Friday, 31 December 2010

Military Honours


APPOINTMENTS TO THE MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MOST HONOURABLE ORDER OF THE BATH


Knight Grand Cross

GCB

General Sir David Julian RICHARDS, KCB CBE DSO ADC Gen,
late Regiment of Royal Artillery


Knight Commander

KCB

Air Chief Marshal Simon BRYANT CBE ADC

Lieutenant-General David Robert BILL,CB,
late Corps of Royal Engineers


Companion

CB

Air Marshal Christopher Mark NICKOLS CBE

Air Marshal Peter William David RUDDOCK CBE

Air Marshal David WALKER CBE AFC

Major-General Gerald William BERRAGAN,
late Royal Regiment of Artillery

Major-General Timothy Gordon INSHAW,
late Royal Corps of Signals

Venerable Archdeacon Stephen ROBBINS, QHC,
late Royal Army Chaplains' Department

Rear-Admiral Amjad Mazhar HUSSAIN

Rear-Admiral Robert Thomas LOVE OBE



APPOINTMENTS TO THE MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MOST EXCELLENT ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE

Knight Commander

KBE

Vice-Admiral Richard Jeffery IBBOTSON CB, DSC

The Smart Sale


Well I've valeted the baby two-seater inside and out; spruced her up. Readers had a preview some weeks ago and I haven't really had the little car for sale until now.

I have placed For Sale notices on her in the road, in the interim, until I place her in Autotrader.

Diplomatic Honours


Appointments to the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George include:-

GCMG

Knight Grand Cross

Sir Peter Forbes RICKETTS, KCMG
Lately Permanent Under Secretary and Head of the Diplomatic Service, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

KCMG

Knight Commander

Simon Lawrance GASS, CMG CVO
HM Ambassador, Iran

Professor Eldryd Hugh Owen PARRY, OBE
Trustee and Founder, Tropical Health and Education Trust. For services to healthcare development in Africa

CMG

Companion

Ms Fleur Olive Lourens DE VILLIERS
Chair, Trustees, International Institute of Strategic Studies. For services to democratic transition, reconciliation and governance in South Africa

Alan Claude DOSS
Lately United Nations Special Representative. For services to the United Nations

Michael John DRURY
Counsellor, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Ms Caroline Margaret ELLIOT, OBE
HM Consul-General, Shanghai, China

Simon Mark FEATHERSTONE
Lately Director, Shanghai Expo 2010, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Henderson Alexander (Sandy) GALL, CBE
Lately freelance writer and broadcaster. For services to the people of Afghanistan

Robert Winnington GIBSON
Deputy High Commissioner, Karachi, Pakistan

Alistair Dewar Kerr JOHNSTON
Non-Executive Member, Board of Management, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For services to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Board of Management

Andrew LLOYD, MBE
Lately Director, Corporate Services, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Trevor Steven PEARS
Executive Chair of the Pears Foundation. For services to the community and UK/Israel relations

Miss (Elizabeth) Alison PLATT
Non-Executive Member, Board of Management, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For services to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Board of Management

Miss Rosemary Helen SHARPE
Counsellor, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Thursday, 30 December 2010

New Year Honours 2011

I've just scanned the 2011 New Year Honours List and several names have caught my eye:

The most senior award in the Province is bestowed upon the head of the NI Civil Service, Bruce Robinson, who is appointed Knight Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath - KCB.

Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive, Belfast City Airport, is appointed Officer of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire - OBE - for services to the Aviation Industry.

Jonathan Mark CARRUTHERS, Chairman, Lyric Theatre, Belfast, becomes OBE for services to Drama in Northern Ireland.

Graeme McDowell becomes a Member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire - MBE - for services to Golf.

George Hill CHAMBERS is appointed MBE for services to Jazz Music in Northern Ireland.

I am glad to see that the actor David Suchet, OBE, best known for his role as Hercule Poirot, is promoted to Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire - CBE.

The former ITN foreign correspondent Sandy Gall is made a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George - CMG - for his decades of charity work supporting disabled Afghans.

New Apple Feeder


What ho! I have constructed my new avian apple-feeder, having followed the instructions from Craig, Northern Ireland's premier bird blogger, and the result can be seen.

All I need now is a supply of cheap apples! I expect I'll get them tomorrow.

What do you reckon, Craig?

Water Black-Out

"NI Water is now operating water "black outs" where householders' supplies are interrupted for a period of six to eight hours, then turned back on again".

I turned on the cold water tap this morning and, after an initial trickle, it ceased altogether. We have water "black-out".

I filled a container with fresh water yesterday afternoon, so that will suffice until it starts to run again.

However, these black-outs also affect buildings such as leisure centres and health clubs, which are likely to close if there is no water supply.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Water Restored

My mains water supply has been restored at 15:30 hours this afternoon, having been off since I rose this morning.

No Water!

I have no water this morning! At least, no mains cold water. As a contingency I have boiled some water from the hot water tap for tea.

I phoned my neighbour, who confirmed that they were in a similar position and that Northern Ireland Water had begun rationing throughout parts of the Province.

I believe that my water supply emanates from the Silent Valley reservoir in the mountains of Mourne.

Monday, 27 December 2010

On Target


I'm hoping to hit the 300,000 visitor mark within the next twenty-four hours, thereby achieving my aim before the New Year.

The Three Candlesticks

I was in central Belfast this morning, my main purpose to collect some social stationery of the Post Quarto size. I am rather fond of Three Candlesticks writing paper and have been, ever since I received a letter from one of the Guinnesses at Leixlip Castle about thirty years ago. This paper is water-marked with - you guessed it - three candlesticks; and the envelopes are tissue-lined, too.

I dashed along Donegall Square North in a westerly direction towards the Linen Hall Library which, in the event, was closed for the holidays.

Thence a quick visit to Marks and Spencer's food hall, where Cook's Style Garlic Chicken en croute and a Millionaire's Shortbread pudding were procured for a dinner I'm giving tomorrow evening; and a bottle of Casa Leona Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. Has anyone tried this?

Which Glassware?


There was a time when spirits like Scotch whisky, vodka and gin were mostly served in French-style, red wine glasses. You know, the ones with stems. This type of glass was commonplace during the seventies and eighties, at least. Furthermore, there was sufficient space for ice-cubes and a wedge of lemon. I wonder if any readers know of an establishment which still serves spirits in these glasses? I salute that establishment.

The only glasses used these days, in the majority of hotels and bars, appear to be the cheap, high-ball type: tall and narrow with enough room for a half-pint of liquor. These glasses are so prosaic, egalitarian and banal. They have absolutely no character whatsoever, do they? Which begs the question: Does it really matter what type of glass a drink is served in? What kind of glass is appropriate for certain drinks?

The advantage of a glass with a stem is that there is less chance of condensation dripping directly off it, unlike a high-ball. I always consider that an establishment which serves drinks in more distinctive glasses shows a touch of individuality, character and taste. The widespread use of highball glasses, however, betrays a One-Size-Fits-All culture; cheapness and cheerfulness; and ostensibly more durable, I imagine.

To name one admirable example of individuality, the Bushmills Inn Hotel served gin-and-tonic in a glass with a stem when we visited it last year. I used to have crystal gin glasses which were almost oval in shape and had small stems, though I've since accidentally broken them. The next time I order a drink at a bar I'm minded to ask it to be served in a non-high-ball.

Vive La Différence!

First published in May, 2009.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Paul's Sunday Special

I spent the evening at my cousin's home on the Ards Peninsula, between Cloughey and Portaferry, where we all ate Christmas dinner - a succulent local turkey with all the trimmings; then, later on, we had raspberry Pavlova while we watched Inglourious Basterds, a 2009 war film by Tarantino.

I stayed over and, this morning, Paul cooked one of his Sunday Specials: grilled soda bread, lean back bacon and poached eggs. This breakfast hit the spot after an evening of turkey dinner, pudding, wine and general merriment.

I think I'll have beans on toast tonight!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Play, Supertramp!


It's not all high-brow Grand Opera with Timothy Belmont, you know. Readers may be surprised. This morning I took a notion of playing a compact disc from that most excellent group, Supertramp, viz. the Autobiography of Supertramp.

I enjoy nothing better than a snifter or two at the Savoy prior to an evening of entertainment at the Royal Opera House; though, if the mood takes me, I have a good collection of popular classics, too.

I'd forgotten how brilliant the saxophonist is in Supertramp; on a par or even surpassing Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Pipe Update II

My trusty plumber arrived this afternoon, cut the damaged, frozen pipe and I paid him £30 which, given the circumstances and pressure they are currently under, wasn't unreasonable.

I was so relieved and satisfied that I gave him a bottle of liquor with a Thank You Christmas card.

It still hasn't been lagged, which I consider essential; though he assured me that it would be done when the crisis ends.

Pipe Update

At least one of the pipes in the basement is burst; that I know because a droplet formed at it - frozen - and there is an obvious slit.

I have phoned the plumber who has yet to return my call, doubtless like many others.

In the interim I have applied electrical yellow tape to the hole.

Birthday Dinner

I enjoyed a memorable birthday dinner last night, absolutely delectable. Earlier I had purchased a thermal base layer top and bottom from the Cotswold Outdoors store in Belfast.

MENU


Fillet of Beef Wellington topped with a Mushroom and Porcini Duxelle & wrapped in a Puff Pastry lattice

Miniature New Potatoes


Chef's Style Baby Carrots

Asparagus Tips

Béarnaise sauce


Raspberry Panna cotta

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Black Rod


The QUEEN has been pleased to approve the appointment of Lieutenant-General David Leakey, CMG CBE, as Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, Secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain and Serjeant-at-Arms of the House of Lords.

The appointment follows the forthcoming retirement of Lieutenant-General Sir Freddie Viggers, KCB CMG MBE.

Sir Michael Willcocks, a former Black rod, is pictured in ceremonial attire above.

Useful Gift


My aunt has given me a really useful terracotta garlic bowl for my birthday. She obviously observed that I whack my garlic bulbs into a cupboard! Not any more.

So, apart from my own extravagant birthday present of a Mercedes SLK, I am minded to venture into central Belfast for an hour to browse in the outdoor clothing shops! A new set of thermals, perhaps?

Frozen Pipe

I ran down the stairs and into the kitchen this morning and my first act was to lift the kettle in order to fill it with some water.

Ha ha! I turned the tap and no water appeared. It was frozen.

Instead I went upstairs again and filled the kettle with water from the tap in a bedroom.

Quite extraordinary. What are readers' reports of the temperatures this morning?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Freezing Night

I've just checked the outside temperature at home this evening in Belfast and it is an extraordinary -7 degrees Celsius.

Royal Victorian Order


21 December 2010

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

GCVO

To be a Knight Grand Cross:

Brigadier Sir Miles Garth HUNT-DAVIS, KCVO, CBE; on the relinquishment of his appointment as Private Secretary to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

Monday, 20 December 2010

My Good Deed!

Well Timothy Belmont has carried out his Good Deed of the Day. My Godmother phoned and asked if I could help her to clear her drive of snow and ice. I gladly obliged.

Godmother lives on a very steep park off the Old Holywood Road in Belfast and it is presently treacherous; like an ice-rink, in fact.

The yellow grit-container on the footpath is utterly depleted, though we managed to scrape a little of the stuff together. I cleared her drive in about an hour.

That must have burned a few calories!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Bistro Iona

It was touch and go as to whether we'd all be able to reach the restaurant last night for dinner, what with the wintry weather we've been experiencing. Nevertheless out taxi arrived at six, we collected my Godmother en route and arrived at our destination in Holywood, County Down, on time.

We were the first diners to arrive at Bistro Iona. I gave the waitress our wine - the Iona is not licensed - we removed our coats and were seated at a table beside the window.

The Iona has been refurbished since my last visit, which was admittedly a considerable time ago. It looks well, one side taken up by banquette seating; and new tables and chairs, too.

There was a good selection from the menu and I ordered the prawn cocktail, while the others ordered a deep-fried Camembert with cranberry chutney and salad. I chose the dressed venison burger with chunky chips for my main course; Janice and Godmother opted for the confit of duck; and my aunt had the salmon.

We were served the Iona's customary French bread slices in a basket with butter which remains a highlight of this little restaurant. They are always served warm and the butter melts on the bread. I always look forward to this.

We all enjoyed the meal: my prawn cocktail was served in a Martini glass with lettuce, accompanied by two small, triangular slices of wheaten bread. A minor point would be that I personally would have preferred the lettuce to have been shredded, because it took me awhile to cut it with my spoon; and the bread seemed slightly dry, so I'd have liked some butter on the side (though I did ask for more butter).

My venison burger was very meaty and filling. The chips were reminiscent of Tesco's Finest Oven Chips which is, actually, a compliment; though I simply do not know whether they were home-made or not. They seemed too perfect - if that's the term - to be home-made, though I have to say they were still good. I left one half of the burger roll and two big chips; so, apart from that, my plate was clean!

The others all liked their duck and salmon, though Godmother mentioned her duck being slightly chewy. Janice gave me a forkful of her duck and I thought it was delicious.

We consumed two and a half bottles of wine and, by the way, the corkage charge is a pound a bottle.

Handicapped visitors, beware of the flight of stairs which lead up to the Iona! They are quite steep, so hold on tightly to the banister as you descend, having indulged in a drink or two.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Gift to the Bin Men


This is the wintry scene on the road this afternoon at Belmont, Belfast. It will be appreciated that his lordship's Household has graciously left some beer for the dustbin men. Lord Belmont's beneficence and largesse remain most bountiful.

In actual fact the beer has been brought inside for safe-keeping till the refuse collectors - who are, unsurprisingly, late - have arrived.

We have a table reserved this evening at the Bistro Iona in Holywood, County Down.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Royal Victorian Order


December 16th, 2010

The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to make the following appointments to the Royal Victorian Order:

CVO

To be a Commander:

Dominic James Robert JERMEY, OBE.

Air Vice-Marshal Sir Erik Peter BENNETT, KBE, CB.

Dr. Noël Joseph GUCKIAN, OBE.


MVO

To be a Member:

Miss Susan Jayne ELLIOTT, MBE.

Ms Helen Deborah GATES.


Royal Victorian Order


The Queen has been graciously pleased to make the following appointments to the Royal Victorian Order:

To be Members:-

Captain DHYANPRASAD RAI, The Royal Gurkha Rifles

Captain NARAYUANBAHADUR BHANDARI, The Queen’s Gurkha Signals

Visitor Target


I'm still well on target to achieve 300,000 visitors by the end of 2010. I've had in excess of 1,000 daily page loads twice already this week.

The majority of visits remain from the United Kingdom, with 68%; while the United States of America stands at 13%.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Smart Sale

SMART FORTWO COUPÉ PASSION 84BHP TURBO


As a consequence of the purchase of my new car I am selling the baby two-seater. I have no need for two cars. I ordered the little car specially with the racier turbo engine and extras. The baby two-seater is immaculate and there is a fuller description below. If any readers are interested, contact me at earlofbelmont@hotmail.com.

Here is my review and road test of it.


£30 ANNUAL CAR TAX; LOW INSURANCE; LOW FUEL BILLS.

Comprehensive list of optional extras including:-

  • STILL UNDER MAKER'S WARRANTY (TWO YEARS)
  • ONE OWNER
  • FULL SERVICE HISTORY
  • FIRST REGISTERED JUNE 2009
  • 7,800 MILES
  • GREY METALLIC PAINT
  • BLACK LEATHER HEATED SEATS
  • SOFTTOUCH AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION
  • LOCKABLE GLOVE COMPARTMENT
  • FOG LAMPS
  • POWER STEERING
  • ELECTRICALLY ADJUSTABLE HEATED MIRRORS
  • VELOUR MATS
  • CHROME PACKAGE
  • FANFARE TWIN HORN
£6,795

Annual Dinner


I was at Castle Ward last night for the annual staff Christmas Dinner. Richard very kindly collected me at four o'clock and we arrived at five. We shortly became aware that, due to a misunderstanding, the function did not begin until eight!

So Richard and I motored on into Strangford and installed ourselves at the Cuan lounge bar, where I indulged in a couple of snifters while Richard had orange juice.

The Dinner was held at the theatre in the stable-yard and I am told that there were sixty-two of us altogether. I spoke for awhile to Barbara, the Property Manager; then seated myself beside other familiar faces.

It was a most enjoyable occasion. The caterers were from the Spinnaker restaurant in Strangford, County Down.

I felt that the catering was very good indeed. My seafood cocktail was delicious, full of juicy prawns; followed by a lovely stuffed chicken fillet with carrot, Brussels sprout and mash; while my final choice for pudding was a commendable plum pudding with cream. On the strength of this dinner I'd recommend the Spinnaker.

Whilst there was a lively disco on the elevated stage - recall Castle Ward Opera? - his lordship was quite content to sit and chin-wag.

We took our leave at about eleven.

Cairndhu Saga: II

I have received an update from Thomas Norrell regarding Cairndhu House:-

Following on from my previous posted comment, I have this morning (Tuesday 15th December 2010) received a very nice (& rather promising) letter from the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, inviting me to telephone and arrange to meet to discuss how Cairndhu could be restored (this will undoubtedly please his lordship no-end). I certainly didn't expect this very encouraging reply, although I have not at this stage heard from the Department of the Environment (Built Heritage). However, the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society stipulates in their letter they are 100% behind me in what I am doing. Great news!

Thomas Norrell.


Well done, Thomas. I am indeed pleased and do keep up the pressure on the authorities.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Obnoxious Comments

I have regrettably received some inappropriate comments on the Blog recently and, as a consequence of this, full Comment Moderation now applies for the time being.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Craig's Honey


I breakfasted on toast spread with Craig and Anna's exquisite home-made honey this morning, which emanated from bees at the Castle Ward estate in County Down.

It has the most wonderful flavour. Well done, Craig, Bee-keeper Apiarist Extraordinaire and purveyor of fine honey to the Earl of Belmont!

Engagement Photographs


Two official photographs marking Prince William of Wales's engagement to Catherine Middleton have been released.

The portraits at St James's Palace - one casual, one formal - were taken by Mario Testino, whose previous subjects include Diana, Princess of Wales.


Saturday, 11 December 2010

Hazel Coppicing


I have spent a great day at Killynether Wood, near Newtownards in County Down, hazel coppicing.

Tools for the job included a chain-saw, loppers, large pruning saws and hack saws.

We worked on a steep slope in the middle of the woods. This traditional method of coppicing is progressing very well indeed since we began about three years ago.

We lit a roaring bonfire. There were seven of us today and, since Craig had forgotten to bring his sandwiches, some of us gave him a portion of our own.

We chatted about the Castle Ward annual staff dinner at the Theatre on Tuesday, 14th December. I must bring a bottle of wine with me, incidentally. I'll be getting a lift.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Condemnation

I'm afraid I have been preoccupied with other matters today, viz. hosting a dinner party at home this evening and ensuring that everything is in order, appropriately presented and Number One cutlery unearthed.

Janice came over last night and helped me - with my aunt - to prepare everything.

I saw the grotesque events in London last night, when TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall were attacked - or, at least, their car was hit - by an unruly mob of so-called student protesters.

I utterly condemn and deplore the attack and the ensuing damage done to Their Royal Highness' Rolls-Royce; I feel so annoyed that TRH had to endure such an ordeal; and I am relieved that no harm came to them, thank God.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Right Honourable

If a person's name has the prefix Right Honourable (Rt Hon) this tells us that they belong to the Privy Council. Cabinet Ministers, for instance, automatically become Privy Counsellors when appointed to Office; as do our most senior politicians, front-benchers in Parliament, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York; the Bishop of London; our most senior judges; and many other distinguished figures.

The style Right Honourable is also used, as of right, by peers and peeresses below the rank of duke and marquess. That is to say, earls and countesses; viscounts and viscountesses; barons and baronesses. Courtesy lords borrow their titles from their fathers and are, therefore, excluded.

Dukes and duchesses are entitled to the prefix Most Noble; while marquesses and marchionesses are entitled to the style Most Honourable.

Should a peer also be a Privy Counsellor, the letters "PC" come after their name to indicate this.

The lord mayors of several cities have also been accorded this prefix; in particular, the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of Belfast boasts this prefix because he, or she, is accorded ex officio the rank of a baron - not a Privy Counsellor. This rank was conferred upon the Lord Mayor of Belfast by His late Majesty King George V in March, 1923.

Keep Warm!

Country Life magazine has some excellent tips for keeping warm during the current Arctic spell of weather throughout the British Isles.

The Cairndhu Saga: I

I have received an interesting piece of information from Thomas Norrell relating to Cairndhu House, near Larne in County Antrim. I have written about the House here.

"I am currently in touch with Built Heritage (DOE NI) relating to Cairndhu House (former home of Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon). This indeed is a saga, seemingly an endless one! I blame Larne Borough Council for the entire situation, along with the Department of Health for selling it off in the first place to a Council with absolutely no interest in our heritage.

The Council only purchased Cairndhu to get a piece of land to add to the Carnfunnock Country Park next door. When the Council sold to Lord Rana, it lost over £900,000 in the process and left the ratepayers having to pay for this mistake over the next 30 years or so.

Lord Rana of course promised to maintain and indeed restore Cairndhu (as is generally required), but also seemingly signed an agreement that he could only purchase if he did not demolish any part of the house.

As Lord Rana soon discovered, he couldn't then demolish the back kitchen wing to make room for his new hotel (to be linked to the original house by a glass covered bridge / corridor), nor could he acquire the gate lodge from the current owner, so he sold it to McKenzie Ltd, a building firm.

However, this Company also owns another Company of which Lord Rana is a Director and now the Company, as owner, is no longer obligated to keep to the agreement as this did not extend to any future owner. The Company has made a planning application for 84 town houses & some 20-odd gate-house type bungalows in the grounds.

Meantime as you probably would be aware, all the fire-surrounds were stolen from Cairndhu, including the very famous one from the main entrance hallway. Over the past two years or more I had complained to the Department about vandals breaking in and causing damage, so I requested (twice), repair orders against the owner (at that time, Lord Rana).

Windows were to be bricked up and a steel door at the front entrance. Unfortunately Lord Rana omitted to brick up the back windows in the main yard, which led to more vandalism. After a further order to repair, the remaining windows were bricked up.

Now due to complete negligence on the part of the owner, Cairndhu has suffered very severe damage - nothing short of criminal on the part of the owner, as they have failed to protect it yet again.

I have now requested that the Department either repair & renovate the place and send the bill to the owner, or if this fails, then the Department should seize the entire property from the owner. It is more than a saga - it is an absolute disgrace that this particular heritage has been allowed to get into such a terrible state.

I am determined that Cairndhu shall not be demolished.

When Larne Borough Council owned the estate, it was beautiful and internally intact. My only worry is that although the Department has the power to do what I have suggested, the current financial situation may well prevent anything being done to save the place or ensure its protection.

I am also in contact with the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and with any luck they might be able to put some pressure on the Department to do something urgently. If you wish, I can keep you informed of any developments - I'm waiting on a reply from the Department".

Thomas Norrell

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Wi-Fi and Nuts

I'm still in the Stena Plus lounge enjoying a few mixed nuts - like self! - and a tiny glass of red plonk. We cannot be far from the Port of Belfast now.

Needless to mention that I have access to free wi-fi in this lounge.

Success!


I am presently on the Stena Plus lounge and I can recommend it thoroughly. I was invited to enter the lounge and I have free leather sofas, newspapers, wine, snacks, canapes, sandwiches and a hot menu. The staff are most courteous and I cannot speak highly enough of them.

The ferry sails at 19:55 hours.

My journey from Edinburgh to Stranraer has taken six hours non-stop, the worst conditions I have experienced in my life. -12 degrees Celsius. Feet of snow on motorways.

I had a restorative in the North West Castle Hotel in Stranraer and watched the Curling players from the lounge-bar.

The new two-seater is wonderful; so smooth, refined and excellent. It will require a wash, though.

Hopefully I'll be home before 22:30 hours.

At Airport

Well it is 08:00 hours, I am sitting in the departures lounge of Belfast City Airport and the Edinburgh flight appears to be on schedule for 08:30.

The airport is quite busy, I've bought a copy of the Daily Telegraph and I await a boarding call imminently.

I am slightly apprehensive re the condition of the roads from Edinburgh to Stranraer and can only hope that traffic is flowing again by lunch-time.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Dreadful Grammar

The BBC has just published a headline, "Prostate Screening Unadvisable".

This must one of their worst grammatical blunders in recent times. I dare say whoever wrote it has a First Class Honours degree in English.

Prostate screening could well be Inadvisable.
Prostate screening 'unadvisable'Blood test New

Naughty Naughtie

Dear old Jim Naughtie, the BBC radio presenter, gave us another of his celebrated laughing - no, coughing - fits this morning about eight o'clock, when he announced that Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, would be interviewed.

Except that Jim called him Jeremy Cunt. Unquestionably a slip of the tongue, ahem.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Archbishop Officiates


The Sunday Telegraph confirms that the Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, will officiate at the wedding of HRH Prince William of Wales KG and Miss Catherine Middleton on the 29th April, 2011, at Westminster Abbey.

There had been mounting speculation that His Grace would be overlooked for the role in favour of the Right Reverend Richard Chartres KCVO, Lord Bishop of London.

It would have represented a major snub to the Archbishop as it would have been the first time the Church of England's most senior cleric had not presided over the wedding of a future monarch.

Instead, the Bishop of London will deliver the sermon after it was decided to share responsibilities between the two prelates by giving them both prominent roles.

Minnowburn Party


There was no work done at all today, at Minnowburn. I arrived at about nine forty. Several others had already arrived and I made a bee-line for the wood barn. I'd brought two heavy sacks and I filled them with logs.



Mick and Colin went off to Tesco's Newtownbreda store to procure abundant buffet grub - mini pies, sausage rolls, Indian snacks etc. We had mulled wine, too.

So we all enjoyed a festive chin-wag with plenty of nosh and good cheer.

Afterwards I strolled out to the back field and took a few photographs of a bird-feeder and the gazebo.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Wintry Pub Evening

An old school pal - who also happens to be an archaeologist - was over on leave from Edinburgh yesterday, so three of us took the train last night to that familiar drinking-den in Holywood, County Down, the Dirty Duck Ale House.

Despite the bitterly cold weather outside, there was a cheery blazing fire lit in the bar. We donned the feed-bags instanter and I had a rather good breast of chicken, stuffed, with crispy skin, mash, gravy and shredded cabbage; while Big Pete ate his usual scampi; and Peter had some spicy dish which I cannot recall at present.

It proved to be a good evening. A band arrived after ten though, as usual, we had to take our leave before ten forty-five when the last train trundled up to Holywood's halt.

Why does NI Railways elevate the status of a mere halt - without so much as a building - by calling it a station? I must say that the carriages are well heated, though.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Lord Belmont's 3rd Anniversary


Today marks the occasion of the third anniversary of Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland. Here is my very first entry on the 2nd December, 2007. If I may beg your indulgence for a moment with a few salient facts and figures:-

  • 180,715 hits in 2010 (67,267 hits in 2009; 25,009 in 2008)
  • 17,640 profile views in 2010 (6,200 in 2009; 2,500 in 2008)
  • 734 posts in 2010 (565 in 2009; 465 in 2008)

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Google me!


Gawd-help-us! The vanity is extraordinary. I have this afternoon entered "Belmont" on the Google search engine and my blog is well within the first page of the World Wide Web. I enter Lord Be and I pop up as a predictive suggestion too.

His lordship is generating quite a following. Ha! Now listen: I wish for 300,000 hits by New Year's Day.

Genuine Pasties


Well I ventured into central Belfast this morning in order to undertake a little research at the wonderful Linen Hall Library. Belfast itself seemed subdued, perhaps largely due to the Arctic weather.

Janice, you were quite right. Alden's in the City, of Callender Street, is indeed closed down. Perhaps they found sparse trade in the evenings.

I passed the new extension to the Merchant Hotel, the main entrance of which is now at Skipper Street. Round the corner, at High Street, they have a jazz club called Bert's Bar which looks intriguing. Has anyone tried it yet?

One purpose of my detour was to visit the Cornish Pasty Trading Company at 20, Church Lane. I wished to try one of their traditional Cornish pasties. I was a little early when I arrived because the food was still being baked in the oven (hey-ho Mrs Lovett!).

I returned at eleven-fifteen and bought a pasty literally straight from the oven. This cost £2.80. I shall eat it this evening with onion mash and a vegetable.

10th Earl of Shaftesbury


Anthony, 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, was an honourable and decent gentleman, by all accounts.

He wasn't short of a bob or two, and lived at the family seat in Dorset.

Lord Shaftesbury attended the House of Lords and was Chairman of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and nobody had a bad word to say about him.

The 10th Earl's life changed in 2002: He married for the third time and the subsequent turn of events led, ultimately, to his death.

His third wife and brother-in-law were convicted of his murder in 2005, a vile and heinous act.

Anthony Shaftesbury's wealth was a factor in his demise, because it attracted the wrong sort of people at the nightclubs he frequented in France, where he then lived.

He felt lonely and craved female company.

He started drinking, and this made him particularly vulnerable. Coupled with his naïvety or, if you like, lack of being "street-wise", as Americans would say, he became easy prey to this undesirable company.

Tragically his heir Anthony, Lord Ashley, who became the 11th Earl, suddenly died of a heart attack whilst in the USA in 2005.

His second son Nicholas is now 12th Earl of Shaftesbury.

The Shaftesbury family had strong connections with Northern Ireland: the 8th Earl married, in 1857, Lady Harriet Chichester, whose family seat was Belfast Castle.

Subsequently, the Shaftesburys acquired much of the Donegall Estate, including Belfast Castle, through this marriage.

Thus the Shaftesburys acquired the rights to Lough Neagh.

To this day Lord Donegall remains Hereditary Lord High Admiral of Lough Neagh and Governor of Carrickfergus Castle.

Lady Harriet was the 3rd Marquess of Donegall's only daughter.

Shaftesbury Square in Belfast is named after the 7th Earl, Lady Harriet's father-in-law.

The 9th Earl, KP, GCVO, CBE, PC, the murdered 10th Earl's grandfather, was Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1907; HM Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast; and Chancellor of Queen's University, among other distinguished positions in the Province.

The 9th Earl decided to give Belfast Castle and estate to the City of Belfast in 1934, when the Shaftesbury connection with the Province ended.

First published February, 2008.

WPP Archdale 1883-1956

Peter Archdale has kindly sent me some information relating to his grandfather, W P P Archdale, second son of the Right Honourable Sir Edward Archdale, 1st Baronet:-

You may be interested to know that my grandfather, William Porter Palgrave Archdale (Billy), bought Mountfield Lodge with 100 acres of land and 40,000 acres of shooting in 1924/5 from Sir Lionel McMahon Bt and sold it in 1947 to General Sir Dennis Moore. Billy worked for most of his life in the Sudan with the Sudan Cotton Plantations Syndicate.

From 'The Sudan Star', May 9, 1946

"W. P. Archdale, Manager of the Sudan Plantations Syndicate has left the Sudan on retirement, as already announced, a friend and fellow worker writes:

"Last week Billy Archdale slipped away quietly out of the country after thirty years' service to it, and with him went the end of an Epoch. He was one of the last Englishmen of the paternal age, one of the band of men whose strong and vivid personalities created the first order and prosperity this country had ever known.

Coming up from Egypt as long as 1910 he became one of the pioneers of the Gezira Scheme, and, par excellence, the tenants' man. A countryman himself, (his father Sir Edward Archdale, Bart, was for many years Minister of Agriculture in Northern Ireland) he had a natural sympathy with the countrymen of the Gezira, tempered with a very shrewd knowledge of their weaknesses.

An unusual mastery of the spoken Arabic Language and an untiring energy made him quickly their confidant and mentor. His name Archdale became a household word, transcribed as "Ershed", their teacher. The Sudan will always owe him a debt for building into the foundations of its most important economic venture a tradition of hard work, human intimacy, and intolerance of shoddy standards. "

Sportsman And Naturalist

"He was a great sportsman and naturalist, delighting in birds, fishes and animals of all kinds. Out of thousands of wild bulls which passed through his hands for training, he would easily remember an individual animal seen two years later pulling a plough in a distant tenancy.

At home in Northern Ireland he had astonishing success in training shooting dogs. Here in the Sudan he was famous as a trainer of polo ponies. Under his hands nervous ponies became quiet yet ready to jump forward like an arrow. All animals had an instinctive respect and trust for him. And not animals only.

Probably the most lasting picture of him is as a polo captain. A superb player in his prime, his mere presence on the side was often the cause of victory, for he made men play above their usual form."

Right Without Logic

"As a man, a true Irishman, he was prepared to argue what at times seemed black was white, and embarrassed accurate minds by his lack of care for logic, but he had an uncanny knack of being right in essential human values.

Of all his qualities, his loyalty was perhaps the most outstanding, but it was a loyalty to persons, not to things, the sort of loyalty that sticks to a friend be he right or wrong. This very trait isolated him in some ways from younger generations, for he had little use for the theories which much more than persons, claim the loyalties of modern minds.

He had a contempt for shams and falsehood and a distrust of ease and comfort, keeping himself hard and fit for any duty that might come his way. To those in trouble, unable to make up their minds whether to take the high road or the low, he would give advice "Do the difficult thing," he would say, "it is almost certain to be right"."

CBE: A Token Tribute

"A profound sense of duty dominated his actions. This respect for discipline kept him on his job in this country without honour in the first world war and cast a shadow over his whole life, for he was born to be a leader of fighting men and every instinct in his nature called him into war. It kept him also, often a lonely and weary man, on his job throughout this war long after his retiring age."

"He had a rare innate modesty which made some think him unsociable, it was typical of his character to think himself unfit to be given the C.B.E. and only to accept it as a token tribute to his staff. Although he belonged to an authoritative age, and so had little sympathy with certain modern trends; his virtues, courage, energy, loyalty."


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Wagamama Belfast

I didn't realize that there was a branch of Wagamama in Belfast, at Victoria Square. I ate at one of their first restaurants when they opened in London eighteen years ago.

The first Wagamama opened in London's Bloomsbury in 1992 'to combine great, fresh and nutritious food in an sleek yet simple setting with helpful, friendly service and value for money'.

They now operate in more than ninety restaurants around the world - from the United Kingdom, Europe, the Pacific Rim, the Middle East and the USA.

It is such a long time since I visited them. Have any readers eaten there and what were your impressions?