Friday, 29 April 2016

Farewell to the toon

Last of the Newcastle stories and snaps today.  On the Sunday we wandered across the Millenium Bridge to the Old Flour Mills on the Gateshead side of the Tyne.  Now occupied by the Baltic Arts Centre which at the time was running a retrospective of the work of African-American Artist and Photographer Lorna Simpson.

These gulls looked pretty precarious up there on the ledge of the Baltic.  Safety in numbers, though, eh? 
I liked the exhibition - there was lots of different stuff, some video, some arty and a lot of stills.  Ms Simpson gets some of her stuff from good old *bay and then curates it herself.  Other work she has photographed herself.  The video stuff I wasn't that bothered about, although it certainly was hard to ignore (it was BIG).  Some of the still photographic stuff was more to my taste - and as usual, the devil was in the detail for most of it.  Like Five Day Forecast, for example, which I did spend quite a bit of time studying.  Probably my son and his gf thought I was mad, but that's youth for you :)

Oh by the way - last weekend's exhibition at Flowerfield?  Not for me.  That's all I can say.

It was on several floors, Lorna Simpson's exhibition, and you got a grand view of the old town from up there.

After all that culture/brainfood, we needed sustenance, so we headed back to the Newcastle side for a well-deserved late Sunday lunch.  Afterwards, the young ones forced me to stop in at a hostelry for some après-dinner cocktails, as you do.  I don't remember too much about the rest of the night, to be quite honest...can't keep pace with these young folk any more, y'see.  Shouldn't really try, but sometimes your hand is forced.

Anyway, Newcastle was a right fine place for a weekend and I would go again at the drop of a hat.

Yes, t'was the reflection in that glass thingy wot caught my eye - didn't really work out, I know...

Thursday, 28 April 2016

A job

Well folks I have a new job.  Not a real, paying job, mind you, but we can't have everything.  After the couple of years that the Department for Education took to appreciate my vast experience and unparalleled skills in the field of Education, I am, (drum roll...) a School Governor.  Not just any school, mind you - this old one, which some of you may recognise from the hundreds of snaps I've posted of it:

What used to be O'Hara's Castle, then Dominican Convent, now Dominican School.   Apparently, the Dominican Order arrived in Portstewart not long after the Parish was created but rather than hide themselves away they opted to start a school.  And what better place, eh?  Looks like it would be a good setting for a Hammer House of Horror film, what with those big clouds rolling in from the West and the sea crashing against the rocks below.

Apparently yer man O'Hara was an old sea dog - sorry, Captain, and built his castle with the room at the the front there mimicking the bridge of a boat.  We were sitting in there last week for my first Governor's meeting and when you are looking out of the 3 big old windows at the front it does seem as if you are right over the water.  Very impressive.

Nowadays the school is very much integrated...and I don't mean boys and girls (although it is mixed in that sense too).  In this part of the world the word 'integrated' and 'education' means both Catholic and Protestant pupils attend.  The school itself offers a traditional Catholic Grammar School education but it's actually something like a 60:40 Catholic:Protestant split.  I arrive at a good time, with the school celebrating its Centenary next year.  Big changes are also coming, with the numbers increasing by something like a third over the next few years as another school in the area is being closed.  I'm looking forward to the challenge.  Who knows, I might be able to sneak a camera or two inside from time to time and try to capture some of that wonderful Gothic architecture.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A different look

You know how I post a lot of snaps of Portstewart Strand, right?  Like this one:

Not hard to spot the grain in this one, eh?  HP5+ on the Nikon 180mm

I know, not great weather coming in there from Donegal.  Someday last week this was, and I doubt if I walked very far up the beach that day.

When you turn around this is the sort of scene that awaits you:

Not many on the beach that day...just some random footprints and, no doubt, pawprints.
I don't usually point the camera in this direction - there's only the golf club and houses and stuff there,  which aren't that interesting (although not too noticeable in this shot).  We have, like Scotland, more than our fair share of golf courses around The Liberties.  They do like their golf around here, that's for sure - Portrush is hosting <<The Open>> in 2019 as far as I understand.  Not so long ago I used to like the odd walk around a golf course, although I was never obsessed with it like some people round here are.  There are days when I'm on the beach with the Hound and it's fairly lashing it down, wind and rain and stuff.  And still those golfers are out there, trying to get that wee ball in the hole.  I don't know who's madder - me or them...

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A major sense

As the painter is in there isn't much I can do today, being on 'stand-by' and all that.  My wife has been laid low by a virus and so is upstairs in bed feeling very sorry for herself, Missy is at school and while I have a film to develop there is very little chance of that happening today.

I know, it's a horse.  By Portrush West Strand it was. I have no idea how it got there but it was definitely untethered, just grazing, as they do.  I can't imagine the grazing was up to much, mind you, since I reckon the grass there is more dune-like than pasture-like.  But there you go, that's Ireland for you.

So where was I?  Oh yes, random musings.  Well maybe not random.  The Big Thing in my life the first few months of 2016 has been my hearing, or rather, the lack of it.  It is, of course, a major sense and my hearing loss has been significant, which makes life very difficult, and tiring, and wearing for not just me but for everyone around me.  And getting your mojo to do anything when you've a head full of cotton wool is not easy.  When I was in Bath in November (seems a long time ago now) my Rheumatology Consultant said there was a definite link between ankylosing spondylitis and deafness, which although is not what you want to hear (excuse the pun), might go some way to making the whole thing easier to understand.

Bernie, my Tai Chi teacher, suggested a guy who might be able to help using acupuncture.  Nothing to lose, I though, so here goes.  That was about 7 weeks ago and believe it or not, after about 2-3 weeks of treatment my hearing improved.  All was good for a time, but then Mr Kwong went on holiday and guess what, over a couple of weeks my hearing deteriorated...bigtime.

Portrush West Bay - the sort of view the horse would have if it lifted its head and looked around
The good news is that Mr Kwong has now returned from his jaunt to Hong Kong and I recommenced treatment last week.  And the even better news is my hearing has definitely improved - just over the weekend there.  It was Saturday evening and I started feeling a little nauseous, then a lot, then the vertigo started and I staggered myself to me bed.  Woke up Sunday morning and the fog had lifted, my hearing was markedly better.  Still pretty good today - not 100%, but better than last week.'s the $64,000 question.  Coincidence?  Or has Mr Kwong and his magic needles helped that chi move along those mystic meridians and cleared the old aural system?  I don't know and to a large extent it doesn't matter even if it's all bunkum and a) my hearing was about to get better anyway or b) it's just a placebo effect.  I mean, if it works, right?  As it stands though, at this point in time I'm a believer, just for the record.

Portrush Harbour.  In the good old days ships would anchor off here and transport people to and from Scotland...and even to and from America during the 17th&18th Centuries.  Nowadays the lifeboat sits in there and a few fishing boats.  Still, it's a busy enough wee harbour during the summer months and a couple of decent restaurants plus of course The Harbour Bar within a gentle stroll.  

Monday, 25 April 2016

Upside down

Well the painters are in and the place is upside down.  Spent most weekend getting ready - in other words, moving everything out of one room into another, only for the whole process to be reversed come Monday evening.  It's all go here, I can tell you.  I'll be glad when Wednesday comes and we can start to get the house back into some sort of normality.

So nothing much to report photographic-wise.  But since it's Monday and we could all use a smile, here's one of herself:

Via HP5+ from the Nikon/50mm at f/1.8, or maybe 2.8.  And yes, this was one of those 'end-of-film' shots - as that guy over in Norway so rightly observed.

Friday, 22 April 2016


So we're still in Newcastle on The Friday Archive.  If you recall, I was there with my stepson to watch a game of footy.

On the Sunday we had a wee dander about 'the toon'.  We did a museum thing, which was excellent.  Here was my son's gf at the time, Steph, getting some fluids in.

This was the view across the road from the museum:

There was a wee Sunday street market down by the river, which was quite good I seem to recall for a present for Missy, stranded back home in The Liberties:

I've always been a sucker for motorbikes - my father loved his Triumph T500C. (The 'C' was important, I remember him telling me, standing for 'Clubman' edition if I remember correctly.  Apparently they were race-tuned, or something like that.  He sold it to get married and then bought it back a couple of years later).  Here he is on it, probably somewhere in the South of France, which was were he was usually to be found in his bachelor days once the school year had finished:

There was some serious hardware parked up at the market which were hard to walk past without a second glance:

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Part of a tree

Snapped opposite Killowen Church on the Mamiya at f/2.8:

I know, it's a bit dull - the light wasn't great.  Might be worth returning here some morning or evening when there's something more interesting light-wise.

So I hooked up the print washer this morning and all was reasonably well with it - no big leaks, anyway.  Couple of small ones, but fix-able - I think.  A quick re-varnish of the home-made 'sink' and then we're good to go - probably at the weekend.  Although our local Arts Centre (Flowerfield) in Portstewart is hosting a talk and exhibition by Joyce Ferder Rankin on Saturday and I will probably pop along to see what all the fuss is about.   I try to go to these things - not that we get many of these things around these parts - with an open mind, so we'll see.  I might even take a wee camera along just for the craic.

Another cracking spring-like day in The Liberties today - full sun, although a bit of a North wind blowing so not that warm.  Might even get the back lawn cut, to match the front one that was done yesterday :)

Wednesday, 20 April 2016


Now I have to say that over the past while my patience has been wearing rather thin with regard to getting the darkroom sorted out with running water.  But finally - finally - my man Buff has turned up and he and his man spent yesterday sorting it out.  It was a bit tricky, since they had to go from the boiler cupboard up to the loft, under the upstairs floor, around the corner and then into the roof space above the darkroom, before coming back down and fixing to the taps.  The plastic pipes made it all a lot easier with all those 90-degree angles in the loft.  But it all went as smoothly as these things can go and a grand job it looks, too.

I've a wee bit more prep to do before it's all ship-shape-and-Bristol-fashion.  Just some connectors to put on the taps so I can hook up (and un-hook as necessary) a spray attachment, which I think might be useful.  And I need to get the print washer connected, but hopefully that won't take long.  All these things aren't necessary, of course, to get the job done, but they will make the whole process a lot more pleasant, and I'm all for that.  I know that my wife will be happier too, since I will no longer be spilling chemicals to and from the darkroom and the kitchen.  She puts up with a lot, she does, what with my ankylosing spondylitis, my poor hearing (which at the minute is unbelievably bad) and my obsession with all things photographic.  It must be love.

Here's The Hound for y'all...slightly damp after the morning run on Portstewart Strand and snapped up Mamiya 645-style.

He's watching some-one either walking or driving down our road, hence the rather alert, although resting, pose.  Like all mutts on their home turf, he's ready for action should the situation suddenly deteriorate...

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

More of the same

I know, I know - I post far too many snaps of Portstewart Strand.  But here's another:

I think I'm going to have to take that one into the darkroom and print it out on some lovely paper sometime soon.  That one came out out of some Ilford HP5+ loaded in the FM3a via a 50mm f/1.8.  And while we're on the subject, FM3a is very strange identifier for a camera - I mean, there was no FM3 and no FM3b so what's all this 'FM3a' about?  (Ed: Answers on a postcard please to the usual address).

Those posts there tell a story.  There used to be more of them, and more evenly spaced - but that's what some Big Spring Tides do in this part of the world - they rip them out and smash them up and so men with big tractors have to come and re-set new ones ready for the summer rush.

And can you spot that wee bit of grey headland there in the middle of the shot, just poking out behind Inishowen peninsula?  That, dear friends, is none other than Malin Head.  The most Northerly point of Ireland I'll have you know - and if you ever listen to the BBC Radio4 shipping forecasts you'll know all about the Malin Head coastal weather station - usually after Ronaldsway and before Machrihanish, wherever they are...

Monday, 18 April 2016

In bits

Well the darkroom is in bits, ready for my man Buff to come and plumb in some running water.  He's a hard man to tie down, but the smoke signals are good for this week.  Here's hoping...

In the meantime, a couple more snaps from Killowen Churchyard, still with the Mamiya 645.

As you can see, not all graves have headstones.  Some have these small ironwork affairs, with the names in raised letters.  They are simply pushed into the earth and unfortunately when the grass gets cuts they get lifted and then maybe not replaced as should be.

This lot were just 'resting' against the wall.

The graveyard is full now - has been for some years like most of the churches around here.  Almost everyone nowadays who wants to be buried goes to the municipal cemetery, although I am told that if a specific request is made to be buried in a particular graveyard then that request can usually be accommodated.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Why Eye Man

So on the Friday Archive slot we are leaving Hungary behind and moving on - to 2014 to be precise.  This was a little trip I undertook with my stepson, whose gf at the time was studying in Newcastle.   My stepson is a big football fan and a huge Manchester United fan and as a little treat I booked tickets to see the Newcastle-ManUtd game at St James' Park - so he got to see both a big game and his gf.  No complaints there then...

Here they are, trying not to look suspicious on the street corner as I snapped them up:

I've no idea what happened here with the processing - the film came out in some weird low-contrast ultra-gritty-grainy style.  The camera was a little Olympus Trip that I found in a charity shop and paid about £2.50 for.   Those were the days - nowadays all the charity shops around here have got wise to things and you won't see any camera priced at less than £30.


I'm not that much into football but I have to admit, St James' Park is one awesome stadium.   We were pretty high up but still felt close to the action.  It was a good day for ManU and not a good day for Newcastle - 3-0 to ManU.  My stepson was a Very Happy Boy.

We had a wee dander about the city over the course of the weekend - and a very nice place it is.  I'd never been before - the sandstone buildings and Georgian architecture reminded me of Bath.

Of course we had to head to the river and see the bridges.  This is the iconic Tyne Bridge, built by the same company that designed the Forth Bridge (hence the similarity, I guess).

And further on we have the Gateshead Millenium Bridge for pedestrians and cyclists - a fantastic looking structure:

Apparently the whole structure tilts to allow boats to pass underneath - pretty cool, eh?

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Cill Eoghan

This week we are in Killowen, an area on the west bank of the River Bann in Coleraine - its name comes from the Gaelic Cill Eoghan (meaning Church of Owen, or Eugene) and seems to have been first mentioned in documents from 1607.

Killowen Church is Church of Ireland and sits more-or-less on the site of the older St Eugene's church, which was built in 1248, in the Norman era.  Now that's not yesterday, by any stretch of the imagination.  Incidentally, that's around the time that the very first bridge across the River Bann was built.

Here's the current 'old' bridge (there is a newer bridge about a mile south built in the '70s when Coleraine expanded beyond recognition).  There was, as you can imagine, a whole dose of protracted negotiations about the building of this older bridge.  Records show that a timber bridge had been built not long after the Plantation, in 1672, but there was no planned maintenance schedule and so by 1718 the bridge was in a poor state of repair.  Eventually enough money was raised - through local taxes and help from The Hon The Irish Society - to build the stone bridge you see here, although it wasn't completed until 1844.

On a good day you might see a kingfisher or two along this stretch of the river - although you have to be quick, since they don't hang about.

The Church was built in 1830, financed by the Clothworkers' Company of London, the Earl Bishop Frederick Hervey (of Mussenden Temple fame), the Irish Society itself and the Board of First Fruits (whoever they were).

I timed that one nicely, just in time to catch Conway's Meat Van entering stage right.  Note the mistletoe, or similar parasitic thing, growing on the tree on the left there.

So that's the back view, which exits onto Strand Road.  See that low building on the right there, all covered with grass and ivy and stuff?  Here it is from the other side:

Interesting little building - I guess it's a crypt.  It's dedicated to the memory of one family, whose name is just illegible on the stone plaque there to the left of the gate.  And check out that that crazy stone work on the Church itself - now I see it, I think that might warrant another visit and maybe a close-up snap.

I do know, or am reliably informed, that a much older religious building was located where this old graveyard is now, namely St John's Monastery, which dates from 1080 and was, apparently, still visible in 1835.  In times past there wasn't much thought given to conservation - more likely thought was given to re-using any timber and masonry that was to hand.  And in any case, around 1835 people in this part of the world had more pressing things on their minds.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Graveyard wander

So last week I had a wee poke around Killowen Churchyard.  A place not without significance - my mother and father were married in the Church in 1960 and my great-grandfather on my father's side is buried in the old graveyard out front.  Not that I ever knew that, mind, until I started poking around in the whole Family Tree stuff.  I mean, here's a place I pass several times a week and never knew there was a whole family of McNeills buried there until I spent a couple of days looking through the Church Records a while back.  It was all in old script writing - not the easiest to decipher, I have to say.

So now every time I pass there I have a wee thought or two for my great-grandfather and a wee wonder what his life was like.  He was a stone-mason, born 1840 and died 1912 - but I'll save the details for another day.

Anyway, on that particular day last week I was armed, unusually for me, with a Mamiya 645 Pro TL which had an 80mm f/2.8 attached.  It's a long story but I only had it for a couple of days.  Very nice it was too, I must admit - although a bit on the large&heavy side for me.  It has an electronic shutter and was the last of the 645 series made, a run which started in 1975 and ended in 2006.

Now this one isn't my great-grandfather's headstone, but it caught my eye all the same and I snapped it into the Mamiya at full aperture.  I split-grade printed it this very morning in the darkroom, on Kentmere VC with a dose of Sepia toner added for good measure:

I did 3 prints once I got something half-decent looking - one I left alone, one I toned in warm Selenium and then this one here in Sepia.  I asked the Usual Suspects (Ed: Great film that - old Keyser Söze keeping us guessing right to the end.) for their advice and while Missy liked the Selenium one best the Sepia one seemed to be the most favoured.

Here's the Selenium one just for comparison:

And here's the vanilla one, which I quite like:

If I was to print this again it might be fun to try a cooltone paper - even MG IV if nothing more specialised were available.  It might suit the subject matter more. Perhaps.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Last Portraits in the Park

OK so the last of the Portraits in the Park series from Hungary, 1938.

Yes, you are correct - that was a big class.  We have 48 negs of portraits in total.  What would be nice is for to see (Olde English structure, that is, "for to see", in case you are wondering - still in use around The Liberties if you talk to the right people.  Now there's a strange thing.  When I was a young lad - many moons ago - and went 'across the water' to England to study and become a man, it wasn't cool to have a regional accent. They were rather frowned upon and as a result, in order to fit in, be accepted and all that which is important when you are 18, I lost much of my accent and ended up speaking BBC English, don't you know.  Fast forward 30 years and regional accents are all the rage - you have to have one, in fact.  And yup, I know, now I'm really starting to sound old.  Anyhow, I got me accent back now, so all is well.  Some would say too well, but there you go.  Anyway...after all that, back to finish this sentence now - and if you can remember how it started you're a good 'un) whether we can find out for sure when and where these were taken - perhaps some-one somewhere will recognise a face.  There is a Old Hungarian Flickr group and I posted a few on there some time ago, but I'm sure there are other places I can post some of these too.

Have a nice weekend, my friends.  I don't really do weekends on This Place - too much else happening, y'see.  Missy has orchestra (cello), quite often I have darkroom duties (you have to keep at it, I find) and at this time of year the garden needs attention.  It's all go here, y'know...

Thursday, 7 April 2016

On sand

Hmm...must have taken this one a while back:

The sun was out and it was morning-time, hence the long shadows those little mounds of sand are casting.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Fear of falling

There's a decent walk from Portstewart Prom to the Strand, past Port-na-Happle.  These are the steps leading from the Prom up around where the Dominican College sits:

I know - there's a bit of flare in that one.  When I were a lad there were no barriers to stop you from falling over the edge onto the rocks below - fear kept you well away from the edge.

Turn around and you see Portstewart in all it's glory:

Well, you have to look past Missy and one of her American cousins first, but you get the gist.  This one from a year or two ago.  It's a grand wee place to come on a summer evening, is Portstewart Prom...amble up and down, take in some good seaside air, play on the swings a bit, have an ice-cream.  Can't wait.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The Bear Essentials

It was The Hound's toy that caught my eye:

As you can see, he's not looking so good.  The Hound goes for the eyes first, then the nose.  Poor Ted there has had the stuffing knocked out of him...literally.  Fortunately The Hound is smart enough not to swallow the bits he chews off, otherwise it would be a worry.

Monday, 4 April 2016

A good night

You won't often find me in a pub these days, but I was a while ago when my old school buddy David arrived from NZ, where he lives now.  We headed out to Portrush, down by the harbour.  He was highly amused when I pointed the rangefinder at him, as you can see:

Now the Harbour Bar in Portrush is legendary.  They added a swanky bistro towards the back but in a most unusual move for The Liberties they actually kept the front bar as it was, all spit and sawdust like.  You can take your Hound in there if you wish and the Guinness is, well, the best. David here was very thirsty that night - obviously the Guinness in Auckland is not as tasty.

We had proper music that night, too:

I had FP4+ loaded and was way down at some ridiculous speed, like 1/4 second but since I wasn't on the Black Stuff myself things seemed to work out OK.

It was a good night - we talked over some old stuff and some new stuff, as you do with old friends.  It was a while ago though - I was trawling through The Archive at the weekend and these lept out at me.  I might have posted them before, so apols if they seem familiar...

Friday, 1 April 2016

Back in the park

More of the portraits-in-the-park from Hungary in 1938 as taken by The Uncle:

I've a sneaking suspicion that the satchel is a prop and shared by all the kids...