Thursday 31 May 2012

Bono Talking About his Dad's Last Days

This recently surfaced on the internet and features a telephone interview with Bono about his father's final days in hospital in 2001. It is very touching, yet also funny at times, with Bono showing his humanity, being very open and profound about things such as dignity when dying and his relationship with his dad. The interview is brought to life with fantastic, creative artwork called video-scribing, very clever. The interview finishes absolutely perfectly with Kite. Lovely.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Bono Meets the Queen

Amazing the places yer man turns up! He was amongst various luminaries present at a reception at London's Royal Academy of Art yesterday held to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and to give awards to students.  He spoke of how much the Queen's visit to Ireland last year meant to people there.
"I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge the extraordinary magic that you made on your trip to Ireland last year."

He joked: "And the Queen spoke Gaelic. I can't even speak Gaelic."

My favourite part was when the Queen did her meet and greet bit at the end where Bono repeated what he had
previously said about he visit but added:

"Did you have fun at all or was it all work?" 

You've got to love him, I'm sure no one else has asked the Queen that Unfortunately you could hear her reply.  

Below is a video of the meeting.

You can also read articles about it in the Daily Telegraph  and Belfast Telegraph 

Tuesday 22 May 2012

New U2 Music?

A couple of short clips of U2 songs have appeared on the Net today. It is definitely U2 though of course we have no idea when they were recorded, but they are clips that haven't surfaced before.  They are raw and full of Bongolese, but you know, I like them!  Maybe this is what they were working on in Dublin in February?

Thursday 17 May 2012

Dublin 3 - More Theatre, Champagne and The Fabulous Tea Room

May 8th

Samuel Beckett Bridge Under a Moody Sky
One of those blustery days with that fine rain that wets you more than you realise.  We got the Luas to Mayor Square - once we got past the Busaras stop I was astounded by the new buildings both residential and retail that had replaced the previously run-down area.  We walked over the elegant and rather beautiful harp-shaped Samuel Beckett Bridge and down the road to Hanover Quay.  The quay was not much different from last time we were there a couple of years ago, partly full of new buildings, partly undeveloped, there were a lot of "To Let" signs around even on the most derelict buildings. Previously each time we visited there were vast changes but the eastern end is barely developed and there's just a big hole where the now cancelled U2 Tower was going to be built. It felt strange, the Celtic Tiger had come to a stop here, literally butting up against the sturdy stone buildings from the past.

Nothing was going on at Hanover Quay so we got some tea in the Spar shop and sat on the seats beside Grand Canal Dock and ate the sandwiches we had brought with us. The rain had eased and it wasn't cold so it was quite pleasant sitting there watching the seagulls taking their afternoon bath in the water.

The Gaiety Theatre 
We went home and made a meal for ourselves before heading out again - this time to the Gaiety Theatre to see a play called Greener by Fiona Looney.  I love this theatre, built in 1871 it is  gloriously old-fashioned with a stucco embellished Victorian  auditorium in gold, turquoise and white with a huge central ceiling rose from which hung a fabulous candelabra.  We were in the front row of the dress circle, which you reach by a lovely wide wooden staircase.  On the landing there is a fake grass settee which was quite funny and totally out of place! Our seats were excellent, around the back of the dress circle were boxes and "The Gods" tier was above us.  It isn't a large theatre and it has a snug cosiness and a sense of the past about it.

The play was good, it starred Pauline McLynn (Mrs Doyle from Father Ted) as the unhappy Noirin and is about two couples, a lottery win and secrets, it is played out on a set of their dual kitchens. Above are two screens where every now and then text messages appear, from the start you realise something is going because of the nature of the texts but it is not until well into the play you realise two of the characters are having an affair.  The play was funny, with some serious stuff, though I feel that the characters could have had more depth to them. The lottery win brings the chance of freedom, both financial and personal for Noirin, but the grass is not greener on the other side and happiness does not necessarily come with what you think you want.

The theme of marital discontentment ran through both plays we saw in Dublin, I feel that A Galway Girl was the better of the two, it was more emotive and the characters beautifully formed both in word and the acting.

We walked down Grafton Street towards the Luas, some people were still performing there.  Once home we opened a bottle of wine and got out the cheese and snacks - a perfect way to end the day!

May 9th

A really shite day weather-wise, as we have been busy since we came to Dublin we decided to have one of our mega-lazy days.  So we chilled out watching TV and chatting and I strained myself and had a wander to the local shops.  That evening we ate in having lovely tortellini and later popped the cork on our bottle of vintage Veuve Clicquot and savoured every drop!

May 10th

Our last day in Dublin, how fast the week has gone by!  We had a bit of a lie in as we had a late night and then went into the city for a while.

That evening we headed out quite early to The Clarence Hotel as we had a table booked in The Tea Room later and wanted to go to the bar first. When we arrived the General Manager Clinton Attwell greeted us and went into the Octagon Bar with us where we were given the choice of a cocktail on the house, how nice! We went for our mutual favourite, a cosmopolitan. The barman added the burnt orange peel and explained the rationale behind it as he did so.  After a short chat Clinton left us and we relaxed and enjoyed our cocktail, trying to sip it slowly as it is so moreish but also very strong!

At 8pm we went into The Tea Room which, amazingly, wasn't very busy, I don't know why because it is now very reasonable in price and serves fantastic food.  We sat down and a waiter came across with two glasses of champagne for us - on the house!  Debbi had told them in an email that it was the five year anniversary of the time we had stayed in the penthouse and Bono had bought us champagne and that had given us the taste for champers.  So it was so lovely that they did this for us, the service and attentiveness at the Clarence is second to none. The champagne glass had a strawberry on the rim and each time we took a sip we also caught the gorgeous summer aroma of the strawberry.

Champagne Slainte!
We had duck spring rolls to start and they were wonderful four large, succulent!  We both had the ribeye steak for the main, this was accompanied by fries and we asked for an extra portion of mash as we both love it.  The waiter asked if we wanted the mash instead of one of the portions of fries but we said we wanted it in addition to them.  When the main came we saw why, the portions of fries were enormous, and they were so lovely and crisp, I'm not the biggest fan of fries (I prefer proper chunky chips) as they usually end up soggy but these were delish.  The steak was very, very tender and I must say, though the one I had a Marco Pierre White's restaurant was good this one was better.

We had to have a break for a while before dessert but eventually Deb ordered a crème brulee (her fave) and I got a lemon tart with chocolate ice cream - had to have my chocolate fix. Again it was delicious, the lemon tart melted in the mouth and the chocolate ice cream was, well, very lusciously chocolatey!

We got our bill and noticed that the desserts were not on it, Debbi called over the waiter who said that the desserts were on the house also, my we were being spoiled, how lovely of them!  It all made it a very special evening for us, thank you Clinton and the Clarence!

May 11th

All packed and ready to go.  Pat came to the apartment at 10am and we swapped the keys for our security deposit and went to a cafe called The Third Space directly under the apartment complex for our breakfast before heading to the airport.  It turned out to be a very good choice, we had two Irish breakfasts of egg (tasty free range), sausage, bacon, tomato, black pudding, white pudding (which consists of pork meat and fat, suet, bread and oatmeal, it tastes nicer than it sounds and is a bit like haggis) with toast and two teas for E10, a bargain.

It was wonderful to spend a whole week in Dublin, we had time to do everything we wanted and immerse ourselves in the city once more. Next destination, Nice later this year!

Monday 14 May 2012

Dublin 2 - A Horse Fair, Dolphins and All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go!

May 6th

The Horse Market at Smithfield
I was woken up by the sounded of the clip-clopping of horseshoes, it turned out a horse fair was taking place at Smithfield.  The fair happens on the first Sunday of every month and has been doing so for around 400 years. The horse market is controversial due to accusations of cruelty and occasional violence between the traders and authorities have been trying to close or move it for a few years.  As we watched from our balcony we noticed there was a police presence and a large area was barricaded off where the traders looked at and tested out the horses and we saw nothing untoward whilst we watched.

Today we decided to do something we hadn't done for a few years, spend a few hours mooching around our favourite areas of South County Dublin.  We took the Luas to Connolly Station and then changed to the DART and headed out to Killiney.  The trip on the train is a wonderful journey as it runs along the scenic coast of Dublin and Killiney Bays.  I never tire of the view of Killiney Bay as the train emerges from the tunnel under Dalkey Hill, it is stunning.

Killiney Bay
It was a blustery, showery day as we walked the short distance from the station to the beach, but it is a fabulous place whatever the weather.  The tide was in, and we walked along the beach which only had a handful of other people on it.  Suddenly I noticed black fins in the water off-shore - it was a small school of dolphins frolicking in the sea.  I'd heard that dolphins now frequent this area but never expected to see them!

After our walk we got the DART and went one station north and got off at Dalkey. We went to The Queens pub for a late lunch.  It was very full, we found one table, but soon were surrounded by a horde of "merry" young men watching the football on the TV nearby (I seem to be getting plagued by loud alcohol-fuelled men on this trip!)  Luckily there was now space at the other end of the pub and we moved there.  We had a delicious lunch for a very reasonable price washed down with Irish red lemonade.

Declan and Me
We intended to have a browse in The Exchange Bookshop on the main street, but were sad to see it had closed just a month earlier.  What a shame, it was a great place to potter around in.  After this we headed back home.

That evening, our friend Declan came round to our apartment, we hadn't seen him for a while so there was a lot of catching up to do.  We had a lovely evening, I'm so pleased that we had managed to meet up with all our Dublin friends on this trip.

After he left Debbi and I had a few more bevvies, just for a change .

May 7th

At lunch time we went to Bewleys Cafe Theatre.  For E8 you get soup, soda bread and a drink and see a play lasting 50 minutes, excellent value.  We have been many times and have always really enjoyed the play. The Cafe Theatre is a medium sized room above the floors of the cafe,  filled with tables and chairs with the small stage set on a dais in one corner.  The huge windows are covered with thick, red velvet curtains.

We got our soup, soda bread and water and found a table from which we had a good view.  The play we were seeing was A Galway Girl by Geraldine Aron starring Joe Hanley and Clare Barrett. It depicts a marriage from the start to the death one one partner.  Beautifully acted, Maisie and Dermot saw their different dreams gradually drift away as the years passed by.  Ending up living separate lives of quiet desperation in the same house until death did them part.  Very moving and at times very funny,  so typically Irish.  I love the intimacy of this theatre, I've seen plays here for a very long time and have never been disappointed, if you are in Dublin go there, you won't be disappointed - lunch and theatre for E8 to E12 (depending on which day you go) that's what I call good value.

We went back to our apartment and later got dressed up for our meal out at one of our favourite restaurants The Town Bar and Grill.  It was a windy, very wet night and we took a taxi there, paid and were left on the pavement looking at a padlock on the door of the dark restaurant!  There we were, all dressed up and nowhere to go being buffeted by the wind and rain.  We had to find somewhere else to eat.  The nearest place was Buswell's Hotel, we stumbled in hungry and windswept, but their restaurant was closed too!  We checked out the menu in the very quiet bar but we wanted fine dining and a place with a bit more life.  Debbi  told the barman what had happened and asked if he could recommend another similar restaurant nearby and he suggested Marco Pierre White's Restaurant.  He was such a wonderful, helpful man that he even offered to ring the restaurant and book us a table, how lovely of him!  Then he took us to the door and showed us where to go and indeed, it was close by.
Us in Marco Pierre White's Restaurant

It was almost full and had a good atmosphere, the decor mainly brown and cream with a row of black and white photos of celebrities from all eras around the room.  The waiting staff were  pleasant and informal and the food was good.  We both had goats cheese and beetroot to start, it was a large portion and gorgeous.  I had ribeye steak which was very tender, accompanied by chips.  Deb had her favourite meat, lamb which she said was also very good.  I'm certainly not a fan of Marco Pierre White, but his restaurant in Dublin is excellent. So the night was saved for us by the barman at Buswell's Hotel, thank you!

I emailed the Town Bar and Grill and they apologised and said they had sent me an email saying they would be closed that night but I never received it, it must be floating up with the Northern Lights in cyberspace or something.  They offered free cocktails next time we visit Which made up a little for our inconvenience and disappointment.

Saturday 12 May 2012

Dublin 1 - Luxury Apartment, Fab Dublin and Multi-National Dinner

May 4th

The train to Manchester Airport rolled into Carlisle station, but there was no coach A where my seat reservation was. I approached a member of staff and said my coach was not on the train and he looked at me and said.

"Yes it is, in the second half," smiling at my puzzled look he continued, "Half of the train comes from Glasgow and half from Edinburgh, the other half will be here in a few minutes."

Debbi Pointing out our Apartment Four
Windows Above her Finger!
Sure enough the second half soon arrived complete with coach A shortly afterwards.  In the coach there was a party of eight very drunk Scotsmen.  I moved as far away from them as I could, and though they were not nasty, they were very loud throughout the trip .... lovely, not!

I met up with Debbi at the airport, we were both very excited about the trip as it has been a few years since we've spent a whole week in Dublin.  The flight was smooth and we took a taxi to our apartment in Smithfield.  The landlord, Pat, met us there and if there was a human equivalent of a leprechaun he was one. Small and rotund, with a smiling face, bright, sparkly eyes and a pleasant and humourous demeanour, you couldn't help but like him.

We paid him got the keys and explored our home for the week.  It was a generously-sized two bedroomed luxury apartment, with good quality, modern decor, we were chuffed to each have our own bathroom!  There was a large balcony that looked out over Smithfield, (in Irish Margadh na Feirme, meaning "Farm Market.") It was originally set up as a market place in the 17th century.  In the late 1990's the area was renovated, which included relaying the original cobblestones and erecting 26 metre gas lamps and floodlights on the ground  that reflect in the huge shades on the lower portions of the masts.  I remember I found the flames and lights impressive when I was at Smithfield for U2's Freedom of the City ceremony in 2000.
Smithfield, Dublin from our Balcony

The chimney of the famous old Jamieson Distillery was almost opposite our apartment.  As we were on the fifth floor we had a wonderful view over the rooftops of Dublin, even in this day and age it was dominated by the spires and towers of many churches.  To the right were the spires of St Patrick's and Christchurch cathedrals , close by was the tower of St Michan's that has the fossilised bodies in it's crypt (well worth a visit). Plus lots of other churches I could not name.  Also, very close by, was the dome of the Four Courts.  Our side of Smithfield was mainly apartments whilst on the other side were court buildings and a hostel.  At the north end was a derelict area that encompassed the Cobblestone pub which Pat told us was the kind of place you wiped your feet coming out not going in! But he did say they have some good traditional music there some nights.

We went shopping at a supermarket at the top of Smithfield on our side.  I noticed that almost all the retail units underneath the apartments were closed, we saw lots of evidence that the Celtic Tiger has come to a shuddering halt in the recession during our stay.  Also I remember a few years ago there were so many cranes dominating the skyline, from our vantage point in the apartment we could now see only one.

That night we made our own meal and just relaxed over some wine, happy to be back in Dublin.

May 5th

Sand Sculpture on Grafton Street
We were greeted by sunshine this morning.  We walked the short distance to the River Liffey and crossed over a bridge and walked through Temple Bar, we were hoping to go to a food market, but it had turned into a book market!  We walked on to Grafton Street which was as eclectic as ever.  We passed an Irish harpist, a jazz group, someone making beautiful sand sculptures, another balancing glass spheres and numerous others.  We had coffee and cake in iconic Bewley's, it's ages since we went in the cafe there and it was as lively and snug as ever and has the best coffee in the city!

We walked back home via O'Connell Street and Henry Street, we passed a sign for the Leprechaun Museum, must have a look at it sometime, wonder if Pat hangs out there?

Beautiful Ironwork on the Fruit, Vegetable
And Flower Market Building, Dublin
We passed by the Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Market, an old building with beautiful carvings of various fruits and vegetables on the stonework. The whole area was a little derelict but had a real atmosphere and sense of age, people from Dublin's past would still recognise it I'm sure, I liked it, I always love a place that has a sense of history about it.

That evening we caught the Luas tram and then the DART train south to Dun Laoghaire to have a meal at our friends' house.
It turned out to be a multi-national dinner, there were the hosts Ken (English) and Elizabeth (Irish), Claudia, a yoga instructor from Argentina, Breda from Ireland, Fred, an animator for Windmill Lane and his partner Eve both from France and Debbi and I from England!  They were all lovely people and, with the exception of Deb and I, got to know each other at a dog walking club that meets in the local park.

As usual Ken and Elizabeth were fabulous hosts and we had a great meal and plenty of alcohol!  The conversation and company was good and we had lots of laughs.

Yesterdays newspapers
On our way back to the DART station we passed a newsagents that prided itself on selling yesterdays newspapers, for up to five or six days, mmm, only in Ireland.  We passed the Town Hall looking very pretty all lit up with multicoloured lights.  I love Dun Laoghaire, the seafront has changed a lot over the years, for the better I must say, but the main part is much the same as when I first visited well over twenty years ago - wow how time flies!

Once home we had a little more wine and relaxed and chatted until the early hours, good times!

Dun Laoghaire's Colourful Town Hall at Night