Time to catch up.

For those few of you that may have been following my little excursion back to the place of my birth I thank you and I do realise that it is getting on for three weeks since I posted here. As we have now entered another new month I thought I had better bring you up to date a bit once I have finished wondering where this year has gone to. Like so many clichés the old one about time moving quicker as you get older does indeed have a basis in truth and I really have no idea how the last seven months have slipped by.

I am still in Northern Ireland and enjoying myself although doing nothing worth writing about which is the first reason for the long absence here. I have not been at all idle on the blog front though despite my very limited internet access as I have been concentrating on constructing pages about my rather crazy ramble about Europe last year and have been quite pleased with my progress although it is time-consuming. The only way I can hope to keep myself vaguely organised here is to back publish entries to the dates to which they refer which means that you may not have seen them as they are buried away at the bottom of the homepage. If you would like to have a look you can click on the link here and see what you think. Believe me, it was a pretty mad journey one way and another.

There are a few bits and pieces for me to share with you and I shall start with the World Cup which was in full swing the last time I posted in this section. Despite the increasing hype in the British media football didn’t “come home” as England did very well but eventually fell short losing to Croatia in the semis. They are a young side who should get much better especially if manager Gareth Southgate remains in charge as he seems to know how to get the best out of them. They certainly did not disgrace themselves by getting to the semis.

When I saw the way the semis had worked out I actually managed to predict what would happen although in truth it was not too difficult. The fixtures were France vs. Belgium and England vs. Croatia and I said that either team in the first match would beat either in the second and so it was to prove. France beat Belgium and then an aging Croatian side who are probably just about over as a group defeated the considerably younger English team.

In the game that I never see the point of i.e. the third and fourth place playoff a very decent Belgian team saw off England fairly comfortably. I didn’t think England looked that good in the game.

On to the Sunday and the Final and naturally, with the odd things that happen to me something a little strange took place. I was going to the pub quite early as I knew it would be crowded for the game and I wanted to get a seat. I popped into my local supermarket and saw a middle-aged guy wearing a Croatian football (soccer) shirt accompanied by a teenage lad who was almost as tall as me. I know that number of Eastern Europeans have moved into the village of late but I had not heard of any Croatians and I was intrigued as they seemed to be poring over a computer printout of a map with the young lad who works in the shop.

All soon became clear and it transpired they were a Father and son, the Father indeed being Croatian but they were now resident in the USA where they had flown from into Dublin airport that morning. They were heading for Limavady in the Northwest of the country as the son was playing in a large international youth football competition in that area. Almost unbelievably, the shop assistant did not know where it was which surprised me as Northern Ireland is such a small place and Limavady is a comparatively large town. How they had managed to deviate off the A1 and ended up in Tandragee is something of a mystery to me but here they were and in a bit of a bind as their hire car had no satnav and the guy could not get his American mobile (cell) ‘phone to work here. I told them the place was the best part of two hours drive and had formulated a route for them but when I told them that they would be struggling to get there in time for kickoff they asked if there was somewhere local that they could watch the game. No better man to ask and I told them to come with me for the 100 yard walk to the Montagu Arms of which I have spoken often.

In I walked with the two Croatians and announced to the assembled company that as it was the biggest day in Croatian footballing history I had arranged a couple of my own fans to help interpret the finer details of their team. Utter nonsense of course but my mates looked incredulous until the situation was explained and I bought the guys a drink (Cokes all round for them), introduced them and we all began to chat. As you probably know by now I am a great believer in the “interconnectedness of all things” as Douglas Adams so wonderfully termed it and also “what goes round comes round” as they say. Some years ago I had been in Zagreb during a major football tournament and I was staying in an obscure local area as usual. It was my practice every evening to go to a particular little locals bar to watch the games and I was treated brilliantly despite not a single word of a common language and here was I returning the favour to a couple of Croatians all these years later.

There still remained the problem of getting them to their ultimte destination after the match and fortunately my mate Ritchie was on hand. When Ritchie is not entertaining people with one of his selection of excellent guitars he is by trade a lorry driver and knows every road in the country. I had picked my route not because it was the shortest but because it was the simplest involving mostly motorway driving but Ritchie came up with a shorter and apparently equally simple alternative which he managed to get printed off on the bar computer and explained in detail to our new Croatian friend who seemed well pleased.

When we are not slaughtering each other the people of Northern Ireland are the friendliest you will ever hope to meet and I am hope the man and his son will take home happy memories of their brief unplanned stop in a tiny village they had undoubtedly never heard of. What are the odds of such a thing happening? If I had been five minutes earlier I would never have run into those lovely people but, as the late Terry Pratchett once very intelligently remarked, “Million to one chances happen nine times out of 10”!

Whilst they may have been happy with the hospitality the result of the game was less to their liking with their home nation going down to a very talented French side who had played some stunning football throughout. Still, for a nation of a shade over four million people they had done remarkably well. For those of you who do not love “the beautiful game” that is the end of that although the domestic season is merely days away now.

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An unusual departure for me.

My other two staples of blog entries are breakfast and the weather so I’ll do breakfast first and it rarely changes although, in an unusual departure it was bacon sarnies (Brit slang for sandwiches), orange juice and coffee today which is not usual but I do like a bacon buttie (more Brit slang) now and again. I have posted photographic evidence of same here! I did hear once that the majority of vegetarians who go back to being carnivores do so because they want to eat bacon. This was borne out as one of my Father’s carers came round when I was “slaving over a hot stove” and the incomparable smell of bacon wafting about the kitchen. She told me that although she had eaten recently that her mouth was watering with the smell. I genuinely feel sorry for those that for religious or dietary reasons cannot enjoy this quintessentially British item that has kept armies of builders and the like going since time immemorial.

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Hard to beat.

Other than that it has been fries all the way so I’ll include another image here of one of my better efforts. This really is causing my poor Father some bemusement as he regularly sees me photographing whatever I am about to eat and on the odd occasions my sister-in-law does not cook for him, what I have prepared to eat for him. I suppose he has a point but I reckon I shall have enough for a decent gallery of “Fry-ups of Northern Ireland” when this little jaunt comes to an end. I promise to post a warning at the top of it so you can pass quickly on if you do not want to induce a heart attack at the mere sight of my cholesterol-laden offerings.

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Normal Northern Ireland weather service is resumed.

The third part of my unholy triumvirate of topics here is the weather, that perennial staple of conversation here, and I really do not know where to start. I have been telling you about the record-breaking heatwave we had been having but, with it being Northern Ireland, that didn’t last. We had been hearing horror stories on the TV news from farmers (are they ever happy) that there would be no carrots for Xmas dinner as the crops were failing, we had a hosepipe ban and so on and everyone was praying for rain. Be careful what you wish for as last weekend not ten miles from here in Lurgan there were homes and businesses destroyed by flash floods. Today was absolutely awful with rain all day being driven by a blustery and none too warm wind.

In due course I shall get round to writing a series of entries here about my wonderful trip to Sri Lanka earlier this year where I had enjoyed 30 degree temperatures every day and watched TV images of Western Europe gripped by blizzards and battered by Atlantic storms. Six months later and we are having a heatwave and flooding in the space of a few days. What is going on with this weather?

In local news (as they say on TV) we have had what they refer to as “the marching season” in Northern Ireland which can be a lively time of year to say the least. Without boring you it revolves around a series of marches by the Orange Order which is a Loyalist organisation and which has caused untold trouble in years past for reasons mired in centuries of history in this all too volatile country.

Traditionally, the “11th night” i.e. the eve of the marches was a time when huge “bonies” (bonfires) were lit and when I say huge I mean huge. Vast pyres of wooden pallets and tyres were constructed over a period of weeks if not months and usually dwarfed the surrounding buildings leading to all sorts of issues for the Fire Brigade. There were some problems this year when contractors, who had to wear ski masks to avoid reprisals. Yes, when I say that things have changed out of all recognition since when I left, there is still an undercurrent of fear which I think will last for many generations. I should be clear here and say that the visitor has absolutely nothing to fear because, as I mentioned, we are the friendliest people imaginable towards outsiders, it is purely an internal friction.

With the bonfires done, the marches themselves passed relatively quietly but all things are relative, especially here. In the lead-up to the marches there had been all sorts of trouble in the City side of Londonderry / Derry (they cannot even agree on the name) at the interface between the Nationalist and Loyalist areas with shooting incidents and so on. They have been roundly condemned, and rightly so, by community leaders on all sides and seem to have calmed down and yet again I must stress to the potential visitor that they have nothing to fear from this as they would need to be Hellishly unlucky to stumble upon it.

I have some more observations to make about the last few weeks but, as usual here, time is against me and the delightful Sam is going to kick me out of the bar shortly so that is my internet done until tomorrow. I think that if I work quickly I can get this posted and the further observations will wait so stay tuned and spread the word.

Surely football is not really coming home.

A bit of a lie-in this morning after a pretty late night reading and finally finishing my Tony Ward book which was a great read. I was so late up that Father had his own breakfast done.

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Industry standard for Fergy.

I had my standard fry-up for brunch although I really must get a bit of shopping done as my cupboard (not to mention fridge and breadbin) are very Old Mother Hubbard at the minute.

Three in the afternoon and here we go again, England vs. Sweden for a place in the semi-finals of the World Cup. High level stuff indeed so would the increasing hype about England prove justified? Is football really coming home? Again, I am writing this in real-time. Gareth Southgate has named the same starting XI as that which began the last match. Not much to report in the opening minutes except a few very wayward English passes.

12 minutes and the first decent strike from Claesen but it goes a little over the bar. On 18 minutes England break but Kane shoots just wide. Perhaps it is the heat in Samara but the game has been fairly slow for the first 20 minutes and the whole affair is pretty scrappy with nothing to raise the blood pressure yet.

29 minutes and England get a corner which probably did not need to be conceded and Harry Maguire scores his first international goal with a powerful header made easier by being about four inches taller than his marker, he really is a big old unit. England 1 – Sweden 0. 40 minutes and England have a decent attack but can’t get a final shot in. Two minutes later and Trippier, who is playing very well in the tournament, puts Sterling in with an inch perfect pass but he could not finish. Almost on the 45 minute mark, Sterling fluffs his lines again, taking far too long to get a shot off in a great position and ending up being hustled out of it. At least England seem to have woken up a bit and were exerting a bit of pressure towards the end of the half. Time for a smoke and making a coffee in the hope that the second period is better. Even if it is rubbish, England will be happy if the scoreline remains as it is.

Sweden must have had a rocket from the manager at half-time as they have come out all guns blazing and within a couple of minutes of the restart forced an excellent save from Pickford down to his left. He has been playing very well including the penalty save in the shootout against Colombia and it is strange now to think of the doubts that were raised about him before the tournament.

England have livened themselves now, forcing a few corners which suits them as they have been very good at set pieces. 58 minutes and the pressure tells. A header from a virtually unmarked Dele Alli puts England 2 – 0 to the good. Immediately following the goal England are beginning to run riot but Sweden break away as they do so well and Pickford makes a great point-blank save with Henderson blocking the shot from the rebound. Sweden need to do something and make a double substitution to try and change their fortunes. England are still flying. 70 minutes in and England are more or less knocking it about at will. 71 minutes and the same old story. Sweden break quickly, launch a vicious shot which Pickford tips over the bar. He is having a stormer.

82 minutes and a free kick to England in a reasonable position following a foul on Trippier who has also been excellent and naturally I have jinxed him as he takes the free himself and it is rubbish. Last minute of normal time and Sweden have a free just outside the England box but they sky it into about row L of the stand behind Pickford’s goal. Sterling is substituted by Rashford in injury time (five minutes), more to waste time than for any tactical reason.

Well, would you believe it? The final whistle and England into the semis against either Russia or Croatia which will be decided later this evening. The first half wasn’t great, the second half better but England won’t mind as they progress and possibly as importantly managed to keep a clean sheet which seems to be difficult for them.

My afternoon / evening dozette put paid to the first 15 minutes of the evening game which again I am reporting in real-time and at least I have not missed any goals.

As I have mentioned before Russia have surprised a lot of people by getting this far as they were the lowest ranked FIFA side in the whole tournament at 79th and nothing was expected of them least of all by their own fans and press.

27 minutes now and a Croatian attack leads to a guided header by Croatia. Unfortunately, it was guided about eight feet wide of the post. 29 minutes and a Russian free kick is well curled by Cheryeshev but ultimately held comfortably by the ‘keeper. A minute later, Cheryeshev goes one better and after playing a great one-two score a beauty from outside the box. Ally McCoist has just described it as breathtaking and I would not disagree. Russia are somewhat improbably 1 – 0 up and there really is a game on now. Russia are really doing all the playing now and the crowd are going nuts as you might imagine and the Croatians are racking up a goodly number of yellow cards but on 39 minutes they do something positive with a bullet header from Kamaric following a breakout. It is certainly much livelier than the first half of the England game earlier.

Second half just about to kick off and it could be good. I think a lot depends on how Modric performs as he really is the playmaker for the Croatians.

Ten minutes into the second period and Croatia are having the better of the play which is proved on 59 minutes and a clear-cut chance rebounds back into play off the post. Are the football gods with the home side?

66 minutes and the Russian goalscorer is substituted which surprises me a bit as he appeared to be one of the main Russian threats. A decent move in the 71st minute sees a Russian striker heading just over the bar although the keeper seemed to have it covered. Two minutes later Croatia make a like for like substitution at left back. 83 minutes and a Russian free kick for handball is well defended. Are we heading for more extra-time and the dreaded penalty shootout? 87 minutes and Croatia mimic Russia by substituting their goalscorer. A minute later they might wish they had not as Subasic, the excellent ‘keeper, appears to pull his right hamstring so they will have to wait until extra time to sub the ‘keeper.

Second of the five minutes of added time and Croatia are pressing again. Time ticks down and we are looking at extra time again so I am off to the pub!

Writing again the next morning and I made it to the Monty just about in time for the extra time and it was a beauty with lots of action. Croatia scored and were looking like going through but this really is the World Cup that keeps on giving and, with the with the hosts looking all but done, there was an equaliser well into the added time. Here we go again. Penalties, and by this time the Russian crowd, occasionally egged on by “Big Stan” the Russian manager, were making a noise to rival anything ever heard in a sporting arena.

Throughout the game there were some lovely TV shots of the Croatian premier and her Russian counterpart (not Putin, the other guy that he controls) who were sitting in the VIP area on either side of the FIFA President and who very politely shook hands with each other after every goal. The Croation leader was wearing a red and white checked top as those are the national colours and we were told in commentary that she had flown in that morning on a charter flight from Zagreb that had been put on for fans. I can’t see Teresa May or Angela Merkel doing that and I’ll bet her security detail weren’t best pleased at sorting that at short notice. I could get all philosophical here about the power of sport bringing people together etc. but I think the images said it all.

The shootout was the usual nail-biting affair and I had said before it started that Croatia would win and so it proved courtesy of a couple of awful pens from the Russians and a most freakish effort from the Croatians that Akinfeev got a hand to before it ricocheted off the inside of the post, looped over him and went in the opposite side netting.

Russia had exceeded all expectations in their home tournament and should be proud of themselves but it is Croatia that England will face in the semis.

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A masterclass in working a crowd- the mighty Rita.

After the football it was time for the usual Saturday evening entertainment which came in the small but extremely explosive form of Rita who apparently appears regularly in the Monty although I had never seen her before. She is a vocalist who sings to backing tracks which is a genre I am not generally fond of as it smacks of karaoke for one to me but I have to say she was very good.

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Time for a sit down, girl.

In the later part of the set she did a few modern tracks but the backbone of her set was classic rock tracks with AC/DC, Guns ‘n’ Roses and so on all getting an outing but the highlight for me was her rendition of Cowboy Song by Thin Lizzy. I must stress that I was stone cold sober and I am not at all given to singing in pubs unless I am “onstage” but I reckon I was singing louder than she was and she had the PA behind her, it ended up being somewhat of a duet really. She kept looking over at me, not in a “Shut up, you fool” way but slightly quizzical. She later explained to me that she loved that song but she had recently performed it and nobody in the audience had known what it was. I thought it was one of their better known tracks but apparently not. When I told her the tale of when Brian Robertson (Lizzy guitarist on that track) rolled into a gig of mine in London once she seemed most impressed.

Rita is apparently a big local favourite and not only knew most of the audience by name but enough personal details about them to engage in some great onstage banter. As I said to her, quite truthfully when I was helping her set her gear out after the gig, she had given an absolute masterclass in working a crowd. I have no illusions about my limited musical ability but I have been told that I am a bit of a showman, undoubtedly due to me talking far too much, but I really was in the presence of genius here. I would not advise taking your maiden aunt to see Rita as the onstage repartee can get a bit fruity but it was a great show and I thoroughly enjoyed myself especially as I was in company with Ritchie and Ann. I have mentioned Ritchie before, he is the guitarist with the apparently never-ending supply of guitars so he was right into the music as well.

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The crowd were loving it.

The night wore on as it tends to do on a Saturday there and it was quite late when I got home and straight to bed.

This week long trip is over a month old and looking like it might run a bit longer so stay tuned and spread the word.

All filler, no killer.

Up again ludicrously early on American Independence day to another beautiful morning and again despite only a few hours sleep caused but late night reading again. Prepared breakfast for Father and then took into little light gardening which is completely unheard of as I am not really a fan which is possibly due to the fact that I don’t have a garden and have no idea what I am doing. I shall let you know in due course how much of my Dad’s lovely work I have managed to annihilate.

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Time for brunch which was the usual fry-up and accompanying picture. Now I know you probably do not even bother to look at them any more but please do and spot the new ingredient.

After a visit from the dietician, my Father has had his dietary restrictions removed and is free to eat what he likes again, which is just about anything. This is a great relief as I can attack the supermarket with complete freedom and when I saw the wheaten bread there it was an absolute must.

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Wheaten bread is yet another Irish delicacy which I can source in London at the larger supermarkets but is not really that common on the mainland. As you can see, the packaging calls it toaster wheaten and it is lovely done that way with either sweet or savoury toppings or it is great simply buttered as an accompaniment to just about anything but my favourite is fried wheaten. Frankly, anything fried is my favourite as you may know by now. If you have not been following my “Fergy’s Guide to the Ulster Fry” series here, it is the dark brown object to the Northeast of the plate. There will be more “mystery ingredients” as and when I go shopping to a larger place than my village shop.

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Great with just a bit of butter.

With that done it was time for a read and a doze and then back up for a bit more writing for this site which brings me to the title of the piece. It is a musical reference referring to albums (as they were in my day) or CD’s where there were maybe half a dozen killer tracks and the rest of the product was filled with tunes that normally would never have made the cut. It is also the title of an item on a radio show on the wonderful XXX BBB6 Music Radio which is easily my favourite station on the odd occasions I listen to radio. Do yourself a favour and check it out. If you are not in UK it is available online on the link above.
After England finally beat the penalty shootout hoodoo against Colombia in the World Cup last night (along with the expected ridiculous media hype today) there will be nothing to report here on the football front and so I shall rely on a “fillers” about the village. In truth this does not bother me as I have been looking thorough the carnage that calls itself my “File Manager” here and I have uncovered quite a large amount of writing that I had spent many long manhours researching and writing for other websites I was involved with and which I am loath to lose.
For today’s offering I shall tell you about the War Memorial in Tandragee which I see every day I go into the village.

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War Memorial, Tandragee.

I have mentioned in other entries that I am quite interested in military history and Northern Ireland has certainly produced it’s fair share of service personnel over the years. The exploits of the 36th Ulster Division at the Battle of the Somme in the First World War are legendary, and the numbers of casualties appalling.

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Like so many small towns and villages in the Province, Tandragee has a memorial to the fallen of both world wars. It is of itself not remarkable save that it employs the older spelling of the village as TandEragee, the first E having fallen into disuse now, but it is very typical of the style you will see. I often stop and have a look as I go about my business, and reflect on the generations of (mostly) young men who perished.

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I have included here images of all four faces of the memorial to illustrate a point. Tandragee, although expanding rapidly, is not a large place. It is the kind of village where it can take you an hour to walk down the main street just because you meet people you know. The last census in 2011 shows a population of 3486 which is up a few 100s from 2001 when it was just over 3,000. Obviously, this was much less in the 1930’s and considerably less at the time of the First War. Count the number of men commemorated here and try to imagine the impact then on what is still a close-knit community now. As that wonderful singer / songwriter Eric Bogle put it in his wonderful “The band played Waltzing Matilda”, “a whole generation that was butchered and damned”.
If you are interested in War Memorials in the United Kingdom, I would recommend the  National Inventory of War Memorials website.  This is run under the auspices of the Imperial War Museum in London and it’s aim is to record the details of every war memorial in the United Kingdom including images. Perhaps you might want to get involved yourself. I certainly intend to as I think it is a worthwhile thing to do.
I shall probably not post this when I go to the pub tonight as it is rather brief and probably deserves to be run into the next entry. I shall get on with finishing my Lundy Island and West Country travelogue and then try to work out what I shall do for the next “series” although I have more or less made my mind up.

 

I did not actually make it to the pub for the internet that night so I shall run on into the 5th here.

Thursday 5th July was a bit of a non-event on all fronts and so it will get lumped in with some other days as I wouldn’t post just this by itself.

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The weather was a lot cooler than it had been, I had my usual fry for brunch, it was another rest day in the World Cup and I didn’t go to the pub in the evening. I spent the day furiously typing up more entries for the site.

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The only thing of slight interest, or possibly not, was that I concluded a small experiment which will never rival splitting the atom but satisfied a childhood curiosity of mine. I couple of days previously whilst pottering about in my Dad’s garden I had found a penny which looked like it had been there since Noah was a Sea Cadet. It was so discoloured it was almost black. I had heard years before that HP sauce (other sauces are available!) would remove discolouration from metallic objects and so I gave it a go. I cannot believe I never did it as a youngster. Long story short, it works as you can see. If it does that to metal I dread to think what it is doing to my insides as I put the stuff on just about everything I eat.

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,,,,,,,and after.

That is about it so I shall lump this rather quiet day in with others.

I might as well keep rolling here and get it all over with before I point you in the direction of something hopefully more interesting than my daily breakfast menu and experiments for five-year olds!

Friday 6th of July and I was awake ludicrously early again on the back of about five hours sleep. I prepared the breakfast table for Father and took myself into some more writing for this site which finished off my West Country / Lundy pieces that now await publishing whenever I get the chance so keep your eyes open for that.

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Give us this day out daily fry.

By about midday it was time for my brunch and you’ll never guess what it was. OK, you probably will guess if you read these pages at all and the image above will merely act as confirmation. Yes, I really could live on Ulster Fry-ups.

The weather was still warm but not so sunny and gave the opportunity for a little light gardening which consisted of some savage pruning of the creeping plant on the back wall which was threatening to completely cover my Fathers bedroom window. Fergy 1 – Triffid 0.

A combination of lack of sleep, the heat, the unusual mild physical exertion and a belly full of carbohydrates and cooking oil was taking its toll and so it was off to bed for a little lie down.

The afternoon old man doze put paid to the first half of the afternoon football but I was expecting a long night ahead so I probably needed it. The match was Uruguay vs. France in the first of the four quarter finals and things are getting really serious now. Playing for a place in the semis is a big deal.

I awoke just in time for the second half to find France 1 – 0 to the good courtesy of a Varane goal after 40 minutes. The Uruguayans had a couple of decent attacks but no apparent finishers with Cavani injured on the sideline. Luis Suarez did not seem to be offering much. On 61 minutes the game may have been put beyond the reach of the South Americans. Griezemann hit a fairly tame long-range effort straight at the ‘keeper which would be absolutely bread and butter for a Sunday League player but somehow, in attempting to parry it, he managed to spoon it into his own net for France 2 – Uruguay 0. It was such a soft goal that the French striker was too embarrassed to even celebrate.

After 67 minutes the game boiled over with Mbappe going down for apparently little reason after the slightest of contacts and he was writhing round like he had been hit with a taser. Some of the play acting in this tournament has been appalling. It degenerated into a bit of a melee and the Argentinian referee did not cover himself in glory with his handling of the incident. The net result was a booking on each side. Uruguay have historically had a reputation of being a dirty team and on the evidence of this World Cup there is an element of it still there. Like French rugby teams of yore they can be brilliant but completely lose the plot when things start going against them.

Again, I am writing this in real-time and it is now five minutes of normal time remaining and looking pretty well done and dusted. If it remains this way I shall be quite happy as France have played some scintillating football and Uruguay will probably be more remembered for the negative side of their game than some of the excellent moments they are certainly capable of providing.

87 minutes and France have a free kick in a decent area which they are naturally in no hurry to take. Griezemann lines himself up for a rocket but it goes over the bar. Five minutes of extra time and Uruguay need a miracle. No miracle for Uruguay and France move on to the semi-final to face Belgium or Brazil, either one of which will be a great game on current form.

I started watching the evening game of Brazil vs. Belgium at home and it promised to be a beaut. Belgium had been playing very well and with the likes of Lukaku and de Bruyne with Hazard pulling the strings they have a bit of firepower up front, but Brazil? Surely that would be a step too far for them. Certainly, the Brazilians had not been playing as well as they can but they are the most successful World Cup side ever, having won it five times and most people expect them to get at least to the semis at least. It was not to work out quite like that.

The game started in lively enough fashion and was then turned on its head in the 16th minute when two Brazilian defenders got in each other’s way and at a set piece and managed to put the ball past their own ‘keeper. 1 – 0 to Belgium and was there something big in the offing? The way this World Cup is going anything is possible. It really has been a fascinating competition thus far. The Brazilian task became even harder with a superb strike from de Bruyne on XXX minutes. I managed to miss that goal on my ten minute walk from home to the pub and I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw 2 – 0 scoreline.

The Brazilians scored late in the piece but it was to prove merely a consolation. I should mention Courtois, the Belgian ‘keeper, here. They do not award “Man of the Match” accolades at this tournament but he would have been the choice of many people, myself included. He gave an absolute masterclass in ‘keeping and pulled off a succession of superb saves when the Brazilians did get their shooting boots on. He is very hard to beat.

For a Friday night the bar was pretty quiet with maybe only ten people there, all of whom I knew and it was pleasant enough. My mate Jim turned up about 2200, having fallen asleep and missed most of the game! We had provisionally arranged to go to the Castle Bar in nearby Gilford which hosts an open traditional Irish music session on a Friday evening and attracts a good standard of musicians.

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Another toy for Fergy.

I had mentioned this to my brother earlier in the day and he asked me was I going to play the old Eko Ranger that stays in my Dad’s house for when I come home. I love the old Eko as it is the guitar I learned to play on many years ago. My Father brought it home about 1974 and it was second-hand then so it must be getting on for 50 years old and showing it a bit but it still plays well enough. However, my brother had other ideas and told me that he had been given a right-handed Fender Squier acoustic which he would lend me. My brother is a very decent guitarist but plays left-handed and whilst I am also left-handed I play right-handed so borrowing one of his several very fine guitars was out of the question. I told you nothing is ever simple with me.

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Brand spanking new-label and all.

He had duly appeared later on with a cheap little case containing a brand spanking new eentry level Fender which still had the label attached and the scratchplate protected for delivery. A quick tune up and play in and it was ready for action.

Unfortunately, whilst the guitar was ready for action there was no action for it to be ready for. Jim ‘phoned his brother who was in the Castle and who imparted the news that there were a total of seven people in the bar with not a muso to be seen. At this time of year and especially in this beautiful weather everyone decamps to their caravans at the seaside. Ah well, next week perhaps.

The rest of the evening was spent in pleasant conversation before home, another read and bed.

More football in the next entry with England taking on Sweden so stay tuned and spread the word.

 

The day I became a herpetologist.

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.

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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.

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Ritchie being unusually shy for the camera.

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.

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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.

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Like Father…………..

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.

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…………..like son.
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We didn’t leave much!

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.

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Paddy sorting out the next “golden oldie”.
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Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh Macarena.

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.

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Everybody had a great time.

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.

Three for the price of one.

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A Northern Ireland delicacy.

After a shortish entry for the 18th it will be more of the same for the 19th as it was a day spent doing very much of the same, starting here with the obligatory breakfast image and readers who follow these pages will notice something odd. No fry-up? What’s all this then? Well, sometimes I just fancy a change and this is another favourite of mine which is toasted soda bread, Branston pickle and Coleraine cheddar cheese which is delicious and quite filling.  Coleraine must be doing something right as they reported a growth in sales of 3.7% for the first quarter of 2018.  I might buy shares.

I say Branston pickle as opposed to sweet pickle which is what other manufacturers call a similar product as that is the brand I always use. I love a bargain and will quite happily use supermarket own brand products which are often as good as the name brands and far cheaper. There are, however, some items that demand certain brands e.g. Worcestershire sauce must be Lea & Perrins and Colmans is the only English mustard I will use.

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Simple fare but my Dad loves it.

I’ll just jump ahead a moment now as we are talking about food. Due to my Father’s dietary requirements and taste for simple food, coupled with a fairly small local supermarket means that I am never going to go mad in the kitchen, much as I love cooking. Ordinarily my sister-in-law prepares an evening meal for my Dad but when I am home I sometimes do it. Haute cuisine it is most certainly not nor is it intended to be but Father wolfed down the offering pictured above and pronounced himself satisfied. Although I rarely eat at that hour of the day I had a plate of it myself, smothered in butter and HP Sauce and it hasn’t killed either of us yet so it must have been OK.

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Just a word about the potatoes here. Like Guinness and rain, potatoes are synonymous with the island of Ireland and I still maintain that we grow the best in the world. I say this without prejudice and I have eaten some lovely Cypriot spuds in Cyprus which would be our nearest rivals in the field (pun absolutely intended) but I still think ours are better. I do have a question however. As you can hopefully see from the attached image they are Navan potatoes grown in County Down. I know a Navan Fort which is a few miles South of Armagh City and I know a town called Navan in Co. Meath in the Irish Republic but I don’t know one in Co. Down. Just another of those odd Northern Irish things I suppose and presumably it is just the name of the variety.

As for the football it began with Colombia 1 – Japan 2 but the game was ruined as a spectacle with Colombia having a player sent off after just three minutes. In a slightly better game Senegal beat Poland 2 – 1 which was somewhat unexpected and caused some wonderful celebrations amongst the colourful African supporters.

In the evening game the hosts Russia faced Egypt and run out pretty comfortable 3 – 1 winners. Little was expected of the home nation before the tournament but they have started with two wins out of two, scoring eight goals in the process with ony one conceded, and they are looking a decent side. I think they might surprise people a bit more than they already have.

Weather – still awful!

Because these entries are  all so short I shall go straight onto the 20th and 21st here which explains the title.

Wednesday 20th of June and I may as well start with the weather which was still garbage although there was talk of it picking up by the weekend. I’ve heard that one before!

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As for breakfast, well, what exactly is going on here? Two days in a row and never an Ulster Fry in sight. I must be slipping. I reverted to my Canadian favourite of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup although I am going to have to be careful as the “sirop d’erable” is running low. I shall need to resupply soon.

My brother was heading off with some of his biker mates for a few days round Fermanagh and Donegal on their Honda CBXs. My brothers machine is 40 years old now and it is absolutely pristine. I’ll have to get out for a run with him before I leave as it is way too long since I was on a large bike, even riding pillion. My sister-in-law was away to Bulgaria for a “girls week away” and my nephew had taken himself to Donegal with friends for a week which left his lizard to be cared for so guess who got the job.

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I went down to be introduced to the lovely looking chap whose image you see above. He is a bearded lizard which is a species that I believe originates in Australia and feeding him could not be simpler as it only needs to be done every couple of days and consists of putting some pre-prepared rocket and spinach salad on the lid of a Tupperware container and putting it down in front of him. Best of all it only needs to be done every two or three days as they do not eat too much. I asked about water and was informed that they don’t need much, if any at all, as they get all the moisture they need from the food but he always has a small container of it just in case he gets extra thirsty.

People who remember me from Virtual Tourist and TravBuddy days will know that I am fond of quoting a saying from my late grandmother that “it is a poor day that you don’t learn something”. For a woman who left school at age 14 some years before the first World War she really was very wise. What I learnt today was that this particular lizard is purely carnivorous as a juvenile but becomes almost completely vegetarian in adulthood hence the rocket salad. I say almost as my brother showed me a container of live maggots and a pair of long tweezers which he told me I could use to feed the beast if I was OK with it although it was not essential. OK with it? Just try to stop me. If I can manage it with only one pair of hands I shall take a video of the event and post it here. The best thing of all is that the little chap only needs feeding about every two or three days which certainly makes it much less onerous than dog-sitting.

Time for a quick football (soccer) World Cup update. Portugal beat Morocco by yet another Ronaldo goal in a pretty poor game. After the way they played against Spain I really expected more from them. Uruguay 1 – Saudi 0 and Spain 1 – Iran 0 were both predictable results although Spain, like Portugal, were nothing like at their best which can be very good indeed.

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Approaching the longest day of the year it was still pretty light at about 2230 in the evening even on what had been a fairly overcast day. It is amazing how much difference a few hundred miles North makes between where I normally am in London and back in Northern Ireland.

Pretty boring I know but I am not really in a position to go anywhere at present. I promise I will do something interesting to report here when I get the chance and as this entry is also pretty short I shall carry straight on.

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Thursday 21st of June was a day of doing very little and the weather so bad that I did not leave the house all day, it really was dismal. That is the first part of my three point writing plan and so on swiftly to the second which is breakfast. Readers who were wondering if I had become ill as I had not had a fried breakfast for two days will see from the image that they need not have worried and as a little bonus I shall include another image of the complete set of equipment I need to make these delicious bellybusting meals. It certainly saves on the washing up!

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This is all it takes

I call these fry-ups breakfast although that may be stretching a point as this one was not consumed until nearly 1430. I cannot eat for a few hours after I wake up and just refer to my first meal of the day in the proper sense of the word as it is when I “break the fast” of my sleep. To be honest, I will eat them at any time of the day or night and frequently do.

I’ll finish off with the final element of my entries, the football (soccer) World Cup.  Given the awful weather I watched all three games in full

Denmark 1 – Australia 1. Eriksen, who plays for Spurs in London opened the scoring with a brilliant goal. Later on Austrlia had a penalty for handball after a VAR review. The acronym stands for Video Assitant Referee and has completely divided opinion amongst those who follow “the beautiful game”. I’ll go into it fully at future date but, however the pen was awarded. it was scored convincingly under pressure by The Aussie skipper. Towards the end of the match Australia had several good chances and might well have won.

France 1 – Peru 0 was not a great game with France just doing enough to ease past Peru by the slimmest of margins and they are out now.

Arg 0 – Cro 3. A scrappy first half with one good chance each missed by each side which was disappointing as this should have been a really good game contested by two decent sides. Second half Croatia were much better and Argentina were poor, very poor. Their superstar, Lionel Messi was completely MIA (missing in action) as was most of the South American side. The first goal was a complete rick by the Argentinian keeper Caballero which was punished by a great shot by Radic.
If Messi is the Argentinian talisman then Luka Modric performs that function for Croatia and he did not disappoint with an absolute peach of a second goal. A game where “vigorous” tackling had been much in evidence then got completely ratty and there could easily have been red cards. The third by Rakitic on full time merely rubbed salt in the wound and leaves Argentina, amongst the pre-tournament favourites, in serious danger of not getting out of the group.

After the football I was flicking through the channels on the TV and happened upon pure gold. I am a huge fan of Monty Python and the various solo projects of the members, one of which was the wonderful Ripping Yarns written by and starring Michael Palin and Terry Jones. I think Palin may be my favourite Python not just for his humour but for the way he re-invented himself as one of the worlds leading travel presenters. I have adored everything he has done in that field because of my own love of travel. OK, I know it helps to have the weight of the BBC and a massive budget behind you but he has certainly been around a bit and I do love his presenting style. I would love to see his old passports!

As for the Ripping Yarns this evening I had a real treat as there were three episodes back to back, – Tomkinson’s Schooldays, The Testing of Eric Olthwaite and Escape from Stalag Luft 112B. I have seen them all before but it is some time since I did and it was great fun to revisit them. If you have not seen them I do suggest you search them out.

All of this and a bit more writing up this journal offline took me to bedtime where again I slept like a log.

Stay tuned and spread the word.

Stormy weather? Not really.

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Another day, another fry-up.

 

I left you at the end of the last entry awaiting the arrival of storm Hector coming in from the Atlantic and for which an amber weather alert had been issued but it had proved to be a bit of a non-event here in Tandragee. The roof was still intact! I did hear later that the nearby Mullahead Road had been closed due to a fallen tree but that was about it. The West of the country had been subjected to a bit of a battering but it had obviously blown itself out by the time it got this far East.

Thursday 14th was a day of not doing too much and I only managed one image the entire day which regular readers will not be surprised to discover was of my breakfast, yet another offering of the Ulster Fry which I waxed so lyrical about in a previous entry here. I am not entirely sure if I want to cook the perfect Ulster Fry or take the perfect image of one so the reader will probably get fed up of looking at them but you must admit it does look tasty.

In other news this day it was the opening of the 2018 football (soccer) World Cup. Although I was only ever a very average player, with rugby being my preferred sport, I do like watching it especially the World Cup with all its inevitable drama but I am finding it difficulty to get enthused about this one for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Northern Ireland are not there having been eliminated in the qualifying playoffs against Switzerland by a penalty which should never have been given. Yes, “we wuz robbed”.

Secondly, this competition was given to Russia when the utterly disgraced Sepp Blatter was in charge of world football. The man is so bent he could walk through a corkscrew and he has thankfully and rightly been banned from any sort of dealings with the game for many years. Blatter and Vladimir Putin, what a double act and certainly not one you would want to buy a used car from! I do not intend to re-rehease the arguments here but there are many issues regarding Russia that leave many people, myself included, somewhat uneasy about it hosting this massive global event.

Blatter also oversaw the granting of the next competition in 2022 to the totally unsuitable country of Qatar where temperatures will reach over 40 degrees centigrade during some matches with frequent hydration breaks interrupting the flow of the game. That is only one of the many issues surrounding their hosting of the event and surely Herr Blatter’s decision would have nothing to do with the fact that the oil rich state is one of the wealthiest in the world. I would love to have a look at the numbered Swiss bank account he undoubtedly has. Sue me if I am wrong, Sepp.

To continue the football theme, I am writing this on the 17th June and it has just been announced that the 2026 World Cup will be jointly hosted by Mexico, USA and Canada which begs a question. In major football competitions the host nation(s) qualify automatically which will mean three places taken by the successful bidders. Surely that must be unfair on other nations. Isn’t it ironic that whilst President Trump is busy dismantling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between these three nations, their football associations are banding together to host what is arguably the largest sporting event in the world. It has to be either the World Cup or the Olympics.

I did not watch it but I read later that the opening ceremony was mercifully brief as these events have been getting well over the top in recent years. Brief it may have been but there was still time for Robbie Williams, former backing singer for Gary Barlow in a boy band called Take That, still managed to disgrace himself by giving “the finger” to a camera which duly relayed it to literally billions of people worldwide including who knows how many children. Nice one Robbie, great role model behaviour from a man (I use the term loosely) who is 44 and obviously going on 17. It is indeed truly said that you cannot make a silk purse out of a sows ear.

Footballing tradition also demands that the hosts play the first game of the tournament and which will prove yet another headache for the triple North American bid. Who plays the opener? I know there have been dual bids before but surely a triple bid is a step too far. What next, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales launch a quadruple bid? Logistically it would make a lot more sense than, say, the distance between Edmonton in Canada and Oaxaca in Mexico. How many thousand miles is that?

For the record, Russia ran out comfortable 5 – 0 winners against Saudi Arabia in a match I only saw a little of. They occupy a fairly lowly position in the FIFA world rankings and not much was expected of them but that is a good start especially from the goal difference point of view.

I realise that many people will have no interest in “the beautiful game” and I shall not be reporting overmuch on it although it is fairly much a part of my daily routine now. For those that are interested and for those who may read this long after the trophy has been lifted again there is saturation coverage across all the various media currently available.

That was the 14th so I shall pass onto Friday the 15th where I shall post this. I don’t see the point of religiously sticking to posting each entry religiously on the day it refers to if it is only a few paragraphs long. Incidentally, I shall issue another plea here for feedback on any aspect of the site, specifically the backdating of entries to the correct date. I am always open to constructive criticism and if anyone has any suggestions. especially if you have your own blog, please do get in touch.

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A lovely alternative to a fry-up.

Nothing much to report on the day so I’ll start with one of the two images for this date and what’s all this then? No Ulster Fry after all the raving I have been doing about that gift of the homeland to the culinary world? Today I just fancied a change and it was somewhat prompted by a slightly unusual event which had happened a couple of days before. I spend a bit of time in Canada and have totally fallen in love with the idea of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup for breakfast. Not only is it very toothsome but it takes about five minutes to prepare and leaves washing up of one pan, one plate and a knife and fork which makes it ideal single man fare. Any students who may be reading take note.

So, pancakes, bacon and maple syrup, easily done with the first two ingredients readily sourced from one of the two village supermarkets but maple syrup was a product too far for them. I had seen some clear honey in the cupboard and knew that it would make a reasonable substitute as I have used it, golden syrup and even kithul treacle (a Sri Lankan delicacy).

I should explain that my Father no longer cooks for himself meaning the larder is not exactly stuffed to the gills and so my discovery of a tin of genuine Canadian maple syrup I took to be some sort of sign from the Universe that I should “go forth and feast upon the flesh of swine with the victuals of Shrove Tuesday”. Oh, and lashings of my fortuitous find obviously but I cannot think of a quasi-Bibilical description for maple syrup! No prizes for presentation certainly but it was extremely tasty.

A quick word on the World Cup where I watched all three games, the first two of which were pretty average and the third which will certainly take some beating as game of the tournament even at this early stage. It was the Iberian derby between Spain and Portugal which was full of great football and went right to the wire with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring an 85th minute peach of a free kick which may prove to be goal of the tournament. Again, it is early days but it will take some beating.

That was the sports headlines and in other news I composed more of this journal read a bit and went to bed (thrilling, eh?).

The next entry features an interesting sporting event so stay tuned and spread the word.

Batten down the hatches and get the pan on.

In this entry I shall re-introduce you to a Northern Ireland institution I have mentioned before and introduce you to one I have not yet spoken of in this travelogue although it will be familiar to anyone who has visited the country.

I woke on Wednesday 13th June after another good sleep which is somewhat of a blessing for me given my usual sleep problems. I don’t know if it is the country air or something else but I really am sleeping well here. I was preparing breakfast for my Father and turned on the TV just in time to catch the weather forecast and that came as a bit of a shock.

I do hope you have read the earlier reports from this journey where I described the small heatwave we had enjoyed and where I managed to get sunburnt. Yes, I know, sunburnt in Northern Ireland in June. I swear it is true as I have seen myself in the mirror which is a sight I would not wish to inflict on anyone else by way of photographic evidence here so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Would there be more sun on the way? No chance, and instead we were given a storm warning for that night for a weather system coming in from the Atlantic overnight and which Met Eireann (the Irish meteorological body) had named Hector, presumably for the hero of myth rather than the animated canine character of 1960’s children’s TV.

That was the re-introduction to the Northern Irish institution that is the weather of which it is truly said, “If you don’t like it, wait fifteen minutes” and so now on to the other institution I mentioned at the top of this piece. I shall begin by skipping back to the little tease I left you with at the end of the last entry and which I do hope you have read where I mentioned that I had found something in my little village supermarket that I have never seen on sale in Northern Ireland. Come to that I have never seen it on sale outside Scotland where it is known as slice, Lorne sausage or square sausage and here it was packaged as the latter.

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The hugely tasty and dangerously calorific square sausage.

Square sausage is a cornerstone of Scottish breakfasts, so what is it? It is nothing more than that which the name suggests, it is beef sausage meat which is seasoned and lightly spiced and then cut into slices that are really more rectangular than sausage but I suppose square is easier to say. OK, it also contains such delicious ingredients as Thiomin, Disodium Diphosphate and Sodium Tripolyphosphate which are all perfectly safe. I hope.

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Not only was this the first time I had seen it on sale here, I was amazed to see that it was actually manufactured in Northern Ireland by Hull’s of Ballymena, which is in Northern Ireland. The packaging says “New” and I suspect they are onto a winner. The whole situation got even better as it was on special offer at £1 for four slices which is half price. Needless to say I bought some. OK, I bought a lot as I knew it would not last long in my kitchen. I think the young girl on the checkout thought I had gone mad.

Whilst I had eaten this delicacy as part of many a hearty Scottish breakfast I knew it would fit beautifully into the other institution I mentioned which is the world-famous Ulster Fry. For those of you unfortunate enough not to have sampled this culinary masterpiece, I shall provide a recipe.

1. Pick a selection from the following. Egg, sausage, bacon, square sausage (as of just recently), black pudding, white pudding, soda bread, wheaten bread, potato bread, white loaf bread, mushrooms, baked beans, tomato. In cases of extreme hunger pick one of everything or as the ultimate hangover cure pick one of everything and serve with a pint of Guinness.

2. Fry everything in oil except the beans and mushrooms (heat in pots) and the tomato (half and grill). If you want to be very traditional about it use lard instead of oil.

3. Serve.

Obviously this is the type of meal that give cardiologists “funny little moments” but this is the genuine article. I dread to think what the calorie count is for a decent sized Ulster fry but it is well into four figures. Here is an example. Just the two slices of square sausage you see in some of these images provide me with 34% of my recommended daily fat intake and over half my saturates intake and that is only the raw contents before I start frying it! I have heard this described as a heart attack on a plate which is probably true but it doesn’t half taste great. I know you could grill the various sausage, bacon and even the puddings but that would be classed as heresy where I come from. HP sauce is the condiment of choice although a few people prefer tomato ketchup which also works.

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Ulster fry “lite”.

That then is the calorific joy that is the Ulster Fry and it is quite feasible in the UK with most of the big supermarkets carrying soda and potato bread. Wheaten is a little harder to find but not impossible. White pudding is also quite difficult to source but is really worth the effort especially if you are one of those people who is uneasy at the concept of blood type sausage / pudding.  If I have any readers outside the UK then I think you may struggle a bit so my only advice is to save your pennies, cents, baht, pesos or whatever and come to Northern Ireland for the genuine article.

Apart from several hours spent digesting the gargantuan brunch (which is pretty small by local standards) and reading nothing much happened during the day and so that evening I secured anything that might possibly blow away and retired to bed to await the hurricane.

If you want to know whether or not we still had a roof the next morning then stay tuned and spread the word.