Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Review of 2013

It has come to that time of the year when the photographers reviews appear - and guess what, here is mine!
Although I might have grabbed your attention with the opening image, there is still a possibility you might get bored, so you can click off now if you wish.

...still here? Well thank you!
I'm not going to write reams about each image as all the details are available in the actual blog posts - the links to each post are under the pictures. I have chosen the images (aided by my best critic and oh-so patient other half) for no other reason than I like them. There will be those of you who will like them too, and those of you who will wonder, why ever that one? - I'm ok with that.

So why did I open with the image above? Well, it is probably the one that left the most lasting impression on me in 2013, both in terms of seeing the joy of the parents with their newborn and the final image. It was just magical. There were so many other special moments and images throughout the year that it actually was quite hard to choose something (and sometimes more than one something) from each month. So here goes:

So there you have it. A real mixed bag but that is the way I like it - a challenge and some variety.

Thank you for sticking with this post, and thank you for taking time to drop into my blog during 2013 - I really do appreciate all your support. Look out for the exciting changes coming up soon.

And now, may I wish you all the very best for 2014!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Calm After the Storm

Early this morning, I was watching from Howth Head as the various ferries left Dublin Port to cross back to Holyhead. I had just arrived into Dublin at 6am myself and was slightly envious of the now calm appearance of the Irish Sea, as when I had left North Wales in the early hours, the captain of the Ulysses, the largest cruise ferry in operation, was apologising to the passengers. In the 24 hours prior to my sailing, one of the biggest storms to hit Ireland for some while, had made any crossing of the Irish Sea a no-go for some vessels and difficult for the remainder. I have made this crossing on many occasions and although I think my sea legs have improved slightly over the past few years, I still chose to share my journey with my trusty mates, Stuge and Ron.

As I lay down in my bunk, well away from the soon-to-be-green passengers milling about on the decks, the captain continued with his apology.
"Although conditions have improved from earlier, and although we will be using the excellent stabilisers on this ship, there will still be rolling during this crossing. I suggest that any passengers who may have a problem with this movement, should remain seated."
Then in the final breath
"I hope you enjoy the crossing"
As it turns out, I knew nothing of the roly-poly crossing. In fact I had the best night sleep I have ever had on the ferry, and I guess it is thanks to those two mates.

So, what was I doing up on Howth Head - had I got a mean streak that wanted to watch how the returning passengers would suffer on the seas?
No, I had been invited by a photographer friend to quit racing straight off down to our usual destination in West Cork, and instead, make the most of the magic time of the Golden Hour, and explore some of the local landmarks first - and I'm glad I did.
Apart from Howth Head having some of the more desirable Dublin residences, it also boasts stunning views along the coast and back towards Dublin, and in the early light, and was worthy of a shot or two.

From the lighthouse on the end of Howth Head, we made our way back down to the harbour walls, where another lighthouse sat photogenically in the clear December morning light. I stood amazed that everything now appeared so calm when only hours earlier it had been the complete opposite.
Mindful though of my need to get back on the road I knew there were lots of interesting corners that I hadn't had time to explore but then it can be the thought of knowing that there is still that bit more to discover that will make anywhere worthy of a revisit. I guess mutt was pleased of the idea of not racing straight off from the ferry either. Although an excellent traveller, she appreciates these little breaks in the journey and it is because of her we often stop in places we would otherwise miss. This time I have Ray to thank for suggesting this interesting detour, oh - and there may just be an element of snap

So it was whilst walking back down the harbour, past a variety of interesting buildings, I noticed high up in a non-glazed window, one last sign of the calm after the storm - a feral pigeon caught in the sunlight as it emerged from its place of refuge.

May this calm spell last for the duration of our current visit!


Post Script

Calm? Last?!!!

Understatement! We had some of the wildest weather, and when did it improve?

On the last day of course!

An image to prove the weather conditions, as experienced from the platform of the Swift (seen speeding out to sea in the first image)
Taken from the perspective of the sea this image completes the circle by looking back to Howth Head, near the end of the day and right at the end of the visit.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Cambridge Bikers Christmas Toy Run 2013

It had been planned for sometime, and of course it was all fingers crossed but to wake to wind beating the rain hard against the window gave us that sinking feeling. All we hoped was that the weather would improve - as forecast, as we were about to take part in the first revival run of the Cambridge Bikers Christmas Toy run to Addenbrookes hospital and the complication of rain might just make less-hardy bikers think twice about taking part.

As we left home, the rain was still falling heavily, our red Father Christmas over-bike-coats were soaking it up like a sponge - what ever were we doing? We pressed on and as we drew nearer to Cambridge the sky began to lift, and so did our spirits - it would be so worthwhile. Bringing joy to those children who unfortunately would have to spend Christmas in hospital.

We needn't have worried as shortly after we arrived at the meeting point at Anglesey Abbey, the cavalcade of hi-vis police motorcycles arrived, making the whole event start to feel more 'happening'. From then on, hardly a moment went by without another set of wheels arriving and parking up in neat rows. One particular arrival was very welcome too - the sun at last!

Bikes arrived bedecked in all things Christmassey, both on the front...

...and on the back.

Allegiance with machines was no barrier to joining in this event, anything from cruisers...

...to scooters.

Santas arrived in anything from full-length cloaks to onesies.

Head gear also amazed with its variety...

...although one candidate for the best 'bah-humbug' costume clearly looked too happy and so the prize went to...

(...check further down and you will find out!)

The day was all about having a good time and spreading some  joy for Christmas...

...even if the often perceived macho view of bikers was shattered by having Barbie as a pillion!

Just time for a 'groupie' (and I resisted the temptation to photo-bomb)...

...before the briefing and preparing for the off.


The plan was to ride in convoy from Anglesey Abbey to Addenrookes.
The well natured ride out got off to Santa-stic start!

Out onto the open roads, the convoy of around 150 motorbikes...

stretched forwards...

...and backwards as far as the eye could see.

The police riders cleared a route through the traffic, the occupants of stationary cars smiled, tooted and waved, as did many by-standers. There was a great sense of camaraderie and feel-good as we all pressed on towards Cambridge....

..and then finally Addenrookes Hospital.

Just time to catch one for the record and say a huge thank you to the police riders, many of them giving up their spare time to accompany the Christmas Toy Run.

A mass hospital admission of santas...

...and an Elvis (who hadn't left the building as he had won the best 'bah-humbug' prize)

However, 'bah-humbug' was not in evidence judging by the generosity of all the riders.

And finally, to round off, a few Christmas ditties to get everyone into the mood.

Once again, the biking community had pulled out all the stops - an amazing crowd. So glad to have been part of it.

So it remains to thank the organisers and everyone who turned up to make it what it was but most important,
wish all those children a very Happy Christmas and a hope for a return to health in the New Year.

Please note, all images are © Ailec Photography - copies are available by request