Kerr's Corner

Kerr's Corner is a regular feature in East Antrim and Newtownabbey editions of The Wizard. David Kerr would like to hear your memories of life in your own area. Maybe you'll trigger some thoughts for a future column. kerrscorner@ulsteronline.org.uk

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas

On behalf of Kerr's Corner, I'd like to wish all our blog readers a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tools For Solidarity – New Life For Your Unused Tools

OVER THE next few weeks you may have some reason to drop into the Belfast Central Library in Royal Avenue. If so, you can’t miss an exhibition organised by the Tools for Solidarity charity. TFS, based in Edenderry Mill on the Crumlin Road in North Belfast, seeks to offer practical aid to communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

TFS aims to provide the communities in question with basic tools and machines so that they can practise their skills and improve their quality of life. The partnership groups of artisans and vocational training centres in Tanzania and Uganda produce items for direct sale in the local community.

TFS sends eleven different types of toolkits covering everything from carpentry, blacksmithing, building and construction through to plumbing and horticulture. Their premises are open on the first Sunday of each month to the public so that anyone interested can come along to see what they are all about.

It’s probable that you have some tools lying around the house or your garden shed that you no longer use. Don’t let them rust away to uselessness. Give them to TFS who will refurbish them and give them a new and useful life among people who really need them.

You can also help by supporting the annual Belfast Reggae Society tribute to Bob Marley. The proceedings are hosted by Belfast’s well-known musical impresario, terry Hooley. All proceeds from the tribute go to Tools for Solidarity.

Find out more from www.toolsforsolidarity.org.uk or by ringing 028 90747473.

Elvis Spectacular To Rock Carrickfergus!

IT’S OFFICIAL! After the sell out success of the Waterfront Hall, The Elvis Spectacular show is coming to Carrickfergus! After weeks of speculation the news was finally confirmed to Wizard ads by TCB Productions supremo Mervyn Boyd. Mervyn, talking exclusively to Wizard ads stated:

“After the reviews generated by the sell-out performance at the Waterfront, we’ve been inundated for requests to bring the show to East Antrim. It’s our pleasure to do so. The venue is the prestige Clarion Hotel and the date has been set for Friday 3rd March 2006. Interest is already huge and people are buzzing, it’s going to be a fantastic night in the Clarion”.

Tickets have just gone on sale and are available from the Clarion Hotel reception and the amazing thing is – they are priced at just £12! My advice is to grab them quick and be part of a night that is sure to go down in Carrick entertainment flklore.

In case you missed it, check out the review of the Waterfront Hall concert. You can find it posted on this blog on Thursday, December 08, 2005 and is entitled ‘Entertainment - I Just Can't Help Believing’.

Feedback From Fermanagh

FOLLOWING our brief article on the Customs House Country Inn, Belcoo, we’ve received a lovely letter from it’s owners, Donal and Clara Martin. Thanking us for “the most beautiful article” they noted that within a fortnight of publication “at least two sets of guests have come down on your recommendation and said the article could not have more aptly described the Customs House”.

These guests were so impressed with the Customs House they took away handfuls of brochures for their family and friends!

Donal and Clara also said that a “small family run business such as ours requires big hours and sleepless nights but comments such as yours make us feel all is worthwhile”.

Around and About

A BRAND new feature in Wizard Ads is our Around and About travel feature page. Here we’ll be looking at various hotels, restaurants, theme parks and so on. Our team will visit these establishments and report back. This is sure to be a very popular feature. Therefore, we’ll also tag onto the Kerr’s Corner Blog site.

I’d appreciate any feedback on this travel section. Just e-mail:
kerrscorner@ulsteronline.org.uk


Easyjet To Paris

RECENTLY, I'VE HEARD lots of horror stories about low cost airlines - especially easyJet. To date I've never had any serious problems with them. However, I must admit I had a few concerns about reports from work mates that easyJet fares had rocketed in price and that their service had gone downhill.

However, I found these reports to be completely wong. Booking in good time keeps the prices down and, as usual, I thought that easyJet staff were as friendly and accomodating as ever.

Four of us - two adults and two children - were travelling from Aldergrove to Charles de Gaulle airport on the outskirts of Paris. (Where we were then going to travel on to our final destination - Disneyland Paris). We arrived at Aldergrove with plenty of time to spare (check-in now opens two hours before your flight is due) and joined the easyJet queue. It was quite long - but as soon as they saw this, more staff came on duty to process everyone.

Our flight left bang on time and proved to be pleasent and hassel-free. Ninety minutes later we found ourselves at Charles de Gaulle airport. Here we were really impressed at the speed and efficiency of both the French passport control and baggage handlers. There was a quick check of our passports and by the time we'd reached the carousel it was carrying the first of our flight's luggage out!

Charles de Gaulle airport is modern, light and airy. It boasts four massive terminals. Everything is extremely well signposted in French and English. Once out of the terminal, the special coach to Disneyland is parked less than a minutes walk away. We bought our tickets, for two adults and two children, but wondered why the driver gave us odd looks. It was only some time afterwards that we discovered that in France, children are classed as being up to 11 years old. Our children were 12 and 14 - 'Adults' in France!

As one would expect, the coach from Charles de Gaulle was fairly modern. It had a massive luggage hold and reclining seats, complete with adjustable arms. Messages in French and English were broadcast on a TV and easy to understand printed timetables were readily available. We were glad that the coach had air-conditioning as it was a sweltering 25 degrees inside - 21 degrees outside - and this was on 30th October!

The coach takes some time to get out of Charles de Gualle airport as it picks up from each terminal building. Then it took 45 minutes to reach our final destination, the three star My Travel's Explorers Hotel at Disneyland Paris.

Find out more about Paris flights from their web-site www.easyjet.com

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Carrick’s Bandstand

I’VE HAD a letter from Joy Kernohan with a query about old Carrick. Over to Joy, “My late father was brought up at Briarstown (alias Taylor’s Row), he was born in 1906. When he was about seven years of age he was in the Scotch Quarter of the town, he both watched and heard what he described as one of the first Jazz tunes he had ever heard. He hummed it to me but could not remember the words. According to my Dad the music was being played on a bandstand that jutted out into the water. He also described the spot as being nearly opposite where Joymount House is now, the bandstand being approximately where the memorial is at present.

“I have asked several people and looked at lots of old photos and so far no one can recall this bandstand. My Dad always had a great retentive memory and I would dearly love to see a photo of this and wonder if any of your readers can help”.

Can anyone help with this query? Do you have a photograph of this bandstand? If so, do please get in touch with me at kerrscorner@ulsteronline.org.uk

The 36th (Ulster) Division man decorated by the Kaiser!

STORIES FROM THE HEAD LINE

I HAVE WRITTEN before in Kerr’s Corner about the Ulster Steamship Company – the Head Line – whose vessels once brought the Red Hand of Ulster to ports all around the world. Sadly, the old Head Line fleet has gone forever. The last ship was sold in 1976.



During the First and Second World Wars, the Head Line vessels plied the North Atlantic. Their efforts and sacrifices helped to feed and supply the people of the British Isles in the face of German U-boats that were determined to destroy them and starve Britain into submission.
One such ship was the Torr Head, a twin crew four mast steamer built by Harland and Wolff shipyard and launched in 1894. Regarded as a lucky ship, in February 1899, the Torr Head hit an Atlantic iceberg en route from New Orleans to Belfast. Little damage was caused and no-one died.

During the Great War, the Torr Head was used for a time as a squadron supply ship. On April 20th 1917 she was torpedoed near the Fastnet rock by the German U-boat U60 while sailing from St John, New Brunswick to Dublin. It was a sad end to a fine ship.

Ironically just fifteen years previously, the Captain, Senior Officer, Third Officer and some members of the crew of the same vessel were presented with gallantry awards by the Kaiser. The Torr Head had been sailing to New Orleans from Barry in hurricane conditions which drove her some 120 miles south of her course. On February 3rd 1902, the Third Officer, John George Brew spotted a sailing ship in great difficulty. He reported this to Captain Thompson who immediately decided to offer help.

The stricken ship turned out to be the Helene from Bremen. The sailing ship was in a terrible state. She was listing badly, being half full of water. All boats and deck fittings had gone. The cabin was gutted and the sails had blown away. It turned out that the Helene’s exhausted crew had spent some thirty-six hours in waist deep water trying to pump it out. By the time the Torr Head turned up, they had just about given up all hope of rescue.

Two trips in the space of two hours were made in the Torr Head’s lifeboat to bring the twenty-strong crew to safety.

At a ceremony in the Custom House some time later, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sir Daniel Dixon and the acting German Consul, Mr AM Ferrar, presented Captain Thompson with an inscribed gold watch bearing a portrait of His Imperial Majesty the German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II and each of the officers with a set of binoculars in an inscribed case. The quartermasters and three seamen each received cash gifts from the Kaiser. The German Red Cross society also forwarded certificates to the men through the Consul, as well as a gold medal for Captain Thompson and silver medals for Mr Butt and Mr Brew.

JG Brew’s binocular case bears the German inscription, ‘We, William, by Grace of God, German Emperor, King of Prussia wills to present to the Third Officer, Mr JG Brew of the British steamer Torr Head, this acknowledgement for the help rendered to the lost German ship Helene when in distress.’ A similar inscription was on Mr Butt’s case.

Mr Brew’s silver medal and binocular case were held by G Heyn and Sons for some fifty years, but were handed back to the Brew family on April 20th 1998 – seventy-one years to the day that the old Torr Head went to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. They are now in the possession of Mr Graham Brew, JG’s grandson.

JG Brew went on to serve as First Mate on the Torr Head until he passed his Master’s examination. He was master of the Torr Head from 1903 to 1906 when he went on to join the Rathlin Head.

War broke out in august 1914 between the British and German empires and their allies. On September 15th 1914, less than two weeks after the announcement of the formation of the 36th (Ulster) Division, John George Brew enlisted in Portadown, County Armagh, for the duration of the Great War. His enlistment papers show a 35 year old Protestant Ship master of 5ft. 8in., 133lbs, of sallow complexion, with brown eyes and dark hair, and a chest measurement of 37 inches. The Armagh Volunteers were organised under their commanding officer, Colonel Stewart W Blacker and became the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers. They were soon nicknamed 2Blacker’s Boys”.

Recruited as a Private, No. 13975, he was posted to his local battalion, the 9th battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, in the Ulster Division’s 108th Brigade, but was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant 77 days later on December 1st 1914.

After training in Clandeboye in Co Down and Seaford in Sussex, the Brigade landed in le Havre in October 1915 and went to the Western Front.

Brew was promoted to Captain in April 1916 and became second in command of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers D Company. By June he had become the Company commander.

At the Battle of the Somme he was reported to have suffered a head wound. He was admitted to hospital in Rouen and was out of action for almost five months. He later saw service at Ypres and other major battles of the First World War. By now a Major, he died on April 6th 1918 as a prisoner of the Germans of gunshot wounds received in action near Amiens. He is buried in Roye New British Cemetery, outside the town of Roye, 40km south-east of Amiens, in the Picardy region of France. Thus a brave man, decorated by the Kaiser died at the hands of his soldiers.

Brew’s old vessel, the Torr Head was not the only Head Line vessel to fall victim to German U-boats. An old sketch shows the last moments of the Bray Head on Wednesday March 14th 1917 as recorded by a crew member, J Watson. A German U-boat fired a torpedo at the steamer but missed. The U-boat surfaced and renewed its attack on the Bray Head.

Watson’s diary reports ‘Our gunners assisted by crew fought the U-boat from 6.10am on Wednesday morning until 8.15, when we hauled down the Red Ensign and hauled it up again upside down in a token of surrender. Picked up by HMS Adventure on Sunday morning at 6.30 am. Arrived in Galway at 11.50 am. We were unable to leave hospital for four days, all frostbitten. We sat in the sunken lifeboat (in water) up to the waist. My hands are still showing the frostbite scars”.

The Bray Head was sunk by German gunfire 365 miles off the River Shannon. Twenty-two men were lost with the ship including the skipper. Twenty men survived the five day ordeal in the lifeboat.

Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls, Ontario

IF YOU DO travel to Toronto on Zoom next year you must make a point of visiting Niagara Falls. Quite a few companies offer all-in day tours from the centre of the city, although some of these can be very expensive. You can even go for free if you take advantage of the casino buses that stop at most of the major downtown hotels. Their aim, of course, is to separate you from your hard-earned cash in one of their establishments in Niagara Falls, so it’s probably worthwhile to provide a free bus. If you’re cheeky enough you could probably walk away from the casino doors and explore the town!

It’s just as handy to go on the regular scheduled bus services from the Grey Line bus station behind the City Hall. Travelling time is around two hours. The Niagara bus station is some way away from the main attractions, in a rundown part of town, but a regular shuttle bus will take you there. For those on a budget, though it is convenient to the local Youth Hostel.

The Falls are truly one of the natural wonders of the world. You can hear the roar of the falling water as a constant backdrop to everything in the town. The main falls form a giant horseshoe shape across the Niagara River, which separates Ontario from New York State. There is another large, straighter shaped waterfall on the American side of the river. Visitors on the American side can also view the Falls from a large viewing platform and can descend to a series of paths under the waterfall.

On the Ontario side, the highlight of the visit to Niagara Falls is a river trip on The Maid of the Mist. In fact there is more than one maid of the Mist. Several of these open platform vessels struggle upriver to give their passengers a closer look at the Falls. Putting aside any thoughts as to how anyone could manage to get a lifejacket on if the vessel was to capsize, I queued up to pay my $13.00 Cdn. A lift brought us down to the bottom of the cliff, where we were each kitted out with a flimsy blue plastic poncho to protect us from the spray.

The deck platform offers a terrific view of the Rainbow Bridge that connects Canada and the US. I went on a very sunny day and was able to take pictures of the rainbow effect as the spray interacts with the sunshine. As we got closer to the Falls, the water began to boil and churn rapidly. Not a place for a swim! The spray came in huge waves, proving the need for the blue waterproofs. The total journey time was less than half an hour, but it’s one the traveller will never forget.

There is a lot about Niagara Falls and its tourist scene that is cheap and tacky but nothing can take away from the magnificent power of nature. It’s unbeatable. If you go, don’t miss out on this trip.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Around and About

Around and About

A BRAND new feature in Wizard Ads is our Around and About travel feature page. Here we’ll be looking at various hotels, restaurants, theme parks and so on. Our team will visit these establishments and report back. This is sure to be a very popular feature. Therefore, we’ll also tag onto the Kerr’s Corner Blog site.

I’d appreciate any feedback on this travel section. Just e-mail: kerrscorner@ulsteronline.org.uk



WE'LL BE BACK!

McMillans of Sleepy Hollow Restaurant, 15 Kiln Road, Netwownabbey.Tel: 028 9083 7144
I'VE MADE plenty of restaurant reservations before but never via an answering machine! Yet that's what I did with McMillans of Sleepy Hollow. I phoned on a Monday and was a little concerned that by mid-week no one had returned my call. However, a very brief call to McMillans on Friday confirmed our booking later that evening.

McMillans of Sleepy Hollow is on the Kiln Road, not too far from the centre of Glengormley. Yet it appears to be set in the middle of the country. It's surrounded by open farmland. Indeed, when we arrived a cow was lazily munching away in an adjacent field!

The restaurant itself looks like its been a farm building of some kind. With brick and flint walls plus exposed beams, it's a look that people would pay thousands of pounds to achieve. And this all looked real to the Travel Buzz team.

As soon as we arrived we were greeted by a couple of relaxed but very efficient staff. They immediately took our coats and showed us to the lounge. Drinks were ordered and served straight away. A few minutes later, menus were brought over to us.

The lounge is magnificent. It's sull of very comfortable settees and chairs. In fact they're a bit too comfortable. I got the impression that if I put my feet up I'd drifted off to sleep within a couple of minutes.

The decor of the lounge is very homely. It has the most realistic fake open fires I've seen. It took me a few minutes to realise that there was no smoke, spitting or the sound of cracking logs normally associated with a real fire.

The menu was fairly extensive but everything was meat based. The Travel Buzz team who visited McMillans were vegetarians! Therefore, we were a little concerned that there was no vegetarian option on the menu. However, there was no need to worry. A member of staff soon found out what was available and we both plumped for the Mushroom stroganoff with rice.
After about 20 minutes relaxing in the lounge we were shown to our table in the upstairs restaurant. Again the decor was out of this world - real rustic charm.

Our meals were brought out and our eyes nearly popped out of our heads. There was enough food to feed a small army! Imagine our surprise when more food was brought out for us - large portions of chips and vegetables.

The meal itself was absolutely delicious. It’s probably the best stroganoff we’ve tasted in a long time. It was really tasty and absolutely roasting hot. And the generous portion of rice was cooked to perfection.

To accompany our meal we had a couple of more drinks. For our dessert we both had strawberries and ice cream. This was absolutely gorgeous.

Just when we were fit to burst a member of staff came over and asked if we’d like a free liqueur called Sambucca. We’d never sampled it before so we decided to try it. Sambucca smells and tastes like aniseed. We knocked it back in one and beads of sweat immediately appeared on our foreheads! This stuff was so hot you could actually feeling through your body. Lovely!
After a brilliant evening out we reluctantly left to get our taxi home. The bill came to just under £40 for the both of us – and this included about £15 in drinks. We thought it represented excellent value and can’t recommend McMillans highly enough. To paraphrase Arnold Schwarzenegger – ‘We’ll be back!’



FLY ZOOM ACROSS THE ATLANTIC TO CANADA

Zoom-Air - direct flights from Belfast International Airport to Toronto via Halifax, Nova Scotia.
TORONTO is a popular annual destination for thousands of Ulster holidaymakers. Many, if not all of these travellers have family connections in or around the city. In the past they have flown on charter flights or gone via Dublin or airports in Scotland or England.

This year it has been possible to fly on a scheduled airline directly from Aldergrove to Canada. The Canadian airline, Zoom-Air must have realised that it had the opportunity to make money by offering good value flights to Halifax and Toronto. these flights ran in 2005 from June to October and will run again in 2006. Zoom have also announced flights to Vancouver in western Canada. Fares can be checked out on the airline's website.

This year Zoom flew out at 13.45 each Wednesday afternoon. There was some confusion on the day I flew as the Zoom website gave contradictory advice, suggesting that the flight might be departing at 11.30. the same aeroplane was supposed to leave for Halifax at 11.30 and for Toronto at 13.45! Advice from Servisair was similarly confused. One caller of my acquaintance was told 11.30. another was told 13.45. To be absolutely sure of boarding the flight I turned up at Aldergrove well before 10.00. Here the display boards read 11.45 but this changed to 13.45 once the check-in desks opened. I was first to check in. I wasn't going to miss my flight. Aldergrove is a comfortable place to hang around these days so the time soon passed.

Security was brisk and efficient without being rude or unpleasant. I was a little disappointed to see that the tunnel that ought to connect to the aeroplane door at Gate 22 was left unused. The poor passengers had to climb an open set of steps in driving rain. This made us all the more grateful to take our seats but this is surely something that Servisair or the airport's management should be able to sort out. There was a proper boarding tunnel at the Toronto end, so why not at Belfast?

Facilities onboard the Zoom Boeing 767 were excelent and the flight attendants were pleasant and helpful. I'm quite a large chap and legroom on many flights I have travelled on in the past has been very cramped. Zoom have provided a lot more legroom, even in the economy seat I was occupying. This made all the difference for a pleasant flight when you are sitting in the same place for upwards of eight hours. Top marks for Zoom for this.

Passengers could watch the progress of the flight on large video screens displaying the height, spedd, outside temperature, time at place of departure and time at the next destination. An animated GPS map showed the areoplane's progress across the Atlantic Ocean. Passengers also had the option to buy a set of headphones and watch two films on the large screens, or listen to ten music channels. I didn't bother as I had chosen to read of Ian Rankin's latest Inspector Rebus book, Fleshmarket Close.

I had pre-ordered a vegetarian meal when I made my internet booking back in July. From past experience with British Midland, I had expected that I would have to tell the flight attendants about this when they came around with the food. I was pleasantly surprised to be served a rice and chilli bean hot meal right away. Apparently my seat number and meal orders were all co-ordinated by computer. Impressive stuff!

The old story of it being a small world is very true. Waiting in line to use the lavatory - well I couldn't hold it in for the whole journey - I was amazed to see my old form teacher from Rathcoole Secondary School emerge from the cubicle. Mr Alan Campbell has now retired from teaching and was travelling to Toronto for a Christian conference. I think that he was as surprised to see me as I was to see him!

The facilities at Terminal Three of Lester Pearson Internationals Airport were excellent. There was an access tunnel right up to the side door of the airscraft. Customs and immigration formalities were efficient and friendly. A regular bus service connects the airport to the TTC subway system at Kipling station.

If you are contemplating a visit to Canada next year you could do a lot worse than fly by Zoom. We give them 9 out of 10 for effort. It would have been full marks without the confusion over the flight departure time.

Zoom are already taking internet bookings for Summer 2006. If you are fairly sure that you want to travel next year now's the time to grab a bargain.

Film Reviews

COLD MOUNTAIN

Cold Mountain 154 minutes. Miramax VHS and DVD. Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Renee Zellweger. Director: Anthony Minghella. (Based on the novel by Charles Frazier.)

IT IS OFTEN said that one picture is worth 5,000 words. Perhaps, it could also be said that five minutes of film is worth 50,000 words. For those caught-up with the growing interest about the American Scots-Irish (Ulster-Scots) the picture Cold Mountain deserves some attention.
Cold Mountain has received mixed reviews. The plot is rather uncomplicated, as it revolves around the romantic relationship between a preacher's daughter (Nicole Kidman), and a farm boy Inman (Jude Law) during the American War Between the States. Inman enlists in the Confederate Army, and he is later wounded at the Battle of Petersburg. Following his recovery he goes AWOL, and then embarks on a long journey back to his beloved Ada at their home in Cold Mountain, North Carolina. Meanwhile Ada struggles to maintain her family farm after the unexpected death of her compassionate preacher father (Donald Sutherland). She finds help from a feisty farm girl Ruby (Renee Zellweger), and this role won Zellweger an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Still, Ada worries over the fate of her soldier sweetheart. Eventually Inman returns home to a warm reunion with his beloved Ada, although the circumstances are bittersweet as they contend with the devastating effects of the war. The film does end with some optimism. The final scenes show a married Ada and Inman with their family on the homestead after the dust of war has settled. Such a story is not too different from many BBC dramas about British sweethearts separated during WWI and WWII.

Where is the Ulster-Scot connection? Words like Ulster-Scot and Scots-Irish are not used, but there is much to infer that the main characters and their families are of Ulster descent. Cold Mountain is situated in the breathtaking hill and mountain country (or up country) of western North Carolina, which is part of the Ulster-Scot Appalachian heartland. (This picture was actually filmed in Romania.) The people of this community are family farmers who are very close-knit and clannish. The town church is obviously Protestant judging from its austerity. There are no large plantations, and few if any Negro slaves. In fact the issue of slavery is barely mentioned. Inman and the other young men of Cold Mountain enlisted to fight due to loyalty to their families, their local community, and their state, and not for the low country slave-owning gentry. In short one finds a vivid snapshot of the Appalachian Ulster-Scots, their slow-paced rural lifestyle, and their values during the time of America's most tragic war.

Perhaps the greatest message of Cold Mountain lays in the interplay of the core Ulster-Scot values in the crucible of war. Like Gone with the Wind, and other such epics, this film clearly shows the destruction of life and livelihood, which the invading Union armies brought upon the South. Inman first encounters this on the battlefield, and then he witnesses the devastation of the countryside as he makes his way home. Inman's desertion is not the sign of a coward. He has no regrets about his army service; however he has concluded that the Confederacy is doomed. Instead of dying to save a lost cause, he will risk his life to return to his woman, and save his kinfolk and community. Upon his return Inman has to muster his courage to defend Ada, Ruby and himself in a gun battle with some scoundrel bounty hunters.
Inman could be called a quintessential Ulster-Scot hero. His decisive actions are done not only because he is a free-spirited individual who takes risks, but because of his 'bottom up' loyalties. Devotion to family and local community come before loyalty to the higher authorities. These basic values are what guided Inman, Ada, Ruby and the Cold Mountain folk in their efforts to survive, and then rebuild their shattered existence. A sense of relief is noticed in the final scenes where Inman and Ada and their new family are having a meal at ease in their front yard of their rebuilt homestead long after the guns have silenced.

Many good books have been written about the American Ulster-Scots. If you want to see them as flesh and blood people in full colour, and visualise their triumphs and tragedies, then Cold Mountain is a must see.



DARK WATER

Certificate: 15. Running time: 105 minutes. Director: Walter Salles. Reviewed by David Kerr.
FOR SHEER scariness, dark Water is hard to beat. Like The Ring and many other sucessful Hollywood horror flicks these days, dark Water is a remake of a Japanese original.
Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) the central character is going through an acrimonios divorce when she moves in with her young daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade) to a dilapidated apartment in a rundown part of New York. The dreadful incessant rain makes for an even more depressing atmosphere.

Strange things begin to happen. Her daughter acquires a new invisible friend called Natasha. What is the secret of a Hello Kitty bag found on the roof? Damp patches appear on the ceiling and what is the sinister janitor, Veeck (Peter Postlethaite) up to?
The atmosphere of terror and menace builds up to a real twist. Don’t watch it if you’re looking for a blood and gore slashfest. It’s real edge of the seat psychological stuff. Watch it with a friend and cuddle up close for comfort as the hairs stand up on the back of our neck!



DUKES OF HAZZARD

Certificate: 15. Running time: 106 minutes. Director: Jay Chandrasekhar. Reviewed by Al Martin.

SLOPPY REHASH of the CBS TV series starring Johnny Knoxville (Jackass), Sean William Scott (American Pie) and Jessica Simpson (Summer Music Mania 2000). Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) intent on strip mining Hazzard County, hires a local NASCAR driver to ensure his plans go ahead.
While the Dukes of Hazzard sucks big time, it does feature Jessica Simpson wearing ‘Daisy Dukes’ incredibly short, shorts … so for that at least I’m glad I saw it.
Some interesting car chases, the odd funny joke and general silliness make it worth seeing on DVD or video, but not worth seeing at the cinema.



THE BUSINESS

The Business. Certificate: 18. Running Time: 97 minutes. Directed by Nick Love. Reviewed by Terry Burgoyne.

THIS IS the third film from Nick Love who also did The Football Factory (2004) and Goodbye Charlie Bright (2001).
If you like 80s music and London Gangster films like ‘Snatch’ and ‘Lock, Stock …’ you’ll love this. It’s the story of Frankie (Danny Dyer) trying to make his way amongst the big boys of crime in Spain.

This film has it all: thumping 80s tunes from the likes of Duran Duran, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and even A Flock of Seagulls. Great cast, great locations and bad 80s fashions! Despite some unfair poor reviews it should go down a bomb at the box office.

Cast: Danny Dyer – FrankieTamer Hassan – CharlieGeoff Bell – SammyGeorgina Chapman – Carly.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Entertainment - I Just Can't Help Believing

I Just Can’t Help Believing … how fantastic the Elvis Spectacular is!THE WATERFRONT HALL was the setting for Jim Brown’s ‘Elvis Spectacular’ – backed by the TCB band and the Sweet Sensations. Boy what a show!

The atmosphere reached fever pitch as Jim aka ‘The King’ took to the stage clad in his gold coloured jacket, to give a thrilling rendition of Elvis’ early hits. Houndog, Jailhouse Rock and King Creole were the songs that a young Elvis shook the world with back in the 50s. ‘the King’ then donned his GI uniform to perform his greatest hits from the 60s, most notably a mind blowing rendition of It’s Now or Never. Then we were taken throgh the leather-clad 68 Comback special era before Jim climbed into his jumpsuit to relive Elvis’ greatest live performances of the 70s.

Jim Brown and his backing bands, the TCB band and the three-girl Sweet Sensations give in ‘The Elvis Spectacular’ the greatest Elvis tribute act in the world today. Jim’s amazing voice has to be heard to be believed. His backing groups add so much to the event.

The compact theatre venue added to the occasion with its comfortable setting for all ages. Those present ranged from original 50’s rockers trough to thirty-somethings like myself, teenagers and the very young. The music of Elvis is loved across the complete age spectrum.
My seven-year-old went absolutely bonkers. He joined in when Jim performed one of his favourites, Mystery train/Tiger Man. A highlight for me was an unbelievable performance of How Great Thou Art, which brought the house down.

I caught up with Mervyn Boyd, the show’s musical director and dynamic promoter. Mervyn said that the show started as a one-off way back in 1977 to mark the twentieth anniversary of Elvis’s death. The show, however, has continued – by public demand! Mervyn promises more spectaculars to come. Watch this space for details!

Book Review - Biting Tongues

Biting Tongues by TP Bragg. Black Cat Distribution, Edinburgh. 240 pages. Paperback. ISBN: 1-4116- 5250-9 £10.00.

JACKIE has been imprisoned in an old air-raid shelter for seven years and seven months. The novel begins with Jackie’s diary extracts written from within a mental hospital. The novel investigates Jack’s ‘dream-time’, which he learnt to enter in ‘the dark’ as he terms, it.
‘Dream-time’ is about the transformation of thoughts into words and words into ‘reality’. This is mirrored by his obsession with books in the hospital and in this sense, the novel explores the relationship between reality and fiction (and to creative act) – plus the redemptive power of fiction. In the dark, Jack had to learn to survive.

The main themes are: love; time; the nature of sanity/insanity; freedom and imprisonment; redemption; power. The main sub-plot of the novel deals with how and why Jack is imprisoned. Against all the anguish of the past there is a movement of optimism and for all the bitterness and darkness in this novel there is also a powerful sense of love and hope.
It is Jack’s imprisonment and the strange world of twilight reality enmeshed with dream-time fiction that gives the whole novel its peculiar feeling and narrative direction.

Biting Tongues conjures the experience of those who have dwelt in another world within our world – an ‘oubliette’ – and who, when they are released back into ‘reality’, are looked to for insight and wisdom. It is as if their suffering and isolation can give us the answers we seek to the meaning of our collective (and relatively safe) existence.