It’s  that time of year again. Seems like no time since last Christmas and yet personally and politically it has been a memorable year and not always in a good way.

Gordon had two major operations in 2019 and I discovered during a long year who were our true friends.  You find when things get tough some people just don’t want to know. So thanks to all of you in the real world and twitter world who sent messages of support (especially Lisa) or went out for coffee with me and for those who just gave me a hug when the tears flowed. Thankfully Gordon is on the mend. He had a difficult time and just when we thought we thought he was on the road to recovery from the first op he was diagnosed with bowel cancer and so it all began again. He coped as I would have expected, complained and moaned about everything, but at the end of the day just got on with it. Love you Gordon.

Please make sure if you are over the grand old age of 60 that you don’t ignore ‘that envelope‘ when it arrives in the mail. Bowel cancer screening is so very important because no symptoms is not necessarily a indication that all is well. Make sure and maybe save your life.

Politically it’s been a crazy year and unfortunately it hasn’t ended like I had hoped.  Looks like we are at least partially leaving the EU and we have a crazy man at the helm to steer it through. What could possibly go wrong? In America, his twin brother from another mother, is ruining the office of President, an office which was once held in high esteem whether or not you respected the policies.

Impeachment is close and I personally can’t wait to see a vile, foul mouthed, narcissistic and uncaring man out of a job.

Good things happened too.  The pro – remain and centre parties in NI took the majority of the votes. DUP and SF saw a drop in their vote and the majority of us saw a tiny glimmer of hope. Maybe the voters are tired with the same old, same old and are voting more maturely and tactically. Worrying about the union and what flag is flying doesn’t put food on the table, cut down waiting lists and help those on the poverty line. Time to reject the bully boys who want to bring us back to a time before they were even born.  Don’t these guys have lives like the rest of us like emptying the dishwasher, putting out the bins, doing normal things? Ok I’m being trivial but it must be very wearing constantly fighting against the majority of us who just want to get on with our lives and look after our families.

The rise in the suicide rate of young men here is horrifying. Impossible to tell what prompts someone to take their own life. Pressure from paramilitaries? Pressure from drug dealers ? Or is it just the reluctance to talk and alert others to what is troubling them? Whatever it is, it needs money to investigate more thoroughly and to provide more counselling facilities.

I am lucky this Christmas, thanks to the NHS I will have my husband and I will have my.    children and grandchildren with me at Christmas but my heart goes out to those who are dreading Christmas. Many of us have lost loved ones at Christmas, many are suffering from depression and Christmas reinforces the anxieties. Many are on their own and will spend Christmas alone. For some this will be their last Christmas so once again a donation of £300 will be made to the Children’s Hospice. Thanks to those who viewed the blog and who decided that watching a video for a few minutes was worth it to raise some money for the children’s  hospice. #JingleAllTheWay


My last video/blog is online but I hope to get back to writing again. There are many stories of life in NI in the eighties I could tell.

So I’ll end as I did last year wishing you a happy Christmas and a happy new Year. But please look out for those who won’t be happy this Christmas.

Maybe 2020 will be the year that a new assembly sits and sorts out the problems
 currently plaguing N.I. You owe it to your constituents.

Get a Grip

After listening to all the rubbish spouted over the last few months by various parties in Norn Iron I have decided to form my own party. It will be called the Get-a-grip party. I intend to stand at the next election and my manifesto will be as follows:
The word ‘detritus’ will be banned from all literature.( personal dislike, there has to be some benefits for me)

The words, shared future, dignified, parity of esteem, themuns, scum,will no longer be bandied about as will offensive names regarding members of the varying religions in Norn Iron.

All children will be educated together.

All children born from now on will be given numbers instead of names thus foiling any attempts to ascertain religious background.

The twelfth will be held on St Patrick’s day and vice versa.

To solve recent squabbling over the name of the Irish/Ulster fry, it will be renamed ‘you are heading for a heart attack fry.’
National flags will be banned and only flags with Eamonn Holmes on them will be permitted.

All parades will be conga style and dress code will be tasteful onesies. ( From Primark)

As a munificent leader I will be open to my constituents suggestions.



Ann Allan:Letting them go.

I was sitting in the heat in the early morning, unable to sleep, 3-45 am actually and it was peaceful and quiet. I started thinking about my grandson and his dad, my nephew and niece all heading for France at the weekend.  I felt uneasy for them all and for the other youngsters and their dads heading off, and for the wives, girlfriends and family members who will spend the next four weeks worrying about their loved ones. We have heard about the threats, we don’t know how serious they are but they are casting a shadow over what should be a happy occasion. Two teams from this small island. Great achievement. Let’s hope each side can be magnanimous and wish the other team well.
We women in particular spend our time worrying about things that could happen and which in most cases don’t. From the moment we become parents we try to protect them. But also from the moment they are born we are raising them to leave us. We nurse our babies close for the first few months but then we trust them with others and are content to leave them in the hands of nurseries, family members and child-minders. Babies become used to seeing new faces and learn to trust them.
Those of you who are parents know that feeling when you let go of a toddler’s  hand and he/she makes a break for freedom. They don’t want to hold your hand, they’re getting confidence to break away.
Primary school looms. For months you dread leaving them. But in most cases they run in and go to find a favourite toy and you’re quickly forgotten.
Grammar school and you’re a complete embarrassment. No kisses goodbye, sometimes not even a goodbye just a grunt. The gap is becoming wider.
And don’t talk to me about teens. They know it all. They are brimming with hormones and testosterone and mood swings.  We feel we’ll never communicate.

But no matter how old they are, we worry about them and for a large number of us in Ireland, North and South over the next four weeks we will worry until we see them all home safe and sound.  So I wish both teams all the best, and their supporters a safe trip. Be vigilant and look out for each other and may the best team win.



Ann Allan: Bits & Bobs

2015 was not a great year from a personal point of view. Three close family members diagnosed with cancer, one of whom is sadly no longer with us. It hits us all and very few families are immune from it. Because of this I was very honoured to be allowed to write a blog on behalf of Pancreatic Awareness month and as a tribute to my friend Olive who is bravely facing up to fighting the disease. Love imageyou Olive. I was thrilled to see that the blog was seen by over 59,000 people, not all reading it, but being aware of it and perhaps following it up at a later date. This was helped by Eamon Holmes, Marian Keyes and Slugger 0’Toole sharing. Thank you.

Edwin Poot’s recent comments about Arlene Foster reminded me of an interview I did back in the late seventies. I applied to the BBC as an audience researcher. During the interview I was asked if I had a family. Replying that I had two young children I was asked who would look after them while I was working, something that would be unlawful to ask today.  I somewhat cheekily replied that I didn’t think that I should be asked a question like that and challenged that I wouldn’t have been asked that if I had been a man.  I resigned myself to have blown my chance of a job but was surprised and delighted to get a phone call to say I was successful. No matter what Mr. Poots says I'I've always believed my wife should not work. She should stay at home and do the cooking, cleaning, ironing, gardening, washing, painting.' still believe there was a underlying message to Arlene Foster saying “Don’t forget you are a woman and the bible says your place is in the home.This post should have gone to a man.”

It is refreshing to see a woman in charge but for those of us who feel it’s time to come into the 21st Century  and come into line with other regions of the U.K., I feel we are going to be disappointed. Legalising  same sex marriage and relaxing the abortion laws are still going to be a big challenge and I think we may be clutching at straws if we think things may change with a women in charge. I hope that Arelene gives a free vote and abandons any thoughts of resorting to petitions of concern.  However the DUP is influenced by a large number of fundamentalists and I dare say they will fight it tooth and nail and I’m not sure that Arlene will go against the cabal.

Elections are looming. I had hoped when I threw my weight behind NI21 that it would be fielding candidates in every constituency for the upcoming election. No point in looking back on what happened. I have no idea what, if anything, is happening but  as far as I’m aware there has been no communication with members for over a year. I have no idea if Basil will be reelected but it would help if the Assembly committee’s report into the coming and goings of NI 21 was made public as soon as possible. So I will have to think carefully as to whom I’m going to vote for, but the Green Party are certainly in the running.

The world is in a sad state at the moment. Millions have  been displaced.  There are children literally starving to death because of wars devastating their countries. I have listened to arguments for and against bringing in refugees to mainly European countries and I honestly don’t know if that is the answer. Surely we need to put more effort to stabilzing Syria, rebuilding the infrastructure and getting accommodation sorted for those who want to return. But let’s not get it out of proportion. History shows that the world has always been in  turmoil and the common factor is religion.  An ideology that so many embrace has been anything but good for mankind.

On a lighter note, I have just about got used to my new teeth. My sore back eventually eased but not without a bit of a bump in the hubby’s car. I was given pain killers to relieve the pain. As someone who can fall asleep on two co-codomol I was unaware of the strength of the tablets. As I sat in the driveway listening to Talkback I obviously was in drive and not park. ( It’s an automatic). Suddenly I saw a summer seat coming towards the car. As I realised what was happening I braked and turned off the engine. Getting out I realised that the summer seat was firmly lodged under the car ( which to make matters worse was already traded in).  A rather awkward  phone call to the hubby phone followed.

'The funniest part of it was...'

” Er … could you come  home, the summer seat is lodged in the front of the car and I can’t get it out.”  ” ‼️⁉️🗣🗣🗣” I  can’t repeat what the reply was.  After dismantling the seat and removing the number plate the damage wasn’t too bad but it was a warning to me that you shouldn’t drive while taking medication if you are unsure how it affects you and certainly not in the hubby’s car.

I’ve been on the steering committee for OpenGovNI since its conception and have been helping to bring awareness to the organisation through my  blogs. I’m happy to be going forward with the newly elected committee. Our aim is to deliver a more open, transparent and accountable government and to give citizens the power to shape decisions that impact on their live. When we look back at the various scandals in 2015 we really need more openness from our politicians. There are a good cross section of members on the new committee from many diverse backgrounds and many events are planned for 2016. The first one being :

Click to access NIOGN-Seminar-Series-James-Orr.pdf

There are many challenges for us all in 2016. On a world wide scale there is the threat from Isis, the management of the biggest migration of people in our life time but there are also many local issues, some of which are dragging on  year on year. I really wish we stopped looking back on celebrating the past and moved forward with planning a better future.  I  hope whatever is happening with you, 2016, is a happy and healthy year for you. Thanks to those of you who have continued to read my blogs.image

Ann Allan: Waste Not Want Not.

Coming up to Xmas, think before you buy. 

Fad:  An intense widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short lived. 

Are you like me and tend to buy the latest fads? On looking back I can’t believe how  guilty I, sorry we, have been of jumping in and buying something because it seemed like a good idea at the time. So I’ve had a look back at the things that we have bought that have turned out to be a tremendous waste of money.

' I think this 3D TV will take some getting used to, Dear!'

First of all the 3D TV springs to mind. Remember a few years ago as you entered those electrical shops like Currys and at one time Harvey Normans,  you were invited to sit on a sofa in front of a large TV screen and watch the latest innovation  TV.  We ducked and screamed when it looked as if something was going to come out of the screen and hit us. It was so exciting, so new and such a waste of money.  “We have got to have one of those”  said the hubby, after watching the 3D golf. “the grandchildren will love it.” “Hmm,” I thought, ” didn’t know the grandchildren were into golf”  The oldest was nine at the time. Anyhow we bought the TV and extra glasses so nobody would miss out. Not sure we had thought about enquiring as to how many programmes  were available on the 3D channel at the time because ( a) the same programme played over and over again, (b) one of the grandkids felt sick after watching it and ( c) to be honest we felt extremely daft sitting in our front room wearing the 3D glasses. So big disappointment all round. Some of the glasses are still in their original boxes. They could become a collecters item in 50 years!

'I can watch T.V. shows on the computer, so who needs a TV?'
‘I can watch T.V. shows on the computer, so who needs a TV?’

The next waste of time was a Smart TV. It could do everything bar making a cup of tea. All the apps were on it, Netflix , Twitter Facebook and the Internet. Turned out the control box was a nightmare and the time it took trying to type in anything meant it was quicker to do it on the iPhone or the iPad. So we now use the TV…… yes you’ve guessed it, as a TV.

Which takes me to the iPad. I really should have shares in Apple for the number of devices we have purchased from said company. What I should have realised is that I can do practically every thing I want on my iPhone. Well,  that and a Mac Air. Grandkids have all had tablets but they invariably spend most of their time on their iPhones too. I suspect that they will soon become obsolete and we will do everything on our phones.image
Remember when juicing was the in thing?  Yep, we bought a juicer. The amount of fruit it took to get a half glass of liquid would have cleared Tescos shelves. Buying the juice proved easier and cheaper. So it gathered dust in the cupboard beside the George Forman grill. That seemed like a good idea too. But cleaning burnt oil was rather messy and it was a lot easier to clean a frying pan. There was also a lot of smoke produced during the cooking process. Yes, I know it was healthier!  That fitted nicely beside the cafetière. All those coffee grounds! A Dolce Gusto machine with neat little pods put paid to the wafting smell of fresh coffee and the coffee grounds. What’s that behind the cafetière? Oh yes it’s the chipper.  My mum had one and the chips were lovely. Had to have fresh chips. Much tastier than frozen or bought. Tried that a couple of times. Had imageto cook them in the oven as I had got rid of the deep fat fryer. Thought it was unhealthy. So we ended up with pale looking, not very crisp chips. Back to Aunt Bessie’s.  I justified this by thinking that my mum probably had no other choice back in the fifties and would probably have been happy to buy ready made chips. The device for poaching eggs never actually saw the light of day as I forgot about it after I bought it. Lakeland has a lot to answer for. Lakeland is the kitchen goddesses’ ultimate orgasmic experience. Here you can buy such useful items as a ‘wavy   trivit’ and a’rabbit cookie cutter’ along with other unheard of kitchenalia. I usually come out with the Kendal Mint Cake which will not last long enough  to gather dust at the back of the cupboard.
We’ve also had one of those devices where you could watch Sky in another room. However this  meant if I changed the station in the bedroom it also changed the main one.  Angry shouts from downstairs. Apple TV seemed a good idea at the time too, no idea what happened to that. It may be stored with the device for measuring the distance from one hole to another on the golf course, the cover for the iPhone that acts as a charger  i.e. until we got a new phone that no longer fits, and oh yes, what about the photo frame that used a photo card to display a constant stream of photos?  Who prints photos anymore? Must throw out all the photographic paper lying in the drawer.

Then there’s the karaoke machine that hasn’t been used for over two years. Pity that, cause I love Karaoke and have never needed encouragement to sing. Note to self, I’ve got to organise a Karaoke party.

I’m sure like me you also have a drawer full of leads and chargers without a clue what they belong to. But the hubby says not to throw them out as you never know when you might need one. Aye right!
We are a nation of money wasters. Many of us buy on a whim or are influenced by advertising.   I think the test before you buy is to consider how you are managing at present without said item and if you are managing ok then you probably don’t need it.

Ann Allan: A Tale About a Dog.

It was Halloween and I was dog sitting and looking after the eight year old grandson. Not the best weekend for dog sitting I soon realised. When Poppy (that’s the dog) was dropped off she ran in circle like something possessed for at least 5 minutes taking in a tour ofimage downstairs at the same time. She’s a black cockatoo,sorry cockapoo, 😂 and as her coat is long at the moment she appears to have no eyes and therefore looks like a shaggy rug. I wasn’t prepared for what happened when her ‘mummy and daddy ‘ left. She howled and cried like a baby. She ran to the window and perched up on my new armchair which didn’t go down well. She was looking to see where they’d gone. She then decided that my knee was the place for her and dog sitting literally became the dog sitting on me. As the shivering and shaken stopped I breathed a sigh of relief. Daughter was texting to see if she had settled. Just like she used to do for the weans.
Took her out to the back garden for a wee run around. ( I was terrified she’d leave any little parcels in the house) and some idiot, sorry the hubby had left the side gate open. Poppy made a break for freedom. We all three charged frantically after her as she headed on to the main road. Luckily her attempt was thwarted and we caught her in time. Cue hubby cursing and swearing.
Back indoors Poppy followed me everywhere I went. Tripped over her a couple of times and patience was wearing thin. Fed her, hubby took her for a walk and we settled down to watch Strictly. Well when I say ‘watch Strictly’  strictly speaking since I started tweeting I rarely watch anything properly. I glance up every so often and annoy G by asking what’s happening. This time it was difficult to do both cause Poppy again insisted sitting upright on my knee. I was now her best friend.
I hadn’t envisaged what it would be like to have a dog at Halloween. First there were a few bangs then more bangs. The poor thing started to shiver and shake while uttering a sound of pure terror. I hugged her and stroked her and once more she settled down. That was until the door bell rang and the trick or treaters arrived. Poppy went berserk, barking and imagegrowling. This happened on more than 5 occasions and I was seriously considering opening the door to the trick or treaters and telling them to f..  er,  go away. Then the fireworks went off in town. The whole house seemed to shake and Poppy was traumatised. I began to panic. Can dogs have heart attacks? This one was surely heading for one. A lot more hugging and stroking and she again settled down.
Bedtime and I made her a bed on a chair in the bedroom. She settled down and exhausted I drifted off to sleep and forgot all about Poppy. I felt something nuzzling up to me during the night and thought G was dreaming. But as this was an unusual occurrence I reached out to return the sentiment. When the panting started and I felt something really hairy I jumped out of the bed in a panic. It wasn’t the hubby ( I might have known ) Yes, Poppy had been sleeping in the bed between the two of us. Pushing her off made no difference so all three of us settled down to sleep. At about 8 o’clock the grandson decided to go on the Mac in the study and I swear the whole street was wakened with the volume. At least the dog had vacated the bed.image
Daughter and son-in-law collected both at about 12 and I sank down on the sofa to catch up on some sleep. What have I learnt from this? I wouldn’t like to be a dog at Halloween.

Ann Allan: As Good As it Gets.


Summer is nearly over and Autumn is almost upon us. Time to have a look back at the last few months and what has been happening. For those of you who have followed my ‘journey’ to get my new teeth, The journey’s over. I’ve reached the end of the road and it’s been a long one. It hasn’t taken quite as long as it has for the Orangemen to get up the road but it has at times been just as frustrating. I now have a full set of knashers and I can assure you that it’s a peculiar feeling to go from no bottom teeth to a full set in a matter of minutes. But imagethey look great and I am growing in confidence everyday. It’s also very romantic as the hubby and I can now place our teeth side by side on the bathroom shelf. I had my treatment at Cranmore Dentistry on Windsor Avenue. The staff were excellent and on the one day that I had a wobbly David Nelson was there to reassure me and talk me through the procedures. All in all I was very brave.

Chatter is doing well. I have still got a faithful following. But the competition is growing and every other tweet contains a link to a blog. We are becoming a nation of bloggers exposing our souls, our inmost thoughts and fears to strangers who in most cases probably don’t give a damn. There is a danger I think that we can be tempted to unload too much personal information. Once it’s out there it can’t be taken back. I feel that there is a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed. I base that on my own experiences of confiding in someone re personal problems and then regretting it when the problem has been sorted. I’m not saying we bloggers shouldn’t be honest but there is a danger of going too far. On a positive note Chatter has been short listed onto the long list in the Blogs Awards Ireland. In the next two weeks it will be announced as to whether we have been short listed to the short list. Keep up. If this is as far as Chatter gets I am still very pleased and wish my fellow contestants all the best. ( Liar, liar, pants on fire)image
At the beginning of June I was looking forward to a long hot summer. Forecasts of heat waves were abundant. I treated myself to new clothes suitable for basking out n the patio, barefoot, cold drink in hand soaking up my daily dose of Vitamin D. Instead dull cloudy weather. It’s been such a cool summer that the wasps usually in abundance at this time of year seem to have hibernated already. So the new clothes still with their labels on will stay in the wardrobe until next year. I honestly don’t know why I buy new clothes. Getting up in the morning I go for the old, washed out top and jeans, thinking I’ll keep the new ones for a special occasion. The special occasion rarely arises and when it does I look in the wardrobe and can’t find anything to wear. The hubby on the other hand looks as if he dresses in the dark and now that I think of it, he does. The best clothes in the wardrobe are put on to cut the grass, walk round a wet muddy golf course and wash the car. No matching outfits with him. I am however delighted to say that as in other years, the bees have returned to the lavender plants and are extremely busy pollinating whatever they pollinate.
We’ve had the Nama scandal this year and allegations about the shenanigans of our glorious leaders. imageApparently window cleaners are being exposed to horrific scenes. This should be a warning to all those hot-blooded couples who want to have sex in the afternoon to remember to close the curtains otherwise there are going to be a lot of window cleaners suffering from PTSD. Will they be able to sue? Or just claim on insurance?
As well as The Nama scandal we’ve had crisis after crisis on the political scene. Welfare bills, alleged shady dealings from those up on the Hill and latterly the ten bob question as to  whether the Provos are back or did they ever go away?  What a place? Corruption and sleaze, in fighting, mistrust. All the makings of a political drama. But unfortunately it’s our government. A laughing-stock abroad. No one has the courage of their convictions to act in the interest of the country, apparently, the salary and the status being more important.

How to sort it out? The million dollar question. Dissolve the assembly and we leave a vacuum for those who wish to bring us back to violence? Keep it going, knowing the problems will not go away?  SF are always going to have a mandate so can’t be excluded and the other parties also have a core vote so it looks as if we are stuck with what we have got. So nout else to do but get on with it and make it work. Cause in reality nobody’s going anywhere.

Marriage guidance may be called for again to sort out the problems of those parties who can’t live in agreement. Time to look at the marriage vows. What happens to the children?    ( SDLP and Alliance being the bigger kids and NI21, TUV and Greens, the rug rats ) At the  time of writing UUP has decided there has always been three in this marriage and they have had enough. Besides, its one in the face for their former lover who they had a brief affair with in order to get two of their members elected to Westminister. This could turn out to be a clever move with the assets from the divorce settlement going to them in May. Time will tell.

One of our problems is that many of our younger population see the troubles as in the past. They didn’t live through bombs, murders and the terrible times we had in the 70 ‘s 80’s and 90’s . They didn’t experience what it was like to live with the thought that when you or your family went about their day-to-day lives, there was always the fear that they wouldn’t come back alive. They look back and are fed the propaganda that it was a glorious struggle for a United Ireland or a glorious struggle to protect the union. It wasn’t. It was a frightening time with the loss of over 3000 lives. Innocent communities and innocent victims. But when you haven’t experienced it it’s hard to relate to the fact that this was not a just war. So we are stuck with the situation. We are incapable of breaking the sectarian voting patterns that have been the root of all our problems. We are not mature enough to vote for the things that matter most and break the cycle. We need new faces we need new politics but above all we need to accept that this may be as good as it gets.


Jayne Olorunda: Barking Mad.

IMG_2314You will all remember the snow in January, I certainly do as I had to drive to an appointment in the country.  Getting there was okay as it was bright and rather picturesque but on the way home it was a different story. Visibility was poor,  the earlier snow-covered scenes suddenly became eerie and dangerous. I took a wrong turn on my way back to Belfast and ended up in a small (blink and you would miss it) village. I pulled over, to get my bearings and couldn’t help but notice how few shops lined the high street.
Hailing from a city I wondered how one would cope with such little choice? At that moment I thought,  I certainly couldn’t. Yet on further inspection I found that the people of the village had all they needed. A shop, a pub, a takeaway, a few (what I can only presume were) hardware shops and a grooming parlour. Yep, you heard it correctly, a grooming parlour. I couldn’t help but laugh. Clearly this tiny village’s priorities were reflected on its streets.

WAGS_shopRecently, I have been applying my observations from that January night on a wider scale. From what I can see, people’s priorities and in some respect what they value as a society,  can be viewed on any high street and that goes for village, town or city.  In Northern Ireland I think it would be safe to say that this is very true.  Just take a look at any shopping area. In the vast majority of cases you will find a pub – or two, sometimes even three. You will find a take away – or two or three. You will most certainly find a convenience store,  maybe a petrol station, sometimes even a hairdressers, a bank or cheque cashing shop,  almost always a church and increasingly grooming parlours. If we assume that our high streets reflect our values, then Northern Ireland’s populace along with loving a drink, food, their cars, money, God (whoever they perceive him to be), also love their dogs.
I love animals and I have a soft spot when it comes to dogs. Woman’s best friends have always had a place in my life. The rise in doggy services shows that I’m not alone. A very long time ago, when I was a child I was met with bemusement when my little dog was given pride of place in my house. Then the norm was that a dog ate the scraps from the household, a dog was kept outside and pet insurance was unheard of.  Dogs were often seen roaming the streets and strays were common place. I remember when a popular brand of dog food aimed at 02A437F8-1EB4-4A88-9E73-DC84F1A63719small dogs was advertised, I had to order it from my local super market!

How times have changed. No longer is it strange to see a dog wearing a coat or a dog clipped to perfection. Some, so well-groomed,  that they no longer resemble their canine heritage and now look more akin to teddy bears. In a country that adopts very few new concepts, people or traditions it seems we have adopted something. Our love for dogs.
This love is displayed all too often via the new trend of ‘designer’ dogs. If you ever are in need of cheering up you only have to look at the creativity employed in creating and naming such breeds. Visit the pet section of any local newspaper or website and you will find an array of dogs for sale, their titles raging from the sublime to the ridiculous. The labradoodle was only the start of it. We now have Cockapo’s (Cocker Spaniel x Poodle), Jugs (Jack Russell x Pug), Cavachons (Cavalier x Bichon), Pushons (Pug x Bichon), the Bugg (Pug x Boston terrier) not to mention my own favourite the Wauzer (Mini Schnauzer x West Highland Terrier). When my little dog impregnated a lady dog last year I struggled and gave up as to what this new breed would be… a schnauzer crossed with a chizer? For those not in the know a Chizer is a Chihuahua, Shih Tzu cross!
Simultaneous with the rise in the multitude of new designer breeds is the rise in local pet services. We now have;
Pet grooming parlours where your furry friend can be pampered and preened to perfection. They groom the dogs so well that often I have observed that my dogs are better groomed than I am.image
Pet hotels and resorts. Boarding kennels are fast becoming a thing of the past. Now when we are leaving our precious pooches behind they can avail of a luxurious stay. Your pooch can listen to piped music and be kept snug with purposely installed underground heating. They can even avail of a pampering groom and a daily hike.
Pet friendly hotels and accommodation. If you really can’t bear to be parted from your furry friend then holidaying at home with your pet has become an attractive option. We now have hotels that are dog friendly and an assortment of self-catering apartments where your pet is more than welcome.
Pet friendly coffee shops. No longer do you have to leave your furry friend at home when meeting your human companions. Now many coffee shops, pubs and restaurants openly advertise as dog friendly.
Doggy day-care. Don’t let your working hours become a barrier to owning a dog. Now your little friend can spend the day with other dogs in state of the art day care centres. You can even have pictures  sent to you of the fun day your pooch is having! Dogs are walked, fed and spoiled until it is time for collection or delivery right to your front door.
Dog walkers. Not one for walking? Well once again no longer is this a barrier to owning a pet. Dog walking services are now ten a penny, your dog can be collected from your door, exercised (with pictures to prove it) and left home at a time to suit you.image
Dog pools. Tired, old or ill dogs can now avail of a relaxing and therapeutic treatment in a custom-made hydro pool where all their stresses are worked away.
Puppy schools and dog trainers. Even if you struggle to train your little pooch, no need to worry. One of the many trainers can be at your door with just a press of a button to ease all your canine cares.
I love dogs, but when I looked at the array of services provided I can’t help think that we have gone a little barking mad. This was confirmed when last week on a visit to BM’s when I kid you not….I saw doggy shoes!! I think it would be fair to say that maybe we have gone a little overboard. We need to put our love for our dogs into perspective and this isn’t hard when you consider the rise in animal cruelty. Perhaps it would be beneficial for all those who can and do avail of the above services, to spare a thought for all the little dogs who aren’t quite so lucky. Loving dogs and pampering your pet, yet passing the pet food bank for strays at your local supermarket seems a little bit of a contradiction to me.
As with everything here, there is a split. On one hand we have multitudes of animal lovers but on the other we have a hidden world of animal abusers. Who could forget the heart breaking story of Cody? How can we turn our backs on the very real and frightening dog fighting images that flood the internet? Puppy farming is helping to supply the increased growth in designer breeds. Not all designer breeds come from farms but if we keep demanding them then some inevitably will. So, when looking for a dog, always be vigilant, especially when buying a puppy. Or better still visit your local pound and consider saving an unwanted dog’s life. This will prevent a perfectly healthy dog from suffering an unnecessary death. Eight years ago I rescued a dog from a pound. I was rewarded tenfold. I couldn’t ask for a more loyal dog. I could however ask for a less greedy dog! A lot of great work is being done daily to eradicate animal abuse in NI and I would urge you to support that as much as possible.

How do we report animal cruelty? It’s quite simple, if you suspect animal cruelty and that goes for all animals (not just dogs) the USPCA have many options to report it.

Details  can be found at

Thankfully most of us cannot do enough for our pets and see them as valuable family members. The rise in dog services (well some of them) makes me feel vindicated in that I don’t feel alone in being barking mad. In my opinion looking after a dog involves compassion and if so many of us are doing so, it goes to prove that contrary to popular opinion we definitely do have a compassionate side in Northern Ireland. What lessons can we take from how we value our pets and their increasing prominence in everyday society? How does this translate in our daily lives? In the most simplistic of terms I suppose one could argue that If only we could be more acceptance of people. If we can take anything from our dogs we should learn that whether their breed hails from China, Germany, Alaska or Mexico or whether they are large or small, pedigree or crossed, long or short-haired that they are all the same ….dogs. And they are all made welcome here. This is maybe the most basic yet profound message that having a dog can bring. It’s time Northern Ireland, we applied this to humans.

Ann Allan : Who Are These Ordinary People?

imageDo you know what an ‘ordinary ‘ person is ? No me neither.  I hear it quite often though.  I’m sure you have too. Are they a race from a far off land?  What do they look like?

The dictionary definition of ordinary is:  of no quality or interest ; commonplace ; unexceptional.

“So what does the ordinary person on the street think?” asks the BBC/ UTV interviewer or our local politicians.  Cut to an interviewer talking to a person on the street.  But how do we know this person is ‘ordinary’ and do we know if there are extra-ordinary persons out there on the street too. I take exception to being called ‘ordinary.’  This begs the question,  if the rest of us are considered  ‘ordinary people’  who are the extraordinary people?

One would expect that extraordinary would mean that those who fall into this category are thicker than us ‘ordinary’ people but NO!

The dictionary definition of extraordinary is:  amazing,  incredible, phenomenal,  outstanding etc. etc. etc.

I presume a Member of Parliament is not an ordinary person.  After all they are members of the ruling class. So for example Sammy Wilson would not be classed as an ordinary person.  Well that’s true. Sammy has been pictured gallivanting in the nude. Not many ordinary people would do that and they certainly would have had the sense not to record it on camera for us ‘ordinary’ people to laugh at years later.IMG_0433

Royalty would also be considered extraordinary.  So another example could be Prince Andrew.  Unlike ‘ordinary’ people the prince leads a charmed lifestyle flying from place to place, sponges of the’ ordinary ‘people and has done little in his lifetime to contribute to society.  Unless you call chasing after young women an heroic act. image

There are a choice of words that can be used to describe us ‘ordinary’ people. These are words that are used by the extraordinary people to describe us.  Civilians,  the general public,  the little people,  the grass-roots, lowest common denominator and if you do make a bit of money you become nouveau riche or the hoi polloi.

But we are not ordinary people.  We are unique. We may not be members of the ruling classes but we are mostly hard-working people, the salt of the earth, the foot soldiers who keep the world turning.

Society couldn’t exist without us so-called ordinary people.  So I’ve redefined ordinary in my dictionary.

Ordinary is ; tolerant of nobs and politicians who think they are better than the so-called ‘ordinary people’


Socrates believed that the best form of government is neither a tyranny nor a democracy.  Maybe we need more ‘ordinary’ people showing the extraordinary people how that works !!

Ann Allan : Up Periscope

I have never thought of myself as having an addictive personality but that was before I became aware of Facebook, Twitter, Whatsap and now Periscope.  When I heard about this latest  communication device I couldn’t resist logging on to see what it was all about. Now at the sound of a whistle ( ‘up periscope’  ) I march zombie like to the nearest media device and tune in.  Bit like an episode of Dr Who.  Nine times out of ten, it is Basil McCrea, who must have his camera at the ready at all times.  Basil seems to think it is the next big thing in social media, I’m yet to be convinced. Not all people react well to a camera been stuck in their face and become embarrassed and tongue tied.  ( I wonder can you get patches to control the desire to be in touch with what is happening at all time.)vector-of-a-cartoon-zombie-girl-standing-hands-behind-back-on-halloween-by-ron-leishman-28186

Anyhow judge for yourselves. Is it a gimmick or will it replace Twitter? You can tune in and listen or watch your followers talk to the camera. Will it become an important tool in the months running up to the 2016 elections?

Periscope on the App Store on iTunes – Apple