Sunday 17 June; a day of wind and rain, just perfect for the intrepid members of the Carrickfergus Sailing Club Retired Dancers Debating Society (CSCRDDS – please remember this as it will save typing in future) to gather for a BBQ.
With the help of a B&Q mini Pergola to keep the worst of the rain off the charcoal the BBQ was lit at 2pm. By 2.45 the Men’s Section had also gathered here to inaugurate the firing of the sausages.
Under the strict rules of the CSCRDDS only the Men’s Section are allowed within 10 metres of any BBQ once it has been lit. The fact that it was pouring with rain and the pergola was only large enough to accommodate 2 BBQs and 8 persons meant that there was no fear of any of the Ladies Section wanting to come anywhere near it anyway!
With the help of a bottle or two of wine, Roy’s professional BBQ technique, and associated banter from the rest of the crew, Josephine was summonsed to take the first instalment for approval by the ladies. This being given we continued without further ado.
The ladies had taken over the living room so having completed cooking the men adjourned to the conservatory.
From this point on my recollection of events is a little hazy but we reckon the last of the revellers left around 9pm.
All in all another successful debate and the world a better place for it!
There is a great visitors centre, Navan Fort, which is built on the site of the ancient capital of Ulster called Emain Macha or modern day Armagh .
I cannot resist a bit of mythology – The name is derived from the the Celtic meaning Macha’s Twins. Macha’s husband bet the king of Ulster that his wife could beat the kings chariot horses in a race. Despite being heavily pregnant she succeeded and gave birth to twins on the finishing line. Thus the place was named. There is more to it than this so, if you are interested, make the trip and learn!
The grandchildren were enthralled by the exhibition which is brought to life by bluetooth or similar earphones with plenty of scope for interaction with the exhibits.
Following this they had their faces painted with Celtic symbols before making the short journey to the Iron age homestead were they were met by the peasants.
They were invited inside to sit on the rug strewn floor and to help make butter and grind barley in the traditional manner and learn what it would have been like to have been an Iron Age child.
After seeing the crops that would have been cultivated and a demonstration of cooking methods it was back to the main centre to indulge in hands on experience in designing and creating a shield .
Unfortunately this did not leave time to go to the cinema to watch the docudrama of the history and mythology of Armagh and Ulster.
We saw it with Peter when he was 10 (16 years ago) and it is a great experience so we’ll be back to let them see it at some future time.
An enjoyable afternoon ending with a picnic in the grounds.
It is hard to believe it is the middle of June and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland‘s series of Jazz Train Mystery Tours is already in full swing with the inimitable Apex Jazz Band providing the entertainment as usual. Having been well organised by David Graham we arrived at Greenisland station to entrain and join up with the rest of the party who, having joined the train at Carrickfergus, had already laid out their suppers and opened the obligatory bottles of wine. Needless to say our party was not long in following suit.
The great thing about these “picnics” is that one gets to share all round so we were pleased to pass on spicy chicken legs and receive home made Scottish pasties, the name of which escapes me due to the combination of wine and Claude Hepburn’s amazing version of a hot toddy!
Brenda, as has become a tradition, passed round her collection of refilled miniature. Dire consequences await those who do not return the bottles!
Of course the mystery bit only lasts a fairly short time as there are a limited number of possible destinations and once one is on the move the series of passing stations is a pretty good indication of where one will end up. Not that it really matters as one platform is very much the same as another as acting as a dance floor is concerned. This time our first stop was Ballymena.
There are those on these outings who have to be admired for the effort they put in to playing the part and their enthusiasm is to be envied.
On this train there were also a group who had belonged to a old time dance class which had unfortunately closed down and they were desperate to practice their skills at any opportunity!
From Ballymena we were transported to Antrim Station where the band once again performed to perfection and Josephine and I were amongst those spent the majority of the time swinging to the music. There were those who were more interested in getting things on camera for posterity!
All in all it exceeded expectations and has been decreed as the best of our outings with the RPSI to date. No doubt we will be signing up next year!
Finally got round to breaking out the BBQ kit for the season with an afternoon session with the family. Hardly got used at all last year but hoping this spell of weather will hold and we can fit a few more in.
Holi is an ancient pre christian Indian rite celebrating of the coming of Spring and was originally thought to have been performed by married women for the well being of their families.
Arts Ekta has been been producing the Belfast version of this festival in St Georges market since 2008, however, due to catching a clip on Radio Ulster this is the first time we have had the pleasure of attending.
We were surprised by the popularity – this being obvious by the length of the queue to gain admission. At £1.00 a head it is really good value for money. Find me anywhere where you can take the kids (Grandchildren) out and keep them entertained for that, plus drinks pressies and the usual add-ons mind you.
Of course, this being an Asian festival, there were a lot of Japanese stalls selling macramé and the like for the tsunami victims. My youngest granddaughter now has a collection of paper roses and vases!
Ther were the usual stalls offering various styles of food and I was surprised that there was only one offering curries and Indian “tapas”. Unfortunately they ran out of Nan bread and when I got to the head of the queue there was a 15 minute wait for rice. I settled for pakoras and samosas which were very tasty.
The entertainment was in the form of various dance troupes and bands, including the dance academy from St Cecelia’s in Derry.
It says something that the Punjabi folk dancing troupe, Balle Shava, are from Birmingham and the spectacular Bollywood Fusion Dancers are all Scottish born!
Probably the most spectacular were the Desi Brave Hearts, a Bollywood fusion troupe all of whom were born is Scotland. their energy and co-ordination was perfection.
Having said this all the acts were very good.
The actual highlight of the afternoon, the throwing of coloured powder on your family, friends and strangers, was a bit of a disaster as the stewards failed to make sure everybody was in the designated channel.
We were lucky to get into the arena as they ran out of powder sachets about 4 people behind us and, having queued for 45 minutes this must have been a bit of a let down. The reason given was the unprecedented number of people participating. I suspect that they will learn their lessons and next year will be better organised.
I’m sitting in the computer room (not allowed one in the living room) trying to think of a new way of putting this letter together. Once again my good intentions of writing it in sections throughout the year has failed miserably and my original start got lost when the PC crashed. Yes, I do have backups but this bit was missing somehow!
I left you last year anticipating reports of our impending New Year Rhine cruise. This was almost eclipsed by the demise of the our leader Peter Robinson’s Dynasty following the disclosure that the “holier than thou” Iris, doyen of Dundonald Society and famous for offering to get homosexuals cured, had been having a quiet affair with a 21 year old and had lent him about 50 grand to set up shop in a council owned restaurant.
Actually the Rhine cruise was a great success with amazingly good food and wine. Probably the highlight was getting out of the rain in Rüdesheim and having the local speciality coffee made at the table – sugar caramelised in the glass by flambéing a v large Asbach brandy, coffee and lots of cream! There was a great crowd of “oldies” like us including a very large Welsh contingent who were intent on having a good time in spite of the rather poor entertainment on board. Needless to say the bar bill at the end warranted a mortgage.
The photo is of a very big music box at the famous Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett. An amazing museum of mechanical music machines.
Later in January Peter, having somehow managed to survive politically and having moved Iris quietly into a sanatorium, shook hands with Martin. Wailing and gnashing of teeth in Ballymena; what was the world coming to?
We managed to survive into February and escaped off on a tour of Cambodia. After Vietnam Cambodia was definitely hard work. Either that or we are getting old. I would not have missed the experience and the highlights were the trip by boat from Battambang to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat. The downsides were our travelling companions, a pair of septuagenarian retired schoolteachers from London, the
female being christened “the witch” by all the guides, and the hotel in Kratie which had no lift, cold and cold running water and an ancient and very noisy air-conditioner. I’m not sure which of bit of the air it conditioned. The geckos were extremely efficient at insect control!
We did have a good time on the whole and the guides were absolutely super. Anybody for fried tarantulas?
From Cambodia we flew back to Bangkok to meet up with Sandy and Kay McKinnon, 13 and 9, ’61 to ’69, who had very kindly offered to put us up for a week and show us the high life of the city. It was wonderful to just relax in good company. We did make a memorable excursion with them and their friends to The Bridge on the River Kwai. Sandy and I also managed to fit in a game of golf (Note the very efficient caddie) whilst the ladies went off for a coffee morning. Go to Bangkok, it is an amazing city.
Whilst we were away the ubiquitous dissidents bombed Newry court house.
March brought the announcement that the Queen is planning a trip to Ireland. With hindsight one wonders how they will afford it.
Just to give Easter a boost the nice new MI5 HQ at Palace barracks near Holywood was car bombed. Bet nobody saw that coming!
Business was not getting any easier either.
In May we flew to Venice with friends to pick up the Orient Express to Paris. Venice was amazingly wet, from above and below, but the food and wine were unsurpassable. The Orient Express is a train everybody should travel on once in a lifetime, but not more than that! I was really impressed with Paris and it exceeded my expectations in trumps. Two wonderful days and then we returned via Eurostar to London and then home.
This was also the month we had the council elections and poor Peter Robinson lost his seat to an ordinary local person who was not under the impression that she owned East Belfast.
In June I went off to join a happy band organised by Tom McMahon, to walk along the canal from Liverpool to Leeds in aid of the Birgelen Vets Charity and Macmillan Cancer. I just completed the last 15 mile leg from Bingley to Leeds. A great time was had by all. Mick and Lynne Shepherd, of 9 Sigs Rugby fame met me along the way to make a contribution and also forced me into a couple of pints of real ale – well it was lunch time.
The rest of the month and July were typical. As a warm up to the marching season a 400lb bomb was left outside the Auchnacloy police barracks and following the 12th marches there were 4 days of carefully orchestrated rioting in north Belfast.
In August the funeral of Alex Higgins brought the cream of the snooker world to Sandy Row to pay their respects. Personally I reckon they should have named the city airport after him; but then he didn’t die quite soon enough and footballers always get the glory anyway!
In September we joined up with friends to go the passion play in Oberammergau. I reckoned it was our last chance as the next performance will be in 2020; which is rather a long way ahead. There were 47 of us altogether and we had a great week touring in the Tirol, going to the play, which everyone, be they religious or not, should experience, and culminating in the Hofbräuhaus in Munich.
Our Great granddaughter is now a year old!
We found out, during October, that one should be careful which beaches one picnics on, following the discovery and exhumation of the body of one of the IRA victims who had been buried by the dunes in Red Bay on the North Antrim coast some 37 years ago.
November brought the 50th anniversary of my joining the army (actually it was September ’60 but we’ll not quibble over a couple of months) as a boy soldier in the REME. One of the squad, Barry Johnson had spent the last two years organising a reunion in Wokingham, close by the camp at Arborfield, Berks. It was a great evening followed by a conducted tour of the Corps Museum on the Saturday. Josephine and I then took off up to London for the rest of the weekend.
Workwise things are pretty slow at the moment and do not look like improving to any great extent for the foreseeable future, however, we have enough work to keep the factory going for another month and one keeps one’s fingers crossed that something will turn up. At least it’s not as bad as the Republic.
We’ll that’s a sort of commentary on our year and the local events of passing interest. Cannot really complain as we have managed to fit an awful lot in around work and golf: yes I’m still finding time to play although I’ve definitely become a fair weather player!
We are off to the Med on boxing day and will see in the New Year in between Alexandria and Olympia all being well; so that all that’s left to do now is wish you a great Christmas and health and happiness for the New Year.
Michael & Josephine
Unfortunately a number of our usual group were unable to attend, being entertained at the Proms in the Park and other such events, so it was that only eight of us were there for roll call. Lack of numbers did not detract from our usual ability to enjoy ourselves and it was apparent on arrival, seeing the number of people who had made the effort to don costume for the occasion, that the rest were intent on doing the same.
Sam was unable to find costumes to suit Shirley and him so he bought the material and machined up skirts and knickers. I must admit that I found the ideal fancy dress website that caters for the larger sizes, and added a wig and a pair of Primark stockings and shoes.
In true school tradition dinner was served buffet style so we formed a neat line. Three courses available but to my mind the treacle sponge and custard was top of the bill.
The disco provided appropriate music and we managed a few dances before retiring to the bar for a little quiet. Quiet is a relative term and relates to the lack of music rather than peace as in “peace and quiet.
Two things that one should remember not to do again: 1. Promise the grandchildren that you’ll take them to Portrush before term starts and 2. Forget that it is a bank holiday weekend.
Having said this at least the sun was shining and one could lean “comfortably” against the wind at Portstewart. The kids were undaunted , made great use of the playpark and then took the dogs along the cliff path down towards Portrush.
Portrush was gridlocked due to the Mini rally (I used to own a ’59 mini with mechanical turning indicators) and the marshalls closed off the town centre whilst we were half way through, so Josephine debussed with the children to walk down to Barry’s (where else) whilst I listened to the radio for half an hour and traffic was sorted out.
Finally joined up with them and indulged in a couple of rides on the Wurlitzer and some other G-inducing spin around. Luckily they did not want to go on the big dipper this time.
Absolutely nowhere to get a meal without a couple of hours wait so we went to Mr Chips for fish cuppers and and sat and ate them on the roundabout.
The day was bright and sunny with the bees (we are lucky enough to have a large number) buzzing around the flower beds, so we decided to make the most of the weather and see what was happening in the area.
Isn’t it funny that one can live in an area for 25 years without noticing a local landmark. On Sunday afternoon we took a run up to Sentry Hill House, not ten minutes drive away, and found a 19th century farmhouse with an accordian band playing in the courtyard. They offer tours of the house itself and also have a local historical collection that was bought by the Newtwonabbey Borough Council together with the buildings. In fact the source of nearly everything in the house and collection was William Fee McKinney who lived there for most of his life and amassed and catalogued items of interest from both the local area and his family abroad.
Local schools apparently also use the venue for their history lessons. One lives and learns!
Following this we took the dogs down to the Loughshore for a run and for the first time this year came across a party in the water at the end of Gideons Green.