How granny Maureen had a marathon birthday bash
An Ulster Log
Grandmother Maureen McCourt has just celebrated her 70th birthday - by running her 70th marathon. The health promotion nurse, encouraged by her husband, Richard, strode out successfully in the Palma Majorca event and is still in training.
"There are other marathons on my list," says Maureen. "I've no thoughts of retiring."
She took up running back in 1982, when she was 35, and finished in style in the first Antrim marathon.
"That's when I caught the bug," recalls the lady who works with Chest Heart & Stroke charity. "Down the years, I've finished in the Big Five - the London, the Boston, the New York, the Chicago and the Berlin."
Eleven years ago, Maureen, who lives at Nutt's Corner on the Long Rig Road, had a family run in the Paris Marathon with Richard, son Alan and daughters Claire, Karen and Joanne.
And she and Richard (73), a retired civil engineer, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in Athens, running in that city's event. The couple has spent their honeymoon in the city.
"We have been married 46 years," Maureen, who has five grandchildren, confides. "And, when our 50th anniversary comes round, we are going to celebrate again in the Athens Marathon."
Her favourite marathon is the one in New York, which she has run twice.
"But I've run all the local ones several times and I'll be going again in the Belfast event next May."
Then, next October, she is off to conquer the Washington DC marathon waved on by daughter Claire, who lives there.
Richard occasionally runs with Maureen, but his hobby is orienteering.
Did I say that Maureen is 70? After all those marathons down the years, she definitely looks (and is) super-fit - and doesn't look a day over 50.
Why mum's the word for actress Eileen
It's all happening for homebred actress Eileen O'Higgins - she's from Castlewellan - fresh from the Oscars through her role in the film Brooklyn.
The young lady with the charming smile is about to be seen on BBC1 tomorrow night in a Second World War drama set in Northern Ireland and called, intriguingly, My Mother and Other Strangers.
Eileen has the role of Emma Coyne in the piece, written by Barry Devlin, whom I remember from Ballykissangel.
My Mother and Other Strangers follows the fortunes of the Coyne family and their neighbours as they struggle to maintain a normal way of life after the United States army, sets up camp with 4,000 servicemen and women, bang in the middle of their rural parish in 1943.
It also stars Hattie Morahan, Owen McDonnell and Aaron Staton.
My Mother and Other Strangers, BBC1 Northern Ireland, tomorrow, 9pm
Pictures that are just heavenly
Heavens above! What else could the Irish Astronomical Association have called its exhibition going on in Clotworthy House in Antrim Castle Gardens until Saturday, December 3?
You see, the show is made up of photographs of the sky taken by members of the association, covering the likes of the clouds of the Milky Way and the electric colours of the Aurora Borealis. Also to be seen will be pictures of time-critical celestial events such as solar and lunar eclipses.
Some of the pictures were shot with specialist equipment from exotic locations in order to capture the best starlight possible, but others were captured from ordinary locations in Northern Ireland using off-the-shelf photographic equipment.
The exhibition is open each day from 9am until 5pm, with late opening Tuesday and Thursday until 9.30pm.
A testing time for driver Jim (96)
Who was Harry of Culcavy? I only ask, because whoever he was in this Co Down townland in the shadow of Hillsborough, Harry was well enough known and liked to have a road named after him. I only discovered Harry's Road when I had to take a diversion on a car journey to Banbridge. As I drove along this windy country thoroughfare, I was intrigued. Perhaps Harry was a local farmer. Or he could have been a footballer, or even a tennis player. Let me know about Harry please, you Culcavy folk.
In the meantime, here's a story you are going to love. Jim has just passed his driving test. Nothing strange about that, you'll say, except that this driver is 96. He has been driving since he was 17 (before the driving test became law in the late-1950s) with a clean record until six months ago, when he damaged the bumper of his Vauxhall Corsa in a minor accident. The police immediately ordered him to take the test, which he passed first time. Jim, who was also given a clean bill of health by his doctor, has been back behind the wheel ever since. However, he is shy and doesn't want me to reveal his full name, or address.
The jury is still out as judge lays down the law on Strictly
Judge Rinder is never going to look the same to me as he dishes out his findings in his UTV afternoon court.
From now on I'll expect him to suddenly forsake his bench to do a quickstep, samba or foxtrot - just as he has been doing on Strictly Come Dancing.
I have to wonder if Rinder's antics on Strictly help us to respect the law in general.
Mind you, this judge appears to be popular as a dancer - but I wouldn't like to be on the other end of one of his verdicts.
Soccer scout says I earned medal, but not for exploits on the pitch
Football veteran Jim Emery (77) insists that I should have got a medal once upon a time for saving his life. It happened way back in 1967, when Jim and I were returning to Lisburn, where we both lived, from a match at the Showgrounds in Ballymena.
In the darkness of a late winter Saturday evening, my Cortina was in collision with a cow wandering on the mountain road at Hannahstown. The vehicle tumbled over into a field and ended upside down and I pulled my unconscious passenger Emery - a scout for Everton - out of the shattered windscreen.
In the Lagan Valley Hospital, Jim had 137 stitches put in his face and I was treated for a minor head injury.
We had a lucky escape - the cow was killed.
Who wrote this poem about forgetfulness? I can't recall
Who penned these lines called Just a Little Mixed Up? It wasn't me (so far as I can remember):
Just a line to say I'm living, that I'm not among the dead,
Though I'm getting more forgetful and mixed up in my head.
I've got used to my arthritis, to my dentures I'm resigned,
I can manage my bifocals, but gosh I miss my mind.
Sometimes I can't remember, when at the foot of the stair,
If I must go up for something, or if I've just come down from there.
And before the fridge so often my poor mind fills with doubt,
Have I just put food away, or have I come to take some out?
And there are times when it is dark, with my nightcap on my head,
I don't know if I'm retiring, or have just got out of bed.