Into The Crack Of Dawn [21June2013]

A series of photos showing the progress of dawn, not over one day, but at the same time each day from winter to midsummer, as I walk through the fields to work

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In the summer of 2012, I found a long deserted pathway through the fields at Laughanstown in south county Dublin, near to a place where I was working at the time.  My discovery and first lunchtime amble along the pathway is illustrated in my short story The Melting.

The pathway runs through open fields alongside the LUAS tram line, and I soon got into the habit of taking a daily walk along the pathway, getting off the tram a couple of stops before walk, and happily walking in solitude through fields alive with fresh morning air, only the occasional whirr of a passing tram to disturb the birdsong. A lovely way to start the day, drifting happily in thought and body. Were I a lamb, you might even say that gambolled happily across the meadow each morn.

When winter came, I was loath to give up this pleasure, even when darkness made it more difficult, and started bringing a torch so I could pick my way along the path towards the lights of civilisation – and work – in the far distance. It was cold, dark, and sometimes hard going, but the sense of solitude and the fresh air more than made up for it.

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Far from any houses, the blackness was absolute, and one morning (Jan 2nd this year) at 0724 I took a photo to illustrate the darkness of the walk, zooming in on the lights of Tullyvale and Cherrywood in the distance.

The next morning, the blackness was not quite complete – a tiniest sliver of a crack of dawn was visible over distant mountains, and I took another photo to show the difference a day (and two minutes later) had made.

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This gave me an idea. As I walked the route at least three days a week, always at the same time (taking the same outbound tram departure) why not take a series of pictures, to catalog how the dark of winter slowly gave way to the dawn of spring, and the daylight of summer as I took my morning walks.

Those first two pictures were taken randomly, and not at exactly the same point, and possibly not covering exactly the same span, but for this project I would need some way of locking my physical location, so that the field of view would be as close as possible to exactly the same in each picture.

So I used a line of electricity pylons to determine the photograph point – they would not be in shot themselves, but when I reached a point on the path where the crosstree of one pylon aligned exactly with the southern edge of another, I would stand in the righthand rut of the track, thus controlling my physical location. I would then line up the second closest overhead wire carrier on the tramway to the rifghthand edge of the photo, and this would ensure I was covering the same area in each shot. Only the vertical plane had no real means of control.

And so, here are some of the results, as we journey from winter to spring, at the same time each morning, give or take a couple of minutes.

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A week after my first photos, the 11th of January 2013 at 0724. The difference in the amount of dawn is quite visible, it is still pre-dawn lightening of the sky, but the clear day makes it much more visible. The field and pathway are still in absolute blackness at this time.

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January 15th at 0724, another clear morning, apart from a low lying bank of cloud over the distant hills.

crack-0206-0722Just a couple of week later, the 6th of February, at 0722. Quite a difference in two weeks – another clear day, but this time the sky is blue, the shapes of things are more visible, and I can see the puddle ahead of me.

crack-0207-0724The next day, February 7th at 0724, shows the difference the cloud makes – dawn is at the same point, but no chance of seeing anything on the ground.

crack-0221-0723Now this is amazing – it is only two week later, the 21st of February, at 0723, and yet the difference in light, even with a totally overcast day, is amazing. Now everything is visible. To the right is the tram line, heading towards Cherrywood in the far distance. The buildings in the centre of the picture are the apartments of Tullyvale. To the left of them a sliver of the Irish Sea is visible, and then Killiney Hill rises on the left edge of the photo.

crack-0225-0723Four days later, the 25th of February, again at 0723, and a different type of cloud cover darkens the scene, but leaves room for a lovely yellow and pink line above lower lying clouds concealing the rising sun.

crack-0226-0723The following day, Feb 26th, at 0723, the clouds are different again.

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A couple of weeks later again, 7th March at 0723, and it is now pretty much daylight. It’s been raining for days, and the distant hills are lost in soft Irish mist.

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The 29th of March at 0728, the sun is fully risen, and hidden behind the clouds, sending lovely shafts of light down onto the sea. The foreground looks darker to the camera due to shooting into the sun, but was bright enough to the human eye.

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April 17th at 0724 – no fear of sunlight affecting the camera here, as the weather has turned “Irish” again!

crack-0501-0725May 1st at 0725, the dun is shining brightly now.

crack-0502-0725The following day, May 2nd at 0725, shows a more dreamy, cloudy skyscape.

And then . .

And then I moved away from that location

but . . .I knew I must come back for midsummer photos.

crack-0620-0722The day before mid summer – June 20th at 0722

and finally

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Midsummers day itself, though hot and sunny later, was wet and misty early on – June 21st 2013 at 0726.

And now I’m working on the other side of the city, and I don’t get to walk through the fields each morning any more. But thanks to a whim and a sudden inspiration back in the dark days of winter, I have a whole selection of photos of my beloved few moments of morning commune with nature, to go with a whole set of cherished memories.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip as much as I have!

Steve


Inside Out or Outside In?

 

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The Things I’ve Seen

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Hidden gems and forbidden ground – things I’ve seen walking in 2012

A year ago this week, I mentioned here that I had started to walk regularly as part of a pathway back to fitness.

My approach to this was to be fairly utilitarian – using walking as a means to fitness and sometimes a means of transport. My friend Chris who commented encouragingly on my efforts suggested that walking might introduce me to things I’d never seen before, but I didn’t really accept that. After all, most of my walking would be in Dublin or other places I already knew well, and what would there be to see that I’ve not already seen?

I also commented in my post, mindful of how new year efforts often peter out, that we would see at the end of the year if I managed to continue the daily walks. Well I did, barring a couple of weeks here and there when I was caught up in some pressing domestic matters.

Perhaps the best way to update you on my progress in the past 12 months, and to illustrate how wrong I was – the walks quickly became as much about discovery as utility – is to share some of the interesting things I stumbled across over the last 12 months (bearing in mind that what is interesting to me might not qualify as interesting to everyone!)

Included below are pictures of things taken only on my walks – not my day to day life – which otherwise would have been unseen by me.)

All of these pictures can be viewed in larger, high-res detail by clicking on the photo.

Abandoned army firing range in the Dublin Mountains . . with interesting artwork

Abandoned army firing range in the Dublin Mountains . . with interesting artwork

A closer look shows that under the grass, a bare-breasted woman is holding up the surface of the hillside.

A closer look shows that under the grass, a bare-breasted woman is holding up the surface of the hillside.

A Fairy Tree in Marlay Park, Dublin

A Fairy Tree in Marlay Park, Dublin

Pin your wish to the fairy tree

Pin your wish to the fairy tree

Travelling from Dublin to Cork I set off earlier so I can stop for a walk en route, and see sunrise over a frosty Curragh

Travelling from Dublin to Cork I set off earlier so I can stop for a walk en route, and see sunrise over a frosty Curragh

I'm determined not to let the weather stop my plans for a walk across Hampstead Heath, and am rewarded with a fine winter view of London

I’m determined not to let the weather stop my plans for a walk across Hampstead Heath, and am rewarded with a fine winter view of London

 . . and instead of a snow man, a snow bunny.

. . and instead of a snow man, a snow bunny.

On each of my three visits to London this year I have walked a section of the Thames Path . . here the old London Transport Lotts Road power station stands against a winter sky.

On each of my three visits to London this year I have walked a section of the Thames Path . . here the old London Transport Lotts Road power station stands against a winter sky.

Graffiti under a bridge in London

Graffiti under a bridge in London

 . . and on a hoarding in Dublin Docklands.

. . and on a hoarding in Dublin Docklands.

For nearly 50 years as I haved travelled toe Dublin to Cork road I have always looked at the steep wooded hillside outside Fermoy, with what looked like a stone cross on top. This year I stopped and climbed it . . and it's higher up, and the cross far bigger than I realised.

For nearly 50 years as I have travelled the Dublin to Cork road I have always looked up at a very steep wooded hillside outside Fermoy, with what looked like a stone cross on top. This year I stopped and climbed it . . and it’s higher up, and the cross far bigger than I realised.

 . .and from the hilltop could now look down at the Dublin to Cork road far below. No longer down there thinking "Maybe one day".

. .and from the hilltop could now look down at the Dublin to Cork road far below. No longer down there thinking “Maybe one day”.

Below ground - walking through the Rotherhithe Tunnel in east London. I'd always wanted to do this walk too!

Below ground – walking through the Rotherhithe Tunnel in east London. I’d always wanted to do this walk too!

When walking the Rotherithe Tunnel, best not to hang about. I was certainly a petrol-head by the time I got out the other side . .

When walking the Rotherithe Tunnel, best not to hang about. I was certainly a petrol-head by the time I got out the other side . .

On the subject of warning notices, this one in Dublin Docklands is pretty comprehensive. Is there anything you ARE allowed to do?

On the subject of warning notices, this one in Dublin Docklands is pretty comprehensive. Is there anything you ARE allowed to do?

The Day The Earth Stood Still? It's high noon on a saturday, and the docks are deserted as I walk the long, long Alexandra Road.

The Day The Earth Stood Still? It’s high noon on a saturday, and the docks are deserted as I walk the long, long Alexandra Road.

A solitary bird stands guard at an abandoned fortress in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

A solitary bird stands guard at an abandoned fortress in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

On the Thames Path again, and I came across the old Harrodds Furniture Depository which I remember seeing in the 1980s falling into disrepair . .

On the Thames Path again, and I came across the old Harrods Furniture Depository which I remember seeing in the 1980s falling into disrepair . .

. . but which now has a new lease of life as ultra-smart apartments.

. . but which now has a new lease of life as ultra-smart apartments.

Sometimes I am walking over my own family history. This manhole cover in Dublin Docklands was cast in my grandfather's Iron-foundry at Inchicore where my uncles and father worked for many years, and where I also worked in the school holidays. Judging by the date, I might even have had a hand in making this one!. The foundry is long gone, but hundreds of Conway drains and covers remain on Irish streets, and will for many years to come.

Sometimes I am walking over my own family history. This manhole cover in Dublin Docklands was cast in my grandfather’s Iron-foundry at Inchicore where my uncles and father worked for many years, and where I also worked in the school holidays. Judging by the date, I might even have had a hand in making this one!. The foundry is long gone, but hundreds of Conway drains and covers remain on Irish streets, and will for many years to come.

Another river walk, this time The Rhine in Germany, yeilds an especially moody sky.

Another river walk, this time The Rhine in Germany, yeilds an especially moody sky.

A path in a park in Co. Kerry is blocked after a bridge is washed away in a storm. The choice of wording on the warning sign makes it seem far more interesting . .

A path in a park in Co. Kerry is blocked after a bridge is washed away in a storm. The choice of wording on the warning sign makes it seem far more interesting . .

The curling of the warning tape in the breeze makes the message seem even more sinister. Is this perhaps the Garden of Eden? Is the Tree of Knowledge just beyond?

The curling of the warning tape in the breeze makes the message seem even more sinister. Is this perhaps the Garden of Eden? Is the Tree of Knowledge just beyond?

So there we have it, a few of the the interesting sights I would not have seen if I hadn’t kept up walking throughout 2012.

Below are my stats for the year from the wonderful “Walkmeter” app.

I hope to do even better in 2013.   Steve

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What Lies Beneath – Why Dundrum Town Centre Flooded

Steve digs out his photos of the construction of South Dublin’s fashionable (and flooded) mall, and remembers what it was they built on top of . .

From the front page of Irish Times 25th October 2011 – © Irish Times

The dramatic scenes of water bursting into the upmarket Dundrum Town Centre mall were some of the defining images of the Dublin floods of October 2011, and the front page picture from todays Irish Times shows how badly the centre has been affected. Since its opening six years ago it has been my favourite of the Dublin suburban shopping centres, but its devastation by floods does not surprise me as a local with intimate knowledge of the grography that it replaced.

It could be, in fact, a perfect example of of the boom years building frenzy taken to its logical consequences, as the building of hundreds of apartments close by in the following years helped seal its fate.

The village of Dundrum has always perched on a slope at the bottom end of a narrow valley, with a good-sized stream (or small river) running through it. Various complexes lined the high ground on one side of the valley – the old PYE Television factory, later industrial estate, the 1970s original Dundrum Shopping Centre, and the old H Williams store at the southern end (which became Super Crazy Prices, and then Tesco). But the bottom of the valley and the river was always left pretty much wild, and I used to roam along its length in my childhood years, fancying myself as a fearless explorer as I waded upstream and forced my way through undergrowth.

In more recent years, as I made my way to work on a sluggish 48A in 2000 and 2001, the glimpse of the stream surrounded by green land as we crossed over the valley on the Ballinteer Road bridge just before the crossroads always gave a little glimpse of forgotten rural idyll. Until the day the bulldozers moved in, and they started building.

Dundrum bypass and Dundrum Town Centre under construction

Here is a shot I took sometime during 2001 or 2002 which shows both Dundrum Town Centre and the Dundrum Bypass under construction.  The picture is taken from a temporary pedestrian bridge over the valley errected during the period when Ballinteer Road was closed to traffic as a new, wider road bridge was built complete with car-park ramp downwards into the centre.

On the left is where Dundrum Town Centre now stands, and you can see the spot where the underground car-parks and delivery section join the bypass.

The valley floor has been leveled, and the stream boxed in, ready to be buried underneath the new development in a culvert.

When this photo was taken, it had been dry for a good period, and the stream was low, however it often ran much higher in wet periods. Nevertheless, the culvert once roofed would seem more than proof against even a four or fivefold increase in flow during very rainy periods.

However, in the years following the completion of the centre, hundreds if not thousands of apartments in dozens of new developments were built upstream, with much of the run-off from all these acres of new concrete flowing into the stream or the local drainage system. The huge flow of water from the Ticknock Hill development alone can be seen during wet periods cascading down a series of steps beside the M50 junction, and into the watercourse of this stream. Plus, all of the green land that lay undisturbed in this little valley is now built over, no longer able to absorb rainfall and run-off.

In the exceptional rainfall of the last 24 hours, when a months rain fell in a day, once the culvert was at full capacity, where else could the water go?

I’m not saying the planners failed here, this is an exceptional event, but perhaps, when we have building booms in future, we should be looking at things like runoff in the context of what else will be built in the area later, and planning for “once in 80 year” events.

Yes it will cost. But as much as the damage that now needs to be made good?

Steve


A September Moment

I had an hour to spare on Saturday, unexpectedly, and I used it to wander out the North Bull Wall past Dollymount Strand and into the bay. The view from there is urban, across the port to the longer South Wall, and then beyond it to the south city and the Dublin Mountains, but it’s lovely all the same. I’ve biked and walked and climbed over every inch of that city and those hills in my childhood, and they are as much a part of me as my DNA.

It was a typical “Dublin Day” on Saturday – overcast but not wet, a fresh breeze from the southwest scudding the multitude of low-hanging clouds across the landscape, just scraping the hilltops. It was cool without being cold, and the day held enough promise of rain to deter the noisy crowds who normally throng the beach without actually releasing any rain.

The sea, that sky, those hills . . I can remember a thousand Dublin days just like it while growing up.

I found a little rock to sit on and just drank all this in for a long time, relishing a moment of passive enjoyment of place which I indulge in far to rarely these days. It was good for recharging the soul.

I drive myself too fast to do too many things these days, and forget sometimes to stop and enjoy the smell or the roses, the kiss of the rain on my cheek. A fulltime and senior job in the IT world with much pressure, a book to be written, another half done, short stories and poems bubbling up as well, two radio shows to be planned and recorded each week, and several other projects on the boil. I’m never bored, and I love it, but all the same . . I musn’t forget to feed my soul as well as my career(s).

All those years ago, as a schoolboy, I remember enjoying the poetry of Robert Frost. Two poems in particular stuck in my mind through adulthood.

“The Road Not Taken” was my favourite, and was both a guide to my choices and a description of my life for many years, and I hope, still now.

“But I, I took the road less travelled by

And that has made all the difference”

But it is another poem of Frosts that comes into my mind much more frequently these days: “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

As a boy I loved it for its description of dark snowy woods, ripe for exploration, and wondered why the adult, who so obviously found them allureing, yet chose not to tarry.

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   
.
My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   
.
He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   
.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
.

But now, in a busy life, I find myself thinking of that last verse much more often, in the full understanding of the adult’s responsibilities that force him to cut short his simple pleasure and drive on.

As I sit there looking across the bay at those could-capped hills and the domains of my childhood, I resolve to try to take more “time out” for myself and try to make just a bit of space in a busy world for watching snowy woods.

But not now. There is a man I have to meet at 1pm in East Wall, and then its off to Loughlinstown where I have several hours work awaiting me.

I get up to walk back to the car, happy that I have just gifted myself a lovely September moment of pleasure.

I’d like to stay longer, but I have promises to keep.

And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep.

Steve


In 2010, I Lived.

Looking back . . the sun and all that is Dublin can be seen from the very tip of the Great South Wall in the centre of Dublin Bay

Looking back, I can’t recall another year in my life when I have lived as vividly as I did in 2010.

Despite 2010 being bleak economically and politically both home in Ireland and pretty much everywhere else in the west, despite long hours and stress in various workplaces, despite some non-threatening but quite inconveniencing medical blips, despite my car heater dying just in time for the coldest December since records began . . 2010 was a year in which I really lived, in which old emotions were reawakened, and new ones discovered, and my store of life experience grew more than it has done in a long time.

I had set myself a challenge at the end of 2009 to start doing things I had never done before, to open myself to new experiences beyond my comfort zone. And while I didn’t get to the arbitrary goal of “10 things” during the year, I reached 5, two of which were experiences that profoundly moved or enriched me, and a third which brought back childhood memories entwined in a futuristic setting.

Not all of the great things that happened to me during the year were as a result of this self-challenge, but perhaps the attitude it engendered in me of being more open filtered through to other things too.

So what made my year?

Well, some unique experiences came about as i sought to push myself into new things.

Taking part in the Bristol Balloon Fiesta was certainly a “high” point of the year, and my first ever hot-air balloon flight, as part of a mass ascent of more than 80 balloons within an hour at dawn, was a unique and moving experience, so much so that I felt to write about it in purely descriptive journalistic terms would be . . to miss some indefinable element of the experience.

Twisting it in my mind, it instead inspired me to write a short story “A Bristol Awakening” that is neither fact nor fiction, but also both. A very intimate story, it has been received well at a number of public readings, especially by women, and I am hoping to see it published in 2011.

Launching from a Bristol hillside at dwan, with ballons of every shape and size coming before and after us

Drifting lazily and silently through the sky over Bristol, with the Avon Gorge, the Bristol Channel and Wales visible in the distance

Slightly more down to earth, though involving a different sort of (non) flying, as one of my challenges I put myself forward to the Dublin Airport Authority to be one of the special testers of the new Terminal 2 before it opened. Apart from fulfilling my curiosity about the new building, and allowing me a sneak peek at new transport infrastructure, which I’ve always been interested in, the experience reminded me of aspects of my past that I had long forgotten, and also gave me a chance to get my own back on customs, just for once. You can read the details in my post Mr. Beagle Goes To London (Not).

Something I have never wanted to do, and felt I would always avoid, enriched my life and gave me a wonderful experience when i tried it as part of the “going outside my comfort zone” element of my 10-things challenge. A visit to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, accompanied by a an impossibly glamourous companion, opened a whole new world of experience, sight, sound, and stimulation to me. I enjoyed it more than I could possibly have imagined, and do intend to write up the experience here at a later date.

Somewhere I never thought I would see myself!

Pushing myself outside my comfort zone, doing what I would not normally consider doing was one of the elements i wanted to achieve in drawing up my list of 10 things, and I am so very glad I did this.

As the year comes to an end, I’ve so far ticked off 5 things, and have more still in planning, with some space left on the list for spontenaity.

So 2011 should continue in similar vein, and to be honest, when I reach 10, why stop there?

Of course, there were other things which made 2010 an exceptional year for me, some planned, others unexpected.

A couple of things that really moved me were radio related, and did not come about as a result of my challenge list.

Going in March to Ramsgate to do a reading from Shiprocked for the benefit of the RNLI, brought me face to face with the men who came to my rescue on one of the darkest days of my life, 19 years earlier.

Meeting the crew of the lifeboat who battled through a Force 10 NE to come to our aid when the Caroline ship was aground on the Goodwin Sands was a profoundly humbling experience, all the more so because of the warmth of the welcome I received, and the support they showed for Caroline despite having been put through hell that morning and nearly losing their own lives on account of our stubborn decision to stay on board the apparently doomed vessel.

The high point of my year, meeting the Ramsgate Lifeboat crew, left to right is John G Ray, myself, and Ray Noble.

I won’t forget the men of the Ramsgate Lifeboat, and will be making another fundraising trip to see them in November 2011, on the 20th anniversary of the grounding.

The same weekend I revisited the Ross Revenge for the first time in many years, and was invited to join the current-day lineup of Caroline on satellite, which, despite the many years of my absence, felt like a real homecoming.

(I can be heard on Caroline every Monday 2-4pm, Sky Digital Ch.0199 and via RadioCaroline.co.uk )

Another emotional moment came about in May, after I had been invited to join the crew of the Dutch station Radio Seagull, which was celebrating a month long offshore broadcast, 8 miles of the coast of Friesland.

There were many memories stirred by being offshore for the first time since 1991, though the most intense of these was to come on me unexpectedly.

Back at sea, and approaching a radioship . . . ah, the ghosts are stirring!
To raise my head from sleeping, and peer through a murky porthole to see nothing but grey rolling sea is, for me, a heaven of moody solitude.

The week I spent at sea with Radio Seagull was bliss, with old memories awoken, and new friends and new memories made at every moment of each day. (See the posts OFFSHORE AGAIN and  Seagull Day 1 and   More Seagull Pictures and  Clear White Light and  A Ferry Large Tender as well as   Seagull Offshore – The Pictures for the week as I blogged it at the time)

But the most vivid experience of that week came for me, unexpectedly, in the middle of the night and alone, and had nothing to do with the radio side of the visit. Being given the job of staying up on watch overnight for one of the nights, while usually regarded a something of a chore, for me brought both fear and redemption, as I was finally able to lay to rest the ghosts of what had happened on the Caroline ship, many years earlier, when we drifted, unheeding, onto the deadly Goodwin Sands.

For all that the storm in 1991 had been so fierce, and our ship so run down and unable to navigate that we could not have resisted being swept onto the Goodwin Sands even if we had realised earlier that our anchor chain had broken, I had carried with me these many years a nagging sliver guilt that I should have known, should have been more alert, should have done better.

Now, here I was again, and for the first time since that fateful night, entrusted to watch over a ship at anchor at sea, and in the grips of bad weather too. I was both siezed with fear that it would all go terribly wrong on my watch, and grateful for the chance to prove myself dilligent and keep the most careful of watches. I checked our position regularly, I did a full round of the ship and checked the anchoring cables every hour, I saw us safely through to dawn, and I slayed a dragon that had slumbered in a corner of my mind for many years.

3am and all is well on board the Jenni Baynton

The week was over too soon, but I was delighted to be asked to join the staff of Radio Seagull and to contribute a weekly show from my own studio in Dublin, with my own choice of music – a mix of new and alternative music as well as classic rock, with a bit of blues and soul mixed in. Presenting these shows on Seagull have been an immensely satisfying experience for me.

(I can be heard 7-9 am and pm each Saturday, on 1602Khz MW in The Netherlands, and worldwide at RadioSeagull.com )

Phantom 105.2 in Dublin also continued to be a source of great enjoyment for me, and though I had to move away from regular weekend shows towards the end of the year due to domestic commitments, the station and its staff still feels like an extended family for me, and keeps me informed on new music trends.

There were lots of mini high points in 2010 – from an unexpectedly beautiful sunrise encountered one morning on my way to work, to, finally after all my years on this earth, a proper White Christmas.

Sunrise over Dublin Bay on a winter's morning

Snow lies thick on the furze on Christmas Day

There was also another experience, quite unexpected, which made me feel like a teenager again, one unremarkable Saturday afternoon at a railway station  in an unremarkable British city . . but I won’t go into that one here!

Suffice to say that, for me at least, 2010 has been a year in which i started living and growing anew, despite being at an age where comfort and stagnation would be more usual.

May 2011 have more of the same . . and new . . for me . . and you.

Happy New Year

Steve Conway


Choice and Redemption in Shopping Heaven

Dundrum Town Centre

Dundrum Town Centre is probably one of the busiest, and certainly one of the more upmarket, shopping centres in the Greater Dublin Area.

It’s busy at any time of year, but just before Christmas the queues of cars to get in – and out – can be legendary. This post-Christmas week can be almost as busy, with the sales on, and this year in particular as people catch up on retail therapy avoided when travel was difficult during the big chill.

I’m not a big shopper myself, and I tend to avoid crowded streets and malls at these times, and yet Dundrum is one place that I never mind coming to, no matter how busy, and never leave without an uplifting of the soul.It’s not the view of the mountains from the upper-level car-park (though that helps) it’s not the fact that my retailers of choice – Hughes & Hughes, Easons, Marks & Spencer & HMV are all clustered fairly close to each other, though that helps too.

It’s the little unintended quirks in the machinery of modern consumerism that give me a twinkle in the eye.

Firstly, I love the way the car park levels are numbered.  You start at ground level, at level 3, and go down to 2M (mezzanine level),  then 2, then 1M, then 1 and then -1. Yes, that’s right. Minus 1.

Instead of having a level 0, or starting the numbering at 4, here we have a multi-story car park that utilises both positive and negative numbers. it really appeals to the numbers geek in me!

Then, tucked away in a corner not far from the lower level of Marks & Spencer we have   . . the Optimist/Pessimist Lift.

That’s not the official name of course. It doesn’t have a name, it’s just a simple one hop elevator in a distant corner of a very large complex. I doubt that there is any other human being who boards this lift and sees it the way I see it, and views the choices the way I do.

But what other name could you possible give to a lift which presents you with one simple choice of 1 or -1 ?

And then, after I’ve made my choice (always optimism, as I only use the lift to go up, never down), and after I’ve battled the crowds and done my shopping, when the time comes to leave, I know that I can rely on the car-park payment machine to restore my faith in the future, to tell me that the future can be better than the past if only I make the effort . .

OK, so I know it is only trying to tell me that I can use a banknote, and get the difference back with coins.

But I never fail to smile when I see the way that they have worded this, and I leave the centre with some hope in my soul.

Change is possible

Happy New Year!

Steve