An Ulster Log: Why Carley is working with some scoundrels
Sparkling actress Carley Stenson, who shot to fame playing scatty Steph in Channel 4's Hollyoaks, is coming to Belfast for a week from September 1. She'll be appearing at the Grand Opera House in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, in which she has the role of glamorous Christine Colgate.
Since leaving the television soap, Carley has carved out a successful career in London's West End, playing leading lady Elle Woods in Legally Blonde and Princess Fiona in Shrek.
She loved her time on Hollyoaks and says she wouldn't rule out appearing in Coronation Street.
The rest of the cast of Scoundrels are Michael Praed, Mark Benton and Noel Sullivan. "A happy family performing on a lavish stage," enthuses Carley.
"This is a show with a summer feel about it so it is coming to Belfast at just the right time," adds Carley, who is looking forward to making time for a visit to the Titanic Centre.
Belfast hills will be alive with Sound of Music
The Sound of Music, one of the great musicals, is returning to Belfast just as the 50th anniversary of the film version is celebrated, with Danielle Hope in the role of Maria, the nanny played on the silver screen by Julie Andrews.
It's appropriate that the golden anniversary will be celebrated at the Grand Opera House when the stage production visits in August. For Miss Andrews, now 75, played this very theatre as a child with her family act.
There's even a chance that Julie will accept an invitation to take a seat in the stalls when the curtain goes up on opening night.
But Christopher Plummer, who was Baron von Trapp in the movie, definitely won't be in town. The 85-year-old refuses to talk about The Sound of Music and appears to dislike the musical that made him a star.
Danielle Hope, who captured the hearts of the country when she won the BBC talent show Over the Rainbow and made her professional debut as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium, is the perfect replacement for Julie, producer Bill Kenwright will tell you.
It all began with the story of the Trapp Family Singers and Baroness Maria von Trapp's 1949 autobiography, which inspired Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse to create the screen musical 10 years later, in 1959.
The Sound of Music tells the true story of the world-famous singing family, from their romantic beginnings and search for happiness, to their escape to freedom as their beloved Austria becomes part of the Third Reich just before the start of the Second World War.
The score features some of the most memorable songs performed on stage, including Edelweiss, My Favourite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Climb Ev'ry Mountain, So Long, Farewell and, of course, the film's title song, The Sound of Music.
Ulstermen in firing line at the Battle of New Orleans
Just think about it - the opposing generals in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 both had Northern Irish connections. Old Hickory Andrew Jackson, the future seventh President of the USA, led the American forces. His parents emigrated from Carrick.
And the Brits had as their leader Major General Edward Pakenham, whose home was Langford Lodge on the Lough Neagh shore near Crumlin.
I only mention this today because Jackson died peacefully in his bed in 1845 while Pakenham lost his life in the New Orleans skirmish - the last battle of the War of Independence - in which the British were humiliated.
What made it worse was that they had no need to fight at all. Peace had been secured, but word hadn't reached New Orleans yet.
Lonnie Donegan had a No 1 pop hit about the Battle of New Orleans in the early Sixties.
Jackson was lucky to be allowed to die a natural death. In 1835 the first assassination attempt on an American president had Old Hickory as its target. He was at a funeral when a man tried to shoot him but his gun malfunctioned.
My blooming romantic stage debut
The Bluebell has been voted the UK's most popular flower and is now a protected bloom (it's against the law to even dig up the roots).
And that reminds me warmly of the time, too, many years ago, when I made my stage debut singing about bluebells in a ballad called I'll Be Your Sweetheart.
Bluebells I'll gather/Take them and be true/When I'm a man my plan/Will be to marry you.
I was plighting my troth to a young lady called Lily seated on a swing on the stage at Carnmoney Presbyterian Church. I can't say that I got a standing ovation. Lily nearly fell off the swing when I gave her one push too many. I was never asked for a repeat performance, but I've always loved the bluebell.
No reservations about guest dogs
Love this item in a book called Chicken Soup For The Soul, by Jack Canfield, about a hotel guest who asked the owner if his dog could stay in the room with him overnight.
The owner replied to his letter like this: "I've never had a dog steal towels, bed clothes or silverware or pictures off the walls. I've never had to evict a dog for being drunk and disorderly. Your dog is welcome at my hotel.
"And if the dog can vouch for you, you're welcome to stay here, too."
Chicken Soup is made up of 101 stories to open the heart and re-kindle the spirit, according to the blurb on the front.
Can an actor be too old for romance?
A friend of mine, who is a talented actor, has been explaining to me why I haven't seen him on stage of late. "I'm too old for romantic leads," he says. "And playwrights who seem to get younger and younger don't write parts for ancient guys like me."
Which, if he is right, is a shame - and he's only 60 and a bit.
So who among the professional acting set are no longer the right age for romantic lead roles?
I think immediately of Ken Branagh, who is 55, but then Ken's a much sought-after director.