My Mum’s review of Northern Ireland.

What would be the first thing you would notice about Northern Ireland? I ask as my parents are currently there celebrating a friend’s birthday. They’ve checked in to the Canal Court Hotel in Newry for some fancy dress revelry drenched in Guinness and all manner of cocktails. It’s a chance to experience a different culture, to tick another box off on the bucket list, and relax on a well deserved weekend break. I thought I would give my Mum a text to ask her how things are going…

Mums Ireland review

There you have it. No matter where you go, from the rockiest mountains to the largest cities, the first factor that will always strike us Brits is the weather.

Jack The Lad #5: The device that makes saving lives shockingly easy

One of the defibrillators now installed in our town as a result of the Survival Can Be Shocking campaign. Start a cause, make a difference; simple as that really.

One of the defibrillators now installed in our town as a result of the Survival Can Be Shocking campaign. Start a cause, make a difference; simple as that really.

I was lucky enough to attend a training session on how to use defibrillators a while ago, and what really stood out to me was how easy it was to use them. Ever since he was bought back from the brink after suffering a cardiac arrest, Steve Morris has tirelessly campaigned for more awareness of the devices, with two now installed in the town centre as a direct result. Shouting about it myself in my column for the East Grinstead Courier was really the least I could do!

Go on, have a gander.


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The night Guy Fawkes saw the future

guy fawkes bonfire

Pleasant, cheerful, resolute yet quick to defuse any tension… Guy Fawkes was a man of many enviable qualities, particularly the ones you would want in someone trusted to guard several barrels of gunpowder. One trait you would not usually ascribe to him, however, was doubt; yet here he crouched in an undercroft beneath the House of Lords, counting in the early hours of the 5th November and turning over his plan of action in his head. Of all the times to get cold feet, right before you planned to dispose of the King of England was not the best.

His eyes dozed under the dim glow from the match as time crept by. Almost falling asleep, he shook himself awake and rubbed his eyes. To his surprise, he wasn’t in the undercroft anymore. In fact, Guy had no idea where he was. All he could tell was that he was tied to a stake and was being paraded through a town by a large procession of cheering revellers. Needless to say it was all rather sudden.

As if this wasn’t enough, he then realised the crowd was carrying him towards a colossal pile of wood. Swiftly his stake was being mounted on top and the crowd was retreating, with their eyes on a figure in a bright jacket crouching below; Guy couldn’t see what he was doing, but it’s not hard to put two and two together when the pile of wood suddenly sets alight.

Guy tried to scream, but no one heard his pleas. No one paid attention to the flames that lathered his clothes, reaching higher and higher- and yet Guy felt no heat. Suddenly there was the most stupendous noise- what sounded like a scream followed by a thunderous bang, like a distant cavalry were cutting through the night. Then followed a dazzling light that disintegrated across the sky. Then came another. And another again. Greens that fizzled into cartwheels and blood red shooting stars cascading into the trees.

What surprised him was that instead of panicking, everyone around the bonfire was cheering, their heads tilted back to watch the display with occasional “oohs” and “ahs.” Such an assault of noise Guy had never heard, and he had seen some wonderful executions in his time; nothing like the blood of a religious traitor to get the crowds going.

Gradually Guy began to look around properly, and his eyes were met with even more bewildering sights; astounding contraptions that span round and round, with children sitting on what looked like horses, and an enormous wheel carrying pairs of merrymakers around an enormous loop. Then there were strange things called “Hot Dogs” and “Candy Floss,” the latter of which looked like the aftermath of a hang draw and quarter session.

His eyes were then caught by a brilliant flicker coming from the corner of the door to one of the houses. There were a devilish pair of eyes, a nose and a ghoulish mouth glaring with light, clearly determined to strike fears into passers by… and yet it was stationary. He then comprehended that the face was actually carved into a large round orange vegetable, the likes of which he had never seen before. Guy snorted into the flames at this. Who had enough time on their hands to etch such details into edible produce?

Suddenly, two small figures emerged from around the corner of the house, and Guy was met with the most astonishing sight he had seen so far: a small female witch who could be no more than eight, who judging by her green skin had the most dreadful case of anemia, and a walking skeleton. Both figures obviously possessed great strength, for they were carrying small cauldrons under their arm, bulging with small wrappers of every colour.

Even stranger were the reactions of passers by; Guy and his fellow preachers would do away with a witch at the earliest opportunity (drowning cursed souls had been an important part of their early school curriculum), but many adults were smiling down of them with flows of admiration. Then, the witch and the skeleton knocked at the door of the house. Heaven protect the souls of those within, Guy shuddered; it was obvious to him that they were done for.

But instead, the house’s residents were even more overjoyed than the passers by, and tipped more tiny wrappers into their cauldrons! None of it made any sense! What kind of place was he in? Was this what the righteous efforts of the noble Catholic rebellion, to restore what they saw as holy order and peace, would be rewarded with? Was this what they were fighting for? A future of strange orange vegetables, candy floss, and citizens who held up tiny glowing devices that flashed as they stood in front of the fire?

Loud voices cut through the flames and the fire was gone; Guy Fawkes was awake, and he was back in the undercroft. Surrounding him were around a dozen of government officials, who looked like supporters of King James from the way that their gun barrels pointed at his face. His cheerful demeanor vanished rapidly; there was no way he would be able to resolve the tension surrounding him. He tried to remember his vision as his captors led him away. Gunpowder, treason and plot… there was always so much that could be forgotten.