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What's my best beauty secret? It's the rare old mountain dew

By Eddie McIlwaine

It won't be long until the spring, and young couples - many of them from these parts - will be making a pilgrimage to Edinburgh to climb up a hill called Arthur's Seat, where, on the summit, they will bathe their faces in the morning dew and be guaranteed a year of good luck.

According to a lady called Wilma Carson, from Larne, this is a tradition that is guaranteed to work and definitely isn't a load of old baloney.

I only mention spring dew on Arthur's Seat because I've been re-reading a romantic novel called One Day - a masterpiece of its kind by David Nicholls - in which the hill and its dew are mentioned time and again in the plot. Apparently, way back in the past, spring dew was used in charms and spells and, in the 17th century, was even recommended as a lotion for sore eyes. Snuffed up the nostrils, it was believed to cure vertigo.

And today folk, who are sane enough, believe firmly in the tradition that if a girl washes her face in dew every morning in spring, she will be beautiful all year.

Right enough, all the women I've known down the years must have bathed in dew, because they have all been beautiful.

In One Day, Dexter and Emma spend the night together after their graduation from Edinburgh University in 1988 and speculate how they will turn out as 40-year-olds.

Nicholls revisits their lives on the same date in successive years to see how they've got on.

If you haven't read One Day, do so right now - it's out there as a paperback. It will bring a tear to your eye. You can also watch Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) in the film One Day, set in Yorkshire, which is available to buy now.

I enjoyed the way the plot was transferred to the screen, with Anne, the American-born star of The Princess Diaries, revealing in behind-the-scenes footage how she watched Emmerdale to pick up strands of the Yorkshire accent. This is the kind of romantic story I love.

Be assured it isn't a time-traveller - this could really happen - and I often wonder if the author based the novel on a real experience.

Dannii’s sure to shine on new talent show

My favourite diva - next to her sister Kylie - is Dannii Minogue. I'm delighted that the attractive lady with the voice to match is a judge tonight on the new talent show, Let It Shine.

I've always found it difficult to choose between the two Minogues, but tonight belongs to Dannii. She and her three fellow judges will search for five talented boys to form a band who will join the cast of a brand new stage show featuring the music of Take That.

Naturally enough, the chief judge on Let It Shine is Gary Barlow, who was a leading light in Take That during the boyband's heyday.

The others joining Dannii are Martin Kemp from Spandau Ballet and Amber Riley of Glee, who is now in Dream Girls. The presenters of the show are Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc.

Over the next seven weeks, Dannii and her fellow judges will be looking to put together a band that exudes the charisma, showmanship and stage presence that made stars of Take That.

When Dannii sings her hits including I Begin to Wonder and This Is It, I just melt away.

Mind you, I have a fondness for Kylie, too.

Let It Shine, BBC1, tonight, 7pm

How to jazz up a bookshop

Jazz has arrived in style at the No Alibis crime bookshop on Botanic Avenue in Belfast. Owner David Torrens discovered the popularity of this musical style when he put on a concert in memory of a friend who had died and it packed the place out.

Now, three leading musicians are being brought together for a gig on Friday, January 27, the first in a series.

First, there is guitarist John Moriarty, who works a lot with Dublin-based band Organics. He was a finalist at the Montreux Jazz Festival guitar competition in Switzerland. John builds guitars, too.

Next, there is Scott Flanigan - after whom the ensemble is named - a skilled keyboard player who has just been working with Van Morrison and the Ulster Orchestra. He's a composer and arranger and earned his master's degree in jazz performance with first-class honours from the Dublin Institute of Technology.

Then there is Steve Davis, a talented percussionist and drummer who has worked with Django Bates and Jackie Dankworth.

He is also a lecturer in performance and composition at Queen's University, Belfast.

A jackdaw will always cause a flap

I don't want to scare you, dear reader, but look out if a jackdaw flies down your chimney. It is an omen of death, I glean from a paperback called Superstitions of the Countryside, published way back in 1978.

The absorbing book has just been presented to me by a Joe McCleary of Kilkeel, who drew my attention to the sinister jackdaw piece.

"Don't worry too much," advises Joe. "I'm well into middle-age and I've never known of this species of bird coming down a chimney pot." So why did he bother to tell me about this death threat at all then?

Joe goes on to claim that it is unlucky to spy a jackdaw all on its own. He adds that,if a flock of them are seen flying as dusk approaches, it is a sign of bad weather to come.

But did you ever hear of jackdaws being used as watch-birds? Joe insists that when he was young farmers kept them to give a warning through their chattering on the approach of strangers.

TV's legal eagles should stick to law and avoid dancefloor

I'm relieved that Judge John Deed, played by actor Martin Shaw, didn't give in to temptation and turn up as a competitor on Strictly Come Dancing. You'll see the good advocate on his bench again in an episode of the drama series called Evidence of Harm on the UKTV Channel this Wednesday.

If Deed had been seen waltzing or doing a quickstep in the arms of a pretty girl, I simply couldn't have managed to watch him dishing out the law again.

You'll remember how I frowned on television's Judge Robert Rinder daring to appear on Strictly and warned it would do his reputation as a verdict-maker no good at all.

I was quite right. Rinder returned to the screen the other day and every time he said something legal, I could only think of him as a dancer. I had to switch him off.

Does anyone know the words  of an ode to wearing a muffler?

Does anyone wear a muffler these days? That, in case you didn't know, is another word for a scarf.

"Everybody used to wrap up well at this time of the year in their muffler," I'm informed by Joe Magill of Carrick, who claims that the muffler and scarf habit has died out everywhere except football matches, where fans would often be better leaving them at home.

Joe says that back in the 1930s an old poem associated with wearing a muffler was popular and had the line: "When Sergeant Death puts his cold arms around me."

Apparently, a verse goes on to assure the wearer that a heavenly muffler will save his soul. I'd like to read it.

I'll be so happy if old chestnut about falling leaves is right

I dream these nights about leaves, lots of them. The reason is that I'm sick and tired of brushing them up for real in my garden.

I've a dozen beech and chestnut trees around me. They're pretty to look at in spring and summer, but a nuisance in autumn and winter.

There's an old yarn out there that as many falling leaves as can be caught in the hand, so many happy months will follow. If that's the case, I should be happy for the rest of my life.

By the way, don't keep withered leaves in the house, especially the ones you bring in green and fresh as part of the Christmas decorations. My picture shows a little dog called Daisy enjoying a carpet of leaves on a picturesque walkway down by the Lough Neagh shoreline at Antrim.

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