Tuesday, 30 June 2015


From doing a bit of 'desktop research' I'm pretty sure this is Manavgat Waterfall, a short trip away from our conference location in Turkey in 1993.

Manavgat Waterfall
Nearly everywhere you pointed the camera around this area looked amazing, with a backdrop of mountains providing a stunning view.

Unfortunately people get in the way sometimes...

Some people, eh?

Kodachrome did the usual fantastic job of capturing the colour and beauty of the place.  It was early November and the weather was just perfect - hot enough, but not too hot.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Turkish Delight

For a fair few years I was an academic, which was a fantastic career as you got to work closely with young people, which is always rewarding.   As well as the day to day teaching (good), admin (not good) and research (good), it was always nice to go to a conference, particularly when that conference was somewhere new.  Sometime around 1993 I ended up in south-west Turkey, near Antalya.  The conference itself wasn't the highest-standing academic conference I've ever been involved with, but the upside was that we got to see a little of Turkey, and what a stunningly beautiful place it is.

Some old ruins somewhere in Turkey, 1993
Turkey is of course steeped in history and we got to see some old ruin-type places, like this one above.  Unfortunately I didn't take note of where this was, or if I did that note is long lost, but let's just say it's somewhere on the south coast of Turkey.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Beach pose

The last snap this week is of Missy posing on Portballintrae beach - the one what you seen yesterday, in common parlance.  She was sticking her face into the camera and giving a cheesy grin just for badness, so I just snapped her anyway, just for badness

Child, dog, beach, sun - what more is needed?
By chance I just caught the Dog-Hound-Thing in the background as well.  He's pretty good at clambering over rocks, what with his four-paw drive and all, but he does prefer a good ball-chasing on the sandy parts.

I have a sneaking suspicion this blog might be heading off on its hols next week - and most likely back in time as well.  Check back Monday to see what gives...

Thursday, 25 June 2015


Portballintrae (Port Bhaile an Tra), meaning port (landing place) at the settlement (town) of the strand (beach).   Whatever - a grand place for a day out.

This is a good time of year to go to Portballintrae (and indeed anywhere around the North Antrim coast) - before the tourists arrive in their hordes.  We were there a few weeks ago - you know the sort of thing, take a picnic, which gets devoured as soon as you arrive and the sea air hits you and then a bit of a walk.


This scene greets you at the western end of the village, before you get to the harbour.  The tide was well out, as you can see, so we were able to have a decent clamber over the rocks.  Not that I'm much good at clambering, what with me dodgy hips and all - took it all very easy I did.  Still, a great place for kids - rock pools teeming with life etc etc.

In the distance you can just about make out the Skerries and beyond them lies a faint outline of Donegal.  The sun was beating down and for once there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Perfect.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Ice cream

If you're reading this you probably already know that Portstewart is famous for many things - in addition to the general loveliness of the Prom, the bay and the views of Donegal.

Bad driving/parking is high on the agenda pretty much any time of the year on The Prom.  As is sitting in your car and either reading the paper or having your ice cream.  Ice cream works when you are strolling about the place as well, and Missy can usually be found guilty as charged.

Happiness is an ice cream
To be fair, as you can see Missy is quite happy with a little ice cream.  Not quite sure why Portstewart needs two telephone boxes on the Prom - I mean, does anyone ever use a public telephone any more?

As you can see, eating ice cream requires a degree of concentration - even from a seasoned ice cream eater like Missy...

Hmm...now how do I get that last bit out?

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Portstewart Bay

This snap was a bit of an experiment to see how Leica glass coped with direct sunlight.  The answer is pretty well - no flare, although the highlights are a little blown and the whole thing is lacking in contrast.  My fault for pointing the camera thing into the sun, but sometimes you have to try.

Fantastic composition, though, wouldn't you agree?  I mean, everything just positioned nicely to lead the eye into the centre where, well, where nothing much is happening.  Ah well, you can't win 'em all.

Into the light, Portstewart Bay 2015

I think my horizon is off slightly (again)...though it's hard to tell since the natural line of the headland in the distance isn't perfectly straight anyway.  Probably I should have 'rectified' this in Photoshop, but I didn't.

Still, if you can put up with the low contrast and the wonky horizon, the snap gets across something of the light and cloud formations we get in this part of the world.  Grand wee place, isn't it?  If I get my act together and get out in the evenings a bit more then hopefully I'll get some better snaps than this one.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Deirdre May and friends

Portstewart is just down the road from us and a lovely place it is too.  On this day we were all down for an amble up and down the promenade, as one does.

Deirdre May and Lady Jade, 2015

FP4+ in DD-X did a nice job of capturing the essence of the harbour.  We'd been watching CE510 out in the bay earlier (while having a cup of tea in my fav cafe) and although the harbour looks pretty calm there was a good swell out in the bay.  Definitely you would have needed your sea legs.  I stopped the fisherman dude coming off CE510 and asked if there was any mackerel about - he told me I was about a month too early.   A couple of years ago I went out on a similar boat from Portrush and ended up with enough mackerel for a few months - a thoroughly enjoyable day it was too.  Memorable not only for the quantity of mackerel caught, but also for the gannets which were diving in to steal them off our lines.  Huge birds, gannets, when you see them up close.  Hopefully we can all get out for another day's fishing this summer.  What the fisherman dude did have in his bucket, though, was about 6 lobsters, just out of the sea.  Although I have tasted lobster (and I liked it) I don't think I could bring myself to kill one of these beautiful creatures.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Derry-Londonderry Wrap-up

So here we are at the end of my little amble around Derry's Famous Walls.  Just a couple of snaps to wind things up.

The first is looking up Shipquay Street from the walls near the Guildhall - from Shipquay Gate to be precise.

Shipquay Street, Derry, 2015
Shipquay St. leads up to The Diamond, where the War Memorial is sited.  This was erected after the First World War in memory of those from the city that had fallen - although it wasn't until 1927 that the war memorial was formally unveiled.

As you know (!), Derry originally had 4 main gates - Bishop's Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Shipquay Gate and Butcher Gate, all of which led to the Diamond.  This is what Ferryquay Gate looked like on the day I was there:

Ferry Quay Gate, Derry
A very nice old structure it is too - even with the security camera on the pole in front of it.  Two pedestrian entrances as well as the larger one, which is wide enough for 2-way traffic - well, provided we're not talking Chelsea tractor-size traffic.  Mind you, where I live, about an hour East of Derry, you're just as likely to get a Massey Ferguson as a Range Rover.  Last night, for example, I did a quick milk&wine stop at my local Spar Service Station and there was not just a tractor, but a full combine harvester parked up.

The Public Records Office for NI has minutes of the Derry Corporation (the organisation which managed the City) dating back to February 1673.  This is quite some time ago - 80 years before the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar throughout the British Empire.  You can see the minutes online, but they are hard to read, being written in script.  The first minute book revels the concerns of the Corporation for the safety of the City - rightly so considering there were sieges in 1649 and 1689.  Apparently the first meeting recorded details the payment of 20 shillings, quarterly, to a Mr Edward Cooper for keeping the locks and keys of the City Gates in good order.

So that was a very quick tour of Derry's Famous Walls - hope you enjoyed it!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

St Columb's Hall

I have 2 snaps for you today of 'historic buildings' in Derry-Londonderry.  Both I have a personal connection to, upon which I shall elaborate in the near future (Ed: Jeez Louise, have you listened to yourself lately?  Plain English, please...).

This first building is the Orchard Cinema, on Orchard Street, no less (no prizes for guessing the derivation of that street name, eh?!).  Not many trees around now, though - just these young couple, captured forever on film.

Orchard Cinema, Derry, 2015

I went there once, to watch a film.  I can remember the film - it was shortly after I arrived in Derry and very appropriate it was too...Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson.  Well maybe the fear part was appropriate, not the loathing, since I enjoyed Derry enormously.  Now if you don't know who this particular Mr Thompson is I suggest you get your Google out and go look.  And then go read.  And then go see.  And then you will understand.  Directed by Mr Terry Gilliam, no less - so you know it's going to be different.  IMDB's synopsis reads 'An oddball journalist and his psychopathic lawyer travel to Las Vegas for a series of psychedelic escapades.'  Nothing more needs to be said.

The other thing I remember about this cinema is just how darn civilised it was...there was a small bar area, so you could get your drink and then take - yes, take - your drink, in a glass no less, into the projection area and sit and watch and sup.  How wonderful is that?  If all cinemas were like that I might go a bit more often...

The next building I have for you is round the corner from the cinema and is St. Columb's Hall - in fact, I think the cinema is technically part of the St Columb's Hall building.   When I was an academic and did all sorts of Important Things I went here once for the end-of-year graduation.  I remember it for two things - it was a lovely building inside and out, but with several hundred people inside, in early July, without air-con, it was hell on earth.   Anyway, here's what it looks like from the outside:

St Columb's Hall, Derry
You can probably just make out the Millennium Forum next door - I was there too one year but it's modern and instantly forgettable.  I didn't even take a proper snap of it, even though it sneaked into this one.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Peace Bridge

The Peace Bridge spans the River Foyle, connecting Ebrington Square on the Waterside to the City Side.  It opened in 2011 and looks pretty funky - it's not straight like most bridges, it's all curvy-like and it's for walking and cycling over, in case you didn't know.  I didn't walk or cycle across it the day I was ambling around Derry's Famous Walls, but you can get a glimpse of it from the walls near Guildhall Square - as I did:

16th Century Demi-Culverin & 21st Century Peace Bridge
I thought this was a good snap - a cannon pointing at the Peace Bridge - geddit?  (Ed: Yes, yes, we get it).  Ah well, it tickled me, anyway.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015


We are all tourists to some extent, right?  I mean, we're all just passing through...  But you can't help but smile at proper real tourists from time to time, when you 'appen upon them.  Like I did on Derry's Famous Walls a few weeks ago.

So here we have a wee group of them, led by a leader, no doubt.

Derry - inside and outside
Americans I think they were - on Derry's Famous Walls.  Now I have a lot - that is, *a lot* - of time for Americans.  The Brother is even married to one and lives amongst them.  And I find them a very hospitable lot.  I like their openness, always ready to speak their mind.  We Irish, on the Other Hand, keep our innermost thoughts to ourselves.  Good or bad, c'est la vie, n'est-ce pas?!

Anyway, this little group on The Walls the other day didn't stop my progress one little iota.  I walked on through.  Oh, by the way, that's the famous Bogside on the left, y'know - Sackville St and all that.  Famous that is....

So amble on I did (Ed: is that proper English?)  and I came round by Magazine St., as you do.  And I thought I'd take a wee snap, as you do.  And guess what.  Some flippn tourist decided to stroll past me and get in me photo...

Spot the tourist
He was Eye-talian, or something.  Foreign anyway.  The thing is, he walked right past me (while I had me camera at me eye), then turned around and re-joined his family behind me.  Just for the lark.  I just had to snap him anyway, for the sake of it.  So there he his, for eternity (or however long this Web Server is in existence for).  And that's Magazine St on the right, what with the Nerve Centre and all, with my mates Pearse Moore and Marty Melarky who are genuine major special people.

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Guildhall

Probably the best known building in Derry-Londonderry is The Guildhall.  This one was built in 1890 but there was an older Guildhall in the Diamond area built in the 17th Century.  This new one though is pretty splendid, in red brick and with magnificent stained glass windows.  The name reflects the impact the London City and Guilds had in the formation of the City of Derry at the start of the Plantation of Ulster.  Apparently the building was originally called Victoria Hall...hmm.

Guildhall, from the walls
As you walk round the walls you get a great view of Guildhall Square and the Guildhall itself.  There are a row of late 16th/early 17th Century cannons pointing towards it, one of which is captured above just for you.

Here you can see the row of cannons - well, you can just about make them out if you click on the picture...

Cannons&Guildhall, Derry 2015

I took a closer look at one of the cannons and found this plaque:

400-year old cannons on Derry's walls

So that's what a Demi-Culverin is!

Guildhall Square
As you can see this is a rubbish photograph - I cut the top of the Guildhall off and didn't even get the clock tower in.  Note to self...Must Try Harder.  In mitigation I was trying hard not to converge my verticals, if you know what I mean.  I didn't have the Sinar with me - just a wee rangefinder, which doesn't have a tilt or shift lens.

Guildhall Square is used for concerts and open-air events.  There wasn't much happening the day I was there, as you can see.  As I don't like crowds I was quite OK with that - more on that subject tomorrow!

Saturday, 13 June 2015


The streets in Derry's city centre have names which reflect its colourful history - like these two here.

Artillery St meets London St, Derry
As well as Artillery St., nearby we have Magazine St., Waterloo St. and Castle St.  Then there are the usual Plantation-type names like Guildhall St., Society St. and the more generic Market St., Butcher's St., Pump St. and Fountain St.  The building in the snap above has had a variety of uses over the years - originally built in 1795 as a theater it is now the CofI Synod Hall.

Derry lies on the River Foyle and a number of streets take their names from it, such as FerryQuay St. Shipquay St., Bridge St, Foyle St and even Water Street.

Bishop St Within

Like any walled city Derry has a number of gates dotted around - essential for providing access in and out of the city.  While some of these gates are in their original position others have been added later, to provide better access.  One of the four original gates is Bishop's Gate, and this snap above is what you see when you look towards the city from standing on it.  On the right you can just about make out the columns of the courthouse - always a busy place on Monday mornings after a hard weekend's partying in the city.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

On the walls

Derry's walls are surprisingly wide, as you can see in these snaps.  And of course they are remarkably well-preserved, famously never having been breached despite a number of sieges - hence the name 'Maiden City' as sometimes Derry-Londonderry is called.   The walls were built by The Hon the Irish Society at the beginning of the 17th Century as defences for the early settlers from England and Scotland.

Not a sinner about the place - literally

As you walk around you can't help notice the strange little towers from time to time, like this one above.  Obviously a look-out sort of thingmy, with small openings to peer through and see if your enemy is coming at you with a loaded musket, or whatever they had to throw at you in those days.  The one above is just opposite St Columb's cathedral - hence the caption.

Another look-out post
I presume the railings in this one aren't original - probably put there recently to stop local disaffected youths from climbing in and doing some damage.  It looks pretty cramped inside this one - not sure I'd fancy getting in there myself, particularly in the middle of a siege with an angry mob outside throwing all sorts at you.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


You can't really read much about Derry-Londonderry without coming across St Columba, or Colmcille.  Although it isn't entirely clear whether or not he founded a settlement here in the 6th Century, it would seem to be the case that a monastery from that time had Colmcille as its spiritual leader.  St Columba was a busy man, building churches all over the place, including the famous Abbey at Iona in Scotland.  In those days Iona was part of the Irish Kingdom of Dal Riata (Dalriada) and Colmcille is widely acknowledged as being at the forefront of spreading Christianity to the pagan Picts as well as being a spiritual leader to the Gaels.

One of Derry's two cathedrals is St Columba, a Church of Ireland cathedral built in the early 1600s.  Apparently it was the first non-Roman Catholic cathedral built in Europe, no less.  Wouldn't you just know, though - this being Norn Iron and all.

St Columb's Cathedral
Since I didn't have much time on my hands the day I was in Derry I didn't venture into the grounds of the cathedral itself, so we'll have to leave that for another day.  It was built during the early part of the Plantation of Ulster but not on the original site of the diocesan cathedral, which was in Templemore (An Teampall Mor, or Big Church).   The Templemore church was damaged in the late 16th Century in a fire and the ruins were apparently torn down and their stones used to build Derry's Walls and ramparts in 1600 by Sir Henry Docwra.  The plaque above attributes the building of St Columb's to The Hon The Irish Society, as you can see.

Walk a bit further around the walls and you get to the beautiful wee church of St Augustine.  

St Augustine's Church, Derry
Although this present church was erected in 1872 the site itself being that of the original Comcille monastery of 546AD.  Apparently a cannonball containing the terms for surrender during the seige of Derry in 1688/9 fell into the church graveyard.  It was originally called Dub Regles (Black Church). The locals call it the 'wee church on the walls', which seems to sum it up quite nicely - and as we know, folk in these parts are comfortable with places having more than one name, right?

Dub Regles
As you would expect in a place as old as this there are a number of interesting gravestones in the churchyard.  Apparently one of the oldest is that of Richard Carrec, an Elizabethan soldier who died around 1609.  St Augustine's is also where one of the High Kings of Ireland, Muircertach Mac Lochlainn was 'honourably interred' in 1196.  Hopefully I'll get a chance to explore this in a bit more detail, perhaps in the summer when Missy is off school and her real education can start.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Derry's Walls

A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to go to the famous city of Derry-Londonderry.  Famous for many things, Derry is - some good, some not so good.   I was visiting the emergency eye clinic at Altnagelvin Hospital, due to another attack of iritis - inflammation of the iris of the eye, which people with ankylosing spondylitis can get from time to time.  This is only the second time in 35 years I've had it, but since both occurrences have been within in the last 6 months I'm not too happy about it.  Iritis can be a serious condition if left untreated, but if you catch it early enough then it's usually OK.  The treatment consists mainly of steroid drops for up to 6 weeks and initially a second set of drops which dilate the pupil.  So for the first week you have one normal pupil and one huge pupil and it does look quite freaky - or so Missy tells me.

But that's enough about me - we are here today to celebrate Derry's historic walls, around which I walked before heading to Altnagelvin.  Fortunately I had a wee camera with me, so I was able to take some snaps which I will present to you now over the course of the next week or so.

A big gun thing on the walls
We'll get to some history of the place in due time, but for today here are a couple of big guns for you.

Another gun
The walls are wide enough to walk around - and a very pleasant hour or two can be spend ambling around them.  You are quite high up above the hustle and bustle of the city, so it's very peaceful.

As you can see, the city has been built up all around the walls - this row of houses is particularly close, as you can see.  The good folk who live in them probably don't have the view from their bedroom windows - and to cap it all you get people like yours truly pointing a camera in their direction as well.  Heavy nets all round, methinks.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Castleroe wrap-up

Last couple of snaps from the wee tour around Castleroe wot I done the other day.  Nothing spectacular here - I apologise in advance for the rubbish subject matter.

What 'av we 'ere then?
So what's to see here? Nothing much - apart from a typical Norn Iron sky, some grass and some leaf-less trees taken in the late Spring of 2015.  Note the tree on the right - now there is something that annoys the heck out of me.  The trunk is covered in ivy, which you find a lot around these parts.  I have to say that I do not like ivy one little bit.  Probably as I spent the best part of 6 months trying to remove it from our outhouses - it had a real hold on them, particularly on the roofs and there was a micro eco-system all of its own, complete with soil and everything.  A haven for mini-beasts and flies of all types.  Why do people actually plant ivy? Have they no idea?!  The walls around Mother's house are covered in it, and I can tell you after 50 years the ivy has won.  There is no way it could be removed from around her house, without a serious digger coming in to flatten everything.  Horrible stuff, ivy.  OK, rant over!

More trees&stuff

So that concludes our little exploration around Castleroe.  Next time I'm out and about I might take better snaps - let's hope so, eh?!

Thursday, 4 June 2015


Another couple of snaps from round and about.  This old mill-structure-thing was found way out past a wee village called Balnamore, just outside Ballymoney.  Always reminds me of Balamory - the programme that Missy used to love when she was wee.  You know what I'm talking about - Miss Hooley and all that.

Old Mill?
I say 'old mill', but I really have no idea what this building was used for.  Looks like some sort of grain hopper, but I'm only guessing.  Looked quite interesting to me, so I snapped 'er up for your delight.

What used to be here?
If you look very closely in this shot there's a wee bit of a stone wall lurking in the undergrowth.  I wonder what wee hovel sort of a place used to be there?  Probably housed three generations of family that did, once upon a time.  Actually, probably not that long ago - perhaps 100 years or so.  Funny how times have changed.  Now we're worrying about whether the iPhone 5c or the 5s is a better buy - I'm assuming no-one reading this post has an iPhone 6, of course.  Personally I'm holding out for an iPhone 10.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Deeper Cutts

Yesterday saw a couple of wee snaps from The Cutts, just outside Coleraine.  There's a lock for boats wanting to travel up or downstream and this strange little cabinet-type thing was just beside the lock.  There were two of them, one either side and at opposite ends of the lock gates.

Lock apparatus
If you look closely there is a piece of iron sticking out, so my take on it is that you stick a handle on this and then wind the lock gates open.  Never done it myself, not being a boaty sort, so if I'm barking up the wrong tree then let me know in the comments below.

Gate for controlling water level

Despite the rather turbulent water it was actually very peaceful up beside The Cutts - and as Arnie famously said, I'll be back.  I'd imagine anytime there is a lot of rain or no rain (unusual for these parts) then the gate thingy in the snap above is used to control the water level upstream, with subsequent implications for the downstream level.  In fact, the gentleman who spoke to me (see yesterday's post about the swan) asked me if I thought that swan's eggs would be damaged by being under water.  I was a bit taken aback by his question until he informed me they had closed the gates recently, which caused the water level to rise above the nest.  I hadn't a clue, but I should imagine if it wasn't for that long no damage would be done - as long as they didn't float away of course.  Any ideas?

Beautiful swirling waters of The Bann, captured on FP4+

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Visit to The Cutts

I've mentioned The Cutts before, but I was up the other day for a wee walk around and very nice it was too.  The Cutts is the name given to the stretch of the River Bann just up past Mountsandel, which was developed in the early part of the 17th Century about the same time as the big merchant guilds of London were gifted large areas of land around here.  Coleraine was to be fortified (ramparts!!)  and developed, and they needed timber, which was plentiful in the large forests upstream.  At Mountsandel the river was too shallow to allow boats to pass so the large basalt rocks that formed the river bed were cut into several times (Cutts, geddit?) in order to allow larger boats to get to Coleraine, just a mile or so downstream.

It was also a great place for salmon, and the salmon fishery netted unbelievable numbers of fish - 62 tonnes in one day apparently.  All proceeds to The Honourable The Irish Society, no less.

The Cutts at Mountsandel
They don't look particularly interesting from a distance - although you can see the drop in the level of the river bed quite clearly - but walk up a bit closer (noting the kingfishers which are always around this stretch of water) and things get a little more exciting...well maybe exciting isn't exactly the word I'm looking for, but you know what I mean, right?

Good fishing!
Note the heron standing by the side of the river, hoping to catch his (or her!) lunch.  Just to the left of the building (out of view, unfortunately) is a swan's nest, as I was informed by a friendly chap who happened by - one of the staff who manage The Cutts.  I'll see if I can't get a wee photo of it sometime soon, although it'll be from a distance, as I don't fancy annoying a fully-grown swan by getting too close.

Wouldn't that be the grand wee cottage for some-one who wants to go to sleep listening to the sound of lapping water?  You'd need to like fish, I should imagine, but at least you'd get no bother from the neighbours - and there's a lot to be said for that, isn't there?!

More to come tomorrow from this neck of the woods, or river if you get my drift.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Grass down the middle...

I have a thing for tracks with grass growing down the middle.  The driveways to both Mother's and our house has grass down the middle - none of your tarmac here, thank you very much.  I nearly went spare when we had a digger around some years ago and the Big Lig driving it started scraping away at the grass.  He looked at me like I wasn't wise, which is probably the case.

Today's first snap was taken out Castleroe way (Ed: Blimey you're getting good mileage out of that trip around Castleroe, aren't you?)

What's over the hill?

You can tell the time of year this snap was snapped since the gorse (or whins, as we called them in our youth) is out, ready to be picked for colouring your eggs.  Does anyone still do that?  We tried a few years ago when Missy was small, but the gorse would cut you to pieces.  And then when you get home you realise that since all eggs these days are brown they don't colour well anyway.  I say they don't colour well - what I mean is they don't colour at all.  Whatever happened to white eggs?  Even when we kept hens (that's another story) they laid brown eggs...must be in the feed I guess.

Here's Mother's laneway - isn't it just lovely?

Mother's drive
Mother tells me she planted those trees when they first came here, just after getting married in 1960.  There's a bit of history about Mother's place - but that will keep for another day.