My good friends at The Beehive Cafe in Riverstown, Sligo, Ireland

John in action at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John in action at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

On the 14th of January 2013 I wrote a long and detailed blog post all about my friendship with the Tenacious JHCG (John Henry Coe Graham). I explained a little of how our lives have unfolded since we studied together at Greenmount Agriculture College in Northern Ireland, now part of Cafre (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise) from 1996-1999 (last century!).

The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John serves me my first delicious coffee with handmade chocolate brownie at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John went on to work as an agricultural policy advisor in Dublin, whilst managing farming in Sligo at the same time. He found the woman of his dreams Brid McNulty on a night out in Dublin. They bought a beautiful Sligo farm and house, married where Brid studied Trinity College Dublin and John had her picked up from the hotel for the wedding in an gigantic brand new Claas Tractor (which I had the honour of photographing!). They had their beautiful baby Judith and opened a fantastic new cafe called The Beehive, in Sligo Folk Park.

The Beehive Cappuccino  ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Cappuccino ©gavinfreeborn

Me photographing The Beehive © John Graham

                                  Me photographing The Beehive © John Graham

It was fantastic to see my old friend and we had a good laugh explaining to his local customers how we knew each other. It was hard for folk to believe that I, the gentleman photographer swinging the Canon 7D camera, dressed in tweed jacket & silk cravat, once studied agriculture with John almost 20 years ago! Two of John’s lovely customers Margaret and John, who farm sheep, suckler cows and the beautiful Connemara ponies in the Sligo mountains even posed for a quick portrait.

Sligo Farmers Margaret Finan & John Duignan at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

Sligo Farmers Margaret Finan & John Duignan at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John was in full flow as gracious host deftly moving from kitchen to front of house, hand making fresh scones and all sorts of delicious delights which I was lucky enough to taste test. The chocolate brownie is some of the best I’ve tasted on my travels as are the scones. Both have been created and baked to perfection resulting in a crunchy bite, followed by a soft centre of utter succulence!

The Beehive Handmade Chocolate Brownies ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Handmade Chocolate Brownies ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive handmade scones ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Handmade Scones ©gavinfreeborn

Their macaroons and christmas mince pies look so enticing too…

The Beehive Macaroons ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Macaroons ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Christmas Mince Pies ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Christmas Mince Pies ©gavinfreeborn

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Vladimir

So…I’ve been in the Irish countryside working on the farm, chopping wood, growing a beard and working in the garden. Now I’m back in London and I wanted to share more of the interesting experiences I had when I travelled the world and expanded my mind. I have a host of images in my “bank” that I’d like the world to have the opportunity to see….and here are some more of them…

As we say in Ireland…”What’s the story?”…..Well, my younger brother Stuart (Disco Stu) and I travelled to eastern europe for a week last June, from Budapest out to Lake Balaton to visit some family and then up to Bratislava, across to Vienna, down to Gyor in northwest Hungary and back to Budapest. It was quite the spin!

We had 24hrs in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava which we found very charming. Arriving at a Couchsurfing social with our bags on our backs (or wheels because it’s the way to go these days) we offered two lucky leprechauns to the highest social bidder! Well it was a fun night and we ended up staying with top bloke called Anton Cernak who we had lots in common with and had a right laugh.

We only visited the Tourist Information Office once, preferring to find our own way around, but when we did the gruff lady who “received” us…gave us the wrong time for the bus to Vienna. I always do my best to turn a negative into a positive and found myself enjoying the funky artistically decorated graffiti of Bratislava’s bus station. When I went to the toilet and stood at the urinal this shaved headed guy walked in and at first I put my hand to my pocket in case of being pick-pocketed (I shouldn’t have judged so quick) only to find that the guy was working as the toilet attendant. He was fixing the soap in a net that hung above the wash hand basin to avoid the soap getting dropped on the floor. I commented “that’s clever” and smiled at him (not something most straight guys do in toilets considering that even making eye contact with another guy is a real no-no…and women actually accompany each other to the toilet…???).

He then came out of the toilet and lit a cigarette as I was leaving. I couldn’t resist capturing the image of such a striking character, of course introducing myself first and asking his permission.

He told me his name was Vladimir…

I then ran for the bus to find that it wasn’t coming for another hour so I popped back to chat with him a little more and take this photo as I wanted to get a little closer and see some more of his great character.

The moral of the story is that as much as I try not to stereotype it’s slightly engrained. The above photo is of Vladimir holding my business card after we had a broken English/Slovakian (I had a handful of words)…and he was an absolute gent.

It’s amazing where you can meet real characters in this world and how wrong you can be when jumping to stereotypical conclusions. I’m just glad I observed who Vladimir really was, spent a little time with him and gave him a coin for keeping the Bratislavan capital’s bus station toilet clean and presentable.