Saturday 25 December 2010

Bono Busking - Much better Video

Here's a MUCH better video of Bono busking on Grafton Street last night, enjoy.  Happy Christmas!

Friday 24 December 2010

Bono Busking on Grafton Street - Again!

So  Bono eventually made it home to Dublin despite being held up by the weather.  He found time to go out busking tonight in Grafton Street as he did last Christmas.  Shame it wasn't next week when I'll be there!

Ice on the Solway Firth

The Arctic weather is making the Cumbrian seascape look like something from Iceland or Scandinavia.  Someone I know took the following photos of the ice in the Solway Firth and dock at Silloth, a little seaside town not far from where I live.  I can't remember ever seeing the sea freeze over like this before.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

U2 Weather Woes

After the sun of Down Under Bono and Edge came back down to earth with a bump.  Whilst trying to get home to Dublin they were diverted and delayed by the Arctic weather that is hanging over the British Isles at the moment and had to slum it with everyone else. How I wish I'd been on that train!

Read about it here

Tuesday 21 December 2010

A Christmas Message From Pepsi the Dachshund

Hello, I'm Pepsi, looking very sweet and gorjus.  Like my hat?  My mammy bought it for me, I need it with all the ice and snow outside, not gud wether for dachshunds!

I thort I'd write a little Christmas message to you, pleese excuse any spelling mistakes, I'm very clever but am only two.  My big brudder Max wouldn't wear his hat, or pose for a foto, he was just watching when I had my foto taken, he can be a bit anti-social, but I love him anyway, he's my best pal.

And here's me showing my true colours, (I have a lovely smile and don't you think?) a bit of a rascal who can't keep out of trubble for long - that's what my mammy says anyway, but I just love having fun, fun, fun  BOL!  She wasn't very happy when I chewed her boots the other day, she went rather red in the face and said sum strange words.  But she soon loved me again when I laid on my back to let her tickle my tummee.  

I eventually managed to perswade Max to pose under the Christmas tree with me, here's our festive foto.  Only four days to go - I'm soooooo looking forward to Chrisrmas and TURKEY! 

Happy Christmas to you all, and health, happiness and lots of juicy bones for 2011,  from mammy, Max and me, Pepsi! xxxx

Thursday 16 December 2010

Ice House

And I thought it was cold here - I thank my lucky stars that I'm not in Ohio!  Read and watch this amazing story of the lighthouse on the coast of Lake Erie that has turned into an ice house here

Friday 10 December 2010

Pet Portraits

Would you like an original drawing of your pet to treasure?  Well, you can now commission a unique portrait of your pet for just $45 from professional artist Dianne Beeaff.

The drawing would be a miniature (approximately 4" x 3") and  executed in pencil from your favourite photo of your pet.  Dianne draws any kind of pet, not just dogs.

I've included a couple of examples of her work in this post - including one of my dogs Pepsi and Max, which I am very pleased with, she's really caught their looks and personalities.  It's lovely to have a drawing of my boys!

If you are interested, contact Dianne directly on

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Dub of the Year

Nice, and wouldn't this be a good time to announce U2 360 Tour 2011 dates in Dublin/Ireland?

It's the sweetest thing for Bono as he's crowned Dub of the Year

PRIDE: U2 frontman insists capital can be a world-beater again

Wednesday December 08 2010
By Caitlin McBride

POP star, peace broker, humanitarian -- and now The Dubliner of the Year.

After scooping most of the top awards around the world it's only fitting that Bono should be recognised in his hometown.

The U2 frontman will tomorrow be announced as the Dub of the Year in The Dubliner magazine -- to the surprise of.... well, no one.

Bono was floored with the title and said being named The Dubliner of the Year was the perfect way to wrap up the year.

"Dublin is a state of mind and a place. What's being a Dub?

"I don't know, but I am one and proud of it through and through.


"The messy head, all the earnest conversation, our spunkiness and punkiness, our sense of fun, the self-deprecating over-confidence.

"We are so many contradictions.

"Dubliner of the Year crowns a great year for me and the band, not everyone's experience I know.

"I'm feeling very blessed and grateful, and deep down in my gut, I know this city has what it takes to be a world-beater once again.

"It already is, in my head."

Editor of The Dubliner Paul Trainer said that he was the natural winner for the 2010 title.

"Bono has inspired many of the articles we have published over the last ten years. Wherever he goes, he takes a bit of Dublin with him and in the last year he has taken our city to every corner of the earth. He is a Dubliner who makes us proud to be The Dubliner," he said.

Famous Dubliners have come out in honour of the superstar to celebrate his newest accolade.

Former Dubliner of the Year Brian O'Driscoll is often considered one of the capital's best ambassadors, and he praised the iconic singer for staying loyal to his roots.

"No matter where he is in the world, whether on stage or meeting world leaders nobody is ever in any doubt that Bono is a Dubliner through and through," he said.

And Danny O'Donoghue from The Script, whose band has often been compared to U2, praised his hero as a success story which should be celebrated".

"Bono has got what most musicians search for all there life -- 'heart'. His belief changes others. He made it possible for Dubliners to dream, to think 'what if?'

"His belief and drive as a Dubliner got him to where he is today and we all need to be reminded that we drink the same water.

"So I congratulate Bono and say well done, keep flying the flag for Dublin and Ireland," he said.

Check out tomorrow's issue of The Dubliner, available every Thursday in the Herald, to find out all the details on Bono winning the title, and what 2FM DJ Dave Fanning, Gavin Friday, Senator David Norris, Mick Pyro, Niall Breslin of The Blizzards and Shane MacGowan have to say.


Tuesday 7 December 2010

The Suburbs - Arcade Fire

The first time I heard of Arcade Fire was during U2's Vertigo Tour a few years ago.  Well I say heard of them, it was their song Wake Up, played just before U2 took to the stage, that caught my attention - it was amazing.  I found out who sang it and have enjoyed most of the bands music since.  There are seven main band members, but on stage they are also joined by others (I've never worked out how many), so they are not your average four piece rock band visually - or sonically.

I downloaded their third album The Suburbs a while ago.  I'd heard lots of positive reviews but I've been busy and only listened to bits of it here and there.  But tonight I made the time and sat down and listened to the whole thing - and this album most definitely has to be listened to as a whole, it's an amazing, powerful sonic experience. 

The Suburbs is complex lyrically and musically, and like most U2 albums, the songs are interlinked in theme, it is very much a single entity and a grower.  I feel I need to listen to it a good few more times before I could attempt a proper review, but what I can say now is that this is an excellent album well worth buying.  Arcade Fire have their own "wall of sound" and are like no other band around.  And in this age of  made-to-order bands it's refreshing to know young people still have the hunger to create and express themselves and how they see the world around them via excellent rock music!

Read a review by NME here that says it better than I ever could.

Friday 3 December 2010

Bad in Melbourne 1st December

This song never fails to send shivers down my spine, lovely version, great sound at that gig.  Roll on Canada next year!

Missing Snowman and Whiteout UK

You know life is wieder than fiction, this story was reported by the BBC

Woman Dials 999 to Report Snowman Theft in Kent

A woman who dialled 999 to report the theft of a snowman from outside her home has been branded "completely irresponsible" by Kent Police.

The force said the woman, from Chatham, thought the incident required their involvement because she used pound coins for eyes and teaspoons for arms.

During the call the woman said: "It ain't a nice road but you don't expect someone to nick your snowman."

Kent Police said officers had given her advice on real 999 emergencies.

The force said the call was made at the same time as operators fielded thousands of other phone calls about the heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures in the county.

During the conversation she said: "There's been a theft from outside my house.

"I haven't been out to check on him for five hours but I went outside for a fag and he's gone."

When she was asked who had gone, the woman replied: "My snowman. I thought that with it being icy and there not being anybody about, he'd be safe."

She was then asked whether it was an ornament, and answered: "No, a snowman made of snow, I made him myself.  It ain't a nice road but at the end of the day, you don't expect someone to nick your snowman, you know what I mean?"

The operator then told her she had rung an emergency line and she should not be calling it to report the theft of a snowman.

Ch Insp Simon Black said: "This call could have cost someone's life if there was a genuine emergency and they couldn't get through.  It was completely irresponsible.

"We have spoken to her and advised her what is a 999 call, and this clearly was not."


Whiteout UK, satellite photo taken yesterday

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Paint the World (RED) on World Aids Day

(Photo by Don Arnold/Getty Images AsiaPac)
On 30th November Bono (looking very smart) and Edge flicked the switch to illuminate the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge in red ahead of World AIDS Day 2010.  Adam was also there, Larry seems to have opted out or maybe he was just in the background.  With the lads at the ceremony were New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Chair of Pacific Friends of the Global Fund, Wendy McCarthy.  More than 80 iconic landmarks, (including Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament in the UK) across 13 countries will join (RED) to promote awareness of the ongoing fight against the AIDS epidemic, by turning red to mark World AIDS Day on December 1.   On the evening of the 1st U2 play their first concert of the 360 Tour in Australia in Melbourne.

(Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Saturday 27 November 2010

Snow Snow Snow!

Snow for two years on the trot, so where's the global warming?  It looks so pretty.  I'm going to a Christmas Market in the city centre tonight and one of the special events is an hourly fall of false snow lol!

Who's been out in the snow then?

A Christmassy tree in my garden

Wednesday 24 November 2010

The Celtic Tiger's Roar Turns into a Whimper

Over the last few days, like many others, I've been following the financial woes of Ireland that has resulted in the country receiving a massive loan from the E.U. 

I've been visiting Ireland, mainly Dublin, for over twenty years.  In the early years it was a rather down at heel city, but  what it lacked in modernity and riches it more than made up for with character, warmth and friendliness.  We grew very familiar with the Docklands area, (U2 fans will know why ) which was grimy, partially derelict and oozing history.  I especially remember the smells - coffee from Bewley's warehouse, and curry wafting from somewhere near Hanover Quay, we never did nail down exactly where that smell was coming from.   O'Connell Street was trashy, Temple Bar didn't exist, Bewley's waitresses still wore their black and white uniforms complete with pristine aprons.  Our favourite watering hole was Docker's pub, a wonderful old-time "real" pub, complete with snug, that served the best Guinness and sandwiches in town.  The Clarence Hotel still held tea dances.  And you could bump into U2 members in the street.

Then, Ireland joined the E.U in the 90's, and the Celtic Tiger started stirring and before we knew it the country was booming and Dublin was changing by the month.   The entertainment area of Temple Bar sprung up, O'Connell Street was tidied up, the waitresses in Bewley's lost their smart uniforms, Docker's pub didn't fit the new modern image for Dublin and now is no more.  The main change was all the building, the Dublin skyline became a mass of cranes.  New buildings of steel, concrete and glass lined the quays replacing the old stone structures.  More homes were built than were needed and house prices shot up to an unbelievable level.  But in the process the city was losing something, that innate "Irishness" . 

Don't get me wrong Dublin did need to modernise and the building brought lots of employment for people.  But a boom of those proportions couldn't last and again it seems the banks are to blame for this financial crisis.   And who is going to be hit hardest, yes, as usual the ordinary person in the street.  I consider Dublin my second home and I really feel for the Irish.  But they are resilient people and that Irish spirit will prevail,  they have weathered other hard times and I'm sure they'll get through this.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Wide Awake In Europe

Rather ironic that something with that title is not available in Europe!  Shame, as it has two songs on it I'd love to have.

Tracks:  'Mercy’ recorded live in Brussels on September 22nd 2010
             'Moment of Surrender' (Live)
             'I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight'  (Live)

Further details can be found by following the link below.

'Wide Awake In Europe' for Record Store Day

Saturday 13 November 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi - Walk On!

Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest today.  I watched her on TV being greeted by crowds of cheering people at her gates after her release with a lump in my throat.  There are few politicians that can inspire, who have true integrity and who have given up so much of their own personal lives as her.  She has grace and a quiet determination and I respect her so much and only hope that this time her freedom will last.  Bono's lyrics for the U2 song dedicated to her, Walk On, are a beautiful and fitting tribute to an amazing woman.

And love is not the easy thing

Aung San Suu Kyi at her gates after her release
The only baggage you can bring...
And love is not the easy thing...
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind

And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong

Walk on, walk on
What you got, they can't steal it
No they can't even feel it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight...

You're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen
You could have flown away
A singing bird in an open cage
Who will only fly, only fly for freedom

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can't deny it
Can't sell it or buy it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight

And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

Home...hard to know what it is if you never had one
Home...I can't say where it is but I know I'm going home
That's where the heart is

I know it aches
How your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

Leave it behind
You've got to leave it behind

All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you steal
All this you can leave behind
All that you reason
All that you sense
All that you speak
All you dress up
All that you scheme...

Friday 12 November 2010


Went to my first Zumba class last night, two friends were going and asked if I wanted to go.  As it was very close to where I live and I enjoy dancing, I said yes.

It was certainly full-on!  Geez, one hour of fast, frenetic dancing to Latiny/rock music.  I didn't think I'd manage it but I did.  I found it quite cathartic in an way, shaking my bits, screaming and yelling, above all it was great fun.  It didn't matter if you couldn't keep up (which I often couldn't) as long as you moved.  I know I need to do exercise but I find aerobics/gyms simply boring, but I actually enjoyed this.  Though I suffered for it,  lying in bed last night my back muscles ached as I breathed - there are a lot of arm movements in Zumba and my upper body muscles were testament to that.  Today, I woke up aching all over and it took a good few hours to ease off!  One of my friends had been to another Zumba class which started with a warm up, then the full-on dancing and finishing with a relaxing wind down.  I like the sound of that, so I'll try that class as I do think this is for me, but would like a slightly less vigourous work out.

We've been having wild, windy weather with lots of rain.  I haven't much planned for the weekend which suits me, I needn't go out much in this lousy weather.  Of course I'll have to walk the dogs, one of them, Max, hates the rain, he'd be happy to do what he needs to do and go back home.  But Pepsi loves his walks and doesn't seem to even notice the weather, he's too busy sniffing the air and ground and finding interest in everything around him!

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Cold Dream Colour

A dance homage to Louis le Brocquy

Cold Dream Colour celebrates the life and work of this masterful artist in an evening of dance inspired
by his paintings. Artistic Director, Morleigh Steinberg, brings together an international company of dancers
and choreographers, including Liz Roche and Oguri, to create this new production on the occasion of
le Brocquy’s birthday.

Original music by The Edge of U2 and Feltlike with Paul Chavez has been composed especially for the event.

(Taken from the Pavillion Theatre's event guide)

I would like to have been able to see this, sounds good.  Also, it's great to see a member of U2 being part of a tribute to a an Irish artist that is also performed in Ireland! has an interview with Morleigh here

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Bono and the Edge at Anton Corbijn’s Gallery Show

A little light relief, Bono and Edge were at an Anton Corbijn exhibition in New York recently.  Love edge's comment about Keith Richards at the end!

Vulture Hangs With Bono and the Edge at Anton Corbijn’s Gallery Show

Monday 8 November 2010

LV and the LV

There are a lot of differing views on this out there, but mine fits closely with the one below, it brings up some good points .....(but it is a plane not a helicopter in the video!)

I think Bono's mistake in all this boils down to that he should have just stayed being the activist, getting the world leaders to implement and stick to actions that benefit Africa - he's really good at that.  But he chose to also set up various organisations - in good faith I'm sure - but that's where there have been difficulties.  There have been problems with Edun, One and Red and, even if it's nothing at all directly to do with him, those problems rub off on him and his ability to be taken seriously and make a difference.   This article looks at some of the reasons things might have not gone so well. 

It would be a shame if this eclipsed all the positive things he has already done.

Bono Brings the $1600 Handbag to Africa

Friday 5 November 2010

Losing My Mind - and Teeth!

God I hate November!  The clocks go back, the weather is shite and the semi-hibernation of winter starts.  November has nothing to go for it, at least December has the social flurry of the "festive season".  January optimism of a New Year (for a while anyway)  and the knowledge that slowly but surely the days are getting longer.  February is a bit grim too but the days are getting even longer and there are the first stirrings of spring and after that it's all for the better.  You can tell I'm not a winter person

So, last  Monday I arranged to meet a friend in town to mooch round the shops and then have a cheapie meal at Pizza Express.  I was relaxing at home when I looked at my clock - which, as is usual with me I had not changed at the introduction of GMT again over the weekend.  I sat up with a start, I was 3/4 of an hour late to meet my friend!  I sent her a quick text, surprised that she hadn't been in touch with me seeing I was so late, rushed out and headed into town.  I was nearly there when I realised that the clocks went backwards at the weekend, not forwards, so I was an hour early!  I sent another embarrassed text to my friend who guessed what had happened and had a good laugh on me!  That'll teach me being lazy and not getting the clock off the wall and changing it when I should!

Tuesday night I was eating my evening meal when I realised something very hard was amongst my mouthful of food - it was a large part of one of my teeth!  I was left with a kind of fang-like stump where the tooth should have been - would've been good for Halloween the other day!  By coincidence I had my six monthly check up a couple of days later.  I was given three options as to what they could do for my tooth.  As the tooth is quite visible when I smile I went for the post crown which will take four visits, a lot of torture and £200.  Just what I need near Christmas.  I do have a bit of a phobia about going to the dentist, well it's the injection in the mouth that is my phobia really (though the rest isn't that pleasant either) I get the urge to up and run away when the dentist approaches with that syringe ugh!  Maybe I should have opted just to get the bloody thing out, cheaper and no jabs, drills, no nerve killing or root canal filling ......

Tonight it was Bonfire Night when it is traditional to burn bonfires and let off fireworks to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night (he and a gang of others tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament hundreds of years ago).  This was Pepsi's first Bonfire Night with me (he was in kennels last year as I was in Berlin seeing U2 play at the Brandenburg Gate).  Max has never been bothered by fireworks at all, but Pepsi could not settle he was barking and pacing about with every whoosh and bang outside.  I couldn't get him settled until the noise stopped poor chap, pity you can't get earplugs for dogs!  It'll probably continue over the next couple of days as the celebrations tend to happen over all the weekend.   There's a big fireshow in a park in the city centre tomorrow night. 

When I was young every area of the city had its own bonfire we used to go around houses in the couple of weeks before collecting things to put on the bonfires.   A "guy" supposedly an effigy of the doomed Guy Fawkes, was put at the top of the bonfire.  Fireworks were set off by the adults, and we used to put potatoes into the embers later and eat them when cooked, I'll never forget their unique taste.  That night you could always smell the fires in the air.  Now you can't just put up bonfires, you need permission etc. life is so regulated nowadays. 

Sunday 31 October 2010

Halloween Past and Present

The last day of October -  Halloween (and a certain drummer's birthday, all the best Larry!)   It's been extra creepy this year as it is the first night of GMT, the clocks have gone back and it's been darker earlier.  I've always been interested in how ancient beliefs live on in our modern world and Halloween is a really good example of this.  Halloween is derived from the Celtic festival of Samhain, "summer's end", and the ancient British equivalent Calan Gaeaf.  The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half".  The name Halloween is derived from All Hallow's Eve - the night before All Saints Day on the 1st of November.

The ancient Celts believed that the barrier between this world and the spirit world became very thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities and maybe that is why bonfires became a big part of Guy Fawkes night just a few days after on the 5th of November.

Soul cakes were small round cakes made for All Saints Day to celebrate the dead. The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, were given out to soulers (mainly consisting of children and the poor) who would go from door to door on Hallowmas singing and saying prayers for the dead. Each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. The practice of giving and eating soul cakes is often seen as the origin of modern trick or treating.

Lanterns were made from hollowed out turnips containing a candle and they were placed in windows to ward off evil spirits.   We  had turnip lanterns when I was young, bloody hard work to carve!  God bless my mother for her hard work diligently carving those lanterns.  I'll always remember that smell when the candle burned the inside of the turnip "lid", it was the smell of Halloween for me.  Nowadays the turnips have been replaced with the American import, the pumpkin.

I've had a few young children round trick or treating, they were all very sweet, filled with wonder and had great costumes!  It got me to thinking what Halloween was like when I was young.  We used to get dressed up, though it was mostly homemade stuff, we couldn't buy much stuff in the shops like today, it was mainly scary masks that were sold, Halloween was not commercialised much in those days.  My friends and I used to go round houses, dressed up, carrying our turnip lanterns asking "Anything for Halloween" - trick or treating didn't exist then - and we were given sweets, nuts or fruit.   We used to hide and try to scare each other as we did our "rounds".  We'd go Halloweening (as we called it) by ourselves, childhood was generally more innocent and safer in those days.

Afterwards my mother always held a Halloween party for me and my friends.  She always made it brilliantly creepy, with delicious food including the traditional toffee apples.  We had games like dunking for apples, which was trying to get apples out of water just using your mouth, it was always fun.  Halloween is just after the apple harvest here in the UK so that must be why they feature so much in the festivities.

Now Halloween in the UK is vastly influenced by the US, and it strikes me as ironic that a festival that started in long, long ago in Britain and Ireland, which was taken over to the US by emigrants, has now come full circle back "home" with touches added by New World.  I suppose this is what happens over time.  It's also not just for kids now, adults have fun too which I think is great.

All the memories triggered me to look at my family photograph albums - luckily my mother was a prolific photographer and my childhood is recorded very well in pictures.  I found some photos of me at Halloween and here's one of them - complete with black cat and spider LOL!

Thursday 21 October 2010

Here We Go Again ....

Below is an extract from an interview Bono did recently with the Australian paper/website The Age.  Bono talked about some rather scary stuff re his back injury, and here's funny quote re his treatment whilst on tour:

Each day on tour, Bono worked with a German physio he refers to as "Hitler's doctor", who would "beat the shit out of me for 45 minutes", and a Finnish practitioner, "the Finnish fondler", who would "work me and try and unbuckle my body".

And then future album plans, you can read the full article here

First Spiderman, now Danger Mouse,  they've done Batman, so maybe the Bionic Man next? No, wait, Bono's the Bionic Man, Made in Germany now isn't he?  I'm giving up getting hot under the collar about some of U2's collaborations/plans.  All I am saying is three things:

1.   U2 is not a club band

2.   Focus

3.   Listen to Adam and Larry

They have spent much of this year working on an album produced by Danger Mouse, the alias for American production ace Brian Burton (Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz).

Due early next year, it will be preceded by a single in December.

"We have about 12 songs with Danger Mouse," Bono says. "It's the album we'll likely put out next because it's just happening so easily."

The singer adds that, in a stream of creativity, U2 are working on two other projects.

The first is a club-inspired album with Black Eyed Peas rapper, French DJ superstar David Guetta and Lady Gaga collaborator RedOne.

Also, Bono and guitarist The Edge are attempting to sell their bandmates, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen jnr, the concept of a U2 album based on the 20 songs the two have written for a Spider-man musical that opens on Broadway next month.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Restuarant Review - Alexandros, Carlisle, Cumbria

Name and Address
Alexandros Restaurant, Warwick Road, Carlisle, Cumbria


A small restaurant in the city centre.  Outer door opens straight into the seating area so it can feel cold if you are near the door.  Some of the tables are too close together.  They play Greek music which reminded me of many happy times I'd spent in that country.

We went for a Happy Hour meal and on offer was two courses for £7.95.  I had a Greek salad for starters which was lovely, with a tasty dressing.  For my main course I had beef stifado with rice.  The meat was very tender and just melted in my mouth, the sauce was rich with a hint of spice, delicious.  One of my friends had the moussaka which she said was wonderful too.  Portions were not massive, but being two courses for £7.95 meant it was enough for a very reasonable price.

Northern Star Rating
Ambience **   Food ***

An Intruder!

My little visitor!
I got up late this morning (after my very late night last night) and went to my kitchen to make breakfast.  Now anyone who knows me knows that I am not the best first thing in the morning, I need at least an hour to be compus mentus and sociable.  I opened the kitchen door, my dogs skipping at my heels keen for their breakfast.  Suddenly a very small, dark "thing"shot past me and disappeared into a corner of the kitchen.  I leapt back - suddenly awake - my boys looked up at me, and brave dogs that they are, shrunk back into the living room.  I peeped into the kitchen again and the flying intruder shot past me again.  What was it? My first thought was a bat as it was so quick, dark and small.  I plucked up the courage and went fully into the kitchen, and I saw a tiny, scared blue tit perched on the fridge.  It set off flying round in terror, I closed the door to keep it in there and tried to catch it with a towel, but to no avail.  So I moved the plants off the windowsill, pulled up the blind and opened the window.  It wasn't a big opening, but the little bird shot out to freedom in seconds. 

The mystery is, how on earth did it get into my kitchen?  It was not there the previous night and the window was closed, in fact no window in my home was open, it had been a cold night.  So I have absolutely no idea how it got in, weird!

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Autumn's Definitely Here

If Max stands still enough he blends in with
the autumn colours!
Well I can't sleep tonight so I thought I'd write a bit on my blog.  Yesterday was a real autumn day, cool, the trees not yet stripped bare, but the wind whisking up the leaves that have fallen and twirling them in the air, the orange/brown/red/russet tones of the season all around.  I used to hate this time of year when things were dying, preparing for the long sleep of winter, but now I don't really mind it, the colours are beautiful and the cool air bracing and I enjoyed being out with the dogs.

I met my friend Christine for lunch in town and, as always, we had a good natter, putting the world to rights.  Tonight I am going out for a Greek meal with two friends I used to work with, time to catch up on all the gossip!  We meet roughly once a month for a meal and each time when I've listened to what they have to say and see how stressed they are I breathe a sigh of relief that I'm not doing that kind of job anymore. And things will only get worse when the government announces all the cuts to the country's budget later this week.

I'm counting down the days until Debbi and I go to Dublin for New Year, 72 to go!  It'll be great to go back, I'm missing the city having only been there for three days earlier in the year. All I can say is roll on!

It's nearly 3am so I suppose I'd better try to get some sleep!  Night night.

Friday 15 October 2010

Chillin' Out

I'm having a lovely evening just chilling out with some good food and a glass or two of Merlot.  I did my last evening working as a cleaner at the village school tonight.  It was a nice friendly school but I was ready to leave.  Obviously such a job has to have a routine and I was bored with that, I'm not a person for too much routine.  So no more smelly boys toilets, no more sand in every nook and cranny in the classroom with the sandpit, no more glitter everywhere, cotton wool that sticks like glue to the carpet, no more trying to get an impossible amount of work done in the time allowed.  It was a job that ideal me for a while, it was close to where I live, got me extra money for my travels, but now it's part of my past, and I have a new job that is much more suitable for me and what I am good at.  

Writing of my new job, I was visiting an 86 year old lady this morning and I asked her what kind of music she liked.  I expected her to say Bing Crosby, Glen Miller, something like that, but what does she say -Westlife!  These lovely old people never fail to surprise me!

When I was driving home from the school tonight a song came on the radio that took me back in time.  It was Always the Last to Know from the early 1990's by the Scottish band Del Amitri.  I used to really like them, loved Justin Currie's voice and many of their songs had meaningful lyrics.  It made me think about the early 90's and the music I liked then.  I liked a lot of Irish bands that were around then too, Something Happens, The Stunning, The Four of Us, The Saw Doctors are some that come to mind.  They showed a lot of promise but none became big in the music world.  Wonder what's become of them?

My U2 fandom was at its height then as well, and now looking back I realise it was also the a very creative, forward thinking era for them musically and in their live performances.  It was also the time I got to know many of the friends I have now via sharing a love for U2.  There was a big gang of us who used to have great fun and madness together during the Zoo days.   

I liked a lot of Irish bands that were around then too, Something Happens, The Stunning, The Four of Us, The Saw Doctors are some that come to mind.  They showed a lot of promise but none became big in the music world.  Wonder what's become of them? 

Dublin was like a second home to me then as well, I visited a few times a year.  I must say, the city has changed almost beyond recognition since then, it no longer feels like the small town city it felt like then. It has lost something, but it still is a wonderful place to visit.

And here's me 20 years later and still a U2 fan and still friends with most of those U2 people I got to know then - some are amongst the best friends I've ever had.  I still visit Dublin regularly, luckily I don't live far away so it's an easy trip, and the city does continue to feel like a second home to me.  The early 90's had a vibe about it that still gives me a warm feeling when I think back to it.  Good times. 

Thursday 14 October 2010

A Chilean Miracle

I stayed up really late last might to watch the Chilean miners being rescued.  It was mesmerising TV, with the cameras on the surface focusing on the miners' arrival at the surface in the specially made capsule and another camera 2000 feet below where the miners had been stranded since August 5th.  It took around 8 minutes for the capsule to travel from the underground cavern to the surface, and during these times the camera would focus on the relative(s) of the next miner due up, the sheer joy evident in their faces.  It was very moving to see them re-united, I especially remember a little girl with tears in her eyes hugging her daddy.

These are just ordinary people, who for a while were thought to be victims of an accident in a mine known to be unsafe.  Now they are known to the world, and will be chased by the media.  In one way this could be good for them, they may get money they couldn't even dream of, which could enable them to live better lives in the future.  But it could also be very hard for them to deal with the unrelenting pressure of "fame" whilst also recovering from the trauma of being trapped underground for 69 days.  I hope it works out well for them, they deserve it.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Hectic Days

Life is really busy for me at the moment as I'm doing two jobs, it's a bit like being a fulltime worker again lol!  I have handed in my notice for the cleaning job, it served a purpose for me over the last year, but now I'm ready to move on.  I now also see a few lovely old people weekly for the charity Age Concern and I love it.  It's working with people and a caring role, which is my kind of thing, I've kind of missed that since I retired from nursing.  It is paid work, and my role is social - I chat to them, go through the papers, do crosswords, take them out for coffee or shopping or just a walk.  At the moment I'm doing both jobs which is making life hectic for me, but this is my last week of the cleaning so things will get back to a more normal pace for me next week.

Lots of rumours circulating in the U2 world about an announcement of UK/Irish dates for 2011 soon.  I think it could well happen.  Maybe I should keep the cleaning job, go back into nursing or sell my soul in order to afford it.  Those Irish guys are going to bankrupt me, as I know I just won't be able to resist seeing more shows if it happens.  I'm normally quite a "sensible" person, but sense goes out of the window when it comes to seeing U2 live.  But, hey, sometimes you've just go to go for things in this life!

Saturday 9 October 2010

Ciao 360 Tour

So the 3rd leg of U2 360 in Europe is finished, next stop, Down Under!  It's been a fascinating leg of the tour where the show has started to undergo a metamophosis into something more experimental and exciting.  Four new song have been premiered live onstage and some old favourites have seen the light of day once more.  And the biggest surprise was Mercy finally getting the recognition it deserves, albeit in a less raw and lyrically sanitised form - shame about that, I preferred the rougher, darker version, but it's still a fabulous song.

Below is Bad/All I Want is You (snippet) from the show last night in Rome.  As you can see Bono has had a wardrobe malfunction, the trews held up well but couldn't quite take the strain for the full tour, maybe Bono's been eating too much pasta.  Shame the rip isn't just a little bit higher .......

Saturday 2 October 2010

No Line on the Horizon a Failure?

The article below was printed in the Irish Times today.  It's a shame that Lillywhite has put it this way.  The album wasn't a failure, it did sell quite well, though wasn't a massive success.  But the album got good reviews by most people as an artistic creation.  After two good but safe albums, U2 took a risk and experimented a bit, that was brave, and many people (not just fans) welcomed and appreciated that.  It's not a great album, but they are trying to do something different to move on, and I view it as a step in the right direction, away from safety of the Noughties leading towards a U2 that, in the future, can maybe surprise and excite us once more.  It's pity that Lillywhite and U2 just seem to just measure an album by its commercial success.  They are in a position where the money doesn't really matter, were they can really concentrate on the music, I do hope they don't slip back into safemode.  Lillywhite also talks of Bono's massive determination, I hope that trait isn't just geared to commercial success, I hope it's also drives an artistic integrity.

The thing that gives me hope for U2's musical future though is what they have been doing live on the current 360 Tour European leg.  Playing unrecorded/unreleased songs for the first time live doesn't sound like a band that will run scared.  I hope I'm right.

Producer Admits Last U2 Album Was Failure

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Canada 5 - Niagara, Tourist Tat v. Nature's Grandeur

September 3rd

Our last full day in Canada, and we were booked on an all day trip to Niagara Falls.  I had been there before during the time I lived in the country, but for Glenys it was a first and was also one of her long held travel ambitions.  As we travelled along the highway it brought back memories again for me, I remember being so excited at going off on my own for a while, I'd  visited Niagara and explored New York State.  I drove a Mini that the family I worked for had for me to use and in America everyone stared at it!  That  was in the days of massive cars there and being able just to drive over the border.

We had a great driver, Salim, who was very informative and funny.  He gave told us of a way to remember the five Great Lakes using their first letters = HOMES.  He heard a passenger sneeze at one point and said that means someone is missing you - I'd never heard of that saying before but thought it was rather sweet.

For most of the trip we skirted Lake Ontario which was huge yet it is the smallest of the Great Lakes, it makes you realise once more what a massive  country Canada is.  The area we passed through on the journey was mostly built up and not very scenic. 

Our first stop was at a place where you could take a helicopter trip over the Falls.  We debated whether to do it, it would be a fabulous experience, neither of us had been in a helicopter, but the cost was $115 for a ten minute flight and we decided it wasn't worth it.  

The rather fetching essential Maid of the
 Mist attire

We then went on to Niagara Falls and there's no doubt it is a magnificent sight.  The Niagara River is divided by Goat Island into the Horseshoe Falls in Canada and the American and small Bridal Veil Falls in the USA.   The Horseshoe Falls drop about 173 feet, and the height of the American Falls varies between 70–100 feet because of the presence of many giant boulders at its base. The larger Horseshoe Falls are about 2,600 feet wide, while the American Falls are 1,060 feet wide.  Both sets of Falls face Canada and therefore you get the best views by far from the Canadian side.

On arrival Salim immediately took us to the jetty to board The Maid of the Mist for our included boat trip to the Falls.  We collected the blue plastic macs and went onto the upper deck.

We first passed the American Falls, a curtain of powerful, frothing water.  Then it was on to the Horseshoe Falls, which are simply amazing, at one point it felt like we were totally surrounded by the water, we went in a lot further than I thought we would.  The "mist" at times blocked the falls from view.  We also got well soaked despite the macs - memories of our Icelandic boat trip came to mind, but at least the water wasn't quite as icy.  We always seem to get wet on boat trips!  The roar of the water was deafening and around us the water swirled and frothed like a witch's cauldron, whilst birds swooped all around.  It must take some skill to guide those small boats safely around  the Falls, it was an exhilarating experience.
Leaving The Maid of the Mist we passed the queue for the next sailing then we found somewhere close to have lunch.  All around the Falls there are tourist shops full of the usual stuff.  I said to Glenys that it was a shame that Niagara Falls couldn't be more like Gulfoss in Iceland, left wild and almost untouched by the trappings of tourism.  But I realise that it's inevitable that tourism would be eveywhere considering the location of Niagara.  Thinking about it though, I think that nature's grandeur does manage to outdo the glaring materialism. 

And, being tourists ourselves, we went to some nearby shops. We were barely inside when a rain and wind storm suddenly came out of nowhere. I was close to a door and saw monsoon-like rain fall and a strong swirling wind followed, whipping through the trees and sending people scattering for shelter.  We were glad we were inside at the time. It was over quickly though and when we headed back to our bus the rain had stopped and it was calm.


We left Niagara behind and after a short stop at the nearby Whirlpool Gorge headed for Niagara on the Lake. This a picture-book beautiful town, full of flowers and beautiful homes and expenisve looking shops. We passed Cows ice cream parlour and shop "The best ice cream in Canada!" well, we just had to try it! The first thing I noticed was a life-sized statue of a cow with a label around its neck saying "Caution! Bessie may mooove unexpectedly".  Inside there was a shopful of cow memorabilia - never before have I seen a shop dedicated to cows!  I loved the humour of it.  And the ice cream indeed was wonderful! 

Bessie might mooove!

There were lovely shops, one had hundreds of wind chimes, I bought one.  Another had the most fabulous window display of homemade sweets/cakes looking too good to eat.  All around the streets were awash with the colours of the flowers.  We didn't have long there unfortunately, but it was nice to have a short visit to this lovely town.

In this part of Ontario there are lots of vineyards (we wondered how the vines actually survive the harsh Canadian winter, they must be special hardy species).  Our last stop on this trip was at the Pillitteri Winery for a wine tasting.  We had a very hurried lecture from a woman and had a tiny taste of white (nice) and  red (not so nice) wines.  It was all a whirlwind and a bit disappointing really, which was a shame as the winery has won awards. 

After that it was time to head back to Toronto after a very busy day in which we saw so much.  The trip had been reasonable in price too, definitely money well spent.  If you are heading to Toronto yourself and want to take some tours I'd recommend the company

That night, as we'd had a busy day and were tired we ate in our hotel.  We had a lovely meal and wine, the Novotel Centre is a great hotel for the price you pay.  Good location, reasonable price, lovely rooms, excellent service.  Relaxing in wiht our wine was a great way to end our last day in Canada.

September 4th

Me and a cuddly bear Mountie
Our last day, and as we were not flying until the early evening we used the time we had left to go to the C N Tower which was only a short walk from our hotel and right beside the Roger's Centre where we will be seeing U2 next year!  I'd visited the tower when I worked in Canada all those years ago - it hadn't been open all that long then!  And it is still an elegant landmark in the city.  It was cooler and very windy and because of that the outside observation platform was closed for safety reasons. 

It was expensive to go to the top of the tower and we had to queue for over an hour, but it does have fantastic views over the city and Lake Ontario so it's worth it.

And that was it really.  After that it was off to the airport for the trip back home.  We'd done so much on this trip, it was a fabulous experience on all fronts.  Canada was as wonderful as I remembered it and I kind of regret not re-visiting it sooner. But I'm making up for that by going there two years in a row now!  And I do really appreciate that I'm lucky enough to be able to do that. 

Saturday 25 September 2010

Canada 4 - Sky Train and a Bar with a View

September 2nd

Time to leave the cottage and Dianne and Dan.  They drove us to the railway station in Kitchener/Waterloo for our journey to Toronto.  It's always sad to say goodbye to friends, but I knew I'd be seeing them both again next year as we'd be back in Canada to see U2.

Considering the twin cities of Kitchener/Waterloo have a population of approximately 320,000 the railway station was tiny!  It was the size you would find in a very small town in the UK, but apparently train travel in Canada isn't a popular means of transport.  We were early so had a bit of time to wait, I noticed the timetable of trains running from this station - three trains heading west and three heading east per day.  Even with just six trains per day, ours was three quarters of an hour late!

The train was quite full, comfortable and, rather curiously, had blue sky and clouds painted onto the ceiling, The train took an hour and a half to cover the 60 miles to Toronto. 

We stepped out of Union Station into the hurly burly, skyscrapers and speed of city life, a bit of a shock after the peace of the cottage!  We knew our hotel, the Novotel Toronto Centre, was close to the station but decided to take a taxi anyway.  Luckily, even though it was only noon we were able to check into our room.  The hotel was lovely and our room modern and spacious. 

I contacted a friend of mine, Catherine, who lives in Toronto and she said she would meet us at the hotel later that afternoon.  In the meantime Glenys and I went to nearby St Lawrence's Market.  A market has been on this site since around 1820 - old for the New World.  It was a vibrant, bustling place, a mixture of stalls selling almost every food under the sun and other stalls selling all kinds of non-food merchandise.  A place of smells, noise, atmosphere.

View of Toronto from the Park Hyatt bar
Later we met up with Catherine and she took us on the subway to Yorkville, the posh area of the city.  And indeed it was a lovely area.  We went to the rooftop bar on the 18th floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel where we had a fantastic view of the city in all directions, definitely a bar with a view.  It was a pricey bar though, the wine was $15 for a small glass - though I must say it was a very good wine.  It was a very hot day again and there was no shade, but thankfully a few clouds covered the sun and the heat lessened a bit.  It is definitely worth a visit for the panorama of Toronto you get.  I'd love to go on a nightime one day, maybe next year!

Catherine was someone I got to know through our mutual U2 interest many years ago, but we'd never actually met until this day.  She was much as I expected, out-going, chatty, funny and good company.  It was really lovely to hook up with her after all this time and I hope we'll get together again next year.

We headed back to the hotel on the subway, said our goodbyes to Catherine and went back to our room for a while.  We were tired and couldn't be bothered to look far for a place to eat, so we went to the handiest, The Old Spaghetti Factory opposite the hotel.  It was what I'd call cheap and cheerful, full of Tiffany lamps, carousels and streetcars - we got a table in the latter.  The meal was good value, (Glenys noted that our three course meal for two with a glass of wine was the same price as the bill for the three glasses of wine at the Park Hyatt earlier LOL!) and okay for the price.  Then it was back across the road to our room and an early night - we had a long and busy day ahead of us tomorrow.

Friday 24 September 2010

U2 360 Brussels - Bad is Back!

Another interruption to my Canada write up by way of U2!  Below you'll find the stunning version of Bad they performed last night in Brussels.   Of course I wasn't there, but it feels like it was one of those special U2 moments you sometimes get at their gigs. The crowd were so into it even singing the song in the opening chords, so, so good to see this song re-appear in the set of the 360 Tour.  I just love how the band is approaching this leg of the tour, they seem to have found a whole new level in their lives shows and are proving they still have the balls to take risks.  Anyway, enjoy!

Sunday 19 September 2010

Canada 3 - The Tooth of Time and Rocky the Raccoon

We had another easy going morning of sitting outside our cottage soaking in the sun and view. I went for a walk through the cedar woods to the river, I really enjoyed the peace and beauty of the place. There is a beaver's dam on the river, I watched for a while from a distance, but the animals remained well hidden.

At noon we headed out to Elora, a small, pretty town about half an hour's drive from the cottages.  It was our last full day with Dianne and Dan and Glenys and I took them for a thank you lunch at the place of their choice.  We went to Shepherds, an Irish pub.  It was quite authentic inside, and the food (I had fish and chips) was delicious.  

The Tooth of Time and waterfall at Elora Gorge
(Photo by Glenys Newcombe)
After our meal we walked the short distance to the Elora Gorge.  Here the Grand River falls 25 feet into the Gorge.  Between the waterfall lies a small, angular rock islet known at the Tooth of Time (sometimes the falls are also known by this name) that just seems to hang precariously.  In fact it has been shored up a little to prevent it being swept away by the constant power of the water.  We had tea at The Mill right beside the waterfall  - we could hardly hear ourselves talk for the roar of the water.  We watched a group of six ducks swimming in the rapids, defying the swirling water and currents, nature is amazing. 
It was an extremely hot and humid day (temperatures were above normal for the time of year) and I was wilting - trying to stay out of the direct sunshine.  I love warm weather, but find it hard to deal with it when it is very hot.  Luckily we next went shopping and everywhere is air-conditioned.  Elora seems to have a strong artistic community as there were lots of interesting and unusual shops, often selling original works of art and merchandise, so there was plenty to browse round.

We left Elora and drove to another small town called Drayton to visit June, Dianne's sister-in-law who had invited us round for drinks.  Her home was a beautiful, large brick built home, fabulously decorated inside in a Victorian style with lots of her husband David's lovely handmade stained glass.  We sat  in a covered outside porch and had orange juice, what a lovely place to live!

June came back with us to the cottages.  Glenys and I did our packing before joining the others for a light meal of crackers, cheese and tuna followed by a delicious Dutch apple pie.  Again we had a lovely evening chatting as the night fell. 

At one point there was a loud rustling by one of the bird tables, Dianne shone a torch in the direction of the noise and there was a raccoon holding onto the bird table with its front feet and anchored to the nearby tree with it's hind legs.  Rocky (as Glenys christened him) seemed unperturbed by the light being shone at him or our close presence and he continued to eat from the table.  Glenys and I were entranced, we had never seen a raccoon in the wild before and here was one just a few yards from us!  Rocky stayed around for about 20 minutes, munching happily on yesterdays leftovers, though he did leave the butternut squash!  

It was the perfect way to end our time at the cottages, it was like he was saying goodbye to us, and indeed Dianne and Dan who had another week at the cottage said they didn't see him again in that time.

Rocky the Raccoon (Photo by Glenys Newcombe)
I felt sad as we walked the short distance from one cottage to the other our way illuminated by torchlight.  We lit the oil lamps for the last time and chilled for a while before retiring to bed.  A place like this is not for everyone, but I (and Glenys too) had found it all a bit of an adventure, it was quite nice not having TV, the Internet, watching the time, or the noise of our modern world.  I coped fine with no electricity or running water, though I did miss a "proper" toilet a bit.  I enjoyed drawing water from the well, showering in the cute outdoor shower with apples on the roof.  It was good just to slow down and kind of be part of, or at least almost live alongside nature.  It's an experience I will never forget, and I'd like to thank Dianne and Dan for inviting us. 

Monday 13 September 2010

Mercy Me!

Must butt into my Canada holiday write up to update on some U2 tour news.  Earlier in the week I was delighted to hear that U2 had been rehearsing Mercy.  I have loved this song from the first moment I heard it, it's a true U2 song, no one else could have written, played or sung it.  It was dark and raw and fabulous.  Then last night in Zurich they played it live for the first time.  I've watched it on Youtube and, though it was not as raw and dark, it was still amazing.  Some of the lyrics were changed, and forgotten by Bono. "You're gravity, searching for the sound"...(quickly notices mistake)..."ground" LOL.  

Personally I prefer the original purely for it's menace and rawness, but for a first performance this was pretty good!  Mercy has long been a favourite of U2 fans, seems like the band have finally listened to us and put this song where it deserves to be.   I'm so proud of the band for being brave enough to do things like this, they can be control freaks, but they are really experimenting on this tour, keep up the good work lads.