Turn your backside to the wind!

Yet again I awoke unusually early on the morning of Wednesday 27th of June even beating my earlybird Father out of bed and it only took a glance out the window to tell me that it was going to be another beautiful day as forecast and as it was to prove.

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I prepared breakfast for Father and took off out to the back garden where it was very hot by 0900. I read some of the book pictured which is The Ulster Canal by Brian Cassells which deals with the now disused waterway of that name. People who know me are aware that I adore canals and everything associated with them. There are a few travelogues heading this way when I wade my way through everything else I have to do here.

The canal was first planned in 1815 with Government approval granted in 1825 and eventually opened in 1841 and had a relatively short and consistently loss-making career until the last vessel travelled it in 1929 and it was officially abandoned two years later. At present in mainland Britain there are numerous canals being refurbished and there is a great interest in them.

The Ulster is in an awful state now with about ten miles of it even infilled but work is underway to re-open a small portion with the ultimate aim of making it once again navigable from Wattlebridge in the Republic of Ireland to Charlemont on the shores of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland and it is this that may prove advantageous to the canal enthusiasts.

In the current political climate following the Good Friday agreement everybody seems to be anxious to get involved in cross-border projects to show just how nice we are all being to each other nowadays. Apart from anything else, the hope is that a re-opened canal would bring in visitors to an area deemed to be one of the most socially deprived in Europe and thereby creating much-needed employment.

If you have any interest in acquiring a copy the ISBN is 978-1-910657-05-8 and is published by XXX Cottage Publications. I do recommend it.

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My Father’s beauty.

My brother appeared in the morning to take my Father’s motorbike for its MOT. For non-UK readers, and MOT is an annual check on motor vehicles over a certain age to ensure they are roadworthy. A check on the odometer showed that the only mileage since last year was the similar journey made for MOT in 2017. The battery needs replacing but I doubt Father will be on it again. Other than that it is in a great state of repair.

 

My breakfast was really brunch and consisted of scrambled eggs on toasted soda bread which I do rather like and Canadian breakfast was out of the question until I source more maple syrup. The deliberately wide-angle is to show the little “kicker” for the meal and which some people might find a bit strange. I love sweet chilli sauce and have even been known to make my own which is really simple and inexpensive to do. I will use it as a condiment for nearly anything savoury and that includes scrambled eggs on toast. I told you I had odd tastes.

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Scrambled eggs on toast a la Fergy.

Now onto the football and the game everyone wanted to watch was Germany vs. South Korea and which I missed the first half of due to my old man afternoon dozette. It was being played at the same time as Sweden vs. Mexico and whilst it was mathematically a little complicated it boiled down to the fact that Germany, the holders, had to win to remain in the competition. From the 45 minutes I saw they never looked like it and to call them very average would be to be kind to them, they were rubbish.

It was heading for a scoreless draw until the Koreans scored right on full-time with a goal that yet again was adjudicated by VAR. They added a second well into injury time although it was a bit freakish as the German keeper was playing in midfield by then. It is the first time in 80 years that Germany have failed to get out of the group and it really is a big deal. The final indignity was that they finished last beneath the Koreans in the group table. Auf wiederschen!

In the other match, which I have not yet seen, Sweden despatched Mexico with three second half goals including a penalty and an own goal although both these teams now progress to the next stage.

I had intended to watch the Brazil game in the evening as there was a mathematical possibility that this team with such World Cup pedigree could exit the tournament as Germany had done earlier but no chance really. I watched their first half against Serbia and was treated to a peach of a goal by Paulinho but at half-time I started to feel the missing of my afternoon nap and was really tired so I had to retire to bed early, intending to get up later to watch the highlights show. In the event, I did not wake up until after midnight! I think it must be the heat that is making me sleep so much but that suits me nicely given my usual insomnia.

I made a bite to eat, and watched an even later re-run of the highlights which showed that Brazil had added a second in the second half and are really beginning to look the part. In the other match Switzerland and Costa Rica played out a 2 – 2 draw which sends the Swiss through to the knockout stages and send the Costa Ricans home.

Having just woken up I wasn’t really in the mood to go back to bed and so I watched a couple of very interesting documentaries on BBC4 which is an excellent channel. I went to bed about 0330 and read for about an hour or so, a re-read of a Terry Pratchett as I had finished the canal book. Eventually I managed to get off to sleep and so ended another very enjoyable day.

I’ll add another background piece to the next entry to alleviate the undoubted mundanity of my current entries so stay tuned and spread the word.

Here then is the piece I promised you at the beginning of this entry and, once again, it was rescued from the Virtual Tourist website before it was butchered. I have edited it as required although it did not take much doing as it is mostly historical. As you will know, I am staying at present in Tandragee which many of you will not even have heard of and so here is a little introduction to the village I lived in over thirty years ago and which is now home to my immediate family.

“I lived in the little village of Tandragee about 28 years ago before moving to London where I am still based when not travelling. I do not return all that often and when I do, nothing much ever seems to change. Certainly there are a few more housing developments and four of the six pubs have closed down in the last few years (The Huntsman, the Castle, Cullens and the Paddock if you’re interested), as has the only bank, but really it is a case of same old, same old.

There are a few decent shops including two small supermarkets, a Chinese takeaways, a chip shop, a kebab shop and a fried chicken place. I think I must be the only person in the village that cooks! I am lucky in that because there is an excellent butchers (Wilkinson’s, formerly Anderson’s, in the main street) where they butcher meat from farms nearby and a great little greengrocers where the majority of the produce is again locally sourced. It is not difficult to buy the makings of a great Northern Irish meal with negligible food miles if that is an issue for the reader.

Nightlife is pretty minimal as I have mentioned, tied up with most of the pubs closing and public transport is abysmal as it is in most parts of rural Northern Ireland. Still, it is a pleasant enough place and the people are friendly in a typical Northern Ireland fashion. I think a little history is in order here, not to mention an explanation of the rather cryptic page title.

The name Tandragee derives from the Gaelic Tin re Gaoith meaning “back(side) to/of the wind”. It can be windy enough at the top of the town and putting your backside to it makes eminent sense to me!

Once home of the O’Hanlon’s, their family seat was burnt in 1641 during the Irish rebellion and in 1837 a large baronial house was built at the top of the town by George Montagu, the 6th Baron Manchester. His name lives on in the name of the Montagu Arms. The Hall remains and is the so-called Tayto Castle, offices of the Tayto potato crisp (potato chip for my American readers) factory.

Tayto crisps are as much a part of Northern Ireland life as soda bread or Guinness, they are ubiquitous and I will accept no argument when I say that Tayto Cheese and Onion are the best crisps in the world bar none! My sister-in-law actually works there part time.

Like so many other villages in the area, Tandragee used to be very dependant on textile mills but these are now gone, as has most of the industry round the village, except the crisp factory mentioned. Again, my now crisp making sister-in-law mentioned above used to work in the last one before it closed and they had provided employment for most of the women in the village for generations.

Somewhat oddly, for a village of just over 3,000 people at the last census, there is a small airstrip here, although I have only ever heard of one man using it. I wonder can you guess what factory he owns?

A final thought. According to the census of 2001, 48.0% of the population were male and 50.0% were female. I have yet to come across the other 2%. I’ll let you know if I do”.

There you go then, a brief introduction to my current abode. I shall include other little bits and pieces along the way 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.