Harland and Wolff’s Finest

Do any of you know what this is a picture of?  If you look very closely, etched into the ground on the left and the right is the outline of two ships, and in both there are circles marked where their four funnels were.  The ship on the right is less well known: it was christened the Olympic. Its sister ship on the left was Titanic.

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to have some spare time during a visit to Belfast, so I visited the Titanic Museum on the banks of the Lagan. It’s built at the head of the two slipways for these giant vessels, and was a really interesting tour.  Unfortunately my time was limited so I wasn’t able to read as much or linger as long as I’d have liked, but standing there looking out at those two outlines was quite something.  It was another of those moments when your hair stands on end, when there’s a palpable something in the air.  

The museum itself sheds light on the history of Belfast, on the importance of the linen trade and then shipbuilding.  There’s a short ride which gives some insight into life in the shipyards, and the cramped conditions the riveters had to work in.  The sheer scale of the endeavour is really brought home to you – those ships were massive. Seeing what the cabins would have looked like for the different classes of passengers, and taking a virtual tour up through the numerous decks was a real eye opener.  

I’d have liked to spend more time on the portion which talked about the discovery of the wreckage, and to have watched more of the eerie footage which has been shot there.  I have read that James Cameron, when pitching his idea for the film starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslett, had outlined his plans to have footage from the actual vessel as part of the opening scene, in part because he’d always wanted to go down to see the wreck for himself. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s some story if it is factual.

I mentioned the funnels earlier.  One thing I found out on the tour was that only three of them were “real”: the fourth was used for ventilation and to provide a more aesthetic look.  Is that a visual “alternative fact” perhaps?  It was hard to believe that under full steam the ship used 600 tons of coal a day.  I can’t really picture what that looks like, but I guess it gives some idea as to how big and heavy Titanic must have been when fully laden.  

Next time I’m in Belfast, I hope to have the opportunity to visit the site again.  There was so much more to see, and so much more to feel.  

Week 7 – TBT 2017 – Stockholm Syndrome

As you know I’m a bass player, I’ll bet that some of you are a little surprised at this choice. Surely I’d have gone for something like Hysteria by Muse, with its awesome, hand mangling bass line? This track is relatively simple, though as I don’t use a pick it’s quite tough to play at full speed all the way through. All the fancy stuff is being done by the guitar, but it’s underpinned and supported by the bass and drums. It’s a classic bit of understated bass playing, though I love the guitar riff too. 

Headphone on – or wind the volume up if you can – and rejoice in how good a three piece band can be. 

Stockholm Syndrome – Muse

Dave the Psychic

I saw this video for the third or fourth time in the past 6 months recently, and it occurred to me that you might like to see it. On the face of it, this guy is able to tell a lot about a person just by holding their hands or talking to them, but then…

Magic – or is it?

This contains a lot of really good examples of the impact of not locking down your privacy settings on social media. If you’re happy for all and sundry to find out the sort of things this guy does, then carry on. But if you’re a bit uncomfortable, a bit worried about what someone could find out about you, then it’s time to review your settings.

It’s a good idea to do this reasonably regularly anyway, as hidden within your Terms and Conditions for most sites there will almost certainly be agreement for the suppliers to change permissions as and when they see fit. Normally that happens during an update or upgrade, but it’s a good idea to be vigilant.  

Week 6 – TBT 2017 – Ballroom Blitz

What can I say? My first favourite band was The Sweet, probably cos I heard this or Teenage Rampage on Top Of The Pops many, many, many years ago! The song has reappeared and been done by various groups, most notably Crucial Taunt in Wayne’s World. It’s long been an ambition of mine to play this, but I’ve not yet had the opportunity. Glam rock at its best! 

Ballroom Blitz – The Sweet

Week 5 – TBT 2017 – I Disappear

I’m not really a big fan of metal or heavy rock, which is odd given that the band I played in for so many years was probably best described as the latter! I find that the endless guitar solos and heavy riffs get a bit grating after a while BUT once in a while a track comes along that just blows you away. This is one of them. It’s from Metallica – a band I kind of like, kind of don’t – and which has a great riff with a cool contrast between that and the vocals. The video is pretty good too, as you’d expect for a song that was used for one of the Mission: Impossible movies. 

I hope you enjoy this – make sure you turn the volume up first!

I Disappear – Metallica

Remember the past


I’ve not seen much in the press or online reminding us that today, the 27th January, is Holocaust Memorial Day.  I know it’s the same date every year, but am surprised that there’s not been much about it in the media. Yes, there have been other stories, other news items, other events, but surely there should be more said and done to mark this day?  

I’d like to ask you to take a moment or two to read this story from the BBC website today.  It’s short, it’s simple, and it is a stark reminder that now, over 70 years after the event, there are still people alive who not only witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust but also survived them.

I visited Auschwitz in 2014: what I saw there still haunts me to this day. I’ve visited the Holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London, and I’ve visited the Holocaust centre in Oslo.  I’m not Jewish, and I’m not using these visits as some sort of voyeuristic endeavour.  I’m just human, trying to figure out how one person or group of people can treat another like that.  I read about those times, about the events and the actions of men, to try to understand, to make sense of it all, and I can’t.  

I also can’t understand why more isn’t being said or done to stop such actions taking place again.   There’s a plaque in Auschwitz which says:

He who cannot remember the past is condemned to repeat it

I believe that was originally said by Santa Ana after The Alamo, but in these days where a US president is talking about building a wall to keep people out of his country, where there’s a suggestion of having a register of muslims in that supposedly secular country, that statement is more powerful than ever.  

From this side of the Atlantic, what we’re hearing from some in the US is similar to the rabid nationalism that emerged in the 20s and 30s and which finally gave the world the Holocaust. Far from looking to embrace the rest of the world, to be more inclusive, some in the US government seem to be moving to a more isolationist stance of “America first and stuff the rest of you”. I’m worried by this apparent approach, that the lessons of history, that the events which unfolded at Auschwitz and other camps across Europe, are being forgotten or ignored. 

The voters in the US elected an outsider, someone without any of the political baggage that many of the other candidates on both parties had, and that choice cannot be changed.  But those same voters (and those who voted the other way) can and should hold their administration to account, can speak out when policies or actions are being decided on which are not in the best interests of the world or which, worse still, disenfranchise, alienate and segregate others purely on religious, political, gender or other grounds.  

Just because someone doesn’t hold the same beliefs, or have the same ancestry, or skin colour, or whatever else, that you do, does not make them a bad person.  Whatever happened to “love thy neighbour” and “innocent until proven guilty”?       

Today, perhaps more than any other day, we must not forget where that road leads.  We cannot allow the Holocaust, or anything even slightly resembling it, to be repeated, ever.   

Remember the past: do not repeat it

The guy that speaks his mind

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