Thursday, 31 March 2011

Spanish Royal Luncheon

TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall received a warm and relaxed welcome from TM The King and Queen of Spain today.

Their Royal Highnesses were greeted at the King and Queen's home in the mountains above Madrid before a private lunch on the second day of their official visit.

Prince Charles was given the Golden Key of Madrid at the city's regional assembly. Her Majesty The Queen was presented with a Key of the City during a State Visit in 1988.

Earlier in the day, the Prince of Wales also discussed climate change with the Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodrigo Zapatero, at his Moncloa Palace office and residence, as well as touring Respol technology centre, an oil company that is undertaking work in bio-energy.

The Duchess of Cornwall also attended a tea party raising money for the British charity Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres.

Her Royal Highness is Patron of the organisation, which is launching a project in Barcelona to support UK residents living in Spain.

Spanish State Dinner

Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall attended a state dinner at the Royal Palace in Madrid on Wednesday, 30th March, 2011, hosted by TRH The Prince and Princess of Asturias.

TRH were greeted in the Palace's Salon de Temiers - tapestry room.

Other guests included the Duchess of Alba, and Antonio Vazquez, group chairman of International Airlines Group, formed by the recent merger of BA and Iberia.

During a speech, The Prince of Asturias thanked Their Royal Highnesses for visiting his country.

The Prince of Wales thanked Their Royal Highnesses for their hospitality. In his speech he said:  

“British people have come to know and love Spain as a place to spend their holidays – or even their retirement.  For decades, many millions have been drawn by your beaches, your climate, your culture, your traditions, your food and your wine, but above all if I may say so by your warm and open-hearted hospitality.  In conclusion, let me say that my wife and I really could not be more delighted or more grateful to be enjoying that hospitality tonight.”

The menu for Wednesday night's dinner was artichoke and leek with Spanish ham for the starter, followed by hake for the main course and, to finish, hojaldre - a fruit, cream and pastry dessert based on the French mille-feuilles.

Later Prince Charles was given the symbolic key to the city of Madrid when he met the Mayor, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon. Their Royal Highnesses then had lunch with Their Majesties The King and Queen of Spain at the Zarzuela royal residence.

The royal couple are to travel to Seville on Friday and then leave for Morocco, wrapping up a three-country trip that also took in Portugal.

Members of the Spanish royal family are to attend the wedding of HRH Prince William of Wales to Miss Middleton on the 29th April, 2011.


I am just back from the brand new GHQ of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) at Titanic Boulevard and excellent it is, too. I parked the car at a car-park opposite the old Harland and Wolff GHQ and walked the five or six minutes to the Office.

It is commodious, light and airy, with all "mod cons". Notably, PRONI has its own free wi-fi, though what they term "personal" websites - including Lord Belmont - are blocked. Still, it's all most convenient and word processors can be used on laptops.

I was undertaking some research on Brackenber House School (the results of which will be posted on a later article).

Visitors are issued with a personal "smart" card, with their photographs thereon; and these are used to gain access to the various rooms.

The cafeteria is on the ground floor, at the rear, and it is self-service as one would expect. I had the £3.50 stuffed chicken dinner, including roast potatoes and cabbage. This was akin to a school dinner, satisfactory enough, though I had to use some of the old Belmont brawn and elbow grease to stab the tough roasties!

All in all, an agreeable experience and the staff most obliging.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Posh Baked Beans!

Believe it or not Timothy Belmont still consumes baked beans, very occasionally. I am having them this evening - for a light snack - and I have opened a can of Branston's "Bloomin' Big" baked beans "in a rich and tasty tomato sauce".

I tasted the sauce and, like most of them, it is not particularly rich in flavour. I have a habit of buying the "value" baked beans, not because they're better value; but because I pour our most of the runny sauce and add my own tomato purée, Worcestershire Sauce and a little Demerara sugar. This makes for a much richer sauce indeed.

Nor do the beans don't seem to be much larger in size, so I shall revert to the cheap cans in future!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

New Series

My new series on the greatest Victorian landowners in Ireland will begin on Friday, the 1st April, 2011. The intention shall be to progress through the counties in alphabetical order, starting with one entry for County Carlow; then one for County Cavan, and so on.

I feel I have covered (exhausted!) many of the most notable country estates and their owners in Northern Ireland though, of course, should any more "crop up", I should not wish to omit them.

The overall ethos of the Blog shall remain and I am hoping that readers, old and new, will find the new series of interest.

Lough Erne Calendar

Udo Vogel, a regular reader of the Blog, has very kindly sent me a calendar he has produced. It features places of interest in Lough Erne, County Fermanagh.

Now I know that the Vogels are exceptionally fond of Lough Erne, particularly the Crom estate.

The picture on the front of the calendar has the family with Lord Erne at Holy Trinity Church, Crom. Its foundations were laid in 1840 by John, 3rd Earl of Erne. The church cost £7,200 to build, £572,000 in today's money. The Erne vault was added between 1867-69.

The Reverend John Haughton Steele was the last vicar (from 1883 until 1910) employed by Lord Erne for Crom Church; thereafter the Rector of Kinawley was remunerated the sum of £50 per annum for his services (equivalent to £4,500 in value today).

Monday, 28 March 2011

Moira Demesne

I had a stroll in the Moira Demesne in County Down yesterday, popular with villagers. There are the remains of an old wall and I wondered whether this could have once been part of the walled garden.

The Castle was demolished in 1870 but there is pictorial evidence as to its appearance and its surrounding parkland in the late 18th century. The demesne dates from the 17th century and a good portion of this (38 acres) remains as a public park.

The historical interest lies in the layout of straight avenues (replanted) with orientation onto features in the village and vestiges of canals and ponds. There are some mature and impressive trees, including two large plane trees. Other mature trees still exist in the farmland, formerly parkland, beyond the present-day public park.

In 1969 a note in the UAHS book on the locality says of Moira demesne, ‘… planting remains (after the demolition of the castle), constituting a rare and potentially valuable asset in an area otherwise poor in landscaped parkland’. 

The site is of historic interest as it was the site of the first glasshouses in Ireland. Sir Arthur Rawdon (1662-95) was a sponsor of an expedition to Jamaica to collect plants. Over 1,000 specimens arrived and were housed under glass. Luckcombe, in A Tour Through Ireland (1779), noted, ‘… improvements and garden are extensive, furnished with a variety of good fruit, and many exotics brought thither from Jamaica, which thrive well …’ No above-ground evidence of the glasshouses exists today .

Moira Castle, erstwhile seat of the Rawdons, Earls of Moira and Marquesses of Hastings, has long gone. The Castle was eventually acquired by the Bateson Baronets, Barons Deramore.

The Bateson coat-of-arms (crest, a bat's wing) is displayed on the market-house of 1810, said to have marked the completion of the village.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

At Aghalee Bridge

Oh, what a glorious day! The lark was on the wing and the snail was on the thorn, as they say. I rustled up a few rounds of salmon sandwiches, a flask of hot water, jumped in to the two-seater and headed in a westerly direction towards Aghalee in County Antrim.

I had acquired a very informative little booklet about the old Lagan Canal whilst at Minnowburn yesterday; hence the urge to explore that section of the canal.

I encountered good, old-fashioned Ulster hospitality along the way, too: A kindly couple of villagers allowed me to park the car beside their home at Aghalee - beside the canal itself - and David even walked with me to the 18th century towpath.

I ambled from Aghalee (Aghalee Bridge) to Moira (Lady's Bridge). This is a beautiful stretch of Ulster countryside and I highly recommend it.

The Bank Ranger's House (top), at the Broadwater, seems to be derelict presently. There were several anglers here. This is the spot where I picnicked. I remembered to bring everything except tea-bags - Fool, Belmont! - and the anglers very kindly gave me four.

There was a flock of a dozen swans near the bank of the canal at Soldierstown Bridge. It was at this point where I could see a pair of buzzards flying above me, calling in their familiar high-pitched, plaintive manner.

Unfortunately the towpath terminates at Lady's Bridge, close to where the M1 Motorway runs.

The Lagan Canal Trust is determined to restore the Lagan Canal, which runs from Stranmillis at Belfast to Lough Neagh. The canal was built between 1756-93. It took two days for the canal boats (lighters) to travel the 27 miles from Stranmillis to Lough Neagh.

I averaged 40 mpg today in the two-seater, which is quite gratifying. I used the cruise control at 53 mph on the way home.

K E Watson MC

Many congratulations, immense pride and admiration for Acting Lance Corporal Kylie Elizabeth WATSON, Royal Army Medical Corps, who hails from Ballymena in County Antrim. L/Cpl Watson has been awarded the Military Cross.

She  put herself in mortal danger to treat a wounded Afghan soldier under heavy Taliban fire; and gave medical care in exposed open ground for twenty minutes. Her citation spoke of her immense courage and described her as an inspiration to her platoon.

L/Cpl Watson is believed to be only the fourth woman to receive the Military Cross, the third highest award for gallantry.

L/Cpl Watson is among 136 service personnel, most of whom served in Afghanistan with 4 Mechanised Brigade between April and October last year, to be named in the latest military honours list.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Opera Ticket

I managed to reserve a seat in Row A of the dress circle at the Grand Opera House in Belfast, for a production of Rigoletto this June.

It cost me £47, including their administration "fee"! Almost as dear as an amphitheatre seat at Covent Garden.

I do hope it's worth it; I haven't been to the GOH for more than a year.

And I shan't let our Worthies sitting on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland forget that they destroyed one of our few half-decent seasonal events of the social year in the Province, Castleward Opera, by withholding adequate funding (doubtless preferring to squander our money on something else).

Bramble Bash

It was a truly fine day at Minnowburn today, where we met to clear a large area of undergrowth beside the River Lagan close to Shaw's Bridge in Belfast.

There must have been more than two dozen of us, most of the volunteers coming from the Lagan Valley group headed by Jo Boylan. The ratio must have been 75:25 because the NT group numbered six.

We used loppers, slashers and spades.

We ate our packed lunches at a picnic table beside the Warden's Office, which is adjacent to the allotments. 

All a Goggle!

Whilst swimming the constitutional sixty lengths during the week, my Speedo goggles finally gave up the ghost. I invariably swim using the front-crawl stroke and the silicone band on the goggles simply snapped.

I swam the remainder - about fifty lengths - without goggles and, by Jove, the old eyes didn't half smart, or sting. It must be the chlorine added to the water, I imagine.

Consequently, when I was in central Belfast yesterday, I popped into the Athletic Stores (is it now owned by Moores?) in Queen Street and had a look at goggles.

In addition to the Speedos they were selling Italian ones, called Aqua Sphere, which I have never heard of (the Ferraris of swimming!); so I inquired about them and, despite the £17.99 price-tag, I bought 'em.

Bearing in mind that I swim two hundred lengths a week, I'm hopeful that the extra cost shall be worthwhile.

My Canon i250 printer is playing up a touch as well, so I've bought a new HP "all-in-one" printer. The Which? Magazine seems to rate them highly.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Kate in Pictures

The Daily Telegraph has published some wonderful photographs of our future Princess William of Wales.

Miss Middleton is posing at Blenheim Palace, seat of His Grace the Duke of Marlborough.

Show of the Week

I've been recording an agreeable little series, on BBC Two at six thirty this week, called Royal Upstairs Downstairs.

The Victorian aristocracy certainly knew how to "pull out all the stops" for royal guests in those days.

Such stately piles as Chatsworth, Belvoir Castle, Castle Howard, Warwick Castle and Hatfield House have featured.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Castle Open Day

Glenarm Castle, ancestral seat of the Earls of Antrim and home to Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and their young family, will be open to the general public for guided tours on bank holiday Monday, the 2nd May, 2011.

Labour of Love

Prior to devouring an enormous fruit scone with lashings of Ulster butter and raspberry jam, washed down with an Americano coffee, I settled myself comfortably upstairs at the Linenhall Library for a spot of research this morning.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Beast Unleashed

The Beast was finally exposed and saw the daylight today. It was a lengthy hibernation. Perhaps it is a touch early; no matter, it is done.

I unleashed it from the basement, dragged it out on its cylinder, oiled it and striped the lawn.

The venerable Ransomes mower must be thirty-five summers old. Sadly the grass-box has seen better days and the large royal coat-of-arms which once adorned the front thereof has disappeared.

Craigavon's Tomb

I visited Stormont and photographed the tomb of the Right Honourable James, 1st Viscount Craigavon PC, first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Royal Wedding Coach


The open-topped State Landau in which Their future Royal Highnesses P
rince and Princess William of Wales (or Royal Duke and Duchess) will make their first journey as a married couple (assuming the weather is clement) was built in 1902 for King Edward VII’s coronation, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The Hooper coach-building company took into account the King's large girth when it was constructed, making sure he would be able to get in and out easily and sit in comfort with Queen Alexandra by his side.

It is in regular use by the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, making annual appearances at Royal Ascot and bringing foreign heads of state to Buckingham Palace when they make state visits.

Pulled by four horses, with two postilions, or riders, on the front pair, the carriage took the Prince of Wales to St Paul’s Cathedral on his wedding day in 1981, and was used to take the the newly-wed couple to Buckingham Palace after the ceremony.

The Duke and Duchess of York also used the 1902 State Landau on their wedding day in 1986.

If it rains on April 29, Prince William and Miss Middleton will be taken to Buckingham Palace in the enclosed Glass Coach, which was built in 1881 and is traditionally used by royal brides on their way to their wedding, including Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother; Diana, Princess of Wales; The Princess Royal and the Duchess of York.

The Glass Coach was also used by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh following their wedding in 1947.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Park Deforestation


I straddled the trusty bike earlier and rode over to Belmont Park, the purpose being to view the tree clearance there for myself.

A section adjacent to Strathearn School and CIYMS Sports Club has been deforested of small trees. The remains of a grassy public path can still be seen, though the area is now unattractive.

The "site" has been cleared and obviously awaits further clearance and construction work of some sort.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Belmont Park

The Friends of Belmont Park have contacted me to raise awareness of developments at a section of Belmont Park at Cairnburn Road in east Belfast.

I am informed that almost three acres of park-land have been transferred to Strathearn School for extra hockey pitches; and in excess of 300 trees were felled in a day (the day before 1st March, nesting season). The work also uncovered a badger outlier sett and latrine pit.

Belfast City Council states that the land has been sold to the School.

It would not be unreasonable for ratepayers to know how much money the sale raised and why it was sold.

The Friends of Belmont Park are trying to halt all further work until the end of the breeding season. Moreover, the Friends are endeavouring to find out some history to the park, who owned the land, was it bequeathed to the council, were there any agreements in place etc.

They have a Facebook page:

Belfast City Council states that Belmont Park is a semi-wild space in east Belfast. It includes a network of paths which lead through grassland, wild flower meadows and copses of bluebells and trees. A footbridge also provides access across the ring road from one side of the park to the other. Adjacent to the park is an allotment site; and there is also a children's playground.


"A portion of land, formerly in Belmont Park, has been transferred to Strathearn School and is currently being redeveloped to provide new sporting facilities for the school. As a condition of the sale, the school agreed that the local community will have access to the new sports facilities once building work is complete.

We [Belfast City Council] will also be undertaking work to enhance the biodiversity of the park and have plans in place to plant trees and a wildflower meadow. Our staff have also liaised with Strathearn School's contractor to secure the construction site for the safety of park users and erect a fence around the site".

For more information, call the park manager on 028 9049 1813.
For more information about the park, call 07721 537410 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 4.30pm only) or email

Drum Manor Picture


Nigel Brady has very kindly sent me a photograph of Drum Manor, near Cookstown in County Tyrone, prior to its demise.

Honeymoon at Cairns?

Prince William has suggested that his honeymoon - or, at least, part of it - could be spent in Australia: "I will have to come back, maybe we'll have a honeymoon in Cairns?" he said to cheers from the crowd.

Such a "move" by the future Prince and Princess William of Wales (or TRH The Duke and Duchess of Clarence, perhaps?) could only generate a positive and benign effect on the views towards our Royal Family in Australia, particularly those who may be indifferent towards the Monarchy.

Cairns is named after a great Ulsterman, Sir William Wellington Cairns KCMG, half-brother or step-brother of 1st Earl Cairns.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Class of '78

Peter Farquharson's office has very kindly sent me a montage of photographs taken at the Old Campbellian Class of 1978 Reunion Dinner at the Strangford Arms Hotel in October, 2010.

Two sinister characters are noted! One of the glasses requires replenishment.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Victorian Landowners in Ireland

I am beginning what I hope will be a "landmark" Internet series on the great Victorian landowners in Ireland. This new series will comprise all twenty-six counties of the Republic of Ireland.

I intend to start with the Bruens of Oak Park in County Carlow.

Regular readers shall be aware that I conducted a poll recently in order to gauge opinion.

I may also commence a more modest, factual series about the non-royal dukes of the United Kingdom.

The best of both worlds!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

New Portrait of HM

BBC Scotland reports a new photographic portrait of Her Majesty The Queen, who is wearing a white gown. It has been unveiled at the Scottish Parliament. The image was taken by Shaun Murawski, 24, who received the commission as part of a competition to mark the 10th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament.

The Princess Royal unveiled the portrait during a ceremony in the building's main hall.

Mr Murawski said: "I still feel hugely grateful to be given such an opportunity at my age ... For me the portrait captures what a moment in Her Majesty's company feels like. She is an extraordinary human being in all her benevolence and warmth".

The picture also shows HM wearing a diamond thistle broach, which had belonged to Queen Mary, while she looks to her right.

It was taken in the Palace of Holyroodhouse's Throne Room in July, 2010.

Dame Mary

I encountered the delightful Dame Mary Peters in Belfast today. I introduced myself and did allude - in passing - to Lord Belmont!

How lovely Dame Mary is, so charming and the warmth of her personality truly shines through.

The last time I met Dame Mary was indeed many, many summers ago; and, furthermore, young Lord Sydenham was wearing short trousers. Ha!

Dame Mary Peters DBE is HM Lord-Lieutenant for the County Borough of Belfast.

Back Home

I arrived home at about two-thirty this morning, being driven through Belfast amid mist and fog (Sleepy Hollow!).

Normal Belmont service shall resume forthwith - as soon as the bag is unpacked - and I'm minded to post a new article I have already drafted on one of our 17th century baronetcies.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

El Cotillo: Finale

This could well Timothy Belmont's final letter from Fuerteventura, Canary Islands; and regrettably I end on a slightly negative note (poor weather etc excluded).

During this holiday, unless I am under a misapprehension, there have been two unsuccessful attempts to "short-change" me: On an airport bus, when I noticed that the driver had sold me a ticket for two (thereby charging double the fare); and last night, most disappointingly, at the Casa Rustica restaurant, where I have been a "regular", when the waitress (or owner?) short-changed me by €10 when she brought my change.

I thought I'd built up a rapport with her on the four visits. She knew it was my final night there; had even helped me with their Internet password key for the Mini 9; and yet, when I handed her a €50 note for a €22 bill, she gave me a plate with one €10 note, one €5 note and coins - €10 short. This person was not stupid and it's hard to believe that it was an innocent mistake.

Of course I caught her eye, beckoned her over and she knew, so apologised and exchanged the €10 for a €20.

It makes one wonder how frequently this practice occurs throughout the "tourist industry", cheating and thieving vulnerable or gullible tourists who may be unfamiliar with the currency or have even indulged in a "drink" too many?

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Flagpole

His lordship has, regrettably (!) suffered another brainwave: A proper flagpole, with a gold-leaf finial, mounted at an angle with a suitably-sized Union Flag; to be flown on Flag Days; and official mourning periods at half-mast, at Home.

There used to be elegant triple, angled and wall-mounted flagpoles above the porch at Storbrooke House on Massey Avenue, Belfast, latterly the residence of the 5th Lord Dunleath.

Flag Days consist of about a dozen or more occasions per annum. And naturally I shall make one exception: Europe Day, on the 9th May.

Prince Philip in NI

My "eye" has been off the ball to an extent, being some 2,400 miles from home. Ergo, I've just noticed Prince Philip's brief visit to Hillsborough Castle on Friday.

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh KG KT OM GBE attended the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Ceremony at Hillsborough Castle on Friday, 11th March, 2011, and met 60 Gold Award winners from across Northern Ireland.

Every year around 7,000 young people in Northern Ireland start a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme and each year over 3,000 achieve a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award.

Northern Ireland consistently achieves the highest level of participation in the UK.

Prince Philip was greeted by Mr David Lindsay, HM Lord-Lieutenant of County Down and went on to meet Mr Ian Webb, Sheriff for County Down and Ms Kate Thompson, Director, Northern Ireland, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award who accompanied HRH throughout the visit.

In the Drawing Room HRH met Mr Edwin Parks, Room Steward, Ms Roberta Turkington MBE, Deputy Room Steward and Mr Martin Gillespie Group Marshall.

In the Drawing Room His Royal Highness had the opportunity to chat with approximately 20 young people, family members and friends. Mr Pete Snodden, local Radio Presenter assisted with the presentation of the certificates to the assembled Gold Award participants.

In the Hallway HRH met Ms Audrey Gillian, Music Teacher and a group of musicians from Victoria College, Belfast who provided background music for the occasion.

In the Throne Room Prince Philip met Mr Keith Fleming, Room Steward, Mr Jonathan Graham, Deputy Room Steward, and Group Marshalls, Ms Hilary Smyth and Ms Jane Thompson.

HRH had the opportunity to chat to the 40 or so assembled Gold Award participants, and guests. Mr Alan Simpson, Radio Presenter, assisted with the presentation of the Gold Award certificates to the young people.

In the Small Dining Room His Royal Highness accepted an invitation to present a representative from the Army Welfare Service with a new Operating Authority License Certificate.

Before a private lunch, Prince Philip had the opportunity to meet Mr Gordon Topping OBE, Chair of the DofE’s Advisory Committee along with current and recently retired members of the Committee.

HRH accepted an invitation to sign the visitors’ book before departure.

El Cotillo: IX

It's the penultimate day at El Cotillo for Timothy Belmont and we have sunny intervals presently; though I'm sanguine that the day shall be spent on the beach.

As I already mentioned, there were large hailstones interspersed with heavy rain throughout yesterday. After dinner at the Casa Rustica last night, I had to wait awhile before the rain eased off.

I have some interesting extinct 17th century Ulster baronetcies to post when I return to Belmont Hall (!).

Sunday, 13 March 2011


As I write, we are being deafened in the hotel by large hailstones falling! Hailstones in Fuerteventura? How extraordinary.

Casa Rústica Restaurant

This is the second occasion on which I've dined at the Casa Rústica. On my first visit I had taglatelle with four-cheese sauce, followed by chocolate mousse.

I was thereby given sufficient confidence to make a return trip so, last night, I perused the menu and spotted lemon sole with saffron sauce. I interrogated the waitress at length as to whether it had any bones - huesas - since I utterly hate one bone let alone three in a fish course.

No, she assured me, it wasn't served with the bones; nor was the prawn cocktail served with shells! What's the point of serving seafood with shells anyway? Laziness on the part of chef? Chef here was definitely not lazy, at any rate.

The prawn cocktail was slightly disappointing: a less than generous amount of them mixed with - I think - pineapple chunks in a bland seafood sauce. This was served in a scallop shell and surrounded by fresh lettuce, tomato and the obligatory olives. Still, I ate the lot except fot the olives.

The sole was served with little Canarian potatoes in their skins. The sole itself was very good indeed, moist and delicate, skinless and boneless; a good portion, too. The saffron sauce was of a delicate flavour, also.

I had a glass of red wine and also had a modest basket of bread with alioli; and I do like their alioli here.

The restaurant was quite busy, with most tables occupied. As its name suggests it tends to be somewhat rustic in atmosphere, with sturdy, upright, wooden tables and chairs. The chairs would have required some padding for the noble posterior! It was too cool for me to dine outside.

They say that Casa Rústica specializes in fine steaks, so I am minded to return for a solomillo con setas soon.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Rain and Gin

The last few days have been cool, breezy and damp on the island. I remain hopeful that the sun will shortly appear. My bedroom window was actually condensated when I woke, due to lashing rain.

El Cotillo has some Surfing Tourism and virtually everyone at my "hotel" surfs, except self; and I have been the sole British guest here. Although they all speak good English, when they congregate and socialize the native tongue is naturally inclined to be spoken.

I've practically finished off a bottle of Tanqueray within five days, too much too soon, so I'll endeavour to refrain from "it" for the duration (ar at least moderate the intake thereof!).

Thursday, 10 March 2011

GCVO Appointment

The Queen has been pleased to make the following appointment to the Royal Victorian Order:-

To be a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) :-

HRH The Earl of Wessex, KG

Awards in the Royal Victorian Order are made personally by The Queen, for services to the Sovereign.

Mare Alta Restaurant

I ate last night at a demi-stylish little Tapas restaurant called Mare Alta in El Cotillo. I arrived just in time, since the most courteous proprietor had time to explain the various dishes to me in detail.

Not long after I'd arrived and seated myself, the "flood-gates" opened and customers ambled in - a steady stream till the place was almost full; and mine host did most of the waiting, bills etc himself!

He brought the customery basket with bread and another tray with alioli (runny but garlicky).

I had little dishes of mushrom and garlic slices heated in oil; a sort of beef stew, again very hot in oil; and a thick wedge of Spanish tortilla; with a good mixed and dressed salad.

Including a bottle of carbonated water, the bill came to a reasonable €15.

I intended to leave him a tip but only had notes; and, when I went up to the counter for change, he was so busy that I just left. If I'm there again I'll leave them a good tip.

The Mare Alta is probably the best place I've been to so far.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Al at Wilton's

I am reading Alan Clark's Last Diaries.

It is April, 1994. The Hon Alan Clark is staying at his Albany apartment in central London. He walks in to Wilton's restaurant in Jermyn Street, St James's, and encounters Frank Johnson.

They have lunch and in walks (Michael) Heseltine with a "PA who was all over him". Heseltine wore "a brand new dark grey suit, white silk shirt, coiffed hair ... loathsome".

Classic Clark. Brilliant.

El Cotillo: IV

I have a tendency to drink too heavily, at least from my own perspective, on holiday and at other times. I'm giving serious thought to "giving it up" for a month, in order to see how it fares!

I have a bottle of Tanqueray in my bedroom and I've already taken it out of the fridge with a view to secreting it somewhere (out of sight, out of mind and all that rot). Does abstinence for one month seem severe?

The trouble is, I have a tendency to buy a bottle of booze for the room; then indulge in a few stiff snifters prior to appearing in public; and, after dinner, aanother couple in a bar (a Tanqueray and Tonic over here can cost a hefty €7, even in modest bars).

I had a lime (cordial) and tonic the other day, which did prove to be an agreeable beverage.

My picture today is of El Cotillo's open square at the very edge of the village. The tiny chapel is just behind the photograph.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Prince William in Belfast

I've been out all day and I received a text message from my aunt apprising me of the wonderful news that Prince William and his fiancee, Catherine (Kate) Middleton have been in Northern Ireland:-

His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales, accompanied by Miss Catherine Middleton, arrived at Belfast City Airport and is expected to undertake a number of engagements throughout the day.

HRH and Miss Middleton were greeted by Dame Mary Peters DBE, HM Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast, and went on to meet The Right Honourable Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who will accompany the couple during the visit.

This is the first visit of Prince William and Miss Middleton to Northern Ireland since the announcement of their engagement on 16 November 2010.

HRH and Miss Middleton became engaged in October during a private holiday in Kenya.

Following the marriage, the couple will live in north Wales, where Prince William will continue to serve with the Royal Air Force.

His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales, accompanied by Miss Catherine Middleton, has met The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of Belfast at Belfast City Hall.

The Royal Couple are being accompanied during their visit in Northern Ireland by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

His Royal Highness and Miss Middleton accepted a gift of a framed photograph of City Hall and a book on the architectural history of the one hundred and five year old iconic building. The Lord Mayor also invited them to sign the visitors’ book.

In the Marble Hallway, HRH and Miss Middleton had the opportunity to speak to Council members and staff.

Outside in the grounds of Belfast’s landmark City Hall, The Couple met representatives from the ‘Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children’ who were hosting a Shrove Tuesday fund-raising event to benefit local children and their families.

Prince William and Miss Middleton are expected to undertake a number of other engagements later today.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Google Earth

Whilst walking back to my hotel from the beach this afternoon I spotted a conspicuous black Opel car with some kind of extended camera on its roof; and Google's name was emblazoned thereon.

Google Earth has finally encountered El Cotillo.

Well, I never!

El Cotillo: Day II

As I write, it's pouring with rain! One thing's for sure, though: The sun will emerge and dry everything shortly.

I had my pre-breakfast constitutional earlier and took a photo of the old harbour here, at El Cotillo.

I dined at a harbour restaurant on Sunday called El Mirador, the main course being a sort of Chicken Supreme. I'd really have liked a side-salad or garnish with the meal.

It was quite acceptable; however, I shall reserve judgement on eating establishments till I've sampled several more.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Homage to Al

Alan Clark afficionados shall be glad to learn that I'm reading his last diaries again, a little light reading for the hols.

How stoical Al's wife was, knowing of her husband's dalliances with other women, like "x".

Nevertheless, I did admire him and his solid right-wing views.

The Nation is a poorer place without him.

El Cotillo: Day I +

Well Timothy Belmont has decadently lazed on the beach the whole day. I arose from the ethereal slumber early(ish), before eight this morning.

Breakfast at the hotel is "continental-style": Rolls, cereal, fruit-juice, hard-boiled eggs, ham, cheese, tomato, coffee ... one gets the drift.

For "lunch" I had a large apple and a banana (though his lordship is compensating for this by a large Tanqueray in his room).

I am told that the sea-water is cold; outside temperature is an agreeable 22-23c.

I'm in the Universal Bar, my saviour owing to a web connection.

El Cotillo: Day I

This is the very first opportuntity I've had to gain web access; and I'm seated in a little cafeteria called the Universal. Somewhat frustratingly I have been unable to achieve Internet access at my hotel, so far.

I departed from Belmont Hall (ha!) at 8am yesterday morning, was "on the go" all day, and arrived at my small hotel at about nine forty-five last night.

El Cotillo is a small fishing village, largely unspoiled, on the north-west coast of Fuerteventura, Canary Islands.

Be warned! I have the trusty camera with me and might well be snapping away; so, dear readers, bear with me for awhile till I get settled in.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Order Revival?

I am wondering - and I could be wrong - whether the Queen will take the opportunity to propose a revival of the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick, in some form or other, during Her Majesty's state visit to the Irish Republic.

I have written at length about the Order, its institution and its possible revival already.

I have suggested that the Chapel of the Order should be within St Patrick's (Anglican) Cathedral in the City of Armagh; and that it would be appropriate to remove the ancient banners and insignia of the former Knights from St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin to the aforesaid cathedral church.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Irish State Visit

Buckingham Palace has today made a brief announcement that Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, will pay a State Visit to the Irish Republic during 2011.

The visit is expected to take place within the next three months.

Her Majesty's grandfather, King George V, was the last Sovereign to visit in 1911 before Eire seceded from the United Kingdom.

For security reasons the Visit is likely to be confined to Dublin.

The Queen is expected to make a major speech in Dublin Castle on Anglo-Irish relations during the proposed three-day tour.

The Irish President, Mary McAleese, is said to be keen to welcome Her Majesty before her term ends in October, 2011. The Queen has met her several times.

HM and HRH are expected to arrive in Ireland on the 15th May and stay in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

The timing of the visit has been complicated by the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on the 29th April.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Gorse Clearance

Well I've been on the go all day. I left this morning before ten and met Craig and other volunteers at the Banks car park at Ballyholme, County Down.

There were about eighteen of us today. Our task was to clear an area of land near the coast at Ballymacormick of gorse.

We managed to clear a fair bit, though there remains quite a lot. We lit a bonfire and burned the branches of gorse that we'd cut.

The prospect from here, across Belfast Lough and beyond, is wonderful on a sunny day.