Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Ethereal Lamb Rump

I have enjoyed an absolutely delectable meal. I bought Lamb Rump with a sweet Honey Roast Parsnip, Rosemary & Breadcrumb crust in Marks and Spencer. I followed their instructions and whacked it in the oven at 170c for twenty-five minutes; had it with small, new potatoes tossed in Jersey butter and chives; with broccoli; and a Perino tomato, for good measure.

What was the lamb like? Sumptuous! Lean, tender, finely trimmed, no fat and I ate the lot.

The bonus is that there were two pieces and I still have the second piece in the freezer.

Top NI Blogs

I am absolutely delighted - not to say exceedingly grateful to those who have supported me - that Lord Belmont ranks seventh in the Total Politics Northern Ireland Blogs.

I consider Lord Belmont to be more of a quirky, personal blog rather than overtly political. No matter. I am still thrilled that an entirely amateur Ulster blog has made it into the Top Ten.

Domestic Chores

What a fine sunny day we're having. There have been persistent yellow weeds growing from the front guttering and, with autumn fast approaching, I decided that decisive action was required. Cognizant of this, the said guttering was cleaned this morning.

A large conifer bush was also removed in the front garden. It wasn't really fulfilling any purpose, was affecting part of the lawn and had become too big. A small chain-saw was used to remove it.

I have an appointment at my eye clinic tomorrow morning, in order to have my right eye lasered (the left one was already done a few months ago).

Monday, 30 August 2010

Bullfinch Sighting

I was almost certain that I had spotted a bullfinch at the feeders this morning. Bullfinches are rare visitors to my feeders. I viewed the feeders through the binoculars at eight o'clock, a few minutes ago, and how wonderful it was to see a pair of bullfinches, the male nearest to me and the female at the back.

I wonder when they'll be back...

Preferred Dictionary

There was an old dictionary which we had had for many years. I think it originally belonged to my grandparents and dated back to the 1930s. It was entitled Nuttall's Standard Dictionary Of The English Language, and continued "based on the labours of the most eminent lexicographers" etc.

I found it the most excellent reference book, because it also included pronunciations, derivations, useful information and more besides. The old dictionary been showing its age and was increasingly held together by masking tape. There were loose pages, too; and it was dog-eared.

On Ebay, I noticed a 1964 version of Nuttall's for sale and decided I wanted it. It hasn't been published for twenty-five years or so and the publisher, Frederick Warne, has been taken over by Penguin.

I took a chance and offered the princely sum of ten pence; postage was six pounds due to the weight.

I won the bid! It's in great order for its age; much better than our older one. It's got thumb-marks at the edges for easy reference too.

Nuttall's is particularly useful to those - viz. Timothy Belmont - with a tendency towards pedantry!

Here is an example: the entry for the adjective Heinous:-

heinous, a. hay-nus, characterized by great wickedness; hateful; atrocious. (Fr. haineux.)

Note its pronunciation. Many today pronounce it as in hee rather than hay!

Last Published in September, 2009.

Heard of Poundland?

I have to confess that I never knew it really existed; till the Daily Telegraph's Rosie Murray-West brought it to my attention: Poundland.

Here is her article.

Rosie offers readers some insider tips on how to bag a true bargain, particularly on proprietary brands. And indeed, Poundland has stores in Northern Ireland.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Classic Crom Regatta

Crom, stately seat of the Earls of Erne in Upper Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, was formerly the hub, not just for Society but also an annual yachting season. This event has, to a degree, been revived in 2010 owing to the enthusiasm and support of Lord Erne, Lough Erne Yacht Club and the National Trust.

Here is a fascinating, three-minute video taken by the BBC.

3rd Baron Glenconner, 1926-2010

The Right Honourable Colin Christopher Paget Baron Glenconner, 3rd Baron Glenconner and 4th Tennant Baronet, has died at St Lucia.

Lord Glenconner will be buried at St Lucia. He is succeeded by his grandson, the Hon Cody Charles Edward Tennant (b. 1994), who is the son of Hon Charles Edward Pevensey Tennant (1957–96), eldest son of the 3rd Baron.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

2011 Royal Wedding?

There are frenzied reports in some sections of the Media that Prince William will marry his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, at Westminster Abbey in 2011.

Of course this speculation is plausible; although Prince William's father, the Prince of Wales, chose St Paul's Cathedral, seemingly, because it could hold a greater number of guests.

Some say that Westminster Abbey would be significant because the funeral service of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was held there.

Miss Middleton would automatically become Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales; unless, of course, The Queen were to bestow a royal dukedom on her grandson.

Goldfinches Return

I have neglected to clean my bird feeders for a long period so, yesterday, I had a "blitz" on them. What prompted me to do this was the lack of my regular goldfinches: They simply stopped coming!

Cognizant of this, I removed the feeders which were dirty and caked with accumulated messy congealed seed mash; emptied the contents; disassembled them; scrubbed the parts in a basin of soapy water; dried them; replenished them with seeds and hanged them up again.

What an utter transformation this simple act has made: this morning it's like Piccadilly Circus! My goldfinches are returning, notably juveniles among them; great, coal and blue tits are coming to and fro at the blink of an eye; greenfinches, chaffinches and more.

As Peregrine would affirm, keep those feeders clean!

Friday Concert

I attended a very good BBC Radio 3 Invitation Concert at the Ulster Hall in Belfast last night. The conductor was our very own Kenneth Montgomery OBE; and the soloist was the talented Irish violinist, Catherine Leonard.

The programme included music by Hillsborough's Sir Hamilton Harty; Fanny Mendelssohn; Felix Mendelssohn; Ina Boyle; and Elaine Agnew.

My favourite piece of the evening was Harty's masterpiece, With the Wild Geese. The trumpeters used Baroque trumpets for the Mendelssohn works.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Noble Slumber

I have just purchased a new mattress by Hypnos online through a company called Mattressman. It literally pays to check for promotional codes (and often websites prompt you by asking for a promotion code): I discovered a promotion code for my purchase and saved 10%, or £89.90.

These Hypnos mattresses are quite luxurious - like floating on water.

Audi Showroom

I ventured into Belfast this morning. Never call Timothy Belmont undemocratic! I purchased several pairs of underclothing in Marks and Spencer's; and, naturally, two packets of their fruit pastilles.

Speaking of which, my research in the Linen Hall Library didn't bear much fruit beforehand.

There's an enormous Audi car showroom appearing on Sydenham Road (known as Titanic Quarter). I wonder if Agnew's are re-locating from Balmoral Road; or if this is additional premises? It looks as if it will be opening imminently.

NI Baronetage

Merely to remind readers and new visitors, I have sections entitled Ulster Gentry and Extinct Baronetcies listed under CATEGORIES to the left-hand column of the Blog.

I am still adding to these categories, by the way.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Salt Island Pond

We've enjoyed a glorious day on Salt island, near Killyleagh on Strangford Lough, County Down. I'd just left home when I realized that I'd forgotten to bring a banana, so I called into a Spar supermarket at Dundonald and bought a well ripened one (27p).

Craig met us at Killyleagh Yacht Club, where we embarked on the boat and sailed the ten minutes over to Salt Island. There were three others already there, so we totalled nine.

We spent most of the time excavating the Island's pond, which is on the Killyleagh side close to Brandy Bay. I am delighted that we managed to excavate and enlarge the original pond so much. The soil and mud we dug out was used to shore up new banks. We're hopeful that the pond will eventually become a little haven and attraction for wildlife.

We lunched outside the bothy and I munched my banana sandwich with a mug of tea.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Avatar Revisited

I booked a ticket for the movie, Avatar Special Edition, online with Moviehouse Cinemas in Belfast. One adult costs £5.50.

I'm keen to try Wolfe's burger restaurant at the new complex in Dundonald and, cognizant that the Eire cinema chain, Omniplex.ie, is there, I checked their prices: one adult - £8.30, including a booking fee! Could this be the Irish Republic's euro factor!

Wolfie can wait.

The Tramps' Ball

Dated the 14th November, 1946, this is a photograph of my Mother (right) when she was twenty-one years old with her dear friend Pat. They were attending a Tramps' Ball.

It is a precious photograph I have only just seen today of my Mother.

Archival Event Programmes

I have been rummaging up in the attic today, searching for old photographs of my parents, and I've unearthed two fascinating programmes dated 1953, the year of the Coronation.

The first is for the official opening of the Queen's Hall in Holywood, County Down, by the Governor of Northern Ireland, His Excellency the Lord Wakehurst KCMG; and the second programme is for the Coronation Victory Anniversary Re-Union at the Ulster Hall in Belfast.

I shall photograph the contents of these programmes imminently for posting on the Blog, including a list of subscriptions, the largest contribution having been by Renee Meneely, Ltd for £103 to purchase a TV set! Lady Enniskillen donated £5; the Right Rev Charles Irwin, £2 2s; Lord Dunleath, £2; Sir N Stronge, £1; and a certain Brian Faulker MP, 10 shillings!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Debit Card Rejection

I filled the baby two-seater with fuel this afternoon and inserted my debit card into the petrol pump machine, only to have the card ejected and to be informed that it had not been accepted! I re-tried, to no avail.

As it happens, I had the cash in my wallet so I paid for the transaction in the shop.

I wondered if there was a problem with my card or, even, if there had been some kind of fraudulent act leaving my account without cash.

When I arrived home I tried to contact my Internet bank forthwith, to no avail (it is Sunday). Their website stated that the service was suspended for five minutes. Well, I persisted and I can say that their timepieces require maintenance too! More like several hours.

I phoned their main bank and received profuse apologies from them, partly laying blame with the VISA network. There seems to be nothing wrong with my card.

Could this be a similar glitch which befell Barclay's customers?

Earlier I had a hike at Divis and the Black Mountain. The heathland was a lot wetter underfoot than I imagined. I had no idea there'd been so much rain up there. The car-park was quite full. I blubbered a bit, thinking of Mother, when nobody was about - in the wilderness - and looked up at Heaven to the Dowager smiling fondly down at me.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Dirty Duck Again!

Thank heaven it was a mild night. I was able to wear a mere shirt and black, thirty-year-old Levi denims! I bicycled down to the railway station and dumped the bike in the bushes; then took the train to Holywood, where I met big Pete. We proceeded on to the Dirty Duck ale-house.

This evening I had their sumptuous rump of lamb, accompanied by about five Tanqueray gin-and-tonics; not to forget a round of "Gaegerbums" or whatever they are called. We met two gorgeous blonde girls, one of whom worked with an estate agency and another who worked at the planning office in Ballymena. I'm infatuated!

I was given some sage advice re the fairer sex (there's hope for the old dog yet).

Home safely now for beauty sleep!

Tullyratty Day

I was out with the National Trust Strangford Lough weekend volunteer group today at Tullyratty, a townland bordering the Castle Ward estate in County Down. There were seven of us. We were picking ragwort from several fields and it's gratifying to see that this weed is now well under control; indeed I think it is almost eliminated from the fields which the Trust owns. This encourages other species and wild flowers to thrive, thus encouraging more fauna - like butterflies - too.

We had our packed lunches in a lovely meadow which overlooked a pond and adjacent hills. The Trust has already marked out a new path to Tullyratty from the Estate.

Weather permitting, we hope to visit Salt Island next week.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Ironing a Shirt!

T M Lewin's Creative Director, John Francomb, gives a three-minute master-class on how to iron a shirt.

Homo Sapiens Impecunious!

Or the man who lives without money. Apparently it is true. I noticed this article in the Daily Telegraph. Here it is.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Sublime Yoghurt

I do have a sweet tooth. Ask my dentist, he ought to confirm that statement! Cognizant of this fact, dear reader, you shan't be surprised if I tell you that I have recently discovered Marks and Spencer's Greek Style Yoghurt with Honey. It is sublime, so smooth, creamy, thick and sweet with, well, honey. My favourite version, till now, has been sold by Sainsbury's which, by the way, I still like; though M&S is now the firm favourite.

Whilst in Belfast this morning, I popped into the Proper Pasty Company and bagged a Beef and Stilton pasty, which I've never tried yet. I'll have it tomorrow. Today I had battered scampi from Coffey's, purveyors of fine seafood! Their white van parks near us at a strategic point and I bought a quarter-pound for £2.30. I devoured it with oven chips, onion rings, tomato, asparagus tips and lashings of tartare sauce.

I'm getting withdrawal symptoms re swimming; so can't wait till the Sports Club reopens in two weeks' time for my evening "constitutional".

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Mourne Park Sale

Dental Fortitude!

I have just returned from a session with my dentist, having had a temporary crown fitted. The permanent one will be fitted in two weeks' time. By Jove, it was a major undertaking: I sat in the chair for an hour. Seemingly another part of the original tooth broke and the gum was affected, too. The hardest bit of the ordeal for Timothy Belmont was endeavouring to keep the mouth wide-open! And holding that suction kind of appliance, too, became an endurance test.

I am saddened to learn of the situation re the Choir of Belfast Cathedral. It would be a shame if the Choir's high standards were ever to be affected. I do hope that this can be resolved for the best interests of the Cathedral. I am given to understand that the decision was ultimately taken by the Lord Bishop of Connor, the Right Reverend Alan Abernethy.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Laser Check-Up

I had another appointment at the eye clinic this morning, a check-up re my lasered left eye. All seems well. The eyesight in the lasered eye is very good indeed; so much so that I told them I'd like the right eye done! They have taken my mobile phone number and could call me - even today - if there is a slot available for surgery. The downside is that I'll probably need to wear reading glasses more often.

Thence I headed for the Proper Pasty Company in order to buy a beef and Stilton pasty - they shan't be ready till lunch-time.

Having spent about fifteen minutes in the Linen Hall Library, I motored home.

UPDATE: I'm having the right eye treated on 1st September.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Ormiston House

Katie Hall has very kindly sent me photographs of Ormiston House and, with Katie's permission, I have reproduced them here:-

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Princess Anne at 60

To mark the occasion of The Princess Royal's 60th birthday, Mr John Swannell has been commissioned to take official photographs. HRH shall be spending the day with her husband, Vice-Admiral Timothy Laurence. Princess Anne says she will not curb her busy lifestyle, having attended more than 600 engagements last year.

As well as backing many charities, the Princess Royal is on the organising committee for London's 2012 Olympics. The second child of The Queen, HRH has been president of the Save the Children Fund since 1970 and is president or patron of 320 organisations in total.

She has two children from her first marriage to Mark Phillips: Zara, 29, and Peter, 32, whose Canadian wife, Autumn, is expected to give birth in December. However, in an interview with the BBC's Inside Sport programme, HRH played down suggestions that she might take her work down a gear once she becomes a grandmother:-

"Look around at the members of my family who are considerably older than me and tell me whether you think they have set an example which suggests that I might - unlikely," Princess Anne said.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Titanic Day

We have been fortunate enough to have had a fine and sunny day today. Especially so, since various organizations in Belfast's Titanic Quarter - formerly the Belfast shipyard, Harland and Wolff - put on a marvellous event at the Thompson Dock Pump-house, which is adjacent to the Thompson Graving Dock (where RMS Titanic was fitted out).

There was a delightful display of classic, vintage vehicles; tours of the Pump-house; and other costume jewellery stalls, too.

The Pump-house is a most impressive feat of engineering: I wonder if it can still operate? And when it was last used operationally? Apparently it was converted from steam to electricity ca 1950.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Teaching Respect

Here's a fine anecdote: Exemplary, admirable and a lesson in how to teach one's offspring the meaning of Respect.

Isn't it such a shame that many parents, perhaps, do not teach their children the meaning of Respect nowadays?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Crowning Glory

On the eve of my departure to County Fermanagh last Sunday, I rather annoyingly cracked a tooth. I was chewing a mint imperial and when I heard the crunch I naturally - though incorrectly - assumed that the noise emanated from the sweet. A back tooth broke in half vertically, causing a sharp edge.

Although it hasn't been painful at all, its sharpness has caused irritation to my tongue; so, this morning, I purchased some chewing-gum and plugged it temporarily with that.

I phoned the surgery as soon as I arrived home and, thank goodness, my dentist was able to see me this afternoon.

I require a crown which, I've been advised, shall cost ca £390. Ouch. Actually I already have two crowns and I've had years of trouble-free satisfaction from them.

My appointment for the fitting is next Wednesday. That seems quicker than before: can crowns be made as soon as that? Presumably so, nowadays.

The Mad Hatter

I've found a great tea-room/café in Enniskillen which serves up a magnificent cooked Ulster breakfast from eight o'clock in the morning. It's called the Mad Hatter. I photographed my breakfast immediately prior to annihilation, so the image speaks for itself. What you see, including a little pot of tea served in the Hatter's inimitable manner, cost £4.95.

Personally. I'd be unable to sustain a full Ulster Fry every morning; so I'd alternate between a lighter alternative, such as tea and toast or cereal, and the traditional, cooked breakfast.

Click on images to enlarge


Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Idyllic Crom

I drove to Crom Estate, County Fermanagh, this afternoon via Lisnaskea. It was fine and mostly sunny. I parked at the old farmyard, which has been converted inot lovely apartments. It's beside the lough, where there is a large jetty.

I walked along a path to Old Crom Castle; and continued to the aesthetically handsome boat-house, where I spotted Lord Erne's car: He was down at the water's edge with his sister, the youthful Lady Rosanagh. They were preparing to go for a trip on their boat and we exchanged a few words. When I mentioned Crom Castle's former house-keeper, Mrs Johnston, and an amusing incident some twenty-two years ago when I was staying on the Estate, Lady Rosanagh asked me if I'd had my tea-leaves read by Mrs J!

Later in the afternoon I enjoyed cottage pie and salad at the National Trust tea-room.

I stopped in the centre of Lisnaskea on the way home and photographed the old Corn and Potato Market, the ancient Market Cross taking pride of place in the centre. The Market was erected by the 3rd Earl of Erne. Click to enlarge.

Fermanagh: Day 3

I had a lighter breakfast this morning, viz. tea and toast. Without further ado I jumped into the baby two-seater and headed in a northerly direction to Ely Lodge Forest. I must have had a forty-minute walk there, I imagine; and Ely Lodge itself could only just be glimpsed in the distance.

Thence I drove to Necarne Castle, which is beside Irvinestown. Necarne is, sadly, in a poor state, roofless and neglected. It would make a splendid country house hotel.

Having arrived at Castle Archdale, I made for the old courtyard where there is an exhibition of wildlife and the Estate during the 2nd World War. There are two fine stained-glass windows on display, salvaged from the manor-house prior to demolition.

On my way back to Enniskillen I stopped off at Riverdale, hoping to find an old photograph of the big house which once stood there (Archdale Baronets); and I was absolutely delighted to encounter a reader of my blog! We had a lengthy chin-wag, reminiscing about the old County families.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Florence Court Outing

After a heart cooked breakfast this morning - consisting of egg, two rashers of bacon, two sausages, potato bread, soda bread, tomato and baked beans - I apprised them that I was now ready to make an assault on General Cole's Monument which proudly overlooks Enniskillen in County Fermanagh. This rather grand monument, not unlike Nelson's Column, honours General the Hon Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole GCB, second son of 1st Earl of Enniskillen.

Thence I headed for the Belle Isle Estate, where I spent some time admiring MV Trasna moored on the lough. I said Hallo to the estate manager, who said little about my blog or, indeed, my various articles regarding Belle Isle's history. At least he could have got up off his seat, welcomed me and shaken hands. How disappointing. No matter! I turned on my heels and drove back to Enniskillen.

In the afternoon, I drove the shortish distance to Florence Court, erstwhile seat of the Coles, Earls of Enniskillen. It's gratifying to see that they have begun restoration work on the Stick Yard, which included the laundry, dairy and other rooms. There is now a new apartment available to rent which was formerly the accommodation for male servants.

The two images are of an old room in the Stick Yard, complete with wheel-chair; and the newspaper headlines regarding the dreadful fire which enveloped major sections of the House in the 50s. Click to enlarge.

I was delighted to notice one of my articles about the 7th Earl, including coat-of-arms and image of his lordship, in the Colonel's Room.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Stately Castle Coole

I've spent an enjoyable afternoon at Castle Coole I parked beside the Grand Yard and proceeded to take a brisk walk round the Lake Walk, which encircles Lough Coole. I signed my name in the visitors' book, which is inside the diminutive Pump-house.

Back at the Grand Yard, I pootered about here and there, before going up to the mansion itself, where there was a conducted tour taking place at three-fifteen.

Two volunteer conservators were restoring pelmet curtains in the library and explained the process to us. Castle Coole does have an air of stateliness about it, as opposed to the homeliness of the Argory.

The servants' quarters in the basement are very extensive indeed. One can well imagine the hustle and bustle down there a hundred years ago. Some stone steps are well worn. The National Trust is presently restoring the servants' dining-room, which has two prosaic dining-tables capable of seating up to forty staff. The ratio of servants to family and guests was considerable.

Seemingly Lord Corry, Lord and Lady Belmore's elder son, lives in a private wing of the House when he is at home. Incidentally, Lord Belmore has an impressive collection of old master-type paintings which are kept in the old billiards-room; one of them being so large that it was brought in through the window (which is much larger than the doorway).

Well, I think I shall venture into central Enniskillen later this evening, where I might well have a little snifter.

Fermanagh Trip

I am staying in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh presently. I'm using my Dell Mini 9 in the lounge of my accommodation and shall shortly be motoring the short distance to Castle Coole.

Readers from the county, please do get in touch. I expect to be visiting Crom, Belle Isle and Florence Court.

I also hope to keep a diary on the Blog.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Dirty Duck's Lamb

The Dirty Duck Ale House was busy last night. It was a fine evening and many revellers were outside, though it was quite crowded inside, too.

It felt a bit like musical chairs, because we had to change seats about three times! We were seated on the ground floor, near the front window and, at about nine forty-five or so, the musical band arrived to set themselves up; so we were required to re-locate to the rear of the bar.

I had the most delicious rump of lamb, served with creamy champ potato and a tasty concoction of vegetables. Whilst it may have been one of the dearer items on the menu, at over £14, it was worth it in terms of flavour, leanness and succulence. Big Pete had the scampi, as usual.

After ten o'clock, a black-haired female member of staff came over to us with the bill and advised us that payment was required before the musicians started!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Minnowburn: Rose Garden

I spent the day at Minnowburn today, up at the Rose Garden. We were weeding and planting plants, including lavender and roses. There were five of us. A perk of the job - being a NT Volunteer - is that there's often the opportunity to get logs for fire-wood; so I filled a large sack of small logs from the large barn adjacent to the Warden's Office this afternoon.

Ulster Youth Choir

The BBC Radio 3 Summer Invitation Concert in Belfast's Ulster Hall was splendid last night. I arrived slightly later than usual, because I lay down on the bed and, when I looked at the clock, it was seven o'clock!

The conductor was Howard Shelley OBE; and the programme included works by Delius, Vaughan Williams, Parry, Stanford and Alice Mary Smith. I particularly enjoyed Vaughan Williams' English Folksong Suite, because it was evocative of Ulster Television's golden days under Brum Henderson, when the same folksongs were often played during interludes.

There was no sign of Bandanna Man:: perhaps he was enjoying himself on the fiddle, holidaying in Romania!

The female chorus of the Ulster Youth Choir performed brilliantly, I thought. There must have been about thirty of them, and they stood in front of the Grand Mulholland Organ.

Needless to say, the Ulster Orchestra was as excellent as ever. I was able to read the time from either a cellist or double bassist's watch (which read 9:15 when I saw it), which had been placed beside the music sheet - that's how good my eyesight now is, having been lasered.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Optic Revelation

I had my left eye treated for short-sightedness and astigmatism by Laser almost exactly one month ago. The result has been extraordinary. I seem to have perfect vision with the treated eye; to the extent that there is a contrast between the corrected eye and the untreated, right eye.

Although I have paid for both eyes, the surgeon judged on the day that it would be more prudent to treat only the left eye, initially at least, which I appreciate.

I'd like the other eye treated, now that I know the result from the left eye! The issue is long-sightedness and the ability - or lack of it - to focus at close distances. I'd probably require reading glasses at any rate.

My next appointment is on the 17th August, 2010.

M&S Confectionery

I was at Belfast's historic Linen Hall Library briefly this morning, in order to undertake a little research on the second floor.

Thence I made a bee-line for Marks and Spencer's Donegall Place branch and took the escalator down to the food-hall in the basement. Since I presently have sufficient resources in the "larder", I merely bagged a tub of their new Greek-style yoghurt with honey, which I haven't tried yet.

I do favour their confectionery. M&S Fudge is utterly sublime; and that comes from one who has frequently consumed the Dowager's home-made fudge. I swear by their fruit pastilles, too. I've tried Needler's, Tesco's, Rowntree's and Sainsbury's; M&S are, to my mind, the best.

Now I have another range to add to the sweetie-list: M&S Mint Imperials. In my experience there seem to be two types, viz. the powdery type and the chewy type. I prefer the latter; and M&S Mint Imperials seem to have essence of mint as well as as chewiness.

Well done again, Marks and Spencer!

No Car Change

Thank goodness I left the car showroom, went home and had time to ponder yesterday afternoon. Seeing that little two-seater "warts and all" and "unprepped" offered me an opportunity to see what it was really like; and how it had been treated by its previous owner.

I still cannot quite fathom why a 10,000-mile car has had two tyres changed, despite the claim that there had been punctures. The tyres on any new cars I have owned have lasted for many years indeed.

I want a very clean, privately-owned, Benitoite blue - a dark shade apparently pronounced ben-ee-toe-ite - Mercedes-Benz 200 SLK automatic with very low mileage. High specification, too.

Another factor was the trade-in price I was offered for the baby two-seater: absolutely ridiculous, to my mind. I would say that, I hear them clamour. I'd sooner sell it outside on the public highway, with a large For Sale sign, than sell it to Agnew's at the price they offered me. The price differential to change was too great.

I shall bide my time and keep an eye on the Internet. There is a nice-looking SLK for sale at a Mercedes dealership. The snag is that it is in Dorchester!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Car Change

I have experienced some anguish over whether to change my car. I'm thinking of buying a Mercedes-Benz 200SLK automatic. Though it wouldn't be brand new, the model I viewed today - at Agnew's - is metallic blue, 2008, with 10,000 miles on the clock.

I just might be tempted to change, if they sharpen up the deal a bit. The car would have the full Mercedes Approved Warranty and, I am assured, a new set of alloy wheels and mats - and, indeed, anything else required. The wheels are badly pitted which, they claim, was a design flaw. Perhaps the previous owner lived near the sea!

I was shown the car in its "raw" state, viz. "unprepped". It had literally just come in to them and I saw it "with warts and all". It doesn't look very clean, with scuffs inside and so on; though, to be fair, they assured me that when they had finished with it, it would look like new.

My current motor insurance company shan't insure the car because it doesn't have a tracking system fitted! It does have a standard Mercedes Thatcham-approved alarm, though.

I'm in two minds, as ever. The best insurance quotation I have had from another company is £461; though a broker service called Prestige has also quoted £500.

Dearer insurance, dearer car tax, dearer servicing, thirstier...am I sane? Don't answer that!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Éire Ducal Visit

It has been brought to my notice that there was an article in yesterday's Irish Times newspaper about a visit to Kilkenny, Ireland, by the erstwhile Lord Stewart of Her Majesty's Household, His Grace the Duke of Abercorn KG.

During lunch at Kilkenny Castle, the Duke was shown photographs of the last royal visit – by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1904.

His Grace was joined by HM Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, Julian Beresford King CMG; and the Mayor of Kilkenny.

It is expected that The Queen will pay a visit to the Irish Republic in 2011.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Valete: Castle Ward Opera

My disappointment regarding the demise of Castle Ward Opera is already well known. I began a debate about it in February this year, in fact.

The traditions and ambiance of Castle Ward - a country estate - cannot be replicated in an opera house. Any attempt to undermine the Arts Council of Northern Ireland by, for instance, former patrons of Castle Ward Opera continuing the tradition of wearing formal evening dress at alternative venues - such as the Grand Opera House, Belfast - would be frowned upon by them. They would doubtless consider it as "elitist".

I wish to give prominence to this subject. Indeed I received a comment from a member of Castle Ward Opera Company today and it reflects my sentiments; so much so that I shall reproduce it here:-

"As a member of the now defunct Castleward Opera I can sadly confirm the news. The Arts Council have removed funding and forced an unhappy coalition between Castleward and the Opera Fringe Festival. A new Artistic Director has been appointed for the uninspired 'opera company northern Ireland, after much half hearted and disorganised faffing by the Arts Council.

No programme has been put in place but it seems likely that the Opera House will be venue. Castleward will no longer be used. A very sad piece of news indeed. Given that the management at opera house rent the space at an exorbitant rate, we can look forward to endless productions of Carmen and Aida to cater for an audience who think nothing of shelling out £100 to see Lady GaGa at the Odyssey but suddenly start crying 'elitist' when asked to pay roughly half that for a night at the opera.

We are definitely having 2 gala nights first weekend in September, full orchestra, soloists from over the years, extended interval to say a big final Thank You to all our supporters over the years. Should be an amazing and emotional couple of evenings. Hope to see you all there."

Royal Dukedoms

Royal dukedoms interest me. Their history is already well documented; however, as usual, I shall endeavour to condense the facts down to their essence.

When a royal peerage is conferred upon a royal prince or, indeed princess, and it subsequently becomes extinct, it is then reserved for a later prince and is unavailable to a Subject.

The royal dukedoms of York and Gloucester were both created in 1385. Since 1474 the dukedom of York has traditionally been reserved for the Sovereign's second son.

The Dukedom of Edinburgh was first bestowed on a grandson of King George I. Queen Victoria made her son, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh; and, like Prince Philip - the current Duke - he, too, was a sailor prince.

The Dukedom of Kent was originally non-royal. The Greys held this title until it became extinct in 1797. It effectively became a royal dukedom two years later, when King George III gave it to his fourth son.

Other royal dukedoms include the Dukedom of Clarence, derived from the Honour of Clare in Suffolk; the Dukedoms of Cumberland and Albany; the Dukedom of Kendal; the Dukedom of Sussex; the Dukedom of Connaught; and the Dukedom of Cambridge.

Since the Dukedoms of Albany and Connaught no longer pertain to the Realm, they may be considered virtually extinct. The Dukedom of Windsor was created especially for HM King Edward VIII following his abdication; so, though technically vacant, it is unlikely that this title shall be revived.

The Dukedom of Cambridge was re-conferred as a marquesssate in the 20th century which has since become extinct; so it is possible that this royal dukedom could be revived one day.

The Duchy of Lancaster has been merged with the Crown; and the dukedoms of Cornwall and Rothesay are used by the Heir Apparent.

It has been proclaimed that, following the deaths of his parents, HRH The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex shall become The Duke of Edinburgh.

Paul James wrote an interesting piece about royal dukedoms in 2004.

Whilst it cannot be discounted that a new royal dukedom could be created, the most likely dukedoms to be re-conferred in future are those of Sussex, Clarence or Cambridge. There has, indeed, been some speculation that, on the day of Prince William's marriage, such a title may be conferred.

Prince William's bride would otherwise assume the style Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales.

Last published in June, 2009.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Boat Trip

I picked up Richard, another NT volunteer, just before noon today and we motored straight to the picturesque village of Strangford in County Down. We were meeting up with Craig, who was supervising a boat trip round part of Strangford Lough.

The boat, MV St Brendan, arrived at one o'clock and several dozen of us embarked. We sailed southwards, past Cloghy Rocks and Kilclief Point; before approaching Killard Point. En route we spotted many seals, cormorants, shags, grey herons and black-headed gulls.

At Killard Point, we changed direction and made towards Ballyquintin Point at the very tip of the Ards Peninsula. Now we sailed northwards and back into Strangford Lough again. We passed Portaferry and the Old Court estate, including the pretty little Katherine Quay with its boat-house or lodge; thence the boat took us past Ballyhenry Island, Chapel Island and Jackdaw Island; and back past Audley's Castle.

We finally disembarked at three o'clock; and three of us strolled over to the Cuan Bar in the village where we found a table and ordered food and drink: Richard had scallops; Eric, the confit of duck; while I devoured a rather good - though pricey - open prawn sandwich, at £14.50. I washed it down with a half shandy.

Despite inclement weather, it was a most agreeable outing.

Having a Laugh!

Good heaven. I have never laughed so much in ages. Every time I looked at the spoof picture of myself, having "morphed" my face into a princely uniform, I simply couldn't stop it. Hysterical. I merely wish that the Dowager could have seen it. What a tonic.

I'm off later on a boat trip on Strangford Lough, courtesy of the National Trust.