Friday, 29 May 2015

Seeing Red in the Garden

It is strange, well maybe not, how the predominant colour in the garden changes throughout the year. I suppose it might be to do with the insects available for pollination duties and their particular penchant. We start off with white coloured flowers then yellow, then blue and then we have the more strident colours, reds, purples and pinks.

The colour red is coming to the fore at the moment. At the head of the queue is the poppy. It is a pity that the petals start falling so quickly. Elsewhere in the garden the red hot pokers are coming to the fore. The flowers of the quince add to the red hues. Even in the fruit and veg end of the garden the colour red is becoming apparent. The runner beans are just coming into flower and of course the indoor strawberries have their own luscious tincture of red.





Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Apple Blossom Time


It seems rather late in the year for apple blossom, but nature has managed to avoid the late frosts. My apple trees are still very young and small so I don't expect nor want many fruit setting. What I do want is a year of growth so that I have substantial and established saplings by next year. That said I will probably permit a few fruit to set, grow and ripen so as to assure myself that the trees are growing true. The cox's orange pippen, (photograph above) is particularly heavy with flower. I was slightly concerned that I was too far north for this particular apple to flourish but it looks as if it may be prepared to prosper and grow in my little microclimate.


Sunday, 24 May 2015

Notes on The Place Names of The Parishes and Townlands of the County of Londonderry - Alfred Moore Munn

Not a snappy title for a book but it certainly tells you exactly what is between the covers. This book was first published in 1925. Sixty years later in 1985 it was reprinted by Ballinascreen Historical Society. I don't know how many copies were in the original printing but the 1985 print run ran to five hundred copies. The original print run was probably no larger.


It is not a book that one reads from page one et seq. Rather it is a book that one will dip into and refer to for information on the nomenclature of the parishes and townlands of the County. It also provides information on the size of the townlands. I spent an enjoyable couple of hours flipping through it.


The author, Alfred Moore Munn was a solicitor by profession and by 1925 he had been appointed Clerk of the Crown & Peace for the City and County of Londonderry. He had married Blanche Oulton Brady in Dublin in 1879. Their daughter, Blanche Moore Munn, (born 1881), married Captain Samuel Alexander Watt in 1900. The latter was a son of Andrew Alexander Watt of Thornhill, Londonderry.


Friday, 22 May 2015

Preparation is Everything.

Yesterday's training was very much a preparatory session. We were preparing for an 800m race on Saturday evening.


After the obligatory warmup we completed various drills over low hurdles aiming to increase leg speed. Thereafter we moved on to the track and ran 8 x 150m with a walk back recovery. The instruction was that we shouldn't run very much quicker than our 800m pace. On that basis I should have been running through the line in circa 25secs. None of us really kept to to our target pace. By the end of the set I was comfortably under twenty two seconds. This wasn't an out and out sprint for yours truly but it did represent a ratcheting up from my two lap pace and if I am honest it was even slightly quicker than what I could now maintain for a sole lap.


It is rather sad when you have to accept that the targets of previous years are now very much on the other side of the hill and will never be achieved again. Still I suppose that I am lucky that I can still toe the line and not make a total fool of myself on the athletics track.



Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Strawberry Day.

Spring follows winter, summer beckons. The natural and normal seasonal progression has definitely been under attack this year. Late frosts, hailstones in the third quartile of May. Not what one might expect but maybe it is what global warming is lining up for us. Despite the vagaries of nature the strawberries which I have planted under the greenhouse staging have performed reasonably well. I have to admit that I plucked the first two ripened fruits at the weekend. The bulk of the fruit are now beginning to turn red. There aren't quite enough fruit for a, "jam boil," as yet but definitely sufficent for strawberries and cream. I suppose that I will have to force myself to eat them tonight.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Greggs in Northern Ireland.

I am definitely not an habitué of shops selling convenience foods. It is probably six months since I entered the portals of a fish and chip shop and that was midway through a five hour drive home from an athletic event. I have never purchased an Indian or Chinese takeaway and I do not expect that I ever will. Despite this antipathy towards the joys of convenience eating I have been following the opening of Greggs' first outlet in Northern Ireland with a degree of interest. My interest has however been of a financial nature rather than a desire to sate any feelings of hunger. I have to admit to a very modest investment in this FTSE 250 company.

The location for NI's first Greggs is the Applegreen service station on the M2. The directors of Greggs are clearly rather wary as to whether this will prove to be a successful venture out of their northern heartland and they have only committed themselves to a twelve month sojourn. Their pies however seem to be proving successful with Northern Ireland's hungry car driving populace and I suspect that Greggs' corporate livery will be soon be seen in most town high streets in this region. Hopefully so. It might result in a modest hike in the share price and the dividend yield. An appetising prospect.



Monday, 11 May 2015

Hare Day.


When I folded back the shutters in the study this morning I noticed that I had a four legged visitor in the garden. Not the usual rabbit or grey squirrel but a rather larger mammalian specimen. It was an Irish hare or to give it its Latin tag, Lepus timidus hibernicus.

When moving slowly its long back legs gave it a rather awkward lolloping action. The legs seemed to be just too long for its body. In full flight its cadence was smooth, fast and incisive. It was slightly spooked by my movement but for a short time the desire to graze kept it in the vicinity of the front lawn before its inherent timidity dictated a sprint away from my view. Maybe it was the meowing call of a circling buzzard that was the ultimate catalyst for its speedy departure.


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Foyle College Act 1896



The Royal Assent was given to the Foyle College Act of 1896 on 20th July of that year. Confirmation of this appeared in the London Gazette on 21st July. This was the Act which provided the legal authority for the amalgamation of Foyle College and the Londonderry Academical Institution.

The passing of the Act was not entirely straightforward. The Hansard reports regarding the first reading of the Bill indicate that Foyle's incumbent headmaster, (Maurice Hime), had initially objected to the Foyle College and Londonderry Academical Institution (Amalgamation) Bill. The MP for Londonderry City one Vesey Knox stated that the Irish Society had come to an arrangement with the headmaster and that, "that gentleman's objections had been entirely removed." It also seems that the Bishop of Derry & Raphoe, (William Alexander), who was in 1896 elevated to the position of Primate of All Ireland, had not signed the memorial in favour of the amalgamation.

Mr. W. Johnston who was MP for Belfast South thought that Foyle College was being dealt with very unjustly. He expressed similar views as to the treatment of Maurice Hime, although the comments of Mr Knox did placate him on that point.



Monday, 4 May 2015

Glenarm Tulip Festival 2015

This weekend saw Glenarm Castle host its ninth annual Tulip festival. I haven't attended this event every year since its inception, but if athletics don't take me out of the jurisdiction over the May bank holiday weekend I do tend to paddle along to see what new varieties and colours are on display.

Each year the borders in the walled garden are planted with in excess of eight thousand five hundred bulbs, all supplied by, "Bloms." Last week's frosts didn't seem to have had any detrimental affect on the displays. The tulips stood rigidly to attention. Each variety had at least one hundred specimens grouped together so that one could truly appreciate their colour and form. I do think that the tulip is one of those flowers which needs numbers and it looks much better in formal borders and beds with straight lines. The amateur gardener, self included, tends not to plant tulips in large enough blocks. The impact of this bulb comes with numbers and subtle or even not so subtle juxtaposition of colour and form.

As usual there were representatives of, "Bloms," in attendance hoping to persuade viewers to place orders for their own 2016 display.






Saturday, 2 May 2015

Belfast Miles.

The mile is the only imperial distance that is now raced on the track and that somewhat infrequently save in the USA where it has been retained on the College racing circuit. There is however something rather magical and alluring about the mile. Even people with a passing interest in athletics talk about the four minute mile and they might even know that Roger Bannister was the first individual to break this particular athletic barrier. Sixty one years after Bannister collapsed over the line to gain a world record mark, which many people believed to be beyond a human's capability, there is still a desire to test oneself over seventeen hundred and sixty yards.
Yesterday evening NIRunning in association with the British Milers Club hosted a series of mile races at the Mary Peters track in Belfast. Over one hundred and fifty individuals turned up to test themselves. The majority were I suppose club runners but those with a lesser experience of competitive racing were catered for in the slower races. Many people definitely underestimated their ability and elected for a race which was comfortably within their capabilities. The slowest race was for a predicted time of 10 mins +. Successive races lowered the bar in one minute intervals.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly no one joined Sir Roger's sub 4 club. After all more people have climbed Everest than have broken the four minute mile barrier. The fastest runs of the night were from James Hamilton, (4:33.61) and Kelly Neely, (4:58.93). As for the writer of this blog he does have to report that not only did he not succeed in breaking the four minute barrier but five minutes also proved to be over the horizon. That said with the benefit of the comfort of the dear old age tables he was a good straight in front of Mr. Hamilton.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Tomato Death

Thankfully I brought most of my tomato and pepper seedlings indoors on Monday night. They are now safely ensconced on a kitchen windowsill. I was going to let them take their chance with the predicted cold snap but at the last minute I ventured out into the Stygian gloom and bundled them out of what was becoming a very cold greenhouse. The few tomato plants which I didn't bring in are badly burnt by the frost, particularly those closest to the glass. There is nothing for it but to commit their remains to the compost heap.

The early potatoes, (first cousins of the tomato), are also displaying frost damage. I am hoping that it is only the growth that was poking out of the soil that has been affected and that the clawing tendrils of the frost haven't passed down to the tubers and turned them into lifeless mush. Time will tell. Perhaps some judicious unearthing is called for.