Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Turbine Power.


I had cause to travel between Limavady and Coleraine today on Broad Road. It has been several months since I have travelled this road. A new Windfarm has appeared on the horizon. It has the rather catchy name of the, "Dunmore 2 Windfarm." Not all of the turbines are constructed as yet, but ultimately there will be eight of them producing a total of 24 mw. The tip height of the structures is apparently 126m so modern day Don Quixotes should have no problem giving them a tilt.


I have to concede that I quite like the sight of wind turbines atop of hills but I also have to admit that I wouldn't want to live so close to one that I could hear the whirring of their blades. The twenty five years of guaranteed income must certainly be a boon to hill farmers. It would be nice to have fifty or sixty acres at the top of a wind blown mountain and SSE knocking at your door wanting to erect a few brace of turbines.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Ryanair the White Knight of the Sky?

A few months ago I booked a return flight with Ryanair to Portugal. I didn't have a choice of carrier, - unfortunately!


Anyhows with, "chocks away " day fast approaching I thought it appropriate to print out my boarding passes. I filled in the relevant , "fields," giving the necessary details from my passport. That completed I hit the, "print boarding passes now," icon. The printer did not spring into action. Instead of the clatter of the printer there was a notice on screen telling me that I had to deal with the matter of seat selection.


It transpires that the customer friendly Ryanair has decided that if you want to print out a boarding pass more than seven days before you are going to use it then you have to pay at least £5 for the pleasure. The reward for this is that you can select your seat allocation within certain limits.


I am not minded to pay Messrs Ryanair any more monies than I have to. I will refrain from printing my boarding pass for the outward journey until I am within seven days from take off. The return flight is somewhat more problematical. As it does not take place within 7 x 24 hrs from take off I either have to avail of the services of some Internet cafe whilst abroad or alternatively take a deep breath and give Mr Ryanair £5.00 with substantial ill grace. The first option attracts me although it will be rather inconvenient.

Monday, 28 April 2014

City of Derry Building Society RIP.

As was expected today proved to be the last Annual General Meeting of the City of Derry Building Society, (formerly the Londonderry Provident) , after 138 years. The merger, ( aka take over), with the Progressive Building Society was voted upon by the borrowers and investors. The attendance at the meeting was no larger than usual. Possibly fifty individuals were in attendance but a considerable number of investors and many fewer borrowers had decided to appoint the Chairman as their proxy in advance of the meeting and were not present in person.


So far as the investors were concerned a total of 451 members voted for the merger with 34 against. Only 43 borrowers voted. Forty of them voted for the merger with three voting against the merger.


It is sad that another local Building Society should be forced to close its doors. Small is no longer beautiful. Northern Ireland's property boom and bust has certainly been a factor in the demise of this minnow of the Building Society movement, but the regulatory requirements have also contributed to today's requiem meeting.


It is now more than forty years since I opened an account with what was then the Londonderry Provident Building Society. It was a Society which was run by and for the benefit of locals. The parochial element is now to be watered down. I doubt if I will retain my modest funds with the Progressive. My connection with this Building Society even extended to working in its then rather old fashioned offices for a few months in 1975. This was before the world of computers. Receipts and debits were written up in large ledgers resting on Victorian writing tables which you had to stand at. Another world.


Thursday, 24 April 2014


It is reported that Cornish is to be raised to the dizzy heights of an official member of the UK's Celtic minorities. Apparently 84,000 people declare themselves to be Cornish. I wonder how many people would say that they are from Yorkshire or the West Riding of Yorkshire or York? I suppose it might help the tourist industry in Corwall and boost the sale of pasties and cream teas but at what expense?


The, "Independent," reports that 557 people claim that Cornish is their principal language. Perhaps these individuals believe this to be the case but I suspect that the reality is much different. No doubt we will now have bilingual signs and brochures and official interpreters and further tax payers monies being used to engage individuals to promote the Cornish language.


I have no problem with people wanting to safeguard elements of their heritage and the history of the country but it is history. The, "official," figures for individuals who claim that their principal tongue is Cornish, Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Manx, Ulster Scots or Irish is in all probability nothing more than an aspiration on the part of many individuals. I enjoyed learning Latin, its logicality and its history. I wish I had greater knowledge of the language but no matter how proficient I might become in Cicero's mother tongue it will never be my principal language. It will not become the language of day to day life for anyone who has not decided to be something of a social recluse or at least highly parochial . Ditto the languages of the Celtic minorities.

I am not a fan of Balkanisation, I much prefer the notion of a unity in diversity.


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Spring day at Springhill.


Having invested in National Trust membership I decided to recoup some of my expenditure yesterday. Accordingly I wended my way to Springhill House just outside the village of Moneymore. This small Plantation estate had been in the ownership of the Lennox-Conyngham family, albeit not in direct line, for some three hundred and fifty years before economic realities found Captain William Lowry Lennox-Cunningham deciding in 1957 to bequeath the estate to the National Trust. He died three days after the signing of his will. The term , "O'Hagan Clause," springs to mind.


It is not a huge house, really nothing more than a substantial farmhouse with more formal rooms occupying the additions to the original seventeenth century seven bay structure. The symmetry is surprisingly pleasing. On a similar vein the replacement beech walk to the rear of the property will be quite impressive when it reaches maturity.


I cannot say that I was overly impressed with the National Trust staff that I came across. The house guide was trying too hard. She may have a desire to be a standup comic but her attempts at humour and bonhomie were cringing. In the coffee shop the waitress decided not to clear the detritus from my table's previous resident before delivering my order minus milk for my tea. With a total of three tables occupied she also managed to forget the order of a young couple who had arrived in the eatery in advance of myself. Hopefully these rather obvious mistakes are a reflection of the start of the season and not inherent staff failings.


Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter Time Daffodils


The daffodils in the garden are coming to the end of their flourescence for another year. Almost time for the bluebells. I did however manage to pick a dozen or so of a double white daffodil which is slightly later in its flowering than the bulk of its brethren. A few cowslips were also bunged into the vase along with some twigs of kerria. I guess this almost counts as a floral arrangement or do I mean tribute?

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Inishowen in the Sun

A spell of good weather does seem to invigorate people. It certainly has pepped up the aged parents. They were sufficiently energised by the present mild spell to indicate that they would quite like to sally forth from their abode. Accordingly I collected them in my horseless charabanc yesterday afternoon and we headed off into the sun kissed afternoon. They had expressed a preference for the delights of the Inishowen peninsula and I accordingly set forth in that direction.


Here and there an occasional thin strand of cirrus cloud drifted across the sky but that apart its bright blueness stretched towards the hazy horizon. The waters of the Lough were contentedly flat save where the wake from a small trawler disturbed the meniscus. The traffic was light, the temperature on the comfortable side of fresh, a comfortable day for car travel.


The route taken was familiar to both myself and my parents although not one that they have been on for some years. They recalled previous trips and the frequent visits to an elderly cousin of my father's who lived in Greencastle until his death in the early nineteen seventies. I was regaled,(and not for the first time), about how my grandfather had spent his summers in Moville and travelled to and from work in Londonderry on the paddle steamer the SS Seamore. It does seem a long time ago, - a different world with a different pace of life, - and it was. The Great War was still fourteen years in the future.


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Are runners getting older?

During a recent internet trawl I came upon a post on the "Athletics Ireland" website which gave details of registered athletes within Ireland, (a few NI Clubs appear to be double registering.) The most recent figures disclose that there are a total of 38,310 individuals registered via their clubs. This is up from 34,459. An 11% annual increase. In addition to these registered athletes there are of course many thousands of runners who are members of unaffiliated running and jogging groups.


The Athletics Ireland figures give a breakdown of competitors between juveniles, seniors and masters. Unsurprisingly it is the juvenile section which has the greatest number of participants, - 22,975. What is slightly worrying and disconcerting is that the balance of the total is made up of 11,536 masters and only 3799 senior athletes. Worrying yes but I have to say that it does not surprise me. Many events just could not take place if it wasn't for the presence of those who are longish in the tooth. I suppose it is a reflection of people living longer, the plethora of road runs and maybe, just maybe a desire by people to regain some fitness in their more mature years before bones and muscles cry a final no.


The retention percentage from juvenile to senior must also be worrying for athletics' administrators. Taking account of the relative age spans it seems that under ten percent of those who dip their toe into the world of athletes continue to senior level. Not a very high conversion level.


Monday, 14 April 2014

Poles for Beans


Last year's bamboo wigwams for the runner beans were just not strong enough for the job. A combination of high winds and the weight of the plants necessitated the introduction of additional canes and the use of yards of garden twine in a rather vain attempt to keep the tepees in an upright state.


So as to avoid another year of crumbling structures I determined to use stronger building materials this season.


I have been clearing a portion of ground in which several willows had established themselves. These have provided me with upwards of twenty sturdy eleven foot poles. I have now prepared two wigwams and they await the young runner bean plants. These should be ready for planting out towards the end of May - two plants per pole. The variety which I am growing is , "St. George."


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Is Walter Pigeon pie in the Sky?


There is a new resident in the garden. I discovered him when I arrived home after Thursday night training. He didn't try to hide himself or hurry away. He was quite indifferent to my presence. I have decided to call him Walter. A rather obvious name for a homing pigeon I know and of course not being an expert in the mysterious art of sexing piegons it may be that I am forcing a name upon this bird which is totally inappropriate to its gender.


I suspect that Walter became lost during a midweek training flight. Perhaps he flew too close to an electricity pylon and his homing abilities were knocked out of kilter or maybe he was on his first flight and has discovered that he is simply not going to make it as a racing pigeon after all. In any event he seems quite content picking at the detritus below the bird table and he has not as yet decided to try to regain the comforts of his home loft.


He is quite a young bird according to the green ring which he wears around his right ankle with pride. His number is GB13L 24634. I have now reported the miscreant's details to a local pigeon fancier and maybe I will be able to reunite Walter with his owner before a buzzard decides that Walter looks like tiffin.


Friday, 11 April 2014

Nigel Farage loves Channel 5?

Nigel Farage must be sending Channel 5 a very big thank you for broadcasting its programme, " Gypsies on Benefits and Proud." It promised to reveal how easily immigrants can obtain benefits in the United Kingdom and it certainly kept to that promise.


The Roma interviewed made it very clear that they viewed the UK as a soft touch for benefits and that they were intending to take full advantage of our lax social security system. To be fair the recipients of our taxes acknowledged our generosity, but they also made it quite clear that they were intending to work the system to their benefit and that of their extended families.


What is now called the European Union is now too large to operate successfully and it is no longer a union of near equals. The disparity in living standards between the constituent countries fosters, nay encourages, benefit tourism. As long as we remain within the, "EU," perhaps freedom of movement should still be permitted and perhaps entitlement to benefits in other states should even continue but with the caveat that they should be capped at the lower of the level paid in the claimant's mother state or that of the state being forced to accept these economic migrants. It would be interesting to hear Mr Farage's views on the matter.


It is already being predicted that UKIP may be the party with the most MEP's after the next European elections. It would not surprise me if they also have a part to play in the formation of the next UK parliament.


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Around the Track

A really enjoyable session tonight. We started off with a warm up and drills before launching in to 12 x 400m. Three of us pounded around the track together, taking it in turn to lead the rep. The designated pace was eighty seconds. This was comfortable, no strain, no loss of form. We had seventy five seconds static recovery between each effort. The evening's exertions concluded with a warmdown.

This may be very much a, "bread and butter," track session but it was none the worse for same. It helps your internal clock get used to running at a particular pace and with a group of three or more you become accustomed to running in close proximity to other runners without tripping them up or yourself!

Tomato Plant Day.

I tend to keep loyal to tomato varieties with long pedigrees. It is almost fifty years since I sowed my first tomato seeds. As a child I found it amazing that starting off with a small seed that you could end up with a six foot tall plant in less than four months. I still do.


Moneymaker must be one of the most well known tomatoes and I elected to grow it again this year as well as Shirley. The seedlings threw their first adult leaves about a week ago so I decided to prick them out today and I have now transplanted them into their interim homes, (3 1/2 inch pots). I would expect that they should be ready to plant into rings in the greenhouse border in about four weeks time. By then they will be about ten inches tall. The first sun warmed fruit should be ready for picking towards the middle of July.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

The National Trust - Is this an Age Thing?


I have succumbed to another age tag. I have signed up for membership of the National Trust. It's like going to garden centres and supping coffee in caf├ęs. You come to a certain age and these pleasures which previously seemed to be the preserve of your parents are suddenly what you feel you should be doing.


I don't know when this age related imperative snooked up on me and demanded that I should start performing and enjoying what might be described as age appropriate activities, but it has occurred. It does seem strange, almost frightening and perhaps rather sad. Why am I doing these things? I do try to fight against the ravages of old Father Time and I like to think with a modicum of success, but whilst you can do something to slow down the physical decline that besets the third and fourth quartiles the little grey cells are always reminding you of the actuality of the notches on your age belt. A good dollop of rage is I think needed so that I, "do not go gentle into that good night."


Friday, 4 April 2014

Training for the Older Athlete.

Yesterday was the day that our coach decreed that winter training should change to that of summer. Circuits are no more although we are encouraged to continue with core exercises in our own time. This is the time of year to concentrate on leg speed.


Following the obligatory warm up we indulged in various hurdle exercises,( I suspected that I would feel the benefits of this on the morrow when I awoke from my slumbers and I was not wrong .) Thereafter we ran 4 x 200m x2. We finished off by running two laps in relay format, 150m, 150m, 100m and then a warm down. I suspect that these exertions were not too taxing for my younger compatriots, but for my somewhat older muscles and bones they have proved to have been very noticeable. Becoming older and longer of tooth is somewhat disconcerting.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Bum Bra

Have you ever noticed how women of a certain age and indeed their male counterparts have a tendency to develop what could be described as the single buttock look? Clearly I am not the only person who has noticed this phenomenon. In an as yet unscheduled episode of, "Dragons Den," Yorkshire business woman and entrepreneur, Audrey Ruth Sittingham-Ellis is to be seen trying to garner support for her novel invention which aims to consign this physical faux pas to the compost heap of fashion.


She is interviewed in the stable block of her family's stately pile where she has developed the prototype of what she describes as her, 'Bum Bra." Initially she thought that the problem could be solved by a large toe separator but the results of that product placement were unsuccessful and indeed somewhat uncomfortable for the testers. It was then that Audrey had what she coyly describes as her "Damascus Moment." She suddenly remembered how Eva Herzigova had inspired her when she was a gal. She realised that a combination of support and separation was the answer to the problem. That was when the Bum Bra was born.


The Dragons were given the opportunity of trying out Audrey's prototype but they declined to do so. Strange that. She was pressed on the finances behind the invention. Whilst there was some initial interest among the male members of the panel none of the Dragons were persuaded that the bottom line figures would warrant an investment. Understandably Audrey was disappointed and a little angry with the outcome and sent the Dragons a short note to this affect signed off with her initials.

Ah well the day is in it!