Monday, May 31, 2010

Early-purple Orchid

It's amazing what you can find when you're not looking for anything!  My better half came across this tiny little flower whilst she was cutting the grass (the blades of grass around the flower give a sense of the small scale).  We think that it is the beginnings of an Early-purple Orchid, but are not entirely sure, maybe some of you green-fingered readers will be able to help us out here?  I know some people like to treat their lawns with all sorts of chemicals so that they can enjoy a velvety grass-only lawn with not a weed or any moss in sight - I'll gladly put up with a few dandelions here and there if it means we can get to see such lovely flowers as this:

Lord, just as a flower can radiate its precious beauty
and cast its fragrance everywhere.
So I ask you to cast the sweet fragrance of your presence over me. 
Surround me with your love.
Fill me with your healing balm.
Enfold me with your peace.
Comfort me with your presence.
May your fragrance linger in the stillness of my soul.
May your healing love renew my very being.

(From Fr. James McSweeny: A Year in Reflection)

Friday, May 28, 2010


Courtmacsherry comes alive during the summer months.  It really is a beautiful place and a perfect spot for holidaymakers (if only the sunshine could be guaranteed!)

Whilst I was there yesterday it was pretty quiet, but there is anticipation in the air.  The Church of Ireland community are beginning to get the wonderful little church building ready for the summer season and those involved in the tourism industry are hoping and praying that this year will be a good one.

Quite correctly, the people of Courtmacsherry are very proud of their Lifeboat.  The Lifeboat Station has been there since 1825 and many lives have been saved over the years between then and now.

Of course there is a clear parallel between the work of the Lifeboat Station and the work of the Church.  Both are in the business of saving souls; the Lifeboat crew save people from drowning, Jesus saves us from ourselves and sets us on the rock of salvation...

From Psalm 40:
I waited patiently for the LORD; 
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, 
out of the mud and mire; 
he set my feet on a rock 
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, 
a hymn of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear 
and put their trust in the LORD.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I won?

It all happened a couple of weeks ago. Every year the General Synod of the Church of Ireland awards prizes for web sites, magazines etc. This year my blog won a prize. I have to say that when I look at my colleagues' blogs (links to the right) they really are very good. They write very interesting and thought provoking posts which are often supplemented by excellent media including video and photographs. It must be hard to make a judgement between them all. As there have been different winners each year (as long as I've been blogging anyway) I think they must be sharing the prizes around a bit, which is nice - because, honestly, they all deserve to win.

My prize arrived in the post this morning - a £40 Eason's voucher, which is wonderful, though I hope they accept sterling vouchers in Cork otherwise it will be a very long drive to spend it!

Thank you everyone for all your support and encouragement. I would have given up a long time ago without it :-)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Nikon D70s, 1/320sec, f4.8, ISO 200, 180mm

For a couple of weeks towards the end of last month we enjoyed the company of some new neighbours.  It was lovely to see them running and playing in the large green field behind our house.  Often when my wife opened the back door to hang up some washing or do a bit of gardening they would come trotting down to the fence to say hello.  They were quite happy to pose for a photo too!

Then, just as suddenly as they arrived, they were gone.  The field is now empty again, save for a large white horse that keeps to the distant end.  Whether the calves have gone to another field or to market I don't know, but we miss them :-(

Friday, May 21, 2010

In my Father's house...

Olympus OM-1, G.Zuiko 35mm f2.8, Yellow Filter, Ilford FP4 plus, ISO 125

...there are many mansions. 

These words of Jesus (from John 14) have ever since they were first spoken, been a source of tremendous hope and encouragement to Christians down through the centuries.  No matter what this world and what this life throws at us we know that Jesus has prepared a home in heaven for all those who would seek to follow Him in this life. 

I continue to be amazed by this.  I know that I am not good enough to be called one of Jesus’ friends and I could write an endless list of reasons why I shouldn’t go to heaven.  I have every sympathy with the Apostle Paul when he said:
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)
Time and time again we become aware of the battle between what we know is the right thing to do and what we naturally want to do, the battle between “the flesh” and “the spirit”, often portrayed in cartoons as the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, each trying to win the mind of the person trapped in the middle! 

If the Apostle Paul struggled with this then we are in good company.  He goes on to say:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (v24, 25a)
Yes we inhabit “bodies of death” but thank God that we are rescued from them by what Jesus did for us on the cross. 

The picture above brought all this to mind.  I have passed by many times on my way between Ballinascarthy and Pedlar’s cross.  It is a sad sight.  Recently I had a bit of time to spare before a home visit so I decided to drop in.  There was no one at home although it had been used fairly recently by a chain-smoking tabloid-reading occupant.  I could have gone upstairs but I didn’t want to, I felt like I was trespassing.  I couldn’t help but feel sad for the person who had lived here last, who had poured so much of their life into this place, in keeping it clean, in decorating, in tending the garden.  I thought of the long gone days when the steam train would have been visible on the old railway behind the house; the white puffs of steam and jolly passengers making their way to or from West Cork.  I could almost hear the echoes of voices, calling from the kitchen that dinner was ready or the sound of laughter as children played in the garden (if they ever did I don’t know).  The tall trees stand like silent spectators all around. If they could, I wonder what story they would tell?

Everything that we take for granted every day is just so temporary, so transient that we would do well and wisely not to cling on to it too tightly.  Thank God that our home prepared by Jesus in the next life is a home that is permanent and where ‘moth and rust’ do not destroy and where thieves do not ‘break in and steal’ (Matt.6:19).  We do not deserve this home but we have a God who specialises in Grace – undeserved favour.   

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Follow me!

Olympus OM-1, G.Zuiko 35mm f2.8, Ilford FP4 plus, (developed in Ilfosol 3, 6 mins @ 24o)

We had great fun watching this mother duck and her ducklings (all twelve of them) make their way from a stream then across a road and finally into the lake at Fota recently.  At the first attempt the mother just hopped out and charged off and then realised that there were no little ones following her.  They were left stranded because the bank was too high for them to jump up.  So the mother duck had to go back and lead them to a place further down stream where they could climb / hop out.  Then they made their procession towards the lake as you see in the picture.  I wonder how many of these twelve cute fluffy ducklings will survive to adulthood - I expect they make a fine lunch for several different predators?

Following is not always easy but we have the perfect Leader who looks after us in ways beyond our understanding and will ultimately lead us to our final destination.  Of course we can choose to go off on our own way but that is a path where we lead ourselves to certain death.  Thankfully Jesus comes looking for us and longs to bring us back into the fold (getting into a knot of mixed metaphors here)!  But He will never force us against our will, we have to be willing to follow Him knowing that it really is the only sensible option, but more than that, it is the way to the fullness of life and love and joy and peace and forgiveness...

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Moon & Venus

Nikon D70s, f4.2, 1/5 sec, ISO 200, 85mm

When I consider your heavens, 
the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, 
which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him, 
the son of man that you care for him?

(Psalm 8:3-4)

This was the view from the Rectory garden just after ten o'clock last night.  Too large to be a star, my best guess is that it's Venus (see here).

Photo notes (If you're interested in the technical aspect of the picture):  I set my camera on a tripod, placed on firm ground and put a timer delay so that there would be no vibration for the long exposure necessary.  To my surprise I noticed however that even though there was no wind and I didn't touch the camera during the exposure the picture is still slightly blurred.  The only conclusion I can come to is that the slap of the viewfinder mirror caused it.  Unfortunately my camera does not have mirror lock-up, which would have prevented this.  Next time however I will take a much longer exposure and hold the lens cap over the lens for the first second so that the initial vibration is not recorded on the final picture.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mange Tout

Olympus OM-1, G.Zuiko 35mm (with yellow filter), Ilford FP4 plus, (pushed to ISO 400 in Ilfosol 3)

My better half has created the wonderful beginnings of a vegetable plot in a small area of the garden by the back door.  There are potatoes, cabbages, raspberries, strawberries, lettuces, radishes, a few other things that I'm not sure of and one of our favourites, Mange Tout.  (Since the above photo was taken they have grown quite a bit and are now supported by a clever arrangement of canes and string.)

When I was at school there was a strange sort of limbo time after all our A-level exams and before the end of term.  The boarding school was in the middle of nowhere in the Suffolk countryside and there was not a whole lot to do.  Someone had the bright idea that we could go and earn some money on a local farm, so off we went  cycling five miles or so to a farm that needed people to pick the crop of Mange Tout.  It was back-breaking work, it was baking hot but all quite good fun.  I'll never forget the first day, we were surrounded by all sorts of interesting people from many different places who had very little English but could pick Mange Tout so fast their hands were just a blur.  I was quite proud of my several basketfuls and was convinced that my hard labour would earn me a small fortune.  As the day was coming to an end we were paid - I got seven pounds!  On the cycle back to school we stopped off at a pub, bought a meal and a drink and had about twenty pence left over.  But what happy times they were. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Nikon F100, Nikkor 28-105 D, Fuji Reala 100

Potential:  Existing in possibility, capable of development into actuality...

Monday, May 10, 2010


The Beach at Amroth
Olympus OM-1, G. Zuiko 35mm, Ilford FP4 plus (pushed to ISO 400)

Olympus OM-1, G. Zuiko 35mm, Ilford FP4 plus (pushed to ISO 400)

It's probably the Welsh blood in my veins but there is just something about the Carmarthenshire coast.  It's not especially spectacular when compared to say the West Coasts of Ireland or Scotland but it has its very own beauty.  The beach rambler would never tire of the sheer variety of coastline, vast sandy beaches, small rocky coves, cliffs and dunes, the abundant wildlife (and even the good ol' tacky amusement arcade here and there).  Many childhood memories are brought to mind in these places - lemonade in glass bottles, sandwiches with more sand in them than ham or cheese, Granddad with a knotted handkerchief on his head, huddled in a bus shelter in the rain whilst eating salty chips, my grandparents Morris Minor. Ah yes what a wonderful place and what special memories.

Now as we occasionally get to travel across we witness a new generation of grandchildren accumulating wonderful memories, as plentiful as the shells gathered into their seaside buckets.  The world might be a slightly different place - lemonade is now called different things and comes in a plastic bottle, chips no longer come packaged in yesterdays newspaper and many other changes which on their own are tiny but when put together represent a subtly different world.  The new generation of Grandparents though are just the same, just as loving and doting and instrumental in passing on to their grandchildren that love and kindness which will still be there when their turn comes, as it surely will, when they will watch their own grandchildren run about in frenzied joy in a world that is the same but different.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Garden Colour Part Two

See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labour or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.  
(Matthew 6:28b, 29)

Well Spring has sprung a bit more since last time.  If ever you are thinking about a film for showing off colour (whether it be in your garden, landscapes or even for portraits) may I humbly recommend Fuji's Reala 100.  Seeing as only strange people like me use film these days I got twenty rolls of this film off eBay for £20!  All these pictures were taken with a Nikon F100 and 28-105 AF-D lens.  

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rathbarry Church

Nikon D70s, 1/160 sec, f6.3, ISO 200, 105mm equivalent (click to enlarge)

This is the now long-abandoned remains of Rathbarry Church, on the Castlefreke estate, near Rosscarbery.  It was quite a gloomy day so I greatly appreciated the fact that the clouds parted just enough to allow the sun to light up the ruins for the photo.  This light only lasted a few seconds and then was gone again.  It seemed to us that access to the church was no longer available, but I was reliably informed the other day that as the church yard is still open for burials, the track leading to it is a public right of way.  The local land owner has made a convincing attempt to make it look as though you would be taking a very grave (excuse the pun) risk in setting foot on the road, but maybe next time we are taking a walk on the nearby beach at Long Strand we'll take a better look.  

Seeing closed and derelict church buildings dotted around the countryside (of which there are many) could cause one to be a little downcast at the current state of the Church today.  "Numbers are not what they were you know".  A Rector taking a service at which there are six people present (including the Rector) is encouraged by the words "In my day there were at least oooh ten thousand people in these pews at 5.30 am on a Sunday morning" and clergy are blessed by tales of how "in the good ol' days" they had great fun breaking the ice in the font in order to baptise the queues waiting outside.  Make no mistake, these are challenging times.  

I've always had a great respect for the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors with no boundaries, frontiers or borders) and I just love the name and what it means and what it implies.  Of course, the same idea is true of the Church also.  We are (or at least we should be) a church without boundaries, frontiers or borders.  Yes we meet together in buildings that are beautiful, historic (and cold and costly) but we are not limited by them.  Even if we had no buildings we would still exist (though the buildings committee might have to find something else to do).  A "church without walls" is not a new concept, but it ever remains an attractive one...