review of 2015…

my favourite photographs of 2015…

IMG_4300Hillsborough, Co. Down

IMG_4335spring on its way…

IMG_4722Ballintoy harbour…

IMG_4935the dark hedges, Armoy…

IMG_4848_edited-1Dunluce castle, Co Antrim…

IMG_5412_edited-1Virginia beach…

IMG_5772Helicopter view of Liberty & Ellis Islands with Manhattan…

IMG_57439/11 memorial..

IMG_6146 copyThe Bean, Chicago..

IMG_1001Whiterocks beach, Co Antrim..

IMG_6538Ulster museum, Belfast…

IMG_6329Belfast zoo…

 

 

the dark (foggy) hedges

ok – I have put up photographs of the dark hedges a number of times but this morning was foggy and it seemed like a good idea when my wife suggested a trip over.  For the very first time we saw almost no-one, usually there are wall to wall tourists dreaming of game of thrones.

This morning it was just above freezing and the melting drops of frost were raining from the branches.  In the bushes beneath the trees a few defrosting berries hang on waiting for a hungry bird.

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ginger toms…

we have 2 ginger tom cats.  Their personalities are very different – George enjoys being stroked and pushes his head towards your hand, Garfield may choose to enjoy being stroked but more often shrinks away.  Garfield is the younger, has more stripes on his tail and white around his eyes, he likes to pick a fight, saving a tuft of ginger fur in the hall.  You will suddenly hear a throaty growl followed by the noise of someone beating a hasty retreat.

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We have had George the longest – his eyes are rimmed in black.  He tolerates Garfield and knows the neighbourhood well.  Our friends in the cul de sac will tell how they find him asleep upstairs or helping himself to their cat food.IMG_6223

But this is typical of both of them – curled up in the evening on the sofa, but claws still ready for action.IMG_6570

Or in warmer weather hiding in the garden waiting for someone to come home. IMG_5008

a visit to the Ulster museum

I visited the Ulster Museum just last weekend. I am never disappointed and probably go about once per year. There were 2 exhibitions which were new to me and which stick in my mind.

The first is mythical, not real but fires the imagination. Suspended from the ceiling are 2 huge dragons – complete with horns and tongues and eyes and pointed tails – apparently made out of what looks like twisted twigs. They are a striking display and I have to admit I love to sit down and watch “how to train your dragon” with my son – usually at his bedtime on iplayer on my iPad.

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The second is real, actually painfully real. A vivid reminder of human nature.

The room is respectfully quiet, there may even be some tears. On the walls are beautiful paintings and the pained expressions evident in the eyes and the facial expressions jump at you, the moment you walk in the room.

Each painting is a real story – someone who was caught up in the Troubles here in Northern Ireland and lost a loved one. There is a brief description of the cruel events on the wall beside each painting. You feel compelled to walk slowly around the room, reading as you go. It’s nearly intrusive, on each person’s pain. Colin Davidson, the artist, has done an amazing job.

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But this weekend in Paris there is more pain and madness. As there was on 9/11 or Omagh or earlier this year in Paris, and the list is endless. At times like this comments appear on social media like prayforparis and I think we should. Everything seems to be changing to French colours to show support. It’s just as important we pray for ourselves and that we resist the temptation to see a particular culture or faith or dress or ethnicity or skin colour as anything to do with this -that we don’t add our own prejudice to the mounting problem, that we remember that all right minded people are horrified.

Also that we understand it. Not to justify it (because that can’t be done) but to move towards solving it. Otherwise they win.

In the madness I believe that you have to listen very carefully – for a still small voice because God is still with us as he was in 1 Kings 18 with Elijah, ultimately in control, despite everything. This madness is frightening and disturbing but nothing has really changed.