Ravings From The Bog


CupCakeCampNI
August 16, 2009, 1:49 am
Filed under: Belfast, Blogging | Tags: , , ,

CupCakeCampThe long-awaited CupCakeCampNI event took place today at Blick Studios on Belfast’s Malone Road. Despite clashing with Belfast’s visit from the Tallships, the event sold out well in advance.

Twitter pal, @doorofkukondo, (also known as Ciaran Madden) was the organiser of the event and through his energy, drive and enthusiasm, everything went swimmingly. Such was the interest in the cupcake phenomenon, that space soon ran out for displaying the hundreds of cupcakes that the various professional and amateur bakers brought along. Disaster was averted when permission was given to tuck in and space was quickly found!

Freshly brewed coffee was supplied to wash the confections down by @grib and his lady wife, with their @beanandgone business, and the posters (above) were designed and created by @davymac – both top men in their respective fields, thanks guys.

Many volunteers were on hand to support the endeavour, including @goodonpaper, @stuartgibson, @mynameisciara, @Peek-a-Bo0 and @bardsrad et al.



When Transformers Attack!

Transformer!I was driving through the centre of Belfast yesterday after a great Flickr Meetup walk along the Lagan as far as Stranmillis, when I came round the corner from Victoria Street and drove straight into a Hollywood film set – Transformers! Or so I thought… It took me over ten minutes to find somewhere to park the car (legally). Thankfully, the “transformer” hadn’t stomped off in the direction of Cave Hill. Only one or two other people I’ve shown the photograph to actually “get it”. Am I watching too many movies?



Thieving Toe-Rags!
June 2, 2009, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Belfast, Books, Entertainment, Life, Society, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , ,

Along with a few hundred other Wire, Corner and Generation Kill fans, last Sunday evening, I attended an interview with David Simon, at the Ulster Hall which was a Guardian Hay Festival event.

While waiting for the event to start, Glenn Patterson, local author, came on stage to introduce the interviewer and interviewee. During this intro, Glenn mentioned that David Torrans, owner of local independent bookshop, No Alibis, had his day’s takings of £640 stolen from him by some “toe-rags” in the Ulster Hall that evening. I have known David for many years as a customer and he is a decent chap and has been responsible for bringing some “big names” to Belfast for literary events and social evenings at his bookshop.  After a chat on Twitter, some of us thought it would be right to have a twhip-round to try to offset at least some of David’s loss. If you’re interested in throwing in a few pounds, and have a Paypal account, please send your contribution to colinparte@mac.com as soon as possible. As I type, the fund is sitting at £30. Not sure yet how to collect any cash offerings, but I’m confident that some arrangement can be made.

Running any business in the current economic climate is fraught with difficulty, without opportunist thieving. No business can afford such losses, especially those independent traders whose perseverance allows us some variety of choice in the marketplace – let’s support them and in this particular case, let’s support David!

Thanks to @blackconfetti, @keithbelfast and @szlwzl for the initial contributions!



The Wire’s David Simon Coming to Belfast
May 12, 2009, 10:07 pm
Filed under: America, Belfast, Culture, Entertainment, TV | Tags: , , , , ,

Stringer BellI’ve just bought my tickets for David Simon’s talk at the newly reopened Ulster Hall at the end of this month. Great to see such a distinguished writer and director visiting Belfast. Really looking forward to it! I’m currently watching The Corner on DVD which features a lot of the actors later involved in The Wire. Quality acting.



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.



CupCakeCampNI – 15/8/09 Belfast
April 3, 2009, 11:43 am
Filed under: Belfast, Entertainment, Fun, Technology | Tags: , , ,

CupCakeNIThe first Northern Ireland CupCakeCamp takes place on 15 August at Blick Shared Studios, 51 Malone Road, Belfast. It kicks off at 1200 and runs until 1600.

CupCakeCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and eat cupcakes in an open environment.

It will be a fun day with fun people. You don’t need to have any baking skills but if you have, you can enter your creations into the competition.

Check with @doorofkukundo on Twitter or click on this link:

http://cupcakecampni.org/2009/04/02/a-post-for-those-confused/

For some more information on the Cupcake phenomonon:

http://cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com/2008/05/cupcake-interview-cupcakecamp-organizer.html

Enjoy!



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!