Why guessing key ingredients for dad’s favourite dish was a recipe for disaster
So I’m back in England, looking after my dad as his 85th birthday approaches.
So I’m back in England, looking after my dad as his 85th birthday approaches.
October is one of the most fashion-conscious months of the year. Paris Fashion Week is just coming to an end, hot on the heels of New York, London and Milan, and so almost every day there's a style story in the news.
There’s an inter-species battle of wills going on in my garden, the like of which hasn’t been seen since the days of Looney Tunes cartoons. But instead of Wiley Coyote vs the Roadrunner (“Meep meep!”) it’s me versus Cyril the saboteur squirrel.
I've just completed a round trip of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland to Scotland via the ferry; Scotland to England for a short stop-over at dad's in Lancashire; NW England to SW Wales on the motorway and then back in the opposite direction.
Today marks the anniversary of a game-changing day in my life. But it’s not one of the usual milestones you would celebrate, like a birthday, or a christening or a wedding anniversary. In fact, it wasn’t a happy day at all. This was the day when I hit rock bottom. Fortunately, I survived to tell the tale, and here it is.
September is here, when kids go back to school and the long days of summer start to shorten in time for autumn. For many, this is the "back to business" month; back to the old grind, with holidays and fun all but done and a time for buckling down, working hard and saving up for that interminable countdown to Christmas.
Diana, Princess of Wales, was my heroine. Despite a background of huge privilege, she was a champion of the underprivileged. In spite of her vast wealth, she was a spokesperson of the poor. She was radiant with health, but tirelessly campaigned for the sick.
They say “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” and if the current TV dramas are anything to go by, a femme fatale with a score to settle is the worst imaginable adversary.
Ahoy Cap'n! According to the Belfast Harbour website, August is set to be the busiest month we've ever seen in terms of cruise ship traffic. At least one - and often two at once - of these majestic liners will sail into our port every day, dwarfing every other vessel in their wake.
As I’m in the process of selling my own house and hunting for a new one, I decided not to go away this year for the Twelfth fortnight like I usually do. Instead, I made the most of the sunny days by taking the dogs out and about around Belfast and availing of so many wonderful parks that we have right on our doorstep here.
Silly season is here again - this is the name given to the few weeks in summer when so many people are away on holiday that nothing much happens and proper news stories are few and far between. For the same reason, advertising is also limited too, which means that news editors have more space than usual to fill with fewer stories than usual.
One of the great tragedies of evolution - in my opinion - is that the domestic dog never developed the ability to speak. I've often thought this and I imagine that every other dog owner has, at one time or another, wished that theirs could talk.
I'm just back from a mammoth journey. Belfast to Liverpool on the ferry (eight hours), followed by a 230-mile drive (five hours) down the M6, M50 and M4 from Merseyside to Cardiff to help my son, Finn, move out of his university halls of residence, and then all the way back again.
If you’re a regular reader of this column you’ll know I don’t broach politics on this page. There are other columnists far more suited for political commentary than me who do it really well, so I steer well clear and try to keep my subjects light-hearted each week, from reminiscences of the past to anecdotes from the present.
With all the awful news that surrounds us everyday, sometimes the only thing to do is to escape for a while to remind ourselves of the beauty that exists in the world around us. A simple walk outdoors, somewhere peaceful, always works wonders for me.
Happy Father’s Day weekend to all the dads out there; I hope you’re all being spoilt rotten by your adoring kids! I’m finally back in Belfast after having spent most of the year so far looking after my 85-year-old dad in England, so I won’t be seeing him this weekend. However, there are seven other offspring to take over where I left off, so he’s in good hands. When I told dad I’d be away for Father’s Day he said: “Well, every day is Father’s Day when you’ve got eight kids caring for you!” Bless him.
Waiting rooms are a great source of inspiration for a writer like me. Somewhere, hidden deep inside that mountain of ancient, dog-eared, once-glossy magazines, there will be an idea for a column waiting to be read.
So June is finally here, summer is just around the corner and if the predictions are to be correct the good weather will continue as it's going to be a scorcher. Happy Days!
What a terrible week it has been in the news. I know Manchester so well, having lived there for years as a student before I moved to Belfast.
With Princess Pippa’s wedding causing a Middleton media meltdown, I’ve been recalling my nuptials from 30 years ago. Let’s start on the day we got engaged ...
If you ever decide to do a study of the best — and the worst — that society has to offer, go and live with a pensioner for a while. I’m currently back in Preston, minding my vulnerable 84-year-old dad for another stint and I have to say that seeing how our older generation is treated has become one hell of an eye-opener.
We had such a drama this week in our household. From excitement to tears to dread to relief to elation, all in 24 hours. But like any good drama, I'll start at the very beginning with some background information.
There’s been an almighty row erupting this week and everyone who’s anyone seems to be in on the cross-community slanging match, from politicians and religious leaders to charitable organisations and multi-national corporations. The Church of England, The National Trust, the Prime Minister, The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Archbishop of York, Tesco, Morrisons, Cadbury to name but a few, have all been taking sides in this furious heated debate.
I've been invited to appear on a chat show. It's for BBC Radio Ulster and the presenter, Vinny Hurrell, will be asking about my life, my choices and what I wish I'd known when I was 25.
I'm thinking of writing a book. It will be based on actual conversations with my dad Frank over the last year while I've looking after him at the old family home. Just to remind you about Francis Burscough the First; he's an 84-year-old retired dentist. He's a widower (mum died 10 years ago), he's got a bad back and two replacement hips, plus a heart by-pass, so doing anything very active is out of the question. As a result he had to give up two of his favourite activities - playing golf and hill walking - a long time ago. His other favourite activity, drinking whisky, was banned by the doctor because of all the medications he's on. He no longer drives, because he kept forgetting where he'd parked the car and then came home on the bus. As for his memory, well it's getting noticeably shorter every passing day. He's also partly deaf too now, which means that socialising is also a bit of a problem. He does have hearing aids, but he's selective about when he wears them. For example he'll happily put them on when family members come round to visit so he can hear them, but he always "forgets" to put them in when he goes to Mass so he doesn't have to listen to the sermon.
A new fashion trend is doing the rounds for Spring/Summer '17 which, as fashion commentator for the Belfast Telegraph, I feel it is my duty to bring to your attention. Jeans with windows. Yes, you read that correctly: Jeans with windows.
We had a party recently in Preston to celebrate 50 years since the Burscoughs moved into the family homestead on Black Bull Lane. At one stage, 10 of us had lived there simultaneously — mum, dad, John, Louise, Chris, Jim, Me, Marie, Rachel and Lucy — but now it’s just dad (who’s suffering from Alzheimers) and whoever is staying there to look after him. We decided to make it a fancy dress party, and everyone wore something to represent one of the eras we had lived through in those 50 years. I decided to honour a very special era from my childhood. I will call it the Year of the Dove...
In last week’s column I revealed my obsession with TV crime dramas. So I thought that this week I’d share with you some of the evidence I’ve uncovered during my fingertip search of the TV schedules.
Not that I'm a couch-potato or anything, but I've noticed that in the first six weeks of the year there are often so many TV dramas appearing that you could stay up til midnight every night catching up on 'catch-up'. Fortunately with a little bit of jiggery-pokery with the red button on the remote control, the invaluable 'plus one' channels, iPlayer, More4 and Sky Plus it is possible to co-ordinate your recordings so that you have enough time to spread them out over the entire week and to make a cup of cocoa between episodes.
A recent study has suggested that pet dogs are losing touch with many of their basic natural instincts. In one test, for example, researchers at Oregon State University presented a 'puzzle box' containing food to a group of dogs and a group of wolves.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind, here's my festive line-up of crazy celebs as reported on these pages over the year 2016, for the sake of auld lang syne...
Twas the night before Christmas...Yes, the moment we’ve all been waiting for is nearly here and all that remains is ...er ... the complete chaos of a typical Christmas Day.
My mum died ten years ago today. I've spent the day reminiscing about her and also remembering what we were all going through at this time a decade ago as she slipped away.
The little kitten was only about ten weeks old when when she was found abandoned, crying and alone under a hedge in a street in Co Antrim. She was soot black, but her fur was coarse and patchy in places from ticks and fleas and goodness knows what else she'd had to endure since she'd been thoughtlessly discarded; she had black paws, ebony whiskers and amazing eyes the colour of liquid amber speckled with gold-dust.
Making a traditional Christmas dinner for a family is no mean feat. I should know, I've done it single-handedly for the past 13 years and it's exhausting. It's not just the time that it takes and the attention to detail that is required, but also the sheer expense of doing it right with all the trimmings that everyone expects.
Michael Jackson had a hit song in the early Seventies when he was still just a sweet wee boy. It was called "Ben" and the opening lines went like this:
We need to talk about Walter. Walter is my third and youngest dog. Although he is now six years old - which makes him 42 in dog years - he still looks and behaves just like a puppy.
I'm no expert at American politics. In fact (to use the the state-side vernacular) I know diddly squat about it and the little bit I do know don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. However it is pretty clear for all to see that the Republican candidate is a bewilderingly inarticulate, outrageously offensive, rabble-rousing, hate-mongering, misogynistic megalomaniac who could single-handedly make the United States into a laughing stock and the world a much more dangerous place to live in if he's handed the keys to the White House.
It's a great shame, in my opinion, that Halloween has become the huge commercial event that it is today. Like most age-old festivities the original and true meaning of Halloween is lost nowadays, replaced by a sea of regulation orange and black tackiness emblazoned across every high street window.
I'm just back from another trip to England to look after my dad, and I could not have picked a better time to be there. Early Autumn,my favourite time of the year. Dad still lives in the home where I grew up - a big, imposing, red brick detached house at the top of a hill on a busy road in Preston, Lancashire. From the outside it looks like a Catholic Parish Hall, mainly because of the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus standing boldly in the front window, arms outstretched as though personally welcoming anyone who walks up the long driveway and encouraging passers-by to pop in and worship.
Being a freelancer has its ups and its downs. On the plus side, I'm my own boss with no-one looking over my shoulder or questioning my time-keeping. As long as I meet my deadlines - and I don't libel anyone in the process - I'm okay.
I have grave news to strike dread into the soul of anyone aged around fifty. Eighties fashion is making a comeback, so be prepared for continuous flashbacks to your worst sartorial mistakes from the decade style forgot.
It is with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart I have to tell you that our adorable dog Bailey died on Sunday. Over the decade I've been writing these columns, he has featured in so many of my shaggy dog stories; from the magical moment we first clapped eyes on him to his devastating diagnosis at the vets and all our many adventures in between.
This is my 400th column in Weekend magazine. That's seven and three-quarter years and half a million words spent baring my soul every Saturday. I know this because I'm a nerd, so I keep everything I've ever published in order of date on my computer hard-drive and it takes up so much memory that the index alone looks like the digital Dead Sea Scrolls.
If you recall, last week I wrote in this column about how the month of September always seems to bring about momentous beginnings and endings - such as my son leaving home to go to university (a beginning for him and an ending for me) and how I was dreading the onset of "empty nest syndrome". Not least because it would leave a big void in my life which I wouldn't know how to fill.
The onset of September always triggers a sense of nostalgia in me. I left home on the first of September, way back in the 80s. I started my first job at the same time of year. I was married on September 3 and then divorced almost 15 years to the day later. As for my kids, from nursery school to sixth form and beyond, every step of the way began in September.
This week marks 10 years since I started writing for the Belfast Telegraph. The column was entitled Mum Alone and it was a bit like Bridget Jones Diary except it was about a struggling single mother... and without anyone remotely resembling Colin Firth. It was only a couple of paragraphs, 500 words or less, which appeared at the bottom of a page in the Saturday's paper.
A report was published last week which presented some truly shocking statistics about our dependence on technology. It seems adult internet users in the UK currently spend an average of 25 hours per week online. Imagine that - more than a whole day surfing the net which, when you add it all up makes approximately 55 days out of every year.
I've been in England all this week, looking after my dad, who's 83 and slowly succumbing to old age. Or, as he puts it, he's "losing his marbles". We first noticed something was up a few years ago when he went into town in the car but then came back on the bus. He'd forgotten where he had parked the car and so he just came home without it. My sister and I spent the rest of that day driving through Preston looking for it, imagining an astronomical parking fee or, even worse, a clamp. Eventually we found it in a church car park and the keys were still in the ignition.
By the time you read this, all being well I should be availing of some alfresco revelry at the event of the year they call Sunflowerfest. It's been an annual date in the Northern Ireland calendar since 2010 and I've never missed it because it is such a fab weekend.
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