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An Ulster Log: Cathy's the write stuff for festive fiction fans

By Eddie McIlwaine

Bestselling fiction writer Cathy Kelly will be a guest in Eason at Donegall Street, Belfast, this afternoon (1pm), signing copies of her new novel, Between Sisters (Orion £9.99).

Cathy, a favourite with Ulster readers, will be one half of a Christmas bonus at the store. The other half will be Spanish football pundit Guillem Balague, on Tuesday at 2pm, who will be signing his Cristiano Ronaldo: The Biography (Orion £13.60) for fans.

Miss Kelly (49) is a former reporter turned novelist. She now has her fiction published around the world and won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2001 with Someone Like You.

Her latest yarn is all about Cassie who has spent her married life doing everything right - making sure her children have the perfect life, being a devoted wife and a dutiful daughter-in-law.

Her sister Coco runs a vintage dress shop and has shied away from commitment over the years. Coco believes men complicate things, and she's got enough to contend with. Until a face from her past returns ...

"A good read for Christmas," promises Alison Allen, manager at Eason.

Balague, who speaks fluent English, writes for newspapers in his homeland and in the UK, and is on Sky's television show Revista de la Liga.

His work on Ronaldo is eagerly awaited and will be one of the big sporting favourites over the holiday period, especially with Man United supporters, a team for which Cristiano once starred.

How Rachel thinks our banter is just wicked

She is playing the scary role of the Wicked Stepmother in Snow White at the Grand Opera House in Belfast on a run into January. But Rachel Stanley, without her make-up and dark gown, is really a sweet girl, as her co-star May McFettridge will tell you.

She's from Kent, trained at the Doreen Bird College of Performing Arts, and is enjoying her first visit to Belfast. Rachel is now settled in London with the love of her life Butch, a toothless cat who she is missing a great deal.

Rachel has performed in shows like Jackie, Crazy For You, White Christmas, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Annie, Chicago, Anything Goes, My One And Only, Cinderella, My Fair Lady and 42nd Street. She also appeared with Annie Lennox in the pop video Little Bird.

"Panto at Christmas is special," she says. "And I love the Belfast craic and banter."

Andy should bring Davis Cup trophy to Dunblane

It took Great Britain 79 years to win the Davis Cup, but it would have taken even longer if hero of the final Andy Murray had fallen victim to the Dunblane school massacre near Stirling, Scotland in 1996 along with the other 16 children who were shot dead with a teacher by Thomas Hamilton, who then killed himself.

Andy (28) managed to take shelter just in time from the hail of bullets and has remembered his former schoolmates ever since.

Wouldn't it be nice now if the beautiful Davis Cup was taken to places like Dunblane on tour as a mark of homage in his home town which I know well? And the trophy could also go round the tennis clubs of the UK - including the ones in Belfast - to encourage interest in the game.

As long as Murray comes with it, of course ...

Sorry, Katherine

Apologies to glamorous soprano Katherine Jenkins, whom I mentioned in the column a few weeks back. I had Katherine - proud new mum of baby daughter Aaliyh - due to appear at the Waterfront Hall next year. Sadly, I allowed my enthusiasm for the Welsh songbird to run away with me and her people tell me she has no imminent plans to perform in Belfast. More's the pity!

Why Len Goodman's strictly bad

Len Goodman of the loud voice and the light patter should give up trying: he's never going to grow into a replacement for Bruce Forsyth on Strictly Come Dancing. Len knows his stuff about dancing, but the truth is (in my opinion) that Bruce is irreplaceable.

Ill-health is preventing him making an appearance on the TV show's Christmas special, but he will shoot a video for the viewers.

Perhaps the time has come to bring down the curtain on Strictly.

What annoys me on the current show is the daft way Len and the other judges, Darcey, Bruno and Craig, jig their way on to stage at the beginning. I think they really should leave the performing to the competitors.

My nurse puts me on report

During a sojourn in Belfast City Hospital I praised a senior nurse called Kathy for the way she was looking after me.

Kathy told me she would be informing the National Association of Nurses and Midwifery that I'd described her as "dacent".

Apparently, the Association likes compliments to its members to be recorded.

Just to prove, I suppose, that they really are a caring bunch.

But sure we all know that already.

They're all angels, those who look after the sick in hospital.

Trollope's fascination with Belfast

Novelist Anthony Trollope, who died this week in 1882, would never have achieved fame as a writer if he hadn't been banished to Ireland after performing badly in the Post Office in London where he was a clerk.

In Connaught, where he continued to be employed by the PO, he recovered his good name, paid off his debts and began to dabble in novels. But it wasn't until he returned to England and hit upon the idea of Barchester Towers and a series of related novels that he became a bestseller.

One of his regrets was that he never got to write about Belfast, which fascinated him and which he visited once, planning to return to research a novel. Months before the intended trip, he died at only 67.

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