Sunday 28 August 2011

Autumn in the Air

Pepsi (what camoflage!) and Max
I've had a good weekend. Yesterday I went brambling again and got loads, but boy you have to suffer for collecting them!  In the first place I had to battle through knee high grass and weeds to get to the bushes resulting in trousers soaked up to the knee.  At the next picking spot I has to wrestle through nettles and thorny branches resulting in scratched hands that stung for the rest of the day!  And finally, the lovely weather quickly changed, with a few thunderclaps and I got rained on, so pretty much all of me, not just my lower legs, was wet by time I got back to my car.  Once home I got busy right away and got ten jars of bramble jam out of my travails so it was worth it.

Pretty, but deadly
There is definitely a touch of autumn around now, there's an occasional nip in the air and the leaves are turning slowly but surely. The fireweed's pink is fading and  it's growing the feathery seed pod tufts ready to drift off to find a place to settle to hibernate for the winter before sprouting again in the spring. There were also lots of fungi and toadstools, some so pretty (but deadly) you almost expected a pixie to be sitting on them!  I always used to hate this time of year because it heralded the winter, which is my least favourite season, but now I appreciate the beauty of it.

Today was cool and I went into town with Pepsi to meet up with a friend and go to the Continental Market.  I parked in Portland Square and walked through the Victorian garden in the middle of the square.  The flower beds there were beautiful.  We may moan at Carlisle City Council at times but they really have fabulous parks and the baskets/troughs around Hardwicke Circus are especially beautiful and always are every year.

At the market I always like to have a proper German charcoal grilled bratwurst, it definitely is the real thing, yum yum!  There were some very interesting stalls but I resisted buying anything as I'm on another "austerity drive."  I lost count of the people that stopped me to ask about/touch Pepsi, "What kind of dog is that?", "Is it a Dandy Dinmont?", "I've got a long haired at home, they are lovely dogs but very stubborn" (so true!!)  "He's very sweet natured,",  "Ooooh doggie doggie",  "He's so gorgeous".......  I must admit he does have a lot of the cute factor and just can't resist a tickle LOL.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Summer Days

Had lovely day today.  Firstly I went out with the boys to High Stand, a small forest just outside of the city.  We had a relaxing walk there, Pepsi seemingly aiming for the middle of the few muddy puddles there were whilst Max, like a male diva, tip-pawing around the edge of them.  We met a few other dog walkers, one spaniel was soaked from head to paw - obviously it had been having fun in one of the ponds!  It was one of those perfect late summer days, 21c (my ideal temperature), the birds singing, the gentle rustling of leaves, nature full and fertile with summer goodness and that kind of lazy stillness that hangs in the air on such days.

After that we went to a couple of places to pick brambles which I will be making jam with. But the brambles were late ripening and I didn't get very many, I'll have to go back in a week or two.  I remember that loads of people went brambling when I was young, if you found a place with an abundance of them you kept quiet about it.  Now I rarely see anyone else picking the fruit.  Shame really, the berries are delicious, very good for you and free.

Back in the city I popped in at a friends house and had a cuppa and chat.  On my way home it started to rain and the temperature fell to 17c, English weather!  It's never boring, that's for sure.  But it had been a good day, sometimes the simplest things are the best aren't they?

Tuesday 9 August 2011

London Riots

I stayed up until 4am watching TV this morning, unable to tear myself away from the unbelievable scenes unfolding in London.  Complete anarchy on the streets of our capital city, plus other smaller disturbances in Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and Nottingham.  Blazing buildings, criminal opportunism, robbing the injured, destroying peoples' livelihoods, endangering life, terrorising communities, seemingly coordinated via social networking.  Total idiots. All negative, inexcusable and depressing.

Photo: lawcol888
Then, this morning I hear about how the London communities have also used social networking to organise riot clean ups.  Ordinary, decent people arriving with brushes, bags and their time to work together to clean their streets and start healing the wounds on their city. Firms are donating equipment for the clean up and people are even using their lunch breaks to help out. Positive, heartening and hopeful.  Two sides of a city in 24 hours.

Photo: Joel Goodman/LNP
Who knows what will happen tonight, fingers crossed the worst is over.  Right is a photo of some residents making tea for the police on a riot shield taken last night in a street in north London that was being protected by the police.  Both photos sum  up the best of Britain really and that's the side that will prevail.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Achtung Baby Remaster

The Achtung Baby remaster has been confirmed for release on 31st October 2011.  There is some info on the formats, tracklisting  and extras here.  Sounds good, but I'm going to wait until the price comes down a bit!

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Canada Part 7 - Finale, Touring the Handsome City

13 July (The final instalment) 

I treated myself to room service breakfast this morning and what a wonderful feast it was, two eggs, 5 slices of bacon, a huge pile of hash browns, two slices of toast, various conserves, orange juice and, best of all, a pot of tasty tea with the tea bag in it!  My first proper tea of the trip and it was like nectar!  So I was well set up for the day.

I met up with Debbi and Julie in the foyer, and, sadly it was time for another goodbye, Debbi was leaving soon for the US.  We said our sad goodbyes when our tour bus arrived, now it was down to two of us for my last full day in Canada.

We were going on the Shop - Dine - Tour Toronto a hop on hop off trip.  It was another hot day though maybe marginally cooler than the previous few days.  We passed by the St Lawrence Market and on to the historic Distillery District which was founded in 1832 - and was the largest whisky distillery in the British Empire.  It also has the distinction of being the biggest collection of Victorian industrial buildings in North America and it certainly had a feel of the past - something you don't often get this side of the Atlantic.  The building have been renovated and now houses shops and entertainment centres.

We headed back to the centre of downtown Toronto through the financial district to the Eaton Centre where there was a break for ten minutes.  I noticed on the trip that many of the buildings had beautiful carved stonework and there were lovely vistas along many of the long straight roads.  I remember the Eaton Centre from when I lived in Canada many years ago.  Coming from a then small city with poor shopping (it's much better now) in the north of England this shopping mall was heaven for me!  Apparently the original Eaton's shop is now no more but this huge centre lives on.  Normally we would have got off the tour bus here and explored the shops but as this was our last full day our finances were somewhat depleted so we stayed on and avoided the temptation! 

We next drove through Yorkville which I remembered walking through with Catherine last year as we made our way to the lovely rooftop bar of the Park Hyatt Hotel nearby.  It was full of pretty, expensive, upscale shops and eateries.  We knew it was out of our league so didn't get off here LOL!

Casa Loma
We turned onto the interestingly named Avenue Road and on to leafy Forest Hill, one of the wealthiest areas of Toronto.  Our guide told us that everyone was obliged to have one tree in their front garden - to help it live up to its name I suppose.

Nearby is Casa Loma, a Gothic revival style house, complete with turrets, set on a small hill.  It was built between 1911 -14 and is set in five acres of garden and has 98 rooms.  Originally it was a private residence, then a luxury hotel and more recently was restored and now open to the public.  We got off here and went inside, the cost of looking around the house and gardens was quite a lot so we gave it a miss.  We sat by the fountains in the garden at the front of the house.  It's real fantasy house built for Sir Henry Pellatt who was only able to enjoy the house for ten years before he went bankrupt and had to give it all up.  He ended up living with his chauffeur in altogether more modest surroundings on Spandina Avenue.

We got back on the bus and the next stop was the Bata Shoe Museum.  It has over 13,000  shoes and related items celebrating 4,500 years of footwear housed in a cubistic, modern building that is supposed to represent a partially open shoe box, though I didn't see the latter when I looked at it.  I was very tempted to get out here as I have a shoe "thing" as far back as I can remember - my mum told me when I was very little and got new shoes I'd insist in going to bed wearing them!  However, time was passing so we gave it a miss.

We drove through the entertainment district and passed the Much Music HQ complete with a car exploding out of the wall.  We passed the Rogers Centre and CN Tower, we'd seen enough of them recently so stayed put.  Our guide told us that the land south of Front Street was all reclaimed.

The next stop was the Harbourfront Centre on the shores of Lake Ontario.  It was lovely there and our guide told us that the scenic beauty there was all down to our Queen Elizabeth.  She visited Toronto in the late 60's when there were lots of factories and dereliction there and remarked that it was a shame that more hadn't been made of what could be a potentially beautiful shoreline.  This spurred the city's leaders to tidy up and renovate the shoreline and now there is only one fasctory, making sugar, on the waterfront of Lake Ontario in the Toronto area and it is indeed gorgeous now.  I wonder if the Queen has ever been back to see the change her words started?

We got off the bus as this was where we would get our boat trip.  We had an hour to spare before the next boat went out so we went into the shopping mall nearby and bought some sandwiches and drinks and sat outside to eat them whilst watching life go by.

We got onto our boat the Mariposa Belle and stood on the upper deck to watch the scenery.  We chugged out into the calm waters of the lake, the breeze keeping us pleasantly cool.  We sailed past and round some of the Toronto Islands. 

These islands were originally a peninsula of sand extending out from the mainland.  However two violent storms in the mid 1800's caused pits in the sand to flood and completely breached the peninsula and along with the land reclamation on the Toronto shore caused the formation of the islands. 

There are 17 islands, most forested, and six have been left exclusively for wildlife and no humans are allowed on them. 
Toronto Waterfront
There are 250 permanent residents on the islands, also an amusement park and the exclusive Royal Canadian Yacht club.  There is also a lighthouse that is said to be haunted by a keeper who was murdered there. The views of the shoreline of Toronto from the lake were stunning, it really is a handsome city! 

Back on shore we got onto the next bus to our hotel which wasn't far away.  We'd been out for six hours!  If I'm ever in Toronto again I would take this tour once more as there are many places on its route that I would like to see.  Excellent value for money.

That evening we tried our hotel's "Summerlicious" dinner for $25.  I had a yummy cranberry, pecan and  goats cheese salad to start, chicken Kiev with garlic mash and endive for the main, and for dessert I had summer berries and cream. All washed down with the Novotel's delicious tea!

And that was it, our last full day in Toronto.  All in all it has been a fantastic holiday in so many ways, I love Canada.  I don't think I'll return to Montreal, but I have a feeling I'll see Toronto again.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

The Songs Have Been Sung, Goodbye 360

So U2's 360 Tour is over.  For me it's been a memorable three summers in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany and Canada.  Great times with friends, amazing sights seen, fab food eaten, copious amounts of wine and champagne drunk, lots of laughs had.  Shows that were all good, but a few that had that special U2 magic that touched me deep inside and  created an intimacy that made a stadium like a small club.

28 years of being a fan has seen all kinds of changes in my life, but the band's music has always been there, often in the background, but there.  My views on U2 have varied too, and sometimes I've been close to divorcing them!  They may or may not be past their glory days of musical creativity, but they are still a damn side better than most and have been for 34 years.  Bono has said, "Live is where we live."  And there is no doubt in my mind that is true.  Live, they are simply brilliant.  And I'm not talking about the massive Claw this time round, as lovely as the effects were, the set doesn't really matter to me. I'm talking about them as musicians, performers and friends.  There is something about them playing live that is totally captivating - and very hard to put into words because it's something you feel, a spirituality.  I'm not being very articulate here, but other fans will know what I mean, right?

Here's a video of the last song, 40, from the last show of this tour in Moncton, Canada.   I'm not ashamed to say it made me cry, and it was the perfect ending to the tour.  God willing (well both the band and long time fans like me are getting on a bit now!)  in a little while we'll be on the road again.