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Feb 20, 2012 - Eating Out, The Jacksons    No Comments

Jazzed up Sunday Lunch

The Apex Jazz Band

The jazz aficionado’s jazz band and veterans of genré, the Apex Jazz Band,were welcomed back by Greenisland Golf Club for another Sunday lunch engagement on Feb 12.

This is getting to be a habit and a fine excuse to forget cooking and washing up and enjoy David Alexander’s buffet and a bottle of vino collapso with all the old favourites playing in the background. The band was pretty good as well!

It is amazing how quickly 3 or 4 hours passes when in good company.

My thanks to David Graham for many of the photographs

Rogues Gallery

Feb 15, 2012 - The Jacksons    No Comments

Captain Coroner and Sir Ronnie top the bill

Yet another golfing year coming to an end so time to don the penguin suit yet again for the annual Greenisland Men’s Dinner Night.  This is the occasion for the outgoing captain to say a few words and introduce his guest speaker. The vice captain gets to run about, ring bells and generally make sure things happen. Of course one has to indulge in a couple of warmers into the bank and “suffer” the usual high standard of catering that is the norm in the club.  And so it was again. The Sirloins were perfect, the apple crumble crumbly and the Stilton decidedly cheesy and of course the wine flowing copiously.

Our incumbent captain is John Lecky LLM, well known Northern Ireland Coroner, and his guest was non other than Sir Ronnie Flanagan GBE OBE QPM MA , of RUC/PSNI and other prestigious law enforcing appointments fame. He just happened to breeze in from Abu Dhabi, or maybe Dubai for the occasion.  He is an accomplished speaker and, as a contemporary if not a neighbour of a number of the club members there was scope for giving it an intimate flavour. He was not  helped by the PA system, which failed spectacularly, so no brownie points for Mr Vice, but a natural ability to be heard everywhere without electronic assistance overcame this minor obstacle.

Altogether a very successful evening which continued for some time after the formalities were over.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I so not have any photos of the event so this is a little dull by comparison to previous posts.

Sharm el Sheikh New Year 2011/12

Sun on the Alps

Now I know why we avoid travelling during the school holidays! Falcon flight Dublin to Sharm el Sheikh bit like a sardine can and, can you believe, it no bar service at all!!

Arrived in one piece and flew through immigration with no problems which is quite an achievement for Egypt.  There was a taxi awaiting us and we were whisked away to the Savoy. As one would expect reception was efficient, our luggage disappeared and we were escorted to our room.  The sea view from the balcony was not apparent; it being around 10.30 local so we made straight for the bar. It is a strange feature of Egypt, or Sharm in particular, that nowhere seems to serve dry ginger. Still we managed without. My one complaint is that the smoking ban has not caught on and although they have a no smoking area the fans ensure that the offending cloud is spread evenly around.

Soho Square

We left after one and walked up to Soho Square, the hub of the complex; dancing fountains and music ice rink, bazaar etc. etc.  Of course there has to be a bar called “the Queen Vic” with the mandatory English menu!  We found a small “cafe” and indulged in an Egyptian kebab and Lebanese spicy cheese salad washed down with the local beer.  Good choice.

The long day caught up with us and we returned to take a nightcap in our room. Discover that there is a “pillow menu” offering six different styles and fillings. Settled for what was already on the bed!

Friday morning and we looked out over the bay with the sun shining – intermittently it must be said – and the temperature a pleasant 24⁰. Breakfast was as good as one would expect.  In this part of the world it best to avoid bacon and sausages! Fresh dates, figs, oranges, all the eggs cooked while you wait and lots of those nice little pastries…yum!

The pools

We wandered past the pools and down to the beach and then back up to book our table for the New Years Eve Dinner.  It’s split up so that you can be at home in a Tux or with the kids in casual. We were in the Egypt Hall; all adults in DJs.

Josephine booked her wash and blow dry for the next day and I had a manicure. There was a bookies widow called Elaine from Glasgow having a pedicure and her first question was “Are you a Celtic or a Rangers supporter”.  Oh well, nothing much changes. We exchanged life stories whilst the girls worked away at our nether bits.

Would you believe it we are sitting next to the pool having a burger and a beer and it has started raining.  Well a couple of small spots.  They put the electric awning over the tables so no problem!

It's this big - Honest

Saturday, New Years Eve and all’s well. We spent a lazy day doing not a lot. Lunch at the Seafood Island restaurant and the rest of the afternoon on the beach couture watching. Then back to get Josephine to the hairdressers ready for the evening’s festivities.

The New Year party was a great success.  To serve a buffet to 450 without having to queue  takes a bit of organising! The star cabaret act was the Chinese circus with Egyptian dancers being a close second. New Year was heralded in for the Russians at 10.00 and for the rest of us with a Brazilian combo at midnight local. The Disco proved too much and we bailed out about 1am.


They were serving breakfast until 3pm so we did not hurry and spent the day on the beach. We had booked the Teppanyaki for dinner and shared it with a Dutch couple and a Russian woman with her young daughter; later joined by an intensely English guy from Sussex with his American wife and with whom we were finally asked to leave so that they could start the second sitting. We decamped into the bar for another bottle of wine and to put the world to rights: as one does.

Finally got round to snorkelling along the reef on Monday: stunning corals and fish.  No underwater camera unfortunately: will have to get one of those waterproof cases for the compact. Life on the beach nearly as interesting.

We spent the evening in Soho Square.  There is food hall with various outlets and a cabaret.  Unfortunately neither the food or the cabaret lived up to expectations, still it was an inexpensive way of making a mistake! We went back into the main square and indulged in an Irish and Mexican coffee, which were as good as one gets, and enjoyed the girl band.

Sun worship

Tuesday and it is back to the beach people watching.  A bit windier today and only 22⁰! Just finished my second book of the holiday, Cold Comfort Farm, a real scream if you like parodies. The first was Evelyn Waugh’s “Handful of Dust”: I’m getting very literary!!


In fact the rest of the holiday was spent not doing a lot and soaking up as much sun as possible.  As the News of the World used to advertise “All Human Life is Here” and there was an amazing cross section of it at the beach and around the pools hailing from Ukraine to Yorkshire and Baltimore to Bangor.  Quite mesmerising in a number of ways.

There are a number of shots of the male form but it is sad to relate that they were in no way able to compete, either in number or esoteric form,  with the ladies. They did prove interesting though.

All too quickly it was over

Our taxi was booked for 5am Thursday morning but, in typical Egyptian fashion, it did not appear and my attempts at nonchalant indifference finally left me at 6 when the Desk was unable to raise any cab at all.  We ended up being taken to the main road in a buggy and the ever efficient Security Guard network finally trapped one.  Shouldn’t have worried we ended up in the check in queue three behind a couple who had been bundled into a coach at 4.30!

We will be back!

Dec 27, 2011 - The Jacksons    No Comments

Christmas 2011

Well it’s all over now as the song goes.  Weeks of preparation gone in a few short hours.  The children enjoyed it so all worth the effort. We can safely take off to Sharm el Sheikh on Thursday knowing we have done our bit.

Photos of the various functions, with thanks to Linden for additons:


SOS Office Lunch


The Short and the Tall, Josephine and Naomi

Party Girl - Leah

Christmas Letter 2011

This time last year we were under nearly a foot of snow and now we are in the middle of a deep depression but, as I have said many times before, in Norn Iron we are constantly in a state of depression; sometimes it’s a good one and sometimes it’s not so good. Nothing worth getting one down anyway.


So how’s our year been since I last put fingers to keyboard for the annual missive.


It started off well with a cruise round the Med with the MSC line.  First time we’ve been on a “proper liner” and very nice it was too. The ship was superb having been in for a refit only a year before and the service and food were perfection. Our dinner table was shared with an Afrikaner business couple and a white Zimbabwean doctor and his wife who now live in the US. It made for interesting conversations especially in relation to their attitudes to modern Africa. Did I agree? I couldn’t possibly comment! Especially with the RRB looking over ones shoulder.


We sailed out of Venice to Bari, on to Rhodes, Alexandria; New Year at sea on the way to Olympia and from there to Dubrovnik and back to Venice.  Highlight of the trip, apart from the New Year’s Eve Party, definitely Dubrovnik. The old city, within the walls, is really picturesque.

On the political scene January saw a Sin Fein special Ard Fheis finally support the devolvement of policing to the Assembly.  Of course there were the usual ifs and buts on both sides. Well there would be; wouldn’t there


Later in the month we spent a weekend in London to take in “The Lion King”; technically brilliant and generally much better than I had expected, and to catch up with Les and Dot Jones over a real curry at Veeraswamys, the oldest Indian Restaurant in UK. I was last there in the ‘60s and it is still as opulent.

Of course we had to be caught by a fire alarm at the Cavendish Hotel at 5a.m. on Sunday morning.  Positive – nobody hurt: Negative – didn’t get hold of the prat who set off the smoke alarm in their room.



I had to go to County Limerick in February to survey a community hall in the middle of nowhere.  Luckily not too far away, still in the middle of nowhere, there is a country house hotel with a gourmet restaurant attached; The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge.  I took Josephine down for the ride and we had a very pleasant couple of days. It says something that, on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was nearly full.


Peter and Martin, our erstwhile joint leaders, took off to New York (on the taxpayer of course) for Paddy’s day and: Martin was quoted, in a speech to US businessmen, “Ireland is renowned for its culture, its creativity and art. Every corner of the island is alive with enterprise, art and creative thinking” (and perpetuating sectarian incompatibility).


Belfast celebrated Holi, the Indian Festival of Colours, in style with a extravaganza in St Georges Market, organised by ArtsEkta. It included bands, dancers, stalls etc. and culminated in everybody throwing coloured powder at each other, which is intended to break down social barriers.  Orhan and Leah loved it and it really does work!


We went down to Wexford for the Association of Community and Comprehensive Colleges annual conference in March. Always a good gathering and a round of golf at Rosslare to boot! Whites Hotel is definitely the place to stay.  The town is certainly more vibrant than last time I was there with lots of boutique shops and a couple of great restaurants. From a business point of view it was quite productive as well.


The fact that there are still a lunatic fringe alive and well was brought home in April with the murder of a young police constable in Omagh, where else. At least now all sides condemn these acts of petty terrorism.  Personally I object to labelling the perpetrators as dissidents, which gives them a degree of notoriety, whereas they are just mindless criminal thugs.


We joined up with friends for a week in Jersey at the end of May. Hour and a half flight from Belfast so no hassles.  It was a Pleasure to be back at the Greenhills Hotel with its old world courtesy. We spent the week pottering around the sights and were lucky enough to pick up a couple of bargains at an antique fair. No comments please! The Eric Young Orchid foundation, where they breed hybrids as well as preserve known species, is a must if you are contemplating a stay on the island.

It was a restful week in the sunshine (for the main part).


June is the month that the Irish Steam Railway Society run the Jazz trains.  The idea is that you get a party together and bring your picnic hamper filled with good wine and some solid sustenance and board the train at one station or another. Dressing up for the occasion is optional. Eat drink and be merry and, at various stations along the route the train stops,  the Apex Jazz Band alights and everybody dances on the platform for half an hour or so. The dancing improves in direct proportion to the wine drunk!

This was also the month that Rory McIlroy proved that he could really stand the pressure and won the US Open thus shutting up the detractors who saw his demise at the Masters, after having it in the bag, as proof that he had no resilience.



Once again violence hit the streets with two nights of rioting involving up to 400 hooligans along the Short Strand interface. This time it was pretty much unanimously blamed on the Loyalist paramilitaries (another posh name for another bunch of mindless thugs).


As is normal in “Norn Iron” BBQ’s are held in the wet and ours was no exception. The advantage is that “the ladies” retire indoors and leave us to get on with it!


We fitted a bit of culture by taking the grandchildren to Navan Fort, the site of the ancient capital of Ulster.  One of the attractions is an Iron Age settlement, complete with peasants,  who explained to the kids the way of life that was the norm in those days. Seemed like an improvement on our civilisation if you ask me! I wasn’t around at the time.


July saw the marching season swing into action with a few more riots and the water cannon out on the streets, but nothing really serious; hyped up by the media as per usual. Didn’t do our international reputation any good – Did I really say that?


Josephine took off with Orhan, Leah and our daughter on the annual pilgrimage to Portrush in August. This is guaranteed to bring rain, hail and pestilence to the North Coast. Luckily St Patrick banished all the snakes or they would have had a field day as well.Whilst she was away I attended the Golf club Garden Party, complete with the Downshire Brass Band and prizes for the best hat (ladies).  For once I did not attempt a drag act.


My golf society Annual Outing took us to Enniskillen  to play Lough Erne, the Faldo designed course, of which Rory McIlroy is the tour professional. It’s big and long and quite a challenge. It would not be one of my favourites but it was certainly worth it as a one off.


September’s local highlight was Rihanna’s failure to impress a Presbyterian farmer who had let her use his field to film. He was trundling past on his tractor when we saw that she had her gear off and asked her to leave, intimating that nobody was going to do that sort of thing in his fields. Obviously not a beef farmer then! She later put everybody’s back up by appearing on stage two hours late.


Trevi Fountain

We went to Rome for a long weekend at the beginning of October. The weather was perfect and we had a great hotel near the central station.  We walked the length and breadth of the classical part of the city: there was bus strike on one of the days and, having tried the tour bus, decided that walking was by far the best mode of transport anyway.  Downside – cameras stolen from our room on the first night. The saga of getting it reported to the Carabinieri would make a novel!

The highlight was the tour of the Vatican Museum. We were hijacked by a Sligo girl who got us to sign up for a guided tour and it was the best thing we did. Our guide was a diminutive Roman lass called Ava who led the group; a Danish couple, a Dutchman with his Columbian girlfriend and a couple of young Israelis, with infectious enthusiasm. The tour takes about two and a half hours and even then there is quite a lot missed out. The Sistine chapel is much smaller than I expected and so crowded that it loses a bit of its impact.  Still impressive though.


I had two devastating pieces of news in October. My old Army friend, Sandy McKinnon, died at his home in Bangkok and, within a week of hearing this; another friend emailed me to say that her husband had died suddenly at their apartment in Turkey.

I went to Penicuik to Sandy’s funeral and found it hard to believe that we had been playing golf together in Thailand only 18 months previously. The officiating pastor was in the army with Sandy and left to join the church, not that the two events were connected.


November turned out to be a really busy month with two reunions over a weekend in the Cotswolds. The first in Stow-on-the-Wold on the Friday evening was the second held by the ex REME Junior Leaders who were in Arborfield between 1958 and 1967.  A quite excellent affair impeccably organised by Barry Johnson yet again. It is also a credit to his persistence that two couples travelled from Australia specifically to attend.

I survived the evening to be collected by Eric Ross and whisked away to Cheltenham for a bash with the Intelligence Corps AN(SI) retired discriminators. It centred round those who were posted to Birgelen around ’62 – ’64 and was a sounding board for the group to return to Effeld next year to celebrate 50 years since we first descended on Elie’s Bar  – Gasthof Buchen.  Eric and Christine kindly provided the accommodation for, not only me, but John Bax and Mike Cadwgan as well.  There was much old shop jargon talked in the Royal Union that night.


The Golf club annual formal took up another Saturday evening which did not leave much of the month to do anything else.


Did I mention that Belfast hosted the MTV Music awards this month as well and there was not a hint of trouble! Never did get to see Lady Ga Ga though: sigh! I remember the days when I could have dressed like that!


So now we are into December and Rory has won the Hong Kong Open, the Irish economy is nonexistent and we are just about holding our own at the factory. The Sin Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast has got himself into trouble by refusing to present the Duke of Edinburg’s Award certificate to a girl who is a member of the Army Cadet Force and Sammy Wilson, our Finance Minister, is in trouble for making “Dirty Protest” jokes at a function about the legacy of the Maze.


Some things never change! All good fun and all things considered the year could have been a lot worse.

Happy Christmas and may 2012 bring you all you could wish for.

Michael & Josephine

Dec 2, 2011 - The Jacksons    1 Comment

Thank God it’s Friday?

I don’t work Fridays any more. I take an extra day off.

Today I got up at 6.50am

I fed the dogs whilst making a cup of tea.

I had a shower and dressed;  put the dogs in the car and followed my son to the garage to leave his car in for a service

I took him to work in the harbour estate and drove from there to Dundrod to leave my dogs in to be clipped.

Went home and picked up Josephine and took her to her hairdresser in Stranmillis for a wash and blow dry.  Did the FT crossword over a cup of until she was finished and drove into town to collect my overcoat from the tailors.

We drove home and grabbed a slice of toast whilst she changed.

Went to her pal’s house and took the two of them to Greenisland Golf Club for their Walker’s Club Christmas dinner.

On the way back went to B & Q to get fittings to plumb in daughter’s washing machine and tape to seal door to our attic.

Drove home and cleaned the garden of dogs poo and then sealed the attic door against draughts.

Went to New Tesco Superstore at Northcott and to avail myself of 25% offer on wine and sherry etc. (Last Day)

Got call from son and collected him from La Cuisine on Antrim Road.

Went to collect Grandchildren from school and take them home.

Drove to Greenisland Golf Club to collect wife and friend and run her home.

Drove to kennels to collect dogs

Got call from daughter to come and plumb in washing machine.

Plumbed in washing machine on way home.

Made stir fry and opened bottle of Montepulchiano and drank same!

Thank god it’s Friday!



Belfast Christmas Market

Why go all the way to Cologne or Salzburg when you can get the same effect in the centre of Belfast.

The Christmas Market is in full swing in front of City Hall complete with Beer Tent, Gluhwein and “Bratty” stalls, and yes, they have proper “senf”, German mustard, to go with them.


Of course there are plenty of other stalls to attract one and by the number of people braving  the not too clement weather on Saturday morning it is as popular as ever.

Nov 20, 2011 - Eating Out, The Jacksons    1 Comment

Black Tie Bash at Greenisland, 19 November 2011

Saturday 19 November brought the GIGC annual Formal Dinner Dance. One the shrinking number of occasions at which one can break out the black tie and drink too much in an orderly fashion.

As is usual the maximum number of participants had been reached within hours of the booking sheet going on the board. The reason is simple, guaranteed excellent food and Rosie Hunter providing the dance music.

We dully arrived at 7pm for the sherry reception and were fortunate to get a table in the corner before the bulk of the members arrived.  There was a photographer from, I assume, the Carrickfergus Times to capture us for posterity, or something of that ilk.

We were called in to dinner at 7.30 and following a welcome from John Lecky, the Club Captain, Norman Walker said grace and dinner commenced.

As one would expect from David Alexander the meal was outstanding and finished with a selection of cheeses, of which to my mind the Stilton was  away the best, and a glass of port. Memories of Sergeants Mess Dinners popped into my mind.

This left the Club Captain and Lady Captain, to take to the floor for the first dance. The great  strength of Rosie Hunter is that she knows the music that will get the members on the floor, and keep them there. This is exactly what happened and the floor was fully occupied for the rest the night.

Due to licencing laws the bar closed at 1am and the company duly dispersed in various levels of euphoria.  A great evening having been had by all.

Thanks to Margaret McKeen and Derek Cosby for the photographs

Oct 30, 2011 - The Jacksons    No Comments

65th Birthday Party at Greenisland Golf Club

The Rankins kindly invited us to the Golf club for a celebration dinner in honour of Helen’s 65 Birthday.  Her sister Jenny and chum Sue had flown over from Cheltenham and daughter Christine from Alicante.

A goodly crew assembled for a Bucks Fizz reception before being ushered into the dining room.

As is usual at Greenisland the food and service could not be faulted and the wine likewise.

Dinner was followed by a short introduction by Trevor Rankin and then Helen took over to thank everybody for coming and to include a few bon mots on the assembled guests.

Brian provided the response and Norman Walker the toast to the Birthday girl.


A very enjoyable evening al round.



Sep 6, 2011 - CQ, Eating Out, The Jacksons    No Comments


It was almost a BBQ but for once the weather forecast was right on the mark and at 2pm precisely the rain started and the BBQ became a buffet.

Held in honour of Jennifer’s birthday a goodly crew assembled for a Sunday afternoon of philosophical debate. This was abandoned after a couple of glasses and we got on with putting the world to rights.

The Society has elected to split into  ladies and gentlemen’s  sections which hold their discussions in separate rooms where possible (or opposite corners of the bar) thus obviating any requirement to moderate their observations in terms suitable for the delicate ears of the fairer sex.

The spread laid on was worthy of a royal banquet with fish pie, lasagne with and without garlic, curry, breads with and without garlic; followed by a selection of home made sweets.

The gentlemen formed a quorum to discuss serious matters pertaining to the well being of Norn Iron but were hackled by a couple of dissenting back benchers.

Another afternoon and evening completely wasted in the best possible manner.

Thanks to Roy and Jennifer for hosting, Linden for the photos and everyone else for subscribing.