I really have to get better at this whole blog thing and not just post when Im travelling. Incidently Im off today to the beautiful (when it doesnt rain) west coast to do a wedding later in the week for a friend. My usual excuse applies in that I have been busy, honestly I have been, but in case the tax man is reading, business is desperate! Its now the end of my wedding season and yes I do do weddings but this weeks is the last one I have booked. Im not really interested in being a wedding photographer per se, rather a photographer who occasionally does weddings. Its the photography that interests me and although I was asked by a local venue to be official photographer for the site the idea of going to the same place taking similar pictures week after week just fills me with dread. I love hearing peoples stories and yes I suppose I am a romantic at heart but I see the photos telling the story of the people, as well as the day. I suppose its hard to explain but then again thats why I only do a few per year and only if I really really want to tell the peoples stories. That might come across as arrogant (would fit in with the wedding photographers rightly) but my view is that this is my job, I have to enjoy my job and if I enjoy it that comes across in my photos. I tell that often enough to my students so I’d be a bit hypocritical if I didnt practise that myself. So other than weddings Ive been doing a fair bit of dance photography. As with the weddings I’d love to show you the pictures but they arent stock images so arent for sale, plus the dance photos are embargoed until the performances and brochure materials get produced so I’ll save that for a later blog.
I’d love to say I’d been out on the boat, fishing away in the lovely weather we have had but I’d be lying on both counts. The weather has been terrible and the boats engine broke down. Thankfully the engine went as we were casting off so no harm done other than 3 weeks waiting for parts to come from America that didnt work! I then couldnt get the boat in for repair due to bad weather and only having the backup engine to get the boat from the marina to the harbour ramp. Eventually I got one evening when I thought it was calm enough to get the boat in and you know when you utter something incredibly stupid and know you will live to regret it? Well when asked how I would get the boat in I replied ‘by being assertive’. Well let me tell you no amount of bravado or assertiveness can make an 18 foot boat go into a 15 knot headwind with a 4hp backup engine. Its at this point you know bringing a fresh battery for the emergency VHF was a good idea and that you hope the liquid running down the back of your legs is only sweat. All was well though and I now have an expensive driveway ornament until work calms down a bit and I get the chance to work on it. I do have an engine manual but following some of the steps would have required a wetsuit and flippers whilst still in the marina. It reminds me of the time I replaced the engine in my old fiesta car. Followed the haynes manual to the letter through all 200 steps of engine removal, seal and gasket replacement and putting back in again. Step 201 of course had the ‘note – remember to put the flange between the engine and gearbox correctly’. Oh that would be the thing left lying on the floor there. 399 steps to go…
Speaking of car repairs, I got the Alfa up and running again….
In the very few times it hasnt been pishing out of the heavens Ive also managed to get out and get some stock photography work done. Bit unfortunate for this whole radharcimages project that Ive had 20 days of good weather in 2 years and been working for clients for most of them! The Irish side of the project is well and truely stalled and this is the primary reason.
Ive more usuable images from USA/Canada in a month than the whole of Ireland in probably the last year. Still there should be some good crisp clear winter days to get some work done but with limited daylight it might not be economically viable for more than a full days journey.
I eventually got all my Canada/US travel images edited, captioned and uploaded so now Im looking for a new project so I’ll be off on my travels again, this time I’m going back to Hong Kong for a week. Ive been there twice before. Once before the British handover and again the year later. Two completely different trips but not for handover reasons. The first time I went for a week and I had booked the trip with my then girlfriend. Of course by the time we came to go on the trip we werent boyfriend/girlfriend any more. I dont really need to explain too much more, do I?
The following year I went out there with two mates for the weekend. Yes the weekend – £250 quid flights and accomodation from Belfast, out on Thurs night, back on Tues. We drank the whole flight there… I dont really need to explain too much more, do I? I’ll go into that trip more when I cover the next one but I must have been drunk the whole time as my house is full of chinese furniture!
Whilst the total rainfall in Hong Kong for November is about the same as the total rainfall in my garden this morning, I have been thinking about getting the place ready for winter. Whilst out doing some stock photos of barley crops I got talking to some farmers who say we are in for some snowfall later in October. So Im prepared this time with the snow shovel, snow chains, gloves, hat, spare clothes, etc for all those car emergencies, or alternatively I’ll just light a coal fire, crack open the bushmills and just look out the window.
On 31st May it is the 100th anniversary of the launch of the RMS Titanic hull. There have been various commemorations here over the last 2 months to mark milestones in the building of the ship.
Now you have to ask the question about celebrating next year the 100th anniversary of the sinking, an event were over 1500 people died. Thats just under half the number of people killed here during the troubles in one night. I hope the events scheduled for next year will be more memorial than a celebration.
Which is why it has been interesting to see the events scheduled for the various milestones in the Titanic launch 100 years on. As the t-shirts say ‘Titanic – it was fine when it left here’.
The Titanic has held a fascination for people and in particular local people, long before Winslett and DeCaprio stood on the fake deck doing the king of the world thing. Belfast has always taken a pride in building the Titanic which again is odd for something that deficiences in the design and construction played a part in the downfall. The shipyard itself also has a checkered past with a part of the community. At the time the titanic was built it was predominantly made from workers of one religion. This isnt surprising given the demographics of the area. It did lead of course to the bias, discrimination and intolerance that vast majority always seems to bring. My own grandfather worked their briefly. That was until they found out he was a Catholic. One day he went to put his work coat on, found the end of his sleeves stiched up as he put it on, his ‘colleagues’ grabbed him, tied him up and threw him into the Lagan. Luckily he was a strong swimmer and they hadnt tied him as tight as he thought. He managed to get free and get to shore. His last working day in the shipyard and if he hadnt been as lucky I wouldnt be writing this blog post today.
Of course along with obvious bias (500 Catholic workers out of 9-10,000) there were also some untrue myths. I remember being told the ‘No Pope Here’ story by my Grannie when I was a kid. The story went that the hull registration number of the titanic was 3909 04 which is no pope backwards (ok you have to squint). Now this rumour was believed yet there is absolutely no evidence for it whatsoever. Thats not to say it wasnt chalked up somewhere and the rumour grew up from that, but it was an idea that was prevalent here for years, wrongly.
The RMS Titanic was christened ‘unsinkable’ by many and of course rumours grew up about comments about God not being able to sink it, and well he did. I dont think God works like that. 1500 odd people killed to prove a point, no, I dont think so. There was also rumoured to be a mummy being carried and it was the result of a mummies curse, or something to do with gold being carried aboard.
The Titanic didnt really sink for any of these reasons, just the usual, corporate greed, arrogance, human failing, laziness and stupidity. All entirely human reactions.
The sinking was a result of a chain of events, which unfortunately like any catastrophe any one of which would have prevented the sinking or at the very least prevented the huge loss of life.
The White Star line were under pressure to provide the fastest Atlantic crossing so they put pressure on the captain to go as quickly as they could. If they had heeded the iceberg warnings and slowed down they might have had more time. Common practice at the time however was to continue at speed as they thought any iceberg would be seen in time, not taking account of ship speed and turning circle etc.
It was a moonless night which mean visibility was low. They did see the iceberg before it hit but were going too fast to change direction and current thinking was that the helm crew turned the ship the wrong way in a panic steering the boat into the iceberg instead of away from it. The deck watch were hindered by the binoculars being locked away by a sleeping crewman so they couldnt see far enough. The crew did see a ‘haze’ before the collision but that could have been pack ice instead of an iceberg which they hit.
The design and construction were flawed, a lot of the rivets were substandard (poor workmanship or cost cutting) which caused the hull to buckle rather than tear so it was the plates coming apart that. The rudder wasnt large enough although it was large enough for contemporary design but that design didnt take account of increases in ship speed, design and size. It was a fraction of the size it would have needed to be to avoid the ice at the late stage it was seen. (about 30-40 secs in advance) The Titanic would probably have survived if it had hit the iceberg head on, it would have been disabled but wouldnt have necessarily sank.
After hitting the iceberg the titanic did continue forward for a while which helped flood the ship, if it had stopped it would have survived long enough before help arrived and perhaps the ship would have been saved or at the very least everyone would have survived. The design was compromised because increasing the bulkheads would have impacted first class accommodation and it wasnt thought that the ship would flood as much, so as the water flooded in and the ship moved forward the floodwater progressed through the ship.
The Titanic was criticised for not having enough lifeboats when in fact it had a few more than it was legally required to do, there was no legal requirement to have enough spaces on lifeboats for everyone on board. Even so if the lifeboats had been filled then perhaps another 500 would have been saved.
The nearest ship had its radio off and saw the distress flares going up but the captain assumed it was just a party. They could have got there before it sank and saved a lot of people.
There are many other points and coincidences which added to the sinking but all bad decisions or good decisions based on bad knowledge or experience at the time. A lot of small decisions linked together contributing to a catastrophe. Then add to this the whole insurance, where theres a blame theres a claim, attitude which was about at the time which has muddied the waters and hid truths for almost a century. Which also includes the many conspiracy theories including the ones I mentioned above.
There is no doubt still a fascination with the ship and a recent Channel 4/National Geographic programme went through stages of reconstructing parts of the Titanic or the processes used at the time. Part of the hull was reconstructed and remains as a sculpture down at the Thompsons Graving Dock where the titanic was built in Belfast.
The Harland and Wolff shipyard is now a tiny fraction of what it used to be, specialising now in ship repair and assembly of wind turbines. The area it once dominated is now rechristened “Titanic Quarter” and was to be a showpiece development in Belfast. New apartments, offices, open spaces, the Titanic Signature Project museum building, the regeneration of the area. This was all scheduled to be built or underway by the 100th anniversary of the sinking.
The property crash killed a lot of the development, lots of overpriced empty apartments which are the result of legal battles. Apartments were built to current specifications at time of design with the current prices, greed took over and people bought as investments and there were rumours of apartments being bought and sold before they were even built. Lots of the apartments were bought as investments and when the crash happened the prices sank and so mortgages couldnt be obtained for apartments ‘worth’ a fraction of what the legal sale price was agreed at. There was a lot of greed involved from the developers through to people trying to make a fast buck and for a lot of them that idea has sunk without trace – sound familiar? I remember being in conversation with people who thought their investment in two or three apartment deposits was a license to print money. An Unsinkable investment as it where?
It is all a bit of a disaster really but no lives have been lost, its probably going to be at least 10 years behind if it ever gets completed at all. The Signature project is ongoing and the tourism aspect is growing.
It all reminds me of the time the names were being put forward for what is now the Belfast Giants ice hockey team. One of the names put forward was the Belfast Titans to tie in with the Titanic theme (they play in an Arena built in the Titanic Quarter). It was then pointed out that having something which associates the Titanic with ice, in Belfast, may not be such a good idea after all.
I made a point when I first started this blog that I would never use it to talk about photo gear or equipment except to perhaps swear really loudly at something that didnt work the way I wanted it to. I have no intention of going against this idea except to say that I do briefly touch on it.
Last week I took a quick flight across the water to Liverpool for a couple of days and due to security restrictions and overall general paranoia, flying isnt the pleasure it used to be. So for a trip lasting 48 hours I wanted to travel as light as possible to keep within restrictive hand luggage restrictions. Im not exactly a tight arse but for 48 hours I dont want to spend 4 of that in check in queues and waiting at the baggage carousel.
Back in the day when I used to travel regularly I could turn up at an airport with bag 15 mins before the flight and just walk on. Even recently Ive taken a couple of 48-72 hour trips to the likes of Rome, Berlin, Krakow just for the purpose of taking photos, but in the last year or two it has just become a chore. I obviously dont have the dedication to queue in line to be the first irish suicide bomber! Besides which they still allow alcohol sales airside – isnt that flammable?
Anyway back to the hand luggage problem, for this trip I would be just using my Canon G9 and my tablet computer. Notice I said tablet computer (advent vega if you must know) rather than ipad. Not that Ive anything against the overpriced, under specced, restricted piece of male jewellry, I just want something that does everything I want it to and not what someone else says I need and not to bother about all that other stuff I dont really need as they know best.
There are always ongoing debates in photography about quality of equipment and how you dont need to spend a fortune on equipment to get good photos. I always tell my students that this is the case, with a large caveat. Its not necessary to have good equipment to get good photos but it is necessary to have good equipment to get consistently and repeatedly good photos.
Dont get me wrong I love my G9, Ive an underwater housing for it and its got me photos I normally wouldnt get but it is incredibly limited. People get tied up in the number of megapixels debate that camera companies bandy about like boys getting into a pissing up the wall contest (or something a lot less polite) without actually discussing the quality of those pixels.
Of course the overpowering argument is that why should I spend in excess of 50 thousand on equipment for a photography business when I could just buy a 500 quid compact and be done with it.
Come to think of it, why am I?
The advantage of using something like a G9 is that it generally doesnt attract the attention of the thought police, put on my rucksack, add trainers to a 40 year old(ish) man and and anorak and you can happily snap away looking like a complete loser. Change that to 10 grands worth of camera body and lens and its a short cut to a body cavity search.
Of course the converse argument is that with the high end kit people push their kids in front of the camera, with everything else they shy the kids away from the weird looking man.
Id given myself a brief of documenting the journey and trying to use the camera with the limitations it has. Namely that its crap. Ok thats being unfair, the photos would have limited editorial use, they couldnt be used in low light conditions as the quality would be too poor to pass any agencies quality control and the total frame would have to be used as resolution is small as it is. Going back to the quality of pixels argument the dynamic range of the small cameras is very poor, what that means is that it doesnt handle both bright light and darkness in the same photo too well. Well it does but instead of being able to sell the pictures, I would just call them ‘art’ and add to the vast majority of my art collection and the ‘if this sells I’ll buy my friends a pint’. One such image is one I took in a bluebell glade in a woodland. I was walking down the hill and went on my arse and skidded the whole way down. Of course reaction was to hold the camera in the air and inadvertently fire off 9 frames a second for the whole journey. So I picked one ‘abstract’ and put it up for sale. I owe several people pints if it ever sells.
A couple of current affairs issues were apparent, there were a number of people with big bags and one way tickets, signs of the recession here in Ireland and Ireland continuing with its greatest export, its people.
Then the usual of taking your water off you and then getting you to buy overpriced water airside which is a complete pain someone like me who is advised to take aspirin tablets to fly due to previous injuries and help avoid dvt. Security measure or profit making – hmmm maybe Bin Laden has shares in bottled water companies.
The journey was reasonably uneventful and quite painless thanks to the pre boarding cards so the blog represents a little storyboard of the up, down, turnaround come back trip.
From a technical point of view, the camera performed well but thats within very strict guidelines and limitations. If it was possible for me to sell 50 grands worth of camera equipment and just get away with a couple of compacts, then from a business perspective I would.
Of course thats not to say that images produced from compacts wont and dont sell, I’ve sold some compact images for reasonable prices but never for a double page spread or advertising use. I could argue that if the photo was really important then I wouldnt take it with a compact so how do I expect them to sell, or put another way, everything finds its price point.
Various stock sites sell images for a dollar or whatever the equivalent is, in the vast majority of cases the photographs are taken with cheap equipment and thats not knocking them, everything has a value and a price point but its unlikely to produce long term growth except for a chosen few mass producers. At the minute the UK editorial market (newspapers by and large) are paying a pittance for photos, so using compacts for this type of work seems to go along with the price point.
My issue is when other agencies sell images that take years of experience to produce, are researched well and are shot on high end equipment sell them for pennies regardless. There is a lesson to be learned there though, over the last 4 weeks I have been taking some photos with minimal setup (although still using high end camera and lens) to see how they get on with other agents in the uk market.
Not exactly a great plan of action but an interesting experiment in trying to tailor production costs for the price points. It will be interesting to see if on a per unit basis how they compare with the higher end production cost photos.
Speaking of experiments, I had planned a number of ‘Top Gear’ style photo challenges for last year which Ive moved back to this year, one of which was a travel from easterly point to westerly point in Ulster in one day (dawn to dusk around midsummers day) and take photos of each county inbetween along with sunrise and sunset (hopefully). The Top Gear show last night did the reverse in England, driving from west to east from dusk til dawn….
…watch this space.
The gig and album photos have all been to a particular brief, with his last gig, it was in May Street Church so it was a mixture of promotional music photographs as well as showing something of the architecture of this old church. We have another couple of shoots planned which will emphasise the irishness of his music but not in the traditional view of the green leprechaun view of irishness. Stephen is from Belfast and there is no doubt that all of us of the same age carry some baggage with regard to this place. Its a place we love but its also a place where a lot of people emigrate from for various reasons, a lot of it in the past has to do with the troubles.
Some of us also emigrate for good reasons and Stephen is one of them. He met his Canadian wife Tera in Belfast whilst she was in intern for the local ice hockey team. I used to be involved in the supporters club for the team and thats how I came know Tera and then Stephen. As with everything in this small place you find out friends and families are intertwined and the whole ‘I recognise you from somewhere but I dont know where’ comments. Particularly if you have never met before, ever!
You may wonder what Im rambling on about but a couple of years ago Stephen gave me an acoustic version of his song ‘Streets of Belfast’. I thought it was a great piece to put to an AV slideshow of images of Belfast and got to work. I put the video up on youtube and my website and really forgot about it.
In his new album Steven has re-recorded the “Streets of Belfast” with full production, so I thought I’d rework the photo and audio slideshow as well with more up to date photos of Belfast. Ive put it up on youtube once again and the link is below so get a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy the next three and a half minutes (more later).
I was familiar with Streets of Belfast but I hadnt heard the rest of the latest album. Stephen like myself is fond of a long story or two so he was telling me about waiting for his flight home to Belfast before Christmas. As he was standing in the queue for check in, with all the thousands of people and delayed, cancelled flights, he saw a soldier in the queue in front of him. The guy probably had the dust from whatever combat area he had just come from still on him. Stephen overheard the guy saying something like ‘ma’am, I just want to get home’.
Looking from behind at his combat boots, camouflage trousers, kit bag, Stephen said he thought of me and said if I was there I would make a picture of that scene and it reminded him of his song on the new album ‘Leaving’.
So I got a copy of the album and it was a couple of days before I could sit down and listen to it properly. I played leaving over and over again. It tells something of a personal story for Stephen but it also rings true for many of us. Particularly poignant in the current economic climate in Ireland where once again we export our greatest natural asset, our people.
Of course its not just the physical act of leaving that the song applies to but for things like going to university, getting married etc.
Then it was a case of marrying the photos up to the video. It was an interesting project as the Streets of Belfast one was straightforward, tying the images there of a fixed place in with the song. The Leaving one had to have a good balance of not just Irish/Belfast images but also ones that would appeal on both sides of the Atlantic (and perhaps be recogniseable) as well as internationally.
As usual I put too many images in the original draft so there were a few refining emails then sending out the video to a few people to get their views. Ive included the final version below, hopefully it does the song justice, so go get another cup of tea or coffee and sit back and watch.
Its been a while since my last blog but in my defence Ive been busy and its been a bit of a career landmark.
In my previous life I was a software engineer and I studied at Queens University Belfast for four years, first doing a BEng (batchelor of engineering) degree and then an MSc (Master of Science) degree.
My first job was in a local software company and I then went on to work in 2 more software companies before a change in circumstances brought about a change in Career after 9 years as an Engineer. In 2001 I took my first photography job working for a local photographer before going it alone a year or so later.
So in late September 2010 I am now a photographer longer than I ever was a Software Engineer yet I have just completed part of a commission for companies involved in Software Engineering. Not quite poacher turned gamekeeper and yet not quite a busmans holiday either. It was good to catch up with old colleagues and catch up quickly, far too quickly, with the old profession and its current issues.
Deep down Im still an engineer, I’ve always been an engineer which is a strange thing to say in this profession, but Ive always had an artistic side as well. That was never able to manifest itself fully in my previous career yet the era of digital photography, website generation, online marketing, email, ftp, image editing and distribution and all those good things keep the engineer in me happy.
Ive always been a problem solver and one of my first jobs in software was in a team tasked with ‘firefighting’ the ‘hot issues’ of the day. Now I dont miss the management speak, particularly as since then I’ve taken photos of real firefighters and whilst Im not wishing to denigrate my previous profession, the words used are incongruous with the job.
Through my later jobs I got involved in recruitment, customer bids and processes, corporate training, writing specifications, interpreting client briefs, investigating client issues and dealing with clients across the globe. I cant really say my job as a photographer is any different to that with all those skills being very portable indeed and just applied to different areas.
Perhaps thats why I have grown and progressed the business, because I brought those skills with me and adapted them. Maybe its just coincidence but either way it didnt do me any harm.
The access all areas press, red carpet and general swanning around with the gorgeous people isnt really the image you think of sitting outside a hotel in dublin in the snow at 1am as you try to wire your photos into an office on the west coast of the states.
Bit like my last couple of software jobs were we had US offices and you were on call until 2am in case any problems arose. Of course in one job we also had offices in the Phillipines and Australia. What do you mean you arent available 24/7? No different to now when people from all across the globe who are on deadlines and who want photos asap dont really care what timezone you are in. ‘Im just ringing to see if you are in?’ ‘yes its 4am, where else would I be’. ‘Can you email me this photo?’, ‘Yes, as soon as I get my eyes open I’ll be on to it – oh and you will need to pay in advance by paypal’. Sounds very glamourous indeed
When I tell people what I do, particularly those in IT professions they say they long for a job where they arent sitting in front of a computer all day and dont have to pull all nighters. Wishing away the long winter nights sitting at 2am trying to find a pizza place open in Belfast…
Well sorry folks I have news for you, I was up at 8am and its 12am now and Im still at the computer, writing a blog no less During that time I had to run to the doctors as I did ankle ligaments in at the weekend. Sorry, no sick leave or sick pay here its put up or shut up.
One of the biggest wrenches for me was the leaving a very well paid, stable job with holidays, and sick pay and healthcare and overtime and… …and then I remember being paid to take photos of naked women on a beach in Tenerife mid January…. …money isnt everything.
I love my job and I hope that shows. I loved being an engineer, I just didnt particularly enjoy the environment but looking back on it I had had my time and it was time for something different. Im now at the same stage in my photography career but I dont have the same urges. Maybe its got to do with reinvention and changing business approach every few years.
Some photographers try to blame the GWC idea – guy with camera. It appears that anyone with a camera can call themselves a professional photographer, couple of hundred quid on a camera, 6 quid for printable business cards and 30 quid for a cheap website and away you go, you are doing weddings but I remember people who had a home computer calling themselves computer programmers and asking if I could sort them out with a job. No different and that doesnt give any credit to clients who should be able to look at a photographers website, look at the images, the craft in the photos and the message behind the photography to differentiate between the chancers and the people who will build a relationship.
I learned that in my IT days when dealing with clients, it was about building relationships, getting a bond of mutual trust instead of trying to sell them something. Yes you are still selling but you are selling them something that will benefit them, which in turn will benefit you, everyones happy. I try to do that with the photography and that has been borne out by the number of long term clients I have and equally the long term relationship they have with me. They know they can ring me at 11pm and that I will take their calls because its probably important, important to them, their business and ultimately their families and lifestyle. You do go the extra mile for people you have a relationship with and its that closer bond I like with being self employed rather than working for a large corporation. Of course I could have got that within the IT industry by setting up myself there, but then again Ive seen people in tears holding their daughters wedding photos or getting their baby to smile on camera or a public relations person ringing me to thank me for getting their company in the paper with a good photo. No-one ever congratulated me on a line of C code, or a good subroutine in COBOL or sorting out a java error.
I started radharcimages because it interested me, right at the start of a recession when the market for the type of photos I was producing for it had started drying up, so its on hold, not cancelled. It will be resurrected occasionally although if climate change has its way all the pictures will have to be retaken to reflect our monsoon seasons.
Ive no idea what the next 9 weeks will bring never mind the next 9 years. In 9 years time if Im still here I’ll be approaching 50 and who knows I might have bought myself a pair of braces, grown a big belly and taken up wedding photography full time. Maybe I’ll actually buy a euro millions rollover ticket next week, win it and then head off round the world in a very big boat.
It really is up to me, its about trying to predict the future, I will live or die by my own decisions and I have no-one to blame but myself. Perhaps thats the key, thats the reason why Im still up writing a blog at 12am, or maybe Im just nuts.
Either way its going to be interesting…
…and isnt that what its all about.
No-one living in Belfast can fail to recognise that the city is built around the river. The city is built on the river and even in the river. The vast majority of the city centre is built on about 50 metres deep of mud flat sludge over the sandstone bedrock. Like all old major cities it grew up around the river and the river has been its lifeblood and so Belfast Lough is the approach to the city that many a visitor, immigrant, emigrant has seen. Perhaps its most famous product the Titanic was born on the river and there are markers still to this day in the Lough used to judge its speed.
In my lifetime Ive never been low down for any length of time in the lough, the ferries to Liverpool, Scotland and the Isle of Man usually have great height and so you have a distinct birds eye view of what is going on. Similarly for the approaches to the harbour airport, its all below you.
Mooring my boat in Carrickfergus and doing some initial exploration of the lough from the water has given a different view of the approaches and with a little imagination gives an idea of what it was like for early settlers and invaders arriving, both early and late.
The limit of The Port of Belfast is the fairway channel marker buoy. Beyond this point you are under the control of Belfast Harbour and navigation is controlled and not a place for me to wander at random. Entrance to the Harbour itself is tightly controlled and photography restricted so no view there folks.
The marker buoy sits on an imaginary line between Grey Point and Carrickfergus Castle, two historic locations which guard the entrance to the approaches to Belfast.
Many people know Carrickfergus Castle, built by the Norman John De Courcy in 1177 it has dominated the entrance to Belfast for over 800 years. It has been attached, besieged by many nations and used as a military outpost right up to World War Two. Normally visitors have a view like this, the view of the castle from the harbour..
However any attacker seeing this view, probably first had to see this view…
Coming up the lough in small boats, when the mist clears the cannonballs start raining down on you, getting to the harbour area is some achievement. Leaving the outer harbour walls aside and the buildings behind, this view has changed little in that 800 years. 700 odd years ago as you rowed up the lough, armour at the ready then this looms out of the mist you have to wonder who’s bright idea was this? Probably not one of the people doing the rowing around you.
At the opposite side of the lough is Grey Point and this has a more modern defensive outpost in Grey Point Fort. The fort was built between 1904 and 1907 and housed naval guns for naval defence of the lough. The original searchlight positions are still on the shoreline and even the white markings are still visible on the rocks of nearby shorelines which gave distance markings to the gunners. The current guns are a recent installment, bought from a similar battery in Cork after the grey point guns were sold for scrap in the 50s. It doesnt say anywhere in the history if this sale involved a metal merchant transaction or they were loaded onto the back of a big lorry.
Grey Point Fort never saw any true action during either war, well not strictly true, shortly after war was declared the over eager gunners fired a shot across the bows of a merchant ship who was yet unaware that war had been declared. Hmmm.
Just up from Carrickfergus Castle is Kilroot Power station which is a giant of a building on its own. It can supply up to a third of the electricity in Northern Ireland. Its a dual coal and oil fired power station, both of which are supplied from deep water berths in the sea. The coal loading area is close to the station and the Cloghan Point oil jetty is over a kilometre long about 3km up the coast. Its a massive impressive structure, particularly when up close in a small boat. Although the fishing near it isnt bad at all!
Between the coal and oil terminals theres another small nondescript insignificant jetty. It belongs to the equally blandly named Irish Salt Mining and Exploration company. Deep below the surface is a massive salt mine which taps into the underground salt seam which streches under the atlantic, all the way to Russia. If you have driven on gritted snow bound roads in Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland and parts of the East coast of the USA then some or all of the salt probably came from this small jetty.
During the bad conditions last winter I tried to get access to the mine to photograph it as the UK was running out of Salt and the Kilroot Mine was working 24/7 to try and supply enough to keep the roads gritted. The road to the mine was just nose to tail with lorries taking the salt throughout Ireland. Now a very well known (and probably affluent) news agency had secured the rights to photos in the mine, so like the local tv stations I was stuck with taking photos of the road or looking around for old aerial stock photos. So heres the photo for next winter as viewed from the sea!
A little past the Cloghan point jetty is the town of whitehead and then the Blackhead lighthouse which is the point where the County Antrim Coastline leaves Belfast Lough and reaches the Irish Sea. As somebody scared of heights I went to the edge of the clifftop a few years ago for some photos and it looked like a long way down. From the sea the cliffs dont look half as scary, nor does the famous coastal path. Although I wouldnt like to be on either in anything more than a breeze.
I was listening to the radio the other day when they were discussing the British Governments plan to boost tourism to the UK. The presenter was from Belfast and he said that we have lovely countryside, areas of outstanding natural beauty, areas of special scientific interest and you are positively falling over ancient and modern heritage. Yet the tourists want to see the areas of the troubles, where so and so was shot, which areas were blown up etc etc.
To emphasise the point I have an image published in the current edition of the Sunday Times travel magazine special on Ireland. Is it a photo of the sun rising over Belfast, No. Is it a photo of the sun setting on the Giants causeway, No. Is it the food, the people, any number of ancient monuments, castles, valleys, countryside… No. Its a photo of a loyalist wall mural.
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board and associated city organisations spend a fortune promoting ‘Luxury Belfast’ or come and get engaged in Northern Ireland. Im from here and I didnt get engaged in Northern Ireland. All this is dreamed up by marketing gurus and people getting ‘on message.’ Im sure there are focus groups and people just wanting junkets in the luxury hotels around Belfast. They spend a fortune producing glitzy ads try to attract different demographics whilst ignoring the vast majority of things going on here and what the local people are actually trying to promote.
Im all for marketing and having a message, I preach it to clients often enough but somewhere when promoting tourism you should have people who have actually travelled, and not just a fortnight in Ibiza, Blackpool or Portrush.
Ive travelled on all 5 continents, Ive flown from bucket seat 3rd World airlines where landing was usually considered optional to First Class inter continental British Airways. Ive stayed in all ranges from the ‘Places to stay – top end’ to campsites and youth hostels with fresh blood on the walls. Ive sat on dirty ground eating food from street vendors to silver service personal waiter service in what looked liked a remnant of old collonialism (with the price to match). Ive enjoyed watching puppet street theatre in Prague to candlelit opera in the Tsars summer palace in Moscow.
All a slightly exaggerated way of saying, Ive got about a bit.
In every single place, in every single language, every single person has asked me about ‘the war’.
Thats what Belfast is known for. Whether we like it or not, thats what we should be selling. You cant go to Berlin and not go to the Wall, you cant go to Cyprus and not overlook no mans land, Krakow and not go to Auschwitz. Maybe its because Im from here but I go to every conflict area and hole in the hedge when travelling.
It pishes down here most of the time so I do feel like I should be prosecuted under the trades description act for some of my photos so sell people what they are going to get.
As for the luxury end of the market, I dont know who does their research but when Ive booked luxury Ive done it from home, Ive been picked up at the airport, looked after until Ive went home. Not once have I went from my youth hostel or campsite and picked up a luxury brochure by accident when looking for my best fry in Belfast deal and decided to go to the Merchant or Four Square on the strength of it. Madness.
Last week I went for a walk along the Lagan at night to do some photos, it was a poor night photographically and in the 2 hours I was out I spotted 4 lost looking tourists, wandering around looking, well lost. Any other city in the world with a riverside similar to ours would have a bit of life, street entertainment, stalls, people walking up and down and you could get a fecking cup of coffee after 9pm!
Maybe thats all the tourists we have on a wet thursday night in August in Belfast, maybe they are all at the Giants Causeway, lapping up the Luxury hotels, popping the question down in Fermanagh or helping the locals beat the living shit out of each other in Ardoyne. Maybe they dont want to walk along a still river at night, soak up the maritime heritage, buy a cuppa and a a bit of tat that will sit on the foreign equivalent of a fireplace for years to say ‘Ive been to Belfast’.
I once drove 17 hours straight to get a signed piece of paper to say Id crossed the arctic circle. I was in Bergen with a few mates and it rains there 360 days a year (bit like here) so after 3 days of rain we hired a car and drove north at speed. Thats what tourists do.
Sell them the war tours, sell them the murals, its what we have thats unique in the world. When we have them here sell them Belfast waterfront, Bangor, Newry, Armagh, Derry, Omagh, Fermanagh. Give them the option of going on a tour to the ancient monuments, christian heritage, world heritage sites, inland waterways, surfing holidays, walking holidays, boating holidays, whiskey and drink tours, etc etc, you might even sell the odd engagement ring or persuade people to upgrade hotel for one night. Who knows they may even come back after we have sold them a poncho with the giants causeway on the back of it.
As for the waterfront, well there is a recession on but when the titanic quarter is built, and it is already showing signs of life with luxury car makers moving in, then it will be a thoroughfare and with people will come the need for stalls, street entertainment, nightlife etc.
Possibly one of the worlds future ‘best kept secrets’…
Until then, keep selling the troubles, whilst people here still remember what it was.
…Orange? Red, Blue and Yellow?
Who knows Ive always liked Dutch football and to be honest the Spanish tippy tappy football is ok to watch but boring 1-0s doesnt make great World Cup football.
Still, fair play to both teams, both massive underachievers in the past and generally teams who implode due to various factions in their squads long before the final stages. Both camps in the past have been rife with national tensions (spain and catalonia, holland and their players from colonial backgrounds) which leads nicely into Northern Ireland in July.
The 12th of July is known as Orangemans Day. There are very few more divisive days in the Northern Ireland calendar than 12th of July.
For some its a day when they have the opportunity to put on show their religious and political history and affiliations, for others is a mass display of triumphalism. For some its a colourful religious ceremony, for others its just a lot of drunks getting drenched/sunburnt (usually both).
In most other areas of the world any historical parades or festivals are scenes of celebrations and huge draws for tourists. You might not know the significance or indeed what goes on but everyone is heading into town for a party so you go along.
Its probably too early in our movement away from recent history for this to be the case here at home. Despite the local tourist board trying to fund the events and rebrand them ‘Orangefest’. It still doesnt stop the majority of the minority population getting on boats, planes or getting in the car and not stopping until they are 10 feet across the border.
And thats a great shame.
Along with St Patricks Day its one of the unique bank holidays we have here and everyone knows how much we like a holiday (and a chance to get a drink). I think the Orangefest is still on the right lines and hopefully for future generations and future tourists it will become a festival and with time the riots/disturbances/sectarianism will all be lost in time and people will just go and watch old men wearing bowler hats and as much orange as you would normally see at a Dutch international match.
Ive photographed both sides of the events, you have to in this country.
To give a simplistic explanation Orangemans day celebrates the Orange Order which was an organisation formed after the Battle of the Diamond in 1795 in or near Dan Winters home in Loughgall. The Orange side came from Dutch King William of Orange after his defeat of the mainly Catholic armies of King James in Ireland primarily at the Battle of the Boyne. A battle commemorated today between a half French, half english catholic king (James) and a half dutch quarter english quarter french king (William) which had very little bearing on this island except for the fact the main decisive battles were here. The fact that William was also James’ nephew and son-in-law just adds creedence to idea that we shouldnt really get involved in domestic squabbles. Families eh?
The Orange Order is often portrayed as an anti-catholic organisation. Perhaps that might be a bit strong or maybe its not but you cannot be a member if you are Catholic and in the past the order has expelled members from attending Catholic church ceremonies such as weddings and funerals and the like. Which certainly hasnt helped Northern Irelands fractuous sectarian relationships.
Its close association with the previous one party state government in Northern Ireland led it to be seen as part of the state.
So until recently we have the diametrically opposed views of ‘walking the queens highway’ and a ‘show of triumphalism’. This has often been exacerbated by demographic changes where ‘traditional routes’ used for years by Orangemen during their annual parades are now along main thoroughfares through majority Catholic areas. The new politics here in Northern Ireland means that protests against this are now allowed by the state and so people do protest, the most noticeable being the Drumcree dispute which is still not solved and used to bring the country to a standstill, usually in flames and caused a boon for the car park at Dublin airport who regularly overspilled by a factor of almost 10 into nearby areas to accommodate the Northern refugees flying off to the sun.
The 11th night is one communities ‘bonfire night’ with wood being collected and stacked very high for months. In recent years the size of these bonfires have been curbed and the burning of rubbish, tyres and other things that produce toxic chemicals has been banned. In a lot of cases there are now street parties and its more of a family event. The irish tricolour is still burned at the top though, I doubt that will ever change. Oh and for balance the catholic bonfire night is the 9th of August to celebrate the introduction of Internment without trial. One side celebrates the family squabbles between the dutch/french/english and the other side celebrates a night of getting banged up in jail for months on end without trial. Come on guys!
Things have noticeable calmed in recent years but there are still a few flashpoints, but mainly well away from the city centre and in outlying areas of the city or other areas. Disputes that will only be solved by talking and by time.
Drumcree Church and the Garvaghy Road.
Part of the problem is the language used (as ever). The parades arent parades, they are demonstrations. That is a negative word. Its like when a good photographer friend of mine asked why we native English speakers say ‘take pictures’ instead of ‘make pictures’. He said as a non-native speaker the act of making pictures was better as take implied something negative. He has a very good point. The issue should be what we can do to make the parades more accessible to most and yet allow those who dont want to attend to go about their daily business. I remember as a kid being ‘sealed in’ by the Army on the 12th. Early in the am the army would set up cordons around our area and put up big screens, imprisoning us for the day. It will be a number of years yet before people my generation stop thinking like that, but it will come.
At some point maybe it will be a festival and before I sat down to write this I was going to extol the virtues of the opportunity we have for exploiting the tourism aspect…
…that was until I saw the weather and Monday (the twelfth) is the only good weather day to get my boat out and Ive no chance as most of the areas within driving (towing) distance all have parades and have traffic disruption. Thats the worst thing, the place just closes down, and that definitely has to change.
So come on the Orangemen (in the World Cup final of course). Orangemans day photos here more Belfast photos here more Ireland photos here
..its been 4 weeks since my last blog post.
What can I say, I’ve been busy! Firstly, the world cup has been on. I’d love to say its been a classic but it hasnt. England overachieved (again). Honestly guys, you arent as good as you think you are.
The French self destructed and went out in the first round – sorry have to snigger at that one.
At the time of writing, we have just had the quarter finals and finally the tournament has sprung to life, teams actually trying to win games instead of not losing them. Argentina were taught a lesson in football by Germany, Brazil outplayed, Paraguay only just beaten by a lacklustre Spanish side.
I remember standing on three countries corner in January (Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay) and thinking in the last couple of weeks that all three places would be going completely daft and surely at least one of those would make the final. Nope.
At the minute its very hard to see past Germany. No worries about dodgy offsides, ball going over the line cameras, vuvuzelas…
… nope scoring 4 goals a game will sort it out for you. (thats probably the kiss of death for them).
So what else have I been up to – oh yes, bought a boat, more on that in a later post (if I havent drowned).
Its been a busy time with ‘normal’ photo work as opposed to stock photography. Ive been involved in a number of dance photography projects as well as general tourism PR photography for one of the local tourist agencies – maybe more on that in a later post.
The Dance projects are interesting. One was to document all the work that a particular organisation does, from teaching to performances to providing working and conference facilities. It was a long project with a lot of quite interesting aspects but again more on this later as the photos are still embargoed until the new projects launch.
Once again I had the opportunity to work with local company Maiden Voyage. They are currently producing two portable dance productions to incorporate into various aspects of the community and the upcoming cultural life of the City.
The pieces are designed to be portable so that they can be performed anywhere and everywhere in limited space and on the fly as well as incorporated into larger productions and street or internal displays.
This provides a challenge both to the production teams and in terms of PR photography given the vagaries of the Northern Ireland weather. The crew just love it when the drizzle starts and I shout for them to continue as it puts a nice sheen on the roadway!
The first piece is entitled ‘Bubblegum’ and choreographed by Omar Gordon with dancers Ryan O’Neill and Fania Grigoriou. The piece is inspired by the idea of sharing our space and embracing the differences. As this was the first piece to be completed the venue choices for the photography had to really be something linked to the cultural aspects of the city.
The official description is ‘Set in an intricate self-made world of barriers and conceived with the idea of sharing a space and embracing our differences, BUBBLEGUM is an exploration of mania’s, idiosyncrasies and two comic characters attraction to each other.’ Thats pretty much the brief.
Maiden Voyage is based in the Cathedral Arts Quarter of the City so the first set of photos was to be in and around there coupled with a later set featuring the River Lagan which everyone from Belfast would recognise.
Sounds like a plan…
Of course to ensure clean backgrounds, quiet streets, good light and uninterrupted staging of a couple of run throughs of the piece, we would really need to be ready to go for about 8am on a Sunday morning. Sorry, we thought you said meet at 8am sunday. Yes I did, see you there.
As with everything tied up with deadlines, the weather was the key and we had an hour of good weather window to get the shots. As Id never seen the complete piece before we did a run through then I ran around like a maniac getting the angles for the PR photos. Even at this ungodly hour of a sunday morning there were some brave tourist souls who didnt realise that Belfast doesnt open to after midday on a Sunday! I hate staging Dance photos, I avoid it at all costs so for me its a case of running through the piece once, marking my spots then maybe one or two more runthroughs before isolating small sections for repeats. I let the dancers get on with it, they are the experts and minimal intervention from me except the odd stop and repeat that bit sort of thing. Its also important to get the choreographers input, listening to what they are trying to achieve and blending that with the options available in an essentially uncontrolled environment (that big yellow for sale sign wasnt there yesterday) and also producing images that can be used for PR purposes, that have impact, meaning and appeal visually to a range of audiences, not just those involved with Dance.
I can set a dozen images down and I know which ones the dancers, choreographers will like, the ones I like, the ones that are good for PR, the ones that will get published and the ones that will stick in peoples minds. Rarely do all of those intersect.
The final two shots selected try to accommodate all that, one in Hill Street and one on raised ground at the Lagan with the Harland and Wolff shipyards in the background.
The second piece ‘Dream a Little Dream’ choreographed by Suzannah McCreight with dancers Ryan O’Neill and Jen Thornton was a different prospect, both technically and aestetically. The official description of the piece ‘Tired of everyday life, a couple embark on a red carpet fantasy as they try out a celebrity existence invoking an era of old Hollywood glamour.’ For someone who also specialised in red carpet photos, how hard could it be?
Well tell that to the Northern Ireland weather.
We initially wanted to contrast the first shots with the idea of the pieces being extremely portable so we came up with a few ideas for primarily big sky outdoor locations. Our first choice was McArts fort on the top of Cavehill with the city spread out below, another early morning shot and second choice as the likes of Stormont with a final idea of some truly red carpet shots at dusk some evening with the city lights twinkling in the background. We had a deadline for the photos so just had to wait for a weather window.
That left us with some more river dusk shots but the only weather window was at the same time as the local maritime festival so that was a no-goer as well.
Back to the drawing board and we decided for this set of PR pictures to focus in on the red carpet aspect of the piece and shoot it again in Cathedral Quarter but this time surrounded by the modern architecture and clean buildings and lines of the urban renewal section of the quarter. This contrasts with the old cobbled streets of Hill Street and the river which the city grew up around.
On reflection it suited the piece more to have this as the background given that the couple in the piece were trying to get away from everyday life and develop a new modern existence with a stylised view of an old era.
As a consequence of having to wait for weather windows we ended up putting on the first public performances of the piece. It was Sunday afternoon by the time the weather cleared for a Monday deadline. At first passers by asked if someone famous was coming along due to the red carpets and the photographer and videographers with multi light setups but everyone that passed by stopped to watch at least one of the run-throughs. Playing havoc with window reflections, but hey, how hard can this photography thing really be?
..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.