You are currently browsing the archives for May, 2010.
There used to be an ad on TV about something or other to do with banking or insurance featuring a husband and wife, the husband wanting to spend his retirement ‘enjoying the garden’ and the wife wanting to sod the garden buy a big yacht and sail round the world.
Pretty much sums up my sentiments.
Its not that I dont like my garden or indeed dont like gardening, its just that I have a ‘photographers’ garden. Generally speaking when the weather is good Im out working, making hay while the sun shines as it were so other things get neglected and other than family and friends the garden is the next big hit.
I decided to address this a couple of years ago and got the whole garden, front and back redone. The patio area at the back was relaid, the grass was dug up, weedkiller put down, tonnes of topsoil dumped from the back of a huge truck, spread out then grass seed sewn etc etc. Needless to say none of this was done by me. Far too much effort.
The design buzzword was ‘low maintenance’.
I of course now realise how stupid I was, as even if I had concreted the lot, I’d still have to power hose it once a year. Theres no such thing as ‘low maintenance’ in gardening, well certainly not in my definition of the terms.
Low maintenance to me was the odd bit of weeding, odd bit of grass cutting and then picking the strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, putting them in a bowl with cream and eating them. Job done.
I also forgot to include the living on the side of a mountain in Ireland aspect of it. Where it rained so much last ‘summer’ that my freshly sewn lawn as it was 2 years ago, now does resemble wild kingdom.
I remember what it looked like when it first grew, I quite liked the lush green grass, in fact I took photos of it, now it just looks like wild kingdom and the rest of the garden looked like it had been left to grow for a scene in ‘I Am Legend’. It isnt all my fault, we did recently have a ‘summer’ which did involve all that lovely topsoil I bought being washed down the mountain along with a lot of the garden by summer floods. I thought I was badly off but the neighbours had just laid a new turf lawn, the water ran underneath it washing out all the sand and substrate. There was a couple of tonnes of that washed away, with a fair whack of it coating my driveway.
So nothing for it, 3 days of cutting grass, raking out the dead stuff, spraying weeds, powerhosing the patio and driveway, killing slugs, killing ants (which is a new development), laying new grass, putting down fertilizer and countless number of things.
Im all for recycling as well but the local council havent really factored in my laziness. They empty my brown vegetation bin every two weeks and to be honest it could be emptied every 2 years and it wouldnt make the slightest difference. Of course the only time it is ever put into action it could be filled 3 times over and I’m left with 4 bags of rotting vegetation for the next 6 weeks or so as they dont take extra bags and I have to wait for it to be emptied before refilling. Sigh. I do have a compost bin which I could use but its at the back of the garden behind the trees and to be perfectly honest if it was the middle ages, that part of the garden would be labelled ‘here be dragons’.
Despite writing blog entries its now one of the busiest times of the summer so the garden work really had to be done or it would have been pour petrol on it, set it on fire and wait 2 weeks before starting all over again. A necessary task and it was good to get out and get my neck sunburnt in this country. Although there is something about working with powertools that makes men feel like they belong in the garden.
I have to say though the ability to go outside this morning with coffee and just sit and read emails on the laptop in the fresh air is definitely one of those things that money couldnt buy.
This country, if the sun shines has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Of course the if in the previous sentence should really be in 72 point text as it should be a really big if. Having said that though there were a few days last weekend that it really was BBQ weather.
Theres still a bit to go, theres the fencing I bought 3 years ago for behind the tree line which is still behind the tree line, just leaning up against the tree line, theres the chain saw I bought last year to cut up the wood Id previously cut down and left to ‘season’. Well thats been well seasoned and the chainsaw still doesnt have any petrol in it.
But all that is for another day, in the meantime I have the option of enjoying the bits of the garden that arent hidden by trees….
…but I went out and bought a boat instead.
more gardening photos here
I havent been fishing in years… Or should I say hadnt.
Back in my late teens/early twenties I used to go fishing quite a lot. It started when a schoolmate’s dad took us up to the Toome canal for a days coarse fishing and I was hooked (sorry I just had to get that in somewhere). I then got myself and my wee brother a fishing license for trout fishing and we used to get the bus up to Stoneyford reservoir and fish there for trout. Well fishing is stretching it a bit, we used to sit by the side of the reservoir and either get sunburnt or get wet waiting for the one bus home. I can only remember fish putting in an appearance once and lets just say it wouldnt have fed a family of one, never mind 5 and a dog.
When I turned 18 I needed an adult fishing license so started going sea fishing instead (which was free) and Ive sort of been at that ever since (well maybe with an almost 20 year break).
Last week I took it upon myself to take a day off (sort of) and get the fishing rods and equipment out of the loft, clean them up and go fishing. I always look after my stuff so most of the equipment was still in as good a condition as the last time I packed it away so other than some bait and a new small tackle box I was ready to go.
One of my favourite fishing spots was on the rocks at Limerick Point in Cushendall. Having travelled the world I still have to say that you will struggle to find a more beautiful spot on this earth than the north east antrim coast when the sun is shining. And today the sun was shining.
Once again I spent a lot of time drowning ragworms and scaring the life out of seaweed but with the sun shining and the small waves lapping over the rocks there really was a ‘this is the best place in the world to be right now’ moment. Yes I had to stand on the end of the pier as my gammy leg wasnt up to crawling across the rocks or it was but I know it wouldnt be coming back in the dark and despite the possibility of dying a cold lonely death on the rocks in one of my favourite places in the world, the fear of not dying and having to be rescued by lifeboat and maybe ending up on the news on a slow news day was definitely a fate worse than death.
A lot of things have changed in the 20 years I was a regular here. There are more people walking past, more houses, more lights on the horizon. Alongside the smell of seaweed, that ozoney smell of the ocean there was always the smell of the turf fires drifting down over the rocks when the wind changed to offshore. Now most houses have oil fired central heating yet one or two still lit up their fires and wafted their smell my way. I was also a regular here during the troubles which always meant packing and unpacking the car at least 4 times (leaving home, police/army checkpoint on the way up, at the spot, checkpoint on the way home, arriving home), now not so much. I used to dig my own bait, back in the days when I was young, fit, healthy and skint. Now Im neither young nor fit nor healthy and at 9 quid for a 4-5 hours worth of ragworm, I might be skint again sooner than expected.
Id forgotten so many things, was fishing better at low tide, high tide or on the flood? It didnt seem to matter I was getting small bites all day so there was still a bit of the old magic there. Lots of small fish that I was giving a good expensive meal to. Id forgotten how to strike a bite, how to wait for the right moment then bang, then reel tomorrows supper in. At this point in time tomorrows supper was going to be kelp and partial ragworm.
Technology has moved on although my 20 year old equipment was working well (I shall refrain from making comments about my 40 year old tackle working well too – that would be just wrong). But 20 years ago I wouldnt have understood facebook, never mind provide status updates from the rocks. Last time I was here it was pre mobile phone (well for me anyway). I lit up my chinese anchor lamp. Id always wanted a proper tilley lamp which was belfast made, ever since I was in the cubs back in the mid to late 70s and our scout group had one. So on to ebay and I purchased one – sad I know. Nostalgia can be expensive with a smart phone with ebay and paypal bookmarked.
My anchor lamp was a source of pride, cheap chinese copy of things back in the day without ebay where cheap chinese tat can be bought in every supermarket. I had a nasty introduction to paraffin hurricane pressure lamps when I put my hand on the top of it and leaned down to make it steady for pumping. I swear the anchor trademark was burned into my palm for years. I could have just cried but had enough wit not to stick my hand in seawater but used one of natures own antiseptics…. turning the situation around the top of the lamp turned out to be a great place to heat sausage rolls, 5 years later I heard someone had developed an attachment to heat sausage rolls and cook bacon. Another fortune lost as I sat down to a cappuccino from a packet. 20 years ago if you wanted variety in coffee you could choose from Nescafe or Mellow Birds. Now heres me complaining about the quality of the cappuccino in a packet. Pass the prawn sandwiches.
At the time of all my fishing travels I was an engineering student so used off bits of material to make things for fishing. Buying the latest magazine 20 years on I see the idea of cutting diamonds of aluminium sheet and attaching them to weights to avoid snagging is now under patent, as is the wee strap to stop your line flying off, as is the…. well you get the message. Another fortune lost.
20 years on my new tackle box has a wee light in the lid. Now thats clever. Why didnt I think of that too?
I had bought a couple of the snap break chemical lights for my rod tips to see them in the dark basically because I’d left the load of them I have at home. The new ones were smaller and as I was running out of bait I stuck one on the hook, I was still getting bites. You know someone should adapt that idea and patent it….
I met two “young lads” fishing on the spot where I used to be one of the two “young lads”. Circle of life and all that. I remember the old guys who fished would talk to my dad. My dad never fished, he just liked the peace and quiet and to watch his sons getting on with it. I often wondered how he chatted to the other old fishing guys but I guess I know now, he probably just talked about football, dog and horse racing and other such things.
I used to go fishing with various male friends. You would grunt to each other when you met up, discussed a bit about football, bait, tactics, women then sat for 4 hours in complete silence and not once did the thought cross your mind that the other person had fallen out with you. I made the mistake of going fishing with a couple of different girlfriends once. Not at the same time I hasten to add but that would have been funny, probably ending in my drowning, either forced or deliberate. More than 90 seconds of silence was usually ended with the words ‘what are you thinking’, to which the correct answer never was ‘my boots must be leaking as my toes are cold’. ‘that bait might need changed’, ‘could I win if I fought a shark’ or finally ‘if you ask me that one more time you are going to need a lifejacket’.
20 years on and although much has changed, much has stayed the same. Its still the same man pitting wits against fish and losing. Although I have to say if it wasnt for the invention of camera phone techology I’d have no proof of my days catch, one single dogfish, and have to go on about the one that got away (fish, probably a conger bit clean through my line).
(excuse the crappy phone cam photo)
Ive missed fishing, Ive spent far too much time away from the peace, the quiet, the contemplative time and just sitting there smelling the sea and turf, listening to the waves lap in and just being at one with the world.
It wont be 20 years until the next time.
more fishing and angling photos here
I really like Liverpool, I always have. I have family there and its always sad leaving. It has some of the friendliest people in England.
Having said that after spending a Saturday night photographing my nephews band practice I had to drive round a burning car, a burning van, police across the main road, helicopter in the sky with searchlight shining down etc etc. It was slightly nostalgic, looking like Belfast during the troubles without the actual troubles bit.
Now with a good bright day spare before heading home I decided Id drive up the Lancashire coast and see Blackpool. Down the years I’ve given Blackpool a bum rap. It all stems from stories as a kid of people going to Blackpool on holidays and sort of describing it something short of Las Vegas and Disneyland all rolled into one. Now given my cynical views I thought this might be slightly over exaggerating.
It was further added to by an ex-girlfriend who kept suggesting it as a holiday destination when I was suggesting the likes of Hong Kong, Florida, Mexico, Carribean etc. I knew then it was never going to last.
So I thought Id be fair and although it was a bright almost summery day it was bloody cold and it was April in a no fly zone. The only other no fly zone Id heard of was southern Iraq. I didnt want to draw comparisons.
On the way to blackpool I heading into Southport, a lovely Victorian town which has seen better days and is aging as much as its residents. Gods waiting room really wouldnt be in it.
I stopped off at Southport Pier for some fish and chips and stupidly decided to walk the length of the pier, rather than waiting on the tram. Take it from me, wait on the tram!
After lunch which was hideously expensive (and why do people in England not give receipts?) it was off to Blackpool. I parked up on the seafront, got my parking ticket and headed off for a coffee. I looked back at the car and there was already a traffic warden checking my parking ticket and tax disc. Being a Northern Ireland registered car he spent a bit of time looking at it. Now he was wearing a bright red uniform and maybe Im slipping but I didnt see him the length of the seafront, so I can only conclude he was a stealth traffic warden. Maybe a cloak of invisibility or maybe they come up from the ground but it did make me set a reminder on my phone. I didnt see me getting a seconds leeway or being able to talk my way out of a ticket here.
Walking round Blackpool it really did make me realise that in Northern Ireland we have still no idea what this credit crunch/financial crisis is all about. We are going to be in for a big shock with this new government and when ultimately the axe will fall.
Im sure that Blackpool is a lot of things to a lot of people and Im blowing my chance of ever working for their tourist board but its not for me, Id say it would be a holiday hell for me although not packed it is full of interesting characters and a lot of them seemed to want to talk. Not really talk to me, more talk at me. Interesting.
I definitely got the ‘not a lot to see here, move along’ impression and after Id spent a fiver on a cup of scalding nescafe and 4 microwaved donuts I realised it was time to leave.
Blackpool, been there done that, didnt buy the kiss me quick hat or t-shirt.
The journey home was reasonably uneventful apart from a 3 hour delay on the ferry then an ‘incident’ breaking out on board. Alarm bells going, crew running up to the passenger area, walking through hurriedly, sweating, then going into the restaurant/galley area. Nothing to be alarmed about apparently, just a minor incident they were hoping to get under control.
Half an hour later the incident was ‘under control’ but there would be no afternoon tea.
That will be the scones that set the kitchen on fire then.
Meanwhile back at the ranch we’ve had 24 hour coverage of the ‘hung parliament’.
Thats democracy for you, still it kept the discussion on how shite England are going to be in the World Cup out of the headlines for another week.
More Liverpool photos here
More Blackpool photos here