Class of 69

I went to a school reunion last weekend. It was comprised of around 70 people who had left Larne Grammar School in 1969, called together again by Lynne McKee (nee Dunkley) and Roy Craig. I was expecting it to be a depressing experience, an almost unbearable reminder of my own mortality, and a competitive comparison of our achievements since those pre-Troubles days. It turned out to be strangely comforting and life-affirming. We greeted each other warmly and relaxed as friends who knew each other well and had nothing to prove to one another. It really was good. Continue reading “Class of 69”

Mossa’s Chip Van

My friend, Mossa, comes from Lebanon.img_0067 He used to own the chip shop in Kells, Co. Antrim, when I was minister there, and we hadn’t seen each other for 18 years until a few Saturday nights ago when, through a chance encounter, we met up again. It was great to see him and to renew our friendship.

These days Mossa, his wife, Violet, and their 3 sons, live close to Dungannon, and Mossa has a chip van which he parks at the Tamnamore Roundabout on the M1. He serves the best mixed kebab and chips in that part of the world and if you are ever in the area and are feeling a bit peckish, it’s a great place to stop. Continue reading “Mossa’s Chip Van”

Down Mexico Way

I had a phone call from Mexico last night, and of course my first question to my caller was about the swine flu. Erin Dunigan is a ministry student with PCUSA, a friend of my daughter’s, and a free-lance writer for the Presbyterian News Service. She splits her time between California and Mexico, and she was calling me to conduct an interview for the upcoming moderatorial year.

Sara, Julianne, and Erin
Sara, Julianne, and Erin

I imagined that everyone in Mexico would be walking around wearing face masks, and avoiding other people as much as possible, but Erin quickly disabused me of that perception. Where she is, in Baja, it is many miles from Mexico City (over 1,700) and life goes on pretty much as normal. No one seems to be excessively worried about the virus, she says, and given the beautiful climate, life in that part of Mexico sounds very pleasant indeed. Continue reading “Down Mexico Way”


ortizI am honoured to count Manny Ortiz as one of my friends. He is a remarkable man. As well as being Professor of Urban Mission at Westminster Seminary, he is also pastor of Spirit and Truth Fellowship (a congregation of the Christian Reformed Church) in the Hunting Park district of Philadelphia. He is a great theologian, a warm-hearted pastor, a passionate preacher, and a godly Christian. But above all, he has a great sense of humour.

When I arrived in Philadelphia in 2000, Manny and his wife, Blanca, along with their best friends, Sue and Randy Baker, took me to an Italian restaurant in South Philadelphia (Rocky’s neighbourhood) where all the waiting staff were frustrated and unspotted opera stars who gave impressive renderings of well-known arias. The highlight of the evening was when Manny gave one of the waiters a generous tip in exchange for his performance of “Danny Boy” in my honour. What a great night it was! Continue reading “Manny”


img_0060On my regular visits to Larne to visit my mother, I often pass Asher’s bakery and restaurant. It is on the roadside on the way out of Larne, just beyond Millbrook. Depending on the time of day and my schedule, I have been known to stop there for some refreshment. The mini-fry on offer is really hard to resist, and it must rate as one of the best deals anywhere. It is a fry of the highest quality, but as Patricia has pointed out, the fact that it says “mini” in front of it doesn’t make it healthy.

I am reliably informed that David Jeffrey, the Linfield boss, is also a regular customer at Asher’s and has been known to enjoy the odd mini-fry. So if it’s good enough for a finely-tuned athlete like Big Davy, it’s good enough for me. Maybe if Linfield get their act together at the climax of the season and win the championship, we could all celebrate by enjoying one of Asher’s mini-frys. Now if we were waiting for Larne FC to be successful before treating ourselves, we might never taste the delicacies on offer at Asher’s. What a shame!