Saturday, 31 December 2011

Post-Nominal Letters

The Orders of Knighthood, awards and medals have changed little in time. They all remain largely the same, although There have been a few omissions and amendments, like the Order of St Patrick, the Order of the Star of India and the Order of the Indian Empire, which are now virtually extinct. There have been no conferments since about 1947.

In Northern Ireland, the Duke of Abercorn is a KG; the Right Rev the Lord Eames is a Member of the Order of Merit (OM); the former Chief Constable of the RUC, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, is a GBE.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary was presented with the George Cross by HM The Queen at Hillsborough Castle in 1999.

Heads of the NI Civil Service are customarily appointed KCBs. Retiring Lord-Lieutenants usually become KCVO or CVO.

The Victoria Cross (VC) and George Cross (GC) precede all other letters, with the sole exception of the abbreviations "Bt" or "Bart" (for a baronet).

VC
GC
  1. KG
  2. KT
  3. GCB
  4. OM
  5. GCMG
  6. GCVO
  7. GBE
  8. CH
  9. KCB/DCB
  10. KCMG/DCMG
  11. KCVO/DCVO
  12. KBE/DBE
  13. CB
  14. CMG
  15. CVO
  16. CBE
  17. DSO
  18. LVO
  19. OBE
  20. ISO
  21. MVO
  22. MBE

    2012 New Year Honours

    NORTHERN IRELAND


    I wish to express my delight and felicitations to Lord Erne, whose seat is Crom Castle, on the most senior award to be given in Northern Ireland in the 2012 New Year Honours.

    The second highest Honour goes to Judith Hill CBE, who becomes Dame Judith Hill DBE.

    The Royal Victorian Order

    KNIGHT COMMANDER - KCVO

    The Rt Hon Henry George Victor John [Crichton], Earl of Erne.  Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh.


    Companion of the Most Honourable Order of Bath (CB)

    Mrs Carol Patricia Moore, Lately Director, Justice Policy, Northern Ireland Executive


    The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire

    Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire - DBE

    Professor Judith Eileen Hill CBE, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Hospice. For services to people receiving palliative care in Northern Ireland.

    Commanders of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)

    • Mrs Catherine Elizabeth Bell, Deputy Secretary, Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland Executive.
    • Professor Jack Crane, State Pathologist, Northern Ireland State Pathologist's Department.  For services to forensic pathology.

    Officers of the Civil Divsion of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)

    • Mr David William Best, Director of Finance and Support Services, Police Service of Northern Ireland. For services to policing.
    • Mr Darren Christopher Clarke, For services to golf.
    • Mr James Dobson, Managing Director, Dunbia. For services to business in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr James Stephen Foster, Head of Corporate Real Estate and Sourcing, EMEA, JP Morgan Chase. For services to the financial services industry in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr David Alexander Gibson, Senior Lecturer, Enterprise Education, Queen's University Belfast. For services to Higher Education in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr David Dunbar Mawhinney, Managing Director, Equiniti-ICS. For services to the Information and Communications Technology industry in Northern Ireland.
    • Mrs Fionnuala McAndrew, Director of Children and Executive Director for Social Work, Health and Social Care Board. For services to healthcare in Northern Ireland.
    • Professor James Andrew McLaughlin, Professor, Advanced Functional Materials, University of Ulster. For services to research and economic development in Northern Ireland.
    • The Reverend Wilfred John Orr, Minister, Newtownbreda (St John’s) Presbyterian Church. For services to the community in Northern Ireland.
    • Miss Shelagh Rosemary Rainey, Chair, Belfast Education and Library Board. For services to education in Northern Ireland.
    • The Reverend William Alexander Shaw, Director, 174 Trust. For services to the community in North Belfast.
    • Ms Joanne Stuart, Director, Attrus Ltd and former Chairman, Institute of Directors, Northern Ireland Division. For services to business in the community.

    Members of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)

    • Mrs Esther Robina Yvette Anderson, Musical Director, Police Service of Northern Ireland Ladies Choir. For services to music and to the community.
    • Mr Philip Moore Bolton, Director of Music, Royal Belfast Academical Institution. For services to music in Northern Ireland.
    • Mrs Beverley Eleanor Ann Burns, Trading Standards Service, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Northern Ireland Civil Service.
    • Dr Samuel John Burnside, For services to the arts in Northern Ireland.
    • Dr Linda Margaret Caughley, Consultant Histopathologist. For voluntary services to Northern Ireland Cancer Registry.
    • Mr Brian Dorman, For voluntary services to children overseas.
    • Mr Jeffrey Edward Anthony Dudgeon, For services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Northern Ireland.
    • Dr Charles Herbert Gerard Gould, Chairman, Board of Governors, Carrickfergus Grammar School. For services to education in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr Robert James Haughey, For services to the fishing industry in Northern Ireland.
    • Dr Raman Kapur, Chief Executive, Threshold. For services to people with mental illness in Northern Ireland.
    • Mrs Eileen May Kenny, Head of Quality, South West College. For services to Further Education in Northern Ireland.
    • Mrs Lily Kerr, Head of Bargaining and Representation for UNISON. For services to industrial relations in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr George Gordon Archibald Knowles, Welfare Officer, Disabled Police Officers' Association. For services to the community in Northern Ireland.
    • Mrs Renée Alice Logan, Volunteer, North West Ulster Group, Institute of Advanced Motorist. For services to road safety in Northern Ireland.
    • Mrs Flora Magee, For services to the community in Northern Ireland.
    • Mrs Rosemary Magill, For services to Women’s Aid Antrim, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne and Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland.
    • Mrs Anne Marie Marley, Respiratory Nurse Consultant, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. For services to healthcare in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr Henry Irwin Mayne, Social Worker, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. For services to visually impaired people in Northern Ireland.
    • Mrs Ann McCrea, Breastfeeding Co-ordinator.  For services to healthcare in Northern Ireland.
    • Mrs Patricia McDermott, For services to people with disabilities in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr Patrick McGonagle, Managing Director of Pakflatt Ltd. For services to economic development in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr Rory McIlroy, Golfer. For services to sport.
    • Mr William James McKittrick, For services to the community in Craigavon, Northern Ireland.
    • Ms Maura Muldoon, For public service.
    • Mrs Robina Parkes, For services to the community in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr James Peel JP, Lately Assistant Senior Education Officer, South Eastern Education and Library Board. For services to young people in Northern Ireland.
    • Alderman John Mervyn Rea, Alderman, Antrim Borough Council. For services to local government and the community.
    • Mrs Agnes Mary Reilly, Chairman, Belfast Titanic Society. For services to maritime and industrial heritage in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr David Robinson, Founder, Northern Ireland Transplant Association. For services to healthcare in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr Robert Moore Robinson, Principal, Rainey Endowed School, Magherafelt. For services to education in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr Richard Michael Sherry, For services to the publishing industry and to the community in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr David Smith, Director, Customer Support, South Eastern Regional College, For services to Further Education in Northern Ireland.
    • Councillor Marion Smith, Councillor, North Down Council. For services to local government in Northern Ireland.
    • Mrs Eileen Watson, Lately Teacher, Ashfield Girls High School, Belfast.  For services to education in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr Thomas Joseph Welsh, For services to the sport of athletics in Northern Ireland.
    • Mr John Victor Williamson, Owner, Valley Hotel, Fivemiletown. For services to tourism in Northern Ireland.

    Queen's Police Medal (QPM)

    • Ms Kim McCauley, Detective Chief Inspector, Police Service of Northern Ireland
    • Mr Alexander Penney, Acting Inspector, Police Service of Northern Ireland
    • Mr Russell Vogan, Sergeant, Police Service of Northern Ireland

    Thursday, 29 December 2011

    Superb Television

    I am recording the BBC's new nature series, Earthflight, this evening.  This programme captures some of the world's greatest wildlife phenomena and natural wonders through the eyes of birds.

    Earthflight provides a bird’s-eye view of the world, joining the journeys of our feathered friends as they soar across six continents.

    Cutting-edge camera work uses "spycams", satellites and hang-gliders, while slow-motion techniques give exquisite detail, be it high in the sky or skimming above the ground.

    The Corporation's latest superb adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations concludes this evening.

    Tuesday, 27 December 2011

    Ulster TA Unit

    On the 10th May, 1958, the Golden Jubilee of the Territorial Army in Northern Ireland, A Review was performed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother at the Royal Naval Air Station Sydenham, Belfast.

    CLICK TO ENLARGE
     

    Sunday, 25 December 2011

    The Noble Wish-List

    COURTESY OF QUENTIN LETTS, ESQ

    Dear Father Christmas, please fill my stocking with the following goodies:

    A referendum on Britain’s future in Europe... Or, a Linguaphone course to brush up my German.

    A new shadow chancellor. The old one doesn’t really work any more.

    A straitjacket to stop George Alagiah waving his arms around so much when he is presenting the BBC News.

    During the Jubilee celebrations, a minute’s standing ovation, nationwide, for the Duke of Edinburgh.

    A protest march through Islington by striking taxpayers.

    An announcement from David Cameron that he is scrapping the Ministerial and Other Pensions and Salaries Act 1991, which granted pay-offs to Cabinet ministers. (The Act was also responsible for setting the Commons Speaker’s indecently generous pension. Double bingo!)

    A gift-wrapped P45 for Dame Suzy Leather, lefty head of the Charity Commission; Grade II listed status for Jeremy Paxman; Prozac for Sir Mervyn King.

    An end to ‘impact assessments’ by Whitehall. They cost the country a fortune and merely create opportunities for lawyers and special interest lobbies.

    A mayoral edict from Boris banning those horrid new London taxis made by Mercedes.

    A reprieve for computer hacker Gary McKinnon, if only to yank the American ambassador’s chain.

    Freedom for the Edinburgh pandas.

    A bishopric for Canon Giles Fraser; elocution lessons for the Archbishop of York.

    A new deputy chairman of the BBC Trust who, unlike the incumbent Diane Coyle, realises that the position is incompatible with working for a political party (she advises Labour’s business spokesman, Chuka Umunna).

    Fewer select committee meetings at Westminster. The system has gone bonkers.  Earlier bedtimes for one and all in the political world.

    An interview with the president of Iran, Mr Dinnerjacket. It would be good to know something about the little chap before we are dragged further towards war.

    More of an effort from the BBC’s world-weary affairs editor, John Simpson.

    Party conference hotel windows which actually open. Air conditioning? Ugh.

    Three cheers and pints of plain all round for the fact that Martin McGuinness so comprehensively tanked in the Irish presidential election.

    Lady Ashton’s air miles; Sir Ming Campbell’s legs; Chloe Smith’s sense of humour (that’s a joke, by the way). A smile from Simon Hughes. Go, on, Si, you can do it.

    Less windbaggery from Speaker [LITTLE] Bercow. And if we taxpayers must shell out for an oil painting, can’t we have a portrait of Nicholas Soames instead of the runty Squeaker?

    A free copy of the Book of Common Prayer for every MP, to improve their vocabulary and remind them of the only ruler of princes.

    A reduction in the number of pop songs on Desert Island Discs.

    A box of hankies for Ed Miliband.

    Scissors, with which to snip the banjo strings of any happy-clappy vicar who threatens to start strumming in church.

    Closure of the Government Equalities Office. If that means the disappearance of equalities minister Lynne Featherstone from government, we must somehow contain our desolation.

    A Railway Children knock on the front door this Christmas for Chris ‘Fangio’ Huhne. A haircut for silly Steve Coogan.

    A Westminster lobby pass for blogger Guido Fawkes. Golly, he’d liven things up.

    A new television screen. I threw the last one out of the window when Alastair Campbell gave evidence to that man Leveson.

    A visit from the Angel Gabriel to Professor Richard Dawkins, to give him the fright of his life.

    Tighter editing at Radio 3, to prevent announcers sounding like Blue Peter presenters.

    A spanking for Max Mosley. No, no, not like that. I mean comeuppance for the privileged libertines who want a privacy law. Keep your gags for guttural girls, Mosley.

    The extinguishing of every other street light in Britain.

    An impossible-to-resist posting to Madrid, by her new employer, of big-bucks lobbyist Miriam Clegg.

    Dumping of the system of Criminal Records Bureau checks which encourages us to regard any adult as a pervy pederast.

    A crossbench peerage for Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch UK. Katharine Birbalsingh and Toby Young might be good in the Upper House, too.

    A butcher voice for George Osborne. Has Ruth Kelly perhaps finished with hers?

    A new panel of X Factor judges: David Starkey, Ruth Lea, Nigel Farage and Chris Eubank.
    Guy-ropes for Signorina Nancy dell’Olio.

    Some foreign aid from India, China, Brazil and any other country we have helped in the past.

    Fire and brimstone from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Shorter sentences from William Cash.

    A raison d’être for Lady D’Souza, absurdly well-paid Speaker of the House of Lords.

    An electoral mandate for the Italian Cabinet.

    A refund from Lady Uddin.

    A spell of prolonged silence from the Supreme Court’s Lady Hale. Not to mention Sally Bercow, Ruby Wax, Quentin Davies and Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary.

    Acceptance by Fleet Street editors, both ‘broadsheet’ and tabloid, that celebrity stories are not real news.

    The name of Julian Assange’s stylist. So that one can avoid him/her.

    Retirement for Sir Gerald Kaufman and Sir Alex Ferguson.

    A computerised train announcement, voiced by Radio 4’s Neil Nunnes, advising passengers that the high-speed rail project has been cancelled.

    An end to the BBC Asian network: spend the money on the World Service instead. Ditto the Asian Who’s Who awards. Tell me, just how are these things not racist?

    A promise from the government that at least 20 ministerial posts will be axed when the number of MPs is reduced. Chopping the number of PPSs would help, too.

    A bottle of Grecian 2000 for Ben Bradshaw.

    An apology from Lords Howe, Heseltine and Brittan.

    A new artistic director at the Royal Shakespeare Company who understands that productions featuring fetish-parlour costumes are a) hackneyed, b) puerile, c) best left to friends of Max Mosley.

    A bailout for the imperilled Guardian. Without the peerless prose of Sir Michael White and Dame Polly Toynbee, British comedy will be bereft.

    A charisma transplant for Theresa May. Dry-cleaning vouchers for Kenneth Clarke. And a playpen for Nick Clegg’s special advisers.

    Quentin Letts writes for the Daily Mail.

    Saturday, 24 December 2011

    Superb Tosca


    I am watching the Royal Opera's production of Tosca this afternoon and, I freely admit, I find it exceedingly poignant. This is a superlative production indeed.

    Bryn Terfel CBE as Baron Scarpia; Angela Gheorghiu (top) as Floria Tosca; and Jonas Kaufmann as Mario Cavaradossi, are all superb. The whole cast is magnificent.

    I look forward to revisiting the Royal Opera House during 2012.

    Today's Television

    Excepting the dozen or more classic (Brett) Sherlock Holmes dramas I have recorded from ITV3; and The Young Victoria movie; I am recording the Royal Opera's production of Tosca on BBC HD this afternoon.

    There will be plenty to watch in the Belmont household, even if the standard fare proves dull.

    The Many Faces of Les Dawson is one to watch this evening. Poirot, as always, features on ITV3.

    In the past I attended the annual carol service at Belfast Cathedral, an occasion when that large church invariably has a "full house" and people begin arriving an hour beforehand.

    Get Well Soon

    Cognizant that Prince Philip shan't wish there to be any fuss in the matter, I simply say that his friends and supporters wish him a speedy recovery in time for Christmas Day and the New Year.

    A few modest restoratives before a blazing log fire should do the trick!

    Friday, 23 December 2011

    Prince Philip Unwell

    My thoughts and prayers are tonight with Prince Philip.

    A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the Duke of Edinburgh was undergoing “precautionary tests” for chest pains at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.

    His Royal Highness was taken to hospital from Sandringham, Norfolk, where the Royal Family traditionally spends its Christmas break.

    In 2008 Prince Philip was treated for a serious chest infection after struggling with a cold.

    On that occasion HRH stayed at the private King Edward VII’s Hospital in London.

    Thursday, 22 December 2011

    Birthday Boy!

    Thank you so much indeed to family, friends and well-wishers for birthday greetings. Today is, of course, my real birthday, as opposed to Lord Belmont's official birthday on the 2nd December!

    Like our Sovereign, I have two birthdays. Ha!

    I nipped into town this morning for some last-minute stuff and collected a free-range Ulster turkey joint.

    I shall be spending the afternoon, or part thereof, at a local restaurant with an old school chum or two.

    This evening I am invited to have a snifter with Godmother.

    Wednesday, 21 December 2011

    Jubilee Brooch

    The Queen has been presented with a new jewelled brooch by a Canadian regiment to mark Her Majesty's forthcoming Diamond Jubilee.

    The brooch was commissioned by the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, of which HM is Captain-General, a position the Sovereign assumed  when she ascended the throne.

    The regiment states that the brooch is encrusted with sixty diamonds to mark the Queen's 60th anniversary of her time on the Throne.

    "This is a gift specifically from Her Majesty's Canadian gunner family and symbolises our gratitude for having this very special relationship between her Majesty and the regiment," said the Colonel Commandant, Lieutenant-General Mike Jeffery, who presented the brooch to the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

    The position of Captain-General is unique to the regiment, but is similar to the Colonel-in-Chief appointment held by other regiments.

    A spokeswoman for the Montreal-based jeweller Birks, which made the piece, said HM was "thrilled to receive such a gift."
    "She's always been very close to the regiment over the years, whenever she comes to Canada she makes a point of visiting the regiment," Eva Hartling said in an interview Tuesday. "So the artillery wanted to present her with a very special gift in honour of this 60th anniversary."
    The brooch was inspired by the regiment's cap badge, which was designed in 1907. It features a profile view of a "9-pounder" field cannon emblazoned with the regiment's motto and the number 60 over the gun wheel, all placed over a maple leaf made of diamonds, platinum and gold.

    A crown on the brooch contains emeralds, rubies and sapphires.

    The brooch was a gift paid for by donations from the regiment and Birks, but Hartling said a similar piece would sell commercially for around £10-£12,000.

    The brooch isn't the first piece of finery Birks has made for the Royal Family:
     "Over the years Birks came to be an official supplier to the royal family," said Hartling adding that the jeweller's Montreal store still has an original royal warrant from the 1930s on hand. "Birks has been commissioned to create a number of pieces that were gifted by different military groups in Canada to the royal family."

    Those pieces include a sterling silver jewel case presented to Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) from the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) in 1947 and a silver tray given to Princess Alexandra of Kent from the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada to celebrate her marriage.

    The Christmas List

    What, I hear you exclaim, could Timothy Belmont ever wish for Christmas? I am quite content with a hearty log fire, abundant drinks and perhaps a few choccies.

    Those items excepted, a black iPad 2 would be beneficial. A bespoke Harris tweed three-piece suit; a few pairs of Turnbull and Asser socks; not forgetting a Victorian idiosyncrasy, the black frock coat, a la Sherlock Holmes (!).

    A year's supply of Lion fruit pastilles; chocolate brazils; Tanqueray gin; a contribution towards a new model Mercedes-Benz SLK. Perhaps a vacation with convivial company on the Bahamas.

    Has one missed anything? No wish to be too demanding. Modest enough list.

    One is Stuffed!

    Despite the vast range of stuffing recipes available, the Belmont household remains traditional and a classic sage-and-onion stuffing is prepared in advance.

    • Large onions, chopped and boiled
    • Fresh white breadcrumbs
    • Dried sage
    • Butter
    • Honey to bind
    • Seasoning
    This is so simple, yet delicious. Boil the onions for about ten minutes. The stuffing need not be stuffed inside the bird: rolling it into a cylindrical shape with tin-foil would also suffice.

    Bon Appetit!

    Monday, 19 December 2011

    The Euro Turkey

    The coming break-up of the single currency makes Britain’s veto seem a mere sideshow, writes Jeff Randall in the Daily Telegraph: 

    As George Osborne prepares his response to the Vickers report on banking reform (the Chancellor is expected to make a Commons statement this afternoon), there’s a growing sense in the City that while Britain upgrades its sprinkler system, a fireball has already engulfed our neighbours.

    Much-needed changes to UK financial legislation, recommended by Vickers, will be enacted by the end of the current parliament, with the overhaul completed by 2019. Nothing wrong with long-term planning, except that with the eurozone in disarray and sovereign defaults looking all but certain, even getting to next Christmas without a fresh banking crisis may prove a wish too far for Santa.

    Those who had bet on a seasonal gift of salvation from this month’s Brussels summit have already lost their wager. With a gun to the head of monetary union, European ministers, in effect, invited bond markets to pull the trigger. Without a new mechanism for very large and permanent fiscal transfers – from the prudent to the profligate – the euro turkey is stuffed.

    The sideshow of David Cameron’s veto will soon be upstaged by the single currency's combustion and the immolation of its weaker members’ economies.

    Confounded by the triumph of remorseless debt over political will, EU leaders have succumbed to collective delirium, promising that future government budgets will be “balanced or in surplus” and that annual structural deficits will “not exceed 0.5 per cent of nominal gross domestic product”.

    There is not one chance in a million that this can be achieved by more than a handful of EU states. When fantasy masquerades as action, the end is nigh.

    One can only marvel at the Micawberism of some in the European press who continue to perform as cheerleaders for a dysfunctional and discredited system. Germany’s Der Spiegel concluded: “The result of [the summit] is a success. A success for the majority of Europeans and for efforts to find a solution to the euro crisis.” 

    Keep taking the tablets, guys.

    Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at New York University, sees it differently: “Papering over solvency problems with financing and liquidity may eventually give way to painful and possibly disorderly restructurings; addressing weak competitiveness and current-account imbalances requires currency adjustments that may eventually lead some members to exit the eurozone.”

    The French, in particular, are finding this hard to swallow. In a new book, The End of the Euro, Johan Van Overtveldt, editor-in chief of Trends, Belgium’s leading business weekly, delivers a harsh verdict:  
    “France’s inability to accept gracefully its political and economic decline has produced additional tension. Le grandeur de la France, once an undeniable reality, is now a thing of the past.” 

    Burdened by an inferiority complex over France’s subordinate relationship with Germany, frustrated by the markets’ sceptical view of the French state’s finances, the elite in Paris lashes out at an imaginary conspiracy among Anglo-Saxon bond investors and their perceived henchmen, the ratings agencies.

    With Fitch, one of the big three, deciding that “a comprehensive solution to the eurozone crisis is technically and politically beyond reach” and Standard & Poor’s, a rival agency, reported to be preparing a downgrade of France’s triple-A status, a sense of persecution is building inside the Elysée Palace. Quel dommage!

    In May 2010, when I wrote a column for this newspaper under the headline “Whatever Germany does, the euro as we know it is dead”, there was a predictable response from the usual suspects, accusing me of economic illiteracy and xenophobia.

    Today, it seems, I’m in good company. The Economist, not known as a flag-waver for Little Englanders, opines: 
    “As investors and voters lose faith, the task of saving the single currency grows harder. Sooner or later, the euro will be beyond saving.”

    It’s a view shared by many whose livelihoods depend on forecasting global events and adjusting their finances accordingly. Few believe that the euro will disappear altogether, but a growing number expect it to be reconstructed, shorn of members who can neither accept the rules nor afford the fees.

    Last week, I pre-recorded a Christmas special for Sky News at which Sir Philip Hampton, Royal Bank of Scotland’s chairman, was a guest. Asked if the euro would hold together in 2012, he said: 
    “I think it’s likely that one country, a small country, will drop out. It could be any of them because these things will be driven by political events as much as by economic circumstances.”

    Would such an outcome trigger a banking Armageddon? On this, Sir Philip was only slightly more guarded:
    “Some banks will be under particular strain, but I don’t think the banking system as a whole. The banking system as a whole can deal with Greece.”

    Social cohesion, however, is a different matter. As if to bat back France’s recent aspersions on Britain’s creditworthiness, Sir Philip predicted a wave of unrest across the Channel:
    “France has got an unmatched history of getting on to the streets and making a big noise. I’m amazed the French have been so subdued. I don’t think it will continue: they will be on the streets in 2012.” 

    Cher Sarko, you have been warned.
     
    Jeff Randall’s 'Christmas Dinner’ with RBS’s chairman Sir Philip Hampton, Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King and Imperial Tobacco’s chief executive Alison Cooper will be broadcast on Sky News at 7.30pm on December 22.

    Friday, 16 December 2011

    New DL

    APPOINTMENT OF DEPUTY LIEUTENANT

    Mrs Joan Christie OBE, Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, has been pleased to appoint Dr Stephen Bailie TD  to be a Deputy Lieutenant of the County, his Commission bearing date the 19th day of October 2011

    Joan Christie, Lord Lieutenant of the County

    Paddy the Biker!

    Richard Kay, the columnist, tells us about the antics of Lord Clanwilliam, a friend of HM The King of Bahrain. The 6th Earl of Clanwilliam was Paddy Clanwilliam's cousin twice removed and lived at Montalto, near Ballynahinch, in County Down:


    When King Hamad of Bahrain flew into Heathrow this week on a charm-offensive, which included meeting David Cameron at Downing Street, he was anxious to make a good impression.

    Alas, the visit took an unexpected turn after the King’s long-standing friend the Earl of Clanwilliam, better known as Old Etonian public relations smoothie Paddy Gillford, chose to meet the monarch at the airport on a Harley-Davidson which has the Bahraini flag painted on in camp Priscilla Queen Of The Desert-style.

    The police, I am told, were not keen on the PR man joining the convoy into central London. But he was permitted to follow the entourage, which had police outriders escorting the party up the M4.

    But disaster struck at Earls Court where there was a collision between Gillford’s motorcycle and the limousine transporting Bahrain’s ambassador to London, Alice Samaan, who only last week presented her credentials to the Queen.

    Although shaken by the accident, which happened on Tuesday, by yesterday she and her staff were light-heartedly referring to it as a ‘diplomatic incident’.

    Thursday, 15 December 2011

    The Hollister Experience

    Doubtless you'll be glad to know that the condition of Mersey Street has not improved for cyclists since my last journey. It is a notable example of Roads Disservice handiwork.

    Well I donned several layers of heavy clothes, including the weighty British Warm overcoat, and mounted the trusty two-wheeler for the trip into Belfast.

    Having done a spot of research at the venerable old Linenhall Library, I walked across the streets to Sawers delicatessen in College Street, where I purchased some rashers of streaky smoked bacon, hand-carved. I requested that it be sliced extra thinly, because I favour my streaky bacon very crisp.

    At Victoria Square shopping centre I wandered about rather aimlessly, till I encountered a curious shop, ostensibly nameless, with a queue of people outside.

    I spoke to a lady opposite and asked her if this was Hollinger's new store. Yes, it was. My pal Mairi had told me about it, though I couldn't get its name quite correct.

    A glutton for punishment and with a little time to spare, I boldly joined the queue. Then I noticed their name just above the ground: Hollister Co.

    For those readers who are unaware of Hollister, it is a division of Abercrombie and Fitch, originally designed to attract consumers aged 14–18, at a lower price point than the parent brand, through its SoCal-inspired image and casual wear.

    I had to wait for seven or eight minutes till I was permitted to enter. Hollister has successfully created a certain image for itself, I'll grant them that. I ambled round the store, getting a feel for it.

    Whilst Timothy Belmont would not be averse to being kitted out in their apparel, I feel I'd need a lady beside me for guidance. Dressed in my heavy overcoat, scarf, gloves and Trilby hat, I felt more like a protagonist in Downton Abbey than a preppy Californian teenager. Ha!

    Wednesday, 14 December 2011

    Diamond Jubilee

    Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, will mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a series of regional visits and engagements throughout the United Kingdom during 2012.

    The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, supported by other members of the Royal Family, will be travelling as widely as possible across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    In addition, members of the Royal Family will travel overseas representing The Queen throughout the Diamond Jubilee year, visiting every Realm as well as undertaking visits to Commonwealth countries, Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories.

    Her Majesty has asked that these visits include the following:

    • The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea
    • The Prince of Wales: Channel Islands, Isle of Man
    • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge: Malaysia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu
    • Prince Harry: Belize, Jamaica, The Bahamas
    • The Duke of York: India
    • The Earl and Countess of Wessex: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Gibraltar, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago
    • The Princess Royal: Mozambique, Zambia
    • The Duke of Gloucester: British Virgin Islands, Malta
    • The Duke of Kent: Falkland Islands, Uganda
    The Diamond Jubilee central weekend is 2nd-5th June 2012 and will consist of the following:

    Saturday 2nd June, 2012:

    The Queen will attend the Epsom Derby.

    Sunday 3rd June, 2012
    The Big Jubilee Lunch: Building on the already popular Big Lunch initiative, people will be encouraged to share lunch with neighbours and friends as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. This may take the form of a traditional street party or a picnic lunch in small or larger groups. This event is being organised by the Big Lunch.
    The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant: This event will take place on the Thames and consist of up to 1,000 boats assembled from across the UK, the Commonwealth and around the world. The Queen will travel in the Royal Barge which will lead the flotilla. This event is being organised by the Thames Diamond Jubilee Foundation.

    Monday 4th June, 2012 
    BBC Concert at Buckingham Palace: There will be a televised Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace with tickets being available to UK residents by public ballot. The musical programme for the concert is still being planned and is expected to feature British and Commonwealth musicians. Details on how to apply for the concert will be available in due course. This event is being organised by the BBC.
    The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Beacons: A network of 2,012 Beacons will be lit by communities and individuals throughout the United Kingdom, as well as the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, British Overseas Territories and the Commonwealth. As in 2002, The Queen will light the National Beacon. The beacons project is being organised by Diamond Jubilee Beacons Ltd.

    Tuesday 5th June, 2012 
    Service of Thanksgiving and Carriage Procession: There will be a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral and a formal carriage Procession by The Queen.

    In addition, the Diamond Jubilee Pageant will take place on 10th, 11th and 13th May 2012 in Windsor. Horses and other acts will travel from all around the world to perform in celebration of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee.

    NT Dinner

    I attended the Mount Stewart (National Trust) annual Christmas dinner party at the Old Inn, Crawfordsburn, County Down, last night. A jolly good evening it was, too. The dinner, comprising about 150 staff (many volunteers), took place in a function room at the back of the hotel on the lower ground floor.

    Although dress was casual, there appeared to be differing degrees as to that actual definition, some younger females being smartly turned out in cocktail dresses, while one or two of their male counterparts wore suits. At the other end of the spectrum, denims and loose-necked shirts were worn. 

    I sat with six others at my table and had prawn cocktail, turkey and plum pudding. A glass of wine was included.

    Later in the evening, some of us left and found a quieter spot in the lounge bar upstairs, where we spent the rest of the evening before departing at about twelve forty-five.

    Sunday, 11 December 2011

    Royal Barge

    The first image has been released of the royal barge that will carry Her Majesty The Queen down the River Thames during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations next year.

    The choice is alas somewhat less lavish than the original plan last year.


    The vessel, MV Spirit of Chartwell, will lead a 1,000-strong flotilla along the river on 3 June, 2012,  as Her Majesty marks 60 years on the throne.

    HM will be joined on board by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and other members of the Royal Family.

    The barge will be adorned with flowers from the Queen's gardens.

    The monarch and her husband will be seated on ornate chairs under a gold canopy as the vessel, MV Spirit of Chartwell, cruises down the Thames.

    The River Thames was a regular thoroughfare for the Sovereign until the middle of the 19th century, on state occasions or between the Royal Palaces of Windsor, Westminster, Hampton Court, Greenwich and the Tower of London.

    There is currently no State Barge, but the MV Royal Nore, owned and maintained by the Port of London Authority, is used whenever a member of the Royal Family travels on the river Thames for an official engagement.

    When the Queen is onboard the Royal Standard and Regalia are displayed and Her Majesty is always accompanied by her Bargemaster, along with eight Royal Watermen in full ceremonial dress standing on the fore deck.

    Cabinet Dissent

    It is claimed that a few members of the Cabinet, including Nick Clegg MP (styled Deputy Prime Minister), is not in concordance over the Prime Minister's action at the Euro-Summit on Friday.

    The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable MP, a Liberal, has declared his dismay.

    Timothy Belmont is unimpressed at the stance of the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke MP, a senior Conservative. He should have known better and if he cannot accept the new Position on the EU, perhaps he ought to consider his own position.

    I was always taught that a fundamental principle of the Cabinet is collective responsibility.

    Implicit in that principle is the notion that any member who feels unable to agree with the Cabinet resigns.

    In past times, it was utterly inconceivable that any Cabinet minister would have publicly expressed their disagreement, let alone criticism of their prime minister.

    I can see why the Liberal members of the Cabinet are unhappy with the way matters have gone in the EU.

    I find it harder to forgive Mr Clarke, a committed "Europhile", who ought to resign from his position. Or he must be dismissed.

    Saturday, 10 December 2011

    Minnowburn Party

    Having had a great dinner and evening with J on Friday evening (Salmon en croute, baby potatoes, medley of vegetables; strawberry and Champagne soufflé; red and white wines), this morning we motored over to Minnowburn for the annual Christmas party held in the Warden's office.

    We had to earn our mulled wine first, though, by digging up the earth in the poly-tunnel!

    It was a jolly festive occasion and Polish dumplings, cocktail sausages, sausage rolls, potato and leek soup, mini quiches, curry and mince pies were all on the table.

    Next Tuesday the National Trust's Mount Stewart Christmas Dinner will be held at the Old Inn in Crawfordsburn, County Down.

    Friday, 9 December 2011

    Merkozy Fiasco

    Timothy Belmont shall not say much about the European fiasco, except to state that I applaud the Prime Minister. I believe and trust that he has acted in, and protected, our best interests.

    London is widely acknowledged as the financial capital of Europe. Merkozy cannot gainsay that fact.

    I watched little Sarkozy churlishly ignoring our Prime Minister; while Mr Cameron was generous and magnamimous enough to acknowledge him.

    Long live the United Kingdom. God save The Queen.

    My estimation of David Cameron has grown.

    Banana Price

    Did anybody view the BBC Panorama programme earlier in the week about our supermarkets? What a revelation it was, and I'm cynical enough.

    I conducted a little exercise this morning at my local Tesco. I weighed a bag of the fun-size bananas I often buy - about five little bananas cost £1.37. The bag was one pound in weight.

    I then looked at the loose bananas and they cost 24 pence per pound.

    I find that fact remarkable.

    My point? Buy loose, unless there is a very good offer.

    Thursday, 8 December 2011

    The Costly Club

    The Spectator has, yet again, published an excellent article on the disadvantages of EU membership. 

    Forget the European Council for a moment. For it is worth highlighting the things that the British Government could do immediately and unilaterally, here at home, to challenge EU power — and without recourse to Brussels whatsoever. And Lee’s paper gives the following six examples:


    1. Commissioning a measured, independent and trustworthy cost-benefit analysis of EU membership. Such an exercise ought to consider both the concrete and abstract costs and benefits of our membership of the EU, and would both set the terms of a mandate for renegotiation and strengthen the hand of the team sent to Brussels seeking it.

    2. Demonstrating an intent and capability to act unilaterally if necessary to improve Britain’s position. The Government should be prepared to begin to pass laws at Westminster including the phrase ‘Notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972’, which would signal a clear intent to unilaterally change the terms of the UK’s relationship with the EU if there is gridlock in Brussels.

    3. A review of the acquis communautaire. A Cabinet Minister should be appointed to review all the treaties, regulations and directives passed by the European institutions and judgements laid down by the Court of Justice in the context of the change in treaty terms.

    4. An end to ‘gold-plating’ of EU regulations. The Government should print EU-sourced legislation on differently coloured paper to focus minds on the areas where the EU is calling the shots and to assist in calculating what proportion of laws originate in Brussels. The regulations should each be subject to a cost-benefit summary and should go no further than the basic text itself in order to avoid ‘gold-plating’ (i.e. extra red tape created by British civil servants).

    5. Increased transparency and scrutiny at Westminster over EU legislation. All meetings of the European Scrutiny Committee should henceforth be held in public session — with no returning to past moves to shut out the public — and there should be greater opportunity for it to refer EU-inspired secondary legislation to the whole House for further scrutiny either in Westminster Hall or on the floor of the Commons. At present, far too many of these laws go through on the nod and without any scrutiny by elected MPs.

    6. Improved use of the national scrutiny reserve.
    Parliament would be brought closer to the law making process, and ministers made more cautious about agreements, if any such agreements were dependent upon domestic approval by MPs after the event.

    These proposals could be implemented with immediate effect. To borrow a phrase from the author of The Spectator's Speech of the Year: if not now, when?

    Elementary, My Dear Belmont

    I expect you are thinking Timothy Belmont has taken leave of his senses, given that I braved the elements and cycled into Belfast this morning. A headwind restrained me going; a tailwind eased the journey homewards.

    That Northern Ireland Roads Disservice, or whatever they call themselves, ought to receive a robust kick where it hurts; or, to emulate Jeremy Clarkson, those in charge ought to be lined up against a wall and bombarded with pellets. The standard of the carriageway on Mersey Street is a disgrace to humanity.

    Now that I have my little rant over, I feel better. I ventured into the Linenhall Library, the subject today being the Fetherston Baronets and the Barony of Barrymore.

    Later I ambled across to Marks and Spencer for some groceries.

    In a second-hand book emporium in North Street, I found a pristine Penguin classic, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, a bargain at £2.

    Duchess of Gloucester in NI


    Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester GCVO today visited the Somme Nursing Home, Belfast, to commemorate the official opening of the new accommodation block. The Somme Nursing Home is a charity established in 1914 to provide treatment and care for service and ex-service personnel.

    Upon arrival HRH was greeted by the Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast, Dame Mary Peters DBE.

    Moving inside the building, HRH met a number of residents, their family members and carers in the Bates Lounge. Colonel Elder said a few words of thanks and invited HRH to unveil a plaque to commemorate the official opening of the new accommodation block.

    Prior to departure HRH was invited to sign the visitors’ book and was presented with a posy by Sophia Cochrane aged six and her sister Julia aged three. The children are the granddaughters of the past Chairman of the Board, Commander Keith Cochrane RN.

    Also in attendance were:

    • Alderman Ruth Patterson, The Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast
    • Dr Ian Adamson OBE, Sheriff for the County Borough of Belfast
    • Mr Peter McNaney, Chief Executive, Belfast City Council
    • Mr Edwin Poots MLA, Minister, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
    • Colonel (Retd) Mervyn Elder MBE TD JP DL, Chairman, Board of the Somme Nursing Home
    • Mrs Florence Cowan, Matron, Somme Nursing Home
    HRH, on the second engagement of the day, attended Fleming Fulton School’s “Christmas Cracker” Concert at Belfast Waterfront Hall.

    HRH later visited Jordanstown School, Newtownabbey and unveiled a plaque to commemorate the Official Opening of the school.

    Upon arrival HRH was greeted by the Lord-lieutenant of County Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie OBE and went on to meet:
    • His Worship the Mayor of Newtownabbey
    • Ms Jacqui Dixon, Chief Executive, Newtownabbey Borough Council
    • The Rev Clyde Irvine, Chair, Trustees and Board of Governors, Jordanstown School
    • Mrs Anne Magee, Principal, Jordanstown School

    Wednesday, 7 December 2011

    EU Referendum

    The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, a senior Cabinet minister, has told the Spectator that a referendum on the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union is inevitable.

    My views on the EU are already well known, hence my wish to highlight the matter.

    Mr Paterson's remarks are seen as the most serious Conservative challenge yet to David Cameron’s European policy:

    ‘There is no question, if they effectively create a new country, that is absolutely their right to do so. It does run counter, of course, to 300 years of British foreign policy in trying to avoid that happening. But if that is the way out of the conundrum on the euro, I think we have to respect that. But they have to respect the fact that it will create a brand-new relationship for us,’

    He warns that the EU17 would become ‘a new and very powerful country which can dominate us’. His concern is that a fiscally united eurozone will spend as a bloc, tax as a bloc — and, when it comes to European summits, vote as a bloc.

    ‘It is wholly unacceptable to have a new bloc in which we would be permanently outvoted,’ Paterson says. Like Cameron, he is particularly concerned about what this might do to the City of London, a financial district without equal anywhere else in Europe. ‘Bluntly, they may well go ahead and in effect create a new country, with very central control of taxation and transfer of funds to weaker areas. But if they want to go ahead and form their new country, we want to get the power to run our country back.’

    ‘Hardly a Cabinet meeting goes past when an issue isn’t raised where we are being stopped by some form of European regulation,’  

    ‘If there was a major fundamental change in our relationship, emerging from the creation of a new bloc which would be effectively a new country from which we were excluded, then I think inevitably there would be huge pressure for a referendum.’
    ‘I think there will have to be one, yes, because I think the pressure would build up. This isn’t going to happen immediately because these negotiations are going to take some months. But I think down the road that is inevitable. ‘

    Mr Cameron this week insisted that the proposed “fiscal union” among eurozone members does not involve a transfer of British power to Brussels, therefore there is no need for a referendum.

    Mr Paterson said that the creation of a more integrated eurozone “will create a brand new relationship” between Britain and the EU.

    That change, he suggested, must eventually trigger a referendum in Britain on the new arrangements to be discussed at a Brussels summit tomorrow. 

    Paterson married the Hon Rose Ridley in 1980. She is the daughter of Matthew Ridley, 4th Viscount Ridley.

    They have two sons and a daughter. Paterson speaks fluent French and German; and is a keen horse rider and racer.

    Monday, 5 December 2011

    Yuletide Organization

    Timothy Belmont is glad to report that the old household is ahead of itself this year. Christmas cards have been acquired and prepared for dispatch; the Christmas decorations and tree are all in hand also. Several cards can be delivered by hand.

    Hallelujah and praise be to Mankind!

    I have feeling that this is the final week of term at the old school, so my beloved swimming ceases till the New Year.

    PS -  Incorrect, Belmont!  The Club remains open till the 16th inst.

    Sunday, 4 December 2011

    A Winter Comfort

    Jerry Hayes has written an interesting piece in the Spectator about Ernie Wise OBE, Eric Morecambe's other half:-

    Robert Sellers and James Hogg’s Little Ern!, the authorised biography of Ernie Wise, is an uplifting, heart-warming and beautifully written book that will act as a comfort blanket recalling cheery Christmases past: a time when Christmas didn’t really begin until the whole family gathered round the television set to enjoy the collective warmth of Morecambe and Wise.

    In 1977, 27 million people – half the population – watched the Christmas Special.

    The trouble is that most of us regard Eric as the comic genius and Ernie as just a gifted straight man. In 1999, the Queen unveiled a statue to Eric, for which £127,000 was provided by lottery money.

    In 2010 Doreen, Ernie’s beloved and devoted wife, unveiled a statue carved out of Yorkshire granite, the cost born by her. Ernie was dressed as a song and dance man by the pub where, as a six-year-old, he would clog dance on tables for pennies with his father.

    And that’s what he was: it was in his blood. At thirteen, he was an accomplished performer under contract with Jack Hylton and appearing with Arthur Askey in a show called Bandwagon. By then, he was the major bread winner for the family, having started a double act called Carson and Son with his father some years previously.

    Harry, Ernies’s dad, was a hard man and his mother, Connie, a woman incapable of love. When he lived in London he was distraught that his parents never wrote to him. Jack Hylton brought him to live with his family and his chauffeur used to take Ernie to school in his Buick.

    So, when Eric came onto the scene, Ernie was the seasoned performer billed as ‘Britain’s Mickey Rooney’. They didn’t get on at first, until Eric came back to his mother saying, ‘I think I like Ernie Wise after all – he bought me a bar of chocolate today’.

    They became like brothers. And sometimes slept in the same bed. Eric’s mum, Sadie, was the driving force of their partnership in the early days. She was far more than just a pushy showbiz mother: ‘a small but indomitable woman with a tungsten carbide core of solid ambition, who chain smoked roll ups made out of tobacco she took out of other people’s old fags.’ She effectively adopted Ernie, saying of him, ‘Ernie was just naturally good, naturally truthful, fair and honest.’

    Eric Bartholomew and Ernie Wiseman perfected a double act and gathered the courage to audition for Jack Hylton. They were booked. But the name wasn’t quite right. ‘Where do you come from?’ Eric was asked.

    ‘Morecambe, a good name.’

    And that’s how it started.

    But it didn’t last long. Terrible pressure from a greedy father, who saw Ernie as his meal ticket, broke them up for a while.

    But fate brought them together again and they traipsed round packed and often hostile venues, like the infamous Glasgow Empire, where a distressed Jimmy Edwards was given some helpful advice from a member of the audience, ‘Why don’t you just f*** off?’

    This delightful book plots the course of this remarkable double act, giving Ernie Wise his proper place in the relationship. The two genuinely loved each other. Their natural chemistry enabled them to read each other’s minds during a routine, the timing in which was perfect due to sheer hard work. It was this true affection that endeared them to the nation.

    Yet it was Ernie who was the stronger of the two. Eric was a mass of insecurities and smoked 60 to 100 cigarettes a day. It was Ernie who was the businessman, who negotiated their fees and could even outwit Lew Grade.

    Interestingly, it was Ernie who could relax after a performance and go straight home to Doreen. Eric had to sit around afterwards. He could never switch off and had the same stage persona on- and off-camera. He couldn’t help himself. And it was that that eventually killed him.

    Eric’s death was the end. Ernie carried on as best he could and performed in a number of shows. But he knew it could never be the same without Eric.

    If you want some genuinely touching and interesting Christmas reading, pop this one in your stocking.

    Saturday, 3 December 2011

    Killynether Coppicing


    Timothy Belmont was in the heart of Killynether Woods, near Scrabo in County Down, sawing hazel today. The purpose, as always here, has been to regenerate the hazel for a new copse on the slopes of the wood.

    It is progressing very well indeed. We maintain a new section each year. Today we lit a roaring bonfire to burn the odd branches left over. I filled two sacks of logs for myself, as did several others. I am told that these logs should not be burned for a year.

    A couple of crafts people came with us, their purpose being to gather hazel branches for an old art, the manufacture of coracles.

    Friday, 2 December 2011

    Clarkson Support

    Labour supporters, socialists, Marxists and various activists are all jumping on to their band-waggon in their persecution of Jeremy Clarkson.

    The BBC has so far received 21,000 complaints about him re his sensational remarks about public service strikers.

    Storm in a tea-cup?

    Whilst I'd accept that Jeremy Clarkson may not be the most agreeable person, I find him witty and I enjoy his programmes, particularly Top Gear. It is hugely enjoyable. I rarely miss it.

    I find their school-boy humour refreshingly uplifting in this era of political correctness. I approve of their jibes about New Labour and Gordon Brown.

    Only a cretin or imbecile could sincerely believe that Jeremy Clarkson would wish anyone to be executed. Socialists dislike him because they find him provocative.

    Thursday, 1 December 2011

    The Second Stain


    Holmes ought to have been accorded a baronetcy. Of that I am in no doubt. I occasionally get "carried away" when I view the singularly splendid series of Sherlock Holmes played by the late Jeremy Brett who, to my mind, was utterly peerless in his portrayal of our greatest detective.

    This evening I watched The Adventure Of The Second Stain, a case where Holmes uncovers another mystery and recovers a missing letter of the utmost import to HM Government.

    Brett was supreme as Holmes; he epitomized Holmes.

    Tuesday, 29 November 2011

    Powerscourt Arms

    Did any readers watch the BBC's Antiques Roadshow from Castle Coole recently? A gentleman brought several silver trophies or cups, 18th century, I think.

    One trophy bore a crest and coat-of-arms.

    I immediately recognised the insignia as being that of the Viscounts Powerscourt.

    New Londonderry Series

    I've received a number of absolutely fascinating documents relating to Londonderry House, Park Lane, former town residence of the Marquesses of Londonderry.

    The documents include a guest list for a ball held at the House in 1959 (including many familiar Ulster names); a detailed article about the House; and important family photographs.

    I will begin the new series shortly.

    Sports Personalities

    Two of our most outstanding Ulster golfers, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy, are nominated for BBC Sports Personality this year.

    Ten of the United Kingdom's top sports stars have been nominated for this year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, representing the very best of British prowess and achievement in their sports.

    Hailing from the four nations of the Kingdom and representing six very different sports, the ten have thrilled audiences around the world in 2011 and each now has a chance of being crowned the 58th BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

    The winner will be selected by public vote during the live show on Thursday, 22 December, 2011, from 8pm.

    The short-list (in alphabetical order) is: Mark Cavendish (cycling), Darren Clarke (golf), Alastair Cook (cricket), Luke Donald (golf), Mo Farah (athletics), Dai Greene (athletics), Amir Khan (boxing), Rory McIlroy (golf), Andy Murray (tennis), Andrew Strauss (cricket).

    The Banker

    A BANKER IS A FELLOW WHO LENDS YOU HIS UMBRELLA WHEN THE SUN IS SHINING, BUT WANTS IT BACK THE MINUTE IT BEGINS TO RAIN

    Mark Twain

    Monday, 28 November 2011

    NI Pubs of 2011

    Cordial congratulations to the Dirty Duck Ale House in Holywood, County Down, an establishment Timothy Belmont is known to frequent, which has won an award for Best Food Pub in Northern Ireland.

    Well done to everyone else, too.

    Pubs of Ulster is the trading name of the Federation of Retail Licensed Trade NI. They have announced the winners in various categories hereunder:-

    The finest pubs from across Northern Ireland gathered at Belfast City Hall on 16th November to toast the best the industry has to offer as the search to find our top pubs came to a dramatic conclusion at the annual Pub of the Year Awards 2011.

    Results

    Northern Ireland Pub of the Year 2011:
    Winner: Dorman's and The Opera, Magherafelt

    Outstanding Bar Person of the Year:
    Winner: Liam McEldowney, Jack's Bar at Walsh's Hotel, Maghera

    Best Neighbourhood Pub:
    Winner: Rafters and Friel's Bar, Swatragh
    Finalist: The Devenish Bar, Enniskillen
    Finalist: Sally McNally's, Portadown

    Best Food Pub:
    Winner: DIRTY DUCK ALE HOUSE, HOLYWOOD
    Finalist: HORATIO TODD'S BAR AND RESTAURANT, BELFAST
    Finalist: Mary's Bar, Magherafelt

    Best Family Friendly Pub:
    Winner: Wild Duck Inn, Portglenone
    Finalist: Lily's Pub and Eatery, Belfast
    Finalist: Molly Brown's Kitchen and Bar, Newtownards

    Best New or Improved Pub:
    Winner: Horatio Todd's Bar and Restaurant, Belfast
    Finalist: The Devenish Bar, Enniskillen
    Finalist: The Light House Bar and Wine Store, Whiteabbey

    Most Innovative Pub:
    Winner: Ryan's Bar, Belfast
    Finalist: Dorman's and The Opera, Magherafelt
    Finalist: Wild Duck Inn, Portglenone

    Best Tourism / Visitor Pub
    Winner: The John Hewitt, Belfast
    Finalist: The Anchor Bar Complex, Portstewart
    Finalist: Horseshoe and Saddlers, Enniskillen

    Sunday Life Reader's Choice Award
    Winner: The Head O'The Road, Portadown
    Finalist: The Derg Arms, Castlederg
    Finalist: The Harbour Bar, Portrush

    Christmas Wines

    Victoria Moore at the Daily Telegraph recommends a selection of wines for Christmas, 2011, which ought to be widely available in Northern Ireland:-

    WHITES
    • Tim Adams Sémillon 2008 Clare Valley, Australia 12%; Tesco, £11.29 
    This superb sémillon reminds me of dried limes on a sand dune. There’s also a hint of new leather and sweet hay. Textbook stuff from an excellent producer. One for the hot smoked salmon with horseradish.
    • Pernand Vergelesses Les Combottes 2009 France 13%; M&S, 150 stores only, £25 

    Very stylish white Burgundy from the underrated Pernand Vergelesses (the most northerly appellation of Burgundy’s Cote de Beaune). This has some new oak, which gives a sensation of careful, neat, tailoring, and really opens out, like vivid yellow sunlight, once decanted. 

    • Tingleup Vineyard Great Southern Riesling 2010 Australia 11%; Tesco, £8.68 

    Riesling offers a sprightly change of pace at this time of year. This perennial favourite smells of petrol and lilac, an odd-sounding combination but it works for me. It’s off-dry, succulent, juicy and has the tang of sweet stewed apples and tangerine. 

    • Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2010 Australia 13.5%;  Sainsbury’s, £8.49 

    a bone-dry white underneath a gently floral nose. Viognier can be oily and cloying. This one isn’t.

    REDS

    • Asda Corbieres 2010 France 13%; Asda, £3.56

    This Christmas carol of a wine is all you need for mulling, cooking and drinking out of tumblers on sausage and mash evenings. 

    • Crozes Hermitage 3 Lys Cave de Tain 2009 France 12.5%; Sainsbury’s, £7.49 down from £9.99 until Dec 6 

    Dark, imposing syrah from the on-song Cave de Tain co-operative. About a fifth of the blend is aged in oak. This would be great with a dense casserole – say venison or beef with chestnuts. 

    • Marananga Dam Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2008 Australia 14.5%; M&S, £12.99

    This great big Down Under version of a Rhône blend is wonderfully luxuriant. It has layer upon layer of flavour, from powdery drinking chocolate to raspberry, all underpinned with a savoury, spicy note. 

    • Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac St Emilion Grand Cru 2006 France 13%; Sainsbury’s 55 stores only, £19.99 

    Sumptuous right bank claret. Think crushed crimson velvet and 40-year-old vines. This is merlot-based but there’s also about a third cabernet franc, which contributes an aerating, leafy, redcurrant freshness and scent. 

    Sunday, 27 November 2011

    Country House Opera


    It is more than two years since the august Arts Council of Northern Ireland axed what was uniquely one of the Province's most established and premier events, Castleward Opera.

    There has not been any event to match Castleward Opera since then.

    The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has seen fit to spend our money on other projects, instead.

    A vacuum has been left for an opera festival which could be held in one of our great stately homes. Such a venue would be eminently fitting for al fresco picnics and cuisine or, should patrons prefer, a grand marquee.

    Dinner jackets would naturally be comme il faut.

    There are splendid stately homes in every county of Northern Ireland and I  have written on this blog about all of them. Simply enter the key word in the white Search box at the top left-hand corner.

    My suggestion would be that sponsorship might emanate from the travel industry (airlines, shipping lines); the catering industry (hotels, restaurants); and luxury goods manufacturers and sellers (jewellers, watch makers, writing instrument makers, motor manufacturers); private individuals, including philanthropists, wealthy benefactors).

    Dirty Duck Tuck

    The 22:16 train from Holywood arrived. BP and self were conveyed to our destinations, having enjoyed an evening at the favoured hostelry, the Dirty Duck. BP has a fondness for the House ale.

    I had the roast pork dinner and BP had the customary scampi and chips, both commendable.

    There was musical entertainment, as usual, and they were playing popular hits from the sixties and seventies.

    Princely Rescue Mission


    Prince William helped lead rescue efforts for eight sailors on board a cargo ship which sank in a storm off the coast of north Wales.

    The Duke of Cambridge, a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, co-piloted an RAF Sea King helicopter which lifted two crew members from the Swanland to safety in the early hours of Sunday.

    The body of one of their fellow seamen was later recovered from the Irish Sea amid gale force winds after the vessel’s hull split in half off the Llyn Peninsula.

    HRH's rescue helicopter crew managed to lift the two survivors to safety after the captain sent out a Mayday shortly after 2am. 

    Roadshow at Castle Coole


    The BBC's Antiques Roadshow comes from Castle Coole in County Fermanagh this evening, on BBC1 HD. I'll record it.

    Castle Coole is the ancestral seat of the Earls of Belmore. The Belmores still live on the estate, at the Garden House.

    Fiona Bruce and the team visit Northern Ireland for a busy day of evaluations.

    Amongst the objects catching the experts' eyes are a pair of tea caddies that raise suspicions, a valuable carriage clock with royal association, and a watch and two rings accepted as payment for an unpaid bar bill which provide a surprise ending.

    Friday, 25 November 2011

    Hansel and Gretel

    It's a night at the opera for Timothy Belmont tonight. Fortunately I was able to find one parking space in Amelia Street.

    I'm presently seated in the Piano Bar of the Europa Hotel, Belfast. Service at the bar was annoyingly slow, given that there was a waiter chatting and joking to a waitress at the far end of the counter. Eventually I had to walk over to him and request a drink.

    Given that about a dozen people stand up at the counter, effectively blocking those of us who wish to place an order, is unhelpful.

    Thence I strode across the street to the Grand Opera House. This evening's production is Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel. I am seated in A3 in the Dress Circle.

    The scarlet curtain raised. I groaned despondently. Indeed, the Ulster Orchestra has been splendid as usual. The singing is most satisfactory. However, the props and costumes are spartan and contemporary. Humperdinck may well have turned in his grave.

    Frankly, had I been aware that this was going to be a modernized production, I'd have saved my £27. That could have bought a cheap seat at the London Coliseum for Eugene Onegin.

    I do hold a grudge against the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and its offspring, NI Opera. I certainly have not forgiven them for their maltreatment of Castleward Opera and its consequent demise.

    Tonight's production of Hansel and Gretel, in its contemporary form, has been a disappointment to me. In future I shall inquire as to the kind of production before I part with any money.

    It's such a shame that we cannot afford grand opera of the calibre and standard of the Royal Opera.

    Moreover, many dress casually or informally in denims and bovver boots or whatever they are called. Coughing, spluttering, talking during performances. Oh, by the way, I am writing this review as I sit in A3 at nine o'clock!

    Never mind!

    Duke of Gloucester in Bangor

    Duke of Gloucest at RUYC


    His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester today visited the Royal Ulster Yacht Club (RUYC), Bangor, County Down.

    HRH is the Commodore and shows great interest in Club activities.

    The Ulster Yacht Club, formed in 1866, was granted a Royal Warrant in 1869. In 1953 Her Majesty The Queen became Patron of the Club.

    A strong link exists between the Royal Ulster Yacht Club and the America’s Cup, with Sir Thomas Lipton’s five challenges between 1898 and 1930. In 1970 the Club provided a trophy in his memory which is presented, on the occasion of each challenge, to the Yacht Club which has won the Challengers races and is about to race for the America’s Cup.

    Upon arrival Prince Richard was greeted by Lord-lieutenant of County Down, Mr David Lindsay.

    Upstairs HRH met the RUYC officers and their spouses who were presented by Dr Stanton Adair, Vice-Commodore, Royal Ulster Yacht Club, who accompanied His Royal Highness throughout the engagement.

    Later, in the Lounge during a buffet lunch, Prince Richard met one hundred and fifty current members.

    Dr Adair said a few words before inviting HRH to present a gift of an engraved crystal vase to long serving member of staff Heather Hamilton.

    Dr Adair then invited HRH to say a few words and to sign the Visitors’ Book.

    Before departing the Club, HRH met a number of key RUYC staff.

    Christmas Cards

    I purchased my 2011 Christmas cards yesterday. I took a jaunt into town and, venturing in to W H Smith's, I spotted boxed cards of a painting by Joseph Farquharson (1846-1935) called Beneath The Snow Encumbered Branches.

    These I rather liked, since they caught my eye, so I bagged three boxes (3 for 2).

    Earlier I had been doing some research at the Linenhall Library in Donegall Square.

    At Sawyers tight little emporium in College Street, their fine battered scampi was in at last, so I took a fiver's worth. Little tins of Barkley's "tastefully intense" cinnamon mints looked worth a try, so I impulsively purchased a tin.

    Thursday, 24 November 2011

    Duke of Gloucester in Belfast

    His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO, on the 23rd November, 2011, attended, as Guest of Honour, the 95th Anniversary Battle of the Somme Dinner at Belfast City Hall. HRH is the Somme Association President.

    Upon arrival Prince Richard was greeted by the Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast, Dame Mary Peters DBE.

    Accompanied by Dr Ian Adamson OBE, High Sheriff of the County Borough of Belfast and Mrs Carol Walker, Director, Somme Association, HRH proceeded upstairs to the Reception Hall and met a number of invited guests, including representatives of the Royal Army Medical Corp (RAMC) at a private reception.

    Later His Royal Highness met over two hundred guests during pre-dinner drinks in the Rotunda and Banqueting Hall attending the 95th Battle of the Somme dinner.

    HRH proceeded to the Great Hall for Dinner piped in by a Piper from the Royal Irish Regiment. Dr Adamson said a few words of welcome and proposed a toast to The Queen.

    During dinner the Band of the Royal Irish Regiment (TA) provided background music. Following dinner an Entertainment Programme was provided by the Bugles, Pipes and Drums of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment and the Band of the Royal Irish Regiment (TA), followed by a screening of a DVD presentation by the Somme Association and a ballot.

    This brought the engagement to a close.

    Insurance Comparison

    Groan! I received my annual motor insurance quotation from Hugh's Insurance today. It is for £615.68.

    I have entered my details on a comparison website and, Lo and Behold! They have come up with Halifax insurance which is quoting me £364.29.

    Needless to say, it does pay to "shop around" in this instance.

    Thanksgiving

    THE FIRST THANKSGIVING 1621 

    Greetings to our cousins in the United States of America today, Thanksgiving Day 2011.

    The Crom Yews

    I HAVE ENCOUNTERED AN INTERESTING ARTICLE IN THE CONSERVATION VOLUNTEERS' NORTHERN IRELAND WEBSITE


    The yews at Crom [Estate in County Fermanagh] are probably the oldest trees in Northern Ireland. Lord Erne claims they are 800 years old and he may well be correct.

    They are inseparable siblings, one brother, one sister, planted together so that now, from the outside, they appear to be one huge dark green mass. Within, branches sweep down and twist around, traces of training in the past now long abandoned.

    In the late 1840s the tree is described as having its horizontal spreading branches supported on wooden pillars with gravel walks between them. They spread over an area about 75’ across and it was said that “A party of 200 have often dined under the tree”.

    The trees are close to the ruins of the old Crom Castle which they pre-date by hundreds of years.

    One of the great O’Neills of the sixteenth century is believed to have said farewell to his lady love under the already mature Crom Yews.

    It may have been Shane O’Neill later killed by the MacDonnells of Antrim, or more likely the great Hugh who battled against Queen Elizabeth I and eventually left the country in the `flight of the earls’ in 1603.

    When Cecil Kilpatrick, former Chief Forest Officer, measured the trees in 1977, the eastern tree had a girth of 14’ 11” and a height of 30’, the western tree 13’ 8” round and 37’ tall.

    Since then they have been ‘tidied’ and have lost some of their mystery: it is now easy to get under and through their combined canopy.

    Although the grounds are now with the National Trust, the present house and immediate garden with its fine specimen trees are still the property of Lord Erne.

    Wednesday, 23 November 2011

    Prince Richard in Ulster


    His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester today attended the annual celebration of the life of Columbanus at the Clarion Hotel, Carrickfergus, County Antrim, hosted by The Ullans (Ulster Scots) Academy.

    Prince Richard's son is styled by his father's subsidiary title, Earl of Ulster.

    Arriving at the Clarion Hotel, Carrickfergus, HRH was greeted by the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mr Richard Reade DL.

    Throughout the engagement Prince Richard was accompanied by Dr Ian Adamson OBE, President, Ullans Academy.

    Moving to the Glendun Suite for pre-lunch drinks, HRH met over one hundred and fifty guests attending the “Feast of Columbanus” lunch.

    Speaking at the lunch in the Causeway Suite were Ruairí Ó Bléine welcoming guests in Irish and Dr Adamson welcoming guests in Ullans later.

    The Rt Hon and Rev the Lord Bannside PC delivered a speech on Columbanus. The Master of Ceremonies, Sammy Douglas MLA, then invited HRH to speak.

    During Lunch light entertainment was provided by children from two Belfast Primary Schools.

    Following farewells HRH departed for the next engagement