I cannot speak about the trial that just finished. Not because I am observing some legal protocol. The reason I cannot voice my opinions is precisely because my opinion did not, and should not, carry any weight in the assessment of  innocence or guilt.

However, maybe you might like to hear my thoughts about the experience of being a juror on a grim case heard in a county court.

Firstly, I was unprepared for the emotional reaction that hit me after the verdict had been unanimously agreed upon. Were the repressed tears for me, or the two people contesting their version of the truth?

Secondly, can I honestly say that I did enough to ensure that justice was served?

I bloody hope so.



Scones vs mince pies

In our kitchen at about 6 am you might find a man kneading dough. That would be me. Delia is still my bible, despite forays into other cookbooks. Her scone recipe delivers a dozen scones with 15 minutes of baking.


Shortcrust pastry is a bit more time-consuming. The dough has to be rested in the fridge for half an hour, the baking time is about double and you have to fill and seal mince pies.

That said, I still want to bake mince pies this Christmas, but I might just buy ready-made pastry. The mincemeat will be out of a jar, so what odds?


In this latest burst of enthusiasm for reinventing the body beautiful I decided to buy some trainers. Online JD Sports had a pair for £20 reduced from £40. That seemed ok. Delivery on all orders 2-3 days. Perfect, because I didn’t want the enthusiasm waning while I waited for my sporting attire.

Ten days later, the company can’t find my order. Phone calls and online tracking were a waste of time. I tried calling in the shop yesterday to see what could be purchased in store. Trainers don’t come in width fittings for some unknown reason and I have wide feet. Having tried on several pairs, it became apparent that if you paid over £70 they were a bit more generous with the material. For £150 there was a pair of Nike trainers that didn’t pinch my feet.

Clarks trainers

Over the road at Clarks their sales assistant got out the 3 pairs of trainer looking shoes in a G fitting. Like Cinderella,, I was delighted to find a shoe that fitted and was in the Sale at £32.50.  Now, how to get my £20 back off JD Sports?

Finally John Hewitt

Shopping in the run-up to Christmas can be a bit of a chore if you have to brave the crowds and the weather decides to get wintry. Belfast shoppers have not yet turned feral, so the experience of traipsing around craft shops and department stores wasn’t too bad.

The family tradition of buying a new decoration for the Christmas tree was achieved with ease, blouses were selected in M&S and even the scrum down in Boots was tolerable.

But I had reached my limit of shops and overpriced novelty items. The bar beckoned. It was busy and we only found a table and one chair. But the cider was good and we could make ourselves heard above the buzz.

Baltic might describe the cold weather, but was also the bar we found ourselves in after we had searched in vain for any table in the city centre restaurants. £13.50 for two glasses of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a bit steep but the alpine decor and friendly barman helped.

No taxis were to be had, except with priority booking. Luckily my better half is a valued taxi customer and we made our way to the Bengal Brasserie on the Lisburn Road. Good food, nice ambiance and a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The end of our shopping adventure.

Killers in the bar

Last night in Belfast the mood was tense. Eight men with pool cues stood around a table ready to do battle. Yes, it was a game of killer. Each pool player had three lives and you lost a life if you didn’t pot a ball when it was your turn.


Drink was taken by the non-drivers. Six beer-fuelled males in their prime, who by day worked with a higher education database system. By night they gambled. The pot lay on the table. £7, somebody hadn’t put in their pound…

The oldest male bided his time. Then with a dazzling display of potting, he wiped the floor with the young Turks.

The drivers left first. The beer guzzlers moved nearer the bar, and talked quality bollocks until they too drifted off into the night.