Monday, 31 December 2007

Tesco California Zinfandel

I braved the elements this afternoon in order to obtain the requisite staples of bread and milk; mind you, the old shopping list was longer than that. Connswater was very busy: I headed for Tesco and, at the wine department, selected a bottle of Rioja to take to my cousin and her family on New Year's Day.

I noticed the wine assistant and asked if there was any Zinfandel wine in stock. Tesco's finest hasn't been in stock for ages; however, they had an own-label Californian Zinfandel on the shelf which was a snip at £3.74. I'd never tried it before so took a chance.

I opened it later in the afternoon and, surprise surprise, it was very palatable indeed; not at all like that awful Tesco Gigondas which tasted to me like red vinegar.

Tesco describe it as " a rich, rounded wine with ripe blackberry and raspberry flavours" and, for once, I'd say that's pretty accurate. It's the sort of wine you could drink on its own even. Category C, rich & smooth, from California's Central Valley. It's 13% proof and has a beige label with black writing.

Very good value.

David Lloyd Twelve Day Pass

I drove the eight minutes it takes to get to David Lloyd Leisure this morning, it being Day Twelve of my guest pass.

It has been an enjoyable experience and I have made full use of my pass. The gym is easily the best-equipped I've ever used; facilities, like the outdoor heated swimming-pool, are second to none.

Being New Year's Eve, today was relatively busy, the car park being almost full.

I still cannot decide which club to join yet.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Belfast Shopping Trip

I'm just back from a visit into Belfast city centre. It appeared to be fairly crowded, business brisk enough, to me. I managed to get a parking space in Donegall Street, opposite the Cathedral.

The first port-o'-call was the second-hand book shop in North Street, where I checked to see if they had any more P G Wodehouse ; there were several Jeeves ones & I've got 'em all. No purchase there, then.

I ambled on up the street, to Braddell's where a small khaki fleece caught my eye; it seemed to be great value and I need one for my NT voluntary work, so I asked the assistant if he'd take two pounds off which he readily did, and I bought it.

At Marks & Spencer I bought some thermal vests; and from there I headed towards Wellington Place. I made a wonderful discovery in Wellington Place, namely a shop called Best Vintage where I couldn't resist two pairs of Levi White Tab corduroy jeans, which were in excellent condition and I managed to snap up for twenty pounds. I'll be back there again.

Walking on down the street, I entered Parsons & Parsons and, to my surprise, both its men's and ladies departments have closed down. The shop looked quite empty. Chatting for awhile to the assistant, he explained that the Hire Department was now the only profitable part of the company. I imagine the closure of the main shop is what could be termed a sign of the times. Parsons must have been one of Belfast's oldest menswear retailers, though I was told that the tailoring will remain.

So, two hours or so later, I drove home for a soft refresher in the form of a good old British cup of tea.

Johnny Goes To Scotland

Johnny Kingdom's trip to Scotland with his wife, on BBC Two last night, was a highlight. They stayed for a few days at the Aigas country estate home of Sir John Lister-Kaye, Bt, OBE and his wife Judy, Lady Lister-Kaye.

It really is a joy to watch Johnny's enthusiasm for wildlife and his down-to-earth approach. Did that kilt he wore to dinner match the tartan carpet? Perhaps Sir John lent it to him!

Sir John is, of course, a celebrated conservationist, naturalist and author; so his re-introduction of beavers to Scotland and his country estate has been an admirable feat. He showed us a beaver's scull with those very large teeth: little wonder they can gnaw through trees.

New Year Honours 2008

I always find it intriguing to see the biannual Honours lists. Don't bother trying to find my name on the latest list: you may have thought I'd have been honoured for blogging services. Although many of the recipients are public servants (including military) and their awards are dependent on their rank, there are always a few pleasant surprises. Few will begrudge the genial chat-show host, Michael Parkinson, CBE, his knighthood for instance: he is now Sir Michael Parkinson, CBE.

I have noticed that the director-general of the National Trust, Fiona Reynolds, CBE, now becomes Dame Fiona Reynolds, DBE; so she is now a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

I won't comment on the Ulster recipients although I note that the most senior recipient in Northern Ireland is the top civil servant, Nigel Hamilton, who is now a Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath and becomes Sir Nigel Hamilton, KCB. Most, if not all, of his illustrious predecessors are also KCBs.

Suffice it to say that cordial congratulations are due to most of the Ulster recipients.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Insurance Anxiety

I've been causing myself needless anxiety today over the annual round of Insurance Renewals. Our home insurance and car insurance both expire in January, so I have been shopping around on the web, at the library reading the Which? magazines and at the local broker.

I must have spent hours doing this; an added complication being that we were burgled a few years ago, and our car was stolen too.

When completing some insurance forms it's easy to feel that you, the innocent victim, are partially culpable and, accordingly, must pay for the crimes.

I think I may well give the business to our local broker; a spot of help from them could have been useful at the time of our burglary.

I have also been pondering over which health/leisure club to join: I've discounted Avoniel Leisure Centre which would cost me £29 per month (even with restrictive use of the pool); I rather like the CIYMS gym, though it is rather basic especially compared with David Lloyd's gym. I was a member of Fitness First for a year and didn't like the atmosphere there. I've also visited the NI civil service club at Dundonald, which is OK but has no pool.

That leaves Esporta, David Lloyd and Castlereagh leisure centre. The former two must be about £50 off-peak, which I think is very expensive at £600 annually. Castlereagh is about £23 a month, or £280 annually.

Decisions, decisions...

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

To The Manor Born

I watched the hour-long revival of the BBC's To the Manor Born last night; I have fond enough memories of the original three series which ran from 1979 till 1981, so I didn't want to miss seeing the old cast a quarter-century on.

It was certainly a joy to see Grantleigh Manor again and the gate-lodge. Four of the original cast's characters were still there: Audrey, Richard, Marjory and the Rector. They all looked well, particularly the Rector who must be a good age (I thought he was old in 1982!). In fact I have just learned that he is eighty-two years old.

Of the other characters, admittedly I was somewhat indifferent towards the new butler, Emmeridge; and the other fellow whom, I think, was Audrey's nephew.

I have no knowledge about whether the original script-writer wrote this or not; if anyone knows perhaps they could let me know?

I missed Brabinger, Ned and Mrs Polouvicka; still, overall it was good, entertaining stuff.

BBC, any chance of some more revivals from your dusty archives? There must be lots: Keeping Up Appearances, The Good Life. Let's have some nominations...

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Christmas Dinner

We have just enjoyed a most memorable meal, drinking a port earlier in the day. Prior to our meal, we had cocktails.

Without going into too many details, we began with smoked salmon squares accompanied by cherry tomatoes, lettuce, parsley, chives, honey & mustard dressing and lemon. We celebrated with champagne.

Our main course consisted of completely British produce with the exception of the asparagus: free range Ulster turkey, roast potatoes, sausage-meat stuffing, cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon, roast parsnips and asparagus tips along with cranberry sauce.

Our dessert was traditional plum pudding with cream.

Earlier in the day I drove to Redburn Woods for a walk: blue sky, sunny, crisp & dry though cold. In the middle of the woods I spotted a pair of great tits; no need for binoculars and a beautiful sight to behold. They must have seen me coming! Their loud, raucous sound, flitting from tree to tree, warned each other of my presence. I don't see very many great tits at home; the occasional blue tit & coal tit. There was a splendid view of Belfast Lough and Palace Barracks. No sign of life at the barracks: we've only got a few thousand troops in the Province now, so perhaps they were still in bed!

Seasonal Greetings

Looking out of my bedroom window, it is a crisp and frosty Christmas morning and the roof-tops are coated with with icing.

I shall light a log fire this morning, venturing out to retrieve some kindling and firewood.

A very merry and peaceful Christmas to all.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Celebratory Luncheon At Portaferry Hotel

We enjoyed an informal bar lunch today at the Portaferry Hotel. It was still quiet in the lounge bar when we arrived about half-past twelve. I hadn't been to the hotel for many years, so it was interesting to see the bar, the ambience being most agreeable. Very clean and tidy, it appeared to have been redecorated quite recently. There were largish cushions with a Titanic motif. Staff were very attentive, smartly dressed, courteous and remembered to ask if our food was all satisfactory. Our waiter was from Slovenia.

We sat at table forty-nine which was at the window overlooking the sea. We had wild mushroom risotto; scampi, salad and chips; sticky toffee pudding with cream; and two beverages. Portions were ample for us. The food was of a high standard and the total bill amounted to £26.75. As I mentioned earlier, I thought the service was very good, so we left them a ten per cent tip.

I look forward to returning there next year.

Yuletide Pub Crawl

National Trust staff invited me to join them at the Crown Bar last night for drinks so, having checked train times, I cycled down to the nearest station and took the train to Great Victoria Street. Surprisingly, a return ticket cost a mere £1.50.

Having arrived at the station, I walked across to the Crown which was heaving; I could hardly get through the throng. The NT party was in a snug and I noticed a pile of money on the table, so I threw in a twenty pound note. There were about a dozen of us and we remained there for another two hours till it was suggested that we move on to White's Tavern, off High Street; so we all plodded through the city centre (which was like fairyland with Christmas lights etc) to White's. It was just as busy as the Crown, the bar counter being two or three deep and the place like a rugby scrum!

I was kindly offered a lift home at the end of the evening, ambling down again to fetch my bike.

Friday, 21 December 2007

The Prodigal Turkey Chase

I have wasted about half a tank of liquid cognac, sorry petrol (about the same price) this week queueing in traffic. I've been attempting to obtain a small turkey breast joint, which can usually be found in Tesco or Sainsbury.

Astoundingly enough, neither of them had small 500g joints in stock; I then ventured to my local Marks & Spencer store and, lo and behold, they had a fine-looking small, free-range turkey breast joint basted in butter. Just what I was looking for. I think it cost about £6.49 or thereabouts.

This afternoon we had a glass of Tesco Finest Gigondas wine, reduced in price to £5.99 I think. Little wonder. Friends, if you enjoy a tipple of neat red vinegar, look no further than this stuff. Never again.

So much energy is expended at Christmas, so much stress; it shouldn't be that way!

Thursday, 20 December 2007


I needed to deliver our Christmas presents to my aunt and uncle in south Belfast today, so I thought I'd treat myself to lunch at Fulton's Fine Furnishings in Boucher Crescent, Belfast.

The traffic was very heavy and it must have taken me almost forty minutes to get there. At least the queue at the restaurant was small enough; I decided to have the chicken & ham flan with salad and coleslaw, which I hugely enjoyed. It was scrumptious. A generous portion of flan, filled with big chunks of chicken and ham in a rich, creamy sauce. Fulton's have a lovely tangy dressing on the side-table which diners can help themselves to liberally.

I enquired if desserts were served in half-portions: in a word, no. Pity, because I fancied a bit of the lemon meringue pie; however the helpings are very generous and I knew that it would be too much so, sadly, I declined.

The meal cost £6.80. Can't wait to return, hopefully when the traffic is considerably lighter. Fulton's Hawthorne Restaurant is one of my favourite self-service establishments in the Province.

Viscount Severn

I have just learned that TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex have a new son, who will undoubtedly take his father's second title Viscount Severn. Wonderful news, and Lord Severn is, like me, a Christmas baby too.

When Prince Edward succeeds to his father's titles, he will become HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and Lord Severn will become Earl of Merioneth.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

My Spaghetti Bolognese

I made the most delicious Spaghetti Bolognese this evening. It's not authentic, it's my own home-made recipe and I made it as follows:-

I used a small, non-stick saucepan and fried 250g of lean mince steak till browned; then I took the mince out on to a plate and chopped up a rasher of bacon with scissors, frying it till crisp; then to this, I fried a small onion with two cloves of garlic. When this was cooked well, I added sugar to taste and a dollop of honey (my v sweet tooth!); and added the mince to the onion. I seasoned this mixture and added a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a tablespoon of rich ketchup and basil. Finally, I added a small jar of original Dolmio sauce. I simmered this mixture gently.

In a large saucepan with boiling, salted water I cooked 150g of spaghetti for about ten minutes. Then I added the sauce to the drained pasta and mixed it all up in the saucepan the American way! I topped this with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

I served this on hot plates with a garnish of chives and cherry tomatoes. It was one of the very best I have ever tasted. This is sufficient for two.

Passport To Glasgow

I collected my aunt this morning to take her to Belfast City Airport for a flight with Ryanair to Prestwick Airport. It was a fine winter's day and we drove there quickly. So we said our goodbyes and I drove off for Marks & Spencer.

When I got home about half an hour later, the phone rang and it was my aunt to drop a bombshell: she had been refused at check-in because she did not have her passport or eligible identification. Airlines are so rigorous nowadays about this, what with tough security measures etc. So I drove back to the airport and brought her home. Fortunately enough, she was able to obtain a flight that afternoon with Flybe, the Ryanair offering being the next day. Prior to this, I managed to get to David Lloyd's for fifty lengths of the pool, a steam up and a jacuzzi.

You really cannot be too careful these days, especially when flying.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Homage To Fudge

I'm rather enjoying Monday evenings in, at present. There is a string of programmes I don't like to miss: Junior Mastermind; University Challenge; a delightful repeat of Rick Stein's Food Heroes Christmas Special featuring dear Chalky (RIP) which, I confess, brought a little dewiness to the eye. The televisual highlight was Monarchy: The Royal Family At Work. I have always had immense admiration for HM The Queen and our Royal Family. This programme reinforces my view.

During the evening we opened a carton of fudge which we'd been given as a present. My mother always used to make fudge at this time of the year and the fudge we tasted this evening was close in taste to Mother's. The Observer newspaper reckons it is "the world's best fudge" and I won't disagree with that. It's simply called Burnt Sugar Original Crumbly Fudge and is made by a company called Burnt Sugar which seems to be based in Oxfordshire. I've also tried Sainsbury's Taste The Difference fudge, which I think is very good; and Thornton's has a good flavour too. However, I think the Burnt Sugar fudge has the edge. I see it has only six ingredients, which is to its credit: no long list of additives etc.

Colin Cather, who is the managing director of Burnt Sugar and a fellow Ulsterman, has just told me that their fudge is now available in Tesco & Sainsbury.

Indian Foodfest

We headed over to my Aunt's last night along with other members of the family circle, and phoned the Ganges Indian restaurant in Holywood to order a takeaway meal for delivery. It took about forty-five minutes to arrive, the driver having to phone because he couldn't find us!

We enjoyed a variety of food, ranging from onion bhajis to Chicken Korma, Bhuna and nan breads. Tasty and enjoyable. None of us drank too much: we had to drive home. Nevertheless, we celebrated Christmas with a glass of bubbly each; closely followed by a spot of karaoke, my aunt and I both liking to exercise the vocal chords as often as possible. We arrived home just after ten.

My cousin creates the most wonderful hand-made Christmas cards and it's always a delight to receive them. I meant to ask her if she had ever considered starting her own website with an online mail-order business.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Dear Cod, Where Art Thou?

I believe I can tell a good piece of cod when I see it. I ought to, I've bought and consumed it often enough from fishmongers.

In my book, a worthy portion of cod must be quite thick, say one inch (or 2.5cm if you're more familiar with euro-babble); if cooked properly it should be moist and flaky; it ought to be pure white; and it should not smell too fishy when raw.

Having ordered cod from two Fish & Chip shops recently (I ordered cod & chips last night from the Silver Leaf Cafe, Belmont Road; and previously John Dory's, Holywood Road) the fish served to me has not exactly fitted the above description: it has been thin, off-white and with tiny flakes. Perhaps it's a sign of the times, what with stocks of cod not being what they were. It could be seasonal even. So I'll continue to seek a fish and chip shop in my vicinity for really good cod. I'd gladly try pollock but it's never on the menus ( I wonder why?).

Good chefs will tell you that only way to be sure of good cod is to buy it raw from a decent fishmonger, which I have done from time to time. It's such a bore having to de-bone it with pliers, clean it, make a batter, heat the deep fryer and clean up all the oil which spits liberally all over the place that I am usually not bothered going down the DIY route.

At any rate, my quest continues and I'll try the Belmont Bethany the next time.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

The Mount Stewart Hard Core

I left home at nine this morning for Mount Stewart and the weekend National Trust Volunteers: admittedly it wasn''t our best turnout, three of us having turned up; however, it is Christmas and other regulars had doubtless other things to occupy themselves.

We walked to Anne's Point, where there is a lagoon and, armed with bin bags, collected discarded litter on our way back to the estate. Close to the old gasworks we noticed a dead badger, always sad to see, so we moved it to the side of the track in readiness for collection later along with about four bagfuls of litter.

Afterwards, we walked to the Bay Restaurant at Mount Stewart for tea and a tasty portion of almond tart; and then went our separate ways homeward.

I refuelled at the Asda petrol station in Newtownards: couldn't resist the price. Still under a pound a litre.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

The Munificence Of The Royal Mail

I have received several more Christmas cards from our postman today and two thirds of them were unfranked, equivalent to fifty-six pence. It happened yesterday too. I must take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to Royal Mail management. Their largesse at this time of the year is indeed boundless. I am glad to be making this contribution towards the recycling of unfranked stamps.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Well Done Old Chap!

I have just returned home from B&Q and Sainsbury's (abundant police cones along the way in preparation for the grand opening of Ikea on Thursday), and the assistant at B&Q noticed me holding my mother's discount card (which I was not going to use; I keep it with some vouchers). The young assistant, however, spotted the card and asked me for it!

This is the second time I've been given Seniority recently, to my benefit I hasten to add. Most amusing. The assistant at Sainsbury's and I both had a laugh about it when I told her what had occurred.

Long may it last!

The Finest Butter?

I wonder if anyone has noticed how pale most commercial butters are now? My hotel in London used little pats of salted Anchor butter, which seemed to be a richer colour. The flavour was very good too, I thought at the time.

On returning home, I purchased some Anchor butter and it just didn't seem as creamy. Are hotels sold superior branded products in order that we buy them from the shelves; more likely it's all in my imagination. So I have tried most NI butters available, all the well-known brands, and they all seem much the same. Pale and lacking taste. Intriguingly, whilst in the Canary Islands earlier this year, I bought some Irish Kerrygold butter (which I don't buy at home; it definitely had a great flavour, it must be admitted).

I've also tasted most supermarket own-brand butters, although I'm wondering if the so-called luxury ones are worth the extra: the Cornish or French types? Any recommendations or tips are awaited with eagerness!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

David Lloyd Leisure

My aunt has very generously given me a twelve day pass for David Lloyd, which has a club just outside Belfast at Dundonald; so this is the second day I've been at the club. Lloyd's claim to be the UK's leading health club, and I can well believe that. I've been a member of various clubs, including Avoniel Leisure Centre which is a Council facility; Fitness First; and, more recently, CIYMS. For thirty years (oh dear) I've been swimming at my old school, whose coat-of-arms bears the legend and motto Ne Obliviscaris: those in authority there appear to have about as much interest in maintaining the pool as turkeys have in Christmas so, consequently, the pool has seen much better days and, moreover, must have a fully qualified Manager & life-guard to remain open to us. It is presently closed, so I haven't been swimming since the end of June.

As a consequence of these events, I now seek alternative options and David Lloyd is undoubtedly excellent. Its gym is, by far, the best I have ever used. I swam in the outdoor pool today and there was so much steam rising from it that I could only see from under the water.

I can drive to Lloyd's in eight minutes; haven't decided whether to join yet and I expect the monthly fee to be about £50, so I'll make a decision in the New Year. I'd certainly begrudge any joining fee so I'll play hard-ball regarding that.

I am tempted. You could easily spend a half day or more there.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Hail, Mini-Motorbike

I sometimes wonder if any good citizens have ever, like me, been roused from their slumber at, say, five-thirty in the morning by the sound of a very loud, raucous, rasping noise? Breaking wind, you think; no, not that. I believe it comes from what is now known as the mini-motorbike. Possibly to its credit, the Mini-motorbike is surely economical, takes up little space on our highways, carries at least one occupant to their destination; and is, presumably, relatively cheap to tax and insure.

Having got those facts out of the way, I'll get stuck in: most, if not all, of them seem to have no silencers making them probably the most anti-social two-wheeled pests on the road. As you've by now gathered, I don't like them. I detest them. Let's have some legislation to regulate their very high decibels and ban mini-motorbikes from Northern Ireland's roads.

That's my gripe over for the day!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

The Charming Goldfinch

Looking out of the window earlier I watched our flock, or charm, of wild goldfinches. They've been coming to my feeders for years now; probably all brothers, sisters, parents, cousins & various relatives amongst themselves. I love goldfinches; I'd take my chances and be one in the Next Life, given the option. We must have up to two dozen, and they munch away on sunflower hearts and nyjer seeds throughout the day, most days of the year. I think they're quite late risers but, when they arrive, they perch on the feeders for ages and ages non-stop. It was a delight to see the chicks and juveniles this summer.

Evening Out At Bistro Iona In Holywood

Last Night we dined out at an old haunt of many summers, the Bistro Iona in Holywood, County Down. We weren't disappointed. The dinner date had originally been arranged by Godmother who had tried to book the Dirty Duck; it was fully booked, so the Iona it was. Fortunately enough, I managed to park right outside the place. They have an "early bird" menu which costs £13 for two courses at present; and this turned out to be very good value. I really do like this little restaurant; in many ways it is quite traditional, what with white table-cloths etc. They always bring a basket of really fresh French bread and butter to the table; an added bonus being that it is still unlicensed. Godmother brought some wine, which was partly imbibed.

As far as I can recall, there were about four starters and four main courses to choose from. I opted for a deliciously retro prawn cocktail served in a Martini glass! Lots of juicy prawns; followed by the most tender confit of duck in a sauce with mash & sweet red cabbage. Indeed, all three of us had the duck, and we all deemed it the best we'd tasted for a long time.

All in all, I suppose we stayed there for about two hours. I noticed a table of six near us had brought a bottle of Bollinger along with them.

Godmother invited us back to her pad for coffee; however, we declined, mainly because I wanted to see the final episode of The Tudors (BBC at its best). Poor old Cardinal Wolsey and the chap burned at the stake. After that, I couldn't miss Max & Paddy's Road To Nowhere before retiring to a spot of Jeeves in the Offing.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Drive To Belfast City Hospital

It doesn't seem to have ceased raining all week; nevertheless, we left home before nine this morning for the City Hospital where my mother had an appointment. I hate paying for the privilege of parking at hospitals and, since my mother has a Blue Badge, I waited at the six-bay disabled section adjacent to the hospital for about twenty minutes; all to no avail sadly. So we drove around the corner to a pay-park. We must have been almost two hours, which cost £1.50. Not too bad I suppose, considering that everything else went relatively smoothly. I'm very careful where I park the Z4 at any rate.

I had left two pairs of shoes at the excellent Botanic Shoe Repairs a week ago, so took the opportunity of collecting them; a pair of black loafers & a pair of suede chukka boots with "Dainite" soles. An excellent job at a very reasonable £16.50. Here's a chap who takes a pride in his work.

I made a spot of Pasta Casserole this afternoon, closely followed by a restorative of Hine cognac.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Magical Killynether

We all must start somewhere, so I have decided to initiate my own Blog from the Province.
On Saturday morning, I met other like-minded National Trust weekend volunteers at the delightful Killynether Wood, near Scrabo in County Down, for some hazel coppicing. Armed with saws, loppers, gloves and packed lunches we ventured out to the middle of the woods and spent about four or five hours cutting away. It was quite a good turn-out, with about ten of us on this occasion.
My usual packed lunch of Tesco cheese-and-onion sandwiches (great value and VG) with a flask for tea was included.

I decided to indulge in a fish supper that evening, so thought I'd try the Silver Leaf Cafe on the Belmont Road for a change: what a discovery! Quick & friendly service from a very courteous lady at the counter, a fine and chunky piece of cod with crispy batter and home-made chips. I'll definitely be there again (up to now I've been going to Dory's on the Holywood Road, but if the Silver Leaf maintains its standards I'll give them my custom every other Saturday).

It was such a cold, wet evening that, after much deliberating, I decided to drive to the Odyssey to see the much-lauded American Gangster movie: what a great film, worthy of five stars indeed. I was irritated at having to queue for about fifteen minutes at the cinema for my ticket, only to discover that any counter could be used to buy tickets. Consequently, I just managed to make the seven o'clock start. Well worth it. Even better because I was sold a Senior ticket (£4) and I'm under 47! Admittedly I wore my usual traditional classics of Barbour, tweed hat, brolly etc, so the young fellow misjudged the matter to my benefit.