Nocturnal Balcón de Europa

On a deserted Balcon illuminated by moonlight there are just four people visible. Three are unknown, the one on the extreme left is a sculpture of the late king Alfonso XII who actually named the balcony during a visit after the big earthquake that hit Nerja in 1884, observing that “this is the Balcón de Europa”. Overlooking the Mediterranean sea, it’s known as the spot for a perfect photo of the sea or occasionally a slightly enhanced full moon.

The Waterfront

The riverside location in the city centre of Liverpool has undergone many changes since I left the city in 1972, not all for the better.

To the right is the Cunard Building (1914-16) inspired by grand Italian palazzos along the waterfront in Venice. Inside are grand wood-panelled rooms, Corinthian columns and even marble-lined toilets, possibly to make the visitor feel as if they were on one of Cunard’s grand liners.

Next is the Royal Liver Building, started in 1908 and finished in 1911, it was the tallest building in Europe when it was completed. It also boasts the biggest clock face in England, with each tower topped with a copper dome and the mythical Liver Birds.

Along with the Port of Liverpool Building, the trio of buildings became known as the Three Graces, part of the former Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Sadly the accolade was revoked in 2021 when it was felt that the planned development, including a new waterfront stadium for Everton Football Club would “overwhelm the historic, horizontal character of the docklands”.

On the left is the Mersey Ferry Terminal, now renamed ‘The Liverpool Gerry Marsden Ferry Terminal’, as it will forever be associated with ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’, the world famous anthem recorded by Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1964. The song is still heard by visitors and local people alike every day when it is played on the Mersey Ferries’ River Explorer Cruise. The terminal has the dubious distinction of winning of Britain’s Carbuncle Cup for ugliest new building!

So, IMHO, it appears Liverpool’s Waterfront is now rather like the curates egg – only good in parts!

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Innisfree is an uninhabited island in Lough Gill in Ireland’s County Sligo, near where W.B.Yeats spent his summers as a child. Yeats describes the inspiration as a childhood memory recalled while in London in 1888.

The poem expresses a longing for the peace and tranquility of Innisfree, escaping the noise of the city and be lulled by the “lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore.” On this small island, he could even build a cabin, return to nature by growing beans and having bee hives, enjoy the “purple glow” of heather at noon, the sounds of birds’ wings, and, of course, the bees.

A poem in which Yeats illustrates his deep, heartfelt desire to abandon life in the city in favour of life on a small, uninhabited island in Ireland; a sentiment shared by today’s New Age movement.

Megalithic Dolmen

The sun sets eerily behind the Knockeen Portal Tomb, a megalith near Tramore in County Waterford, Ireland. Over 3.5 metres high, it’s the largest dolmen in County Waterford and one of the finest examples in Ireland, albeit unclear exactly what it was used for. It could have served a spiritual purpose and been used by local shamans or druids for various spiritual rituals.

Or may be the burial site of a local Déisi chieftain, a socially powerful class of peoples from Ireland and the subject of a famous medieval Irish epic tale, “The Expulsion of the Déisi”. First written sometime in the eighth century, is a pseudo-historical legend for the medieval Kingdom of Déisi Muman, and tells the story of a sept (family division) called the Dal Fiachach Suighe, who were expelled from Tara in Leinster by their kinsmen and forced to wander homeless. After a southward migration and many battles, part of the sept eventually settled in Munster.

This mound in some remote and dateless day
Rear’d o’er a Chieftain of the Age of Hills,
May here detain thee Traveller! from thy road
Not idly lingering. In his narrow house
Some Warrior sleeps below: his gallant deeds
Haply at many a solemn festival
The Bard has harp’d, but perish’d is the song
Of praise, as o’er these bleak and barren downs
The wind that passes and is heard no more.
Go Traveller on thy way, and contemplate
Glory’s brief pageant, and remember then
That one good deed was never wrought in vain…
Robert Southey

And if you want to see more County Waterford click on the link below…

Magnifico Montagna

The scale and magnificent grandeur of the Gran Sasso d’Italia mountains is emphasised by the seven distant motorcyclists (in the foreground), dwarfed against one of the peaks. Known as “Little Tibet”, the mountains are located in Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, near L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy.

One of the most biologically diverse areas of Europe with a climate between that of the Mediterranean and that of the rest of continental Europe, the park contains more than two thousand plant species, many species of wildlife including the rare Abruzzo chamois, as well as wolves, brown bear, roe deer, wildcats, wild boars, foxes and squirrels. Notable birds include the golden eagle, the white-backed woodpecker, the goshawk, the common buzzard and the peregrine falcon.

Situated to the right of the main pic is the Campo Imperatore Near-Earth Object Survey (CINEOS), a branch of Rome Observatory that takes advantage of the elevation and absence of man-made light. It’s located on the slopes of Monte Portella at an altitude of 2,130 metres.

And whilst on the subject, a paper published in Nature suggests that of 1,715 stars in the right celestial position, to view Earth, seven of them are known to have their own orbiting exoplanets that might support life.

Someone is watching us!

Quintessential Spanish Country Life

The wind has swept from the wide atmosphere
Each vapour that obscured the sunset’s ray;
And pallid evening twines its beaming hair
In duskier braids around the languid eyes of Day:
…Percy Bysshe Shelley

Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert

Shot during one of my French workshops, in which a couple of the participants can be glimpsed taking a well earned coffee break in the little cafe…

A stage on one of the pilgrimage routes leading to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, the village with its medieval abbey boasts double accolades as a Plus Beaux Villages de France (The most beautiful villages of France) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Guilhem, was a French knight born sometime in the late 8th century and grandson of one of the Emperor Charlemagne’s chosen knights. A devout Christian, renowned as one of the most valiant warriors of his time, he fought bravely against the Saracens (Muslims) of Spain and dedicated some years to sustaining the southern frontiers of the Frankish empire. He married twice; his second wife, the Lady of Orange was apparently the widow of a Saracen Lord that he killed and whose estates he seized – land, riches and a wife – he certainly didn’t do things by halves!

In 806 he headed a group of monks who set off to found the Abbey of Gellone (now Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert) after Charlemagne gave the young Guilhem a reliquary, believed to contained pieces of the True Cross that he left to his Abbey, where it remains to this day.

And on a 21st century note: according to the book “Holy Blood Holy Grail” Guilhem was the son of “Theodoric, king of the Jews of Septimania” crowned in 768. Through him the bloodline of Jesus became the bloodline of Frankish royalty, a fantasy was later incorporated into the plot of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”.

A Winter’s Day

In a deep and dark December” … Especially then.

The Balcon de Europa in Nerja, where the light is often sublime, is a great place to wait and hope someone will do ‘stuff’. Cycling, walking, sitting, winter calisthenics, or watch the setting sun.

All you need is a camera and patience….

One Man and a Boat

A solitary stroller inspects the “Harvest Seeker” during its temporary beaching at Arthurstown on the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford. High and dry, I guess it’s one way to remove the barnacles and sea weed.

The boat is a regular sight on south east Ireland’s Waterford Harbour as it drifts through the quiet waters collecting mussels grown in baskets on the sea bed. And BTW, there’s a ethereal shot of the “Harvest Seeker” in action on an earlier post: clicking on “Ard Eireann” below, lying in Arthurstown harbour (below) will take you right there.

The Albert Dock

A Day in the Life

“….on Sunday mornings we’d make our way to the Pier Head and following a brief chat with the dock-gate policeman he’d let us in to wander through, and wonder at, the innovative Albert Dock...

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The Wild Beasts

Fishing Boats in the harbour at Collioure. The little French fishing village became a centre of artistic activity when a penniless Henri Matisse arrived after deciding to give his artistic career a push. He arrived in Collioure in 1905 and was immediately transfixed by the astonishing character and charm of the historic village, with the sea on one side and hillsides of terraced vineyards on the other.

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Waterford Revealed

The county is colloquially known as “The Déise” and pronounced “day-shih” after an Irish Tribe called the  Déisi, who were driven from counties Meath and Kildare area some time between the 4th and 8th centuries. They moved into the Waterford region, conquering and settling there – just like me some nine centuries later.

Following a lifetime in County Meath bringing up kids, and co-directing the Slidefile stock agency, the move to a house just metres from a clifftop overlooking the Celtic Sea was inspiring. Friendly and welcoming neighbours and an incredibly photogenic beach nearby, it was a completely accidental, but wonderful discovery.

It may be compact county, but it boasts two mountain ranges; the oldest city in Ireland; pretty fishing ports; a 19th Century mining legacy; prehistoric artifacts; ancient castles and charming villages. All in all, a wonderful heritage just waiting to be explored – and that’s what I did, revealing it a wider audience in my self published book.

And today’s image of the view from the Mahon Falls to the Celtic Sea, became the book cover…

You can read more about it if desired by clicking here, along with details of the redoubtable Dervla Murphy, and if the book takes your fancy, where to get a copy.

And to finish, the film-noir version of the county’s hinterland…

The Tour Barberousse

Or Redbeard’s Tower in English, stands above the coastal village of Gruissan in the Aude départment of France.

The tower is all that remains of a castle built at the end of the 10th century to observe the approaches to the harbour at Narbonne and to guard against seaborne invasions of the city by the Saracens. Built on a steep, rocky hill, the castle was enlarged in the 12th century by the Archbishops of Narbonne, Guillaume de Broa.

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Fleur-de-lis

The Fleur-de-lis or Iris is considered a representation of wisdom, elegance and faith in life.

During the middle ages, the Iris became the emblem of the French monarchy when Louis VII adopted it as a symbol in the 12th century and the Fleur-de-lis became the accepted national symbol of the empire. As they also represent courage, victory and power the flower became the national flower of France.

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