Thursday 27 December 2007

2007 Nearly Gone 2008 to Come

As 2007 enters its last few days I looked back on my last twelve months, and I realised this has been a year of travels, Dublin twice, The Ukraine, and trips in the UK to the North East and Manchester. I am really lucky that I am able to travel so much, it's what I spend most of my money on and I never tire if it.

The first holiday of the year for me was to Dublin in May (written about in detail further back in this blog) was amazing, and actually has had a lasting effect on me. I know it maybe sounds odd to others, but somehow the night we had at the Clarence when we wore our lovely dresses etc made me realise that I could look beautiful. I've always been overweight and, maybe because of low self esteem, thought I couldn't look beautiful. But I (and my pals) looked gorgeous that night and turned heads. That's stayed with me, and I've a new found confidence in how I look and I'm not afraid to show my newly discovered cleavage!

Also my respect for Bono has grown as a result of his thoughtfulness and kindness in surprising us with the champagne and paying for our drinks the night we were at the Clarence. We could never have afforded what we had there, and his gesture made an already special experience prefect. What he did was beyond what we could ever have expected, meeting him a few days before was nice enough! Not many people as famous as Bono (and he's about as famous as you get!) would do something like that, and we are very lucky to be fans of him and U2.

Another discovery from that trip was the joy of champagne! Thanks Bono, we would never have had champagne if you hadn't bought it for us.

Other memories from 2007, beautiful Bamburgh Castle, Holy Island and the uncrowded sandy beaches of Northumberland. I made a mental note to go back there as there is so much that we didn't see in our short visit. Northumberland is a gem that most people in the UK don't know about. I'll never forget my first sight of Bamburgh Castle towering over the village like a Goliath, a bastion high above the coast of the North Sea. The views from the castle's battlements were stunning too, all along the coast snaked a goegeous sandy beach. To the north we could see Lindisifarne (Holy Island) Castle jutting out into the sea, to the south lay the bird sanctuary Farne Islands. A wonderful area, and I've vowed to go back as there is so much that I didn't have time to see .

October saw my visit to the Ukraine, again I've written about this in detail in an earlier blog. Going somewhere like that makes you look at yourself and all you have and it helps you learn not to take these things for granted. I often think of the lovely people we met there and hope that one day their country will get back onto its feet and they can have a better life.

Another trip to Dublin in November was a great way to end my travel of this year. Our luck was amazing - we got to meet Bono again and were able to thank him in person for his generousity in May.

I only got to two gigs in the year, Keane at Manchester and Blondie in my home town. Keane were wonderful, what a great voice Tom Chaplin has! I also really enjoyed Blondie, I thought that maybe Debbie Harry's voice would not be what it was years ago, but she sung really well and everyone was up dancing during the gig.

The big thing for me personally this year was, after working full-time since I was 17, I decided to go part-time in October. I have had to manage on less money but it has been worth it. I have a very stressful job and the extra time off has really made a difference to the stress I'm under - it's worth losing the money for that alone.

It's now five years since my mother died, I always think of her at lot at this time of year. Christmas is a time when we miss those that have gone, people talk about their mums and I wish I still had mine. I always remember a something Bono said a couple of years after his father had died, "The pain is always there, but the temperature goes down". That is so true, you come to terms with the loss of a loved one, but it still hurts. Bono puts it so perfectly.

And 2008? Well, who know what it holds. I will be taking early retirement in September so that will be a massive change to my life, but I do think I'm prepared for it. I'll write more about that when the time comes.

Hopefully there will be a new U2 album during 2008, I'm really ready for new U2 music, why are they so slow making albums? Hopefully though it will be worth the wait. I do hope that they take a risk this time, my personal view is that they played safe on the the last album and I want them to make me go, "Wow, what is that?" next time I hear new music from them. I absolutely love "Mercy", it's raw, musically and vocally, the lyrics are brilliant, and I would love to see the band do more songs in that vein. Time will tell what U2 give us, let's hope it goes in a new direction.

Sunday 23 December 2007

The Joys of Christmas Works Dos!

Well, it didn't start off well, got into the car and it wouldn't start! My car never doesn't start!!Rung my friend Margo who I was supposed to be picking up, luckily her son James had just popped in for something and she asked him if he'd pick me up and take me to her house which he did, bless him. We got a lift to the venue for our staff Christmas do from Margo's husband who is a taxi driver and luckily wasn't busy at the time.

We were booked in for 8.30pm, time passed and time passed, and it was not until 9.15pm that we were taken to our table. We got our starter, which was very nice, shortly afterwards them there was a wait of about 35 minutes until we got our main course at 10.15pm!

At the other end of the table things were going off, two members of staff who had been going out together and had recently split up were unfortunately sitting near each other and the male person (the only male in our group) was getting obnoxious to the female involved. Then he started being rude to other staff, but there are a lot of strong women in our group and he was told straight it was unacceptable by a few people. Unfortunately he didn't really get the message, probably due to all the drink he was consuming, and it caused a bit of tension for a while. But we tried to ignore his behaviour for the rest of the evening, he wasn't going to spoil our night out.

Dessert arrived at 11.15 and coffee at midnight, I've never eaten so late in a restaurant! The meal was actually really nice, but they did not have the appropriate number of staff to deal with serving the amount of people that were in the restaurant and that's just not good enough. What annoyed me was that we got no apology for the lateness in getting our table or the long gap between courses. We will definitely not be going back there!

PS. My car started ok the next day!

Sunday 16 December 2007

Paris 4th July 1987 DVD

I've had my U2 day catching up on the goodies in the Joshua Tree Deluxe package and what an enjoyable time I had, my initial impression were well founded! The quality is excellent and it is such a treat! Rather than do a review of the Paris show I thought I'd just jot down some of the thoughts and feelings it gave me.

As I listened, it took me back those twenty years and that feeling I had as I heard the album for the first time - a knowing that this was something very special. I can remember sitting listening to that vinyl LP and being physically stunned by what I was hearing. The Joshua Tree is the only album I have EVER listened to where I loved every single song. Twenty years later it is hailed as a classic album, but I knew that on the very first listen, as did all U2 fans.

Watching, it brought back those feelings of early U2 fandom (I've been a fan since 1983), the passion, the power and the sheer excitement of finding music that spoke to me.

Boy didn't they look young? Bono had so much hair in those days! I think Edge has weathered the last twenty years best. All the years or non-stop work, be it music or the campaigning for Africa that now takes up as much of his time as the music, is deeply etched on the 2007 face of Bono

Those were the days before ear monitors and Bono's mic still had a lead.

No fancy stage set or lighting, the music spoke for itself.

Bono's voice has changed over the last 20 years, singing seemed so easy for him then, but I must say I do like his deeper, richer and grittier tone of the new millenium too.

Bad gave me goosebumps - and still does - please play it next tour!

Friday 14 December 2007

Anyone Want a Dachshund?

Came in today and there was my Dachshund Max to greet me as usual, wagging tail, liquid brown eyes, cold nose nuzzling my ankles. I didn't have much time as I was meeting my cousin for a meal so I thought I'd quickly check my emails. Got my laptop off the sideboard, went to plug it in ...... the cord was in two pieces. There could be only one culprit, and somehow he knew I'd found him out - he was looking at me very sheepishly from his basket, giving me those Disney doe-eyes. I took a deep breath, then took an even deeper one when I checked the price of a new cable and adapter £88!!!! He definitely knew I wasn't happy now, as he was giving me those darting glances and then avoiding eye contact. I had a few evil thoughts, hot dogs crossed my mind, the Animal Refuge .......

He has cost me a lot of money - in his time Max has destroyed a camera, mobile phone, numerous leather purses (he has a real penchant for them) amongst dozens of other things. But, as he very slowly paddled across the room to me, eyeing me carefully, sat on my feet, gave a sigh of contentment, I smiled and leaned down and he turned onto his back and I ticked his tummy. All's forgiven, until the next time.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

The Super Duper Extra Exclusive Remastered Luxury Deluxe Amazing Joshua Tree

Well, ok it's the Joshua Tree (Remastered / Expanded) (Super Deluxe Edition), but I can't help but laugh at the increasingly lengthy version titles around. Normally I wouldn't buy an album I already have just because it had been remastered, but the extras on this seemed well worth forking out £22.95 for.

I only got my copy yesterday and, on the quick look I've had, it seems worth every penny. As well as the original remastered album there is a bonus CD. On this are some of the fabulous b-side gems that were really good enough to have been put on the album proper - such as the hypnotic Luminous Times and the atmospheric Walk to the Water. There are also a few songs that never saw the light of ay in the 80's but have be re-born today, such as Wave of Sorrow (Birdland) and Desert of our Love.

The DVD contains U2 Live in Paris, a show I used to have on a grainy bootleg video, I loved it, so it will be a treat to have a good quality version. The Outside it is America documentary is another great choice for inclusion on the DVD. I can remember watching that when it was first aired on TV - yikes, was it really twenty years ago???
There are also two videos on the DVD With or Without You and Red Hill Mining Town. the latter has been hidden away for twenty years and I can see why! It's hilarious! Very cheesy, with Edge and Adam lurking in the shadows sporting ultra serious expressions, Larry hitting a pipe all the way through equally seriously and Bono angst-ridden and over-acting. Not U2's best moment, but it's a great laugh!
Accompanying this is a book containing lyrics, some handwritten by Bono - I like how they have left in the bits where he scribbled out some mistakes. There are also lots of photos, many that were new to me. Also there are a few articles about the making of the album by the various people involved in the process.

Finally there are four black and white photocards that would look lovely framed. All of this is contained within a sturdy black box with the original album cover photo on the front. Everything in this Super Deluxe Edition is of excellent quality and even if you are like me and have the original album, it is really worth buying for the well-chosen extras which appeal to longtimes fans like myself as well as the new kids. I've just got to find time now to listen and watch all the goodies!

Saturday 1 December 2007

The Poems of Sara Teasdale

I saw a poem called The Crystal Gazer in a newspaper this week and just loved it's clarity and simpleness that said so much. It prompted me to look at other works by the poet, American Sara Teasdale, who lived from 1884-1933. I've only read a few of her poems so far, but I found them simply wonderful! The Unchanging has been my favourite so far, in so few words it captures the permanence of nature, how fleeting our little lives are, yet despite this, how the human spirit remains much the same. How I wish I could write about such major themes of life as concisely as she can! I've decided to change the title of my blog to The Crystal Gazer because as much as I love Bono's quote, it is a bit too long for a blog title!

Below I've posted The Unchanging and also The Crystal Gazer. If you would like to read more of Sara Teasdale's poetry you can find all her poems on:

The Unchanging

Sun-swept beaches with a light wind blowing
From the immense blue circle of the sea,
And the soft thunder where long waves whiten --
These were the same for Sappho as for me.

Two thousand years -- much has gone by forever,
Change takes the gods and ships and speech of men --
But here on the beaches that time passes over
The heart aches now as then.

The Crystal Gazer

I shall gather myself into my self again,
I shall take my scattered selves and make them one.
I shall fuse them into a polished crystal ball
Where I can see the moon and the flashing sun.
I shall sit like a sibyl, hour after hour intent.
Watching the future come and the present go -
And the little shifting pictures of people rushing
In tiny self-importance to and fro