Thursday, 29 April 2010

Volunteer Programme

I've received the latest National Trust volunteer programme and there are some interesting projects ahead. At Minnowburn we shall be placing benches along the path leading to the Rose Garden; while, in June, I'm keenly anticipating the annual barbecue and bat count at the Barn in Castle Ward estate. Later in June, volunteers will be assisting the wardens in removal of ragwort from Divis and Black mountain.

If any readers would be interested in any of these activities I can provide an email contact.

I have been preoccupied with the erection of a chain-link fence in our garden today. It's remarkably easy to work with. I'll pace myself by doing a section at a time. Timothy Belmont isn't averse to a spot of manual toil, at least once a year!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Goldfinches Flourish

Country Life has drawn our attention to the success of the Goldfinch, especially in urban environments, due mainly to feeders with nyjer seeds therein.

I buy these seeds by the sackful and have lots of these beautiful little birds in our garden.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Big Girl!

When, speaking to friends, I refer to a Big Girl, this is meant as a euphemism for obesity in varying degrees. The Big Girl could be a grown woman of sixty years old! This euphemism applies equally to portly men. Manuel Uribe is a very Big Boy, for instance, and to describe him as being portly would be excessively polite, not to say inaccurate.

Now we have a truly big girl. The world's tallest teenager, standing six feet eleven tall. Marvadene Anderson is sixteen years old.

Could she grow any more?

Monday, 26 April 2010

Swimming Resumption

I had my first serious swim this evening at the sports club. The pump broke down while I was away on holiday so, having replaced it with a new one, the pool was lovely and warm tonight.

Apart from Robert, who only swims about six lengths, I had it to myself and swam my usual sixty lengths, like a duck to water!

It's great to be back. I'd like to visit the Linen Hall Library at some stage this week, too. I suffered a ghastly trojan virus in my main computer today, and had an awful job getting rid of it. The thing disabled the computer, which meant that I couldn't run my anti-malware etc. What a job. Still, I managed to eradicate it eventually.

2009 Aristocratic Rich List

  1. The Duke of Westminster (₤6.5 billion)
  2. The Earl Cadogan (₤ 2 billion)
  3. The Baroness Howard de Walden (₤1.07 billion)
  4. The Viscount Portman (₤950 million)
  5. The Earl of Iveagh (₤750 million)
  6. The Viscount Cowdray (₤500 million)
  7. The Duke of Devonshire (₤500 million)
  8. The Duke of Bedford (₤489 million)
  9. The Duke of Sutherland (₤480 million)
  10. The Lord Rothschild (₤360 million)

Sunday, 25 April 2010

2010 NI Rich List


  • 1 (2) The Lord Ballyedmond OBE (31) £500m
  • 2 (3=) Kevin and Michael Lagan (36) £350m
  • 3 (3=) Sam Morrison (39) £296m
  • 4 (5) Gerard O’Hare (43) £220m
  • 5 (9) Shamus Jennings CBE (49) £166m
  • 6= (-) Frank Boyd (50) £160m
  • 6= (10) Michael Herbert (50) £160m
  • 6= (7) John King (51) £160m
  • 9 (8) Barney and Frances Eastwood (51) £150m
  • 10 (-) Paul and Jeremy Eakin (58) £122m

B2, not B3!

I have booked a seat for a production the The Pirates of Penzance at the Grand Opera House in Belfast next month. By sheer coincidence I shall be sitting in exactly the same seat, B2, that I moved to on Thursday evening.

B3 was also available in the seating plan, and the irony is that, whilst B2 has a warning on the booking form about a "hand rail in view", B3 has no caveats at all!

My view was uninterrupted at B2 on Thursday evening. It is B3 which ought to have an advisory warning, about people's heads blocking one's view!

I shan't bother booking Scottish Opera's contemporary adaptation of La Bohème in June. I have already seen the traditional versions at the Royal Opera House and Castle Ward in recent years.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Gorse Fire

I see that there has been another gorse fire today on Slieve Donard, Ulster's highest peak. I know, through personal experience, that gorse does not catch fire easily. Even with a mere box of matches and newspaper, it can take ages. I know, because we have done it under controlled conditions at National Trust properties. We cut off the unwanted gorse bushes and throw them on a bonfire, always checking the wind direction.

However, when gorse does start burning, the ensuing blaze can be ferocious.

These fires must be started deliberately, by children or like-minded imbeciles who ought to be thrown into a dungeon somewhere with dripping walls and stone floors.

From Europa to Figaro!

I never thought I'd be sitting at home writing a bit about my evening out, at the opera house in Belfast. I suppose all's well that ends well.

I motored in to the Province's Big Smoke round tea-time yesterday, parked near Glengall Street - which is almost impossible to park at now - and, armed with the indispensable little netbook, made a beeline for the Europa Hotel. I prefer to indulge in a modest restorative there, which I find more congenial upstairs in the Piano Bar, than the ghastly "add-on" attached to the opera house.

They have a choice of two kinds of gin, Gordon's and Bombay Sapphire. I opted for the latter, which came in a tall glass with plenty of ice, a generous slice of lime and a swizzle-stick. Wish to know what it cost? Gin, £3.60; tonic-water, £1.60. It's a rummy thing, isn't it? I am loth to pay £3.60 for a miniature on Thos Cook's flight, yet cough up at a hotel. Service was quick and attentive. The bar was exceptionally quiet on this occasion. I seated myself at a big arm-chair and turned on the little Dell. It connected me immediately to BT Openzone and I had a strong signal. I wonder why the Europa doesn't have free wi-fi from their own system? Many hotels and places have it abroad.

After seven o'clock I drank up and made for the Grand Opera House, at the other side of Glengall Street. I did what I usually do, walking into the carbuncle extension, taking a hard left into the original building, and up the grand stair-case to the dress circle. My seat was B3.

B3 is a dreadful seat. Don't pay £36.50 for it and avoid it like the bubonic plague. Unless, of course, you happen to be an eight foot six - no, make that nine foot two - giant. The people in front of me - or, rather, their heads - inadvertently impeded my view of the central stage. B1 and B2 were vacant, so I shimmered on to B2 while the opera had merely begun. This proved to be a good move, because I had a clear view of the entire stage. Remember that - B2!

Tonight's production was The Marriage of Figaro, by Mozart. I'm no expert in these matters; it was, I felt, well done. Not particularly lavish, but acting and singing seemed competent to me. There was what I'd call polite applause at the end. It lasted about three hours.

Howard Hastings, whom I was pals with at prep school, was sitting with a party of four further along row B, in the middle. He owns a number of hotels in Northern Ireland, including the Europa. I said Hallo as he passed and we exchanged a few words. He couldn't linger, because others had to stand up to let them through as they passed towards their seats. Still, he noticed the little Dell and asked me how the Leaders' Debate was faring. Incidentally, I was able to obtain an Internet connection in the auditorium, BT Openzone.

I avoided the carbuncle entirely while exiting the theatre, because the original entrance doors were open. When are they going to do something about it? The façade is so incongruously prosaic and modernist, such a contrast to the splendid extension at the Royal Opera House.

I see that the New Lyric Operatic Company is presenting the Pirates of Penzance from the 4th to the 8th May; and Scottish Opera is putting on La Bohème on the 10th and 12th June. I haven't book them, yet.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Home At Last

Events moved quite swiftly yesterday, and not without some snags as far as I was concerned. Seemingly the Thomas Cook coach picked up four people from my hotel at 13:45. I was in the lobby, on the Dell Mini 9 and, at times, talking to a elderly Ulster couple whom I had befriended. I had my luggage all ready and I kept an eye on the entrance. At one time a bright yellow security lorry parked right outside the entrance.

I had been advised to be there for pick-up between 13:30 and 14:00, which I duly did. No coach. I phoned them about three times and, eventually, I was told that the coach had been and gone; and that I'd have to get a taxi to the airport myself. This was at about 14:50.

Perhaps I had been distracted, though I did keep looking at the entrance for the coach every minute. All I can say is that the the Thomas Cook representative did not try hard to find me, because I was quite conspicuous in the lobby, facing the entrance about thirty yards back. If they had called out their name, or my name even, that would have done the trick. This has never happened to before, despite being a fairly seasoned traveller.

I got a bus to the airport myself. It arrived at the airport about 16:00. There were, indeed, signs of chaos. I checked the screen and the Belfast flight was due to depart at 16:45.

I accordingly went to check-in desk 78, where there was a queue of German travellers and nobody at the desk. Don't Panic! I went over to the Thomas Cook desk at the far side, which was three deep with Germans and others. Eventually I heard a chap asking about UK travellers, and he was told to go to the Phoenix desk, a hundred yards further along.

I followed him and, at the desk, immediately recognized Cook's uniforms. Success, but was I too late? I had been told by a member of airport staff that I had missed my flight.

Success indeed. I was personally taken to check-in desk 84, where they took my ticket and details.

On the flight I had an entire row to myself, and still found it hard to believe that I was going home.

Despite this, I was probably more fortunate than many during the volcanic crisis. I am home safely and count my blessings. Belmont prevails!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Delay: Day VI

Or Delay: Final Day. Thomas Cook has informed me that my flight will depart about 17:45 or thereabouts, with collection from the hotel between 13:20 and 14:00.

It seems that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I should be arriving at Belfast late this evening.

I'll head back to my room now to freshen up, have a shower, a modest restorative for the fun at Tenerife airport etc.

I have removed my Safe Tip post, by the way.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Delay: Day V

It is raining quite heavily in Tenerife, as I write. Only smokers have been standing at the hotel entrance enjoying a Silk Cut or whatever they smoke nowadays.

I spoke to the Thos Cook representative five minutes ago and she advised us to renew our accommodation at the hotel for another day. We have to check the notice-board at about six-thirty this evening so, if there are any developments, I'll post them here instanter.

Incidentally, I was apprised that all the Thos Cook aircraft are in the UK, not Tenerife.

I think I'll but another half-bottle of Gordon's gin!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Delay: Day IIII

There has ostensibly been no change in my circumstances since yesterday. Seemingly the authorities are sanguine that flights may resume tomorrow to the United Kingdom though heaven knows what chaos will meet me at the airport.

I wish to pay tribute to the BBC World television service and also to the BBC Internet service which has been a lifeline to me whilst abroad. I do distinguish between the World Service and BBC Regional output!

Castle Ward Opera: Comment

An old pal of mine, whom we last met and enjoyed a snifter or three with at Lusty Beg Island in Lough Erne, County Fermanagh - Ulster's Lakeland - has posted a characteristically thought-provoking message for readers here. Fitzi provides his thoughts on Opera in Northern Ireland.

Having once been an esteemed columnist on Captain Bill Henderson's Newsletter newspaper, he has, without a doubt, immeasurably more insight and knowledge of these matters than me - or should that be I - , let alone the Worthies who now control opera in Northern Ireland; nor is he ever short of an opinion or two.

Fitzi, now that I have made contact with you, please keep in touch with the odd comment on the blog. I'm absolutely delighted to hear from you.

I meant to add that, if I disapprove of any forthcoming new arrangements which omit the Castle Ward format, I simply shan't support the Arts Council, viz. not buying tickets!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Royal Flight

Ministers are considering a number of ways to help Britons stranded by flight restrictions imposed after volcanic ash from Iceland drifted over the UK.

Ideas to emerge from a Downing Street meeting include using Spain as a flight hub, requisitioning commercial vessels and a role for the Royal Navy.

His lordship was hoping that an aircraft of the Royal Flight might be scrambled for him. Anyone out there with any influence? I have a seat in the dress circle at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, on Thursday evening, so they had better take action instanter.

Delay: Day III

There is still no indication of any change in my circumstances. I am imbedded at room number 151 in my hotel and carrying on with my routine. Tomorrow I shall phone my dentist, because I have a check-up next week. Perhaps I should change the title of my blog to Lord Belmont In Tenerife!

So far, Thos Cook has been very good and I have had no cause for complaint. If this situation prevails for much longer, they might have to charter a ferry to sail us home!

Of course one gets bored with hotel food, especially the buffet sort. It is all perfectly acceptable, though I could always dine out now and again.

New Lacoste Shirt

At last I have spent a little money on this holiday. I have sought a Lacoste polo shirt in classic light blue for some time and, having checked the prices in the genuine Lacoste shops in the resort, I took the plunge and purchased one in my size por ninos, talla diez y ocho, at €55. The standard Size Three is about €20 more.

I was loth to pay it. The price has steadily crept up over the last decade or two. Nevertheless, it is genuine, not a fake, and I expect it to last for the duration - provided it isn't stolen or some other detriment befalls it.

I now possess five Lacoste polo shirts in various classic colours; far too many, though they improve with age!

The euro exchange rate effects our buying power on the Continent, sadly.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Gordon the Roach!

I've named it Gordon, after our dear PM. The dirty great cockroach I encountered several days ago, boldly creeping over my head whilst I lay in slumber. If you recall, I recounted that Gordon had retreated underneath the bed, a very large king-size affair. I wondered if Gordie was still there.

The other night I had a glass of lemon Fanta at the bed-side, and the can was beside it with a small piece of tin-foil on top to try to retain the fizz.

During the night I was stirred by a metallic sound. I switched on the light, peered into the can and guess who had crawled inside? That filthy cockroach, Gordon; and he was trying to climb out!

I placed the can in the bin and, although I did hear the odd noise during the night, I figured that Gordon would find it hard to escape.

In the morning I had a look and, to my surprise, there was no sign of him. The dirty beggar must have crawled under the bed again. Perhaps I ought to have put Gordon out of his misery when I first encountered him...

Delay: Day II

I spoke to the Thomas Cook representative at 11:00 this morning and we have to call back at the desk this evening at 18:30 for an update.

I will be remaining in Room 151 for another night at least. As far as clients staying in hotels are concerned, it isn't costing us any more money really, because we are half-board. The only extra cost is for drinks, and bottled water is readily available in supermarkets, should one wish.

I have just bought a litre bottle of that excellent Don Simon orange juice with bits for my room.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Lieutenant Emma Spilsbury

Lieutenant Emma Spilsbury

Emma, aged 24, is the daughter of Major and Mrs Peter Spilsbury of Breaston, Derbyshire. Commissioned in August 2007, Emma has served with 3 Rifles in Kosovo and Kenya, and is now in Sangin, Afghanistan. She will return to the UK this month.

Courtesy of Country Life

Delay: Day I

Well, I am still in the hotel. We were all ready to be collected for transfer to the airport this morning and good old Tommy Cook decided to let us remain at our hotel; so, effectively, I have at least one more day's holiday at the resort. Pity the poor souls still at home or in airports, whose holidays were supposed to commence a day or two ago. No amount of compensation, if they are entitled to it, would make up for a curtailed holiday. Better safe than sorry, though, as I said before.

I am obliged to check their notice-board at 19:00 this evening for an update. I'm in no rush to get home, at any rate. I have plenty of Euros in reserve and VISA cards.

The upshot of it all is that I paid a visit to the off-license - or whatever they call those shops over here - and purchased a half-bottle of Gordon's gin, which I will transfer in to miniatures for the flight etc. I'll have a few snifters shortly and, if there's any left, the chambermaid can have it. I am not paying Tommy £3.60 for a miniature. The half-bottle cost €6.25, so work it out.

I have already said cheerio to all the hotel staff and given them the benefit of Timothy Belmont's largesse and beneficence - you know, a few notes here and there, the odd bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk Caramel etc.

So I am quite happily settling in for another evening at the hotel.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

TV Election Debate Nonsense

I am quite bored with the coverage of the general election already. This first live debate this evening between the three party leaders appears to be contrived, rigged, full of security measures and, in a way, spurious owing to its manipulation by the ominpotent "PR" companies. It marks another degree of Americanization in our Politics.

Why, on earth, can't they simply stand up for themselves and convince the electorate of their merits, without all this "PR" nonsense? Lady Thatcher had supreme faith in her own convictions and could, without doubt, "run rings" round the lot of them.

If Cameron could only provoke Brown into losing his temper a few times, that might prove more entertaining and profitable for us.

Prescott is viewing the Debate from the Southampton Men's Working Club. Pity he couldn't be stuffed, placed in a glass display cabinet and put on show with any other prehistoric beasts they have.

Flight Update

I spoke to the Thomas Cook representative at my hotel this evening and the position is uncertain. I have been told to be ready for departure tomorrow morning, as per their schedule.

I have emailed our pharmacist to apprise them of the situation re the Dowager's medication and my predicament.

We shall see...

Flight Delay?

I hope my flight home tomorrow isn't affected too badly by that Icelanic volcanic ash. The flight is scheduled to arrive at Belfast about 17:00 hours. Oh well, better safe than sorry I suppose.

I sometimes feel like a misanthropic, grumpy boor, as was the case this morning at breakfast. My tranquility was gravely disrupted by a baby bawling its head off about two tables away. I imagine, had I children of my own, I'd perhaps be more tolerant and understanding. However, my behaviour was probably worse than the baby's! Looking round, muttering under my breath, thinking they ought to take it out of the room. Intolerance is not a virtue, methinks.

Fear not, though, Timothy Belmont has fully recovered and is happily tapping away on the Mini 9 keyboard in the lobby!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Niedermayer Tragedy

I was reading a most disturbing, yet rivetting, story last night about the German industrialist, Thomas Niedermayer, who was abducted and murdered by the IRA; his body buried in a shallow grave at Collin Glen, on the outskirts of Belfast; and builders subsequently encouraged by the terrorists to use the burial site as a dumping ground in order that poor Mr Niedermayer's remains might never be located again.

I urge you to read the article. You'll find it macabre, yet admirable in the ingenious manner in which the mystery was brought to a successful conclusion by detectives of the most illustrious Royal Ulster Constabulary GC, including Alan Simpson, and HM Forces.

To the esteemed Memory of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, George Cross; and its gallant men and women, fallen and still with us.

An Uninvited Guest

I am not a heavy sleeper, nor have I ever been. I think too much! Last night, though, at some unearthly hour, whilst in bed, I distinctly felt something creeping over the top of my head. I swiftly flicked over my hair, turned on the light and got up to investigate. Nothing.

I got out of bed, lifted the pillow and shook it. Still nothing. I looked at the bed and, at its foot, there was the culprit, a dirty big cockroach! I hit the pillow on the bed to scare it away and, indeed, it ran underneath the bed.

I wonder if it's still there? I'm glad I didn't kill while it was on my head. It would have made a dreadful mess!

It was stormy here last night. When I turned on the television set in my room the Sky News channel and BBC World weren't working; and the gardeners are clearing up the palm leaves outside as I write.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Definitive Holmes

We are inevitably offered too many repeats on television. However, I hasten to add that many of them are of exceedingly good, not to say superb, productions.

One admirable, classic production I never tire of watching occasionally is The Return Of Sherlock Holmes on ITV3. The episode last night was entitled The Empty House, the tale of how Holmes cheated death during a fatal struggle with his arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.

Surely the late Jeremy Huggins Brett is now the definitive Holmes on television? Appearances can be deceptive, though: Brett appeared fit and healthy, yet he was a very heavy smoker throughout his life and this habit was aggravated by a weak heart. These symptoms were compounded by manic depression. Sadly, Brett died prematurely at the age of 61.

Last published in February, 2008.

The Caricaturist

I decided to go for a stroll yesterday evening after dinner. There is a sort of shopping mall - open-air - where a talented caricaturist used to sit, and it was really quite amusing to stand and observe him drawing his subjects.

So it was good to see that the artist was still plying his trade last night, a mere few yards from the spot he used to locate himself at several years ago. He seems to be a regular feature there. Perhaps he is a teacher and this trade supplements the old income. I've no idea.

I stood and watched him draw a little boy, the boy's father and a teenage girl. He charges €10 for black-and-white, or €15 for colour.

The only difference I could see in him was that his long hair has turned largely grey. C'est la vie.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A Donkey Leading Mules

Gordon Brown clings on to power till the very end, blocking General Sir Richard Dannatt, an illustrious soldier of the highest integrity, held in considerable esteem by many, acting in the interests of our Nation, from a seat in the Upper House.

Surely this is a blatantly political ploy by Brown, resentful and vindictive in the last moments of his political career, we hope.

G Brown can only block Sir Richard's advancement while he is in power. No longer. He does, after all, have an abundance of his own socialist cronies, many of whom I regard as "primatives", installed as life peers.

I don't often indulge in political commentary. However, since I am not the Prince of Wales or such-like, I reserve the right so to do.

The Category Feature

Just a timely reminder to any new readers that you can scroll down to the Categories section at the left-hand side of the blog, in order to avail of various categories - viz. what I like to describe as my "County Series", County Fermanagh Landowners etc.

I'm still working on my County Antrim Series and I expect to begin on my County Down Series in May, 2010. I'll probably "re-trace my footsteps" thereafter, by focusing on a number of country houses or estates which have been inadvertently omitted, or which I feel merit inclusion.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Vote for Michael!

Michael Speers, my cousin once removed, has been one of only two contestants from the United Kingdom competing in a drum contest in the Irish Republic.

Michael has just turned eighteen years old several days ago. His prowess and excellence as a drummer is outstanding, and participating in these sorts of competitions can only further his career, especially if Michael wins!

I'm delighted to offer my support and would urge friends and readers from the United Kingdom, North America, South America (if there are any readers there), Europe and Australia to lend Michael your support by casting your vote here.

A Levi Classic

Since it was slightly overcast this morning I decided to take a constitutional round the vicinity of my hotel.

I eventually arrived at the Levi Shop in a swanky arcade and on display I noticed pairs of classic Levi denims which looked remarkably similar to the twenty-eight-year-old ones I bought as a youth. They are a faded light blue colour with a button-fly. I smiled with satisfaction when I saw the price, €85.

I cannot have paid more than eighteen or twenty pounds for them; and still wear them to this very day occasionally. Indeed, I wore them the other night!

I have many clothes which are almost thirty years old and they still fit me.

The Lacoste polo shirts used to be a good buy here. Not any more. They seem to be dearer than in the UK in fact.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Mini Profits?

It was far too early in the morning; Timothy Belmont generally doesn't touch the bottle before noon, and usually a good deal later than that.

Nevertheless, rules are there to be broken, occasionally; as was the case on my flight yesterday. One of the first things I do is to peruse the flight magazine, honing in on the page where the bar menu is. Two brands of gin available: The ubiquitous Gordons, costing £3.60 for a mini-bottle; and Bombay Sapphire, 40p dearer, at £4. That equates to £72 a litre, doesn't it? Or have I miscalculated? Miniatures contain 5ml or cl of spirit; continental metric measures are a confounded nuisance sometimes, aren't they?

Thomas Cook Airlines also sold one litre bottles of Gordons gin, at £11. Ha! I thought I'd be clever and buy a litre of gin, instead of a mini-bottle; and drink the rest in my hotel room.

Old Tommy isn't as daft as that, though: The big bottle trolley didn't trundle down the aisle till later in the flight. They know all the moves.

I wonder how many realize the profits airlines make on miniatures? And the cost has crept up recently, too.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

A Sunny Prospect

Timothy Belmont has arrived; the little Dell Mini is firing on all cylinders in the foyer of my hotel; and the Belmont Suite has been duly stocked with Tanqueray, Schweppes, a lemon and fresh orange juice. All is well.

A touch of gossip: Michael McGimpsey, NI Health Minister, and his wife were on my flight and standing beside his lordship awaiting their baggage. Good robust aluminium luggage they had, too!

Lying Doggo

I'm off to the Canary Islands, to re-charge the batteries and top up the old tan. Fear not, though: I've brought the little Dell with me and expect to send the odd missive.

Two articles are scheduled to appear today in fact.

Monday, 5 April 2010

John Beresford-Ash, 1938-2010

I have just heard that John Beresford-Ash, from one of Ulster's oldest families, was found dead in the grounds of the ancestral home, Ashbrook, last Saturday, the 3rd April, 2010.

I have written about the Ashbrook Estate in a previous article.

John Randal Beresford-Ash was born on 21 January 1938; son of Major Douglas Beresford-Ash and Lady Betty Helena Joanna Rous. He married Agnès Marie Colette Montmoreau, daughter of Comte Jules Marie Guy de Lamberterie de la Chapelle Montmoreau, on 27 March 1968; educated at Eton College, Eton, Berkshire. He held the office of High Sheriff in 1975.

2nd Fitting

David was with me today for a second fitting of my new suit. I collected him, as usual, from the central bus station in Belfast.

Frankly, I have had a relatively busy schedule today: arrangements and preparations for the Dowager to stay at a residential home while I'm away; and other domestic necessities to undertake. So David phoned me yesterday evening to inform that he'd be coming up to Belfast at lunchtime today. It was slightly inconvenient, though I "fitted him in".

The material of the new suit is akin to a charcoal grey and quite fine-textured. He had the three pieces with him: the trousers, waistcoat and jacket; all in bits and pieces, held together by thread and pins.

I suppose he must have spent about an hour or more with chalk, making fine adjustments here and there. The first thing I noticed about the trousers was that they had belt-loops, and I had indicated a month ago my preference for waist-expanders instead. I don't know whether he had forgotten but, when I asked about this, he told me politely that it could not be changed because he had not sufficient cloth remaining for belt-expanders.

I imagine it is not a huge deal, because the waistcoat covers the waist of the trousers anyway. Still. Another thing I noticed was that the "fly" had a zip, which I prefer; though I do have about three or four pairs of trousers with button flies, and perhaps I'd have liked the option! I have two pairs of Cordings corduroys with button flies; and an old pair of evening dress trousers likewise; and four pairs of vintage Levi denims and cords with button flies, too.

It's far to early to have a clear idea as to what the finished article will look like. The final fitting and delivery shall be during May.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Ulster Museum Trip

I went on a whistle-stop tour of the renovated Ulster Museum at Botanic Gardens in Belfast this afternoon. Being Easter Day, it was fairly busy.

I took the elevator right up to the top floor, where I had a good look at their Old Master collection. There are about three large oil paintings, 18th century, of Belvoir Park at Newtownbreda; painted when the house was of two storeys. Most interesting; and I chatted to a part-time attendant, telling him what I remembered about the Batesons of Orangefield (afterwards the Bateson baronets and Lords Deramore at Belvoir House). I urged him to "google" the Internet in order to view my images.

The Museum has a fairly good display containing the insignia of the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick. It's just a shame that they aren't showing the mantle, hat and sash of the Order.

In storage are two Order of St Patrick mantles worn by Lord Shaftesbury (invested 1911 ) and Lord Londonderry as Grand Master (1886-89). Most of the following items relating to the Order are on display: Two collars, one unofficial, silver gilt, the other the normal gold; two breast stars c 1820, and the other c 1870; a gold knight's badge; a knight's badge with agate cameo, c1860.

The Grand Master's badge, worn by Lord Talbot, 1817; two miniature Grand Master's badges, one late 19th century, the other 1921; the Prelate's badge, 1817; miniature Prelate's badge, 1834.

Badge of the Usher of the Black Rod, c1879. The ceremonial tunic of the Black Rod of Ireland, 1751, is above. There are also a number of associated items, including a print f
or the first installation dinner, statutes and medals for the installations of 1821 and 1863.

I feel it is a shame that more of the insignia is not on display. Still, a fascinating exhibit.

Clash of the Titans

Most of the viewing on television was drivel last night; and I had already booked a ticket for the 2010 re-make of Clash Of The Titans; I'd enjoyed a tasty lunch at the Bay Tree in Holywood earlier; so I motored into Belfast to collect my ticket at the Moviehouse Cinema on Dublin Road.

Those ATM-type machines which issue pre-booked tickets work well: This one was just at the top of the steps as you walk into the cinema, immediately to the left at the wall. It scans your plastic card; and out pops your ticket with a receipt, too.

I am, so far, underwhelmed by 3D technology, no matter how state-of-the-art it is marketed as being. I have viewed Avatar and, last night, Titans; and I could take it or leave it. Personally I'd prefer more emphasis on high definition and picture clarity than 3D. I shan't be rushing out to buy one of those 3D tellies!

The movie wasn't brilliant. Yes, the special effects were good; though there was such lightning-fast mayhem during the battles that the action became confused. Blink and you missed it! If you enjoyed the 1981 version, I should think you would not find the latest re-make any more pleasurable. In a way I preferred the older version; though, then again, perhaps there is an "age factor".

Liam Neeson's Ulster accent still came through a bit, as the mighty god Zeus by the way!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Blenheim Palace Blog

John Hoy is chief executive of Blenheim Palace and estate, seat of His Grace the Duke of Marlborough; and he runs a blog about day-to-day life and experiences at one the the nation's greatest stately homes.

I only became aware of his blog the other day. I have added it to my List on the left-hand side, should anyone wish to follow it.

Top Groceries

The Daily Telegraph has enlightened us as to the top ten best-selling grocery items in the United Kingdom today. Warburton's bread is, sadly, unavailable presently in Northern Ireland: I was given it for breakfast when I stayed with friends in Middlesex and liked it.

The only brands we regularly use on the list would be Hovis (Seed Sensations); Walkers Crisp Sensations; Nescafé occasionally; and Cadbury's Caramel.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Prince William: NI Duty?

The story is quite hypothetical and theoretical though, according to a Daily Telegraph correspondent, Prince William could potentially serve as a search-and-rescue pilot in Northern Ireland.

An announcement is expected later this month about which of the six RAF helicopter search and rescue stations HRH will be assigned to in his role as a flight lieutenant.

Should HRH be sent to Northern Ireland on duty, sources said, he would be the first member of the Royal Family to serve there since the outbreak of the Troubles in the 1960s.

The Great Pot-Hole Disservice

If there is one thing the Roads Disservice excels at, it is their profound knowledge and disregard for pot-holes on Northern Ireland's roads.

What kind of relationship do they have with these utility companies which cause such detriment to the roads? Has anyone noticed how some trenches - the kind which run across a road from one side to the other - are overfilled in order to compensate for shrinkage; the consequence being a mini-ramp which we all feel as we pass?

Evidently the roads disservice has resorted to employing gypsies again...

I say Well Done! to the Kentish chap who was proactive in the erection of a pot-hole warning sign outside his home.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Free Prescriptions

Medical prescription charges no longer apply to Northern Ireland, with immediate effect from today, April 1st, 2010.

Charging for prescriptions has already been abolished in Wales and is being phased out of the Scottish health system.

England has abolished charges for cancer patients.

From a self-interested point of view, I welcome the news. Although, thank heaven, I have not needed a lot of medication, I do get the odd prescription; so, although, it shan't make a huge difference to me, it is nevertheless welcome.