The Good Old Days?

Back in the good old days we may not have had mobile phones but we managed without them. Social media was unheard of. We managed to communicate by other means. Mostly face to face or a phone call. This meant we didn’t have to read nasty comments, racial slurs, homophobic slurs or tweets written to stir up hate, incite violence or even war.

Back in the good old days we didn’t have central heating and didn’t miss it. We had open fires which we huddled around on a cold night. But we could afford the coal for the fire. Now we have a choice, heat or food, but in many houses not both.

We have become a dystopian society because of corruption and the ego of some powerful figures intent on world domination. Don’t think Putin will stop if he succeeds in his domination of Ukraine.

Back in the good old days, the local doctor visited and called at the house when you were ill and kept calling until you were better. Hospitals were well staffed and there was no queuing for a bed. No exhausted nurses and doctors. No ambulances lining up outside hospitals and we did have flu epidemics the past. The NHS was well funded and well run back in the day.

I’m not saying everything was wonderful and I’m not one of those who voted for Brexit who see the past as being halcyon days. We seem as a society to have taken 10 steps forward and 9 steps back. There are more homeless on the streets, more suicides, more hungry, more wars, more threats of wars, not sure about more corruption as it’s always been around. But this is 2022 not 1950 and we should have progressed as a society not regressed.

I accept it’s not all bad but I think we have reached a crossroads and we need to pick the right road if society is to survive. Climate change is a huge challenge. If we don’t act now it will be too late. More needs to be done about Covid and the variants which will inevitably contribute to the toll on the NHS.

I hate that I’m writing this as it’s not the way it should be. George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949. I wonder what he would think if he were alive today and see that the dystopian world he envisaged is becoming a reality in 2022.

Ann Allan: One of the Proudest days of my life:

I was always a bright intelligent child even if I say so myself. Precocious might even be a more appropriate description. As the oldest of six children there was possibly more responsibility put on me and I became pretty good at looking after the children and helping out in the house. I also learned to cook and iron at an early age.

When I was eleven I became seriously ill and needed an emergency operation. An earlier operation had resulted in adhesions developing and it was now a life or death situation.

I was lucky and survived but I was advised not to take my eleven plus as I wasn’t sufficiently recovered. I was adamant that I would go ahead and refused to wait for the sick exam as I believe it was called in those days. I passed with flying colours. I know it was flying colours because I checked when I started working in the examinations branch of the Ministry of Education.

I started grammar school and my family had great plans for me. My dad was a university graduate and it was expected that I would follow in his footsteps.

However, it didn’t work out that way. I wasn’t a good scholar, got mediocre results in my exams and hated studying. Many nights saw me ‘studying ‘ at the kitchen table with Jackie ( a pop magazine ) under my books.

I was more interested in what was top of the pops or what novels I could read under the covers with a flashlight. Brighton Rock by Graham Green was the first adult novel I had ever read. Newspapers with all the scandals were sneaked into the bathroom and I read with awe what was happening in the outside world.

I scraped through my junior and senior certificates. My headmistresses
comment on my results were ‘Ah bien, ma chère’ ( Ah well , my dear. ) My geography teacher send me a picture of St.Jude, the patron of hopeless cases.

By this time I had met Gordon. This added a further complication to my education. I had gone back to do A levels and repeat some O levels but the romance was frowned upon by our families due to our religious backgrounds. He was one of them and I was one of us, so any further education was abandoned, I applied for a post as Clerk in the Civil Service and left home at 16 to live in Belfast.

You can read my exploits over the years in my memories on YouTube or in this blog under memories but fast forward to 1994 when I made the decision to do a degree. Gordon had finished his PH.D and I thought it’s my time now. If I’d don’t do it now it will be too late.

I remember my first day walking into the university for our induction day. I’m here after all these years , I thought, fulfilling what my dad wanted for me and he’s no longer here to see it. The grandeur of the great hall, the quadrangle, the common rooms, things I never thought I would be part of. Pictures of Educating Rita flashed in front of me. Although I never came across a Michael Caine I did meet some lovely lecturers. The late Rick Wilford was one of those.

Fast forward again to the summer of 1999 and it was my turn to walk across the stage in my gown and receive the award of B .A.( Hons) in Humanities. I was so proud. My husband , my daughter and my son were there to witness it. It was also the last graduation where Senator George Mitchell presented the awards.

It wasn’t easy. My mother had a stroke, my mother in law developed dementia and I had to drop out for a term but I persevered and I got there and that moment walking across that stage made the late nights finishing essays worthwhile and made it one of my proudest moments.

Ann Allan : Can We Really Be What we Want To Be??

I listened to a high achiever ( don’t remember her name) talk to a audience of children recently. She told them that they could achieve anything they wanted just like she had done.

Is this right? Does it give expectation and hope to those who for whatever reason will never attain their goals.

What a sense of disappointment and failure when little Jonney works hard to be an astronaut only to find out that this is for the elite few and he is not one. Or Mary who wants to be a model like the beautifully digitised models she sees on social media. Mary is gorgeous but she’s not model material as you need to be 5ft 8 inches and Mary is nowhere near that.

But she has been given expectations that she can be whatever she wants and in this world where only a few actually achieve what they want to be is this false hope?

Why not be honest. Explain that we are all destined for different paths in our future. We should try to do our best, study, have an open mind and pursue your dream but with the realisation that you may not make it and that’s ok.

Most of us settle for a happy family, a decent job with a decent salary and even that is not always possible and that is life. That is not to say that some will attain that goal and achieve what they wanted to be.

No wonder we have depression and anxiety and suicide.  Being told you can be anything you want to be and it doesn’t happen. The sense of failure, the self loathing.  

We need to be careful when talking to our young people.  I was sitting with my 17 year old granddaughter watching the piece on TV . ‘That’s rubbish ‘ she said. ‘Not everyone can be whatever they want to be’  So glad she is self aware! 

Ann Allan: Reading This Could Save a Life and It May Be Yours.

Over the last nine months I was aware that things weren’t right and I knew I needed to see a doctor. However the virus was everywhere and I kept putting it off.

It was a difficult decision but I finally realised I needed to find out what was going on. It took a lot of phone calls but I persisted and eventually got through to the clinic. The doctor agreed that I needed to be seen and an appointment was made.

Blood tests were taken and I was asked to take an FOBT (fecal occult blood test), a very sophisticated test that can detect occult blood in the bowel.

A few days later I was walking along the seafront at Seapark when my doctor phoned. First the good news , the blood tests were all normal but the FOBT showed that there was a problem and further tests were necessary.

This included a second FBOT which also came back positive. This was very quickly followed up by a phone call from a consultant at the Ulster hospital who described what would happen next.

First a colonoscopy, followed by a CT scan and then an MRI. I have to say that I couldn’t have been treated better. Everyone I came across, and there were three hospitals involved : Downe hospital, Lagan Valley hospital and finally the Ulster hospital were understanding, efficient and caring. Despite all that was going on with the virus, normal day to day life saving procedures were going on.

I won’t go into details but the colonoscopy and the prep for it weren’t pleasant. I was able to watch on the screen as I didn’t take a sedative and so I realised something wasn’t right when I heard the doctors asking for a biopsy. This took place at Downe Hospital.

A discussion after with the doctor revealed that they had found a tumour / polyp 3mm ( 1 inch long) It was not possible to say whether or not it was cancer until a biopsy had been performed. The wheels were also set in motion for a CT scan followed by an MRI.

Next morning I received a call from Lagan Valley Hospital. Could I come along that afternoon for the CT scan? No waiting, straight in with reassuring staff talking me though the procedure. I had to wait over a week for results of the CT scan but it was clear and if it was cancer it hadn’t spread.

The MRI was next. This was the one I wasn’t looking forward to as I am extremely claustrophobic. However as it was scanning the pelvic area I was able to go into the tube feet first and apart from the noise it was fine.

How was I feeling during this time? I have to say I was quite calm and accepting. Red flags had been mentioned and I knew I was getting excellent attention and it was being investigated quickly.

I got on with life and took the attitude that what will be, will be, to quote and old song. My husband didn’t sleep much in those six weeks and the family were worried. I had good support from them and from friends who I had confided in.

On Monday this week I went to the Ulster Hospital to get results. Good news, the tumour is benign but is probably precancerous. So I will need an operation in January to remove it.

I am writing this to let anyone who is worried about their symptoms not to be embarrassed or afraid and to see your doctor as soon as possible. They have seen and heard it all before.

The symptoms of bowel cancer are below. This doesn’t mean that all cases will be cancerous but it could save your life if it’s caught early as in my case.

The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and do not necessarily make you feel ill. However, it’s worth trying simple treatments for a short time to see if they get better.

More than 90% of people with bowel cancer have 1 of the following combinations of symptoms:

  • a persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy (abdominal) pain
  • blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids) – this makes it unlikely the cause is haemorrhoids
  • abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss

Constipation, where you pass harder stools less often, is rarely caused by serious bowel conditions.

Most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you will share and maybe by doing so you will help save a life.

I wish you a Happy and Healthy Christmas.

Deja Vu all over again.

It may be my age but I keep seeing scenarios in NI that have been going on here for years. Only difference, new voices, same arguments.

Nothing is ever taken to a conclusion. We just go round in circles never squaring the circle. Addressing the legacy of the troubles, dealing with terrorist groups, racism, homophobia, bonfires, flags round and round we go.

Now we have climate change and how that will affect us in the coming years appears to being ignored.

We have had the warmest summer on record. The earth is scorched and countries that never had wild fires are having to tackle major blazes. Lack of rain in some areas are adding to the problem.

Meanwhile torrential rain is causing flooding in areas that never had flooding before. Pictures in China of travellers standing in flood water up to their shoulders while standing in trains is terrifying.

London too has had flooding in areas never flooded before.

Can we stop the bickering and name calling and get down to saving the planet for future generations?

What I’ve seen on Twitter over the last week reminds me of a school playground

So what if Arlene Foster wants to join up with a clown like Farage to pretend that they represent a majority of GB citizens. (Note it’s GB and not GB and NI.) Let her get on with it. Viewing figures will soon tell us how well it’s doing. I’m sure they are loving the publicity.

We also have Covid to contend with and the conspiracy theories are rampant. Boris Johnston as PM should be speaking out to quash these theories and to have some of the leaders arrested for their hateful rhetoric, but he knows they are the majority of his supporters

Please politicians in NI stop acting like school children. We are running out of time to save our beautiful planet.

And for goodness sake stop using words like sneering and woke.

We have become a selfish society thinking only of Number One, taking everything as a personal insult. The treatment of the asylum seekers and the lack of condemnation by the unionist parties is shameful.

No matter how many blogs and op -Ed’s are written (like this blog ) how many people will listen? It’s worth trying, so don’t give up. We need to do something and do it quickly.

Let this generation be the one that takes climate change seriously.

Thanks for getting this far In the blog!!!

What by Michael McFarland

What …

“What is like to be deaf.”? Asked a voice.

“It’s like nothing else on Earth” Signed a voice.

“Everything and everyone is forever quietened.

Little Mix, Pavarotti, the friend; the stranger; you ~

The traffic; the people; the sea; the new-born babies

The piano; the horse, the lamb, the orchestral strings.

That inconsiderate cyclist behind you on the footpath !

All these to us are silent; and silence is non-golden.”

An open letter to Joel Keys

Dear Joel

A lot for a young man to take on. Your reference to violence possibly influenced by those who nominated the you to appear in the first place. Those who profit from violence perhaps.

I’m sure you are reeling from all the criticism( and someone tp positive padulation) that resulted from your appearance on the NI Affairs xxx Committee.

I would like to tell you why I stopped listening to you. It was when you suggested that violence could be on the table. I admire a young man that can be articulate even if he doesn’t hold the same views as I do but when he sees violence as an alternative to dialogue then I switch off.

I was your age when the troubles started and my children were a lot older than you when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. So for most of my adult life I lived in the shadow of the violence around me.

I lay at night as a teenager listening to the gun shots and the petrol bombs going off around the city. I drove through streets that were barricaded with burning busses, I was evacuated on many occasions due to bomb scares and two friends died, one who was coerced into committing an act of violence and was blown up and one an innocent young man carrying out his duties as a Civil Servant.

When my children were growing up I spent many sleepless nights worrying that they would get home safely. We had essentially normal life taken away from us through violence.

Look around you at the families who are left still suffering after almost 50 years. Is that the legacy you want for your children?

When you say violence is on the table. Violence against who? The British Government who negotiated the Protocol, or those who’s aspirations are different from yours? Will you wreck your own area with this violence? Burn cars and properties? Injure police who try to intervene?

Joel, life is short and you’ll find as you get older that using the pen rather than the sword will work better in the long run.

Don’t let your peers end up as statistics. Young men who will end up with criminal records. Go to university, meet others with different points of view but please don’t go down the road of thinking that violence pays. Our legacy would indicate that it doesn’t. It only prolongs the situation.

I wish you well for your future and if you choose the right path I’m sure you could do great things for your community.

Don’t let those who remain in the shadows lead you down the wrong path

By the way I have four grandchildren and I’m hoping that they will never have to experience violence again in Northern Ireland. We all deserve to live in peace.


Ann Allan

Ann Allan : 99 or 00

There are many important questions needing answers for the citizens of NI and beyond:

Will Edwin Poots succeed in getting rid of the protocol ?

Will Jim Alister ever learn to smile and most importantly:

How will we cope if a 99 becomes a 00?

Having had some investigative experience I set off to find out from the man himself ( who wished to remain anonymous) at Seapark in Holywood where I have in the past purchased a 99 from his ice cream van.

‘What will you do if you can’t get chocolate flakes’ I asked. ‘Will the people of Holywood revolt?

‘I expect there will be some annoyance’ he said, ‘but I’ve called in a mediator and if we have to we will resort to sprinkles. It will just be a matter of reeducation. Holywood people love their 99’s. I never could understand why Holywood golf club and the Culloden hotel wouldn’t let me park my van there but it’s their loss’.

‘Will we recover if we lose the 99 ? ‘I asked

With a tear in his eye and a tremble in his voice he replied ‘ This could just be the tip of the ice cream, 99’s could be lost to a new generation’

I thanked him and told him I would take the matter up with members of the assembly some of whom believe the 99 is only a couple of years old and see what happens.

As I walked away licking my ice cream I thought

I hope this isn’t the end of the 99 as we know it.

Ann Allan: 2020 What a Year!

I didn’t believe that when I said goodbye to the family on the 12 March after my son’s birthday get together, it would be the last time we would be able to hug each other for the foreseeable future. I remember that we all made a joke of touching elbows not realising this was going to be normal life soon. My husband, who is a virologist, warned us that he could see the pandemic spreading rapidly but I doubt if even he could have foreseen how bad it would be. 

Things evolved quickly and we went into lockdown around the 19th March. Toilet rolls became like gold dust. Trollies were piled up with luxury quilt toilet rolls, soft on the bottom but a pain in the butt for those who couldn’t get their hands on them. As a member of the vulnerable, over 65 ‘s, community we cocooned ourselves. We didn’t go the shops. Our children brought groceries and left them on the step. Every item was carefully washed down with soap and water and a dettol infusion to kill the virus should it be lurking on any surface. 

At the time I was writing for VIEWdigital and so I was able to do that from home using FaceTime to communicate. Gordon was already working from home so that didn’t change.

We started walking every day. At first round the block and then driving to beaches and parks further afield. I started photographing every thing that moved and every day putting them on Twitter. I’m so grateful to all those who liked them and commented on them. It made it so worth while. I also put them on Facebook with an account of how we had spent the day. I then got the timelines printed in a book so future generations can see what it was like to live through a pandemic.

So apart from not going to the shops our daily lives remained much the same as usual, though as one who has never ordered groceries online, I found having to write a list of what I needed very annoying.

We were extremely lucky with the weather during March, April and May so no long days stuck in the house. And here I realise how lucky we were. We had a garden, lovely places nearby to visit. I felt so sorry on the days we did get rain, for parents locked down without a garden, young children with lots of energy champing at the bit to unleash all that pent up energy. It was much the same with Gordon when the golf club closed.

As the number of cases came down restrictions were relaxed and Summer arrived. It seems a long way off now.

Then there was a debate about GCSE’s. Exams were cancelled as schools had been closed. A worrying time for teenagers already confined to spending time at home. It was decided to award marks on performance and even this caused controversy depriving some from pursuing their chosen career path at University.

I remember around June answering a tweet from a Twitter friend saying that my husband anticipated a second wave in the Autumn and I just hoped that plans were being put in place to deal with this second wave. Unfortunately it became apparent that this wasn’t the case and decisions on what to do as the numbers rise again is being made ‘on the hoof’.

How has the year affected me personally?

Well I’ve missed hugs from my children and grandchildren. I also have come to realise that there are some people that if I never saw them again it wouldn’t worry me and others who I’m missing a lot.

During our many walks by the sea over the past 10 months I’ve collected lots of sea glass. Looking it up on the net I found it was possible to make pictures with the glass so I had a go at it and found out I enjoyed it. I was able to sell them before Christmas and raise money for the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice. We also saw lots of places along the east coast that we hadn’t visited before. Northern Ireland has some beautiful places so get out there and see them.

My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones due to contacting Covid. Two close relatives had positive results back in September but thankfully with few symptoms and a rapid recovery. I also feel for those elderly people who were unable to spend Christmas with their family and for whom this could well be their last Christmas.

I don’t understand those who try to gain attention by dismissing the virus as ‘just flu’ and refuse to obey regulations put in place to stop the spread.
I’m disgusted by our MLA’s who can’t put issues aside and work together for the good of all. Covid 19 doesn’t distinguish between orange and green.

Now we have a vaccine and although the virus is very crafty and is mutating to find new hosts we are hopeful that when we have vaccinated over 85% we will begin to return to our new normal.

So as we move into a new year and personally I just see it as a continuation of the past 366 days don’t expect life to suddenly change for the better or for that matter for the worse.
However I wish you all a Peaceful and Healthy 2021. Thank you for following me on Twitter, Facebook, Chatter and YouTube and for the craic we have had in this unprecedented year. The year of Covid.







Girls Night Out