A Belfast Love Story

True Romance

Venturing through a new city while it is raining is a very frustrating exercise due to the fact that knowing where you are requires you to observe your surroundings. This is something that is very difficult to do if you’re trying to duck and weave around rain drops at the same time. This was just the case when I arrived at the former Harland & Wolf shipyard, otherwise known as the Titanic Quarter in Belfast. 

Upon arrival, shaking the rain off like a wet dog and noticing the rather large puddle of water I had created, I was suddenly startled with a cheerful ‘good morning.’ Having moved through the entrance way, I was now aware of the sizable water obstacle I had made right in the doorway of Belfast’s popular ‘Titanic Experience.’ Replying to the ‘good morning’ with a sheepish ‘sorry’ I moved towards the direction of the ticket booths. It was at this point that it struck me how appropriate it seemed to be drenched in rain, visiting a museum about a ship that sunk. It also struck me how empty the place was, this was partially by design and partially by hope.

With my ticket in hand and the clock sitting just before 10am, I made my way through the near deserted foyer. The plan had been to arrive early and thus avoid long lines and lots of slow moving crowds. Adding to this plan was the fact that the school holidays had finished and people had returned to work after the December/January festive season. Pleased with the success of this planning and having paid the entry fee while watching people avoid the water jump I had created, I headed for the escalator with a head full of Titanic excitement. 

I have to admit I fall into the group of people who find the Titanic fascinating. I also have to admit that I agree with James Cameron. I agree that the Titanic is a love story. I’m not sure it’s the epic, romantic disaster tale that James Cameron showed us in 1997, but it is a love story nonetheless. My visit to Belfast showed me that it’s not a romantic story between two people, it’s much more complicated than that. It’s a story of a love affair, about hopes and dreams, death and survival, of passion, of lust, of beauty, greed, wealth, vision and a promise of a golden age yet to come. It’s a tale of love between a ship, the city it was built in, the people that built her and the families that watched it grow into the sky at the Harland & Wolf shipyard. It’s a Belfast love story.

* * *

Speaking of the Titanic, let’s talk about acts of heroism. Let’s talk about John Jacob Astor IV. In the early hours of April 15th, 1912, just after 1:55am on a clear, star light night Astor stood smoking a cigarette. Having just kissed his darling wife and helped her into lifeboat Number 4,  he watched the lifeboat get lowered into the water, having given his own place to two scared and frightened children. You can only imagine what would have been going through his mind as he watched the boat lower without him. Seven days later Astor’s body was found and identified by the initials sewn on the label of his jacket. Found on him was a gold pocket watch which his son Vincent wore for the rest of his life. Some time later, while his wife and unborn child sat in a lifeboat, a survivor claimed to have seen Astor in the water clinging to a raft with supposedly frozen feet. At some point the coldness forced him to release his hold. 

Titanic Belfast – Order Print

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The Octagon Experience

Digesting New Information

It wasn’t until I got off the bus and started for Moray Place that it suddenly hit me. It could have been the Juicy rental car trying to do a u-turn in a very awkward way, it could have been the foot traffic seeming to be walking in the middle of the street or maybe the rather large, bright orange barriers blocking the street but something suddenly reminded me that the Octagon was closed for traffic. This information wasn’t altogether a surprise yet nor had it been at the forefront of my mind. To digest this not quite new information, I knew I would need alcohol, so I headed to the nearest bar. Once inside, I took up a seat where I could view the street from and began pondering what it all meant.

I couldn’t help but think that the Octagon closure might well be doomed before it began. After all, Dunedin doesn’t take to kindly to change. There’s a good list of ‘resistant to change’ examples hidden in Dunedin’s past. Going back to the 1850’s there were squabbles over matters between the Dunedin City Council and the Caversham Borough Council. In more modern times the new urban cycleways project has received much criticism over the last 5 years as did the newly created central bus hub. Not to forget the heated debate between Carisbrook and Forsyth Barr Stadium which seemed to deeply divide the city. 

Watching people happily walk up and down Stuart Street I decided that I needed to find out more about this ‘Octagon Experience’ so I pulled out my phone and headed straight to the Otago Chamber of Commerce website. I discovered ‘The Octagon Experience’ is the brainchild of the Dunedin City Council who want to create/transform the area into a public space within the streetscape of surrounding business by making it pedestrian-friendly and so drawing people together (so they’re closing roads I thought to myself!). Upon further investigation I discovered that the full closure is happening from January 27th till February 16th with partial closures from February 17 until March 23. Maybe it was the beer but it took awhile for the realisation of what this actually meant to sink in. 

Suddenly the impact of these closures hit me and I didn’t know what worried me more. Putting up with all the angry drivers that will inhabit Moray Place, forgetting the Octagon is closed and desperately try to find another route at the last minute, thus blocking traffic at one of the barn-dance intersections. Or, having to scroll past all the angry Facebook and Twitter posts about the chaos that will inevitably fill my streams. Either way, filled with dread and bracing myself, I finished my pint, opened Facebook and headed out the door.

Robbie – Order Print

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15 Spots To Get A Great Coffee in Dunedin

An Appalling State of Affairs

It’s come to my attention that I have no idea where to get a good coffee here in Dunedin. This appalling state of affairs came to my attention when I realised that if I was asked ‘where’s good?’ I wouldn’t have the faintest idea where to suggest. Indeed my only advice to someone seeking a decent ‘cup of joe and a meal’ would probably have to be more based on a guess rather than imparting some deep local wisdom built from years of insider experience. In fact, the only establishments I possess knowledge of serve beer, pizza, a plate of chips and screen rugby. Having come to this embarrassing realisation, I decided that this situation needed fixing immediately 

To help fill the void in my coffee culture knowledge, I knew I would need serious help. I decided to turn to the one person I know who spends a decent chunk of their time in the local coffee spots, my daughter Henessey (you might know her from her articles in ‘Critic’ or from Radio One or as ‘That Logan Paul Girl’). So after conducting some personal research and taste testing, with laptop at the ready and no established criteria apart from the question where’s good? We listed 15 places to get great coffee and food in Dunedin.

The Precinct – Buy

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Dunedin’s Favorite Second Beach

Second Beach Escape

Having spent the last five days in Hong Kong with 7.4 million people crammed into a shoe box, it’s easy to see why Hong Kong is listed as the fourth most densely populated place in the world. During my time there, and on one of my trips through the Hotel lobby, I got talking to the concierge. Now there is no doubt that between the two of us, one of us was dressed as if he had just come from the latest fashion show and made careful consideration to ensure that every element of his appearance was just so, and the other had decided he could get another days wear out of his jeans, found the closest t-shirt and walked out the door. After exchanging pleasantries and upon his discovery of finding out I was from New Zealand, his first response was “you have castles and sheep!” Castles and sheep I thought to myself, yes, I guess that’s true. If you’ve ever been to Hong Kong you’ll realise just how crowded the place is and what a lack of open, green space there is in the city. It was in this second of realisation that I decided after arriving home I’d make a make a beeline to the Dunedin coast and visit my favourite beach, Second Beach in St Clair. 

The Dunedin coastline is an amazingly rugged place. I often find myself exploring its many unique features. Unfortunately I’m often busy and short of time, so to get my outdoor fix I have to choose an easily accessible spot most of the time. Since the landscape along some of Dunedin’s coastline is not particularly accessible, or requires some pre-planning, I often stop at St Clair and explore the beauty of Second Beach. Along this stretch of beach, years of consistent wave movement have created great drifts of raggedly oval stones worn to a polished smoothness. They are nearly impossible to walk on since your feet sink with each step while at the same time having to navigate piles of driftwood that have washed up. The coast path above the beach is much easier and doesn’t require clambering up and down a bank to reach. At any one time you’ll meet anyone and everyone from the young to old, those getting their daily fitness quota, surfers and people just enjoying a tranquil escape for 5 minutes. No matter which option you take, if it’s the beach or the path you’ll hear the sea, crashing into the shore creating a seemingly endless musical score of stones clattering on the water’s edge. It’s one of the most glorious places in Dunedin.

Sunset sky – Buy

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Tracks Heading West at Pukerangi Road

A Place and Time

So this is me at the moment: I’m really enjoying exploring images that represent a place and time and hint at a human presence at the moment. Personally, I think that by capturing representations of human life that show the passing of time, it gives me a stronger inner connection to my own memories but it also allows me to connect and make sense of the world around me.


Tracks Heading West at Pukerangi Road
Sutton-Pukerangi Road – 2014

Purchase Description:
Limited Edition Framed of 20 .
Titled, numbered and signed.

Limited Edition Print of 20
Titled, numbered and signed.

Contact me for pricing and further details: [email protected]

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Morning Cloud at Glenorchy Pier

A Human Presence

I’m going to be repeating this statement a lot this week because it really is where I’m at: At the moment, I’m really enjoying exploring images that represent a place and time and that hint at a human presence. Personally, I think that by capturing representations of human life that show the passing of time, it gives me a stronger inner connection to my own memories but it also allows me to connect and make sense of the world around me.

Morning Cloud at Glenorchy Pier
Glenorchy – 2019

Purchase Description:
Limited Edition Framed of 20 .
Titled, numbered and signed.

Limited Edition Print of 20
Titled, numbered and signed.

Contact me for pricing and further details: [email protected]

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Remembering Aramoana

Out Of The Blue

If ever the term “the peace was shattered” applies to a place or village, then Araomana, 38 years ago today must surely be it. The news media around New Zealand on the 14th November 1990 was fixated on the tiny, seaside village  where 13 people died by being shot by local David Gary over a 23 hour period.

Today there is a lovely memorial to remember those 13 people with the words: Loving memories of those who died at Aramoana on 13th November 1990.
In memory of: Garry Holden, Jasmine Holden, Rewa Bryson, Jim Dickson, Tim Jamieson, Vic Crimp, Leo Wilson, Dion Percy, Ross Percy, Vanessa Percy, Aleki Tali, Chris Cole, Sgt. Stu Guthrie.


Aramoana Spit: From the heart with love – Buy


Spectators watch the 2017 South Island surfing championships held at Aramoana – Buy

Want to see more surfing from Aramoana? Click on the image.


Upon The Light Of A New Dawn.

Stewart Island is a wonderful place and the great thing is the whole town of Oban is completely walkable. This means that if you’re chasing a sunrise you don’t have to travel to far in the dark, early morning hours. This is the sunrise I caught over Halfmoon Bay on one morning on the stunning and amazing Stewart Island.


Upon the light of a new dawn – Buy


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