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

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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)



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



Hidden Belfast – Lower Garfield Street

LwrGarfieldSt1It has been some time since I posted a Hidden Belfast picture, but I thought I’d better get my skates on and take these pictures before these derelict buildings come down. The first gives you the view of the front of the building which has been affected by commercial development over the years and is now “on it’s last legs”. The detail on the “balcony” and the cornices are beautiful, or at least were, before the onslaught of 100,000 pigeons over the years!

The second, and much more interesting picture, is the one from behind which was the first aspect to attract my interest. Hidden from the street are a couple of spires complete with what look like flag poles, various chimney stacks and assorted dormer windows. It is a view of haphazard additions over the years as well as representing good solid build quality. Many of these old red brick building are fast disappearing in the centre of Belfast and are worth documenting. They have seen a lot of history and unfortunately, I am unaware of most of it. What I can remember is visiting a night-club on the first floor back in the early 1980s – but it’s all very vague!

LwrGarfieldSt2This view can be seen from the car park, which has access from North St. Have a closer look if you get the chance; it’s worth it!



More Belfast Nostalgia – Christmas 1978
January 1, 2009, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Belfast, Culture, History, Memories, News, Society, Thoughts, UK | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Lots more interesting stuff from the BBC archives in this article about Christmas 1978. I especially love the old newspaper adverts and the reference to Stewarts Supermarkets, who I started working for in October 1979!

Here’s the link:   http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7784524.stm



Railway Memories

HUGE Locomotive!I love this picture. While it’s not me OR a train from the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, it reminds me of trips to the museum, both when it was based in Dee St, in East Belfast and later at it’s current home in Cultra. The trips with my Dad were to Dee St and he would lift me up onto the locomotives and trams (he couldn’t do it now!). The smell of the old leather in the trams and cars, and oil from the locomotives, even now, are very evocative of an earlier age, both, of the late Sixties and of course, from whenever the various means of transport were in use. I brought all of my kids there, at various stages. Chris was an easy sell as he was a Thomas The Tank Engine fan, but the girls…not so much! 

It’s also fairly sad when some of the vehicles currently in the museum are those that I can remember driving around Belfast!