Saturday, 13 May 2006

Dublin Diary

It had been more than 5 months since my last visit to Dublin so it was long overdue. I can never go for long without seeing the city, or feeling the excitement of it. At times that can be quite palpable, and it doesn't necessarily have to do with what is actually happening there, but more to do with what you know has happened there in its rich past. To me it has always been a very exciting place: romantic; bustling; defiant; colourful; at times and in parts, poor... and at others wealthy and prosperous - but always rich with spirit.

I have seen Dublin change in great, undulous waves over the last 15 years since I have been going. I first went in 1991 and that year it was chosen as the European City Of Culture. It would be romantic to think that it was that that started its recent changes, because since then, to me the skyline has altered considerably. And it would also be romantic and lovely to think that all those changes have been for the better. But, for me, somehow the heart is going, and the real truth is that this kind of thing has been happening since way back in the 60s and before. Today, two and three storey, red-brick works of art along the quays are being replaced with vast glass and metal monstrosities, ready to house corporations full of people with money; and with similar vast glass and metal creations to house the same people and also the world's rich who will flock - as people have a wont to do - towards the waterside of the cosmopolitan city that Dublin is becoming. Like it or not.

Incidentally, U2's own wonderful office building on Sir John Rogerson Quay (named after the elected mayor of Dublin of 1693) used to be a banana warehouse and has keystones on it that were originally part of the first O'Connell (then called Carlisle) Bridge across the Liffey up in the centre of town. Who knows how long this building will itself last, because now it stands dwarfed and sad-looking between the metal jaws of corporate monsters. Right next door to Principle is a multi-storey containing the headquarters of a large mobile phone company. Ironically, it is U2 next door to O2!! You couldn't make that up..... as the song goes.... My cell is ringing, no ID, I need to know who's calling... Well, now Bono will know!

Anyway, all that aside, Sue and I arrived into a Dublin that was overcast, but which blossomed into sunshine later in the evening. Our house, right next to the beautiful Clontarf Castle Hotel, was in a really nice, quiet place, part of a secure, gated complex.

After meeting the owner, we spent our first day settling into the house and the surrounding area. With the promise of an advancing summer, the place was lush and green and there were many flowers in bloom (which I don't know the names of, but that Sue knows many, being a keen gardener). This really was a pretty setting, with the turrets of the old Clontarf Castle in view above the rooftops.

Wanting to try out the food at the hotel, we paid it a visit, only to be told that our timing was off and they were not serving yet. Oh well, plenty of time for that! We ended up having a snack bought from a Spar, and then a nap for a couple of hours, after which we jumped in the car to find a Tesco to stock up on the week's provisions. We forgot to take the map, but did rather well navigating about. By this time, the sun was belting down and this was the theme of most of the days to come.

Fish and chips for tea (from Beshoffs, who also sold ice cream!) and then we settled down for some wine and an early night. Dianne was due in tomorrow and we were to pick her up from the airport.

Monday, 27 March 2006

My Glasgow Trip For St. Patrick's Weekend

Okay, it's about time I wrote about my trip to see Sue last weekend... well, the weekend before by now! I think it took the best part of a week to get over it, ha ha, and then of course it was Mother's Day yesterday, so that was a write-off! I don't think I could have explained to my mum why I wanted to sit upstairs on the computer instead of spend the day in her company. And I tried, believe me! Just kidding.

Anyway, there were a lot of cars, buses and trains involved in my trip to see Sue and the lads from NU2 on St. Paddy's Day. It started with a train to Carlisle on Thursday 16th March. I have done that trip so often now I could drive the train! Amazingly, everything was on time and the journey went smoothly. Sue picked me up, and we passed the afternoon at her place until it was time to go for dinner. We never need much convincing that it is time to eat... so off we went to a local pub and had a lovely meal and a glass of wine. Then when we got back to Sue's we had a tiny bit more wine!!!

The next day we had a bus to catch from Carlisle to Glasgow. It was about a 2 hour journey, and I didn't enjoy it much because amazingly the teeny tiny amount of wine that I had sipped from a thimble the night before, was making me feel a bit queasy. Luckily, by the time we got to Glasgow, I was feeling much better.

The hotel was superb and located right at the centre of things and nearby to where we needed to be. Bar Campus (where NU2 were playing) was literally less than 5 minutes away, as Sue discovered on a reccie trip (which also involved lots of spending on her part!).After having dinner that night in the restaurant there (called Gengis), we got ready for the gig and then went to the hotel bar. We had planned to meet up with Alan (Boner) and told him that we preferred there to a noisy bar in town. he turned up that evening with all the NU2 lads in tow - Mark (Egg), John (Adam) and Leonard (Larry). It was nice to sit and talk in comfort until it was time for them to leave to prepare and we had a good laugh.

At some point I can remember Egg telling us all about the Bonobo monkey and how closely related to humans it is, which was all very surreal! We decided that Alan should change his band name to Bonobo! And also that the band should become a Highland Pipe Band and change their name to "Och Aye The NU2"... the mind boggles... and this was before any alcohol to speak of!

After they left to go and prepare for the gig, Sue and I finished our drinks and then followed on about ten minutes or so after. The bar was very popular and by this time there was a long line of people waiting to get in. All of them much younger than us as this was a student hang out. We were able to walk to the front of the queue though, as the lads had very kindly put us on the guest list. So, in we went, into the heaving throng inside! We had to make our way through the busy upstairs bar (which was where we had come in) and downstairs to the stage. The whole of Glasgow seemed to be in tonight, and the floor in front of the stage was densely packed. But... being hardened U2 veterans, we were not fazed at all, and managed to get right at the front!

We imagine what it would be like to see U2 in such a small place and so close to the stage! Well, a girl can dream, right?! At the front of the stage here were 3 bouncers, all holding onto each other to form a barrier to the stage. They did a brilliant job and were very vigilant, although everyone was surprisingly well behaved despite the amount of alcohol being drunk!

NU2 came on at about ten past midnight (Midnight is where the day begins....) and played a very energetic set for just over an hour. We were treated to some pearls... such as "Sometimes", which Boner always does so well. "City of Blinding Lights" and "Vertigo" were the only other two off "Bomb"... with such a short set they did quite a mix from several albums, and the crowd loved them all! The best treat of all was "Bad", which we had not heard them do before.... nor U2 for a long time. Boner did a perfect job of it, and it sent tingles down the spine!

"With or Without You" was dedicated to us, which was nice.... and they went out after "I Will Follow"... a great show from beginning to end.

Right: Boner in action!

Afterwards, we fought our way outside and back to the hotel, where in our room we had cheese and fruit delivered earlier by room service. It went down very well with a bottle of wine. Before going to bed, we put a request for breakfast to be delivered on our door handle. It came at 9.45, deliverd by a nice Frenchman - that Sue missed from her hiding place under the covers!

It was a really lovely weekend all round. On getting back to Carlisle, it was nice to know that I had another night at Sue's before I had to head back to Stoke.

Now this trip is over I am looking forward to the next big thing, which for me is our trip to Dublin in May. Well, unless any impromptu NU2 jaunts come up in the meantime.

Monday, 13 March 2006

Monday Musings About U2 and Snow

Don't know what it is about Monday, but it seems the favourite day for me to do a Blog. Maybe it's a reflection thing after the weekend. My weekend was busy as usual. I almost got my husband to go and look at new computers, but we had to pay the deposit for our holiday in Greece in September, so the idea got pushed aside. I think it was the wrong time when he had his wallet out for something else!

Anyway, on to the reason for writing this Blog today. My thoughts have been with U2 for the most part, since the announcement about postponing the end of the tour. Nothing has officially been stated (at last checking) but many people have naturally assumed that Edge's daughter, who has been ill for a while, is the family member in question. One can only imagine what the family must be going through, and I am sure that all of you are thinking of those affected. It just goes to show at times like this that no amount of money and fame can stop things like this happening, and it might do us all good to reflect on the good things we have in our lives, and not take them for granted - or wish for things we can't have. Because at the end of the day, what is important is close family and friends - material things are worth nothing when it just comes down to you and your destiny, for want of a better word. Or you and your god, if that is what you believe in. Whatever force it is in life that determines these things (and there are many theories and this is not the place to discuss them), the only defence we have against them is to live a good and decent life; try to be kind and fair to people; and not knowingly or unnecessarily hurt those around us. Keep your friends and loved ones close, and respect your enemies.

Wow.. that is deep for a Monday. I think we need a lighter note here....This Friday is mine and Northern Star's trip to Glasgow to see NU2. I was panicking this morning because there are 2 inches of snow in Carlisle and 8 inches in Glasgow, and we have to get between the two places via public transport, which we all know is not the best when the weather is extreme. The trains slow down if there is the "wrong kind of snow" on the track... and goodness only knows if National Express coaches will be able to function if the driver has to wear a scarf and gloves!!

I wrote to Alan, aka Boner (lead singer with NU2) and told him of my worries. His response? He told me not to "go all English" on him and assured me that it snows in Scotland all the time, even in the summer. So that's all right then!!! Ha ha. Panic over. We'll see.

Monday, 6 March 2006

Ten Days To NU2

I've been checking out the new chat forum on NU2's website this weekend, and it's getting me in the mood. Sue and I are off to see them on St. Patrick's Day. What could be better? Seeing a U2 tribute on St. Paddy's Day.... perfect. I am really looking forward to it. It is so long since the U2 shows, and it will be nice to get a kind of fix. It is almost like the real thing - always a good atmosphere. For anyone who hasn't been to see these lads (unfortunately at the moment then only do gigs up in Scotland), I will post a review on here after we get back.

Anyway, on the forum, people are talking about the gig they did on Friday night last at the Cumbernauld Theatre. They played for over two hours, and blasted through tons of stuff. Apparently they got a standing ovation, and I think it was for "Sometimes", which I know they do particularly well. It's amazing that a song that is such a personal one for Bono can be done with such emotion and feeling by someone else. Sue and I can attest that the lead singer does it incredible justice. When we saw it in Dumfries with our friend Dawn, we gave it a standing ovation too.

Apart from the NU2 gig, I am looking forward to the trip in general. I am working a three day week next week (every week should be the same as far as I am concerned) and then travelling to Carlisle on Thursday morning, to spend the evening at Sue's before we head to Glasgow on the Friday. I enjoy Sue's company very much, and no doubt we will imbibe quite a bit of wine and put the world to rights. :)

Look out for my account of our time there. I am sure I will have something to say. But for now, back to getting through the working week. It's been snowing here a little today and it is quite chilly. I hope we don't have bad weather up in Glasgow.

Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Another Weekend Over

This weekend I bought some theatre tickets for a play in Dublin. Northernstar and I are off on a trip there for a week in May with a friend who lives in America. Can't wait. We are staying at a flat in Clontarf and will rent a car, so in a week we should get to see and do a lot. Expect some Blogs when we get back, especially if anything remotely U2-ey happens - like if we see Bono next to us in the queue at Abrakebabra!