Architecture Art Country Houses Design

Derek Hill + Glebe House Church Hill Donegal

Following a Pattern

A townhouse in Hampstead London and a country retreat in Church Hill County Donegal. The reclusive socialite had it all. The 20th century artist Derek Hill, whether painting the Duke of Abercorn at Baronscourt or teaching the Tory Island Painters including King Patsy Dan Rodgers, was versatile. In 1988 the artist commented on his rural idyll, “The house was built as a glebe in 1826 and later became a small fishing hotel for gentlemen until I bought it from the last proprietor. In 1953 I paid £1,000 for the hotel and the 20 acres of lakeside land surrounding it. I felt I was meant to live there having noticed, three years previously, the house’s superb position surrounded by great trees and the Donegal hills on every side. It was also on a tongue of land jutting out onto the water, and I love to be near water.”

Glebe House, the two storey former rectory of St Columba’s Church of Ireland, represents the zenith of undemonstrative domestic architecture. The north facing entrance front, the east facing lake front and the south facing garden front are all three bays wide. A fanlight arches over the entrance door and sidelights. Trellis in the ground floor central bay of the other two principal elevations creates the effect of a fanlight and doorcase. The reddish burnt terracotta painted roughcast walls lend the house a Mediterranean air while the grassland falling down to the 2.7 kilometre long Gartan Lough heightens a sense of the bucolic.

Built in 1826, Glebe House could easily be a half century older or newer. Beautiful as it is, the architecture of Glebe House is not unique. Au contraire, it is a type that can be seen throughout Ireland decades before and after. Other three bay fronted roughcast examples with a central fanlight over the doorcase in the north of Ireland include The Rectory, Aghalee, County Armagh (1826); Willowbank, Keady, County Armagh (1834); The Old Rectory, Killyleagh, County Down (1815); and St Elizabeth’s Court, Dundonald, County Down (1819). Minus a fanlight over the doorcase are The Glebe, Finvoy, County Antrim (1820) and The Grange, Salter’s Grange, County Armagh (1781). The Rectory and The Grange both have lower first floors with six pane bedroom windows. Glebe House is slightly different as it is a three bay square in shape – most are only two bays deep.

Maurice Craig’s seminal work Classic Irish Houses of the Middle Size, 1976, summarises the genre: “The glebe houses of the (formerly established) Church of Ireland are an important category of house, because of their ubiquity, their charm, and the influence which they undoubtedly had on other buildings. According to Donald Akenson, following the Reverend Daniel Augustus Beaufort’s Memoir of a Map of Ireland, there were only 354 glebe houses in 1787, and 829 in 1832. This programme was in large part financed by Parliament – first the Irish Parliament, after 1800 that of the United Kingdom – through the Board of First Fruits, and went pari passu with a programme of church building. The years of the greatest government assistance were 1810 to 1816.”

Plate 11 from the Reverend John Payne’s 12 Designs for Country Houses published in Dublin in 1757 is of a three bay two storey hipped roof detached house with small first floor windows similar to Aghalee Rectory and The Grange. Pattern books were a great source of reference for architects and surveyors ranging from James Gibbs’ 1728 publication to Sir Richard Morrison’s a century later. Scottish landscape gardener John Claudius Loudon (1783 to 1843) topped them all with his encyclopaedic 1,100 page doorstopper of a manual. No building form was safe from his diktats from doghouses to limekilns. Nothing was too detailed to warrant his attention from kitchens of country inns to sliding fire screens for drawing rooms.

John Claudius Loudon’s ambition was “to improve the dwellings of the great mass of society”. Illustrations 458, 459 and 460 portray three versions of a three bay two storey hipped roof house. The façade of 458 is plain; 459 has quoins; and 460 has full height pilasters between each bay and at the elevation corners. Illustration 1449 (they go up to 2038!) is a grander three bay two storey hipped roof villa with a miniature portico and lower single bay wings. While these prototypes are not specifically glebe houses, the Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm, and Villa Architecture and Furniture was so widely distributed and read it influenced all types and sizes throughout the British Isles.

Dr Michael O’Neill wrote an article A Roof Over Clerical Heads: Visual Insight to Glebe House Drawing in 2017 for the Representative Church Body Library. It goes into historical detail: “A glebe house is a residence provided in each parish (or parish union) for the clergy man or woman and his or her family. In the past glebe land (farmland) was also provided for the rector/vicar/curate of rural parishes, the clergyman up to the late 19th century was often also a farmer or leased out farmland. The poverty of much of the clergy of the established church led to Queen Anne setting up the Board of First Fruits in Ireland in 1711. This initiative (similar to the Queen Anne’s Bounty of 1704 for the Church of England) redirected first fruits or annates (the first year’s income of a clergyman to any new post due to the Crown) into a fund for building new churches, glebes and glebe houses.”

He adds, “In the first 70 years or so the Board of First Fruits purchased glebe land worth £3,500. It also assisted building 45 glebe houses with gifts worth £4,000. Annual parliamentary grants during the period 1791–1803 allowed the Board to spent £55,600 towards building 88 churches and 116 glebe houses. Significantly larger grants in the 20 years following the Act of Union meant a total of £807,648 was paid out in grants to purchases glebe lands in 193 benefices, building 550 glebe houses, and building, rebuilding and enlargement of 697 churches. By 1832 some 829 glebe houses had been built. Small wonder then that hall and tower ‘First Fruits’ churches and glebe houses are such a prominent feature of the Irish rural landscape.”

So what’s the modern equivalent of the pattern book? Volume housebuilders such as Taylor Wimpey have their own standard house types but these are company guides and not for wider use. Perhaps the Daily Mail Book of Home Plans was the last vestige of the pattern book? Back to Glebe House and the last words go to Derek Hill, “So often people say, ‘Don’t you get lonely when you are over in Donegal?’ Remembering Emily Dickinson’s letter to a friend whose sons had died in which she wrote: ‘One can never be alone with a thronged heaven above’, I feel it is the same with a house.”

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Dress + Stair

A Flirtation with the Baroque

People Restaurants

Terre à Terre + VBites Brighton East Sussex

Be Right On

There are knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. Yes, but is it art? No, it’s Fancy Nancy. That is, coco cardamom fired spiced rice with spring onion and yuzu palm bean shoots served with a salad of lychee, coriander, mint and pickled lotus root and pinda peanut laksa, finished with yuzu crème fraîche, panang pickled chilli sambai and chilli fried egg, peanut cumin and onion seed crumble, and tapioca sea salad cracker (£14.95). Complemented by sizzly chips, truffle Mornay sauce and truffle with pickled quail’s egg mimosa (£7.65). Only in Brighton would vegetarians be in the majority. And so, on a cold rainy winter afternoon, Terre à Terre, one of Clapham-Junction-on-Sea’s best meat-free restaurants is jammers. Red walls in the dining room stimulate conversation and appetite. So do great company and great food. Afterwards, it’s a dash across East Street, seagulls serenading overhead, for the best vegan coffee and orange brownies in Brighton. VBites, Heather Mills’ cosy café, proves she’s more than just a charity fundraiser, animal rights campaigner, TV personality, model and champion skier. Actually, Fancy Nancy? It is art. The edible kind.

There are certainties, uncertain certainties and uncertain uncertainties. Yes, but is it art? Yes, it’s Fancy Nancy. That is, coconut cardamon fried rice with spring onion topped with egg fu yung, crispy shallots, chillies and a salad of coriander, mint, lychee, pickled lotus root and yuzu beansprouts, served with laksa oil oyster mushroom kebabs, pinda laksa and crispy lotus root. So that was then (January 2015) and this is now (July 2023). It’s our return visit to Terre à Terre. Pricing variance is a game of snakes and ladders. Fancy Nancy has climbed £4.70; sizzly chips now come with earthy tangy cep mushroom ketchup and have fallen 70 pence. Only in Brighton would vegans be in the majority. And so, on a windswept rainy summer afternoon, Terre à Terre, one of Clapham-Junction-on-Sea’s best meat-free (and dairy-free in places like karekatsu smoked tofu) restaurants, is buzzing. Red walls in the dining room continue to stimulate conversation and appetite. So do even greater company and greater food. Afterwards, it’s not a dash across East Street; sadly VBites closed just two years after our visit. Fortunately, Terre à Terre now serves the best vegan coffee and boozy rum truffles in Brighton. Actually, Fancy Nancy? It still is art. The memorably edible kind.

Art Design People

Victoria Embankment Gardens Temple Section London + Statues

Midday in the Garden of Good

In the days when people were good, statues were erected in their honour. Next to London’s joint quietest Tube Station (it shares that honour with Pimlico), the Temple Section of Victoria Embankment Gardens is a strip of welcome verdancy. A mere 40 by 100 metres, it still manages to accommodate a trio of statues dedicated to the good of Victorian times. Educator William Edward Foster stands closest to Temple Tube Station. At the far end, thinker John Stuart Mill appears to float as encroaching greenery has all but hidden his plinth. In the middle of the parklet is a memorial to temperance promoter Lady Henry Somerset. It takes the form of a girl holding out what looks like a begging bowl. Her arms outstretched, she bears a passing resemblance to the Bird Girl statue of Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. Through the trees can be glimpsed a contemporary statue balanced high on a pedestal outside British American Tobacco’s Globe House. Perhaps the patron saint of smoking?


Burtonport + Environs Donegal

One in Every

The degree to which readers will enjoy this article will very much depend on their appetite for nostalgia, ivy clad ruins and Donegal. Ours knows no bounds so this patchwork of pretty pictures and random insights was a dream holiday production. And so to enchanting Burtonport where wild flowers fringe the road and green climbers embrace the deserted Garda station and 18th century grain store. The tall chimneys of a ruinous rambling country house rise above the gables of a neat Victorian villa. The villa replicates itself to the rear: a double pile roof for a double block house.

A sign down at the harbour states: “An experiment buried by sand: Lord Burton Conyngham established his port here in the 1800s. His first idea was to develop a fishing industry on Rutland Island to benefit from huge shoals of visiting herring. His experiment failed. The herring departed and a sandstorm later buried some of the buildings. Lack of roads meant it was difficult to take fish to market. The railway finally arrived here in 1902. It was very slow and stations were often far from villages. Twice gales blew the engine off the tracks.” The apostrophe and ‘s’ after his surname have long disappeared and the two words become one. Appearing to float in the harbour is an archipelago in miniature. Burtonport is now the ferry terminal for Arranmore Island. Tourists have replaced herrings as a source of local income.

On the outskirts of Burtonport are impossibly romantic isolated houses. An abandoned cottage carries this sign: “Maggie Boyle lived here and died November 1924 age 98 years. Her mother died March 1880 age 98 years. Her brother Charles died 1897 age 80 years. Charles was an engineer. He went to the Hedge School in Carrickfin beside the lake below the airport. His first teacher was Mr McDonald from County Meath. He was replaced by Mr Carlonan also from County Meath. He studied in Maynooth in County Kildare to become a priest but decided to leave and do teaching. He married Mr McDonald’s daughter. Both men are buried at the Church of Ireland situated between Gortahork and Falcarragh. Charles was the first engineer that put the railroad from east to west in the USA. He married a lady from Creeslough and is buried in Doe Cemetery. Both parents and sister are buried outside the main entrance to the chapel at Kincasslagh. It has an iron railing around it. This is a little bit of history.”

A white cat gazes out from the upstairs window of an antiques filled white walled house. It’s a three bay farmhouse facing the road turning into a five bay country house overlooking the garden. Such are the vibrant colours and the still air that this vision is like a kaleidoscope slowly stopping. Nostalgia and ivy clad ruins, Burtonport has it all, Donegal in a seashell.

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Aldwych House + Roka Restaurant Aldwych London


Roka first opened on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. It’s a Japanese restaurant aiming to provide a pure experience serving classic robatayaki dishes. The authentic elegance of the menu is reflected in the interior with its generous use of Japanese wood and natural materials. Another Roka soon opened on North Audley Street in Mayfair. This was followed by one in Aldwych at the top of The Strand. Zuma on Raphael Street, Knightsbridge, is a sister restaurant.

The parent company Azumi was founded by Rainer Becker at the start of the new millennium. Born in Germany, he is a chef by training and is now a passionate restaurateur. A massive international drive is underway. Zuma Bangkok has just opened and pop ups are appearing in Barcelona, Ibiza, Mallorca, Mauritius and Mykonos this summer. Roka is in Riyadh and has just opened in Jeddah. The latest London addition is on Canada Square in Canary Wharf. The name is a portmanteau of “robata” (the charcoal grill which originates from the fishermen of the northern coastal waters of Japan) and “ka” (warm surrounding energy).

Shokuji to sābisu wa subarashīdesu.

Roka Aldwych is on the ground floor of a grand sweep of Edwardian stone architecture. Ed Glinert’s 2003 London Compendium records, “Aldwych, the street which takes the form of a crescent at the southern end of Kingsway, dates back only as far as 1905, but the name is considerably older, Via de Aldewych being the name by which Drury Lane was known in 1398 when the surrounding area was called Aldwic, ‘the old settlement’.” This part of London, lower key and less touristy than neighbouring Covent Garden, is still discreetly cultural hosting significant players such as the Courtauld Institute, London School of Economics and St Mary le Strand Church. Art, education, religion and Japanese fine dining – Aldwych has them all.

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The Clockspire Restaurant Milborne Port Somerset + Set Menu

Stretched Portmanteau in Milborne Port

Where once there were chalkboards now there are menu boards. In place of attendance lists are wine lists. After 115 years as the local school, the building closed in 1979 before being reinvigorated as a restaurant opening in 2019. The clock tower popping up from the roof and topped by a spirelet was restored. This former school was built by Sir William Medlycott of nearby Ven House and designed by Henry Hall. It’s faced with yellowy Bath stone. The entrance is set in a cloister style colonnade supported by Norman style columns is symmetrically terminated by gabled projections. Large gabled dormers above the colonnade flood the interior which is open to the rafters with natural light.

Mike Fisher, building owner and Creative Director of Studio Indigo, explains, “The creation of The Clockspire has been a thrilling and rewarding experience. This significant village landmark has been beautifully restored and now sits proudly once again at the heart of the village. New employment has been provided in the village and a new destination restaurant has been created in this part of Somerset. The village is enormously proud of this restoration project and the restaurant has been a tremendous success in a very short time.”

Mike founded his practice in 2005 with the aim to provide a holistic approach to architecture and interior design from yachts to townhouses. A recent project was the design of Mandarin Oriental Mayfair in Hanover Square London. His office of 40 staff is based on Lots Road, Chelsea Wharf London. He lives on the edge of the picturesque town of Milborne Port in the magnificent mansion of Ven House.

The set menu available at lunch and dinner has three choices for each course including the following. Starter: cod croquette, smoked cod’s roe, cucumber and apple salad. Main: Cornish pollock, summer vegetables chowder, seaweed sauce. Pudding: strawberry tart, chilled elderflower custard, honeycomb. An optional wine flight is available. Plate presentation by Head Chef Luke Sutton is as artistic as the restaurant’s address: Gainsborough. The Michelin inspector sums it up as, “Attractively presented modern British cooking using the local larder to good effect. Service is personalised and it feels as through they really care.” They do: General Manager Massimilanio Mannella sees to that. Restaurateur Alessandro Fasoli’s other establishment is The Woodspeen in Newbury, Berkshire, also recommended by Michelin.


Kincasslagh Donegal +

Near Fallen Heights

Sand dunes and scattered development define Kincasslagh, a seaside village in the Gaeltacht, the Gaelic speaking region of northwest Ireland. There’s a tiny harbour and a tinier lookout tower and that’s about it. Kincasslagh is best known as the home of singer Daniel O’Donnell. Another musical connection down the road in Meenaleck is Leo’s Tavern which is owned by musician Enya’s family. The village centre is The Cope. A cooperative formed in 1906 to bring enterprise to County Donegal, there are Cope foodstores in Annagry, Falcarragh and Kincasslagh, and a large multipurpose store in Dungloe. An ominous sign in the beach car park warns visitors, “This beach is dangerous for bathing at all times.” A few kilometres away, Donegal International Airport links this far flung area to the wider world.

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Lord George Augustus Hill + Bunbeg Harbour Donegal

Catsup and Waistcoatings

Salmon leap where the River Clady flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s early evening in Ireland’s smallest harbour and the last of the fishermen are tying up their boats. Up on the high street, Milky Chance’s Living in A Haze is blasting from Caife Kitty’s just before closing. A winding lane connects the harbour up to the village. At the village end of the lane past the hilltop lookout tower there’s a petite Anglican church and hall on one side and a cemetery on the other. Alastair Rowan writes in his 1979 Buildings of North West Ulster, “Gweedore Parish Church: tiny tower and hall built as a dual purpose church and school in 1844. Restored as a church only in 1914, when the tower was added. Miniature two light Tudor windows in wood.” The standalone hall was built at the same time as the church restoration.

Séamus and Ann Kennedy run The Clady bed and breakfast. Like most of the buildings at the harbour, it was erected by Lord George Augustus Hill. This Anglo Irish landlord gets a mixed reception from locals to this day, from educating the populace to ripping them off with rent hikes. The Clady was the manager’s house of the adjoining store. Seamus’ family once owned the whole block. The store was sold to a hotel developer last century but nothing came of it. The grain store opposite is also a bed and breakfast. So are the former soldiers’ cottagey quarters. Another lookout tower on top of a hill overlooking the harbour has been extended to form a new house. Harry Percival Swan writes in Romantic Stories and Legends of Donegal, 1965, “’World’s smallest harbour’: this claim has been made for the small harbour of Sark, Channel Islands. But Bunbeg Harbour, Gweedore, is a toy by comparison.”

Lord Hill published a didactic travel guide in 1846: Facts from Gweedore with Useful Hints to Donegal Tourists. It contains a wealth of detail – his Lordship did the granular. “In the year 1838, and subsequently, Lord George Augustus Hill purchased small properties, situated at Gweedore, in the parish of Tullaghobegly, County Donegal, which in aggregate amounted to upwards of 23,000 acres; the number of inhabitants therein being about 3,000; nearly 700 of whom paid rent. The district extends for some miles along the northwest coast or corner of Ireland, and the scenery is of the very wildest description; the Atlantic dashing along those shores in all its magnificent freshness, whilst the harsh screeching of the sea fowl is its continual and suitable accompaniment. The coast is studded with numerous little islands, and when the ocean is up, or ruffled, it may be seen striking against opposing headlands or precipitous cliffs, with a force and effect that is grand beyond description; the waves forming into a column of foam, which is driven to immense height, and remaining visible for many seconds, until the feathered spray becomes gracefully and gradually dispersed.”

“It is now 15 years since Lord George Hill commenced the attempt to ameliorate the condition of the people of the Gweedore district; during which period he has been on the most friendly terms with them; and although the changes made upset all their ancient ways of dealing in, and parcelling out, land, they seemed, very early in the transaction, to have understood that Lord George’s object throughout, was to endeavour to put them in a way of doing better for themselves, and not with a view of taking their land from them, or driving them out of their own country. These innovations, however, alarmed the neighbourhood, and an appeal was made by a tenant to his landlord, ‘Not to bother his tenants as Lord George Hill had done!’”

“The land is never let, sold, or devised by the acre, but by a ‘cow’s grass’. This is a complement of land well understood by the people, being in fact the general standard; and they judge of the dimensions of a holding by its being to the extent, as the case may be, of one, two, or three cow’s grass, although a cow’s grass, as it varies according to the quality of the land, comprises for this reason, a rather indefinite quantity. Thus the townlands are all divided into so many cow’s grass, which of course have been cut up ad infinitum.”

“In 1839, a corn store, 84 feet long by 22 feet wide, having three lofts and a kiln, was built at the port of Bunbeg, capable of containing three or four tons of oats. A quay was formed in front of the store, at which vessels of 200 tons can load or discharge, there being 16 feet of water at the height of the tide. A market was thus established for the grain of the district, the price given for it being much the same as at Letterkenny, six and 20 miles distant. There was much difficulty in getting this store built; even the site of it had to be excavated, by blasting from the solid rock, and there were no masons or carpenters in the country capable of erecting a building of the kind.”

Lord George Augustus Hill’s store, Bunbeg, Gweedore, is now supplied with the following articles for sale at very reasonable prices: ironmongery, drugs, groceries etc. Awl blades. Beams. Bellows. Bridles. Brushes. Candlesticks. Canvas for sails. Cart chains. Combs of every kind. Delft of all description viz cups and saucers, jugs and mugs, basins, dishes, plates, pots and pans. Files of every kind. Fishing hooks. Fishing lines. Funnels. Glass viz window, looking glasses, bottles. Heel ball. Hemp. Hinges. Iron viz horse shoes, nail rod, hoop, pots and pans, kettles, saucepans. Italian irons. Knitting needles. Knives viz dinner, pocket. Leather of all kinds. Locks of all kinds. Nails of all kinds. Oakum. Plaster of Paris. Pickles. Raisins. Rice. Rhubarb. Redwood. Rotten stone. Resin. Slates in variety. Sugar viz moist, loaf, candy, barley. Molasses. Manna. Nutmeg. Oils viz boiled, raw, sperm, castor. Ointment. Paints viz black, white, green, red. Pitch. Pepper viz cayenne, black, white. Plasters viz blistering, adhesive, diachylon, cantharides. Salt. Saltpetre. Senna. Shumac. Spermaceti. Spirits of hartshorn. Spirits of turpentine. Sulphur. Tar. Teas viz bohea, congou, hyson. Treacle. Turmeric. Umber. Varnish. Vinegar. Whiting. Barley. Scotch. Biscuits. Coffee. Flour viz American, Sligo. Split peas. Bath brick. Blacking. Blue stone. Candles. Congreve matches. Soap. Soda. Starch. Mustard. Tobacco of all kinds. Tobacco pipes. Servant’s friend. Account books. Children’s books. India rubber. Ink. Lead pencils. Sealing wax. Writing paper. Wafers. Reaping hooks. Ropes, new and old. Sandpaper. Shoes. Shoe heels. Shoe hairs. Shovels and spades. Shot. Spouting. Timber. Wheelbarrows. Allspice. Alum. Arrow root. Bitter aloes. Brimstone. Camphor. Carraway seeds. Cassia liquor. Catsup. Cinnamon. Cloves. Comfits. Copperas. Cream of tartar. Epsom salts. Fuller’s Earth. Fustic. Ginger. Glue. Indigo. Madder. Lozenges viz peppermint, cinnamon. Liquorice. Logwood. Blacklead. Lampblack. Lint. Meal. Woollen and drapery goods viz rugs, quilts, sheets, drawers, flannels. Calicos plain and printed. Moleskins. Fustians. Cords. Chambray. Checks. Shirting. Merinos. Orleans cloth. Jeans. Handkerchiefs. Muslins. Shawls. Laces. Ribbons. Hats. Caps. Pilot cloths. Waistcoatings. Stocks. Unions. Cravats. Bodkins. Tapes. Threads. Pins and needles. Cottons. Buttons. Twist. Sewing silk. Spools. Pipings. Stay laces. Scissors. Thimbles. Knives.”

On a wall in the staircase lobby of The Clady is a framed 2018 article from The Guardian newspaper by the late great journalist Henry McDonald. “Mornings in Donegal can be so beautiful they take the breath away. National Geographic Traveller concluded at the start of December that Donegal was the ‘coolest place on the planet’ to visit. The magazine predicted big things for a county often overshadowed by better known counties such as Kerry, and cities such as Dublin. 10 miles west of Killybegs – on the Wild Atlantic Way, a coastal strip that runs for 1,600 miles along Ireland’s western seaboard – the narrow coast road passes homes where sheep wander into front gardens. There are stunning vistas of rugged, bucolic coastal inlets. In the 6th century, Irish monks sailed from here to take Christianity to Iceland.” Donegal continues to inspire writers down the ages. And disco boys too.

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Bunbeg Beach Donegal + Sunset

The End of Day at Magheraclogher Bay

Thinker John Mack begs this question: “One may enjoy the beach from one of three positions: feet dry on the shore, where one observes the ocean’s current; standing in the water, where one feels the current’s tug; floating in the water, where one is oblivious to the current. Given today’s currents, where might you be positioned with regard to see level?” Overlooked by a deserted hotel, the wreckage of a boat on the neverending golden strand of Bunbeg is like a beached whale carcass one moment, a drowned one the next. Fast waters. The sea level is deep. So is the Mackian see level. Soon it will be time to meet on that beautiful shore.