As you all know

I live in Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom in the north-east of the island of Ireland. An area of great beauty, heritage and some wonderful people. It is variously described as a country, province or region of the UK.

At last count we had a Population count of 1.811 million. The majority of whom wish to go about their daily business and earn an honest crust. Unfortunately there are a few………….

The Northern Ireland Assembly, sitting at Stormont, is the devolved legislature for Northern Ireland. Don’t be going interrupting them with any little problems at the moment, 😉 they are in recess (14 December 2013 to 5 January 2014).

The NI Assembly is responsible for making laws on transferred matters in Northern Ireland. In recent weeks (maybe months), the members of the five main Stormont parties have been examining a draft document on the way forward on flags, parades and the past, drawn up by US diplomat Richard Haass.

Early in December 2012, the organisers of a ‘Fleg’ protest (that is how these folk pronounce the word Flag), caused major disruption to the hard grafting folk of Belfast and many other towns across the province. Marches and protests were often followed by violence, which discouraged people from shopping or planning meals out with friends etc. In times of recession, every sale is important, some establishments and stores were depending on pre-Christmas business to make quotas after poor sales earlier in the year. Many of these businesses did not survive past the end of the year.*

The organisers of the ‘Fleg’ protest, following the decision of Belfast City Council to limit the days that the Union Flag (the flag of the United Kingdom) was flown from Belfast City Hall, are the same people who decorate every highway and byway street light and telegraph pole with a flag every year for the marching season. Some of these specimens are attached to the pole at the furthest reach of the person attaching it. Many looked like the country was in mourning with the flags looking like they were at half mast.

The enthusiasm ran out, as it does every year during the marching season.  The flags are crudely hung, on occasions upside down, and left there until they rot. No sign or thought of having respect for a flag, as we see in other countries. Today I managed to take a few photos of one such rag that was pristine (but cheap poor fabric, probably made in China) when it first graced a light pole in my neck of the woods, last May. Not alone is it an insult to Queen and country, it is now no longer suitable to be used to wipe your shoes.


Not wanting to be left out in the cold, ‘theotheruns’ wanted some of the action…..

On Monday 25 November 2013, masked men in boiler suits hijacked a car and forced the driver to take a beer keg packed with 60 kg (132 lbs) of home made explosives to the city centre and leave it at an underground car park entrance to Victoria Street Centre, the prime shopping location in Belfast close to one of the city’s main police stations and the court complex.

The centre was evacuated and surrounding streets closed during the alert, with dozens spending the night in the Ulster Hall concert venue. The bomb detonated at 11.15pm as army bomb disposal experts prepared to examine it. Car owners who had parked their vehicles in the underground car park, were unable to return and retrieve them until 7am the next morning.

Last Friday night dissident republicans claimed responsibility for a small bomb explosion in Belfast Cathedral Quarter. The weekend was one of the busiest for staff outings in the run-up to Christmas. Dozens of those forced to pile out onto the streets had just sat down to food, when the police began evacuating the area.

Just think of the wasted long hours spent in growing, shipping and purchasing the food. This is before the costs to purchasing premises, running costs, hiring staff and paying wages and preparing, cooking & serving the meals. One nights disruption alone, cost restaurants £60,000′.

* This three part interview with Paul Rankin and Michael Deane, made in April this year, gives a picture of the mountain that businesses have to negotiate here in this tiny corner of the globe.
Part 1Part 2 & Part 3

If we, in this tiny speck on the globe cannot work together, what hope is there for the rest of the world? Peace how are you!

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Photographing the Alphabet ~ U

U – Under

Helen & Mike under the umbrella roof of the Pavillion

Helen & Mike under the umbrella roof of the Pavillion

Under the Pavillion in the Large Parterre at Antrim Castle Gardens.

Helen & Mike Reshkin are blogging & twitter friends who were on holiday in Ireland from Chicago, in June/July this year. They found a day to spend with me, but unfortunately it was a rather well washed with rain.

We began our adventure at Lough Neagh, alas, the sky was so low we were hardly able to see beyond our noses. 😦 I didn’t bother to get out of the car. We moved on to Clotworthy House.

Wet day visitors with the wolfhound at Clotworthy House

Wet day visitors with the wolfhound at Clotworthy House

It is amazing how the place has improved over the past four years.

Before the renovations

Before the renovations

A brighter day at the end of May 2009.

Capturing the scene

Capturing the scene

Capturing the moment in the quiet maze of pathways.

We were not alone. The Heron kept a beady on us.

We were not alone. The Heron kept a beady on us.

Helen & Mike, I enjoyed sharing one of my favourite places with you. Thanking you for making time to spend with me.

Little Acorns

- Little Acorns Sculpture ~ Alan Cargo -

– Little Acorns Sculpture ~ Alan Cargo –

Little Acorns ~ Powder Coated Steel and Stainless Steel
Sculptor ~ Alan Cargo

Back in 2011, Antrim Borough Council encouraged local residents to take part in an exciting, new project: A sculpture representing a mighty oak tree, to be erected at the roundabout at Greystone Road, Antrim. I found it during construction, but was unable to discover the back story until now.

Little Acorns ,showing the sections

Little Acorns ,showing the sections

It involved working with artist, Alan Cargo, to create a large metal tree complete with engraved metal leaves. Each leaf was created by an individual member of the community with a design of their choice along the themes of Round Tower, growth, strength, and connections.

Little Acorns, branches and leaves

Little Acorns, branches and leaves

Unfortunately, because of the 7.5m height, and positioning of the completed sculpture on the roundabout, it was not possible to get up close to see the words and imagery on to the 320 stainless steel leaves and acorns.

The project is part of the Positive Spaces programme, helping communities enhance their neighbourhoods with positive and cross-community public art.

Almost a silhouette, to give an idea of the shape.

Almost a silhouette, to give an idea of the shape.

Alan Cargo has for more than a decade successfully completed 25 large scale public art sculptural projects, and taken part in exhibitions both internationally and locally.

He has lived and worked in England, Ireland and Africa both as a teacher and designer / maker of sculpture, and has traveled extensively in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He is currently a lecturer of 3D Design (Sculpture) in Belfast Metropolitan College.

A wide range of materials and engineering techniques are used to realise his work, and he likes to have a hands-on approach to all the manufacturing stages involved in making the work a process. He has this to say about ‘Little Acorns’:

Commissioner, Antrim Borough Council / European Development Fund.
The four parts of this sculpture line up to make a ‘great oak’ tree at one point of the viewers journey round the roundabout creating a sense of visual anticipation, and reflecting the somewhat fractured nature of the surrounding communities. Direct inclusion of peoples words and imagery sand blasted on to the 320 stainless steel leaves and acorns advances the idea that community is strengthened when everyone can speak, words and imagery from workshops with 5 primary schools and 4 community groups are included.

About four years ago, I wrote about a very different tree not far from this one. It was Brian Connolly’s The Healing Tree.

When I discover how to pull over the approx 2,300 posts from my old blog, you will be able to dander through my sculpture series that began with the story of Dickie, Sam & Billy. If you scroll down the comments, you will find a comment from Brian Alabaster, the sculptor of the piece. I have to confess it is still my favourite.