Archives for posts with tag: Cork

2016 was a long, withering year. A year that brought the world into new and dangerous directions. I didn’t take as many photos as I had on previous years, perhaps because the year exhausted me. I feel older, and not just in the literal sense. The joy of photography, as with many things, was lessened. I know I left a lot of chances go begging, sometimes because I felt they had nothing new to offer, sometimes because the energy just wasn’t there. But there were a few moments nonetheless. Here are a few photos from this year that gave me some joy. Open them separately for the full effect.

Hammerhead Over Ballycotton

Yes, it’s a panorama shot and yes it’s a landscape shot and yes it features yet more clouds and yes it’s taken from just outside the door, but the whole structure appeals to me. This, almost alien shape rearing over Ballycotton during the month of January. Living where I do, there are endless opportunities to take photos of the sea, the island and the clouds. It can be spectacular at times.

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Southern Auroras

We caught some very subtle auroras in Cork on March 6 of last year. They were so indistinct the naked eye could hardly pick them up. An SLR could, though. With a long shutter speed setting, the sky came to life. Witness the reds and greens caused by fast moving particles high above the atmosphere. One day we might witness something even more spectacular. Here’s hoping.

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The Iced Cross of Galteemore

On the 25th of March, we took a walk up to the summit of Galteemore in County Tipperary. It was a cold day, with ice and snow on the approaches to the mountain-top. I found this natural effect stunning, the result of driving wind and snow.

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Pope’s Quay

One weekend in April, while my younger sons sat entrance exams for secondary school, my daughter and I strolled around Cork, taking photos along the way. I like this shot of Pope’s Quay and the reflections in the River Lee.

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Connemara vista

In May, we journeyed to Roscommon to take possession of a new cat – a Maine Coon kitten we subsequently named “Gandalf”. We took the long way round, heading first to Galway city and Connemara before collecting the cat. After visiting Leenane, I took this photo of Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only true fjord, as it opened itself to the Atlantic.

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Approaching Storm

A few days later, while Gandalf was making himself at home, I rushed to the crest of the hill above the house to try film an electrical storm before it came too close. I didn’t get any shots of lightning bolts, but I did snap this great array of summer colours. It captured a mood, I think.

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Alicante Sunset

In June, we briefly visited Alicante in Spain. It was a work visit for C, with me tagging along as her wheelchair companion (she had broken her leg while running a short time before). I loved it and I was disappointed we could not have stayed a short while longer. This photo was taken as we ate dinner at a restaurant by the marina.

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Shanghai Surprises

As soon as I arrived back from Alicante, I was travelling to China for a work trip. This was my third visit to Shanghai in the last few years and my first time there alone, giving me some time to explore. The city gets more fascinating each time I am there. It was swelteringly hot there, but thankfully little smog and it was great to catch up with some good friends. Below are a) the interior of the Jin Mao Tower looking down to the piano bar, b) the Pearl Orient tower at sunset and c) the financial district at night.

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The Singapore Merlion

After Shanghai, I flew to Singapore where I had the Sunday to myself. This give me a chance to walk around the tourist district, visiting Raffles, the Merlion and the Singapore River. The heat, as ever, was astonishing. Without a bottle of water, I wouldn’t have made it very far. 2016-fav-14

The Misty Mournes

My work trip to Asia eventually came to a close, and it was now time to start my proper holidays. I went to Northern Ireland with my kids, taking this photo of the Mourne Mountains from Tyrella Bay. It was Ireland’s hottest day that year.

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Kinsale Harbour

In October, I brought the boys on a road trip to Kinsale and the Old Head, stopping off for pizzas on the way. It was an attempt to keep everyone happy, not particularly successful.

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Fota Arboretum in Autumn

In November we visited Fota Arboretum for a short walk. No special reason, just a chance to take advantage of a mild November day.

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Wishing you and yours a happy 2017. Go m’beirimíd beo ag an am seo arís.

My thoughts on the Gardasil meeting in Ballincollig this evening. This is going to be a long post, sorry!
It was well attended, maybe 150 people there. A large audience in any case. 
The speakers were Jill, a lady who had cervical cancer some years back, Matt Hewitt, a consultant gynaecological oncologist in Cork, and Professor Margaret Stanley, emeritus professor of Ephithelial biology in the University of Cambridge. Jill talked about her own experience of cervical cancer. Dr Hewitt discussed the cancer itself, its treatment, its prognosis, and how current diagnostic techniques (e.g. smear tests) were inadequate. Professor Stanley talked about the vaccine, how it works and the evidence to date of its effectiveness and safety. The meeting was then opened for questions. Dr. Robert O’Connor, from the Irish Cancer Society, chaired the meeting.
The meeting was broadcasted on Facebook and a video of the meeting can be seen at this address. https://www.facebook.com/IrishCancerSociety/
I thought all the speakers did a very good job in presenting the case for the vaccine, although what the attraction was with Comic Sans font is, I will never know. Dr Hewitt was really matter of fact. Although he is often gratified by cases such as Jill’s, he has to tell one person each week that they will die due to cervical cancer. The prognosis after Stage III is really poor. He talked about how the smear test was not perfect and that, outside of the developed world, the infrastructure was simply not there to perform smear tests on women, so cervical cancer rates are still very high. A vaccination programme would address many of these issues.
Dr Stanley spoke about the vaccines and the science. She discussed the different strains of HPV, calling out HPV 16 and HPV 18 as the really bad ones. Over 80% of people will be infected by HPV at some time of their life, but only a small percentage of these will go on to develop lesions and cancer. HPV is not only responsible for cervical cancer, but also anal cancer, penile cancer, neck and throat cancers also, and of course, genital warts. She talked about how cervical cancer was particularly a problem for younger women under 35, as it is still difficult to detect and diagnose cancers in this age group. The current Gardasil vaccine hits four types of HPV, but trials are underway for a vaccine that addresses 9 types of the virus – addressing 90% of issues cause by the virus.
The vaccine is currently administered in 3 doses for people over 15, and in 2 doses for people under 15. Most girls in Ireland now get 2 doses. The variance in the doses is because children under exhibit much better immune responses than adults. Across the EU, Ireland is no different than other countries in the age at which young teens receive the vaccine. Results from Australia have been very encouraging, with big drops in cancers and warts. Now Australian boys are receiving the vaccine as part of the overall programme. To date 230 million doses have been given to 85 million people and the health outcomes continued to be monitored intensively by the various regulatory authorities around the world. 
There are 2 ways to monitor the outcomes – passively, by checking the self-reporting through individuals and doctors, and actively, by comparing vaccinated populations with unvaccinated populations, and checking if there is any overall difference between these groups. To date, regulatory authorities across the world are satisfied that the vaccines are safe. They will continue to review the data on an annual basis. Professor Stanley also mentioned that vaccines tend to have very specific side-effects, and the side effects being reported about Gardasil are not consistent with these. What is not at issue is that children do get sick during childhood and some illnesses are debilitating and long lasting. In some cases, children get sick after having had the vaccine, but the question is whether this is caused by the vaccine, or a co-incidence. Research, based on over 100,000 girls presenting to Emergency Rooms in America, then matched against when the girls received the vaccines, is that the vaccines are not causing the illnesses. 
One of the points made by Professor Stanley was that in all trials, all deaths are monitored for 5 years, whether they be from suicide, illness or car accidents. I think one woman in the audience thought that the vaccine was causing all these deaths. That was not at all what the Professor has said. Deaths occurred with equal likelihood whether people took the vaccine or not.
Q&A
One woman lamented Andrew Wakefield having being responsible for the re-emergence of measles. True, but somewhat off-topic.
Another woman was devastated that her daughter, who was very ill, had been given 3 doses of the vaccine instead of 2. Yes, this is called science. The vaccine schedule was changed when it was found that the girls did not need a third dose. She seemed to be of the belief that the 3rd dose was an overdose, which is a misunderstanding of how vaccines work. 
Then we had a shouter. This woman also has a very sick daughter and she started shouting about how the HSE does not show the information leaflet and shouting how if she had read the information leaflet she would not have allowed the vaccine to be administered. I could hear murmurs of agreement with her from the audience. “Let her speak, etc”. REGRET have made a connection between the information leaflet and the illnesses affecting their children, despite the face that information leaflets must show all reported side effects, whether or not there have been any studies to examine the linkages. She was shouting down the speakers and it took a short while to get further questions. 
Another woman asked about the Number Needed To Treat, suggesting that 250 to 300 vaccines needed to be administered to prevent just one extra HPV case. The number given by the doctors was 159. While this still seems like a very small number, it was pointed out that it’s higher for pre-cancers. In any case we should also remember that cervical cancer is not a common disease in the population, but nevertheless devastating to those people who do develop it. Paralytic Polio also had similar treatment numbers.
The next woman got very agitated about her boys getting the vaccine. To her, the vaccine seemed like an invitation for her 13 year old boys to have oral sex. Um… no.
Heather then spoke. Heather also had cancer. “If I thought I could have a vaccine, I would absolutely urge people to go for it”. Yay Heather. Big clap for her too. 
Jackie wanted to know if the Australian vaccine was the same as the one in Ireland. Yep.
Another woman asked about Gardasil 9 and whether it was available in Ireland. The answer is no, not yet. 
The final question was about bad reactions in animals. Dr O’Connor explained that the doses given to animals were often far greater than those given to humans and that there was no evidence of it being an issue. 
The Q&A then came to an end among more shouting, but also a very big clap for the speakers. REGRET did not have it all their way tonight, despite a clear attempt by Shouty Woman to hijack the meeting at one stage. Apparently there was far more disruption at the Galway meeting, bordering on a security incident.
I spoke briefly to Dr O’Connor and Professor Stanley afterwards. Very nice people. I didn’t see any of the REGRET people speaking to them, but they may have. Shouty Woman was holding court with some of her team towards the back of the room.

Against my better judgement (as tomorrow is an incredibly busy day for me) – I heard there might be auroras around, so I ventured out to my favourite place and.. I was not disappointed.

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It was a subtle enough effect. With the naked eye you might not have seen much, but with a camera set to 40 seconds exposure, the sky came to life.

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I was expecting to see green, but not red.

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Our atmosphere clearly got hit by something big tonight! A big explosion on the sun is usually the reason for such beauty.

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Most of the time, Cork is too far south to see anything of value. Not tonight.

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I had the morning free, so my daughter and I took a walk around the city to see what was going on. The election count was in full flow in the City Hall but we didn’t stay there too long. The city was waking up, getting ready for the day.

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We headed down to the footbridge by the Grand Parade. In the distance were the limestone towers of Finbarr’s Cathedral, looking out over the city.

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And in the other direction, Father Matthew Church, flanked by the river Lee, modern architecture competing with the buildings of earlier years.

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The English Market was already in full swing. It’s one of Cork’s main attractions – the variety of food stalls and coffee houses is wonderful.

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Close by, a small arcade selling coffee and Middle Eastern food. Cork is full of little alleys and side streets.

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Pembroke Street, joining Oliver Plunkett Street to the South Mall, and home to some great bars and restaurants.

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St. Paul’s Avenue, with a view of Shandon in the distance.

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Finally, we made our way back to the City Hall and out of the city. The muddy river Lee continuing its march towards the sea.

Looking back over all my photos this year, I found it hard to pick out the top ten shots that I was most happy with. It was a great year for photography for me. I managed to travel to a number of far flung places, but, in the end, most of my favourite photos were taken locally.  So here they are. Click on any one of them to get a better view.

Electric Sunrise

This photo was taken in mid-January 2015, in the hills near Glanmire, Co. Cork. I don’t usually stop my car when driving to work, but this was an exceptional dawn event. We often forget how beautiful the sunrises can be here in Ireland.

Electric Sunrise, Glanmire, Co. Cork

Pacific Breaker

I took a work visit to California in March. As always, I drive towards the Pacific coast as soon as I get off the plane. The waves are often enormous. This day was no exception. It was taken by Bean Hollow State Beach, about halfway between San Francisco and Santa Cruz.

Breakers, Cabrillo Highway, California

 

Rowing Boat, Killarney

Quite a story for this next one. Myself and my friend Ais had elected to do a charity night-time walk up Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil, in April. It was a total washout. We just barely managed to reach the top of the Devil’s Ladder before we were forced back by strong winds and lashing rain. We arrived back at Cronin’s Yard soaked to the skin. The original intention was to photograph the sunrise from the top of the mountain, but in the end, we were lucky simply to get back uninjured. The afternoon before the walk, I took this photo of a boat near Ross Castle.

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Double Rainbow

This photo from June was taken just yards from my home. The weather was showery that day, with rainbows guiding me all the way from Cork. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a double rainbow so stark as this one.

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Beech Trees, Waterford

The following day, Claudia and I went on a drive through County Waterford, taking the northerly route across the county from Portlaw to Clonea. It’s wonderfully picturesque; a maze of tiny roads and high estate walls. I took this photo on the walled road out of Portlaw. In the background is the lone hill of Slievenamon, Co. Tipperary.

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Camphire Horse Trials

I’m not at all into horses, but in July I visited the Camphire International Horse trials, nestled in a beautiful part of Waterford on the banks of the River Blackwater. It was a thoroughly wet day, but this didn’t spoil the enjoyment in the slightest. This photo, taken during the cross-country event, was full of action; the horse has just landed into the water after a challenging jump.

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Running boys

I just love this. My two youngest boys full of action. Why walk anywhere when you can run? It was taken on Garryvoe Beach in early August.

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The Big Sur

A few days later I was back on a plane, again in California for a few days. This time I decided to drive as far south from San Francisco as I could, reaching the Big Sur before sunset. It was a 100 mile drive to get there (and another 100 miles back). But my, was it worth it.

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Jellyfish Clouds

This photo was taken near home in late August. As the sun was setting, the cloud formation took the appearance of a tentacled jellyfish. It’s quite a panorama.

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Night Trail

A few days later, I took this evening shot by Garryvoe beach – the contrail of a jet casting an upwards shadow on nearby clouds.

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A few more

These are the photos that didn’t make my top 10. A pity, because I love all of them for different reasons. There are photos here from Shanghai, the Burren, Bantry House, Mount Congreve, the Galtee Mountains, California, Fota Wildlife Park, Penarth and Singapore, among other places.

 

 

 

We have had a few bad storms already this year, but last night was the worst so far. The town of Midleton was badly flooded, sections of the N25 were rendered impassable and parts of Garryvoe beach practically wiped out, with rubble strewn across the car park. Here are a few pictures I took today.

Midleton Main Street flooded.

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The Midleton river burst its banks, flooding the area around the distillery.

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Things were not much better by Bailick Road.

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Garryvoe carpark has been covered in rubble again.

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Much of the beach seems to have disappeared.

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The carpark is inaccessible from the hotel due to heavy flood waters.

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When we were leaving, attempts were being made to reduce the flooding by constructing a new channel to the sea.

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Some weeks ago, a work colleague from the US asked me if it was a good idea to hire a car when she would be in Cork.

I had to think about it for a minute, and then I gave my answer:

Hell No.

Cork is a driving disaster zone, not because our drivers are somewhat absent minded, nor because of inclement weather, nor because we drive on the other side of the road to US drivers, nor because we have these teeny narrow streets you have to navigate through. No. It’s a disaster zone because, come rush hour or moderate traffic, you need to have truly psychic powers to navigate yourself around the city.

To drive successfully in Cork traffic you need something akin to the Knowledge, cherished by London cabbies. This is an intimate understanding of the unwritten rules on which lane to move into and when to do it, before executing a manoeuvre. Crucially, the correct positioning might be required in a totally different part of the city.

McCurtain Street for instance. To be in the correct lane when you reach the Leisureplex Coliseum, you need to be deciding lanes way back on Patrick’s Bridge.

Or try Brian Boru Bridge, turning left, straight on or right by the Bus Station. To get it right, you need to have pre-chosen your lane in McCurtain Street. Get it wrong and you’re in a whole lot of trouble.

Following the same road down Clontarf Street to the City Hall, you need to have picked the correct lane by the Bus Station, or woe betide you.

Another beauty is the South Link road heading into town. If you are intending to go to Dublin or Rosslare via the Lower Glanmire Road, you need to have already chosen the correct lane at the Elysian Towers, half a mile away.

Or try the Christy Ring bridge from the Mallow Road – actually, don’t bother. Christy Ring Bridge itself is a traffic nightmare zone at the best of times, no matter what direction you approach it from. I’m sure its traffic light system was part of a psychological torture plot in a former life.

These are just a few examples of a traffic system not just designed by committee, but probably designed by camels. My advice to anyone driving through the city? Lodge a flight plan in advance. And bring emergency supplies. Getting through Cork in rush hour may take some time.

A few weeks ago, myself and some friends decided to go to the Joe Power show when he was in Cork. We were curious to know what went on at such events, so we purchased a cheapo voucher and headed along to his show in the Metropole Hotel last Friday night.

The audience was quite large: maybe as much as 200 people. It was a mixed bag of people, old, young, men and women. Certainly more women than men with more older people in attendance.

Joe started late. One of his first questions to the audience was whether any of them had been to a psychic show before. Very few people in the audience had been to one.

Joe got stuck in straight away, happening on one of the most serious of subjects imaginable: suicide. The manner and some circumstances to do with the death were discussed with family members. A troubling line of questioning, to say the least. When he was done with this, he asked the father if he had been to hospital or had some trouble down below? When the answer was negative, he told him he might need to go.

Joe then went to other members of the audience, some of whom were responsive to his questions, some less so. Here are some brief (low) highlights:

‘Anyone shot down? Planes?’ he asked, possibly forgetting that few enough Irish people were involved in WWII. (He counselled the audience member not to go on a plane).

He discussed divorce problems with another person and what their sex life was like.

A fire in the house? Yes – 40 years ago. ‘We can go back as long as you want’.

‘Why are there 3 people buried next to each other? A young boy or young man? ‘No, just two – mum and dad’ ‘You’ll probably find I’m right by the way. You might need to look back’.

‘Just to let you know he’s around and he can see what’s going on’.

Brought up some private family issue where a family member went to prison for a while.

Told one man he might be getting 18 months in prison in the future.

Told another man he should get tested, maybe for bowel problems. ‘Get the missus to check around’.

What also struck me was how much stuff he just got completely wrong. Lots and lots and lots of questions never hit their mark. If the questioning wasn’t going anywhere he would simply move on as if it didn’t happen. My top marks on the night went to the people who made his life difficult. One woman blanked him completely, so he quickly moved on – indicating that the reading wasn’t for her. There were a few others where his questions went nowhere.

He would leave his questions deliberately vague, so he’d ask if it was father, or father in law. Dates like 26 or 19 were converted into people’s ages if it suited. Wigs (he asked a lot about wigs) became hair extensions. Because many of the subjects were older, he touched on health issues such as cancer, diabetes and hospital visits, or lifestyle issues such as losing weight, pigeons and gardening. As if willing him to succeed, many of his respondents made his life easy. They would try to answer his vague questions on numbers and hair and accidents with something that happened to them, even though this often had nothing to do with the deceased relative. In this way they were able to connect to him despite the fact that the overall narrative was confused, mixing things happening today with something concerning the death.

Almost always, he would simply say vague things about the dead people, like “he’s looking after you” or ‘he misses you a lot and thinks of you’. I’ve written about this before, but grieving is a process which often involves letting go. I don’t think psychics help this process at all, because the underlying message is that they are still there, still watching. Such talk does not help people move on.

This is what passed as Friday night entertainment. Banality, sadness and voyeurism reigned. There were a lot of cheap laughs at the event, but they were often at the expense of the people involved. We are not entitled to be given this kind of window into their lives. People deserve more privacy than this. Professional counsellors, not public psychics, are a far better solution for such problems.

My advice? Next time there’s a psychic in town, save your money or go to the pub. It’s a better use of your time and money.

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Skehard Road, near the Mahon Shopping Centre, Cork.

Expected Completion date January 2002?

The only thing this sign is advertising now is copious algae, dirt and graffiti.

Surely it’s about time it was removed?

Here’s a photo I just took a few minutes ago. Perfect light.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Ballycotton Rainbow

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