Friday, 30 November 2012

Running Past The Garvagh Pyramid

As I was pulling in to Garvagh Forest I spotted another runner heading up the path beside the river. Having parked the car I pulled on my rain top, hat and gloves and headed off after my sporting compatriot wondering if I would be able to catch him up. With the twisting nature of the pathway it was some six or seven minutes before I caught sight of his fluorescent top through the trees. He was probably about one hundred and fifty yards ahead of me, but at the next hill I could see that I was pulling him in fairly quickly. Even on what is supposed to be a steady training run it is hard not to be a little bit competitive.

Another three minutes saw me drawing level with him. I startled him somewhat. He had one of those iPod devices plugged into his ears. Not really a runner was my first thought, a view reinforced by the fact that despite the cold conditions he was bare legged. Male non club runners seem very loathe to wear running tights. Still he was moving at a reasonable pace so I decided to run along with him. He probably had to run slightly quicker than he had planned, but I won't apologise for that. It transpired that he had started work recently at Garvagh High School. I think that he is  providing an, "after education," course for the fifth year pupils. Apparently they are now the only pupils left in the school. The school will officially close on the 31st August 2012. There may be good educational reasons for the closure, but it is still sad to see another foundation stone of village life kicked asunder.

The forest paths have been resurfaced since I last ran in the forest. Definitely a more pleasurable run than I remembered. A solitary dog walker was the only other person we saw as we ran around the edge of the demesne. It was good to have company. The serried ranks of conifers can be a trifle oppressive when running by yourself.

We finished our run back at the car park beside Ballinameen Bridge with Lord Garvagh's Egyptian inspired vault ,(unused) , looking down at us. Another day's training concluded.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

I am not a lumberjack. Ok!

Today's sunshine galvanised me into gardening action this pm.  The sun might have been shining and there was no breeze, but it was still distinctly parky, probably no more than forty two degrees. The blackbirds agreed with me. Their feathers were fluffed out with trapped air as they tried to keep their core temperature up. The cold wasn't affecting their voices though, nor that of the small wrens singing  from their hiding places behind the twisting stems of the clematis.

Today's task was chosen with the temperature in mind. An old hornbeam had begun to lean over a few years back and a couple of large boughs were now practically at ground level.  It was time to assist them in their quest for terra firma. This was going to keep me occupied and warm for a few hours.

 To complete the task would need a chain saw. I had already arranged with a friend who is competent in their use and has all the protective gear to deal with the final coup de grace prior to Christmas, but I wanted to deal with as much of the task as I could with my trusty hand saw. I calculated that I could deal with the boughs up to where they were about eleven inches in diameter. 

Although it was green wood which I was sawing into it wasn't like cutting into butter. That is for sure. It wasn't long before beads of perspiration were coalescing on my forehead and dripping onto the ground. With the angle of the tree my starting cuts were effectively undercuts. Not easy with a hand saw and of course the downward weight of the wood was closing the sides of the incision around the saw blade. The opposite was  the case when I started sawing from the top. The blade then moved  cleanly through the wood. Despite my undercuts I knew that there would be loud cracks and a bit of splintering as the boughs fell to the ground. This proved to be the case. A bit of an arboreal mess. Still by the time I had bunted off the smaller twigs and branches and disposed of them, it didn't look too bad.. It was now a matter of moving the small and large timber under cover and cutting it and splitting it for burning in the wood stove two winters hence. By the time two barrow loads had been processed and stacked the gloom of evening forced me to cease operations. The blackbirds had stopped singing.

Monday, 26 November 2012

What the beep was that?

Having consumed a large bowl of creamy mushroom soup for my Sunday lunch I sat down to page through the weekend papers.  I had had sufficient experience of the outside temperature from my morning run not to be taken in by the blue sky. A lazy afternoon in front of a warm fire beckoned.

I had just finished reading an article concerning Cdr. Nick Crews. He is of course the chap whose e-mail  berating his three adult children was made public last week. Any how's I had finished reading this article, inwardly congratulating the gentleman on his eloquent turns of phrase, when I heard a loud cheep. Knowing that I was not the owner of a budgerigar I glanced towards the window expecting to see some small bird perched on the windowsill. There was nothing there. 

Maybe I had imagined or misheard the sound? No. There it was again. I went to investigate. It wasn't the smoke alarm. What was the source? The, "cheeps," weren't getting any louder or more frequent, but they were beginning to annoy me. 

I headed towards the utility room. This was the source of the birdless sounds. A small yellowish green light was flashing on some piece of apparatus above the central heating boiler.  I did seem to remember seeing it before, but I hadn't a clue what it did. I peered at the casing, searching for enlightenment. There was something written on it, but the trusty reading spectacles would be needed to allow me to decipher the miniscule lettering. I trotted off to retrieve them from on top of my papers. Hey presto! I could now read the previously illegible words on this blasted sound box. 

Oh dear! I was being warned that I was breathing in carbon monoxide fumes and that I should go outside immediately. Bugger that. It was too cold to be dashing outside. I closed the utility room door, snatching the various guides from the side of the boiler as I went and retreated to my papers to consider matters. A quick glance at the installation guide soon gave reassurance. An intermittent noise at thirty second intervals meant that the battery was running out of power. I should have realised that this must be the problem. It wasn't even as if the boiler had been on. 

I returned to my papers with whiskey in hand, - purely for medicinal purposes you understand. After all I could have been asphyxiated.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Cold Weather Training

There was a definite winter feel to the weather today. The temptation would have been to stay indoors in the warm. Instead I defrosted my car and headed to training. The grass was still white with frost when I arrived at our training venue. Not too many layers were going to be taken off today and the hat and gloves would stay firmly in place.

After a rather tentative two mile warm up on road and footpath we changed into spikes for the session. Today's athletic menu for me was to be seven four minute efforts with two minutes jog recovery between efforts. 

The conditions underfoot were quite good save for a thirty metre stretch where water seems to collect. The overnight frost had only given this area a skin of ice. Even on the first lap we were breaking through the ice and perforce our feet had to savour the mud and cold, very cold, water beneath. I know why I hate cross country! There is little pleasure in cold or even numb toes. I have vivid recollections of school cross country races where I lost toenails as a result of stubbing frozen feet on stones and tree roots. Oh happy days! 

Cold feet apart it was a good session although I was not displeased with the opportunity to change into dry socks prior to the warm down. Altogether I clocked up some ten miles. Lunch was consumed with alacrity.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Final Florence Fennel

Florence Fennel - 23rd November 2012
The feathery foliage of the fennel plant adds a rather exotic feature to the vegetable patch. Brushing your fingers through the fronds releases the aniseed aromas which are this plant's trademark. 

Unfortunately this has not been a great year for my Florence fennel. Despite not sowing the seed until the end of June several of the plants proceeded to bolt. Even those that didn't decide to run to seed did  not provide the fat, swollen bulbs that I was able to crop last year. Still I managed to get a few meals from my sowing and today I pulled the last bulbs. Surprisingly the early frosts have not racked havoc on the stragglers save for a little ,"burnt" foliage at the end of the fronds. 

The selection of fresh veg is gradually reducing. Root veg and brassica now rule supreme.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Dental Death Run

Castlerock Strand - 21st November 2012
The waves were slapping idly on the beach at Castlerock as I parked  my car just behind the dunes. To my left were the remnants of the old saltwater swimming pool. Looking out to sea I viewed a cargo ship sitting off Greencastle waiting for the pilot to manoeuvre it up Lough Foyle. On the beach several people were  strolling towards the Barmouth savouring the winter sun. At quarter past three this was already low in the sky.

Pocketing my key I started off. The beach isn't that long, probably about thirteen hundred metres, so running its length and back would really only get me warmed up for the remainder of my training run. As I headed up the beach I couldn't help wondering whether my fellow beach users realised that they were walking the route taken by the convicted murderer Colin Howell after he staged what would appear to be the double suicide of his wife and his lover's husband in the garage behind one of the Twelve Apostle cottages on the edge of the village. A slightly macabre thought I know. 

One of the walkers was a man in his early twenties. He was accompanied by his dog, a young, black labrador. It would be wrong to say that the dog was being taken for a walk. He was off the lead and I didn't see him slow to a walk even for a second. He sped along the beach, back and forth, chasing a flock of sandpipers. He never caught them but his enthusiasm for the task was obvious. A happy dog. 

Castlerock Beack looking towards the Barmouth - 21st November 2012
With the beach run over I headed on to the roads and footpaths in and around the village. The pain in my left hip was beginning to ease a trifle so I was able to pick up my pace. It was a good day for a run; dry; bright; fresh. Although I was running by myself the time went in quickly. Enjoyable.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Rory Peck Awards

Channel 4 are presently previewing the finalists for the 2012 Rory Peck awards which will be presented at London's British Film Institute on 28th November. These awards were established some fifteen years ago. Their aim is to showcase the work of freelance camera professionals.

Rory Peck, (or to give him his full styling, Rory Forbes Arbuthnot Peck) , after whom the awards are named, was a freelance camera man who was shot dead in October 1993 whilst he was filming a gun battle outside the Ostankino television centre in Moscow. For almost the last forty years the Peck family home has been at Prehen House Londonderry.

I cannot claim to have known the man well, but I did meet him on several occasions. There was a slight military bearing to his manner. He also seemed to be slightly anxious, which is perhaps not unnatural considering the vocation he had ultimately chosen to follow. He was a man who appreciated fine wines as can be vouched by his large circle of friends.

He was married twice. His first wife was Lady Jane Alexander, daughter of the 6th Earl of Caledon, whom he married in 1981. They had two sons, James Julian Peck and Alexander Nicolas de Graevenitz Peck. This marriage was dissolved in 1991. He subsequently married Juliet Crawley the widow of Dominique Vergos a French journalist. There was one child of this second marriage, a daughter, Lettice. Juliet Peck herself died of cancer in 2007.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Santander Says No to Lodgement

I had a small lodgement to make today to the credit of a Cahoot account. Rather than do this at my own bank, which I have done on several occasions, I decided to do this at a branch of Santander. This seemed to me to be a wholly logical thing to do. Cahoot is after all a subsidiary of Santander. 

The clerk took the lodgement book willingly enough, but he then announced that the sort code was not one which his computer allowed. I pointed out the relationship between Cahoot and Santander. This did not seem to have any relevance.  He swivelled his screen towards me and jabbed at it, reiterating that he couldn't accept the lodgement. It's an on line account he announced. Tempted to say more I pointed out to him that I could not make a cash lodgement through a computer. I don't think he had thought about that, but he repeated that he could not accept the lodgement. He said that he ," thought," that the terms of the account may mean that lodgements had to made at the Post Office. He then rubbed a hand through his slightly grizzled coiffure.

Thanking him for his customer assistance I walked fifty yards to a branch of the Ulster Bank. The cashier was welcoming, personable and efficient. My lodgement was accepted with alacrity. 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Cross Border Training

We deserted our normal training haunts today and instead headed to Lifford Athletic Club's newly, "Mondo," surfaced track. The Italian Mondo company now seems to be the supplier of choice for the surfacing of athletics tracks. 

Although it had been raining overnight the surface was quite dry underfoot. Some of the group had thought that spikes might have been essential for our session but I found that racing shoes gave me more than adequate purchase. The situation might have been very different on some of the tartan tracks around Northern Ireland, even at the rather pedestrian speeds that I am forced to run at due to my continuing , (although improving), injury problems.

Our warm up was relatively short. Three laps jog, followed by three laps of striding the straights and jogging the bends, followed by a further two laps jog. That completed we split up into four groups determined primarily by ability/fitness. Unfortunately I was not able to join the group I would have liked to have been running with and should be running with. For the moment I have to take a slower option. This does leave me rather dissatisfied after a training session, but from an objective perspective I know that I don't really have any option.

We ran 5 x 400m with 100m walk jog between, followed by 400m jog and then 8 x 200m with 100m walk jog between. The 400's were ran at an average of 80 sec and the 200's at an average of 36 sec. We then ran a ten minute warm down. 

As I have said already a dissatisfying session, - knowing that without the injury I would be running much quicker. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Ash Dieback Reaches Northern Ireland

The inevitable has happened. The fungal disease, Chalara Fraxinea, commonly known as Ash Dieback  has now reached Northern Ireland. Diseased saplings have apparently been identified at five sites across Counties Down and Antrim. All of the affected plants are to be destroyed. 

The relevant young trees are reported as having been imported, so these first outbreaks have probably appeared earlier than would have been the case if we had been waiting for the disease to spread by wind borne spores. However, with the disease having been reported in Co. Monaghan some weeks ago, we were definitely on borrowed time. Almost the entirety of Europe has now been affected with these killer spores. Clearly they are supporters of the European Community's freedom of movement provisions. 

A small percentage of our ash trees are likely to have an inbuilt immunity to, "Dieback" but there will be many thousands of tree deaths and a large number of them will not be of free standing specimens but rather hedgerow trees. A high percentage of the latter will have been pollarded and may not be so obvious to us.

The next few years are likely to bring about a diseased look to our countryside. Hedgerows will have their gaps. The dendritic winter profile of the mature trees will disappear from our gaze. This arboreal caries will rack destruction. 

Today's news is a sad preface of what awaits.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Manor House Eglinton

I note from the property pages of the Belfast Telegraph that the Davidson family are again marketing their property at Main Street Eglinton known as the Manor House. It will be somewhat sad when this property passes out of the family after over one hundred years of family ownership. The present residents, Alastair Davidson and his wife are, I understand, one of only two husband and wife pairings in Northern Ireland who are both Deputy Lieutenants. Alastair Davidson's father, Kenneth (Kenny) Bulstrode Lloyd Davidson was also a DL. The original estate was purchased by the Davidson family from the Grocers Company, one of the Livery Companies of London.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Jane Austen - The Irish Connection

May, Lou & Cass - Jane Austen's Nieces in Ireland -  Sophia Hillan - Blackstaff Press

I would hazard that very few of those who have read the novels of Jane Austen are aware that three of her nieces, daughters of her brother Edward, lived in and indeed are buried in County Donegal. In this most enjoyable book Sophia Hillan attempts to correct this lacuna in the knowledge of Austen devotees. The lives and loves of these three ladies of the nineteenth century are related against the backdrop of their extensive family connection, the social mores of the time and the agrarian unrest that became such a feature of Irish politics in the years that followed the Potatoe Famine

Cassandra would marry Lord George Hill by whom she had four children, dying of puerperal fever after the birth of her fourth child, a daughter, in March 1842. Louisa stepped in to look after her sister's motherless children and would subsequently become the second Lady George Hill, although there would be something of a question mark over the legitimacy of this marriage, (which was solemnised in Holland,) as the laws of the United Kingdom did not at that time permit a man to marry the sister of his deceased wife.

Marianne the oldest of the three remained unmarried throughout her long life and like Louisa would pass away at Ballyare House close to Ramelton.

What comes through this book is how well connected the scions of the Austen family became. The extended family tree shows connections with the Wards; the Downshires; the Mulhollands ( Barons Dunleath) and the Mountbattens among many others.

A book to be read and savoured.

Rack of Pain

I do not do pain well. Pain killers on the way to the dentist are a must. If I have a headache, voluntary or involuntary, then again I am looking for some palliative care. All the more surprising therefore that I voluntarily submitted myself to an hour of agonising pain tonight. I even agreed to remunerate my assailant for what I knew would be an excruciating experience.

Why agree to something which without the element of, " volens," would probably fall within the definition of Assault Occasioning  Actual Bodily Harm? Well I thought a deep sports massage might help my hip problem. Whether it does remains to be seen. I think it might. 

I promised myself that I wouldn't scream no matter what the pain and I kept to this promise although I think that I have left imprints from my tightly gripping hands on the edges of the treatment bench. Terence, the name of my attacker, pushed all his weight into my frightened leg muscles. It felt a lot better when he stopped.  Wiping the sweat from my brow I actually thanked Terence before bounding to my car. I was definitely moving more freely. Success? I hope so.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Garvagh Heritage Trail

Photo by permission of Garvagh Development Trust

I recently came across a short booklet produced by Garvagh Development Trust and entitled, "Garvagh - Journey of Discovery." This is in effect an updated version of, "Garvagh's Hidden Treasures and Secret Places," which was brought out some ten years ago. Presentationally the  new production is fresh and vibrant.. The photographers have managed, fortuitously, to take all their photographs on one or other of those few pet days in a Northern Irish summer when it is not overcast.

Whilst the booklet is most obviously aimed at the visitor to the area it  should also remind the local of what places and sights of interest are on his or her doorstep. I found the potted histories on members of the Heyland family of particular interest. I may well be prompted to delve deeper into the lives of Major Heyland and his son General A. T. Heyland. 

In the centre of the booklet is a map highlighting the position of the buildings and sights described in the publication. This has been very usefully incorporated into the Trust's website, ( on an interactive basis, with a thumbnail photograph and a short description of  the building or sight to be viewed at the particular location popping up when you, "hit," the circled number. This will, I think, appeal to children in particular.

Monetary considerations are always a restricting factor when publishing any guide book or pamphlet. Perforce the information included must be a summary of what could be included. For those who wish to gain greater insight into the sights and history of the area perhaps the Trust may wish to  consider collating the plethora of information that must surely be available and having that available on their website.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Autumn Leaves

11th November 2012

The trees have been holding on to their leaves rather longer this year. Probably a reflection of no heavy frosts and no gales. Most of the leaves have however now ceased their fight against the natural order of things, although the beech trees still cling to a tantalising reminder of their autumnal, russet hues. A carpet of yellow and brown drying leaves covers the lower lawn giving a satisfying swish and crackle as you trail your feet through them. 

So long as the dry weather continues for a few days a high setting on the mower should lift the bulk of the leaves for depositing on the compost heaps. 

The garden is definitely slowing down for the winter. Still plenty of tidying though and a tree which is suffering the indignities of old age that requires the kind and brutal cut of the chain saw. It may not thank me for this but it really is for the best. Its and mine. Think of all the lovely logs!

Beech Tree 12th November 2012

Saturday, 10 November 2012

New Park , Moville - The, "Monty," connection.

New Park 10th November 2012
I was in Moville today. It does have a pleasant location on the banks of Lough Foyle with views across the waters to Magilligan Point with its Martello Fort, sister to that at Greencastle. Clearly Samuel Montgomery must have approved of the location when in 1768 he purchased some eight hundred acres, (Cunningham measure) from Lord Donegall on a lease for three lives, renewable for ever and subsequently purchased a small estate of sixty acres where he built a residence for himself and his wife in or about 1776. This house was to be known as New Park and was to be home to the Montgomery family up until 1949 when the redoubtable Lady Maud Montgomery passed away. She became engaged to her husband Rev Henry Montgomery ( later Bishop Sir Henry Montgomery) when only fourteen years of age and married him before her seventeenth birthday. Her claim to fame does not of course emanate from any endeavours of her own. Instead her name appears in the footnote of history as the mother of her fourth child, Bernard Law Montgomery, aka , "Monty,"  - Viscount, Field Marshall Montgomery.

New Park 10th November 2012
New Park is still in existence, - just. It is derelict and sits amidst a partially developed housing estate. It would appear that it has become another casualty of the death of the Celtic tiger. I never thought it a particularly nice looking house but dereliction does not add to its allure. Hopefully it will ultimately be  renovated.

Although Monty's mother was the last Montgomery to reside in Moville the family continued to have an interest in the town through the collection of ground rents. Up until 1984 solicitors for the Montgomery family attended at the Foyle Hotel at Main Street, Moville once a year and received payment of these rentals. Even then this was a rather archaic process.

New Park - 10th November 2012

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Thursday's Training Diary

Back from holiday. Back to group training tonight. It is so much easier to train with others rather than trying to plough the single furrow, (or should that read run the single lane?)

With a group you can more readily assess your performance ; you are less likely to duck out of training because you feel a trifle tired or the weather is inclement and of course there is the social side. Three of us have been training together for most of the last twenty five years so we have developed a certain camaraderie. The younger members of the group tend to develop glazed looks when we start to recount our training sessions from the mid 1980's and the races we ran when we were slightly closer to our prime.

Having been away on holiday last week this was my first group training session since the clocks moved back. Even though we met at 5 o'clock the darkness of night enveloped us before we had completed our twenty minutes warm up. We then ran five sharp three hundred metre reps along a well lit path with a fast jog back between each effort. That completed we reverted indoors for circuits. We completed two circuits of twelve exercises including a ninety second, "plank," on each circuit. I do enjoy this part of our winter training. You definitely know that you have exercised. Legs are sore; arms are sore and stomach muscles ache. Thankfully Friday is rest day. That said I might chalk up thirty minutes or so on the rowing machine. This exercise lark can become rather addictive.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Lance Corporal Jones - Don't Panic!

Dad's Army is probably, sorry definitely, my favourite television programme of all time. The present Saturday evening repeats are for me a, "must view." Whenever I watched the original showing of the series I don't suppose I appreciated that it would develop such a loyal audience. A lot of the original audience, from 1968, self included, just don't know the catch phrases but have begun to remember the  lines of our favourite characters.

Unlike many programmes Dad's Army didn't have just one or two lead characters. It had many including that of the bumbling old butcher, Lance Corporal Jones played by Clive Dunn. Most of the actors from this much loved series have already passed away and today, "Jonesee," joined his comrades at the age of 92. No panic just a quiet exit.

Whilst away on holiday last week I read Paul Bailey's article on Clive Dunn in the November Issue of, "The Oldie." I can't help feeling that it was rather prescient of him to have written his heart warming tribute of Robert Gladstone Dunn when he he did so. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Miliband Bribes Voters with £7.45 per hour?

Man of the people Ed Miliband has come up with a new rouse to woo potential voters to vote himself and his acolytes into power at the next general election. He has decided that it would be a good wheeze to replace the concept of the,"minimum wage," with that of, "the living wage." At present the national minimum wage for someone over 21 years of age is £6.19 per hour. The present living wage for an individual is apparently calculated at £7.45 per hour outside London and £8.55 per hour in the capital.

Undoubtedly this will be seen as a dashed good idea by many thousands of people, particularly school leavers or those about to leave school shortly. It is noteworthy that he does not appear to consider that age should have any impact on the , "living wage," as it does with the, "minimum wage rate." It seems that he is proposing a flat rate or if not then he hasn't seen fit to enlarge on his proposals at this stage. Maybe however the detail will come out after the event if this rather unprepossessing (as many would describe him), individual should ever gain office.

I wonder how Mr Miliband thinks that small employers will be able to afford a pay increase of up to twenty percent for some employees and then of course deal with the demands of other employees to maintain pay differentials? I feel sure that the Trade Unions would not want pay differentials eroded. Of course it would be nice if we could all vote ourselves a pay rise courtesy of Mr Miliband, but the country and employers have to be able to afford it and we as individuals have to merit it. 

Is a concept which includes a weekly allowance for alcohol and for social and cultural activities truly a "living wage,"which everyone should have of right?

Monday, 5 November 2012

British Prime Minister Shot

Why Spencer Perceval had to die  - Andro Linklater  ,  Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

I have to concede that although I knew that an early nineteenth century British Prime Minister had been assassinated I was unaware of his name. That man was Spencer Perceval. On Monday 11th May 1812 he was fatally shot in the House of Commons by John Bellingham. Within a week Bellingham had been charged, convicted and executed. Nineteenth century justice was quick, albeit rather rough and ready.

Perceval comes across as being a devoted family man, never happier than when spending time with his wife and large brood of children. However Linklater also shows him to be someone who is despised and even hated by strong economic groupings due to the naval blockade of France and his actions against the slave trade. It is against this background that Linklater searches for the reasons and the persons who may have assisted Bellingham in his felonious mission. The Establishment of the day were anxious to be reassured that Bellingham's actions were those of an individual acting by himself  and Bellingham gave them the sought for reassurance right up until his death, even as he prepared to walk out onto the scaffold.

That some person or persons prodded Bellingham into shooting Perceval is I think an inevitable conclusion from the evidence presented by Linklater. Someone provided the funds for his long sojourn in London, someone provided the money for his trial and someone gave him the promissory note found at his lodgings. Linklater's investigations do not reveal with certainty who the agitators and benefactors were but his chief suspicions fall on a banker by the name of Thomas Wilson and a Liverpool merchant called Elisha Peck.

This is not a particularly academic book, but it does give an insight into the socioeconomic back drape  to the events of 11th May  1812.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Tesco Limavady Sold

The Roe Valley Sentinel reports that Tesco's Limavady store has been sold to CBRE Global Investors for the sum of £6,250,000. Unfortunately this does not mean that there will be one less Tesco store in the world. The transaction has been one of sale and lease back. It appears therefore that the townsfolk of Limavady may well have the debatable pleasures and advantages of this store until at least 2031. 

Why should Tesco PLC be divesting itself of a portion, albeit small, of its property portfolio? The reasons could be many. It may well make good commercial sense. The Return on Capital Employed (net operating profit divided by capital employed) currently enjoyed by Tesco is variously reported as being between 13.13% and 14.22%. If a property is sold then clearly the capital employed is reduced. With the lease back there will of course be an affect on the net profit. This will be reduced by the amount of the rental now payable less any borrowing costs saved. Provided therefore that the rent to be paid for the Limavady store is less than say 13.13% of the net sale proceeds then Tesco should at least initially be better off and be able to point to a higher ROCE. 

I don't suppose that Tesco will divulge what rental sum they will be paying to their landlord but with prime retail rents in Belfast  running at some 6.75%  and secondary Belfast retail rents giving a return of approximately 9.75% it would not be surprising if they they were paying a rental equating to a percentage return for the new landlord of some 8-9%. How capital values move as against future rental payments is rather unpredictable. Some might say that Tesco is making this sale at the bottom of the property market. Only the future will determine whether the policy of sale and lease back will prove to be the correct commercial decision.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Valletta from the Sea

This morning I took to the waters off Valletta for a cruise around the harbours courtesy of  Captain Morgan Cruises. I can't say that it was the most comfortable vessel I have ever travelled on. The legroom reminded me of a budget airline and the seating was undoubtedly the most uncomfortable that I have ever experienced. I would not be surprised if I was told that the seats came from a 1960's school dining room. No tots of grog were doled out to ease the discomfort.

The medieval city walls are quite impressive from the water although the towering modern liners tied up to the quay take away from the view somewhat. I could not help from thinking that I was seeing a snapshot of Lilliput.

Thankfully there was not too much of a swell even when the vessel passed out of Marsamxett Harbour and passed Fort St Elmo before entering The Grand Harbour. There is a tall navigation light at the end of the breakwater which guards the Grand Harbour. A workman was at the top of it presumably carrying out some repairs. What a chief whip might describe as the plebeian element among the passengers insisted on waving to the poor sod. He may have been one hundred yards away but I am quite certain that I saw a look of open disdain on his face as his arm flapped a resigned acknowledgement back.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

George Cross Island

I arrived here on Tuesday for a few days, " r & r." The last time any of my family was here was some seventy years ago when a cousin of my mother was here with the RAF. Hopefully I will have a quieter time than he did.

It didn't augur too well last night when I was returning to the hotel after having consumed munchies at a small restaurant built out over St George's Bay. The local teenagers augmented by some tourist contemporaries and all clearly fuelled by at the very least copious quantities of falling down juice ,were intent upon celebrating Halloween with loud haranguing. Their presence dictated that I would not take a stroll around the streets. Instead I took evasive action and reverted to my hotel room and the recuperative pleasures of sleep.

The island is much more built up than I had anticipated. For the most part one village or town merges into the next without any intervening country. It is going to be difficult to manage a fast paced run. The footpaths don't necessarily continue from one village centre to the next and the quantity of traffic on the rather narrow coast roads militates against taking to them. Even where there are footpaths the promenaders do rather get in the way. If they were fellow runners on the track I would just, "ease," them out of my way, but I don't expect that what now passes for the blue rinse brigade, ( they are now all blonder than their daughters!) would appreciate the bruise enducing niceties of track etiquette. I may have to resign myself to the running machines in the hotel gym.


Hiding Derry's Derelict Spaces

I see that, the Environment Minister, Alex Atwood, has allocated some £500,000 to assist in a spruce up of Londonderry in anticipation of the much vaunted UK City of Culture year. Apparently £100,000 of this money is to be expended on the construction of eighty artistic panels around the vacant Tillie & Henderson site. Urban parks are also to benefit from certain of these monies as are areas such as Foyle Street and Shipquay Street.

If this inflow of additional funds was to be spent on regeneration projects there might well be good reason for providing the money, but surely that is not what is happening here.  Is it not the truth that what is being funded is a cheap, (relatively!), cosmetic job, - a painting over of some very obvious cracks?  How long will the artistic hoardings fail to attract the cities budding graffiti artists wanting to add their cultural messages? Unless the hoardings are of epic proportions the Tillie & Henderson site will still be very visible from the Craigavon Bridge. 

Tourists and visitors will see these efforts for what they are, - well meaning yes, but still an attempt to hide the economic truth. The vacant shops and sites will still remain. There will still be over six thousand people on the dole queue. Sheets of hardboard and pots of paint will not provide the underclothing for this fur coated maiden city on the western ocean.