Friday 30 August 2013

Seamus Heaney RIP

Bono has paid tribute on to Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who died today at the age of 74. As usual Bono's tribute is very moving and true.  Here's what he said:

'Seamus was a great, great poet. I know people throw around this phrase a lot, but his poem From the Republic of Conscience, literally changed my life.  As an activist he was the quietest storm that ever blew into town. In fact, in so many things he was a gentle genius, whose words challenged us with the grit and beauty of life as much as they gave us solace.  He wrote with a brevity that strangely spilled to the brim. 

'We all envied how he made that most complicated of things, the balancing of work and family, appear so simple.  In Marie he found his other whole. And it is a joy to be around his kids... Michael, Chris and Catherine Ann.  They have all of his humility in their sharpness.

'I take his poems with me wherever I go.  I was in Liberia just a few days ago and I gave his collection 'Electric Light' to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose entire country is in darkness.  She knew exactly who he was and immediately started reading the poems while standing beside me.  A few days after that I gave another collection 'Seeing Things' to President John Mahama of Ghana, whose vision of his country is everything... 

'I am bewildered to think Seamus is no longer with us. Because his words will be around forever, it seemed so would he.'

You can also read an obituary Obituary: Seamus Heaney

Saturday 24 August 2013

What a Show, What a Night, What a Zooropa! - Memories of the Tour

I've been reminiscing a lot over the past couple of weeks as it has been 20 years since Zooropa, arguably U2's best tour, and certainly a tour that has a special place in the hearts of many long-time fans such as myself.

For me it was the tour where I saw the most shows - we saw them in Glasgow, London, Cardiff, Leeds, Dublin and even one in Germany.  And in some of those places we saw more than one show too. Ticket prices were so much more reasonable so we went to as many gigs as we could afford.

A large group of us fans - "the girls" - would meet up and there was a wonderful camaraderie, a sense of belonging and also a mutual craziness!  And yes, I have to admit we were quite obsessional in those days. We all came from different parts of the country and abroad, united by our love of U2.

Looking back I don't know how I managed all the travelling about - I can remember coming back home to do one night shift and then, without sleeping, set off to the next venue, couldn't do that now. Those were the days when we would queue from lunch time and run like hell when the gates opened to get to the front. Once hogging that much cherished place it was impossible to get out again so it was a test of endurance for our bladders! Our first port of call after the show would be the toilets then getting something to eat and drink. Madness yes, but it was also fun.

It was also an exciting time on many fronts. Zooropa was a dazzling spectacle, their first big production that bombarded the senses. This, along with the the fantastic new music from the albums Achtung Baby and Zooropa as well as their older back catalogue made to make this tour a most amazing and innovative experience in every sense.

Something that made it more exciting for me was that in those days I edited a U2 fanzine called Eirinn - no such thing as all singing and dancing U2 websites in those days! Fanzines were true labours of fandom, they took a lot of time and work to produce. U2 recognised this and were generous to fanzine editors in those days, they gave us photo and hospitality passes and two free tickets to one gig. I used my passes for Zooropa at their Leeds show and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! There weren't many people photo shoot and we had a great position, stood on a high step (that someone hand to help me up onto) right in front of the stage, we were actually leaning on the stage.  I've had other passes, but this one was by far the best position.  When the band came on the power that exploded from the audience behind us was spine-tingling. I had to remember to take photos during those first three songs that we were allowed to photograph, I got so caught up in it all, it was special to be so close, almost part of the show.  Bono gave us a little wave (we had met him a few times so he knew our faces) and my friend Jane got a kiss.  An amazing experience.

It was also a time when we got to meet all the band members after a lot of the shows, they were always patient and friendly with the fans. At Wembley for some reason Bono came out carrying a sunflower lol and I got the photo I've included here.

There have been other wonderful U2 tours and times since Zooropa, but it had just that something extra. U2 were at their creative best, we were able to see lots of shows, we were a great group of liked-minded friends that knocked around together, where ever we went we saw familiar faces.

Now U2 are still making albums after 37 years as a band, which is special in itself.  But though their music is still good, they are not as creative and innovative as they were, maybe that is an inevitable part of getting older, I don't know.

Bono, Leeds, August 1993
I am lucky enough to still be good friends with a couple of the girls (Debbi and Dianne) I was with those 20 years ago, we have a lot in common beyond U2 and our friendship has continued and prospered over the intervening years. Others from "the girls" have drifted off completely or I just see occasionally during tours, some I still have contact with via social media, one has even sadly passed away. I kind of miss the fun we had as a big group on that tour, the camaraderie, the sheer madness of it all, the crazy spontaneity of those days.

Zooropa was one of those special moments in time, but everything changes and moves on,. I'm so glad I'm an avid diary writer and have recorded those times in great detail, think I'll re-read the Zooropa weeks and re-live it as best I can!

There probably will be another U2 tour in 2014 and Debbi, Dianne and I have already said we intend to make the most of it. Not being morbid, but we know it could be our last tour, we are all getting older - same goes for the band who are all into their 50's now. We'll never get the glory days of Zooropa back, but then again we like our comforts nowadays lol! But I know we will still have a great time and have fun and new experiences and I'm looking forward to it already.  If anyone would like to read more detail about my Zooropa days you can find my posts about it in my blog dedicated to U2, Luminous Times

Monday 19 August 2013

Autumn is in the Air

There's a definite nip in the air at night, the first leaves are turning and the nights are certainly drawing in. I don't like winter, it's not so much the cold, but the short days and long nights that gets to me.  But we have had a wonderful summer and somehow winter's not so bad  when you've stocked up on the sunshine and vitamin d!

Mind you, my winter isn't going to be too dismal. In October I'm having a belated 60th birthday celebration in Dublin, can't wait to get back to my favourite city for a whole week! Then I'll be back there again to see in the New Year, and then on the 3rd of January we'll fly up to Iceland for a few days. So lots to look forward to. And I've a feeling in 2014 there'll be lots more travel!

Sunday 4 August 2013

Gardens, a New Canine Family Member and a Dachshund Meet-Up

I've been busy these last few weeks, I think because out lovely warm and sunny summer continues everyone is doing so much more outdoors.  Last weekend I met up with my friend Alison and we went to Hutton in the Forest about 15 miles south of Carlisle.  The oldest part of the castellated house is the pele tower that was built around 1350. Pele towers are fortified houses to protect the wealthy owners from the violent cross-border skirmishes that were frequent in the south of Scotland and very north of England hundreds of years ago, many still survive today. Over the centuries the building was gradually added to by its inhabitants until it became a sizable property. It is also known for it's lovely gardens.

There was no one in the booth where you bought tickets so we entered the grounds and paid the fee via the honesty box. It's nice to be trusted! We only wanted to wander around the gardens so we just paid for that. We walked round the house and into the walled garden. It was separated into four areas by hedges. There was a beautiful rose garden, full of gorgeous old-fashioned tea roses. The flowers were just past their best, they were probably at their most glorious two to three weeks ago, still, they were lovely.

The general theme was of an English country cottage garden, full of flowers that looked very natural and not "designed", not formal. I loved it, and something about walled gardens makes it feel very, very old too. We were the only people there and it was very relaxing and peaceful.

There were some sculpted topiary works, and some more formal beds outside the walled garden. And there was a lake further away which wasn't impressive, but apparently it is all being renovated at the moment, it should look better then.

Ellie and Pepsi
All in all it was a simple but enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Both Alison and I love visiting places like this so we really had a good time.

A bit of news I have is that I have a member of the family! I fostered a daxie cross dog called Ellie for a week, then she went to new owners, only to come back two days later because she pulled on the lead! Have they not heard of training?? Poor dog.  I had fallen for her before she ever went to be honest and after having her back for a couple of days decided to officially adopt her. So now, she's mine! The boys are fine with her now, they were horrible to her at first! But now they have accepted her, Max ignores her and Pepsi is starting to interact with her which is nice. She's very sweet and gentle, quiet, bright and quite obedient. She's aged two to three and has had a difficult life so far, she's one of the Irish dogs, saved from certain death, then into fostering. But now she's landed on her feet and I'll give her a happy life, and she's already giving me lots of love.

A Tangle of Daxies
Finally, yesterday I drove down to Kendal to a daxie meet up of members of Facebook's Dachshunds of Cumbria and the North.  We met up near the river and went for a walk along it's banks.  There were long-hairs, two wires, one double dapple, one half sausage (Ellie!) and one laid back spaniel. They all got on very well, and their owners were lovely, so nice to meet up with the people I knew only by name and to see their gorgeous dogs in real life.  We created a bit of a sensation as we walked along with our sausages, you don't see a lot of them anyways and to see seven at once caught people's attention.  They are funny little dogs, and it always amazes me how many varieties of colour and coat there is within the breed. We had fun - and good weather - and I'm sure will be doing it again!