Thursday, 18 August 2022


The name Morelli is synonymous with Portstewart Prom - it's the place for your ice creams, knickerbocker glories and much more. As the signage in the shot below indicates, the Morelli story began over 100 years and if you are interested in reading more about the how these Italian immigrants made good, click here.  In the interests of equality, I should point out there are other options for ice cream and food on the Prom.  I was going to write that there is little else along the Prom these days but as I think about it, there is still a butcher, pharmacy, sweet/beach shop, gift shop, shoe shop as well as a couple of fashion outlets and bars.  And probably other places I've overlooked.  And naturally there are a few estate agencies as well - obvious given the astronomical rises in price property in the area has seen in recent years.  But there must be at least a dozen cafes now, most now with pavement licences.  Mind you, I'm not sure that the competition has lowered prices or raised standards in most of these establishments but maybe that's just me being a grumpy old git (again).   Anyway, enough banter - the shot

I've said before that the 'Blad is a good street camera, since you are looking down into the prism with the camera at waist level rather than eye level, so it doesn't look so confrontational.  Sure wasn't I just taking a shot of the famous Morelli's and didn't it just happen these two happened by at precisely the moment I pulled the trigger.  It wasn't like I was standing there for a while waiting for someone to come along...honest, guv ;)  Same details as before (FP4, HC-110 on Foma 133).

Monday, 15 August 2022


 I thought this was a rather nice looking hound on Portstewart Prom, so I asked the owner if I could take a shot.  He waved his assent so I started to frame the shot.  I had to wait a while, though, until the two elderly ladies came up into the shot.  It look longer than I thought and I'm sure the guy was sitting thinking 'What the heck is he doing?'  Finally I got the shot and lifted my head, to find half-a-dozen people behind me, waiting patiently for me to finish.  Ooops! People can be very polite at times...

Woofer on the Prom, 2022.  FP4+ on the 'Blad/50mm, Foma 133.

You can see the gentrification of the Prom going on in the background.  Very expensive apartments down by the harbour and then a major new development just getting started.  It's the same at the other end.  Eventually all the older buildings will go and it will be end-to-end apartments, with cafes on the ground floor.  I think that was the second time this summer I've been down to Portstewart (which is only about a mile from where I live).  I had to nip down last Saturday morning to get some medications for mother and I made sure I was there at 9am, when the Pharmacy opened.  It made no difference - the place was already bunged with cars and folk.  I know it’s a good hunting ground for street shots but you have to be in the mood. Saturday morning I couldn't get away quick enough.  Roll on September when the visitors and second-home owners go back from whence they came.

Thursday, 11 August 2022

The Double-bluff

What to do when you want to take a photograph of your daughter when she's not too keen on having her photograph taken - that was my dilemma the other day on Portstewart Prom.  So I convinced her to stand innocuously in front of me and said 'Make it look like I'm taking your photograph, but actually I want to photograph the people sitting in the cafe behind you'.  She thought that was very clever and I did feel a little guilty about the fact that (unknowingly) she was actually the main subject.  But not that guilty.  Missy is changing so much these days - gone is the school kid of recent years and now she looks every bit the Uni Student, so I want to keep photographing her as much as I can.

The Student, 2022.  Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt and Mango Smoothie in hand.  She saw the group recently in Dublin and was well impressed.  So was I, even though I wasn't there.  Most of them are around my age, or slightly older.  
FP4+ on the 'Blad/50mm.  Foma 133 paper.


Monday, 8 August 2022

Wedding on the Prom

Saturday turned out to be quite a pleasant day here in The Liberties, and even better I had a date with Missy for lunch (brunch for her) in Portstewart.  The morning was quite cool, though, so I changed into a heavier shirt for our seaside promenade.  Turned out to be the wrong move, as I was overly warm in the afternoon sun.  Ah well. Unfortunately half of Northern Ireland had the same idea (Sun! Portstewart Prom!!  Yaaayyy!!!) but as that was fairly predictable I took the 'Blad along with me in the hope of getting some people snapped up.  

Our lunch was mediocre (poached eggs on sourdough bread, with avocado for moi and a granola berry yoghurt concoction for the young 'un, in case you were wondering.  The sourdough came on the side, the eggs sitting a bit lost looking on the plate and the avocado in a separate dish, so it was a kind of DIY put-it-together yourself job.  The eggs were ever-so-slightly overcooked and as a result it could have done with a little hollandaise or something.  The other thing that annoyed me (yep, I know, I'm easily annoyed) was that the cafe was one of those places that you come across now and again which guards the napkins like they are far too expensive to put out with the cutlery.  So you go and pick up your knife and fork, salt&pepper from the side and when you get to the table and put it all down you have to hope that someone has cleaned the surface properly.  Even worse, when the food arrived, it came with...yup, no napkins.  So then you have to find someone to ask.  Lord Almighty are the margins really that tight?  They're disposable napkins, I'm sure no-one steals handfuls of them...

Anyway, after lunch we had the usual dander along the Prom.  The place was busy, which was good, as no-one paid too much attention to the weird old guy with the big boxy camera.  Up at the Western End there was a wedding going on, in the Star of the Sea RC Chapel.  It looked like the main business had concluded, as there was a mighty thong exiting the Church and doing what guests do - mill around, talk to each other and wonder how long until they're getting fed.  Being Portstewart Prom, there was plenty of onlookers and so I did the decent thing and joined them.  

'Is she out yet'?  Waiting for the bride, Portstewart Prom, August 2022. 
Blad/50mm Distagon, FP4+ in HC-110, on Foma 133.

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Farming Life

I'm coming to the end of the shots from Ballymoney Agricultural Show, you may be glad to hear.  Truth be told we've been mad busy this last while and I've not been out and about with a camera much.  Plus we had a bit of a Covid scare as Missy tested positive a few weeks ago.  She was pretty sick for a few days, with a high temperature and fever in addition to the usual symptoms.  So much so that a phone call to the doctor was required, who prescribed a course of antibiotics and an inhaler.  Thankfully she improved quickly and is now pretty much back to normal, although still a little fatigued.  She did a good job of self-isolating in her bedroom and amazingly neither my wife or I went down with it.  I read somewhere that only 15% of people in England have never had Covid.  I don't know the statistic for Northern Ireland but I'm sure it's comparable - and I'm quite happy to remain in that group.

Anyway, here you go with another shot of cows and people in white coats.

The Charolais were nicely lined up for this shot - butt first.  I mentioned before about the amount of 'stuff' brought in order to get the animals in Show Condition - most of the guys are holding combs for brushing up the hides.  On the ground there's a small compressor and what looks like a vacuum cleaner.  Bags of something (feed, perhaps) and plenty of buckets and water to wash them down.  There was even a guy with a portable milking machine.  I got the impression that it wasn't just for show, but that it was needed for some of the milking cows.  I guess when they need milked, they need milked, no matter where they are.

I tried to print this one a couple of times previously, as I liked the scene but on Ilford MG Classic paper the cows disappeared into blackness and the men's coats were bleached out, so the prints were quickly filed in the wastebin.  So, another example of 'the right paper for the right negative', and Foma's MG Classic 133 Velvet did a great job. 

Monday, 1 August 2022

Down memory lane

I was having a bit of a tidy-up recently and came across a bunch of old transparencies from the 1970s.  Most are family shots but a few are of around and about home and this one caught my eye.  It's taken not far from our house, looking over the fields of a neighbouring farm:

Typical Northern Irish farmland in the 1970s.  It looks like it's early spring - there's not much growth in the green green grass of home and the fields in the distance look ploughed ready for crops (barley maybe, or more likely potatoes. Which reminds me of my favourite Oirish Joke: Two Auld Fellows standing by a gate contemplating life - mostly in silence. The sound of a lorry approaching shatters their peace. It passes without comment. Some moments later, one says: “Drink Guinness? Sure they’ll be telling us to eat potatoes next”

There's not that much of interest in this shot - a lot of not-very-exciting electricity poles and wires criss-crossing the countryside.  The small clump of trees in the middle distance was referred as the 'Wee Moss' by my grandfather and often we would walk over there on a Sunday just for a stretch of legs.  

What caught my eye were the rather beautiful stone gate-posts, all whitewashed.  With that exception the same scene today isn't much different - the trees and hawthorn hedges are bigger, of course, but the poles and wires are still there.  What isn't there today are the white stone gate-posts - they've mostly been replaced by grey concrete cast things - if they’ve been replaced at all, but no-one whitewashes them nowadays. And the gates (which would have been iron work in the 70s, possibly even hand-turned) are now mass produced aluminum affairs.  What a shame.

I mentioned finding some family shots and this one made me look twice.  It's of my mum, sitting in her favourite chair in the living room and obviously she didn't want her photograph taken, so she's holding up a magazine as defence.  But the way that magazine fell...:

My mother, April 1981.  That room today hasn't changed much.  She still uses the same chair, the piano is in the same place (though it doesn't get played so much these days) and, believe it or not, the same curtains are still hanging.  And yes, that means they are around 50 years old.  They're faded, of course, and a little religious in places (holy) but my mum grew up during wartime and rationing and so doesn't replace things if there's life still in them.  I keep asking her to pose for me in that chair in that same room but at the age of 90 she resolutely refuses, which I have to respect.  So be it. 

If you're wondering how I can be so precise about the date of this photograph the clue is in the Sunday Times Magazine cover.  A quick online search reveals it to be from April 5th 1981 (the lady on the cover is the politician Shirley Williams).  It's a pity my mum's hand is covering the headline, which reads 'Is she too nice?' 

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Secret Handshakes

A while back I gathered all my late Uncle's Masonic gear together in an attempt to document it, using an Olympus OM-1 and standard 50mm lens.  FP4+ was the film of choice and of course none other than the current favourite paper, Foma 133.  According to the manufacturer's notes, ideal for portrait and retro-style photography.  

I've posted before about my Uncle, who lived and worked in Belfast pretty much all of his adult life.  In the 60s and 70s it was common for men to have their societies and for professionals who were also Protestants, that pretty much meant Freemasonry and similar, such as the Royal Black Preceptory.  There were probably others too - I'm not big up on these, having never personally felt the need.  I suspect that membership is falling but I've no evidence for that, it's just my haunch given that society today is a little more inclusive and the need for all-boys-clubs is perhaps less than it once was.  I could be wrong, of course.

Impressive certificate (on very heavy parchment)

My Uncle had a ton of gear - they seem to have been highly ceremonial and ritualistic Societies (and probably still are).  Aprons, badges, medals, certificates, rings, sashes - you name it, he had it.  My mother finds the whole thing a bit scary - she refused to have the stuff inside her house.  I don't know if 'Secret Societies' would be an accurate description, but certainly parts of the ceremonies are shrouded in mystery to the outsider and certain words are never written down but must be communicated verbally only.  And we all know about the secret handshake.  Fair enough - I don't judge and to be honest I don't really have that great an interest in the whole thing.  My Uncle never really spoke about them to any degree that I can remember, other than to say they were, on the whole, Charitable Organisations.  He rose to be quite high up in several of them, from what I can see.  I suspect part of the attraction was simply to 'get out of the house' for a while and enjoy a night out with the lads - good food, interesting company and almost certainly a glass or two as well. 

A fraction of the regalia gathered together in a rather random fashion. 
I've no idea if this stuff belongs together or not, by the way. I also hope I don't get visited by shadowy figures any time soon for revealing anything which should not be have been revealed, but I'm also sure there's a lot more information 'out there' than appears on this page.

In the early 1980s, when my Uncle would have been big into this, I was living in England and for a year I found myself working at the British Gas Research Station in Solihull. I was on a 12-month placement then from my undergraduate degree.  When my time was up, I made an appointment to see the Divisional Head - someone who I never really had any dealings with other than to say 'Good Morning' when our paths crossed.  We said the usual things in that situation (Thanks for the opportunity, Good work well done etc) and as I took my leave we shook hands.  That was, I think, the one and only time I experienced 'the handshake' but it was only as I exited his office I thought to myself, What the heck was that?