Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Cuppa, anyone?

As I was trawling through The Archives the other day, wondering why I took so many bad snaps back when I was a teenager, I came across a couple of negatives which weren't of fields, motorbikes or bands.  Negs that I thought warranted a place on here.

This shot was taken in our kitchen sometime in the late 1970s.  Yes I know there's a lovely reflection of yours truly in the kettle, but we'll ignore that.

Kitchen Life in the 1970s

I can still remember those mugs - in fact, Mother probably still has them in a cupboard somewhere.  Not that she's a hoarder, you understand - she just doesn't like waste.

Peaches, I hear you say, in Ireland, in the 70s?  I know - I don't know how those got there either.

Under that tinfoil I can almost guarantee there's an apple tart lurking - in those days my mum could make an apple tart in her sleep.  With 2 growing lads and my dad around the house they didn't last long, I can tell you.  Note the pastry brush in the jar - no point in putting that away...

Next to Daisy is a jar of home-made raspberry jam.  We ate a lot of home-made stuff in those days and we still do quite well I think.  Of course the tea-caddy isn't far from the kettle - almost camouflaged next to the rather busy '70s wall-paper.  Big tea-drinkers in The Liberties - then and now, although these days I'm a green tea-drinker...or should that be a green-tea drinker.  Whatever.

Anyway, that was just a little taster, so to speak, of what is to come - although the theme for the next couple of days will be more photography than kitchen.  You have been warned.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus

Honest to goodness, sometimes this seems more like a blog on languages rather than anything else.  Not Irish Gaelic this time - for a change we have a bit of Latin for you today.  Apparently this means something like 'for so much what shall we repay' and is the motto on Belfast City's Coat of Arms, the thing wot you can see attached here to the City Hall gates - well, in image form anyway, you know what I mean...

Belfast's Coat of Arms

If you look closely you'll see a ship on the shield and I'm reliably informed that that's a sea-horse on the top, both of which signify the importance of water and shipbuilding to the city.  Funny business the old heraldic you can see the shield has a chained wolf and another sea-horse as supporters.  Hmm.

Around the right side of City Hall is the Cenotaph.  

Belfast Cenotaph
Now just take a look, will you, at the buildings behind the Cenotaph.  I daresay the chaps or chapettes who designed the building on the left were fairly happy with their efforts - before the horrible dormer-type windows were added, that is.  But seriously, the building to the right - I mean, what is all that about?  Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris (aka Le Corbusier) may have approved, but I reckon he's the only one...

The thing that I didn't snap up on my walk around the grounds of City Hall was a huge TV screen, which just seemed so out of keeping with the rest of the place I couldn't bear to point the camera at it in case the lens cracked or something.  Some 24-hour news channel was being broadcast to all and sundry and I wasn't paying much attention to it until some bloke walked past and said something to me.  I think he mistook me for a tourist, what with the camera and the aimless wander I was engaged in.  I asked him to repeat what he said and as he strode past he shouted, 'They never tell the truth', as he gestured with his head to the big TV behind him.  I caught the eye of the guy walking behind yer man and we both grinned in acknowledgment of the example of Belfast wit we had just witnessed.

He's right too, you know - they don't...

Monday, 28 September 2015

Retail therapy

Belfast, or Béal Feirste (Mouth of the Sandbanks) if you prefer.  So good that Boney-M made a song about it.  Ever been there?  I was there a few weeks ago - why I can't recall.  Suffice to say while Mrs N-E-Liberties and Missy were off getting some serious retail therapy in the Big City I chose to dander about with a 35mm rangefinder made in Germany sometime towards the end of last Century.

This was Missy after her therapy.  Looks like it was good, doesn't it?

That 'post-retail-therapy' look

Belfast is famous for, of course, the Harland and Wolff shipyards, where a certain RMS Titanic was built.  Hmm...less said about that the better, maybe.

Belfast is also famous for a burgeoning film scene, with GoT (Game of Thrones) the #1 attraction.  They seemed to have filmed all over Northern Ireland, particularly around the North Coast.  I'm not a fan - although I seem to be in the minority there.

Anyway, I found myself wandering around City Hall - and a mighty fine building it is too.  Queen Victoria looks after it, as you can see here:

Victoria outside Belfast City Hall
Apparently Victoria granted Belfast its City Status in 1888 and City Hall built was built in celebration.  It's very well guarded, City Hall is - Victoria at the front and some bloke with a gun standing on a boulder round the side....

Garden of Remembrance, City Hall
I'm not sure which would be the easiest route into City Hall - past Victoria or this chap above.  I think I'd take my chances with the soldier - Victoria looks mightily scary.

Friday, 25 September 2015


Friday again - aren't they quick coming around?  And what a treat I have for you today.  Today I bring you the one, the only...(drum roll)...Mr Frankie Miller!

Whadayamean, who?  The Frankie Miller - as in the Scottish singer-songwriter who came to The Liberties in June 1979.  Mr Miller is a bit of legend in the industry although to be fair he is probably better known for his songwriting than chart success (although I'm told he did reach #1 in the Norwegian Singles Charts in 1978 with Darlin' - I wonder if Mr Roy Karlsvig remembers it?)

Many of the greats have covered his songs, including Roy Orbison, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Ray Charles, The Osmonds, Johnny Cash, Joe Walsh...

Now this set of snaps belongs not to me, but to the Brother - but they are much better than I would have taken anyway.  Also, the Brother was always that wee bit more organised than I was, so I can tell you the negs were developed on 21/4/79 and that they were taken with a Pentax SPII using HP5 rated at 1000ASA.

Here's a couple backstage, to set the scene as it were - with Mr Miller clearly in fine form as he gets himself psyched up for the show.  I printed these as I want them on my wall.  Ilford RC Warmtone in Multigrade.

Mr Frankie Miller (that'll be him on the left there)
And yes, I do believe the eagle-eyed among you are correct and that is indeed a young and very talented Henry McCullough beside Frankie.  Henry was born just down the road here in Portstewart and has played with some very big names in a long career. He was lead guitarist with Paul McCartney and Wings for a few years - enough said, I think.

Here is our Frankie giving 'the stare'...or something.

Very impressive...

I've no idea what he's doing in this next one - but I could just imagine his mother saying 'Frank, don't do that with your face, dear - it's not nice'.

Not very impressive...

But enough of this preamble - "Bring On the Band", I hear you shout!

Frankie Miller, 1979

Sometime a little later in 1979

I'm afraid the shots of Mr Miller singing and playing aren't nearly as interesting as the ones backstage - but that's film photography for never know what you're going to get until a couple of weeks later when you actually develop the film.  Still, thanks Mr Frankie Miller for coming all the way to The Liberties with your band way back in 1979 and thanks to The Brother for this fine set of snaps.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Cow Parsley

I don't the proper name for it, but that's what it's called round these parts, where it grows like a bad weed along the roadsides.  We even have some in our garden - cough - by design, of course.   And that is so 'in', don't you know?  It was Mother who had been watching the Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year and informed me it was very popular and that you could even buy plugs of Cow Parsley.   Well maybe in Chelsea, but not round here - I mean, folk in the Liberties would just look at you as if you weren't wise if you tried selling it to them.

Anyway, here is some, captured on film, down our road.

Cow Parsley

It really is quite lovely when you actually stop to look at it in the flesh, so to speak - not on these very mediocre snaps.

Down our road
So this is our little patch, our road and we don't like anyone else using it - although they do.  We know they do as they throw their rubbish out of their cars as they drive along it.  Last year we couldn't stand it any more and took Direct Action.  Yes...that's right, we picked it up, all 12 large black sacks full of it - just along the bit in the snap above.   And 2 car tyres.   All of which is very annoying considering there are 2 council recycling yards within a mile of here.   But clearly that's too much trouble for some people, who want the insides of their car to be rubbish-free right-now-this-minute and give not a jot about the beautiful countryside.  I just don't get it.

By the way, you see that little shed-thing there above, in the field on the right?  Looks fairly innocuous, doesn't it.  Well that is our connection to the InformationSuperHighway, don't you know.  It's a high-speed Internet hub, which links directly to the undersea fibre-optic cable running from the UK to the USA.  From here it goes all around Northern Ireland (and links to Dublin somewhere along the way) - it takes about 1 millisecond for a single bit of information to travel all round Ulster, apparently.  Unfortunately - or fortunately depending on your point of view - we can't avail of it, being only normal people.  We have to rely on good old copper connections from the nearest BT cabinet, which is over a mile away and so we get rubbish broadband speeds.  Not that I'm really that bothered to be honest, since neither my cameras, developing tanks nor darkroom need bits and bytes to work...and when I think about that, I think I'm OK with the state of things as they are.  

View from our house

Anyway, this last one shows the view from our house - well, if you step outside the front door and turn your head, that is.  Note the Cow Parsley at the entrance - kind of a greeting to visitors what to expect, or rather what not to expect should they choose to enter our humble abode.  I hesitate to call this a driveway, since it used to be part of the field on the right and when it's been raining solid for a few days it starts to resemble a field again a little too much for my liking.  But don't you just love the grass growing down the middle?...nearly as nice as Mother's lane, which you saw here, if you remember.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Barmouth

Walk up yesterday's beach a little and you get to the Barmouth - where the River Bann flows out to the big sea.  The name Barmouth reflects the presence of a 'bar' at the mouth of the river - a shoal of sand thrown up between the tide and the fresh-water current of the Bann.  Before the bar was regularly dredged, ships' pilots had to be extremely careful not to touch one of these sandbanks, since once the ship had grounded there was little chance of getting free and the waves would soon break up the vessel.  The piers or moles which are at the entrance to the Bann were first built in 1880 and since then dredging has been performed regularly to make the river mouth more navigable.

The last major incident, you may like to know, was the Burgundia, which struck the left pier you see below as it was leaving the Bann in 1981 and was carried onto Castlerock beach.  It was towed away for scrap a few weeks later.  What's that - it's cargo?  Ah come on now - you're pulling my leg. Potatoes, of course...

Dog-Hound-Thing on the West Mole at the Barmouth

Turn the other way and you see this - the wide expanse of the river just before it enters the Atlantic Ocean.  Horrible snap, I know - but sometimes it happens, y'know.

River Bann at the Barmouth

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Perfect seaside weather

As y'all know, this part of the world has spectacular sandy beaches and usually the Grand View for a backdrop.  And best of all, we don't get much sun.  No sun is good for 2 reasons - firstly, it keeps folk away from the seaside and secondly, clouds look good on FP4+.

Case in point.  Castlerock, just down the road a bit.  August.  Not a sinner about.

Looking west towards Donegal/Inishown

Turn around and you get this:

Looking east, towards Portstewart

I must get out there more often - it does look good.  And in case you're wondering, there are no artificial additives here - it came out of DD-X looking like that.  I might have to slosh that one about in the darkroom sometime and stick it on the wall, as one does.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Old negatives, new prints

Saturday morning was good.   I was alone in the house - just me and my nearly-finished darkroom.   No running water yet but otherwise good enough to spend some quality time in now that me enlarger has its new lights.  I've been itching to print some old family negatives that Mother was smart enough to find, keep and then hide away somewhere dry for several decades until some-one took an interest.

This is a print from what I reckon is the oldest negative we have - this is my grandfather (maternal) and we reckon it was taken around 1925, when he would have been in his early 20s.  So that would make this neg about 90 years old - a bit tatty, a bit scratched, but overall not too bad.  Snapped in 1925, printed in 2015 - how good is that?!

My grandfather, c1925

He's all dressed up here, for some reason - even down to the handkerchief in his breast pocket and of course the shoes were polished to death, a là mode.  Note the cigarette in his hand - smoked Woodbine all his life, he did, until he was well into his seventies.   As a kid I can remember his fingers stained brown from them - unfiltered as they were.  But he really never had a sick day in his life and lived until he was 89, which was a right good innings.

It printed quite well (considering my lack of expertise in this field).  Just for the record, it's a 6x9 negative, and since I didn't have a 6x9 negative carrier for the DeVere I knocked one up, from cardboard, as you do.  It won't win any design awards but seemed to hold the neg flat enough long enough for me to get a print made.

Next up we have a print from a negative dating from around 1928.  This one is of my father, alongside his father - I reckon my dad is about 13 or 14 here.  His dad was born in 1880 and so he would be in his late 40s here.  You've seen an earlier version of him before (albeit in a scan of print) - right at the beginning of this blog. He was a big chap, as you can see - a butcher, by trade.  The rather impressive-looking cap he is wearing here was certainly doing a good job of keeping the sun out of his eyes, at any rate.

My Father, with his Father, c1928
The gear my father is wearing is interesting - although of course it's very formal for a young fellow compared to nowadays.  Big hand-knit woolen socks, lace boots.  And of course the short trousers and double-breasted coat, button down collar shirt and tie.  They are obviously on a beach - perhaps it was a Sunday walk, which might explain why they are all dressed up. (Ed: Quite the little Sherlock we are today, aren't we?)

This last one if of Mother, from around 1946.  That's her on the right and her brother second from left.   This snap is a bit special but also a bit sad as her brother died soon after this was taken - electrocuted, by accident.  My mother's mum, by the way, made all her clothes for her when she was growing up, including the dress she is wearing here.  I guess this wasn't uncommon in these parts for two reasons - one, there wasn't much money around and two, this being the centre of the linen trade people knew how to sew and make garments from cloth.

Mother (right) and her brother, c1946

I must admit I really enjoyed bringing these old negs back to life, so to speak - decades after they were taken.  I know I could have just scanned them and all that, but it's not the same - as you know.  Ilford Warmtone RC Pearl in multigrade, if you're interested.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Senses working overtime

Since it's Friday, we'll delve in to The Archives and see what gives.  As you all know, we're on a Friday Music Theme at the minute - but I'm warning you now, that won't last for ever, OK?

Now living where we do, we were never going to get top, top bands coming every week - but for a while in the late 70s we got a few decent ones.   XTC were a bit more 'Pop' than Dr Feelgood or Status Quo, but solid performers nonetheless and even had a few chart hits - I mean, who could forget 'We're only making plans for Nigel', or even 'Senses working overtime'?

Andy Partridge from XTC, 1978-ish

Colin Moulding on bass guitar looks like he'd rather be anywhere else in this shot - although maybe he's just trying to be cool.

Colin Moulding, acting cool, baby

I always liked bands with keyboards and XTC's Barry Andrews was on form that night I seem to recall - interestingly he had a prominent role up front on stage beside Andy Partridge.

A bit of keyboard never hurt anyone

XTC's front man

This next shot is not the best by any means, but it's interesting as a snap of its time.  My guess is that the band had just come on stage when I pressed the shutter - the guy in the 'hidden' doorway with the mustache was our resident DJ/MC Al Simpson.  I like the trail of rather serious-looking electrical leads neatly tracked over the door and just the general clutter on the stage...very Health and Safety!

Those were the days...

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Slán go fóill Dún na nGall

Occasionally you round a bend in the wilds of Donegal and see something you just didn't expect.   We stayed in Bunbeg, which is a collection of houses, pubs and shops (I'd hesitate to call it a village) about as far West as you can go in Donegal before hitting water.  As we stretched our legs and took the air down by the beach we were a little surprised to see this:

Abandoned Guest House, Bunbeg

I mean, this building is huge - compared to everything else in Bunbeg.  And of course it is now vacant - who in their right minds would have thought you could fill a guest house this size in this part of the world?  It's about as far West in Europe as you can get, for goodness' sake - no-one, but no-one is ever going to be just passing through there, if you get my drift - if you ever find yourself here, it's by design.

Anyway, Dr C, his Bro and I decided this place would form the perfect set for our new horror movie, based loosely on The Shining.  You can just picture the scene...'Here's Paddy!!' - except Paddy would probably have one of these instead of an axe.  (It's well worth clicking on that link, by the way - where you won't see a finer example of Gender Equality).  Anyway, we're expecting a call from Spielberg, or maybe Ridley Scott would do since Mr Kubrick is no longer with us.  Any time soon lads would be fine by us...

So that about wraps up this little road trip to the Wild West.  Goodbye Donegal and we'll see you soon - or Slán go fóill Dún na nGall if you prefer.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Road to nowhere

We drove down this road somewhere in the Derryveagh mountains and then we stopped and looked back - and it had disappeared!  I snapped up the disappearing road just so as you could see it and believe me and then I printed it.  It's very flat (the print, that is).

Road to nowhere, Donegal

I don't know why I took this next photograph - perhaps it was by accident when I was changing films.

Nothing much going on here...
I know it's rubbish, but this snap kind-of captures the essence of Donegal - some ferny bracken, water, a hill, some clouds and some fairly boggy land, with not much going on besides.  Quite nice, really.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Real Donegal

Anyway, since we've done 'the sights' of Donegal to death over the last few days, let's see some ordinary snaps of the place.

Here's one:

 Somewhere near Errigal

And another one:

Lovely, isn't it? - even in a bad print.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Grianan of Aileach

The Grianan of Aileach lies just over the border from Derry, in County Donegal.  The main attraction is a stone ringfort-thingmy which dates back to at least the 6th or 7th Century (although some say as far back as 1700 BC).  It sits high on a hill with a commanding view all around and is well worth a visit - though as you walk up to it you are pretty much guaranteed to get the head blown off you by the prevailing westerly winds, no matter the time of year.  It's always an amazing change when you enter the structure, through a long, low passageway - the walls are about 13 feet thick, for goodness' sake.  Total silence, no wind - perfectly calm and all mysterious-like.

This is the view looking out from inside:

Looking out towards Derry
And this is what you get when inside:

View from inside

As you can see, there are three steeped terraces and not so long ago I would have chanced my arm and got up to the top for a wee look over but this time around I was content to stay on terra firma and take a couple of snaps.

Did you see what I just did there?  Hmm...??  Yes, that was a scan of a print.  And yes I do know it is pretty awful - but in my defence it has been a while since I was playing around with chemicals in a darkroom.  The clouds I like.  And the grass.  It's just the circular stony thing in the middle that is rubbish - good job that's not important, then, isn't it?  It's on Ilford RC Warmtone in Multigrade, in case you're interested.

Stones everywhere - and no handrails

It is said that St Patrick visited here in the 5th Century and baptised the local chieftain, Eoghan - which is where Inishowen gets it's name from (Inis Eoghan, or Isle of Eoghan).   But I would take talk of St Patrick's visit with a pinch of salt - it's a bit like being a pub in England which has a sign saying 'Shakespeare drank here'.

Looking towards Lough Swilly and Inishowen peninsula

The nice thing about Ireland in general and Donegal in particular is that it's rare to get the full-on tourist experience at these sort of places.  By that I mean in spite of Grianan of Aileach being quite impressive, there is no visitor's centre, no leaflets, no interactive computer-generated walk-through of the fort as some-one decided it might look like in the 5th Century and no entry costs.  You just get the fort itself and all the time you want to dander about and waste film.  Perfect, really.

What's that? Oh, you want to know what the view is like?  Well it's pretty spectacular - nothing like in this snap, really, which is just a scan and a bit dark and horrible.

Towards Inch and Lough Swilly
Don't they have the grand names in this neck of the woods?  Like Inch Island, I mean - just visible there in the middle of that snap and reachable across that causeway-thing you can see.  Anyway, clearly, the island is more than an inch long and an inch some-one is obviously having a laugh.  (Ed: Inch, your reader(s) may like to know, is so-called as the Irish for island is Inis, which over the years has been Anglicised to Inch).  Right so, well, thanks to yer woman there - aka The Editor - you have the answer.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Dalymount Park, 1979

On a hot summer's day in July 1979 a car-load of teenagers hit the road from the Liberties and drove about 4 hours south to Dalymount Park, just outside Dublin.  The reason was music.  The headline group that day was Status Quo and they were backed by Judas Priest (heavy), Rockpile (not heavy at all) and our very own band from up the road, The Undertones (decidedly light).  It was an open-air concert and while thankfully it stayed dry we were a little farther from the stage than was usual - that's my way of excusing the fact that the photographs aren't the best.

Let's kick off with the Undertones - a Derry band that used to play at our local venue a lot.

Feargal Sharkey of the Undertones

John O'Neill - another Undertone

The Undertones always played a great set - tremendous energy.  A bit like a local version of The Ramones, I used to think.   I think I might have had 2 cameras with me that day, as I found some B&W pics as well.

Feargal Sharkey and Mickey Bradley

Aw just look at the lads there, so young...Mickey Bradley, on the old Rickenbacker bass, now works for a local BBC radio station and there isn't much he doesn't know about music.  Feargal Sharkey had a solo career for a while after he split from the band and then did much to promote the UK live music industry - he was head of UK Music until 2011.

And don't panic - there's more of The Undertones to come in the future (Ed: Oh I wasn't panicking, rest assured).

Moving up the order of play, Rockpile was much more classic rock-and-roll and Dave Edmunds was an accomplished guitarist.  Here he is with a beautiful-looking instrument (hair blowin' in the wind and all). 

Dave Edmunds in 1979

By now, the light was beginning to fade, so a lot of the snaps from now on are quite blurry - me shutter speeds must have been too low, or maybe I was shaking with excitement.  Here's Judas Priest - a snap worthy of inclusion just for the 'Flying-V' Gibson and the all-leather gear as worn by Rob Halford.  Grammy award-winners, they are, in case you didn't know...

Judas Priest

And lastly we have the main attraction - Status Quo.  

The Quo were great live, but I think I was a little jaded by the time they came on.  Being 16, I had no idea you had to pace yourself at these sorts of gigs. I think it's safe to assume that I slept well that night, wherever I was - can't remember the details now of course.

Hope you enjoyed this little departure from the norm on the Friday 'retro' slot, or Bandfriday, as Mr Roy Karlsvik puts it.  You might like to check out his blog, which is rather good.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Dr C (and a little of Mrs D)

Here's either a half-decent shot of my mate Dr C with a slightly distracting background or a half-decent view of Donegal ruined by some bloke getting in the way.  You decide...

Which is it?

I have to say I have a lot of time for Dr C, in spite of the fact that he acquires images through some sort of hand-held electronic device.  I do, of course, give him a suitably hard time about that, all the more since he actually has a very nice Nikon FM2 which lies about his house gathering dust while his D7100xSuperShot-thingmy comes with him on trips like this.  I even dev'd his film for him out of common decency - mind you, it had been in his camera for about 2 years.  Some people...

Here's another bit of Donegal for you - it's the grand place as you can see for yourselves.

No trees in Donegal

But wait - there's me going on and on and on (à la Mrs Doyle) about how great the clouds are in this part of the world.  Sure you've nearly no need to look at the clouds - just look at the land and you can see where the clouds are and where they aren't.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Mount Errigal

In some parts of the world this wouldn't be called a mountain at all, since it's just less than 2,500ft high.  But Errigal is the tallest rock in Donegal and so deserves a mention - and a photograph, albeit it a bit of a murky one.

Errigal, from the west
Right, two photographs, then - and that's your lot.  At least in this next one you can actually see it - although the clouds look nicely poised to envelope it again sometime very soon.

The Biggest Hill in Donegal

OK so, three - and that's definitely it.

From the East
You can scramble up Errigal without too much problem, I am assured.  Not that I tried.  But you can, apparently - if you are so inclined (Geddit?).

Totally unconnected to Errigal, here are more clouds for you - yes, there were are a lot of them. Well, it was summer...

Irish clouds over Donegal
You may have noticed that a couple of these images are quite heavily cropped.  The cropped ones (#1, #2 and #4)  were 6x6 negs in the first place (Franka) so they can cope OK - well, on a monitor anyway.  I don't think I've got the hang of the old composition/framing thing yet when using the Franka and sometimes the auld legs don't work so well to help me zoom in or out.

One of the FADU members recently had a piece in the online magazine can see it here and a good read it is too - he has strong opinions about the use of traditional methods.  Maris Rusis lives Down Under, is a user of large format cameras and likes to contact print.  A large number of his prints are not cropped at all - indeed, he purposefully includes the black edge of the negative (including the rebate) on his print, as a signal - to those in the know - that his composition and framing are the same thing.  By the way, if you're interested in the place he makes all those beautiful prints, you can see his some images of his darkroom here - and quite a modest affair it is too.  Just goes to show, it's not all about the kit, eh?