After years of badgering my dream's finally come true
In Preston, where I grew up, the word 'Brock' is a common prefix to a lot of place names. Brockholes, Brock Bottom, Brock Wood are all found in the local maps of the area, as it the village of Brock itself. I remember this being pointed out to me when I was at school and the simple explanation fired my imagination.
Now my kids are older, I have seen the light
As I was driving towards the Sydenham bypass last Saturday afternoon, traffic was crawling at a snail's pace. Was it an accident? Or a demonstration? Or maybe a security alert of some sort, I wondered? So I flicked on Cool FM and soon got the answer. Disney on Ice was on at the Odyssey and there were tailbacks for miles. Urrghh ...
Get me an airbrush after portrait disaster
I've always found it quite ironic that vanity is one of the least attractive traits a person can have. In fact of all the seven deadly sins it's the one I'd least like to be accused of, even though I know fine and rightly that I'm actually a terrible offender. I'm just too proud to admit it ... precisely because it is so unattractive.
I'm having a whale of a time as I hit 50
Hola mis amigos y buenos dias from the Canary Islands where I am spending a well-earned week in the sun with a friend as a pre-birthday present to myself.
How a Jobsworth very nearly sent me off the rails
The formal dictionary definition of a 'Jobsworth' is as follows: "A person in a position of minor authority who invokes the letter of the law to avoid any action requiring initiative, co-operation etc." The term originates from the phrase "Sorry, love, but it's more than my job's worth" which is the daily mantra of a proud and pedantic Jobsworth and is always (without fail) accompanied by a gesture involving raised eyebrows, pursed lips, a sharp intake of breath, a slow shake of the head and a look of absolute glee in the eyes.
Why I'll hedge my bets on blackberry picking
When the late lamented Seamus Heaney wrote his poem about blackberry picking, it was with a yearning nostalgia for the simple pleasures of a distant youth:
The time I decided to bake a cake ... in a saucepan
You know you're turning into an avid Epicurean when both your favourite TV programmes are about cooking. Tuesdays, for example, are a high point in our house since the Great British Bake-Off started again. Last week, we watched in awe as the contestants created some really fabulously impressive looking breads from scratch while this week they tackled puddings with varying degrees of success.
Forget New Year, September is time for new beginnings
The first of September has always felt to me more like an annual turning-point than New Year's Day itself. Summer is effectively over, the days are getting visibly shorter and suddenly there's a chill in the air that wasn't there before.
Penniless in Cyprus, my pal needed help...
A few days ago I switched on my computer and, amongst all the usual junk mail I noticed an email from my friend Joe's private address entitled "Please Help!" Naturally I was alarmed, so I opened the message and began to read.
My dad, his stupid cat and a house full of memories
Greetings from Lancashire, where I'm visiting my dear old dad for the fifth time in a year. Although I've lived in Northern Ireland since 1990, I've been back home over a hundred times and with each trip I notice something new or changed about the family home and its occupants.
I'm so wild about Belfast's RSPB reserve
To describe the RSPB reserve at Belfast Harbour as just a bird sanctuary does not do it justice. It is a sanctuary for everyone; a perfect haven of peace and harmony in the one place you would least expect it.
Say Viva! to the return of my partying days
It's official. I'm a party animal. Well, this week I was, briefly, having been invited to two parties on consecutive nights, going to them both and suffering the consequences for days afterwards ... which leads me to the conclusion that I'm not really cut out to be a party animal after all. Besides, I did feel like a bit of a fraud at each of them anyway.
Poor Kate: Spare a thought for Duchess at centre of media feeding frenzy
I don't know if you've heard, but guess what? Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, went into labour on Monday. And guess what happened next? She had a baby boy!
The Fall: Women the victims as TV drama shows its predictable side
I first heard about the TV drama The Fall more than a year ago, when it was being filmed in Belfast. I had a tip-off that Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan were in town, working on a major crime thriller. To say my curiosity was piqued would be an understatement.
Roll on May, April’s been acting the fool for quite some time
April 2013 has been a month of anniversaries for me, none of which I've particularly felt like celebrating.
Is there anyone not in Game of Thrones?
Game of Thrones is back at last and all's right with the world of Westeros.
How I ended up living in the red light district
I was back in my old stomping ground Manchester recently.
A golden opportunity for papal garage sale
The Catholic Church has been in crisis for so long, marred by so much controversy, I can hardly remember a time when I felt proud to be part of its congregation.
So, did I enjoy a nice relaxing Mothering Sunday? My eye
My son bought me a precious casket of ocular unguent for Mother's Day.
Queen's Winter Graduations
This year's university winter graduations
Cow passenger in Citroen Xsara
Nelson Mandela: life and times
Key moments in life of former president
Christmas parties 2013
Irish dad forced to take dead baby in taxi for autopsy
Prouvost wins Turner Prize
Laure Prouvost named winner in Derry
Top 10 Xmas gifts for teens
Victoria's Secret opens first shop on island of Ireland
Help babies like little Joe
Help save lives of babies around the world
Christmas lights in Belfast
Lights on and market opens in city
PlayStation PS4 v Xbox One
Comparing Sony and Microsoft's latest consoles
Economy to pass pre-recession peak
The UK downturn is finally expected to be left behind next year as the size of the economy surpasses its pre-recession peak, according to a new forecast upgrading prospects for growth.
Driver who foiled raid on his lorry left mangled by the thieves' getaway car
A father-of-six could have been killed when callous thieves dragged him along the road in their getaway car after he challenged them as they tried to break into his lorry.
Plan for two-tier parades body could command wide support
The DUP and Sinn Fein seem to have discovered some common ground on the issue of parading and the future of the Parades Commission.
WRU hopeful clubs will commit
Welsh rugby administrators are still hopeful their regional club sides will commit their future to the RaboDirect Pro12.
Moore plans to stay put at Leinster
Martin Moore is ready to disappoint a host of English and French clubs and commit his future to home province Leinster.
Hull apply to FA over name change
Hull have formally applied to the Football Association to change their playing name to 'Hull Tigers' from next season.
Smith wins Critics' Choice award
Sam Smith has landed a Brit Award after being named the winner of the Critics' Choice prize for next year's ceremony.
Lewis makes apology to McKellen
Homeland actor Damian Lewis has apologised to Lord Of The Rings star Sir Ian McKellen after saying he did not want to end up a "fruity actor" who is known for playing wizards.
Jessie J head-shave 'top TV tweet'
Pop star Jessie J's brave decision to shave her head live on Comic Relief was the television moment most tweeted about in 2013, a survey has found.