Again a brief apology for the lack of images as explained in the last entry. They shall be appended asap.
Monday the 2nd July and another lovely day although a bit breezy and not quite as warm as is had been recently. Still very good for Northern Ireland though.
Again I am writing this in the present tense as I am bang up to date with my journal entries. All I have to do now is get them posted which will hopefully happen today but I have said that before.
If I do ever manage this remarkable feat I shall have to turn my mind to what to do next here. Obviously I shall prioritise these entries as they are “live” and I only have a couple of entries to go to complete my Lundy Island and the West Country piece so I shall finish that off. It was the first project I embarked on here and I would like to get it finished. Completion should only take a day or two but it is then a question of what to do next.
I am currently debating between my three Canadian trips, a similar number to Sri Lanka, my three months in SE Asia in 2009, the London Loop Capital Ring or Lea Valley walks (all in and around London) or my European jaunt last Spring / Summer. At the minute I am tending towards the latter option as I have much of it already written up and saved from previous websites. Other possibilities include one of three canal trips, a weekend in Bristol, previous trips to Northern Ireland and Scotland or one of the Virtual Tourist Euromeets. Perhaps I shall decide on something completely different, who knows? Who indeed? At the moment not even I do but I promise that you, dear readers, shall be the first as and when I ever make my mind up.
Despite the lack of maple syrup I went for the Canadian breakfast today, mainly because I need to go to the shop to resupply on the makings of a fry-up and I substituted honey for maple syrup. No doubt such perceived heresy would earn me a slap from my dear Canadian friend Lynne and it was certainly not ideal although tasty enough but “needs must” as they say.
Breakfast over, I prepared lunch for Father, read a few chapters of the Tony Ward book and then settled down for the first football of the day which was Brazil vs. Mexico which promised to be a cracking game between two very good sides. It is proving to be so as I am again writing this in real-time with the first half extremely lively and Brazil having by far the better of it in terms of chances.
I cannot believe I am so current here so I can report that at half-time it is scoreless and it is time for me to have a quick smoke and check the laundry!
The game is being played in a punishing 35 degree heat in Samara which is hotter than either Brazil or Mexico today and it will be interesting to see if this becomes a factor later in the match.
Brazil have started briskly in the second half and been rewarded after five minutes with a Neymar tap in, 1 – 0 Brazil. Let’s see what Mexico have got now. The truth of the matter is not very much and indeed they look tired. Brazil have all the play and Mexico really do not look like scoring.
88 minutes and it is all over now. The substitute Roberto Firmino has just tapped in a Neymar cross / shot (I am never quite sure with him) for 2 – 0 and it looks like adios Mexico. They really have been second best today and on this performance Brazil are certainly justifying their pre-tournament favourites status. They will be hard to beat. It is all over now, 2 – 0 Brazil and they will play the winners of Belgium vs. Japan which is the evening game.
I went to the bar for the second game which kicked off in almost 30 degrees and 40% humidity. There really have been some very testing climatic conditions in the tournament so far and only likely to get tougher as the summer wears on.
Haraguchi breakaway 48. Belgium almost equalised immediately through Hazard but it cannoned off the post with the ‘keeper well beaten. Things then just became totally crazy with another goal, a beautiful shot following some superb approach play. 3 – 0 to Japan and not five minutes of the second half played. Again, I am writing this in real-time so let’s see what the Belgians are made of now.
Well, they appear to be made of something as they have just equalised on 69 minutes with a freakish header that I cannot believe was intended. 2 – 1, twenty minutes to go and it really is hotting up now. Four minutes later Feillani (sp?), who has been brought on from the bench scored with a brilliant header to make it 2 – 2.
What drama now. There have been four minutes of extra time and with less than 15 seconds left Belgium have scored an excellent goal that was so late there was not even time for the restart. Very hard on the Japanese who played superbly and have proved that they are more than a force to be reckoned with. Belgium go on to meet Brazil in the next round and I really cannot wait for that one.
Time is running now and it is like the climax of some idiotic film. Does our hero i.e. me get this published before Daniel the barman throws him out? Tick tock, tick tock. OK, a bit melodramatic but I need to inject some life into this but if I do it I can get back to my other stories here. 2349 now, time is running but I think I’ll do it. Imagine hugely dramatic music here.
If you are reading this on 02/07/2018 you’ll know I got there. If not, I haven’t.
Just a quick technical note here. I have not loaded my latest images on my computer and have rather stupidly and unusually left my camera at home so there are no images for this entry but I do rather want to get up to date and I shall add them asap. Here is one of Tandragee skyscape just to take the bad look off the page. I love skyscapes and there may well be a feature about them here if I ever catch up with myself.
Saturday 30th came and I woke up ludicrously early again possibly due to the sun which was bright even at 0800 although when I went outside for my early morning smoke I noticed that there was a refreshing light breeze.
I prepared breakfast for Father and then took into a bit more writing which brings me to a matter I mentioned in the last entry. I really hope I do not jinx it but I am writing this on the 30th in the afternoon and I hope to get to the pub this evening which is where I can access wi-fi to post the last few days. That is my excuse for going to the pub and I am sticking to it. If this does happen I shall be in a state of grace that I do not remember ever having been in before in my various blogging guises and that is being up to date. If this does happen I shall feel very pleased with myself and not a little surprised. I’ll let you know how it goes.
My Father likes a cheese and Branston pickle sandwich for his lunch (must be Branston and I agree) and I am fond of one myself but it was the first meal of the day and problem was that I could hear my poor little frying pans sobbing quietly on the stove. Problem, what problem? Have you never heard of a fried cheese and pickle sandwich? I will fry just about anything which is such a feature of the cuisine of Ulster. I am still not sure what prompted the potato salad as a side but it was all very tasty. I did tell you I had odd tastes.
After the football cold turkey of the previous day, normal service was resumed and the tournament moved into the knockout stages so hopefully no more of these awful tactical games where effectively reserve teams were content to have a kickaround because the result didn’t matter or else a draw suited both teams. First up in the afternoon match was France vs. Argentina which looked like a good game on paper.
France made a lively start with Mbappe running the ageing Argentinian defence ragged. His pace is amazing and when he was clumsily fouled in the box on 11 minutes, Griezman duly converted the penalty. The teenager posed a serious threat every time he was in possession. Argentina were playing a system that obviously did not suit them and had offered little or nothing for 40 minutes and then di Maria scored an absolute gem from a long way out giving Lloris the French keeper no chance. They really did not deserve it but it woke the huge Argentine support up and they went in at half time on level terms.
Two minutes into the second period a Messi shot took a serious deflection off the Argentinian defender Mercado who had come forward and put the South Americans into a 2 – 1 lead. It was turning a bit naughty and there were some fairly robust challenges flying in.
If the di Maria goal in the first half had been glorious then it was at least matched in the 57th minute by a sublime long-range strike from the unlikely source of the French fullback Pavard, it was brilliant. To think that a year previously he had been playing in the second tier of German football makes it all the more remarkable.
We were now into the stages of extra time and the hated penalties so were they beckoning? Not if young Monsieur Mbappe had anything to do with it. Six minutes after the Pavard gem he scored a good goal to make it France 3 – Argentina 2. He wasn’t finished yet. Less than five minutes later in a move that had started with the French ‘keeper he slotted another very confidently past the Argentinian stopper who didn’t manage to stop it. France were really in the ascendency and Giroud was unlucky when he hit the side netting with an absolutely blistering effort. By then the Argentinian resistance was all but finished but never rule out that man Messi, for my money the best player on the planet, who headed a goal two minutes into injury time but it was merely a consolation and 4 – 3 probably flattered Argentina.
Don’t cry for me Argentina but rather cry for a team that was well past it’s best and clearly second best here.
I awoke after my “old man dozette” in time for the evening game which was billed by the media as Luis Suarez vs. Cristiano Ronaldo but was officially Uruguay vs. Portugal. It was going to have to go some to match the first fixture but the first goal wasn’t long coming, seven minutes to be precise, when a wicked cross hit Cavani in the face and went in. I am not sure how much he knew about it but they all count. It remained 1 – 0 until the break but it was looking like it was going to take something special to unlock a Uruguayan defence that was fairly uncompromising.
Portugal came out in the second half looking up for it as they had to be and on 54 minutes an excellent Pepe header form a set piece levelled the scores. Game on and the European side certainly looked in the mood after the goal but Uruguay were not to be denied and a great counterattack ended with a superb goal by Cavani. In the space of less than two full games in the knockout stages we had been treated to three goals that may well be in contention for goal of the tournament. It was certainly going to be some final half hour.
Despite some fairly frenzied Portuguese attacks in the dying minutes, including their ‘keeper making a nuisance of himself in the box, Uruguay held on for the win.
Apart from the fact that a couple of fancied sides were going home it also meant that arguably the two best players in the world viz. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo would take no further part. I wonder who will emerge as the star striker now.
After these two excellent games it was time for a quick shower and off for Saturday night in the “Monty” as there is always music of some sort on and it is usually a great laugh. As I told you above I was going to use the internet and it would have been feasible as the place was not terribly full but I had indeed jinxed myself and am actually writing this the next morning.
The problem was the musician and I stress that he was a thoroughly charming guy called Kieron. He was doing a troubadour set (one man and a guitar plus backing tracks in this case) and I had been chatting to him as he was setting up as musicians do. Being on his own he asked if I would soundcheck him which I happily did and after that I thought it would just look damned rude to be sitting there bashing a laptop keyboard when he was playing.
As always it was a great night and I thoroughly enjoyed myself before heading home pretty late and straight to bed. My “state of grace” would have to wait for another day.
Again I would feel I have short-changed you with this entry so I shall pass swiftly on to the next one. Yes, I know I need to do something interesting soon so I may attempt spontaneous combustion tomorrow although that would probably put paid to the website fairly comprehensively so maybe I’ll not bother. Honestly, when I get this series of entries up to date, I shall move on to some trips that may actually be of interest to you.
It was a late awakening on Sunday 1st of July after a pretty late night in “the Monty” although I did not have a lot to drink. If you have read the previous entry you will know that I had intended to use the bar wi-fi to get myself into the unheard of position of being up to date with a blog but I jinxed it by writing about it beforehand so I shall not make that mistake again here.
I was so late in rising that my poor Father had to prepare his own breakfast but he has no problem doing that and I had a lazy Sunday morning watching TV and reading a bit until my appetite woke up which it normally does two or three hours after my body. The usual fry-up was accompanied by the equally usual image of same and I am beginning to worry about myself not to mention the poor reader who has probably been put off fried breakfasts for life.
The afternoon game in the World Cup was Spain vs. Russia and Spain were definitely favourites. Russia had amazed most people by how well they had performed in the group stage as even their most diehard fans had expected little from them before the competition started. I think I am right in saying that they were the second lowest ranked team in the competition.
Things did not start well with an own goal in the 11th minute putting Spain ahead. It was a bit of a case of the defender jetting his just desserts as the ball ricocheted off his heel when he was busily engaged dragging Sergio Ramos to the ground and not even looking at the ball. After that, Spain got into their rhythm and looked comfortable for a while but Russia played their way back into it towards the end of the half and were rewarded with a penalty for handball in the 39th minute which was emphatically slotted by Dzyuba past David de Gea.
It remained 1 – 1 until half-time and I am actually typing this up in real-time during the break. I am really on top of this blogging business now! The second half should be interesting so time for a quick smoke and make a cup of coffee.
The first 35 minutes of the second period were fairly cagey with little in the way of chances and it took until the 66th minute for David Silva to be replaced by Iniesta who had surprisingly been dropped to the subs bench. I say surprisingly as he is really a class act with so much experience of major finals. OK, he is getting on a bit but I would have started him. He almost justified his substitution on 84 minutes when he came very close in what was about the first real chance of the half.
The prospect of extra time was looming ever larger as the minutes ticked down and four minutes injury time were indicated but even that could not break the deadlock and so another half hour was called for. I did feel a bit sorry for the 38-year-old Russian player who was obviously feeling the pace. All the substitutions had been made so it would be the same 22 men who would continue.
The additional period was played in a torrential thunderstorm and at times it was hard to work out if the thunder or the vociferous Russian crowd were making more noise. In the second half the Spaniards threw everything bar the kitchen sink at the home side but just could not find a way through and so the dreaded penalties were called for. Cometh the hour, cometh the man as they say and in this case the man was the Russian ‘keeper who saved not one but two Spanish attempts to send his team through 4 – 3 on penalties and trigger the most exuberant celebrations amongst their supporters. Heaven help anyone trying to sleep in Moscow in the aftermath of that result.
This is really turning into a fascinating competition with Germany, Argentina, Portugal and now Spain all out. I wonder what odds you would have got on that happening before the tournament started.
After a lazy Sunday afternoon (I did that on purpose!) tea of re-heated pasties, beans and champ it was time to settle down for the evening game of Croatia vs. Denmark and wondering if it was going to be as exciting as the previous three. Well, what can I tell you?
The Danes were ahead in under a minute with a fairly scrappy goal theat went in off the ‘keepers glove and the commentators were discussing how Croatia might respond. They did not have to wait long as Croatia had equalised following some poor Danish defending. Two goals and there were not even five minutes on the clock. What a start.
After that slightly freakish start, the Croatians had more of the play and the better of what chances there were but it had settled down into a fairly tame affair and it remained 1 – 1 at the break.
The Danes started the livelier in the second period but again it petered out into a pretty boring affair and at full-time they were still even so we were due for the second extra time game of the day.
The extra time only produced a few half chances until midway through the second half when Croatia were awarded a clear penalty so step up the Croatian talisman Luka Modric knowing that if he scores they are almost certainly through but his fairly average penalty was well saved by Kaspar Schmeichel in the Danish goal. After that it was clearly going to go to penalties and it duly did.
Denmark went first and Christian Eriksen had his effort saved but Schmeichel kept them in it by saving the first Croatian effort. Modric converted his effort this time round and after three each it was 2 – 2 but then Subasic in the Croatian goal made a great save which Schmeichel immediately matched. It really was ‘keepers on top at this point and it continued with yet another save by Subasic. Croatia scored their final pen to move through to the quarter-final but they really don’t look good enough to go much further on this performance. They can play much better and will need to when they face Russia in the next round.
This day marked the start of the second half of the year and it set me thinking about my lifestyle. So far this year I have been away from my home for three and a half months of the six and will probably be here for a while longer. I was pondering the concept of home as I talk about “going home” to Northern Ireland and yet when I am here I speak of being “back at home” meaning London. I have now lived longer on the mainland than I did in Northern Ireland at 30 and 28 years respectively and I am not sure where I consider home any more. Factor in the amount of travelling and I think it now boils down to “wherever I lay my hat”.
As this entry has been a lot of food and footie, I’ll finish it up with another bit of Tandrageee information and this relates to the Church I walk past every time I walk into the town and again it is a salvage job from my Virtual Tourist days. It concerns the Parish Church of St. Mark’s, Ballymore which, due to its prominent position on top of the hill, you can see for miles around.
“Although I am not a Christian myself, this is my family’s Parish Church and my late Mother is buried in the churchyard here.
The history of the Church and it’s predecessor buildings is interesting and I am indebted to Kelson Kilpatrick, a family friend and local historian, who is an expert on all matters Tandrageee. I was fortunate enough to attend an illustrated talk by him about the village in the Church Hall last week, and fascinating it was.
Ballymore actually means “Big Town” which is a misnomer if ever there was and this is the townland where the village stands. For those not familiar with the concept, a townland is a geographical sub-division of a County which I believe is unique to Ireland.
I am not sure of the very early ecclesiastical history of the site but a Church was consecrated here in 1622 and was described as “a handsome Church 60 foot in length and 24 in breadth well furnished with seates, Communion Table, Capp, font and a good Bell”. Sounds lovely.
The Church, like so many others, was destroyed in the 1641 Rebellion and rebuilt after by Lord Grandison (who had built the original). There is a fairly gruesome story associated with the old Church, as reported in a journal of 1889, and I reproduce it here.
“The following is a copy of a Paper, sealed in a bottle, which was enclosed in a box in an old vault in the Parish Church, Tandragee:- “This box contains the bones of Henry St. John Esq., Lord of the manor of Ballymore, and of his daughter. He rebuilt the church of Tandragee and built this vault. He was murdered by a party of banditti, called Tories, at Drumlin Hill, near Knockbridge, on Tuesday the 9th day of September 1679, by being shot through the forehead, and was buried in this vault on Tuesday the 16th of the same month. By tradition of the old inhabitants of this parish, it appears that upon opening this vault for his interment, the body of his daughter who had died some time before, was found lying near the entrance and out of her coffin, having, it is supposed revived after being locked up here”. What an awful end, although not uncommon for the time.
By 1812, the Church was far too small to accommodate the needs of the parishioners and so it was torn down to be replaced by the basis of the fine building you see today. At the time it cost the princely sum of £2,200, and was extended in 1846 and 1889.
The most recent improvement to the Church is the installation of a magnificent new digital organ which was dedicated in September 2010.
The Church is presently flourishing under the Rectorship of the Rev. T.S. Forster, or Shane as he likes to be called. He is a delightful man and a great source of knowledge about the Church, should you ever meet him.
I am getting a little drowsy after my large tea and the warm day, even though it was not quite as warm as of late and with a pleasant breeze, so I shall sign off and head to bed for a read. Bed at 2217, what madness is this? There is probably more to come so stay tuned and spread the word.
Sunday 24th of June was another scorching day and I woke before nine after not getting to sleep until about 0300 as I was reading.
I was not too hungry so just had a jumbo sausage roll for brekkie. I know you good people like to keep up with my breakfasting habits (I said with my tongue firmly in my cheek).
After midday it was time to settle down for the second England game of the campaign against Panama. Everyone expected England to win comfortably against a tiny nation of four million inhabitants who had amazed everyone by even qualifying but I think that only the most optimistic of England supporters would have seen the manner of the 6 – 1 win.
If you are a UK resident you will have read or heard about it as the media have spoken of little else since. If you are not a brief precis is that England were 5 – 0 up at half-time, Harry Kane scored a hat-trick, John Stones the central defender was unlucky not to convert his two goals into a hat-trick and Jesse Lingard scored a superb goal. All sorts of records were broken but let’s not get carried away just yet.
Whilst watching the second game which finished Japan 2 – Senegal 2 I made my Father his tea as pictured. OK, it is all shop bought and I can do better but it would mean completely re-stocking a fairly bare larder so shop bought ribs, beans and oven baked chips (fries) provided us with a tasty evening meal. It was a decent enough game to watch but I don’t think either side has enough to progress too far.
The final game of the day ended Poland 0- Colombia 3. Poland were rubbish, there is no other word for it. Colombia were clinical in their finishing and are potential opponents for England in the next round.
After that it was my evening pilgrimage to the Monty for a few journal entries here, a couple of pints and the usual “craic” with my mates.
Again, I shall run straight on to the next entry as this one has been so brief.
Monday the 25th was a scorching day and with the forecast suggesting tht it is here to stay for up to two weeks. UK is apparently currently hotter than Athens and Miami. Unbelievable but I am not complaining.
The first event of note was the noise of a motorcycle pulling up outside and it was my kid brother although I really should stop calling him that as he is a retired man now. He is a member of the and he had been away for a few days with a few of his friends from the CNX Riders Club (UK), most of whom had come from the mainland. They had been “treated” to quite appalling weather most of the way over but fortunately it had been glorious for their trip with over-heating (the riders, not the bikes) being the major problem.
The magnificent beast you can see in the images is exactly 40 years old but it still looks pristine and sounds wonderful, it really has a beautiful note. Unlike some of his friends machines it is completely original and has never been resprayed or rechromed. For those of you not of the biker fraternity, a large part of the CBX attraction is the instantly recognisable logo (pictured).
As you can see, my brother even has a suitable keyring.
I really have to get him to take me for a run on it before I go, especially in this weather. If we don’t get the CBX out, we could go on his Honda VFR or huge BMW tourer, he really does like his bikes. I suspect that at my age the Beemer might be the most comfortable bet especially with my back!
After the “breakfast” snack pictured the first football match of the day was Uruguay vs. Russia. Russia are in the finals by virtue of being hosts and it is probably just as well as the general consensus is that they were very average coming into the tournament and probably would not have qualified on merit. Uruguay were 2 – 0 up in the first half courtesy of two set pieces, the first a superb Luis Suarez free-kick, and then Russia had further problems by having a man sent off after about half an hour. The game was being played in punishing 33 degree heat in Amara and it was always going to be difficult for the Russians after the dismissal and so it proved. With ten men they had a hard time and the Uruguayans put the final nail in the coffin right on the stroke of normal time with a third to inflict the largest ever Russian defeat in World Cup finals. Yes, they go through but they will need to get back to the form of the first two games if they want to go much further. Uruguay look a good side.
Due to the way the games are scheduled now this match was on simultaneously with the Egypt – Saudi Arabia game which the Saudis won 2 – 1. Perhaps the highlight of the game was a superb save by the Egyptian ‘keeper who is the oldest ever player to appear in the finals at 45 years and 106 days. Well played that man.
I really don’t know why they changed the scheduling half way through the group stages as previously I could (and often did) watch all three games one after the other but that isn’t possible now. Two games are played simultaneously at 1500 BST and another two at 1900.
After I had made and eaten dinner with my Dad it was time for a little lie down. It is undoubtedly a lot to do with my advancing years and a little to do with the heat but I need a little dozette most days. I woke up in time for about the last ten minutes of the first half of Portugal vs. Iran with the former leading 1 – 0. During the break I learnt that in the other game in this group, which was being played simultaneously as explained above, that Spain were 1 – 1 with Morocco and remarkably the North Africans had scored first.
In the second half, Ronaldo did what he does best and dived for a penalty but justice was served when the keeper saved from the same player. After that it just became niggly and Queresma behaved disgracefully with a most appalling piece of play-acting followed shortly afterwards by a vicious bodycheck that he was lucky only to earn a booking for. Another dubious VAR enabled penalty late in the game gave Iran an equaliser to earn a 1 – 1 draw.
News came through at 83 minutes that Morocco were leading Spain 2 – 1. Remarkable. The Spaniards did manage a late qualiser to finish 2 – 2 and top the group. Spain and Portugal both go through from that group.
I rounded off the day with a wander to the Monty and a couple of pints with some mates before home, a read and off to sleepybyes.
Friday the 22nd was better weatherwise and I didn’t feel like having breakfast so you will be spared that particular report for this day.
With all the rest of the family away it was time to knuckle down to some housework as you can see and laundry and ironing was very much the order of the day. I am becoming quite domesticated here although I hate ironing with a passion. The afternoon was spent in the bar so I could use the internet and my mate Ritchie turned up with yet another beautiful guitar, this one a Fender semi-acoustic, so that was another bit of a play although nothing that could be classed as a jam. Even the barman got involved and proved to be a decent player himself. Things like that just happen in the Monty and are seen as quite normal. It is a great bar.
Here is the football report for the day.
Brazil beat a spirited Costa Rica side 2 – 0 although they left it late for their goals and then the battling minnows of Iceland took on Nigeria but could not repeat their earlier heroics with the Africans running out 2 – 0 winners. In the final game Serbia took on Switzerland. The Serbs had a dream start when they scored after five minutes and then the Swiss equalised. It was heading for a point apiece until the Swiss managed a winner in the last-minute of normal time.
I didn’t see much of the middle game as I had to go home and prepare dinner for my Father who likes to keep to a set routine and has his evening meal at 1700 every day. No problem, I can manage that. On my way home I stopped at the great little village butchers I mentioned in an earlier entry and which I always refer to as Anderson’s as it had been in that family for years. It has now been sold and I suppose I should get used to calling it Wilkinson’s but old habits die hard. I am glad to see they die hard in this shop, whoever now owns it, as the service is still ever so friendly and the locally reared meat is still excellent. I bought a couple of pork chops and did them with a honey and mustard glaze which turned out OK. If you are wondering about my lack of variety in the vegetable department it is due to my Fathers dietary requirements as he is very limited in what he can eat.
With dinner over for Father there was still one more feeding assignment I had to undertake and so I walked down to my brother’s house to feed the lizard as I mentioned before I had agreed to do. The main meal was easily prepared as that consists of putting some rocket and spinach on a plastic container lid and leaving it in the tank so hardly Michel Roux cuisine but he seems to like it.
The second course was much more interesting. Whilst predominantly herbivorous, my scaly friend is partial to a little dessert of something small and preferably still wriggling and so I fed him a few live maggots held in a long pair of tweezers and he fairly wolfed them down, he really does like one or three. It was difficult to do as I was running out of hands but I did manage to take a video of the event which I think turned out pretty well under the circumstances. If I can ever work out how to do it I will post it here.
I also availed myself of my brothers wi-fi to do a bit of internet work and after that it back up the hill to drop my kit of at home, check on Father and off to the Monty for a couple of pints before home for another good sleep. It must be the country air!
Again I am going to carry straight on as it is another couple of fairly short entries here.
I awoke at about 1100 on Saturday 23rd June which is fairly late for me here and a quick look out the bedroom window showed me that it was already a very good day. Looks like the forecasters might have got it right for once.
I shall start with the usual breakfast image and you may be wondering where the customary Ulster Fry has gone. I opted for a bacon sarnie instead as I was thinking ahead which is unusual for me. All shall become apparent shortly.
I watched the first game of the World Cup day which was Belgium v. Tunisia and ended 5 – 2 in favour of the Europeans with a very late second for Tunisia adding a touch of respectability to the scoreline of a very one-sided affair. Belgium were great with Lukaku, Hazard et al firing on all cylinders. Some friends of mine who know about the game had them as a good bet to go far in the tournament and it certainly looked like it here. It will be interesting to see how England fare against them in their last group game.
S.Korea 1 – Mexico 2. Mexico were the better side and deserved the win but the late consolation goal by Son was a peach and the highlight of the game.
I was only half watching the game as it was approaching 1700 which is dinner time around here. I mentioned a bit of forward planning and I did not have my fry-up earlier as I was planning one for Father for the evening meal. For purely logistical reasons I knew he had not had had one for a while and I remembered that he was certainly partial to this particular Northern Ireland delicacy. I am not sure I have ever met someone from the Province who didn’t and even the veggies merely substitute Quorn sausages and skip the bacon etc. I’m not sure how the vegans manage.
I got to work on the pans and knocked up a couple of plates in a few minutes which we put a serious hole in as the image shows. I promise you that was not staged, we really did clear the plates. Father confirmed that it was indeed a long time since he had eaten a fry and that he was very pleased with it.
With the washing up done it was time to settle down for the third game of the day and one that I was really looking forward to, Sweden vs. Germany.
It was a German must win game after the Mexican defeat and another defeat here would have sent the defending champions home. Sweden scored first courtesy of a terrible ‘keeper error and Sweden pressed with lots of chances late in the first half. Germany had not been impressive but the manager must have given them a rocket at the break and equalised after three minutes in the second half. A German player was sent off late in the half and they looked all but dead and buried, a notion that was confirmed by a great save by the Swedish keeper on 87 minutes. Never write off the Germans, my pick to win the Cup before the start. They finished strong and Kroos scored with 20 secs of the five minutes injury time left to give them a victory they probably didn’t deserve.
As usual I went to the Monty in the evening where my mate Paddy was on the decks doing his DJ bit. Even though there were a good number of young people there, he played lots of old stuff which they seemed to love. Musical tastes in Northern Ireland have always tended to look back rather than forward. It suited me nicely as I lost all interest in chart music about 1990 although he did play some newer tracks towards the end. It was a bit mad and I felt right at home, it literally was like I had never been away. Tandragee really is a timeslip and naturally I was late back.
I promise I’ll get round to writing something of interest soon as this is very much really for my own benefit so stay tuned and spread the word.
Nothing much happened on the 10th and 11th of June and I settled into a quiet routine at home which I found quite relaxing. Apart from reading everything I could lay my hands on and spending time with my Father I was keeping up this journal which is proving to be time-consuming. Time is not a problem at present but I do wonder how practicable it will be when I go travelling again. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
It is one thing writing all these entries but it is another to actually publish them. As I believe I explained before I have no internet at my Father’s home and due to its physical position I cannot access wi-fi. I don’t even have a mobile ‘phone signal there. I had briefly toyed with the idea of getting myself a few carrier pigeons to keep in touch with the world but then settled on an alternative solution. I had discovered that my local, the excellent Montagu Arms aka The Monty has got wi-fi so that is where I go to get online. Not that I need one but it is as good an excuse as any to go to the pub!
On my way to the Monty on the afternoon of Tuesday 12th June I decided to have a wander down the town to see what was what and was pretty depressed by the sight I was greeted with although not at all surprised. It has not got a lot worse since last time I was here but it certainly has not got any better. I keep hearing and reading about the massive international investment in Northern Ireland but as I have mentioned before it never seems to get too far outside greater Belfast.
I walked past the Monty where the restaurant has been closed for some time. It used to be a good place for a meal and served for a few years as a decent Chinese restaurant but it has not been open for a while. A few yards further on I passed what used to be the video shop – closed and shuttered. Turning the corner I came to the Ballymore pub which is the only other pub left open in a village where I remember six.
The Paddock and the Huntsman (Francie Cullen’s) are long gone and more recently the Castle (Ivan’s) which I remember drinking in just a few years ago. It was good for live music at the weekend too. When I was a younger, fitter man I even did a few shifts as a dooprman in the Huntsman. Since the last time I was home Jokey’s (Joe Cullen’s) has closed.
As far as I know, all four premises are still on the market with apparently no interest being shown.
Pubs all over the UK are closing at a terrifying rate and it is a subject I have an interest in and not just because I like going to pubs. In many smaller rural communities the pub was the social hub and as such performed a useful function. Couple this with the mass closure of smaller bank branches (the bank in Tandragee closed a few years ago), Post Offices and small local shops that cannot compete with huge shopping centres and the heart is just being ripped out of so many country communities. Urban areas are not faring much better.
There are many reasons for the pub closures which I won’t go into here but I have it on good authority from a friend who is well-placed in the drinks industry that at one point a few years ago there were 36 pubs closing per week in England and Wales alone. Add Scotland and Northern Ireland in and the UK figures are as staggering as they are depressing. The rate has slowed considerably now, presumably because there are not many left to close. The problem is very well documented on the excellent Lost Pubs website to which I have contributed.
Before Virtual Tourist was so needlessly and callously culled I had a small “travelogue” there concerning closed pubs near where I live in the East End of London. The criteria for inclusion in this piece were they should be in the E1 postal district which is about a mile and a half square at most (I think that is equivalent to a zipcode in the USA) and that I had had a drink in it. By the time VT was killed off I had 28 entries and a few more pending that I had not got round to posting. It really did make for depressing reading.
When I eventually get back to London I may well go for a walk round again and revisit the sites for an entry here or even construct a separate “chapter” or whatever it may be called. Again, this is the joy of having my own website now as I can publish anything that interests me without the constraints of having to stick to a particular subject. I do hope I don’t drive my small but undoubtedly select readership mad with this scattergun approach so let’s get back to Tandragee on a pretty overcast Tuesday afternoon. I told you the heatwave wouldn’t last.
Another few yards, and I mean no more than about 30, I came upon the hoarding in the image above which is there to cover an unsightly patch of wasteland that has lain unused forever it seems. I cannot even remember what used to be here. An indication of how long it has been derelict is the foliage of the flora clearly visible at least seven feet high. It must be a complete jungle in there. In the background of this image you can see a street running off the Main Street and things do not get any better there.
The street mentioned is Cornmarket Street although it is hard to believe there was ever a corn market here, now there is nothing but further dereliction. The image above is fairly self-explanatory and is the former premises of the Municipal Offices, again long closed, boarded up and with nobody around the village knowing what is planned for the building. This facility was part of the local Government apparatus of Armagh District Council and even that has gone since I was last home. In yet another round of cost-cutting and centralisation it is now part of “ABC” which stands for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and covers a huge area geographically and is administered from Armagh City which is nowhere near being central. In terms of population it is the second largest Council area in the country after Belfast.
It is a sign of the somewhat depressing times that even the public conveniences adjacent to the offices have long been closed and decaying.
From what I would call the start of the village proper at the Armagh Road roundabout I had walked no more than three or four hundred yards at most and I have described to you the scene. I was slightly heartened by a glance across the street which showed that the excellent local butchers is still going strong but I was not even half way down the Main Street and I had seen enough. I turned around and headed back to the Monty by way of the charity shop, which continues to flourish and where I almost inevitably bought a book, an Ian Rankin that I don’t think I have read which is unusual.
A few pints with some mates and then a quick stop in my little local supermarket where what had been a slightly depressing day in some respects took a massive upward turn right at the end. I am going to be a bit of a tease now and not tell you what happened as I have a little piece planned for the next entry to introduce you to a Northern Ireland institution so stay tuned and spread the word.