Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Army pull out of NI

British army operations in Northern Ireland will end officially at midnight tonight after 38 years. A total of 763 soldiers lost their lives in the long running and bloody war but a new dawn of peace arrives now in Northern Ireland.

The generation of people currently at school have no idea of the troubles or of how people in Northern Ireland lived. At the time when i was a kid it was totally normal for me to see troops on the streets and when i travelled on holidays it was very very strange not to see this activity.

British services are deployed in such diverse areas around the globe now and still face the death with a professional and highly trained attitude.

Ministry of Defence

Devil "in" the great blue sea

I was away at the weekend for the second Ribraid of 2007. This weekend long event attracts RIB boat owners of all abilities to cruise to Scotland and Back from Co Down.

After a pleasant afternoon in Portpatrick we returned on a luxury cruiser, however the Irish sea wasn't about to treat us to a luxurious journey home. The winds blew up and we spent a few hours travelling back to Bangor in very rough weather. Although forcasted, this weather quickly appeared from nowhere.

It really brought home the message of how dangerous the sea is and how we must always take safety precautions. The message was really hit home when a power boat travelling from Portpatrick to Co Down on the same evening had to call the RNLI after they got lost. The coastguard's message, understandably is how important it is that every boat on the sea carries the correct navigation and communication equipment.

BBC NEWS - Coastguard warns on sea equipment

Full information and photo gallery at www.ribraid.com

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

No Thrills Airlines

Here we go again, more low cost carriers have today announced that they will be operating out of Belfast's two airports. Irish carriers Ryanair will operate from the George Best Belfast City Airport and Aer Lingus will fly from Belfast International Airport.

Ryanair promise to sell the first 10,000 tickets for £10 including taxes and charges to encourage the punters onto their routes.

A huge array of low cost "no frills" carriers operate from Belfast airports now, making it impossible to book a normal airline, they just don't exist anymore.

So for average prices of around £60 return you can queue up like a bunch of kids at the school bus stop, get herded onto an uncomfortable and packed airliner without any complimentary drinks, meals or service, oh and don't forget the screaming kid in seat 24D. The staff mostly treat you like animals because lets face it, your ticket is cheaper than the cattle lorry. But the plus side, you find your self in a European destination you'd never dreamt of visiting.

These types of carrier operations are now taking travellers across the Atlantic with many transcontinental airlines now charging for drinks and meals. What happened to service, what happened to a bit of luxury, what happened to sparkling wine in little plastic wine glasses and smoked salmon.

Soon even first and business class seats will be eroded to make way for the great unwashed. Okay that's a controversial statement but lets face facts, people who would traditionally have taken a short break up the coast or down to Newcastle or Dublin are now travelling to all sorts of exotic destinations. They don't need to travel and who have had just the same experience closer to home, keeping their money inside the local economy and helping local business.

No one is addressing the fact that low cost airlines are probably the biggest growing provider of harmful Carbon gases. Something needs to be done to stop this, and FAST. Following 11th Sept when all aircraft were grounded for just one day the planet was 1c warmer in the day and 1c colder at night.

We will always need air travel but lets save it for that REALLY special occasion. We need more thrill rides like the return of a Concorde type aircraft, more ways to throw caution to the wind instead of pennies to Prague!

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Horse It Into Ya Cynthia.....

Cos you're the girl for me

Len and myself have jest spent a weekend broadcast on Fuse FM to the populus of Rathfriland. What a wonderful village, friendly people and amazing scenery.

We also discovered a previously unheard of Phenomenon, Conal Gallen's piece "Horse it into ya Cynthia". This recording apparently was made famous by Hugo Duncan on his Radio Ulster Programme. This song is absolutely huge with the locals down in Rathfriland.

The song tells the tale of a young Irish man's love for a country girl, and how he encourages her to drink more by "Horsing it into her", it really has to be heard to be believed. A "youtuber" has produced a fonejacker style video, ENJOY.....

We also have a video somewhere of a chap line-dancing to this record which we'll publish here ASAP.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Call the Pop Master

Every weekday on Radio Two, Ken Bruce presents a wonderful little quiz called Pop Master. A terribly British concept as the prizes are always a bit rubbish (a CD wallet or wind up radio) but it isn't the winning but the taking part!

In the afternoon it's Steve Wright's turn to run the Big Quiz, however this week Mark Radcliffe stands in for Steve and replaces the contest with "Mark My Words" again a competition where really its the taking part and not the winning that matters.

All competitions have been suspended by the BBC after a fresh inquiry produced another batch of faked phone-ins were found including BBC Sports Relief, Comic Relief, Children in Need and the Liz Kershaw show on BBC 6 Music.

BBC's official line is there is "No Excuse" for faking these items and it is a fair enough point but where am I going to get some pop trivia at 10.30am anymore?

The BBC really have to stop beating themselves up about this and get on with what they do best, producing the worlds best television, radio and internet news, comedy and documentaries.

While I would never tolerate these kind of phone in abuses I know it does go on, and from when presenting a live programme it can be very tempting to fake something like this.

Cards on the table, some time ago after no-one phoned in to receive a goody bag on Ulster Hospital Radio we got a presenter to call in from his mobile phone and answer the question. It wasn't honest but it did keep the dynamic of the programme working correctly. OH, it feels good to finally admit it, maybe i'll a full nights sleep at last!!!!

BBC suspends phone competitions - BBC ONLINE

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

FUSE FM Hits Rathfriland

If you are in the Rathfriland area this week and next tune into 106FM to hear FUSE FM.

Fuse FM is funded by the Ulster Scots Agency and has been setup and run by Citybeat Presenter David Gordon.

Andy & Len will be presenting Fuse on weekends.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Friday, 13 July 2007

I love the smell of Nesbitt in the morning

Local actor James Nesbitt recently appeared on BBC television programme Something For The Weekend. This programme is great, i never watch cookery stuff but Something For The Weekend is a wonderful magazine show and is definately better than Steve Wright's Sunday Love Songs!

Nesbitt was discussing his youth spend in a loyalist marching band and the new BBC show Jekyll while cooking Asian food from Vietnam.

During the conversation James was asked if he'd ever been to Vietnam, he replied no, but he had been to Larne and it was much the same!

This immediately sparked local outrage including local DUP MP Sammy Wilson who sold BBC Radio Ulster "He is one of many people who leave Northern Ireland, make good and then find that the only thing they can do is denigrate the country they came from."

Nesbitt answered the radio show by Text from LA stating that it was a joke.

Can people not lighten up a bit? Comments like this are only meant as jokes, they aren't meant to cause hurt or denigrate the town. Did John Betjeman receive the same treatment from the people of Slough after his poem?

Perhaps Mr Wilson and the residents should consider why these comments were made, I mean, have you ever tried to get a drink in the town?

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Bonfire in Belvoir

This image was taken this evening (11th July 2007) near Belvoir estate in South Belfast. In my last post I touched on the environmental impact of these events and while my feelings on that still stand I did get a feeling of community spirit while I toured the various fires throughout the city this evening.

Educating communities on their environmental responsibilities is what we need to do, it would be terrible to ban these sorts events but people can have just as much fun burning a couple of pallets.

Bonfire worries

The above photograph was taken from BBC News Online, it shows the alarming Bonfire in Ballycraigy estate in Antrim which will be set on fire tonight to mark the start of the twelfth of July celebrations in Loyalist areas of Northern Ireland.

While i respect peoples right to celebrate their community this type of thing just shouldn't be tolerated. The Bonefire in question is 25ft in height and is built from wood waste along with rubber tyres. The effects of these fires throughout Northern Ireland will have a devestating effect on the local environment and on the health of local residents.

A small bonfire is being built today behind my home by local children, though quite small i'm sure that this will have an impact to our local ecology, cause death to animals and cause unnecessary risk to property and lives.

Housing Stock Shock!

Prime Minister Brown is breaking with tradition by telling MPs his plans months ahead of the Queens speech. And guess what, education, health and housing are at the top of his "to do" list, have we heard this before, maybe around about the time the Spice Girls were first damaging our ear drums ?

One of Brown's top policies will be to make homes "more affordable", however this has brought stern critics from the Conservatives running for the hills with the fear that the green belt will again be eroded with new homes being built further and further away from town centres.

Brown stated that we should go back to building levels seen in the 1950s, houses that are now being knocked down.

I love exploring old buildings when I travel, there is a huge number of homes, shops and attractions built 400 or more years ago which have stood the test of time right into the 2000s. Why are buildings less than 50 years old being knocked down and replaced.

Sustainability is to encourage building builders and developers to build homes which will still be used far into the future. Homes where in 200 years the original features will be marvelled at on BBC Two.

We must at all costs protect the little bit of green space left in the UK, I flew over England at night not so long ago and found that London now starts on Merseyside!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

7/7 Lucky for some?

I was a little bit shocked at the weekend when an American in-law told me Saturday was the luckiest day in the year. I honestly hadn't thought that the second anniversary of the London terrorist attacks could be deamed in anyway lucky.

It seems maybe i'm wrong, not only did Londonderry man Denis Doherty scoop £1.6m from the National Lottery ('Crying child scooped me £1.6m' - BBC NEWS ONLINE but I won £10 on my thunderball ticket !!!!

It just got me thinking about how relaxed we are in the UK about things like this. If i'd gone to the average American and opened a champagne bottle on September 11 this year i'd probably get a punch in the face, but us Brits have a little bit of a stiff upper lip and maybe just a bit of the old "don't let the Bastards grind us down" mentality.

1st Podcast party

The Northern Ireland podcast is 1/2 a year old (well sort of), and has attracted thousands of listeners from all around the world including USA, Canada, Australia and the middle east.

To celebrate our half year we thought the country had planned huge street parties, parades and even bonfires but sadly thats for something else.

The Hit the North crew will be recording a special one off podcast party this coming weekend. This special gift to all our loyal fans will be recorded under the influence of just a little alcohol so hopefully it should be rather funny.

Download all our podcasts by visiting or archive section at http://www.nipodcast.com/archive.html

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Alan finally freed

I woke to the amazing news yesterday morning that Alan Johnston has been released by his captors in the Gaza Strip.

Alan has always been a top rate journalist, demonstrating the plight of some of the most down trodden people in the world.

It has been suggested that Tony Blair may now become some sort of Middle Eastern envoy, working exclusively for peace in the region. Will anyone in the Middle East trust Blair following Iraq?

Alan is a much better candidate for the Job. A man who has a huge knowledge about all states in the middle east and a man who is quite willing to stick his neck out.

Great to see you released Alan!

BBC Alan Johnston page