Belfast Telegraph

It's Charlie's Angels to the (animal) rescue!

By Frances Burscough

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.

Well, no sooner had that gone to press when a new amazing opportunity arose which felt to me like a God-send in the current circumstances. So there I was, lamenting the imminent loss of my kids and feeling sorry for myself, when a fabulous friend I haven't seen for ages emailed me out of the blue to invite me to a charity pub quiz. When I enquired, she said it was to raise funds for a new animal rescue centre being set up just down the road from me.

It was like a flash bulb popping in my head. I'd been actively looking for a new worthwhile interest to keep my mind occupied and to give me a new focus and suddenly there it was - bang on schedule, perfectly timed to coincide with my empty nest. Not only that, but the organisers include a group of friends I'd known since my days as an animal welfare campaigner and I'd really missed them because the craic we used to have together was priceless. In fact we called ourselves Charlies Angels, because Vicky is dark haired, Donna is brunette, Lucy had flaming red hennaed hair and I was the token blonde. Without a moment's hesitation I offer my help as a volunteer. Happy days!

So on Monday morning, as the sun broke through the clouds leaving the rolling hills of the Ards Peninsular bathed in golden sunlight, I arrived at The Barn Animal Rescue and a new chapter of my life began.

As I stepped through the gate it was immediately clear what a perfect location this is for such a venture. The couple who run the shelter, Glenn and Joanne, bought this sprawling farm and attached cottage just over a year ago, fulfilling a dream of theirs to devote their retirement to animal rescue. It had formerly been a kennels, so it came complete with a huge barn already set up for livestock. There's a row of stables, a field fringed with tall mature conifers and a huge enclosed yard with assorted outhouses around its periphery.

As they showed me around I was surrounded by their raggle-taggle pack of adorable rescue dogs and from that moment I was in my element, not knowing which one to pat and pet first.

I then met four litters of tiny newborn kittens, each of which has its own secure space in the barn complete with heated pads, play areas, litter tray, basket, bedding, feeding station and toys. The really tiny ones were being hand-fed through a syringe until they were old enough to take solid food - a job I cannot wait to do myself eventually.

Meanwhile overlooking the yard, two beautiful old Shetland ponies - both rescued - looked on, swishing their tails and nodding their heads with excitement as we approached to pay our respects.

The plan for the near future is that the Cats Protection charity will help install individual heated pods for each family of cats, so that the space in the barn can be used as kennels for rescue dogs. But it's all early days as yet and there's loads to be done - and lots of money to be raised - before they can make their dreams a reality.

Since then I've been back twice, spending as much free time as I can helping to get the place ready for opening. Painting and whitewashing walls and buildings, clearing and cleaning litter trays, feeding, washing, laundering, shovelling...err... the proverbial, digging, planting, jet-washing...the list seems to be endless. But at the end of it all the barn will eventually be up and running and I intend to be there for the duration, along with my posse of Angels.

In the meantime, if you are interested in helping us achieve that goal, either in terms of donations, re-homing or volunteering, then check out The Barn Animal Rescue Newtownards on Facebook for details.

Why did Adam get Cold Feet at the altar?

Everyone's favourite buddy show Cold Feet returned to our screens this week and any misgivings I might have had dissolved away from the opening scene as so many familiar faces appeared and brought with them that sense of camaraderie that had been missing for over a decade. And, judging by the rave reviews right across the media, it was given a huge thumbs up. Personally I loved every minute of it and cannot wait to see how this chapter in the long-running story progresses.

I have to say though, that there were certain similarities to another TV programme from the same era. In fact it was almost like James Nesbitt's Adam had started to evolve into David Schwimmer's Ross from that memorable episode of Friends: the one where Ross calls Emily "Rachel" by mistake at the altar. Oh well, he went through with it after all, despite his "cold feet" and no doubt will spend the next episodes trying to face up to his huge mistake! And is it just me, or does everyone else also hope he gets together with the woman from next door who was clearly mad for him from the word go? Exciting times! Roll on next Monday!

This week I'll... mostly be looking forward to an exciting one-off film festival. Entitled 30 Under 30 it brings together the 30 best films everyone ought to see on the big screen before the age of 30. The event is presented by QFT, Belfast Film Festival, Cinemagic, Strand Arts Centre and the Nerve Centre and runs from now until October - and I have to say that every single one looks like a belter to me! Covering 45 years of cinema, famous directors whose work features in the season include Steven Spielberg, David Fincher and the Coen Brothers. To see the full programme, go to or join the discussion online at and on Twitter with #30under30film

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