Tuesday 30 September 2008

A Night of Surprises!

September 20th, my birthday and official retirement day, and I was in my favourite city Dublin. I was there with my three friends Debbi, Dianne and Julie for this celebration and also for a week's holiday.

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.

We all had the tuna starter which was rather salty but ok. I had the duck for the main course and it was delicious, so tender. After a break we got the menus to order our desserts, I chose mine but the others were taking their time. I asked if everyone was ready to order but they weren't, they seemed a bit distracted, but I said nothing, after all we weren't in a rush. Then the head waiter came across to Debbi and she said something to him quietly. Big mouth me asked, "What did you say to him?" and she said that it was that we'd just like to wait another ten minutes before ordering. I then noticed Debbi and Dianne take out their cameras and realised something was up!

Sure enough shortly afterwards the waiter brought across a gorgeous cake and put it in front of me. It was chocolate and had Happy Birthday Sue and Enjoy Your Retirement written onto a scroll of white chocolate on the top. They kindly only put three candles on it so it wasn't too many to blow out! Also mercifully the girls didn't sing Happy Birthday for a second time either! (Sorry girls!)

The cake was such a work of art it seemed a shame to eat it! But that didn't stop us for long and we were soon tucking into it. It was as delicious to eat as it was beautiful to look at. It was a chocolate mousse on a base of thin pastry. There was an occasional crunchy bit in the mousse and the cream around the base was violet flavoured - all the tastes and textures went together so well!

We couldn't have eaten another thing after the cake, and just sat and relaxed and chatted. It was quite late when we decided to leave (along with the rest of the cake) and as we passed The Study to order a taxi from reception Debbi and I saw Edge in there with some other people. It was only a fleeting glance but we were both pretty sure it was him. There were two large security types hovering at the door so thought that Edge probably was with some VIP in there as I doubt the security would be there for him. Pity he hadn't come in there earlier!

It had been a wonderful evening. I can honestly say that it was the best Birthday I've had, no one has ever gone to such lengths to make it such a special occasion for me before, I loved it and felt so special. I couldn't ask for more wonderful friends and thank you girls for helping me start my retirement in style and for the most brilliant Birthday ever!

Me, Debbi, Dianne and Julie in The Tea Room Restaurant at the Clarence Hotel in Dublin

Monday 29 September 2008

U2 - A Diary, Interview with Matt McGee

A lot of you will know of Matt's great U2 website @U2 which has kept us U2 fans entertained and well informed about the band for many years. Matt has now written a book about the band called U2 - A Diary which will be published around 13th October 2008 and is now available for pre-order on Amazon. It sounds like a brilliant book by a fan for fans, I'm really looking forward to getting it.

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

Off to Dublin!

Well I'm off on holiday to Dublin tomorrow, really looking forward to it, it's been a while since I've had a long break there. I won't be updating my blog when I'm away (I like to take a break from the Internet when I'm on hols!). But I will be writing all about it when I get back!

Saturday 13 September 2008

ZU2 Tribute Band

Ever since our favourite U2 tribute band NU2 split up earlier this year my friends and I have missed seeing a U2 tribute band every now and then for a fix of U2 music. So when my friend Dawn asked if I wanted to see ZU2 I jumped at the chance.

They were playing in a small Scottish town called Langholm, not that far from where I live. I met Dawn there and fist of all we decided to have a meal. Langholm closes in the evening and there were just two places open. The first place we walked into seemed to have been suspended in the late 70's, complete with garish, flowery carpets. We walked into the bar and there were three people in it who all stopped talking and just turned and stared unsmilingly at us. Dawn and I looked at each other and turned and walked out!

A short distance up the street was the Douglas Hotel and we went into the restaurant there. It was lovely, modern, full of people with friendly staff. We had sausages and mash which was absolutely delicious.

After this we drove the short distance to the Buccleuch Centre where the gig was being held. The venue was small but very nice, modern with a bar and large seating area and spotlessly clean toilets. The auditorium too was small but comfortable and perfect for the gig.

ZU2 came on at 7.30pm. The beginning of the show was based on the Popmart Tour opening with a screen at the back of the stage showing various graphics accompanied by Pop Muzik by M. It all brought back the feeling of excitement I'll felt at the real Popmart shows as this opening number blasted out. Can't believe all that was 11 years ago now!

The band came on and started with Vertigo. They were very good, and "Bono" was very like the real thing from the side with his glasses on. He had a good voice too, again very close to the real Bono's. He had Bono's movements off to a tee, all the little nuances were there.

The band did a very varied, well-balanced set which included surprises like When I Look at the World and Spanish Eyes - it was really nice to hear them played live. They did a scintillating Bad which gave me goosebumps! Just before the interval the band asked the audience to write down any requests during the break and hand them in at the merchandise stall and then the band include some of the requests in the second half of the set, a really good idea.

ZU2 are a full time tribute band and are very professional with the screen at the back showing animations throughout the show and very good lighting too. They even had souvenir tee-shirts and CDs for sale as well. I really enjoyed the gig I'd recommend them and would definitely go to see them again.

That's It - I'm Officially Retired!

So, finally, I've worked my last day as a Community Psychiatric Nurse. It was very emotional saying goodbye to my workmates. They are special, caring people who all do their best for their clients. They have huge caseloads and limited resources available, yet they do a brilliant job. It was especially hard to say goodbye to my dear friend Margo. We've worked together for ten years now and shared good and bad times. Of course I'll still see Margo as a friend, but I'll miss working with her as well.

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

Leaving Lunch

It's my last working day tomorrow before my (early!) retirement. Yesterday there was a leaving lunch held for me at work. I had been quite nervous about it as I don't really like being the centre of attention, but it turned out that I really enjoyed it! My present colleagues were there and so were a lot of people I'd worked with in the past over the years. It was lovely to catch up with them again and I really appreciated them coming.

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

Confirmed - Next U2 Album Out in Early 2009

Bono confirms that the next album won't be out until 2009 on U2.com here . He's waxing lyrical as usual and I like some of what he says such as.

"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!