Wednesday 31 December 2008
2008.....Biggie of the year was retiring, which has totally changed my life. Pros.....so much less stress, a weight has been lifted..... don't have to scrape the car on these icy mornings.....lots of free time to do other things I enjoy but didn't have time for..... Cons.....less money.....erm, that's it really!
Learned to appreciate my friends all the more.....so many good wishes when I retired.....treats in Dublin.....I am blessed.
Travelling, always a love of mine, I was able to do lots.....Greece - beautiful beyond words.....Ireland - Dublin as fun as ever.....USA - Florida road trip a real adventure in the sun.
New arrival Pepsi.....sweetheart!
Generally a good year.
2009.....U2 album and tour yay.....means shows, travelling, seeing friends, fun.....hopefully will love the new music.
Get more structure now I've retired.....voluntary work.....write more.....classes.....lady who lunches.....get back to weight watchers - make that lady who lunches sensibly!
Health and happiness.....those are the most important.
Happy New Year to you all!
Monday 29 December 2008
A battalion of staff appeared out of nowhere and discreetly sorted out the bedroom and the hot tub, and then quietly left and we were finally alone in the penthouse. It was lovely to be back, the first thing we did was change out of our posh clothes into lounging gear. Then we opened the bottle of complimentary pink champagne and ordered some sandwiches.The penthouse was just the same as when we had been there last, luxurious and spotlessly clean, you could see your reflection in the wood of the piano! The fittings and furnishings were all the best, beautiful oak floors and doors, an elegant spiral staircase linking the ground floor and the loft area, muted colours, fantastic floral creations, Guggi paintings throughout. A well stocked bar groaned under the weight of spirits, wines, champagne and beers, complete with lots of ice and a tray of cut lemon. From the balcony running along the front there were fabulous views of the River Liffey and it's bridges and the city.
We were brave and went into the hot tub which was lovely and warm once you got under the water. But boy was it cold when you got out, the lovely thick dressing gowns were a blessing then! Afterwards we relaxed on the large beige velvet sofas in the fabulous loft area of the penthouse hardly believing we were back there again.
Later we got all dressed up again to go for dinner in The Tea Room. The restaurant manager greeted us and said "Just out of the hot tub ladies?" I smiled to myself, the fact that we wanted the hot tub working had obviously filtered through the hotel staff, the phrase "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun" came to mind!
The Tea Room was busy, and we had a table near the door which I was pleased about as I was tottering in my high heels and the less to walk the better! We had a delicious meal, one of the best I've had there, it is always of a high standard and if you buy off the Market Menu not too expensive either. Afterwards we went to sit in The Study for a while before returning to the penthouse.
We found a CD that had Christmas 2007 on it so we put it in the player to see what was on it, it was old Christmas songs, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Nat King Cole and the such-like. It was very Christmassy and I'll never forget Debbi dancing along to It's Beginning To Look A Lot like Christmas!
We chilled and drank more champagne and watched DVDs of U2, Ab Fab and Father Ted that we had brought with us. The life of luxury really suits me! We sat on the balcony (well wrapped up there was an icy wind blowing) and watched the Dublin nightlife below us. At 4am we got back into the hot tub.....mad dogs and Englishwomen go in the hot tub in the icy night! But this day and night was all about doing different things and living a different life for a while and we weren't going to miss out on anything! But by 5am even we were flagging a bit and reluctantly went to bed.
Next morning we had a delicious breakfast in our very own dining room in the penthouse, savouring our last couple of hours there. Then sadly packed as the time had come to go back to normal life.
We met with Oliver again as we were leaving, he thanked us once more for being so understanding and told us the good news that The Clarence would not be closing in February 2009 as we'd thought, but in about two years time. So, us mad Englishwomen, have immediately started saving for another stay in the penthouse - 2010!
Sunday 28 December 2008
And more photos here - hope the cardie is not part of the new image!
As we approached Key West it got busier and built up, but it was still clear this was not a big city. At mile marker 1 (everything in the Keys is measured from mile marker 0 in the centre of Key West to mile marker 156 in Miami, distances and addresses are measured by these markers - which are small green and white signs by the roadside) we knew we were close to our accommodation. And soon we found it, Authors Guesthouse on White Street.
The Guesthouse was lovely, a typical Key West wooden house with small cottages in the garden. there was an inviting jacuzzi and and lovely area to sit amongst the luscious vegetation in the garden. My room was upstairs and there was a wooden terrace area where you could sit and eat outside that looked down over the garden. The room was very comfortable, all the rooms were named after authors, mine was Wilder.
We decided to walk into the town centre to see the famous sunset celebration at Mallory Square, a must if you go to Key West. The one thing against our guesthouse was that it was quite a way out of the centre, it was a 25 minute walk. But having said that the walk was through the peaceful streets of old Key West past its lovely old white painted wooden houses. They were so pretty, some with intricate woodwork, others with turrets, lovely terraces or balconies. Being close to Thanksgiving some had displays outside.
Duval Street, the main party/shopping area of Key West was manic, a real onslaught of the senses. Loud music - rock, Caribbean, Latino, swing, buskers, shops selling everything from upmarket to tacky, people from all over the world, many eccentrics, cars covered in shells, psychedelic bikes, this was the off the wall Key West I'd heard about.
We got a little diverted by the shops and by time we'd got to Mallory Square the sun had slipped below the horizon of the Gulf of Mexico. To be honest I wasn't bothered as I'd already seen such beautiful sunsets at Chokoloskee and Key Largo. Mallory Square was full of action with street performances by fire-eaters, clowns, escape artists to name a few. There were stalls selling everything under the sun, paintings, photographs, jewellery, food, the choice was endless. It was vibrant and fascinating, like Duval Street a place to see in Key West.
On our way back we stopped off for something to eat in a restaurant in the old Town about half way back to our guesthouse called Mangia Mangia. It was away from the tourist trap places on Duval, family run and served freshly made pasta. We sat is a delightful our door patio area with subdued lighting and lots of little fairy-lights in amongst the trees. Our meal was absolutely delicious, lots of it and reasonably priced, it you are ever in Key West I'd recommend going off the beaten track a little and eating here, you won't regret it.
Next day Sylvia and I did our own thing for part of the day as we wanted to do different things. I walked through the warm sunshine and quiet, pretty streets to visit the southernmost point of the mainland USA. It was marked by large capstan-like structure painted in red, black and yellow stripes. Of course I had to have my photo taken there!
I did some shopping at the quieter end of the Duval Street before walking back to the guesthouse and spending the afternoon chilling in the jacuzzi and reading in the sunshine. This was the life!
Wednesday 24 December 2008
Monday 22 December 2008
There's a Q Magazine site that is almost fully live (except the Gallery) that includes a video showing a recent photoshoot in London, an article about some of the songs on the album (loads more new info), and a U2 quiz. Adam gives a great commentary during the video. For me all this bodes very well for the album, it almost has that feeling there was before Achtung Baby, that something really new was going to happen with the new music and image. I'm having problems at the moment with direct links to sites but here's the url for you to copy
Just three things though:-
1. Don't let Bono loose again in a car in London, even with a Tom-tom, scary.
2. Don't keep that hat Bono
3. Do keep the eyeliner - love it
Saturday 20 December 2008
We continued driving down the Keys to our next accommodation, the White Sands Inn in Grassy Key. This was another lovely, laid back place right with a long jetty right on the shore of the Atlantic. Again the rooms were really nice with everything you need.
It was another pleasantly warm, sunny day as we drove to the Dolphin Research Center which, conveniently, was only a couple of miles form our accommodation. We'd booked a Dolphin Encounter where you actually spend time in the water with dolphins, something I'd always wanted to do, so this was going to be a special day for me. We chose the Dolphin Research center carefully to do this as we wanted to make sure that the dolphins were not being exploited in any way.
The center was smaller than I thought it would be and consisted of various building and netted off lagoons where the dolphins lived. The nets were not high and if they had wanted it would be very easy for the creatures to jump over them to the freedom of the ocean, but they chose not to. Most of the dolphins at the center now were born there, and there are also a few that were rescued and this place became their home.
We got there early and were free to wander around the center. We watched sessions with the trainers and dolphins and learned a lot about the creatures. Such as that they shed their skin every two hours to keep ultra smooth, they vocalise through their blowholes not their mouths, they have unique skin markings (you can only see that close up)to name a few things I remember. There were also various film you could watch throughout the day.
There was a Dolphin Encounter session in the morning (ours was in the afternoon) so we went to watch that so we'd know what to expect later. It was wonderful to watch, the dolphins seemed to love every minute and the people involved had big smiles over their faces for most of the time. Seeing the session made me all the more excited for ours in the afternoon.
After lunch we got ready and had our pre-encounter talk with a member of staff. She told us about the dolphins, do's and don'ts and to always do what the trainer tells us to do.
We then went to the lagoon, I noticed the dolphins really checking us out when we arrived, they rolled slightly to one side to look up at us. There was an underwater platform attached to each side of the small jetty. The platforms were about 3 feet below the water level and considering it was a very warm day the water was surprisingly cold! Luckily Sylvia and I got a platform to ourselves so we had lots of room to move about and had a good view of what was happening.
"Our" dolphins were Santini and Ras, mother and daughter. The first thing we were able to do was stroke their backs (careful not to touch the blowhole) as they slowly glided past us. Their skin was cold and smooth, a bit like rubber. Then we could "shake" flippers with them, they would rise out of the water and let you touch their flippers. They would also mimic you, I danced around and the dolphin "danced" in the water. Sylvia spun round she too was mimicked. The most amazing thing for me was being "kissed" by Santini. I bopped down a little in the water and she came to within a foot of me, then I put my hand under her chin and guided her to my cheek, it was such an amazing moment for me I almost cried! Afterwards I gently pushed her away and she swam off.
You could also have a dorsal fin tow around the lagoon. Unfortunately I couldn't join in with that as I'm having problems with my shoulder and wasn't able to swim out from the platform to hitch a ride with Santini and Ras. I was a little envious of the other people who were able to do that, it was amazing how the dolphins worded in unison to come each side of the person, close enough for the person to be able to hold onto their dorsal fins. It must have been such an exhilarating experience!
All through the Encounter Santini and Ras seemed to be having great fun, their bright, intelligent watching everything, they showed off leaping high into the air with ease, "walking" on water. I noticed that their tongues were very pink and had kind of frilled edges and they had lots of very small, conical teeth.
All too soon our time was up and after having a fun splashing fest with the dolphins we left them in peace in their lagoon. I felt really privileged (and lucky)to have had the chance to interact with these wonderful creatures, humans and dolphins really do seem to have some kind of natural "connection". I'll never, ever forget the time I spent with them, I won't even try to put it into words, all I can say is this was the highlight of the trip for me.
Friday 19 December 2008
Bono attended the annual Freud Christmas Celebration in London last night. The event was hosted by PR pioneer Matthew Freud and his wife Elisabeth. Amongst those also attending were Guy Ritchie, Mick Jagger with girlfriend L'Wren Scott, Lily Allen, Claudia Winkleman and Piers Morgan.
Yer Man's looking very dapper nowadays! Nice.
Thursday 18 December 2008
No Line On The Horizon, the new studio album from U2, will be released on Monday 2nd March 2009.
Written and recorded in various locations, No Line On The Horizon is the group’s 12th studio album and is their first release since the 9 million selling album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, released in late 2004.
Sessions for No Line On The Horizon began last year in Fez, Morocco, continued in the band’s own studio in Dublin, before moving to New York’s Platinum Sound Recording Studios, and finally being completed at Olympic Studios in London.
The album calls on the production talents of long-time collaborators Brian Eno and Danny Lanois, with additional production by Steve Lillywhite
Wednesday 17 December 2008
Tuesday 16 December 2008
Monday 15 December 2008
Friday 12 December 2008
Route 41 was another very straight road that was easy to drive. There was slightly more habitation than on Route 75, but it was still quite a desolate road in parts. We stopped off at Shark River Visitor's Center and took one of the bus rides into the Everglades. There was a narrow seven mile road that was specially built that went to a 50 foot viewing tower where you could view the Everglades.
The driver was full of information, the main thing I remember is of how the Everglades got it's name. When it was under English rule, one man explored the area which reminded him of glades at home and called them the "forever glades" and this became the Everglades. That's an interesting snippet for you!
It was typical Everglades, flat, with occasional low mounds, grasses, mangroves. We saw countless alligators, from a massive ten footer to little babies merely a foot long and birds of all kinds. The view from the 50 foot tower was amazing, and close to its entrance an alligator lay sunning itself, no one went too near!
We continued on our journey and reached habitation once more in the form of Homestead and Florida City, neither looking too appealing, we were glad to be only travelling through. We had thought of staying in that area to access the Everglades, but had decided on Chokoloskee instead and now we realised what a wise decision that had been.
It wasn't long until we entered the first of the Florida Keys, Key Largo. To be honest it, didn't look that exciting at first. There were a lot of trees that blocked out the gulf/ocean views, there were buildings flanking the highway, not my image of the Keys.
We soon found our accommodation, the Bay Harbor Lodge, just off the Overseas Highway (the road that runs the length of the Keys). And there we found a little paradise! Situated right on the Bayside beach, lush vegetation, palm trees. The rooms were lovely, all had their own outside seating, and there were barbecues for visitors use. By the beach were sun loungers, tables and a tiki hut, there were also canoes and paddle boats for guest use. There was also a heavenly warm pool. It was gorgeous! I was so glad that we had our first three night stay in this lovely place. The delights of Key Largo are certainly well hidden!
We decided to have some retail therapy, as Key Largo is long and straggly and there's no real "centre" the shops are strung out over a few miles so you do need a car. I found my shoe heaven in a sandal outlet (won't tell you how many pairs I bought! LOL!). Then I found a designer outlet, oh dear! I loved every minute of the shopping.
Next day we had breakfast under the tiki hut by the water the next day, accompanied by cheeky squirrels and elegant egrets. The water of the gulf was calm and it was pleasantly warm., we saw the fin of a dolphin as it passed by. What a way to take breakfast!
We were taking a glass-bottomed boat trip to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef which lies a few miles off Key Largo. On the way through the narrow waterway from the dock to the open ocean we passed some fantastic houses, the rich certainly know where to live! Just as we entered the ocean proper the weather closed in and it got very windy, wet and surprisingly cold.
We chugged and rolled to the reef despite the weather. It slowed down when we got there and we all stood around the glass bottom to view the underwater scene. I found it a bit disappointing really, we saw quite a few fish. lots of jellyfish, various corals, but it wasn't as colourful and varied as I had expected. There were also large areas where the reef was dead which was sad to see. Maybe the inclement weather had something to do with it, possibly we couldn't get to the best parts of the reef because of it. The boat was rolling about a lot and quite a few people were seasick including my friend Sylvia - I felt a little queasy myself.
Most of the rest of the time I spent chilling at the Bay Harbor Lodge, it was the kind of place you could go to to totally unwind. Also, as it was not a large it was always peaceful and uncrowded and you never had to fight for a sun lounger! Also, being bayside we had glorious sunsets each night. So, once more, it was hard to leave when we had to head off down the road to our next destination.
Right - a particularly calm evening at the shore of the Bay Harbor Hotel
Thursday 11 December 2008
There was an article in Q Magazine saying that a song called "Get On Your Boots" described in this (also described as "Sexy Boots" in some places) was one of the possible songs on the new album. So could this be the first single?
Read the full article here
Tuesday 9 December 2008
There was also an area dedicated to the history of South West Florida, and Ted's close relationship with the local people - he even spoke their language. The island was created by the Calusa Indians by making a shell mound, and indeed I noticed the white shells on the ground close to the museum.
Sunset on Chokoloskee Island
Thursday 4 December 2008
Tuesday 2 December 2008
Next day it was a short drive to Cape Canaveral to visit the Kennedy Space Center. For me it was a dream come true to go to this place. As far back as I can remember I have been fascinated by space, astronomy, the stars, planets, and space travel. I'd always followed the Apollo missions and can remember clearly staying up into the early hours to watch Neil Armstrong take the first human step onto the moon on TV. As a youngster I used to watch the wonderfully eccentric Patrick Moore on The Sky at Night (which is still running today, the BBC's longest running TV programme) to learn more about the cosmos. I even wanted to be an astronomer, but had to give up on that when I realised that maths was not an strong point of mine! But to this day I still am fascinated by the night sky and humankind's journey's into the unknown.
The Kennedy Space Centre was quite busy, but as it was extremely well organised it didn't feel crowded, there were plenty of places to eat, sit and loads of toilets, Americans are so good at organising places like this.
The first thing we did was take the tour around the site. We drove past the huge building where they "stack" the rockets and Shuttle Orbiter. Nearby was a "crawler" the machine which take the orbiter from the building to the launch site. It travels at one mile per hour and each tread on the "caterpillar" treads weigh one ton. We stopped at a point which is as near as we could get to the launch pad and we could see the Shuttle Endeavour on the pad ready for it's blast off on 14th November.
Our next stop was the Saturn 5/Apollo building. We first saw a film about the development of rocket propulsion, the Saturn 5 rocket and the Apollo space programme. They showed a blast off at very close quarters and it was awe-inspiring, the power of it sent shivers down my spine. It was very interesting and quite moving at times and made me realise all the more just what heroes astronauts are.
We went through a door and what I saw took my breath away. In front of me were the five massive engines at the base of a full size Saturn 5 rocket! I walked under it in sheer amazement. It dwarfed the people in the building. The command module and lunar module were also there. All the badges from each Apollo mission were on display too. I remember I collected those badges when I was a youngster.
The next stop was was the area that is involved with the Space Station. You could walk through one of the modules and also watch people at work on projects for the Space Station from a viewing gallery.
There were rather odd looking fences around the buildings that curved over. The guide told us these were to stop the alligators from climbing over them. As well as being a space facility the Cape Canaveral area is also a massive nature reserve. The very nature of the place, being secure and keeping the public away from most areas means it is a paradise for wildlife. Some, like the alligators, try to get too close for comfort hence the curved fences.
Back at the Visitor Centre we went to the Shuttle Launch Simulator. First you watched a film of a launch to let you know what to expect - to some degree. Then we went into the simulator and were strapped into the seats. The first thing that happened was that the simulator tilted you 45 degrees, then there was a massive roar and then the shuttle started to shake violently - we'd blasted off! The shaking was strong, but of course the G forces that the astronauts endure as they shoot into space at 17,000 miles per hour couldn't be simulated.
Then very suddenly after eight and a half minutes the shaking stops and there is silence. We are in space. The roof of the "shuttle" opens and there above us is the beautiful blue earth, a breathtaking sight. The simulator gave us a little insight into what it is like to go into space in a Shuttle. The thing that struck me most was that after just eight and a half minutes you can be in orbit in space!
Our next stop was the IMAX theatre to watch a film about the development of the space programme to get men on the moon. It included many of the astronauts who were part of that programme. Again I found it fascinating and admired those space pioneers from the 1960's who eventually achieved that goal.
By now it was almost 4pm, we'd been at the Kennedy Space Center for seven hours! The time had flown.
Our last port of call was to attend a Meet an Astronaut talk. the astronaut today was John Blaha who amongst many other things had flown on five Shuttle missions and had spent months on the Space Station.
He gave a good talk, and considering all his achievements was very down to earth (can an astronaut be down to earth??!) and unassuming. He talked about his time in the Space station with accompanying slides. He told us about some of the experiments they did. He also talked about how long periods in space affect the human body - it causes muscle wastage and loss of bone density. Even when they undertake exercise programmes to reduce this it still happens to a degree.
After the talk John said he would be happy to pose for photos for anyone who wanted one so I got my photo taken with him (not the most flattering picture of me unfortunately).
And that was it, the end of a long day at the Kennedy Space Centre. It was everything I'd hoped for and more. It was informative, fascinating and well worth the money. Being there took me back to my childhood, to the days when, as a wide-eyed youngster in times when anything seemed possible, I'd followed every step of the space programme. I still feel some of that wonder when I look up at the night sky even now. NASA wants to get people on the moon again and to venture further afield. Maybe some of the boys and girls that were at the Visitors Center that day will be inspired to become the astronauts of the future.
Monday 1 December 2008
U2's version of the song is great! You can find out more about the site and listen to U2's song (and others) here
Saturday 22 November 2008
As I stepped out of the plane warmth hit me, Sylvia and I had left the cold behind and here we were, after months of planning, in Florida. Being a true U2 fan I had the urge to shout MIAMI! but I resisted.
Friday 31 October 2008
Monday 27 October 2008
I still hope to get another dog, but will look for a smaller one that doesn't freak Max out - he is ok with smaller dogs I know that. I'm sure somewhere out there the right dog is waiting for Max and I.
Tuesday 21 October 2008
Well at the weekend the Dumfriesshire and Cumbria Greyhound Rescue had a Meet a Greyhound day at the local Pets At Home store. I talked to Al who runs the organisation and arranged for him to come round to assess me and to talk further about it.
He and Jenni came round accompanied by Gemma, a gorgeous six year old brindle greyhound. She was very sweet and gentle and wasn't bothered by my feisty Dachshund Max. Unfortunately Max was less welcoming, but I really do think it was because he was scared by this huge dog that had entered his territory. He did relax more as the meeting went on.
Al could see no reason why I couldn't have one of their greyhounds, I have a lot of experience with dogs and know how to look after them. So I've been provisionally allocated Gemma, but we all agreed that she and Max are going to need longer to get to know each other to see if Max will fully accept her. So Gemma's foster mother Jenni is going to bring her round and we are going to walk the dogs together and let them spend more time together in my apartment. I hope it works out, it's really up to my Max whether it does!
Here's a photo of Gemma taken from the Dumfriesshire and Cumbria Greyhound Rescue Website
Monday 20 October 2008
By Richard Savill of The Telegraph
The pony, named "Fat Boy", escaped from its stable, broke into a nearby garden with another pony, and began munching the fallen apples. It is thought that the rotten fruit had begun to ferment, causing the animal to become 'drunk'. Twelve-year-old Fat Boy stumbled across the garden, and fell into the outdoor swimming pool which was covered by tarpaulin.
Sarah Penhaligon, 28, owner of the bungalow in Newquay, Cornwall, was woken at night by a "huge" splash and found the Moorland Pony in the shallow end.
She said: "I looked outside, saw this massive animal in the dark, and thought the Beast of Bodmin was in the pool. I was terrified, but when I took a closer look I realised it was a horse.
"I didn't have a clue what to do next - who do you call when there's a horse stuck in your swimming pool? I dialled 999 and they asked which service I wanted and I said I didn't know, I just had a horse in my pool and needed help."
Fire crews spent two hours building a set of hay steps in the pool, and hoisted the animal out of the water at 5am with the help of several harnesses.
The pony had escaped from the nearby Trenance riding stables. A spokesman said horses were known to get 'punch drunk' from eating too many apples.
She said: "It looks like he was scrounging for apples in the garden and fell in when he trod on the tarpaulin over the pool. It's a good job he's got a lot of bulk, as it kept him warm while he was stuck in the water. After he got out he was taken back and checked over by a vet, but luckily he's fine."
Friday 17 October 2008
Secondly I've started catching up with all my friends and see them regularly. I've lost the social side to working so getting together with people is all the more important - as well as very enjoyable! I'm finding now that I sometimes can't fit things in my diary which can only be a good thing. I also hope to start classes in the New Year and I'll probably get to know new people who are in the same position as me that way as well.
I'll be honest, I do miss aspects of my job. I miss some of the people I worked with and I miss the caring side of my work. The latter has surprised me but it shouldn't have really, I nursed for 30 years, it's a part of me and I miss that. I have a couple of holidays to look forward to in the next few weeks, but after them I am going to do some kind of voluntary work which will be an outlet for the "nursey" side of me.
So, here I am five weeks after my last working day, still adapting to this new life, but I can truly say that, for me, the pros of retirement have outweighed the cons and I'm enjoying being a "lady who lunches." Cappuccino anyone?!
Wednesday 8 October 2008
Tuesday 7 October 2008
The play was first performed in London in 1895 and is set in the world of the upper class in that city. The main characters are Sir Robert Chiltern, a supposedly wholesome, honest rising star in the House of Commons, and his wife who is involved in women's rights. Lord Goring, (named after where Wilde started writing the play), a witty playboy bachelor, the scheming Mrs Cheveley an old schoolmate of Lady Goring's each of whom have a dislike of each other.
Basically the plot is centred around Mrs Cheveley who tries to blackmail Sir Robert Chiltern with evidence she has of political corruption from his past that helped him on the road to success and fortune. She wants him to support a scheme she has invested a lot of money in that would fail without government support.
From this basis emerges a brilliant play of numerous twists and turns that looks at all sides of humanity. It's about trying to live up to other people's expectations, compromise in difficult situations, manipulation, accepting people's faults, loyalty, snobbery, wisdom, to name a few of the traits it explores. The character that initially seems most vacuous, Lord Goring, actually turns out to be the wisest and most loyal, and he has some of the best lines in the play:
"To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance."
"One should never give a woman anything that she can't wear in the evening."
"Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear."
The mix of seriousness and humour is perfect. It would have been very easy at times for the play to fall into farce with all the people involved and the mixed messages and misunderstandings in the plot, but that never happens and that's the genius of Oscar Wilde's writing.
I really enjoyed this production by the Abbey Theatre, and I must say the posh upper class English accents were perfect. The costumes were lovely and true to the era and the acting was superb. If you ever get the chance to see this play go along, you won't regret it.
Photo: Mrs Cheveley and Lady Chiltern (From the Abbey Theatre website)
Tuesday 30 September 2008
A lot of subterfuge had been going on since our arrival in Dublin, whisperings behind my back, conversations stopping when I went into the room. My friends had told me that they were treating me to a night out and to dress nicely for the evening, I could even wear high heels as we would only be walking from a taxi to the building. I did not know what they had lined up for me, though I had an idea of where we may be going.
In the evening we all got dressed up to go out and I must say we looked really lovely - we are getting good at this dressing up lark nowadays! I came through to the living room and there were my presents and cards along with an "enthusiastic" rendition of Happy Birthday. I got fantastic presents, a silver necklace with a key on it (the key to a new life), a lovely handbag, a purple stone necklace and a beautiful bracelet which had a charm on it that symbolised nursing. Their cards were special too - and they even had a huge card made from the photo of Bono and me from when we met him last year! What great, thoughtful friends I have.
The taxi drew up outside our accommodation in Dublin and Debbi ran out to tell the driver where to go without me hearing. We piled in and drove into the city centre and headed for the place I thought we might go - The Clarence Hotel. We went in and Debbi got a bit furtive and hung back and told us to go down the corridor, Dianne, Julie and I moved on and kind of hovered, then Debbi called us back and we were ushered into The Study. On the table there were four Cosmopolitan cocktails and nibbles. That was such a big surprise, only residents are normally allowed to go into that room, so we were really honoured to be able to go in, Debbi had arranged that with a member of staff from the hotel.
The bar manager, a pleasant young man called Jordan, came in to see if everything was ok. He said he'd mixed the drinks himself, we said they were perfect, (as they were) just the way we like them.
We sat in The Study for about an hour chatting and drinking our cocktails which went straight to our heads as we had eaten very little that day! We tottered through to The Tea Room Restaurant at 8pm (not an easy task when you are tipsy, unused to high heels and are walking on slippy wooden floors!) We got there without any undignified stumbles or trips and were seated at the same table we had last year when we dined there when we stayed in the Clarence Penthouse (when got champagne and drinks from Bono!) we all sat in the same seats as well.
Monday 29 September 2008
Below is a short interview with Matt where he answered some questions I put to him which I'm sure will help you get a feel of what the book is all about.
1. How long have you been a U2 fan, and what made U2 stand out for you when you first became aware of them?
I first heard and liked U2 in 1981, when WMMR-FM in Philadelphia played "I Will Follow" occasionally. What stood out then was the same for me as it was for a lot of people: Edge's guitar. The song sounded totally unique compared to the other rock music that was getting airtime. But I didn't go out of my way to find the BOY or OCTOBER albums, and it wasn't until "New Year's Day" that U2 had me hook, line, and sinker. I'm a sucker for any rock song with a piano, and that's still one of my all-time faves. I bought the WAR album, started to read up on who these guys are, and the fact that their music had substance and meaning also stood out then. So, it was about 1983 when I stopped dating other bands; U2 was the one for me. I made a good choice!
2. You already run a U2 fansite, @U2, writing a book is a massive undertaking, what made you decide to write U2 - A Diary?
It was a pretty easy decision, because I've always considered myself a U2 historian and am fascinated by their development year-to-year, album-to-album, and so forth.
Thanks to @U2, I had an idea for a different book in early 2005. The idea was pretty well developed -- with great help from the @U2 staff, I should add -- and I was pitching the book to a few agents and publishers. One of the publishers high on my list was Omnibus Press, because of their experience doing books for the U2 audience. (They've published U2 Live-A Concert Documentary, U2 Touch the Flame, and others.)
Omnibus wasn't too keen on the idea I was pitching, but they had done a popular "Beatles Diary" book and had an idea to do one about U2. They asked me if I was interested in writing that book, instead, and I jumped at the chance! We already had a U2 Timeline feature on @U2, which was my favorite part of the site, so it was a perfect fit. The timeline was a big help getting started, but ultimately only makes up about 25% of the book. What we had online was about 50,000 words, and the book is just over 200,000 words -- so, it grew quite a bit.
3. How will U2 - A Diary be different from other books on the band?
I hope the main difference readers recognize is that it's written by someone who's a fan first, author second. As a fan, I have ideas and opinions on what matters and why it matters -- things that a journalist or author may skip over, or even things that the band themselves didn't discuss in U2 by U2, which I think is an amazing book. But as great as it is, I don't think it's the full story. As an example, in U2 - A Diary, you'll read a quote from one of the bands that U2 beat in that 1978 talent contest in Limerick, Ireland. The guy says no one could believe U2 won! It's a great quote and adds something new to the story we've all heard about that important day in U2's development.
4. Did you have any direct contact with any of U2 whilst writing the book?
That depends on how you define "any of U2." :-) Early on, we notified Principle Management that the book was being written. During research, on a couple occasions I contacted some of the band's associates to confirm a date or fact; one was when I contacted Willie Williams to confirm the date of his first U2 concert, for example -- little things like that. And then we had some contact with Principle again during photo research, and they were helpful with putting us in touch with some photographers.
5. Does U2 - A Diary cover U2's career worldwide or does it mainly concentrate on the USA?
Worldwide for sure! In fact, that was one of the real challenges during research -- finding old newspaper and magazine articles from other countries. We have a great archive on @U2, but it's nowhere near the full breadth of worldwide news coverage on the band. But what was amazing was how fans chipped in with articles from their own collections and research that I couldn't do on my own. A guy named Donal Murphy in Ireland actually made several trips to his local library to look up old Irish news articles on microfiche ... a guy named Scott Cleaver in New Zealand shared some great material related to Greg Carroll's funeral ... and on and on and on. The help from U2 fans around the world was incredible. I'll never be able to thank them enough.
Thursday 18 September 2008
Saturday 13 September 2008
I'll miss being a nurse, I've dedicated 31 years to doing that job in various places and areas of speciality. I've enjoyed most of those years, only recently it has become less enjoyable because of staff cuts and the resulting larger caseloads and increase of stress. I feel i've done something useful with my working life, it's more than just a job, I've assisted people through difficult times and helped them get their lives back to normal.
I know this is the right tiem for me to leave psychiatric nursing, though rewarding, it is also very stressful at times and I'm ready to leave that behind now. So now I've closed the door on one part of my life and from today am opening the door on next part, it's all quite exciting!
Thursday 11 September 2008
There was a magnificent array of food, for someone like me who has been on a diet for months it was heaven to splurge out and tuck in! One of the admin staff made a gorgeous cake with Happy Retirement Sue on it, it tasted lovely too.
My manager Kath gave a lovely speech before giving me my gifts which were, a Radley bag (I've always wanted one but they are rather expensive), vouchers for my favourite beauty salon and a fabulous bunch of flowers. I was really touched by my colleagues' generosity. I gave a little speech, but can't really remember what I said!
I know my dear friend Margo (who works with me) was the one who got the gifts and did all the organising for this day, and boy did she do a good job, she'd make a great PA! I'm a lucky woman to have friends like that and I'll really miss not seeing her every working day. But she's retiring too next year and we can be "ladies that lunch" together then!
Wednesday 3 September 2008
"The last two records were very personal, with a kind of three piece at their heart, the primary colours of rock - bass, guitars and drum. But what we’re about now is of the same order as the transition that took us from The Joshua Tree to Achtung Baby."
I really hope that is true - I need music like that from U2! Strange though that Daniel Lanois said that the album was almost finished way back in June.
Let's hope the longer wait will be worhtwhile. And, the great thing for me personally, is that the album won't be coming out when I'm away on holiday in November!
Wednesday 27 August 2008
Value for money (1)
U2 $45 includes occasional exlusives on U2.com. 25% one off discount on store merchandise. Recently a free tee shirt/CD on re-subscribing.
REM $12 includes regular newsletters, exclusive interviews/photos, a Christmas package that includes card from the band, plus goodies such as CDs, videos etc. Discount on all store items for members.
Looking after and showing appreciation of fans:
With the fanclub tickets REM gave members wristbands that allowed them early entry into the venue so they could get prime places in the front enclosure. Excellent idea what a wonderful thank you that is to loyal fans.
Value for money (2)
Tickets for REMs gig in Manchester were £45 - very reasonable.
Why U2 can't do some of the things REM do for their fans - especially a reduction in the extortionate fanclub fee? I also think the wristband idea is wonderful too! I know U2 are on a bigger scale than REM, but I see no reason why they can't do similar things for their loyal fans.
On Sunday my friend Dawn and I went down to Manchester to see REM play. We stayed at Jury's hotel which turned out to be the ideal place as it was close to good eating places and the tramline to where the gig was being held.
After getting sorted we went out to check where we would get the tram to the venue, it was very close to the hotel. As it was a Sunday the streets were relatively quiet and we admired the beautiful Victorian buildings that dominated this area. One had gorgeous decorative arches over the windows celebrating famous authors from the past.
We then looked for somewhere to eat. I knew that Deansgate Locks were close by and remembered the lovely meal Debbi and I had in the restaurant of The Comedy Store so we walked the short distance there. Unfortunately The Comedy Store was closed but various other bars and Restaurants at the Locks were open. We decided to go for The Pitcher and Piano and, as the weather was so lovely and warm sat outside on the boardwalk overlooking the canal. we both had fish and chips and I must say they were delicious! Dawn treated me to the meal as an early birthday/retirement present which was very kind of her. We just could not believe the weather, for weeks it has been rain, rain, rain and there we were eating al fresco in sunshine!
At 5pm we decided to head to the Lancashire County Cricket Club at Old Trafford where the gig was being held. We got on at the GMEX stop and it took less than ten minutes to get to Old Trafford. The LCCC is literally right beside the tram station, so it is very convenient, no long hikes today!
We got into the ground quickly and as it was all general admission could sit or stand. We decided to sit in the seats as Dawn had been at a wedding the night before and had sore feet from standing for a long time!
The cricket ground was round with some small stands that were completely open to the elements, luckily the weather was still sunny and warm. About one third of the place was cordoned off as they were replacing the turf. I looked around at the audience and they were much like a U2 crowd, very mixed ages across the generations.
My BIG complaint about the LCCC is the lack of women's toilets. I queued for 30 minutes then Dawn went shortly afterwards and was away for an hour! I was beginning to get worried about her but she'd been in the queue for the toilet all that time! That is ridiculous, Dawn missed most of The Editors set because she was in the queue.
The first support band was Guillimots who I had vaguely heard of but knew nothing of their music. I quite liked them, the singer had a good voice and I loved the strong drumming on many of the tracks played. Next support was Editors who I'd seen play at Glastonbury. I liked them too, again the singer had a strong voice, though as the set continued I was disapointed to find some of the songs rather samey.
REM came on at 8.30pm (there was an early curfew of 10.30pm hence the early start) opening with a blistering Living Well Is The Best Revenge. We were well back so relied on the two screens to each side of the stage. There were also a few smaller screens behind the band, very low key compared with U2 but that's ok, biggest is not necessarily the best!
The band were very together as you'd expect after almost 30 years of being together, there were also a lot of interactions between Bill, Mike and Michael which reminded me of U2. I have always liked REMs music as much as U2's (but I related to U2 more and so became a bigger fan of theirs) and the band were hot tonight. Some of the songs I did not know - I don't have all REM's albums, I didn't buy the last two albums before Accelerate for instance. But most were familiar, What's the Frequency Kenneth, Drive, Ignoreland, Electrolite (one of my favourites), Hollow Man. Pretty Persuasion was dedicated to the Gay Pride Festival that had been held in Manchester that weekend. There were a couple of rants from Michael against President Bush, he's certainly not REM's favourite person!
Michael seemed to be really enjoying himself, often doing wacky dancing - he can certainly move well! He asked the crowd to get out their "portable phones" and light the place up, it looked lovely.
For me the highlight of the show was when they played I've Been High and Let Me In. Both done almost acoustically, full of emotion and Michael's voice soaring in the latter song. Both songs really touched me and gave me goosebumps, gorgeous stuff and what a good concert is all about.
Orange Crush and Imitation of Life (another big fave of mine) got the crowd singing as loud as they could. The encore began with Supernatural Superserious. The show finished with the real crowd pleaser Man on the Moon which had everyone singing along and clapping, a great way to end the show. Unfortunately they did not play my two favourite songs Nightswimming and Find the River, but with a back catalogue as vast as REM's you are bound to miss out on some of your favourites they can't play everything!
I thoroughly enjoyed the gig, there was an intimate, friendly atmosphere and fantastic music. As with U2 there were fans from all over the country and beyond. I just love the gorgeous melodies so many of REM's songs have, the great musicianship and Michael's voice is totally unique, emotional and powerful. A brilliant night and I left on a high.
The Set List1. Living Well Is The Best Revenge 2. These Days 3. What's The Frequency, Kenneth?
4. Drive 5. Man-Sized Wreath 6. Fall On Me 7. Ignoreland 8. Walk Unafraid 9. Hollow Man 10. I’m Gonna DJ 11. Electrolite 12. Pretty Persuasion 13. The Great Beyond 14. So Fast, So Numb 15. 7 Chinese Bros. 16. The One I Love 17. I’ve Been High 18 Let Me In 19. Horse To Water 20. Bad Day 21. Orange Crush 22. Imitation Of Life 23. Supernatural Superserious 24. Losing My Religion 25. Mr. Richards 26. It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) 27. Man On The Moon
REM at the End of the Concert at Manchester 24th August 2008 (Accelerate Tour) - Photo by M J Gray
We left the cricket ground and the police and stewards had the dispersal of the thousands of fans well under control. Within 30 minutes of the concert finishing Dawn and I were back in the centre of Manchester. We were really hungry and found a Chinese restaurant, Tai Wu, still open so we decided to go in and have a meal. It was really busy in there - it's the first time I've eaten a Chinese at that hour of the night!
Back at the hotel we relaxed, had a bottle of wine and chatted. A wonderful way to finish a day full of great REM music, delicious food and good company.