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Ulster log: Why Paul’s on Cyprus Avenue one more time

By Eddie McIlwaine

Just why thriller writer Paul Charles calls his new novel  Down On  Cyprus Avenue can be revealed today. Cyprus Avenue is one of the streets in Belfast Paul remembers from his first visit to the city with his father Andrew as a little boy of six.

“Coming from home in Magherafelt I loved the buzz and the aroma of the city,” he says now. “I couldn’t believe the volume of noise and the place crammed with exotic cars.”

But there is another  reason why Cyprus Avenue gets into the title of Paul’s new book, which is published by Dufour. Cyprus Avenue is mentioned in the lyrics of the Van Morrison song Madame George, which is a track on his celebrated album Astral Weeks.

“I love that song and the mention of an avenue I walked along as a lad,” explains Paul. “In fact,  I reckon that Astral Weeks is the best album ever recorded.”

Paul Charles has to know what he is talking about. Never mind his soaring reputation as an author, he is also a successful impresario and show business agent in London, rubbing shoulders with well-known artists almost on a daily basis.

This is the second time in a couple of weeks I’ve mentioned Van in connection with works of literature. Last week, it was due to his interest in the history of the Cruthin by Ian Adamson.

And Van himself will be at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, on January 5, singing to a packed audience.

Down On Cyprus Avenue introduces readers to retired Northern Ireland policeman Brendy McCusker who is forced back to work when his wife runs off to America with his pension  and their nest egg. His first case is to locate the two missing sons of a wealthy businessman in Belfast. Good Christmas reading, I believe.

Pixie’s still dancing on air

Blonde beauty Pixie Lott should be the saddest celeb around today after being dumped unceremoniously out of Strictly Come Dancing, the final of which takes place  tonight (BBC1, 6.30pm).

She may have been my favourite to win, but instead will have to watch Caroline Flack, Frankie Bridge, Mark Wright and Simon Webbe battle it out.

But Pixie came up smiling  after the judges voted her out. And she is still on top form now, back in the recording studio doing what she does best — making beautiful musical sounds.

Pixie, who is likely to be in Belfast in the spring, says: “Strictly was unforgettable, but it takes over  your life. I missed my singing and the studio work.”

Now, she is looking forward to Christmas and dancing around her living room to Bruce Springsteen’s Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, wearing a big Christmas stocking on her head.

Where the streets have no name...

What makes Whitehead on the Antrim coast stand out from every other town, village and hamlet in the province? The answer is that this picturesque resort, which I love to visit for a picnic on a summer day, is notable in that there are no streets with the suffix ‘Street’ in their name, giving rise to the nickname ‘The Town With No Streets’ — just roads, parks and avenues.

Located at the base of Muldersleigh Hill, at the entrance to Belfast Lough, Whitehead lies in a small bay between the limestone cliffs of Whitehead and the black volcanic cliff of Blackhead, with the Blackhead Lighthouse on top, marking the entrance to the Lough. It had a population of just 3,702 in the 2001 Census.

It’s time that the book, which explains how and why the situation of no streets came about and which was written years ago by historian Paddy O’Donnell, was re-published by AZ Tech Services. It is called simply Whitehead — The Town With No Streets.

The town was developed by a railway company which in 1905 offered free season tickets to Belfast as an incentive for people to move to Whitehead.

Before the Plantation of Ulster its name was recorded as both Whitehead and Kinbaine (from Irish an Cionn Bán, meaning ‘the white head’).

The town was also home to an aerodrome which housed two airships during the First World War.

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