Ravings From The Bog


Good Weekend

ef75-300_is_usmI have had a pretty good weekend. I treated myself to this little beauty on the way home from work on Friday. The weather being what it is at the moment, I haven’t had the chance to use it at all, but I’m hoping to get some practice shots tomorrow as I am off work. It’s a Canon 75-300mm IS USM lens. I have a Canon 350D DSLR that I haven’t been using much lately as I’ve been bored with the 18-55mm standard lens that comes with the body and I’ve been using the Fuji Finepix A5800 much more (see the Flickr link to the left of this post). I’ve always thought that Jessops were pretty expensive but having priced this lens in various photography mags and on Amazon, I got it cheaper at Jessops.

What else happened over the weekend? On Saturday, apart from the usual workday, three things.

I got a telephone call from a friend telling me she’s expecting a baby next March. I am delighted for her and really pleased that she took the time to let me know.

I also ran into my aunt and uncle in work and I haven’t seen them in a few years. It’s mainly weddings and funerals in my family but I’m always delighted to see family I haven’t seen in some time. My uncle has been made redundant after thirty years with Easons – I didn’t know this when I started talking to them – which is really sad. It would appear that Easons made some unfortunate investment decisions and as a result have moved from a very strong position in the Irish and Northern Irish markets to being perilously close to the abyss. They saw my picture in a mail-shot brochure advertising the recent changes in my store and decided to try it as a result. They’re in a strong position so there are no worries from that angle but I can imagine how I’d feel in a similar situation.

A few hours later, I’m heading towards the staff restaurant and I recognise a face I haven’t seen in at least twenty five years. He recognised me too – we both had a “double take”. He is the older brother of a girlfriend I “courted” from 1981-1983. We spent twenty minutes talking about old times and catching up on family news. His GRANDCHILDREN were running about while we were talking. Last time I saw him he was twenty two! He introduced me to his wife and I gave him my mob number. Really nice to see him!

Today, the news is good also…

My daughter’s boyfriend has returned home to Sussex after two weeks staying in our house. I finally get my house back.

I made a decision today to sell my Land Rover. More to follow on that one.

I went to see Inglourious Basterds – lots of hype about this movie, most of it true. Enjoyable, but as I’m not really into fantasy cinema, I cannot enthuse about it too much. As I described it on Twitter earlier this evening, it’s like a story from Commandos magazine that’s been written by someone on crack!

Lastly, my friend @Braziel re-blogged on his tumblr page this evening a post by Merlin Mann. It inspired me to get the laptop out and write something, anything, as I’ve been neglecting this blog for some time. The link is at the bottom of this post. It’s worth a read. I love Mann’s directness and the passion in his writing. I’d love to write something with such emotion some day, but for the moment, you’ll just have to put up with this!

Braziel\’s Tumblr



Puerto Banus, Marbella
June 16, 2009, 10:38 am
Filed under: Foreign Travel, History, Nostalgia, Technology, Thoughts | Tags: , , ,

I arrived yesterday morning around 1110 and once I got my Fix It Again Tony rental Punto sorted, I stopped off at the Spanish National Aeronautical Museum. This is just outside Malaga Airport, and I had often seen the DC3 static display (C47 to us military modeling folk!) parked near the airport but could never find out how to get there. Thank you Google Earth!

A very friendly Spanish chap called Joachim allowed me to see the external exhibits even though the museum was closed (every Monday).

Photos to follow. 

Off to Puerto Banus itself, then, with a 50km drive down the motorway. Lunch at Marrush, the Lebanese restaurant, and then grocery shopping. ūüė¶

Off now to take some pictures along the beach and into the port. I may try to post a video later, but I’m leeching off someone’s wifi connection and it’s very slow.



Made In Belfast Titanic Tour

We took advantage this week of a free tour around the “Titanic Quarter”, which is the brand name, so to speak, of that area of Belfast which is home to the derelict shipyards, the Odyssey Arena and a number of industrial complexes directly across the Lagan from the Belfast Harbour Commissioner and the Customs House.

As part of the current Made In Belfast Festival, the guided bus tour is a great starting point for the novice historian. The experienced guide, Stephen Cameron, has researched his subject in great detail for many years and is affable and knowledgeable company for the two hours of the tour. I have actually met Stephen before, in a previous life, and it was a pleasure to see him again after a gap of ten or so years.

On what was a rather changeable day, we set off from Belfast’s City Hall having seen both the Titanic Memorial statue and the statue of Sir Edward Harland within it’s grounds. First stop was at the original offices of Harland & Wolff. Access was gained and we started off in the drawing offices where many years before, the original plans for the Titanic and her sister ships, Olympic and Brittanic were made. This remarkable building was specially designed to allow as much natural light as possible to reach the draughtsmen, and later the ladies, who made copies of the thousands of individual plans for the teams of workmen who built the ships.

Harland & Wolff Drawing OfficeThe next attraction was a viewing of the boardroom, sadly without any original furniture. The building has suffered over the years since it was last used as an office but has now been listed and is in the initial stage of refurbishment. In it’s derelict state it has been of value to the film industry lately, featuring in films such as Closing the Ring, City of Embers and Breakfast on Pluto.

Next stop was a short distance away by coach as it had started to rain. We drove about 100m to two large ramped areas close to the bank. The guide showed us the same ramps in a large black and white picture taken in 1911. These were the very ramps on which Titanic and Olympic were built.

Titanic RampFrom there we made our way to the Thompson Dry Dock, built to allow completion of the three sister ships’ fit-out. A very impressive structure which looks to be twice the length of the Clarendon Dry Docks, the pump equipment was designed to be capable of pumping out all of the water in the dock inside 100 minutes.

The picture below gives an idea of the size of the structure with HMS Caroline in a nearby dock for scale. In the pictures we were shown of Titanic in the dock being fitted with her engines and propellers, the stern of the ship stuck out over the gate at the back of the dry dock – an immense ship that would have stretched from the front door of Belfast City Hall right down Donegall Place, past M&S, past McDonalds, the Tesco Metro and as far as the H&M shop.

Thompson Dry Dock

At this point, the tour ended. Very satisfied with our new-found knowledge, we climbed back aboard the coach and headed back to the City Hall.

A very enjoyable morning. I have been inspired by this tour to look for more opportunities to learn more about local history and perhaps consider doing a similar job on retirement, to that of our eminent guide.



Even Wind Turbines Get A Day Off!

Wind Turbine Green EnergyI didn’t realise I could get this close to the local wind turbine (North Down Borough Council’s lip service to the Green agenda). I really expected it to be protected from potential “terrorist/freedom fighter” action.

I really love the shape of the cowling of the propeller. It has a taste of nostalgia to me as it reminds me of many of the engine cowlings on Airfix aircraft models I assembled over the years. Cracking day today too!

My Flikr Photostream (for more pictures)



Ballyholme Esplanade Bangor Postcard
February 26, 2009, 3:43 pm
Filed under: History, Nostalgia, Thoughts | Tags: , ,

ballyholme-esplanade-21
Ballyholme Bangor TodayBallyholme Esplanade always seems to be under development somewhere. I can imagine the appeal of a sea view, living in a cul de sac and yet being close to shops, post office and schools. In the original postcard, the gate pillars are still in situ but not very much else is instantly recognisable.

I don’t know exactly how old the postcard is. It isn’t used but my estimation is 1905-1915.



Hidden Belfast: Central Arcade Ross’s Court

The Old Central Arcade BuildingThis old building, which was originally a factory, holds a particular fascination for me as it was the site of the first Crazy Prices store I had full responsibility for as store manager. That was back in 1986. The weekly turnover was £35K. It was a dingy store which never made a penny of net profit in the ten years it was open but came pretty close to do doing so towards the end. 

Anyhow, the building originally housed Ross’s Lemonade factory and had at least four floors. When I worked there, the top two floors were derelict with broken windows and dead pigeons and no doubt, a few other pests. The “shopping centre” known as Central Arcade was the 70s/80s¬†equivalent¬†¬†of the Hi-Shops in High St, in other words, it was a really awful collection of grotty businesses anchored by a grotty supermarket and a very busy Stewarts Winebarrel.

In later years, the building changed hands and was developed into Ross’s Court, a rather upmarket and ultimately doomed centre due to the unfortunate fact that it was just too far from Royal Avenue to attract the business it needed. Timing is everything and if the centre had been able to hold out, the recent introduction of the Victoria Square complex would have supported and sustained the centre.

Today, the most upmarket and best-looked-after Argos I have ever seen occupies the Victoria Square end of the building. The original stonework still shows the name of the original owners, W.A Ross & Sons – a nice touch!



Time Travel Bangor Through Postcards
February 18, 2009, 3:39 pm
Filed under: History, Memories, Nostalgia, Thoughts, UK | Tags: , , , , ,

Ballyholme Bay 1912Ballyholme Bay 2009I collect postcards of Ballyholme Bay which is about half a mile from my home. My collection sits at 51 and includes pictures taken from either ends of the bay, the yacht club, some of the Esplanade and one of the Ballyholme Windmill (pre-1911 when it still had it’s sails). This is one of the older postcards and I particularly like it because the chap in the straw boater and the lady in the background give a sense of the time through their clothing. The contemplative pose of straw-boater man is also indicative of a less frenzied and more sedate period – something I feel nostalgic for!

I took the opportunity this morning to photograph the scene and compare the two. In 1912, when the postcard was postmarked, Ballyholme was a separate entity to Bangor, a point indicated by the old Bangor town limit represented by the rusting and decayed marker just fifty yards from where straw-boater man sits. (Picture below)

Many of the buildings visible in the postcard are still there today although the blueish-roofed building on the far side of the bay, formerly The Ballyholme Hotel, and then the Ballyholme Residential Home (my wife worked there at one point), was demolished some years ago and rebuilt into apartments in a similar design. The wrought-iron and wood benches are also still available although moved to a safer distance from the incline in this health and safety conscious age.

I intend to do more of these photo-comparisons. They remind me of a practice common in an interesting magazine called After The Battle which compares photographs taken in battle during WWII with the same scenes taken today. It will be the closest I get to time-travel in my lifetime.

Bangor Town Marker