Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Masticating Reporter

When I was growing up in the 1960's the chewing of gum was very definitely a no no. Those who indulged in this imported American habit were viewed with some disdain, perhaps even disgust. They were most definitely personae non gratae. I suspect however that the general view on the habit has become less damnatory over the years. Maybe this is due to the sale of nicorette gum to those trying to give up smoking. There has certainly been a reversal in the social acceptability of the two habits and it is tempting to suggest that chewing gum is now almost lauded by certain people because of its connotations with the giving up of the pernicious weed.


I have to say however that my views on the chewing of gum have not altered much from those that were inculcated into me during my formative years. I do not like the habit and I find it very off putting to have some individual talk to me whilst exercising his molars on a ball of saliva covered gum. If I have the misfortune to catch sight of some gum addict's mandibular delight stuck between his dentition I begin to feel nauseous.


Imagine then my feelings of revulsion when I recently viewed a video clip on the website of a small NI newspaper. One of the paper's reporters was requesting information on a photograph which had been supplied by a reader. He was chewing gum throughout the clip. I accept that this was not national television, nor the website of a national newspaper, but was this behaviour acceptable? I cannot be persuaded that it was. I emailed the editor of the relevant publication and asked him if the reporter was being admonished for his conduct. He did not respond.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Major-General Sir Robert Porter K.C.B., C.M.G.

Born in Co. Donegal in 1858 the young Robert Porter received his initial education at Foyle College before taking up his medical studies at Glasgow University. He entered the RAMC in 1881. This saw him serving in the Ashanti Wars of 1895/96 and he was present at the capture of Coonmassie which event is related in Henty's novel, "By Sheer Pluck." He was awarded the Ashanti Star (1896) and as a veteran of the South African War he received the Queen's South African Medal and the King's South African Medal.


Subsequent appointments saw him as Administrative Medical Officer in the Irish Command (1908-10), Principal Medical Officer Western Command (1910) and Deputy Director of Medical Services Malta (1910-14). During the Great War he was appointed Director of Medical Services 2 Army and was mentioned in dispatches no fewer than six times. He was awarded with the honour of Commander of the Order of the Crown and the Croix de Guerre by Belgium. His medals also included a 1914 Star Trio with August- November clasp. He retired from service in 1918. At the time of his death on 27th February 1928 Major-General Sir Robert Porter was resident at Beckenham, Kent.


In 2011 Sir Robert's medal group was being advertised for sale at a militaria auction being held by Lochdales of Ipswich. The estimate was £5,500. A sad footnote on a distinguished military career.


Sources: The Magazine of Foyle College; Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives.


Saturday, 26 October 2013

City of Culture Packing Up

Now that Londonderry's year as the UK's City of Culture is fizzling to a conclusion it seems to be getting more attention in the media. The BBC reports that, "The Venue," the name given to the temporary structure which was erected to host the eminently forgettable, "headlining," events is to be dismantled in January 2014. There was no appetite from the private sector to take over the running of this structure. Four million pounds was spend on the erection of this glorified tent and apparently £500,000 will now be spent on its removal from the landscape. It really does seem that the legacy of the City of Culture will be forgettable.


No doubt a few hostelries and coffee shops have seen an increase in takings, but has the dear old rate payer been a winner? Derry City Council is expecting a deficit of £1.5 million pounds. Within the last month three directors of the '"Culture Company," have elected fior resignation. Not a happy ship, not a cultural success, not a lasting legacy.


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Stormy Run


An immature herring gull stood ignoring its adult companion and attempting to ignore the winds which blew in from the churning sea. The steel coloured waves crashed into the rocks and turned into a series of noisy, churning malestroms. Not a day for bird flight and not an appealing day for a coastal run.

Despite the discouraging weather I decided to proceed with my run around the area of Portrush, slightly cheered by the rainbow that appeared on the horizon far out to sea. Maybe I wouldn't get too wet!


Initially I ran around Ramore Head. There was no shelter here. The wind buffeted me. It tasted salty. Every few seconds it would ease slightly, causing me to stagger into the momentary vacuum. To my right, next the sea, two posies had been thrust into a crevice in the rocks, a sad reminder of a fisherman torn away by the greedy sea.


The West Strand was empty, although there were a few walkers striding along the promenade above the beach. They were all encased in waterproof clothing. Usually when I run past someone a few words of greeting pass between us, but not today. People walked with their heads down, intent on completing their perambulation as soon as possible. These walkers were out to complete a task, not for idle enjoyment.


Like the walkers I was anxious to complete my exertions as soon as possible. It was not a day to savour the weather. Reaching the end of the promenade I headed inland, passing under the railway line and made for the East Strand. It also was empty of people. A small flock of sandpipers chased the waves in and out. I turned just before the White Rocks and retraced my strides. I had checked the distance on my Garmin. I now took the most direct route back to my car. It was good to get out of the wind. Lunch beckoned. Eight miles completed.






Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Sir Andrew Searle Hart.

Born on the 14th March 1811 Andrew Searle Hart was the youngest son of Rev. George Vaughan Hart of Glenalla, Co Donegal and his wife Maria. His initial education was received at Foyle College and from thence he went to Trinity College Dublin in 1828. At Trinity he was a classmate of Isaac Butt, the son of another Donegal Rector.


Hart graduated in 1833 and obtained the Science Gold Medal. He was a elected a Fellow in 1835, became Master of Arts in 1839, LLD in 1840 and was co-opted as Senior Fellow in 1854. The apogee of his collegiate career came in 1876 when he became the forty second Vice-Provost of Trinity. As was then the custom he retained this position until his death on 13th April 1890. He was the author of an Elementary Treatise on Mechanics (Dublin 1844) and an Elementary Treatise on Hydrostatics and Optics (Dublin 1846). He was a member of the Royal Dublin Society and the Royal Irish Academy.


On Monday, 25th January 1886, prior to the levee, The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, His Excellency the Earl of Carnarvon, conferred a knighthood upon this Old Boy of Foyle College. Writing to the then Headmaster of Foyle, Dr Maurice Hine, shortly afterwards Sir Andrew said as follows, - " Many thanks for your congratulations on a honour which is liable to be misunderstood. It was intended by His Excellency as a parting compliment to Trinity College, and my claim to a share in the honour rests solely on the fact that no other living man has been so long connected with the College as I. This is a claim which I can safely undertake to maintain against all the world, which gives me an advantage over many men who have been similarly honoured."


Sources: Our School Times March 1886.


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Last Legumes of the Year


When I harvested the garlic I sowed a row of a dwarf growing garden pea. This was done more in the hope than the expectation that I would have any pods to pull before the descent of autumn frosts. Against the odds the pea vines have grown to maturity within the timeframe allotted to them by the vagaries of our climate and I was able to pull some fifty pods this pm. Hopefully the remaining pods will swell out during the course of the next week and I will have a few pounds of peas for freezing.


Saturday, 19 October 2013

Dental Flossy? Methinks Not.


I have been attending my present dental practice for about seven years. However my first experience of the practice dates back to the 1960's when for whatever reason I was taken there by my parents when I broke a crown. (I think that our usual dental surgeon must have been on holiday.)


Returning to the practice more than forty years later it was still very recognisable. True there were a few computers in evidence and there had probably been one or two partial refits over the years and of course the staff and dentists had changed, but it was still very much the same practice and I have to concede a trifle old fashioned. Not that there is anything wrong with a touch of yesteryear. It can be very reassuring and the treatment I received, dental and social was always first rate, although I was always wary of the deplaquing exercise. It was my practice to take two or three painkillers in advance of my six monthly checkups.


About a year ago the principal elected to retire and his successor, a dentist of the female variety has embarked on an extensive modernisation scheme. The premises definitely needed this revamp. Work is still very much ongoing, but the surgery into which I was ushered last week had been completed. The old linoleum and strip lighting had disappeared to be replaced by dazzling white walls and bright inset ceiling lights. A brand spanking new treatment chair and dental equipment sat amidst the room.


Methinks that my now dentist will prove to be a very astute business woman as well as a being a proficient dental surgeon. She is definitely not a dental flossy!

I forgot to take any painkillers in anticipation of my checkup; deplaque and clean. It wasn't necessary. The female dental touch may be gentler than that of the male!


Friday, 18 October 2013

Getting Drugs from the Pharmacy. Easy!!

The aged male parent was unable to attend his GP's surgery today to pick up a prescription so I was volunteered/directed to collect it for him and then go to his pharmacy of choice to obtain the drug filled phials.


I introduced myself at the surgery and was asked to confirm my father's name and address. This satisfied them as to my bona fides. At the pharmacy I was only asked for my father's name. An easily performed task, but should it have been easy as it was? Maybe there are more stringent procedures for different and stronger types of drugs and medicaments. I would hope that this is the case. If not then there is something of a gap in the rules and regulations of the health service in so far as they apply to Northern Ireland.


Perhaps I do have an honest face, but so do the most successful con merchants.


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Plucking Tomatoes.



The tomatoes have been late in ripening this year, but for the last eight weeks they have been coming thick and fast. I must say that I do like a freshly picked tomato, sliced and sprinkled with a little salt. A pre- breakfast snack does not however use up that many of these New World fruits. However a good few stone have already been transformed into chutney and soup.


I pulled almost ten pounds this morning. Thankfully there is no imminent danger of a frost, but I think that I will pluck the remaining tomatoes from their vines over the weekend, whether they are red, orange or green. That should ensure that I will still be consuming tomato sandwiches at the end of November.


Another gardening year is coming to an end.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Age shall wither you and the years shall condemn.

When do we stop being children? Never is the answer. We may attain our eighteenth and twenty first birthdays and various big, "o's" thereafter, but for most of us the desire to be children does not disappear. We want to have someone to refer to, someone who will make decisions for us, someone who will protect us from the vagaries of life/existence.


Logically you may know that roles have reversed and that your parents are now the dependants, but the yearning for support and even approval does not disappear. Even the death of a parent does not give solidity of resolve and decision, it merely highlights the lacunae that human life throws at us. Adulthood, or more accurately age, is in reality a series of decades when loss is the predominant feature. Loss of looks; loss of fitness; loss of parents; loss of friends; loss of mobility; loss of cognitive powers. And finally? That's it, you have got it.


The causa causans of life has a tendency to cover itself in camouflage clothing.


Monday, 14 October 2013

Raspberry Cane Assault


It seems a long time since the raspberry canes were producing their plump fruit. Their leaves are beginning to fall as autumn drifts into winter. I decided to attack the rows of raspberries today and extract the old woody canes. These were cut as close to the ground as possible. That done I excised the weak canes and those that had dared to grow outside the regimented rows. Looking at the remaining sentinel canes there was still a bit of a forest. The recommended density is six canes per foot. The healthy but superfluous canes also succumbed to my secateurs.


Another autumn task completed.


Sunday, 13 October 2013

A Bullock's loss. My gain.

A contented bovine look. No name just a number on a list. Number 4894 doesn't seem to know what his fate is. He and his companions are happy to graze the autumn pasture oblivious of their culinary future.


A bullock's life tends to be one of loss. The ultimate loss is life itself. Maybe I should consider the diet of a vegetarian. OK I have. I am afraid that I do like juicy animal protein on my plate so I will not be springing Number 4894. Sorry.


I really must remember to purchase a new jar of mustard.


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Autumn Leaves


Autumn leaves now litter the ground. The leaves which are still attached to their trees and shrubs are turning brown, yellow and red and the turgidity of spring and summer is being replaced with the desiccated foliage of autumn and the dentritic forms of the approaching winter. There is still a richness in the damp smell of the garden, albeit the ripeness of the harvest month is being replaced with the mouldiness of the dieing year. The life of the garden is being superceced by death and hibernation. A time for reflection, a time for retrenchment, a time for wood fires and the comfort of warm drinks and food. A time to wonder why and what if. A time in the affairs of man.



Right. Hon. George Augustus Chichester May PC QC.

Foyle College, Lawrence Hill, - 12th October 2013.


Born in Belfast in 1815 George Augustus Chichester May attended Foyle College during the headmastership of Rev. John Knox. He was a son of the Rev. Edward May and his wife Elizabeth Sinclair. The young George was only four years of age when his father died in 1819. His grandfather Sir James Edward May, 2nd Bt. of Mayfield in the County of Wexford and MP for Belfast had died in 1814. One of Sir Jame's daughters had married the 2nd Marquess of Donegall which presumably explains the inclusion of the name, "Chichester," in George's baptismal records.


May's education was continued at Shrewsbury School and Magdalene College Oxford where he graduated in 1838. He was called to the Irish Bar in the Hilary term of 1844 and by 1865 he had been appointed QC. In 1873 he was elected a bencher of King's Inns and in 1874 he was appointed the legal advisor to The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The following year saw him appointed as the Attorney General of Ireland by Disraeli. His legal career progressed further when on 8th February 1877 he was appointed Lord Chief Justice of Ireland and sworn in as a Privy Councillor. He retained his title of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland until his retirement for reasons of ill health in 1887. He died on 16th August 1892.


May's wife, Olivia, was the the fourth daughter of Sir Matthew Barrington Bt. The couple had ten children, one of whom, Sir Francis Henry May would serve as the fifteenth Governor of Hong Kong, from 1912 to 1919.


References: Our School Times; The Peerage.


Thursday, 10 October 2013

A Run in the Park - The Northern Ireland Road Relay Championships.

Photo courtesy of and Gareth Heron


I was very content that my achillies tendon did not let me down on Saturday. T'was an excellent day for running and Orangegrove AC had been very successful in their organising of the NI Athletics Relay Championships at Victoria Park, Belfast. The weather certainly added to everyone's enjoyment, most particularly that of the spectators. Saturday was not a day for waterproofs and umbrellas with everyone attempting to crowd into the marquee, rather it was a glorious autumn day, sunny and mild with only the occasional untidy leaf littering the paths and reminding us of winter's approach.

The races were run over a circuit which was just over a mile in length. Apart from various junior races there was a combined senior/masters women's race, (3 x 2 laps), a combined senior/masters men's race, (4 x 2 laps) and a mixed relay, (4 x 1 lap). With a total of fifty five teams in the men's race of which twenty eight were masters teams there is definitely an argument for a separate race for masters men. After a lap or so gaps do open up, but at the start fifty five people hurtling off together is probably on the cusp of maximum numbers for this course. Whilst the colour coding at the top of the team numbers differentiated between those running in the senior men's section and those in the masters section you tend not to divert your attention from race concentration to colour identification in the intensity of the moment. You just want to catch the person in front of you and to keep ahead of the individual who is on your shoulder. Another reason for separate races?

As predicted myself and my compadres did not feature on the podium, but we did manage a satisfactory sixth place in the masters section.



Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Windswept Run.

Today marked a definite change in the weather. Strong winds and cool temperatures awaited me on the North coast for my daily dose of exercise. I drove to Castlerock, the one time estate village of the Earl Bishop and started my exertions there.
After running round Circular Road a couple of times I headed out of the village towards the Hezlett/Henry crossroads. I passed a tall middle aged woman walking her dogs, a whippet and an HMV dog. I have to say that I am not keen on HMV dogs. They have a certain proclivity for the ankles of passing runners and joggers. However this one was well behaved and its mistress was equally well behaved. She expressed the hope that I would enjoy my run. They say that people tend to choose dogs that have characteristics similar to their own. I wonder what her husband looks like? Maybe he just likes listening to records!


Hedge Cutting .

It was rather breezy when I ventured into the garden this morning. The task I had set myself for my morning's travails was to finish cutting the beech hedge which surrounds the vegetable garden. A trifle late in the year to be getting round to this task I know, but hopefully the wounds will callus over sufficiently quickly to prevent any frost damage. I really must get around to this job earlier next year.

Cutting the sides of the hedge didn't take too long, but the tops took much longer. It was a bit of a chore moving the step ladder along the hedge, checking its stability and then climbing up to give the hedge its autumnal shearing. A petrol driven hedgecutter would not only speed up the task, but also make it easier. I have however not invested in that particular piece of garden machinery. It seems a bit silly to spend a few hundred pounds on something that will require annual maintenance and will only be used on a few days every year. For the moment I am relying on my trusty hedge shears. I do however have to concede after a morning of manual hedge cutting that the ache in my right shoulder might convince me that a mechanical version of my shears might, (only might), be something to consider in the future.

Cutting a hedge is one of those garden tasks where you see a real and immediate improvement once the job has been completed even if it has a deleterious affect on your physical well being.


Monday, 7 October 2013

Farm Fixer Revisited

I was interested to watch Nick Hewer's update on the Northern Ireland farm businesses which he had visited for last year's Farm Fixer series. Tonight's programme dealt with four of these budding agricultural entrepreneurs who are attempting to diversify their enterprises. Presumably the remaining rural businesses will be put under the microscope next week.


The Cole family of Broughgammon Farm, notionally headed by Charlie Cole, but I suspect under the direction of his mother have certainly expanded their goat meat operations. They now have some one hundred young male goats being fattened up. Billy beef may not be the most obvious choice for a Sunday roast, but once you set aside any preconceived notions it does actually provide a very appetising source of protein. I have purchased various of Charlie's goat cuts and products at country markets and they have all proved to be very tasty. Goat meat has the advantage over our more usual meats of providing a good source of conversation at the dinner table after your guests have unknowingly had their fill of its nutrients!


Friday, 4 October 2013

To Race or To Watch Racing?


The old hocks have been playing up this week, or more accurately the right Achilles Tendon. For a change the problem has not been the result of over enthusiastic training. The problem has I think been a side affect of too much weeding in the garden. I tend to balance myself on my toes when I am hunkering down and this I believe has been the cause of this my most recent injury. On Wednesdy morning I was barely able to put my right foot on the ground. Thankfully the pain carrying neurons have slowed their progress since then, but I am only now able to walk without a hesitant limp.


I am supposed to be partaking of the joys of the Northern Ireland Road Relays tomorrow. I was looking forward to this event, but the possibility of a pain sourcing two mile stagger is rather worrying. Hopefully a long warm up will get enough blood flowing around my tender heal to enable me not to be too obviously the weakest link in the team. A total of twenty eight male master teams are entered. With an average age of 44 it would very unrealistic to think that we will be jockeying for a podium place, but a top ten placing might be a possibility.

If I wasn't going to the Victoria Park races I might have been tempted to paddle along to the point to point at Myroe, just outside Limavady. It has been a few years since I attended this event. I can't say that I am at all knowledgeable in relation to horse flesh although I have eaten it on a couple of occasions! I do however appreciate the strength, power, grace and configuration of the horse. They are also much quicker on their feet than I am.


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Around Northern Ireland in 36 days.


Around Northern Ireland in thirty six days. This isn't the title of an early and long forgotten novel by Jules Gabriel Verne. No this is my estimate for the number of running days that it will take a friend of mine to complete his run around the coastline of Northern Ireland. I don't know when the idea for this venture crystallised , but I must acknowledge a certain degree of envy on my part that he came up with the idea first.


His running adventure started on 3rd February in County Down. Every week since then he has completed another stage of the run, keeping as close to the coast as possible. He journeys to each starting point by public transport and returns home in similar manner. This is one of the self imposed rules.


The thirty second leg which took him from Coleraine to Downhill has just been completed. He has been relating the experiences of each stage of his run and posting photographs of our varied coastline on his blog, I await each week's instalment with interest.


I wonder what running challenge he will take up when he arrives at the boundary between Counties Londonderry and Donegal on the shore of Lough Foyle in a few weeks time?



Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Is Jekyll Hyde Bound?


This month's book for discussion at the classic book reading group was Robert Louis Stevenson's, "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. To call this a novel is probably stretching the term somewhat, but yet it is something more than a short story. Maybe it is the first example of a novella?


The last assemblage of the group only attracted four members and one of those appeared to announce that she was returning to her homeland, the Kingdom of Alba. Would there be sufficient attendees today to enable the term , "group," to be applied to the gathering? Well just about I think. Five of us arrived clutching our much thumbed books.

I suppose we all have our Edward Hyde side and we all have to ensure that we control the dark side of our personalities. Jekyll became addicted to his alter ego and ultimately could not keep those tendencies in rein. The descent to moral decrepitude could not be halted.