You are currently browsing the archives for April, 2010.
No seriously I was….
Ive been travelling this week and as Id booked the ferry to Liverpool I didnt think Id be affected by the biblical cloud of volcanic ash that has brought chaos and pestilence (well maybe not pestilence) to the whole of europe.
To be honest the only thing Id noticed was that it got quieter at home at night as there were no evening or tourism night flights flying lower than they should be over my house on the way to the international airport.
Id never seen the amount of foot passengers on that ferry before in my life. I dont think the ferry companies had either, loads of bags with air baggage tickets on them indicating a lot of one way journeys.
Now if Id have been one of those people stranded this would be a more interesting blog but lets be honest, for the vast majority of us the only hassle would have been not getting fresh strawberries from Spain.
After an evening based in Liverpool it was across to the peak district, an area Id never visited before despite driving past many a time. Id planned two days there, a couple of days back at Liverpool and if the weather was right a few days back up in the lake district (again somewhere I’d never been).
Driving across northern England it reminded me a lot of Jeremy Clarksons rants. Every couple of miles was a speed camera, speed bumps and all sorts of warning signs. Now this leads me to two conclusions, people in England cant drive properly or there truly is a nanny state. Funny thing is theres an election on and there are very few election posters. Areas of Northern Ireland are plastered in them, maybe we have less TVs so people dont know theres an election on or as a people we enjoy the false smiling faces of people we never see for 4 years at a time. Maybe in England the posters may just end up as visual clutter in amongst the speed warning signs and the slow down and the signs for housing estates (like what?).
The other odd thing is that driving through North Manchester you then hit country, then 20 miles or so of country then Sheffield. Theres no real suburbs, its city then country then city again. Its odd, as I said to one of the tourists in last nights B+B, in Ireland you drive through wilderness for an hour to get to the wilderness. Its like someone in the UK decided they were going to have countryside here and here and here and then just build like mad around it.
Its also the first time Ive been through England on St Georges Day. At first I thought theyd just got the flags out early for the World Cup so then started asking around for events. Well, err, umm, errr, thats about it really.
I also find the reaction of tourism places quite mixed here. I turned up at one castle entrance run by english heritage a half an hour before the opening times (10am) and was told to come back by the staff. Hmmm. Not impressed. Ive never come across this at home or most other places, usually people have a bit of leeway and after all I could have just climbed over the wall and got in without paying.
Id to queue for about 20 mins in the tourist office in Buxton to get information on B+Bs. I wasnt interested in paying them 3 quid to get them to ring on my behalf, after all I do have a phone and do speak English (of sorts). I just wanted a brochure with details of B+Bs in it, which of course wasnt on display. Very odd. I did feel like not bothering to spend my hard earned crisp bank of england notes in their coffee shop but did need to sit down and plan out the route.
I spent the night in a wee town called Castleton and again the reactions were mixed. I rang round a few B+Bs who although they had vacancies at 6pm on a thursday night, they wanted me to pay for a full double room for two people instead of single occupancy. Im sorry but 55 quid for a b+b is tearing the hole out of it. 30 mins drive was a hotel chain with rooms for 29 quid a night and I wanted to go to local businesses. One did say that 50 quid for a B+B for the night with no parking spaces did include a great british breakfast so I enquired if it was cooked by Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver. They didnt see the sarcasm.
I eventually found a great B+B the causeway house in Castleton
where the owner Janet couldnt have been more helpful. She sorted me out with a driving route the following day (which the tourist office wouldnt recommend because they wanted to promote walking and cycling which is fair enough until you point out you have a damaged leg and cant walk or cycle), advised me on where in town had the best food (the rabbit pie in The George was excellent) and generally made my stay very comfortable indeed. Comfortable room, reasonable price, great filling breakfast and hosts who couldnt do enough for you. Big thumbs up.
The tourist office in Castleton was equally helpful, tracing out details on maps, telling me where to skip if I didnt have time and advising the best times for certain points given the light if I was interested in photography.
Which brings me to the title of the blog. One of the tourist attractions near Castleton is a cave called the Devils Arsehole. No honestly! After a pint or two of the local guest ale in The George with my dinner I did try to avoid being 16 again by asking everyone I met if they could give me directions to the Devils Arsehole.
‘Can you tell me where the Arsehole is?’
‘Is there a good route up the Arsehole?’
‘I hear the Devils Arsehole attraction is a bit shitty, what do you think?’
Id love to say I tried all this but it was thursday night in the peak district in April and I was the only sinner walking the streets. Bummer.
So I went back to the B+B to try and find either the Liverpool game on the TV or the prime ministerial debates. Because of the valley theres no Sky TV or channel 5, radio reception is poor and theres no 3G. So for the first time in a long time I was left with a choice of only 4 channels.
I got back just in time to watch Have I Got News for You and Jeremy Clarkson was presenting and ranting about speed cameras. I feel your pain mate, I really do.
More England photos here
..is a UK general election on May 6th.
Northern Ireland is in a unique position in the UK in that we still vote for MPs at Westminster but we cant vote for the three major parties that usually make up UK governments and official opposition. No we have our own groups of vagabonds and thieves to vote for.
Northern Ireland politics is still very much on tribal lines, you have the green shades (not the eco parties) and the orange shades and the various other small parties fighting out the middle ground.
When I was younger I lived in West Belfast which since I can remember has always been green, I bought my house outside Belfast and moved to the most Orange constituency in Northern Ireland. Go figure.
One of these days tribal politics will decrease here and people will be voting on real issues such as the environment minister deciding not to put a temporary bridge linking a thousand or so homes with the rest of the village for a year whilst the motorway was being widened. It would have cost too much apparently but they didnt think of the 1000 or so people who had a half hour each way extra travelling to do for a full year and the number of small businesses that exist on call in or drop past business that virtually disappeared overnight. Remember that at election time guys.
There have been recent boundary changes so now Im in a knife edge constituency where some of the parties have been canvassing since the start of the year. Both main protagonists wanting to get hold of all the new blood in advance.
Northern Ireland has tradionally the highest turnouts for any poll in the UK. I didnt vote once. It was for a european election where the three main incumbents were going to be returned anyway. I think the turnout was low for NI at 60%. When I told my parents I hadnt voted they almost went postal on me. I got the whole ‘people died to get you that vote’ and although thats bandied about quite a lot, here in Northern Ireland it was certainly true within the last generation. When I was born 40 years ago neither of my parents had a vote. Northern Ireland was still a corrupt one party state where election boundaries were redrawn regularly to ensure that one party stayed in power and where business owners (usually one side of the community) could vote on behalf of all their workers ratepayers had the vote rather than tenants. This wasnt just a sectarian thing, it was as much to stop working class protestants from getting a vote as catholics but in the main the Civil Rights Association represented Catholic/Nationalist concerns. Reforms came in in 1972 with direct government rule from Westminster.
Ive voted in every election no matter how small ever since and I encourage everyone to do the same. People complain about their governments and elected representatives and although the conspiracy theorists may have a point about no matter who we elect the result will be the same, unless we get off our arses and vote or protest vote then we may as well talk to the walls.
As a press photographer in Northern Ireland, election time regardless of local council, local assembly, westminster or european is a busy time. Its an endless round of press calls and press conferences, of attending every one under the sun to give balance and meeting lots of politicians and wannabe politicians you thought had died since you hadnt seen them since the last election. People seem to crawl out of the wordwork only to disappear, even if they had been elected. Here in Northern Ireland we have the triple jobbers, those who are an MP and an MLA in the local assembly and who are also local councillors.
Now to be fair the Northern Ireland Assembly has been doing very little as they ignore the water charges, increases in rates, ruining of the economy, strikes, oversupply of empty housing developments, failure to tackle any real eco policies all because they didnt want the other side to control policing. Lets be honest about it, policing would get done regardless of who is in charge. Even if Sinn Fein got policing the first day the minister responsible walked into their new office and got a whole pile of ‘oh shit’ paperwork piled on their desk or email inbox any of the previous arguments would go out the window. Maybe that job sacking council refuse workers wasnt so bad after all.
Yes lads and lasses, welcome to the real world. Its amazing how quickly the fact that we arent concentrating on fighting each other that real politics takes over. The backhanders for land deals, the having affairs with lads young enough to be your son, the dodge land deals and going off to the carribean to see how they deal with wheelie bins rather than going to Dublin or Sheffield all comes to light. To be fair on the Carribean thing, which one of us wouldnt have done it. Its like the expenses scandals, ok I dont have a moat and Id like to think I’d be squeeky clean but if I had a majority of 60k I might just forget my working class routes and socialist ethos and sell myself a plot of land for a tenner, get it through planning permission and build a moat that pirates of the caribbean could be filmed in, plus go to the Caribbean to see if they would film it on the edges of Lough Neagh.
So which bunch of lying, thieving, inconsiderate, money grabbing, self indulgent morons will we vote in next….
Over the last couple of weeks there has been a concerted effort from photographers across the board in the UK to object to the Prince of Darkness (the unelected lord voldemort, sorry mandelson) Digital Economy Bill. A poorly thought out, rushed bill which is supposed to address some of the piracy issues blighting the film and music industry. What this bill proposed amongst other things was to set up a register for photographs which were ‘orphans’ i.e. photographs where the owner could not be traced where after a search was performed, the government would license you this image at ‘market rate’ and then if the photographer was ever revealed (or they found out) they would pass a section of this license fee on. Now this all sounds great but how was the search to be performed was a google search enough, would we have to register every image weve ever taken with a new agency which I assume would charge a fee. What is market rate? Is it microstock rates or what I would charge and how can they license my copyright? In addition to breaching the berne copyright convention this had massive ramifications for overseas photographers who could find their images being licensed legitimately by the British Government. It would have virtually killed the stock photography market overnight (ok maybe not overnight) but it meant you couldnt supply a client with an image without plastering it with watermarks (as on this site). Even then you arent assured that they wont be cut out. Its already a crime to strip out the embedded information in an image for your own commercial gain
, something which a couple of companies have found out to their cost when they thought they were getting ‘free’ images from the internet or stealing them off my clients sites.
A herculean effort was put in by members of the Editorial Photographers in the UK (EPUK)
who set up the stop43
website. MPs were lobbied, met, facebooked, tweeted, called and snail mailed. The Lords were contacted for the first readings and every step of the way, press photographers did what they do best, use their contacts and made things simple for MPs. Examples of what could happen were mocked up and put on the stop43 website
and they were even quoted during the parliamentary debates. With the help of the opposition parties the government finally admitted they werent going to get the bill through and to placate the music and film industry lobbyists they dropped the photography clause and got the bill passed.
During this I actually did some research on my local MP, I just thought he was one of the ones who disappeared between elections. Hes a triple jobber and I dont like his politics and I’ve never voted for him. My research showed he was above average for attendance, above average for speeches and amendments and on all the measure available for MPs he was above average. Hes even sorted out his expenses claims. Overall he appears to be a very good MP and I’ve changed my view on him, even with tribal party politics involved Id say that I could do worse than to re-elect him. I cant say the same about the incumbent MP (from the same party) in the new constituency as hes below average and probably spent too much time chasing the leadership of his party. He may be a good MLA or he may be a good belfast city councillor but hes not a good MP.
I also watched the BBC Parliament channel for the first time ever, watching the readings of the bill. A year or so ago I had a market research person at the house going through TV viewing habits and she asked me if I’d ever watched that channel. I said no and she laughed and said no-one she had ever spoken to had. Well come round next time and I’ll be the first.
Well thats Easter wrapped up for another year.
It was my turn this year to do the Easter dinner for the whole family and I was introduced to the roasting bag for the first time. Essentially its a plastic bag that the meat goes into and it contains all the juices and just cooks away merrily. The butcher (Jacksons in Ballynure
) put the meat into the bag, sealed it, I took it home, put it in the fridge, put it in the oven on Easter Sunday, 3 hours 170C, open bag take out perfectly cooked sirloin joint and pour the juices into a pot to make gravy. Simple. Add in a tray of roasted veg (thank you Jamie Oliver), some champ, mashed sweet potato and some peppercorn sauce and there you have it. From raw ingredients, to dishwasher in just over four hours. Result! Of course being my usual anal self and writing cooking order down on post it notes, preparing everything in advance, assigning pots and the order they are used etc etc helps. Very sad indeed but when you have an irish mother and sister watching every move you make like a hawk waiting for the least slip up for them to say ‘ah get out of the way and let us handle it’ it meeds military precision.
The end result is nobody died, the nephews didnt get food poisoning and apart from my mums yorkshire puddings still being in my freezer, everything went according to plan.
I did have some fleeting thoughts about photographing the progress for stock photos but I think that would have been pushing it too far and would ended up with me being strangled with my camera remote cord. Sometimes knowing when not to photograph is more valuable than knowing when to photograph.
Of course Easter is more than just family gatherings and eating a dinner just short of Christmas proportions. Whilst the origins of the feast were probably pagan (related to the spring equinox) the church set the rough time of year as the celebration of Jesus dying on the cross and his resurrection. The date is a moveable feast and wasnt set until about 300 years after Jesus’s death. Like Christmas it probably just made sense to put it on the date of the previous pagan festivals to try and override them.
Here in Ireland Easter is an important time both from a religious and political point of view. Easter marked the end of lent were we would all have given up something to remember Jesus’ sacrifices and fasting. Good Friday was one of the only two days of the year my dad was guaranteed a day off. He worked in a bookmakers and there is no horse racing on Good Friday or Christmas Day. Good Friday would also mark the start of the week long easter holidays, so after the stations of the cross were done it was a week before even thinking of being back in school. When we were kids it seemed ironic that Jesus died just to get us a week off school when we got two weeks off because he was born.
Easter Sunday was always mass, the whole point of christianity then it was off to see Irelands other big Easter celebration, the commemoration of the Easter Rising.
In 1916 a relatively small group of about 1000 various Irish revolutionary groupings staged a small uprising against the British on Easter Monday, primarily in Dublin. The British Garrison was quite small due to the ongoing first world war with Germany. The rebels took control of a number of key buildings culminating with the seizure of the GPO (General Post Office) in O’Connell street where the tricolour was raised above the building which was named headquarters and seat of the provisional government. Padraig Pearse read the Proclamation of the Republic outside the GPO and changed Irish history forever.
Over the next week fierce fighting insued with a lot of the buildings badly damaged by artillery shelling, the GPO itself was almost burned to the ground and with their headquarters destroyed the rebels surrendered unconditionally to avoid further damage to dublin and its citizens.
At the time the rising wasnt welcomed universally in Dublin as there were a lot of civilian casualties and buildings were destroyed in the shelling. A large number of Irish Volunteers had volunteered for the British Army during world war one, hoping that it would somehow sway British opinion about Irish Home Rule, and their relatives werent happy about the rising. Attitudes changed when the British decided to make an example of what they saw as the main rebels and executed 15 of those involved by firing squad. It was this, summary executions and the internment of people unrelated to the rising that changed attitudes and would eventually lead to the Irish Republic. Thats a very brief simplistic overview of which my O level history teacher would be shaking his head as the Home Rule Crisis and the Easter Rising were one of my history ‘specialities’ for O level!
Whilst the Easter Rising would go virtually uncommemorated in the republic which it spawned during the troubles, republican areas of Belfast would always have a commemoration parade and as a kid it was one of the things to go and see during your holidays. The parades usually contained a lot of IRA involvement because they saw themselves as the continuation of the line from Padraig Pearse and the true defenders of the Republic. Looking back on it it was just another day out at a parade.
Things have changed considerably in the last 10 years, the commemorations are still commemorations but are becoming more historical rather than revolutionary. The commemoration parades have restarted in earnest in Dublin with plans underway for the 100th commemoration in 2016.
Of course after the parades it was time to run home and rip open the mountain of easter eggs (well they seemed like a mountain) and get tore into the chocolate. The resulting pile of packaging of landfill proportions ended up with a sugar rush and chocolate binge of epic proportions which would invariably having every burp for the next week tasting of chocolate.
More Easter Rising Commemoration photos here