Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sneachta means snow.

It has been snowing heavily in Dublin. Very heavily. There is a lot of sneachta. It's very unusual, and very amazing. A combination of Storm Emma and the Beast from the East. It started last night, continued today, and there's much more to come.

Last night on the Grand Canal in Portobello:





Powdery snow was building up back home:


It snowed much more today. Took a short video when I got caught in a heavy flurry on Stephen's Green:


Sadly Iveagh Gardens were closed:


Luas was still running:



There were some unfamiliar sights, like this surprised lion:


And some familiar ones, like this street art from ADW:


With some great views over Stephen's Green, looking like a scene from 80 years ago:


More photos of snow in Dublin here.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Fire and light.

It is almost Imbolc. So I am remembering the Winter Solstice. Fire and light.




21st December 2017, winter solstice at White Rock beach, Vico Road, Dublin.

Sunday, December 31, 2017


2017 was not a great year. This is not going to be a review of it. When I thought about something I did this year, something I achieved, something attempted and completed, I thought about one thing - swimming out past the first buoy at Seapoint in Dublin Bay. If I thought more about it, I would probably remember or recognise some other achievements, some other things I tried to do this year that I managed to complete. But I don't want to think about this year more. I don't want to think further about the pain of it, the effort and the trying of it, in the hope of discovering some more things I might feel good about it. That is another night's work. As I said, it was not a great year. What came to mind first, and solely, was swimming out and around this buoy. The buoy is anchored 200 metres out, I think, a bright yellow plastic beacon, replacing the old whitish one that used to be there. For me, it is quite far, in the quite cold Irish Sea. And I felt happy when I was able to swim out to it and back. I did it alone. I already included some photos I took out there in the water, in my blog post for May, which is when I did it. Here is a different one:


Seapoint, in the water at the first buoy, 7 May 2017.

And here is another one. Because I swam out there again, in September.


Seapoint, in the water at the first buoy, 22 September 2017.

That's me in the picture. It's good to do things you want to do. Good to complete things, do things, achieve things, sometimes. But they're not over. It's good too to keep doing them. To keep trying. Achievement is a process. Living is the struggle. Here's to a new year where I keep trying.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Homelessness and HIV.

There is a homeless man who seems to be living on a bench on the canal near my home. I see him there most days, sitting by his folded up sleeping bag, or lying in it with his hood up, making the most of the relatively warmer and safer daylight by trying to sleep. Sometimes he is walking near by. He seems like he is concentrating on being in his own world, as if he’s in his bedroom or on the sofa, trying to maintain the illusion that this is normal, that living on a bench by a canal is a normal way to live. Maybe trying to prevent people from interacting with him, from challenging him perhaps, or hassling him, even helping him, from puncturing the invisible wall that allows him to maintain something resembling sanity and privacy in this insane, publicly intimate situation.

Or maybe he is not thinking anything like that. I don’t know what he is thinking. I can hardly imagine what it is like to be living on a bench in the open air in the middle of a city. I just passed his bench again about half an hour ago. The temperature right now tonight is 2C. It feels even colder. My lungs hurt breathing in the cold air. There was a blue tent set up by the bench. I assume he is now in the tent. A large umbrella and a small cloth were positioned on the bench.


Homelessness on the Grand Canal, Dublin.

I don’t have any idea what his life is like or what he is going through now, physically or psychologically. I only know that it is appalling that in this wealthy city in this wealthy country on this bountiful planet that this person and hundreds of others are sleeping outside in freezing temperatures the middle of winter, because they have no homes, because it isn’t safe for them to be in their homes, because sleeping on the streets of Dublin is the best or only option for them. That so many people would choose to, or feel that they have no choice but to, sleep rough. This, it seems simply, is wrong. People sleeping on the streets don’t generally want to be there. We as a society should be ensuring that everyone has a home, a roof over their heads, shelter from the cold, safety indoors. We shouldn’t need to state this. It is part of the social contract, the bedrock agreement of human society, basic humanity. It is a damning indictment of us as Irish society that we are failing to do this most basic thing, failing these members of our society, failing to provide decent shelter to everyone. In the last week in Dublin, two people died while sleeping rough in the city. One man died in Sandford Close in Ranelagh, “ritzy sixy”, an affluent suburb of Dublin 6. Another outside the Four Courts, the literal seat of justice in the country, in the heart of the city centre. Those two men who died were not alone, other homeless people have died, many, in recent months and years in Dublin and around the country. What are we doing? When are we going to stop this? When are we going to stop failing the members of our community who are most in need?

Tonight after passing the tent I did the only thing I could think of, I reported it to the Rough Sleeper Team of homelessness charity the Dublin Simon Community. They will send someone to check on them. I hope. Their phone number is (01) 872 0185. They picked up immediately when I phoned them at 11pm on a Thursday night. And Simon have generally seemed to me to do good work. Let’s hope they can help.

In addition I reported that I'd seen someone sleeping rough, to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive of Dublin City Council. They say they pass the information to the Housing First Service “who will attempt to make contact with the individual”. I’ve no idea how long that will take. The form allowed you to pinpoint the location precisely on a map, or with a street address, so they could locate the person sleeping rough. Completing the report required a confirmation from the email address you provide to them. So it’s a little obstructive. But maybe it will help too.

I’m not sure what else I can do. Or what we can do. But I know much more can and has to be done. People of Dublin, people of Ireland, take action before more of our people die.

- - - - -

Another thing on my mind. Once again it will be World AIDS Day tomorrow, 1st December. UNAIDS gives the figures. Those big figures are made up of millions of individuals, millions more figures. Each figure represents a person, a family, a community. A real person. In 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 36.7 million people living with HIV. Of them, 20.9 million people living with HIV were on anti-retroviral therapy in July 2017. We also know that there were 1.8 million people newly infected with HIV during 2016. UNAIDS prefaces these numbers by saying “tremendous progress” has been made against AIDS over the last 15 years. And that their goal is to end the epidemic by 2030. In many ways, a lot of progress has been made. But progress isn't enough. It should never have been this bad, and worse. We could be stopping it faster, saving more lives, improving more people's health. And I hope we can see the epidemic being over in 13 years’ time. But there are still millions of people getting HIV every year, millions living with it, millions who need treatment and aren’t getting it. And it’s not on UNAIDS top three headlines, but one million people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2016. I’ve talked about this before, in much greater depth, in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 - from Tanzania that time - and 2015. Not last year, with other things on my mind. I care very much about HIV and AIDS and I think I always will. I work on it professionally, I campaign and march about it, I research it, I try to do something about it. I don’t know what else to say right now. Let’s stop HIV for good.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


This, to me, is freedom and happiness.

P3250812 Swim at Seapoint, Dublin, Ireland.

First swim of the year at Seapoint, Dublin, 25th March 2012.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Beauty, damage, recovery and patience.

Almost exactly twenty years ago, in August and September 1997 I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Caribbean. In St. Lucia and Dominica mainly, and a little bit of time in Antigua, Guadeloupe and Jamaica.

This is one of only a few photos of Dominica I have from that time:

IMG_0446B Dominica

Dominica, August/September 1997. View probably from Scott's Head, near Soufriere.

Dominica is an astonishingly beautiful country, with interesting, talented, friendly people, stunning rainforest, gorgeous waterfalls and a vibrant musical culture.

This month Dominica has been massively damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Especially Maria. At least 27 people have been killed, "almost every building on the island damaged or destroyed" and infrastructure and water supplies badly damaged. It will takes years to rebuild. Yet the world seems already to have moved on. The aid desperately needed to save lives now in the aftermath of the storms is not forthcoming.

In May 2003 I was again lucky to get to visit Vieques in Puerto Rico. Another beautiful and interesting place.

101-0170_IMG Vieques Puerto Rico

A beach in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

It too has recently been hugely damaged by Hurricane Maria. People killed, homes destroyed, culture shaken, essentials of life erased. Yet again, less than two weeks later, the world seems already to have moved on. Even though Puerto Rico is part of the United States, it is having to beg the U.S. for assistance, which is not being provided, again putting more lives at risk after the hurricane.

Let us not forget our Caribbean brothers and sisters so quickly. They deserve our help. And they have much to teach us.

The majority of the island of Vieques used to be 'owned' by the US Navy which subjected it to bombardment, using it to test bombs, run war games and train its soldiers, with terrible environmental and health impacts on the island and its inhabitants. The inhabitants of the island had campaigned for years to make the U.S. Navy stop the bombing and return the island to its people. Just a couple of weeks before I visited in 2003, they had finally succeeded. The Navy had left and the bombing stopped. Around the island was ample evidence of the struggle and of the joy of Vieque's people at finally getting their home returned to them. A stone was painted with a message to the U.S. occupiers:

101-0195_IMG Painted Stone in Vieques Puerto Rico

Fourteen years later the message remains apt. It reads: "Los atropellos del Imperio tienen un limite…La pacienca del pueblo." In English it can be translated as: "The abuses of the Empire have a limit…The patience of the people."

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What cannot be represented.

The important things cannot be represented. Not fully. Perhaps it's in their nature to be ineffable, to be experienced but not communicated, to be known but not shown. Maybe it's that what is important are people, people I love, myself included, people I care about, and those relationships are private, and photos of those people, myself included, are not ones I'm willing to share except with those people themselves. So there is little to say or show here about those people who are the most important. And maybe it's that I simply don't take many photos of what's most important to me, even of people, and of things that are significant in my life. Those things are in my experience of them, and not in photographs. So I have remarkably few photos of cheese, for example, or of the sea, relative to the frequency with which those things feature in my life, and to the joy I get from them.

So it seems as if this blog is limited in how much it can be about the personally important, the private political. Instead it can be about the external, and about the public political. I'm reflecting this evening on the past and I struggle to know what to represent here from it. I have taken thousands of photos since I moved to London nearly four years ago. Most are not organised or sorted as I have laboriously done with the previous ten years of photos. The vast majority I have not uploaded, they are not accessible online and have never been seen by anyone else. Some I have not looked at again. I looked at some, not even a month's worth, this evening. There were many forgotten joys. And many of those joys were, again, unrepresentable, personal, private, people.

A picture I took nearly 4 years ago, a week before I left for London, seemed to reflect an aspect of that same absence of the important.


A street art sticker in Portobello.

The 11,000+ photos I have on Flickr tell many stories. Some are significant, some beautiful, some trivial, some momentous. 10 years of photos there. They're all part of my story. But maybe they don't, and can't, tell my deepest stories. When I left for London I was looking for my voice. I haven't found it, though I've spoken all along. I have felt for a while that I want to tell a different story. Maybe it's not possible to. But I want to picture more of my real life. And I think I need to speak more in my true voice.