Wednesday, 30 January 2008


Anybody who has not already done so should take a look at my videos on YouTube - I have just uploaded 3 videos of Joe Stilgoe in session (with CHRIS HILL on bass and BEN REYNOLDS on drums ) at Pizza Express, Dean Street, London. Although the picture quality isn't the greatest the music more than makes up for it. Joe has a CD coming out about June and I expect to be one of the first to purchase a copy. If you have a chance to see him perform I strongly urge you not to miss him.

The Burghers of Calais

You have probably recognised this sculpture by Auguste Rodin as 'The Burghers of Calais' - it does not stand in Calais, as you might think, but in Victoria Tower Gardens, London. Under French law no more than twelve casts of this piece were permitted after Rodin’s death. The London casting, purchased by the British Government in 1911, is one of them. The original statue still stands in Calais.
Completed in 1888. It serves as a monument to an occurrence in 1347 during the Hundred Years' War, when Calais, an important French port on the English Channel, was under siege by the English for over a year.

The story goes that England's Edward III, after a victory in the Battle of Crécy, laid siege to Calais and Philip VI of France ordered the city to hold out at all costs. Philip failed to lift the siege and starvation eventually forced the city to parlay for surrender. Edward offered to spare the people of the city if any six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. Edward demanded that they walk out almost naked and wearing nooses around their necks and be carrying the keys to the city and castle. One of the wealthiest of the town leaders, Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first and five other burghers soon followed suit and they stripped down to their breeches. Saint Pierre led this envoy of emaciated volunteers to the city gates and it is this moment and this poignant mix of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice and the facing of imminent mortality that Rodin captures in these figures, which are scaled somewhat larger than life.

In history, though the burghers expected to be executed, their lives were spared by the intervention of England's Queen, Philippa of Hainault, who persuaded her husband by saying it would be a bad omen for her unborn child. Wikipedia

Monday, 28 January 2008

Opera Monday - Summer - Nella Fantasia

I first saw and heard this on Classic FM TV (which, for some unknown reason, is no longer broadcasting on mainstream TV) and loved it so much that I went out and bought the CD by Summer - and it was money well spent. Highly recommended.

More birthday celebrations

Hi, sorry for not having made a post for some time but part of the reason was that I have been to London for a few days. Obviously I had to photograph the London Eye (which looks more like a big bicycle wheel) so that you can compare with Belfast's big rickety wheel.

The reason for being in London was Dr. Em's **th birthday - and to celebrate we took in a 'show'.
The show we (when I say we I mean of course I... ) selected was 'Wicked' (the untold story of the witches of Oz) and it is absolutely fantastic. Great music, great acting and a lot of humour. Two of the actors some of you may remember are Susie Blake and Nigel Planer (man, has he aged! - but then haven't we all?).

Friday, 18 January 2008

Dead Python

Here's a story from the UTV web site that I and a number of other people in the office found to be very amusing:

THURSDAY 17/01/2008 14:05:30
The baby snake which vanished from one of Belfast's most famous streets has been found dead. The baby python was reported missing from Hyndford Street in east Belfast, where the legendary musician Van Morrison was born, yesterday morning.
The police say the snake was found dead in an alleyway in the Heatherbell Street area this afternoon.

It is not the content of the story that amused us but the fact that the journalist thought that adding a couple of commas would improve the sense of the story.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Smart Parking

Here's a photo my daughter sent me in response to the photos I posted of the inconsiderate parkers - now isn't that a neat bit of parking? Mind you, I'm not too sure just how the car to the left of the Smart car will be able to extricate itself from that position, it looks like a tight squeeze to me.

Opera Monday - Janet Baker - Orfeo ed Euridice - Che faro senza Euridice

Orfeo has been allowed to bring back his wife from Hades as long as he does not look upon her face until they are back on earth. However, urged by Euridice, he turns around and looks at her and she immediately dies. Grief-stricken, he wonders what he will ever do without his love.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

les anniversaires

Today is a very special day - it is the birthday of my grandson and also the daughter of my friend, MLL.

Aujourd'hui, c'est un jour très spécial - c'est les anniversaires de mon petit-fils et de la fille de mon amie, MLL.

I would like to send my very best wishes to both of these very special people.

Je voudrais présenter mes meilleurs voeux les deux enfants spécials.



Monday, 7 January 2008

Opera Monday - Song for the Unification of Europe

The finale of the 1993 french film 'Bleu' directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski.

The music is the 'Song for the Unification of Europe' from the film's soundtrack, composed by Zbigniew Preisner and sung in Greek. It's an abridged version of 1 Corinthians:13 ("Hymn to Love").

Sinfonia Varsovia, conducted by Wojciech Michniewski
Elzbieta Towarnicka, soprano
The Silesia Philharmonic Choir.

Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares - Polegnala e Todora

Sam Mahood 1946 - 2006

It is with great regret that I have just learned of the death of Soul man Sam Mahood - a legend of the Irish shownband era – who sadly passed away on Sunday, December 23.

Sam was a well known character around Belfast and, like fellow musician Rory Gallagher, he always had time to stop and talk to fans. In his orange cordauroy jacket, blue cordauroy trousers, knee high boots and with his long curly hair people would joke that he looked like King Billy. Sam gave the impression of being a quiet and gentle man but when he started singing he could belt it out with great energy. He disappeared off the scene for a few years and a number of rumours flew about as to where he had gone to but he eventually made a come-back and the power of his singing had in no way diminished. He will be sadly missed on the local music scene.

Back in the day of the Belfast Beat (Maritime Blues) scene, Sam Mahood played with Just Five and later toured with the Big Soul Band [who made the Commitments look like Val Doonican - ed].

Just Five were a powerhouse R & B act and one of Belfast's hottest acts. The band was founded by pork butcher Sam Mahood (born in 1946, in Banbridge on the River Bann, Co Down, Northern Ireland), who had long wild red hair, staring eyes, and a voice steeped in gospel, who lived in University Street with John Cox, brother of Mick Cox later of Eire Apparent. Promising guitar player John Cox nearly joined The Just Five. The band included Frank Connolly vocals; Billy McCoy guitar and Mervyn Crawford guitar. Just Five played the Maritime Hotel and also played a Friday night dance at the Annadale Boat Club. Their repertoire featured blues classics and the latest Rolling Stones songs like 'Paint It, Black' and as a tribute to Them they regularly included a version of 'Baby Please Don't Go'. Among their rivals were up-and-coming group the Few, a quintet of hip schoolboys. Just Five appeared on a package recording released as 'Ireland's Greatest Sounds - Five Top Groups From Belfast's Maritime Club' on Emerald Records established by Mervyn Soloman.

As a mark of respect, respected Ulster blues band The Lee Hedley Band is organising a farewell concert to Mahood on Sunday, January 27 in the Kings Head, Belfast, with the help of a few key people in the showbiz scene. The show will run from lunchtime on Sunday, January 27 until 8-9pm. More Lee Hedley Band

Sunday, 6 January 2008

The Invasion of the Accordionists.

If you look closely at yesterday's photo of the young woman in Belfast city centre you can just make out the legs of an accordionist in a shop doorway on Royal Avenue: when he spotted me with my camera he ducked back into the doorway so that I could not photograph his face. Since he was obviously reluctant to have his picture taken I decided to move on but just round the corner was a second accordionist whose photo I took from the top deck of the bus. You have to hand it to them, I suppose, because there they are playing away regardless of the low temperature, but then again this may feel like summer to them considering where they have come from (is this racist?). It's a step up from selling 'BigIssue' but today I came across a further influx of them in various streets around the city centre - what pisses me off is not the fact that they are multiplying rapidly but the fact that they all play the same and only tune (they must all be taking lessons at the same time - there's probably night classes at the local tech'!) - for crying out loud learn a couple more tunes and don't all play the same tune at the same time!! The other thing that pisses me off is that once the eastern european m*f!@ arrived all of the local guys who sold Big Issue effectively disappeared - now I'm not suggesting that there was force or other nefarious means of persuasion involved but all of a sudden all of the spots previously taken by our local guys were occupied by one of these women in ankle length denim skirts and headscarves (the same seems to apply to local buskers).


I had been undecided about doing this post, after taking the first photograph in the supermarket car park last week, but this week I have been so incensed by the fact that these thoughtless, inconsiderate, rude, selfish little morons, who think that because they own either a big or expensive car that they can just park where and how they want - regardless of how many other people are trying to park their car, are obviously on the increase.

Unfortunately this practice would appear to be spreading ...
.................. to people with smaller/less expensive cars.

This one, as you can see, was parked by a blonde -

so there may be an excuse for her: she probably cannot park in a space smaller than a football pitch or "I deserve two spaces because I just got a manicure" .

But you know why they keep doing this - because they constantly get away with it, because the supermarket management won't take action against them. They should be clamped and have to pay a large fine to have their car released and perhaps they would think twice before doing this again. The same applies to those able bodied idiots who park in the bays for drivers with disabilities. (Classic example here:)

There is a saying (I believe) about the size of the brain being in inverse proportion to the size of the car.

I have been thinking of getting some sticky labels printed with a sarcastic (or otherwise) suggestion for drivers like this that I could then stick on their windscreen but here is a suggestion I found on another blog :

One way to issue a corrective to asshats like this, short of keying: keep a tube of lipstick in your glove compartment for pithy messages on the jerk's winshield. It takes about 10 minutes to wipe ASSHOLE off in rouge red, and they'll get the message. And no permanent damage to fck up your karma.

So, as you can see, this would appear to be a world-wide phenomenon. At least the Scottish Government seems to be taking some notice of the disabled parking problem and to quote from their article

Past behaviour is often a good indicator of future behaviour. It follows that if a car park provider operates a clear, reliable and consistent approach to the enforcement of reserved bays for people with disabilities then, over time, people will become aware of the consequences should they continue to misuse them.

Any suggestions about what to print on a sticky label will be gratefully received.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

From one extreme to the other

Above is the christmas card type scene yesterday morning and below ....
.... is the flood water being washed aside by the bus yesterday evening

... to another extreme

here is one young woman who was creating quite a stir in the centre of Belfast yesterday ... but glamorous and all as she looks ... I really don't think those shoes were built for this type of weather.

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley

Never mind the bird on the bells bridge bus - here's something a bit more surreal. This was taken from the top deck of the bus on my way into the office yesterday (when they eventually decided to get them running again) You have to be really determined if you want to place a shopping trolley on top of a bus shelter.

The pleasure of winter snow

One youngster enjoying the benefit of the heavy snow fall yesterday.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008


Wishing you all the very best for the coming year.

A guid new year to ane an' a'
An' mony may ye see,
An' during a' the years to come,
O happy may ye be.
An' may ye ne'er hae cause to mourn,
To sigh or shed a tear;
To ane an' a' baith great an' sma'
A hearty guid New year.

Fish awhile

Hi everybody, I hope you had a better christmas than I did, having spent a lot of it between the bedroom and the bathroom. Managed to catch one of those stomache bugs which I couldn't get rid of for ages - hopefully I'm fully recovered now - if the amount I have been eating is any indication then I would say I'm 100%, thankfully.
Today we decided to go for a bit of a stroll to work off some of the culinary excesses and took ourselves over to the other side of the Lough into County Down and down to Bangor, where it was surprisingly mild. As we walked along the coastal path (just past Pickie) we spotted what, at first glance, appeared to be a commemorative plaque set into the rocks but on further investigation turned out to be a piece of prose by some elegiac angler. Some of you may consider taking his advice.