforceable, why have marked cycle lanes at all?

By the way, I have contacted the Department for Regional Development NI, Belfast City Council and Cycle NI about this matter.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

PC Appointment

THE QUEEN has been pleased to approve the appointment of the Most Rev and Rt Hon Justin Welby to Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, following his appointment as the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Brackenber Photos: 2013









Royal Remains?

I HAVE been following Peter Oborne's progress re alcohol abstention throughout the month of January. I think he has done well, apart from a few lapses.

I exhort all those who, like myself, enjoy a drink or two, to read his piece this morning; and please do send your comments.

ONE PROGRAMME I shan't miss this evening will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 9pm.

When a skeleton was reported found under a Leicester council car park in September 2012, the news broke around the world. Could it be the remains, lost for 500 years, of England's most infamous king?

In a world exclusive, Channel 4 has the full inside story of the hunt for RICHARD III (1452-85).

The discovery of the body and the battery of scientific tests to establish its identity have been carried out in complete secrecy, with no footage of them seen by anyone but the investigating team.

But this programme - made by the only team allowed to follow the scientists - tells every step, twist and turn of the story.

It unveils a brand new facial reconstruction made from the skull and - in scenes shot just hours before broadcast - reveals the results of the final tests that confirm or deny the body's identity.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

2013 Brackenber Dinner Menu



Jumbo Tiger Prawns pan-fried with Garlic, Herbs & Cream, gratinated with Ulster Cheddar and served withCrusty French Bread

Roast Sirloin of Beef, served with traditional Yorkshire Pudding & a Gravy of natural roast Juices

Chef's Selection of  fresh Market Vegetables

Chocolate & Whiskey Tart with Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream

Freshly Ground & Brewed Coffee

2013 Brackenber Dinner

I attended the annual old Brackenbrian dinner last night, at the Ulster Reform Club, Royal Avenue, Belfast.

This yearly reunion is delightful. Old Brackenbrians are naturally diminishing in number, given that the school closed more than two decades ago.

It is wonderful to meet fellow Brackenbrians again; to recall fondly old school masters and mistresses, such as John Craig, Zoe Rankin, Harvey Cross, Bunny English, Mrs Horne, Dorothy Dunlop, and Messrs Maguire, Magowan and Sheehan, to name a few.

It was good to see Johnny Knox at the dinner this year. He taught - correction, tried - to teach me French at Campbell. Actually, French was one of my better subjects.

Many old boys recognise me now as Lord Belmont, my alter ego (!). I take this in good spirit.

I TOOK a cab into town. At the club, I strode up the wide, carpeted staircase to the lounge bar, where a complimentary glass of wine awaited me. Gordon Harvey greeted me and ticked me off his list.

We all assembled here, fifty-four of us on this occasion, prior to wandering into the large dining-room, which overlooks Royal Avenue. It has a gallery, which doesn't seem to be used.

This room, like the club itself, is Victorian in character, with wooden panelling, lofty ceiling, columns and fine paintings.

I was told about a particularly large painting by an artist whose name escapes me; though I was apprised of its considerable value.

THE SPEAKER at our dinner was a celebrated Old Brackenbrian himself, Paul, now the Lord Bew, who treated us to a witty speech reminiscing, in particular, about the great John Craig, Brackenber's headmaster. I was introduced to him after dinner.

The meal, as you'd expect, was of a very good standard, the main course consisting of roast sirloin of beef and Yorkshire pudding. I shall post the full menu this afternoon.

I WISH to express my cordial compliments and gratitude to Gordon Harvey, who organised the event; and the Ulster Reform Club, for such a memorable and successful evening.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Knight Templer

Timothy Belmont undertook a brief sortie into town this afternoon, the first port of call being the Linenhall Library, where I managed to obtain some interesting information relating to the Templers, formerly of Loughgall, County Armagh; the most illustrious son of whom was Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer.

Brackenber Dinner 2012

Today is a Brackenber Day. The annual bash takes place at the Ulster Reform Club.

Merely to whet the old culinary taste-buds, here is a reminder of the menu at the Penthouse of the Belfast Europa Hotel, in 2012:-

Signature Lentil & Bacon Soup with Fivemiletown Cheese Roll


Slow Roast Rib of Beef, served on a bed of Champ, with Yorkshire Pudding, Horseradish Sauce and Thyme Jus

Roasted Potato

Roasted Carrot and Turnip

Savoy Cabbage  and Bacon

Armagh Apple Meringue Tartlet with Yellow Man Ice-Cream

Tea or Coffee