Thursday 10 December 2015

U2ie Tour, Glasgow - The Perfect Gig

6th November 2015

We had a break home for a week and then it was on the road again to Glasgow. I love seeing U2 in Glasgow because the crowds are always brilliant and it's a relatively short journey for me! Dianne, Debbi and I got a taxi from the station to the apartment where the owner was waiting for us. It was a lovely apartment that overlooked the River Clyde and was just a ten minute stroll from the Venue, The SSE Hydro. The owner of the apartment had left a welcome pack which included a bottle of Rose wine and a box of After Eights, never had that before and it was a really nice touch and much appreciated!

We got some shopping in and had pizza before setting out for the arena which was only a ten minute walk away. It was all lit up blue and green as we approached and looked quite impressive, though much smaller than the O2 in London. Our seats were very good and we had a great view of both stages and the walkway. The show was great, each time I see it I see new things, nothing in this show is done without a reason and it all gels together very well. Bono was quite chatty tonight, after he got a young girl on stage during Mysterious Ways he kissed her and said he was, "An old man sweating over a beautiful girl." He can be so funny.

My favourite parts are during Iris, it is so moving and personal and  when Bono tries to touch his mother in the old cine footage showing on the video screen only to have his hand go right through her, There is a lot of clever video footage such as when Bono holds a mini Edge in his hand. Raised By Wolves is stunning live, very powerful. Another favourite part is after the short interval when the band are all inside the screen and start playing Invisible becoming visible through the screen and then disappearing before the whole screen goes off and there they all are, I think some people think that the band are on video earlier in the song as there is always a big cheer when the screen goes dark and you see all the band. Over the years Bullet the Blue Sky is a song I'd heard enough of, but the version in this tour is amazing. Bono's rap is wonderful, and I love his passionate argument with his younger self during this. It has revitalised the song for me, I love how U2 often develop and rework their songs which brings out a whole new aspect of them. It is hard to describe this show really, you have to see it to truly appreciate it.

After the show we met up with our friend Dawn and her daughter Melanie and we all went back to our apartment for an after show party. We had a lovely time, discussing the show and having a laugh, it's so nice to do this after a gig.

7th November 2015

We had a long lie in after our late night and had a lazy time before heading to the stadium, it was a damp, cold day, or as the Scots would say, a dreich day. We had a meeting with Adam who was as charming as ever. A fan asked him if there would be any surprises at the show tonight and he said there might be, the fans said will you play 11 O'Clock Tick Tock, Adam laughed and said , "Now that would be a surprise!"

We had a meal at a place nearby called The Rotunda which housed a few restaurants, we chose to go to Yen which was an Oriental restaurant on the upper floor of the building. I had the sweet and sour chicken which was lovely, my friends enjoyed their meals too.

Our seats for this show were not as good as the previous night but they were still very good as The SSE Hydro is a small venue. This gig was electrifying, the crowd were very loud and enthusiastic and that energy seemed to inspire the band even more and that makes for a great show.  And I have to say this, for me, was the perfect U2ie Tour show. Bono added Love Will Tear Us Apart and Stars to the end of With Or Without You, for so many of us fans that is the best ending for that song. The end of the gig was just stunning, first came Bad, so cathartic, we all should let go of something from our lives and this song resonates so strongly with most people, it did me, tears were running down my face. At one point Bono collected about five different flags from the crowd and swung them in the air and singing, "Let it go...." he let the flags fly out of his hand, very powerful and symbolic. Then Edge and Adam changed places on the stage and I knew they were going to finish with 40. Oh my I was in gig heaven, one of my favourite songs that I hadn't heard live! It was an extended version and Bono methodically shone a spotlight on every section of the audience as they sang along, it was a true magical U2 moment, we were all one. Then Edge walked down the walkway in the spotlight and left the arena via the e-stage, then Adam, Larry did a drum solo then he too walked out the same way. Finally Bono put the spotlight down, shining straight up and left the arena too. The crowd went nuts, it was just spellbinding. Earlier Bono had said, "We'll never forget this." Well nor will we.

It's Wee Bit breezy!
We left the arena and went out into a damp and windy night, once more lost for words, I still felt
really emotional, all three of us just stood for a while saying nothing. Once more U2 has shown me they are the best live, no doubt at all.

When we got ourselves together a bit we walked home. Dianne went straight to bed as she had to be up at 6am as her plane home was leaving at 9am. Debbi and I stayed up and drank wine, ate nibbles and chatted, we were high on adrenalin. When Dianne came through to the living room at 6am Debbi and I were still up, how rock 'n' roll are we?! She wasn't that surprised, she knows us well. We saw her into the taxi outside, we had our PJs on and had put coats over, the taxi driver was a hoot, he said he liked our PJs especially my peach ones with white daisies. We hugged Dianne goodbye and the driver said, he wanted a hug too, so he got hugs from us, we must have looked funny there on a wet and windy Glasgow street in our vivid PJs! After that Debbi and I decided to get some sleep, luckily we had a late check out.

So that was leg two of our U2ie Tour over, and what a way to end it. Next leg, Dublin!

Saturday 28 November 2015

U2ie Tour London, Part Three - A Crisis, a Kiss and Gig Heaven

29th October

Our last full day in London and our last U2 show in London. We still had to complete our Mission to give Bono a copy of our book and decided to go into the city to try to catch him at the hotel where many fans were waiting and had meetings. However I received a phone call about a matter that I had to deal with quickly so I said to Debbi to head into the city at the time we planned and I would follow on when I'd sorted out the matter. Before I had time to get into the city centre after sorting out the problem I got a text that Debbi had completed the Mission, she'd given our draft of the book to Bono, apparently she arrived just as he was leaving perfect timing! I was pleased that she had handed over the book and got a meeting with Bono, but was a bit sad for myself at missing out on that, through no fault of my own, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

After dosing myself up with cold medication again (still felt quite rough) I waited near the Greenwich North tube station for Debbi to return and while waiting met three friends who had just arrived and who we were going to meet again later in the day. When she got back Debbi was excited and happy and had lots to tell me.

Later a young man who we had met the day before (who had become a U2 fan by listening to his mother play their albums in the car as he was growing up) had a word with us and said that there were limos lined up at Greenwich Pier which is about half way between the O2 and our apartment. There had been a rumour going round that the band were arriving by boat so it made sense, we went round. Not far from the pier we came across a throng of screaming teenage girls! Surely they weren't there for U2? Debbi asked one of the women standing at the back who the kids were there for and she said The Vamps and rolled her eyes. We battled through the over-excited hoard and into the welcome peace of the Olympian Way which runs parallel with the River Thames.

Bono and Me
Sure enough there were three cars waiting there. There were only four other women and us three waiting there which was surprising, but good. After about ten minutes a small cabin cruiser came round the bend of the river and docked at the pier. It was about five minutes before anyone got off, but sure enough we quickly recognised all four of U2 walking up the pier. Larry went straight into one of the cars but the other three came over to us right away. First Edge and Adam and then Bono, they all looked well though Edge seemed a bit tired. I gave Bono my gig ticket to sign, I had nothing else, he signed it and, as he always does, looked up at who he was signing for. Immediately there was recognition in his eyes and he smiled and said, "Aww hello" and came forward and gave me a big hug and kiss. I have met him many times over the years, but the last time was six years ago and I couldn't believe he recognised me after all that time. I must admit my knees went a little lol and he smelled lovely! Debbi also got a kiss and autograph, Bono asked in surprise how she got here (remembering the meeting in the city centre) and she said the Tube (considering it was three hours later not an amazing feat, think he'd lost track of time.) While Bono was busy with other fans I got Edge's autograph but missed Adam. The young man asked Bono for a selfie and he got a great photo. Bono was nearly ready to go but I asked if we could have quick photos too and he said, "Of course" and pulled me in close and rested his head on mine for the photo on which I have a daft grin on my face lol! Then it was Debbi's turn, however it took my camera phone a while to reset and Bono just moved away as I took the photo, so it wasn't a brilliant photo unfortunately. I've been a U2 fan for a long time and the band members are always so friendly and respectful to their fans and meeting them never seems to be a chore to them. Bono when you meet him is so different from that larger than life showman on stage, he's calm, very quietly spoken and polite and has the ability to make everyone feel important.

Everyone was very happy as we waved at the cars as they left for the short journey into the O2 itself. I had to smile to myself as the band would see that scary throng of screaming prepubescent girls to their left as they entered the O2 not knowing why they were there!

We were both very happy as we walked the short distance back to our apartment from the pier and had a drink and waited for our friend Marian to arrive, she was going to the show with us and staying over this one night. She arrived at about 5pm and we had a cup of tea and a good catch up before leaving to meet up with our other friends. We met in the Square Pie within the O2, it was cheap and ok, though the pie I got wasn't what I ordered but I couldn't be bothered to complain and wait for another.  As were were sitting and chatting it occurred to me that these people from the UK, Ireland and Canada were friends I'd first got to know through U2 (except Marian who I know from schooldays) and had been friends for at least 25 years, pretty amazing!

We went our separate ways to our seats and tonight got into the arena smoothly, no waiting this time. We were on the opposite side from our last seats but a very similar position, as many people have said there are no bad seats on this tour. We heard the guitar tech play a few notes from Bad, we were keeping our fingers crossed that they would play it. The second song played was Gloria which was a treat to hear live, what an amazing song that is. I'm loving all the new songs, they are strong live, Iris very moving and Raised by Wolves is powerful, love the way this is performed, Bono doesn't just sing the songs he lives and feels every word he sings. New Years Day was a nice surprise, long time since I've heard that live.

Video Screen
And yes, we got Bad, shivers went down my spine at those opening notes and I was in heaven, this is the quintessential U2 song, that could not be performed by any other band.  I'm not ashamed to say it made me cry. It segued into Patti Smith's Gloria then someone with log grey hair came out with no announcement to join the band to sing it. It was none other than Patti Smith herself, and she launched into a live version of People Have the Power (the song that plays just before the show starts.) It was absolutely fantastic, it really rocked and Patti's voice was strong, Bono joined in on the chorus but most of the time he looked in awe of her and said at the end that she was one of the reasons U2 were around in the first place. It was a great ending to a very good show.

We met with our friends briefly outside, Sharon had that stunned look on her face that Debbi and I had after we'd seen our first show. Once home we had a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate the end of the London leg of our U2ie tour, and what a leg it had been, wonderful shows, a posh afternoon tea, great times with friends and a kiss from Bono, what more could a woman ask for?!

Goodbye London

Wednesday 11 November 2015

U2ie Tour London Part Two - Up Close to U2 and a Posh Afternoon Tea.

26th October

Today we had general admission tickets, our only standing show and I wasn't sure I'd manage to get through it, as well as having to stand for a long time we both also had nasty colds. We decided not to go early to queue, we're past that nowadays lol, and wandered up to the O2 at about 5:30pm. Again we had to wait ages to get in, about an hour, which was tedious, this venue certainly is a pain regarding the time you have to wait to get into the arena, even when you have a seat.

When we got in at around 6:30pm we saw that there were no free places on the rails so decided to stand just behind some small women who were at the barrier of the e-stage. The back of the e-stage close to us was kept free of fans as that's the way Bono would enter the arena, we knew once he was on the stage the security let fans round there and our task was to move quickly when that happened and get on the front barrier. There was a lovely security guard by us and he said he would drop the rope (that kept the fans back) as quickly as he could when he was given the ok by his boss.  At 8:15 the show started and Bono walked right by us, soon the rope dropped and Debbi and I linked arms and dashed to to free area and got right on the barrier. We could hardly believe we had managed it, especially as we hadn't queued for ages to get a good place, I thought the days of seeing a gig so closely were long for gone for me.

And what an amazing experience it was to see the band just a few feet away at times, plus we could see right down the catwalk to the i-stage as well. The only downside is that you cannot see the video screen from there. This show had a more playful feel than the previous night, Bono talked a lot and three times he got fans on stage. Whilst the band were on the e-stage Bono noticed a poster being held up just to my left, he squinted hard and then read it out , turned out two Angel of Harlem with the band, so Bono asked them up on stage. Edge looked worried and said words to the effect that they couldn't have two guitar players on stage as they only had one spare guitar (we were close enough to hear this off-mike.) Bono took absolutely no notice and just said, "Edge gets a bit nervous when this happens." He gave the guitar to one lad and told the other to stand back and "look useful." Meanwhile the crew were in a tizzy trying to find another suitable guitar which they did remarkably quickly. Both brothers played well and it was really good fun and Edge ended up with a big smile on his face.
During City of Blinding Lights Bono got a young man up onto the catwalk and at the end of the song gave him his glasses and jacket and then put on the lad's jacket, which was way too small for him. Once he was on the main stage one of the crew had to pull it off him as it was so tight!

As well as Angel, songs new to the setlist included Out of Control, Desire and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. The latter was the final song and Noel Gallagher joined the band to perform it, seemed to impress the crowd, but I would have preferred U2 to do the the song themselves.

It was wonderful to be so close to the e-stage, there's something about seeing the beads of sweat run down Bono's face lol. But you also see the energy and little nuances and communication between the band members, you feel part of the show as you are so close. The show once more was wonderful, more playful tonight, but I must say I did miss the video wall, it is such a stunning and interactive part of the show that it almost has to be a part of seeing this particular tour.

After the show wandered off home via the Olympian Way, weary, still sniffling  but happy.

27th October

I had been full of good intentions to explore Greenwich a bit today which was a free day. But I was so weary and full of cold that I had a very long lie in and just chilled, Debbi did the same. We needed to recover and recoup and give our colds a chance to ease.

That night we did go out to eat, we went to the Greenwich Kitchen near the O2. I fish and chips which was lovely and the fish huge, washed it down with a refreshing Pimms and lemonade. I'll do a full review of this at a later date.

28th October

Today we were going into the city centre for afternoon tea at Claridge's. Months ago we tried to book an afternoon tea at The Ritz but it we couldn't get a slot anywhere near the time we wanted. So we went to the next poshest Claridge's. We dosed ourselves up with cold remedies, put on our glad rags and got the Tube to Bond Street which is the closest stop to the hotel. Unfortunately we took a wrong turn and ended up walking down a heaving Oxford Street, we turned back and then found the right street and it was only a couple of minutes from the Tube. We went in through the revolving door, inside was very grand with a huge chandelier. We were greeted immediately, we first went to the ladies, very posh, the woman in there insisted on filling the sink for me! We were a bit early for our afternoon tea in The Foyer but they let us in anyway. The room was beautiful, art deco style with high ceilings and ornate stucco work and the most amazing flower displays I'd ever seen, the server took our photo beside one.

We were given the menu to choose which tea we wanted, there was a choice of 22, we went for their own blend which was delicious. We had chosen the champagne afternoon tea so the first thing we got was a generous glass of that. The sandwiches were fantastic, scones still warm and cakes beautiful, everything was perfect and it was very leisurely. Claridge's was posh, but didn't feel snooty which was nice, it was a wonderful experience. I will write a detailed review separately.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

U2ie Tour, Part One - London, The Tour Madness Has Started!

Saturday 24th October

I know I am guilty of neglecting my blog recently, but I'll make up for that in the next few weeks as the U2ie Tour shows have started for me - at long last. We got the tickets almost a year ago and it seemed so far away, and in a strange way, it also felt unreal, even when my friend Debbi and I arrived in London on October 24th. We had rented an apartment a ten minute walk from the O2 with a glorious view across the river Thames, which turned out to be perfect. We explored the area and got shopping in and had a relaxing evening really looking forward to the concerts to come.

Sunday 25th October

We got up late and had a leisurely breakfast. Later we wandered up to the O2, what an amazing building it is, like some huge white flying saucer. We had a Mission this tour. My friend Debbi and I have collaborated to produce a book of her writing and my paintings. We have put together a first draft and wanted to give one to Bono, and we were determined to fulfil The Mission!

We hoped to see the band arrive but didn't so we had a meal at the nearby Cafe Rouge, I had Garlic Mushrooms and Chicken Breton and a glass of very nice champagne. I will write a full review of the meal at a later date.

Afterwards we sat by the river watching a beautiful sunset then it was time to go into the O2 and find our seats. We got in the queue and waited and waited and waited. It was at least one hour and a half minutes before we got in, never have I had to wait that long to get to my seat at a gig. We found out later that the scanners had broken down. Technology is great when it works.....

Our seats were wonderful, in the lower tier almost directly opposite the e-stage, I certainly was glad I wasn't in the upper tier, very, very high up and scary. At the other end of the floor was the rectangular i-stage which was connected to the round e-stage by a long catwalk. I will be seeing a few shows and won't be reviewing them in detail here, I'll just pick out certain bits.

At around 20:15 Patti Smith's People Have the Power rang out and Bono entered the arena via an entrance just below us, he clapped and ambled along in his inimitable way and walked up some stepa and onto the e-stage. Then the opening chords of The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) thundered out and Bono walked the length of the catwalk and onto the i-stage to join his bandmates and the song started properly. Great start.

I was kind of overcome at the beginning of the concert, it had been a long time coming and right until that moment it had felt almost unreal. Then suddenly there was the band I've been a fan of for 32 years doing what they do best, playing live, and it was REAL!

Photo by Christine Moeller
The sheer power and energy of the opening set of songs, The Electric Co, Vertigo and I Will Follow was stunning, and it was just the four band members playing on the i-stage, no gimmicks just four musicians giving it their all. It really showed how good they are.

The mood changed with he next song Iris, a song about Bono's mother who died when he was fourteen. A huge video wall (almost the length of the catwalk) descended and it showed various images including including his mother. It was incredibly emotional. He said when she died she left him an artist. He was singing about himself in that song, but the gist of it can apply to anyone who has lost a loved one.

This was followed by Cedarwood Road, the street where Bono grew up. Wonderful images on the video wall of the street and images from Bono's youth that it conjured up. At one point Bono got into the video wall and was walking along within the video, very clever. I found the songs from the new album stood up very well live, especially Raised With Wolves which was amazing live.

There was a short interval when a virtual Berlin Wall completely separated the two sides of the audience. Then, one of my favourite new songs, Invisible, began. Then there were areas where the wall disappeared and showing glimpses of the band members inside the wall. It's hard to explain really, but it was very cleverly done and so in tune with the song. I think initially some of the audience thought the images of the band were part of the video, not humans within technology/
Photo by Christine Moeller

Bono got a woman up for Mysterious Ways, Trish from Canada, whose vintage style must have caught Bono's eye. She was really good, she danced well and flirted with Bono but didn't go too far. She was given a phone to film the audience which apparently was being broadcast live all over the world.

A few songs on they did a reworked  Bullet the Blue Sky, which was absolutely amazing! At one point Bono argued with his 19 year old self who said he sold out and had private planes and lots more. At the end Bono said wearily, "I know,  I know." We are all very different people from when we were 19. Edge's guitar solo in this song was wonderful.

After this the final segment of the show they did a run of some of their most popular songs, including
Streets, Pride, With or Without You. Streets was so uplifting, the audience sang most of it with Bono looking on in wonder. They finished with One. 

Photo by Christine Moeller
In conclusion for me it was a stunning, powerful gig, the sound was good, video screen was amazing. They used the catwalk and stages very well and the setlist was well put together. All in all a brilliant concert. U2 are definitely not past it.

As Debbi and I walked home we hardly said a word, the show just blew us away and we initially couldn't find words to describe the experience. One home we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate the start of our U2ie Tour.

Friday 2 October 2015

Some of my Paintings

Last year I went to an oil painting evening class and it was a revelation for me! I found I loved everything about it, this medium was for me and I began painting enthusiastically, guided by my wonderful tutor. The other students were lovely too, many were very accomplished artists, but were very encouraging and welcoming towards me. I have recently started sharing my painting online and thought I'd put some here.

Near Vik, Iceland

Yellow Tulips


The blackbird

Winter Scene

Spring Blossom

Monday 31 August 2015

Tour Of Media City UK, Salford Quays

The other weekend I travelled to Manchester to meet up with my friend Debbi. We had pre-booked a tour of the TV studios at Media City UK at Salford Quays which was a short tram ride from the centre of the city. We got to the tram stop where a member of staff told us due to storm damage (a huge hole had appeared on the Mancunian Way during a rainstorm the previous day) we would not be able to take the tram direct to Media City but would have to get a bus to Cornbrook and then the tram the rest of the way. It was all very well organised, loads of staff directing people, but it made the journey last 30 minutes instead of ten, so our plan to get a quick breakfast before the tour was out of the window.

The tram stop was right beside the studios and we got there ten minutes before the start of the tour. We were given a laminate pass to wear round our necks and off we went. The first place they took us to was a room with a mock up of the Breakfast TV and Question of Sport sets. The staff got people to read the news and do the weather forecast and then have a quiz. It took quite a long time and I was rather underwhelmed, I expected to see more of the real thing not play about in a mock up. Though I did get a photo taken with the "cloak of invisibility" material which absorbs light (can't remember its proper name) from which the weather screen is made.

We then went to another building (nearly getting blown off our feet by the wind in the process) and into a radio studio (BBC 5 or 6, again can't remember which).  It was a small room with one window looking through to another studio, eagle eyed people noticed it was Craig Charles in there and we caught him opening up a bottle of wine, wish I could get away with that at work! There was lots of equipment which the guide explained to us, including the machine that makes phone call interviews sound as if the person is live in the studio. She also explained the roles of individuals who would be in the room when broadcasting. I found this room interesting, and the guide gave a good description of what happened in a radio studio.

Next we went into the "dead room," which was a u-shaped room with walls and ceiling covered in triangular pieces of grey foam. This room absorbs all sound and it was really strange  to be inside without the slightest echo, and even if someone is just around the corner you can't hear them. The sound absorption gave the room a claustrophobic feel.

Then it was into the Blue Peter studio which was surprisingly small, with a ceiling literally full of lights  and the place was a complete mess! The show was off air on holiday and maintenance was being done, though it looked as if the place was being destroyed.  The guides talked about the long-running programme and we saw all the different Blue Peter badges there have been. We were in there for a while and again I thought we could have done something more interesting and informative.

That was the end of the tour and both Debbi and I were somewhat disappointed with it. The guides were good and knew their stuff, but we had expected to see actual working studios and gain a real insight into the processes behind TV, however we did not get that, this was just a superficial look around the edges of the process.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Tennessee Williams at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, Cumbria

My friend Jayne and  recently went to the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, Cumbria to see two plays by Tennessee Williams, Mr Paradise and Suddenly Last Summer. We liked the sound of all the plays being performed at the theatre this year but chose these because neither of us had seen a play by Williams before.

Mr Paradise was only re-discovered, along with some other Tennessee Williams one act plays, in 2000. A young woman comes to visit Anthony Paradise, who had written a small book of poems she found propping up a table in an antique shop. She read the book and was transfixed by the poems and just had to meet the author. The play consists mainly of two monologues, mainly about writing as an art, which portray the woman's boundless, youthful enthusiasm and the author's world weariness. The play was a good introduction to the main event.

Dr Sugar and Catherine
Photo from the Theatre by the Lake Website
Suddenly Last Summer is a powerful play about a dysfunctional family with secrets, power, control and mental illness. Violet Venable is an elderly widow, bitter and controlling who is trying to bribe (via funding for his hospital) Dr Cukrowicz (Dr Sugar) to perform a lobotomy on her niece Catherine, who she has put into a mental institution, and who she blames for the death or her son Sebastian. She will do anything to protect the reputation of her son and silence Catherine who knows the truth. The play is very powerful and disturbing,  and is basically a battle of wills between Mrs Venables and Catherine with the doctor trying to find out the truth. Initially Catherine seems fragile, domineered by the widow, but as she tells her story she becomes stronger and Mrs Venables weaker as she realises she cannot hide Sebastian's secret any longer. Catherine's role was played by Emily Tucker who really did a wonderful job in a role that could easily have become over the top, she played it to perfection.  I won't spoil it by saying what Sebastian's secret was and how the play finished.

Interestingly, the play has a strong auto-biographical content, Williams had diphtheria as a child and took a year to recover, and his mother was overbearingly protective of him. His sister Rose had schizophrenia and in the 1940's had a lobotomy (which was an accepted treatment at that time) that had disastrous results and she required care in an institution for the rest of her life.

I found the play enthralling, disturbing and riveting. It was performed in the studio and we sat in the front row and so were almost part of the scene being played so close to us. I can see why it is a one act play, any break would have totally spoiled the momentum, as the story was unfolding I felt drawn into it more and more. I would definitely see another play by Tennessee Williams and highly recommend this production of Suddenly Last Summer. It is in repertoire at the Theatre by the Lake until 4th November 2015.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

A Late Lunch in McGrew's Bistro and the Olly Olcock Exhibition, The Old Fire Station, Carlisle.

My cousin Glen and I visited Carlisle's new arts venue The Old Fire Station for the first time this week. We met up in McGrew's Bistro which is part of the complex. It was a hodge podge of different tables and chairs, we went for very comfy armchairs. We both chose pate with ciabatta, salad and Cumberland sauce and shared a bowl of chips. The food came quickly and was lovely, a generous portion of delicious pate and the ciabatta lightly toasted, the Cumberland sauce went really well with it. The staff were very friendly and helpful. The cost for the two pates, one bowl of chips, two teas and one coffee was £17 which we felt was reasonable. My only complaint would be that they had the automatic doors permanently open and it wasn't a warm day, so the place was quite cold and I had to keep my jacket on.

We went upstairs to view the Olly Alcock  art exhibition, which took a while to find as it was a bit of a rabbit warren and no signs guiding you there until you found the right entrance. It was a small exhibition of acrylic paintings mainly of Cumbrian Lakeland scenes though there were a couple of paintings of a plane and steam train. The quality of the paintings varied, some were a little "flat,"but most were very good with a lot of detail. My favourite was a striking picture of Helvellyn's Striding Edge, which is the left hand painting above. The paintings exuded feelings of calmness and serenity and highlighted the stunning beauty of Cumbria's Lake District.

The exhibition is free and lasts until the 31st of July.

Address:  The Old Fire Station,
                Warwick Street
                Carlisle CA3 8QW


Monday 20 July 2015

Restaurant Review, Lunch at No. 34, Carlisle

Bijou was always one of my favourite restaurants in Carlisle, it had a lovely atmosphere and excellent food. It has now been transformed into No.34 but still run by the same owners. My friend and I decided to try it out for the first time one lunchtime last week. We arrived at 1pm and it was quite busy but we found a table for two. Just after 1pm a server came and asked if we would like a drink and we ordered one. The tables and seating is similar if not the same as it was for Bijou, so it is comfortable and roomy, but the decor was very different, dark walls covered in pictures, it was ok but I must say I preferred the airy elegance of the old restaurant.

We waited to receive our drinks and place our order, and waited some more. Eventually at 1.20pm the server came, without any apology for the lengthy delay, with our drinks and to take our order. We both had The Fish One, a fish burger in a roll with spicy raisin coleslaw and salad. At 1.40pm we received our meal, good job we weren't in our lunch hour.

I'm sorry to say I was very disappointed in The Fish One as was my friend, it was almost tasteless and we both ended up leaving some which is a rare occurrence for me as people know! I did not like the spicy coleslaw but I do not like that kind of thing anyway. My friend said that it was needed to add some flavour to the burger. We finished with a coffee. Two meals, two alcoholic drinks and two coffees cost us £27.00

It's a shame that I have to write a bad review for this restaurant at lunchtime, but I have to be honest about how I felt. Maybe another dish would have tasted much better, maybe service would have been better if they had not been busy, I've never before had that complaint about Bijou which was always outstanding lunchtime and evening. I'll try out the place again as this may have been a one off.

Address:   No.34
                 34 Fisher Street

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Restaurant Review, Dempsey's, Carlisle

Last week a couple of friends and I went to Dempsey's for a meal. I hadn't been there for a long time and the decor was very different, modern with a bit of glitz provided by chandeliers. There was a mixture of booths and tables that were well spaced, giving privacy, and the seats were very comfortable.

My Chicken Caesar Salad
We had decided to have the Early Evening Menu which had a good selection for starters, I had a Chicken Caesar Salad and my friends had a small Cheese Tart with salad. We had quite a long wait for this, but the server did apologise for the delay. My salad was delicious, plenty of chicken and all the salad items were very fresh, my friends enjoyed their starter too.

For the main we all went for the Picanha Steak, with fries and salad (which was plus £1.00.) There was a chimichurri sauce (which I thought was Indian but it turns out to be Argentinian) made from garlic, olive oil, chilli and herbs that accompanied the steak but I did not have that as I do not like chilli. The steak was good and very tender, more medium to well done than the medium  I had ordered, but I can live with that. To accompany the meal we had a bottle of Prosecco which always goes down well, especially on a warm summer's evening.

From Dempsey's Website
We didn't have enough room for a dessert so just had coffee to finish. The service was attentive and pleasant and the atmosphere relaxed. The Early Evening Menu is either two courses for £15.00 or three for £18.00 which is good value (the a la carte menu had a great selection too and prices not too expensive.) The three of us had two courses, (plus the £3.00 extra in all for the steak option) three coffees and a bottle of Prosecco and the bill came to £73.00 which was good value.

Address:  Dempsey's Bar and Restaurant
                11 Warwick Road
                Cumbria CA1 1DH


Friday 3 July 2015

The Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre, Lowther, Cumbria

The Cafe
My friend Jayne and I went to visit The Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre the other week and had a wonderful time. The centre is located on the Lowther Estate just south of Penrith in Cumbria, which
 we found it very easily. We first went into the cafe which must have once been a barn and it was eclectic to say the least, every table and almost every chair was different and there were historical items on all flat surfaces. I loved it, I like places that are different and quirky. We had tea and a cream scone and I must say the scone was definitely homemade as they claimed, it just melted in my mouth.

Just after two o'clock we went to the field nearby to watch the show. We walked into a walled garden where the birds were, I was surprised by how many there were, and then out to the field. There were benches there and about twelve people already watching the show.

The falconer was called Paul Bevan and he definitely had the gift of the gab! He was very knowledgeable about the birds and also a stand up comedian! Sometimes though, I wished he had talked more about the birds and told fewer jokes.

Paul had Bernard the peregrine falcon out when we arrived. Then he showed us two white Gyrfalcons, two brothers called Dusty and Lefty. They were gorgeous birds and one was so stunningly acrobatic in flight that it took my breath away. The next bird to meet was Bob the Harris hawk and I got up close to lovely Bob! I put on the thick leather glove and Paul gave me a little treat
to place on top of the glove and then Bob swooped in for the treat and sat on my hand. It was such a privilege to be so close to such a magnificent bird. At one point Bob decided to relocate from my hand to my head - which we had been warned he might do! What a character, loved him.
One of the Gyrfalcons

After this we walked back in to the walled garden to meet Otto the eagle owl - who is very popular and has his own fan page on Facebook here. He was huge, there's just something so cute about owls and I was able to stroke him gently on his very soft tummy. Apparently the reason owls are so quiet in flight is because of the softness of their feathers.

We then walked to look at Tinkerbelle the bald eagle who was massive yet the sound she made didn't go with her size! She wasn't taken out of her cage unfortunately, would have loved to have touched her too.

Then the show ended, it normally runs from 2-4pm but it didn't finish until 4.30. Paul was obviously dedicated to these gorgeous birds and talked a bit about the conservation and breeding programmes he is involved with.

Paul and Otto
There was a little antique shop that we looked around before going back into the cafe so I could buy a piece of chocolate cake to take home (it was as yummy as it looked!) There is also a small shop there that we looked around before heading home.

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend a visit to The Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre for an informative, funny and very special afternoon, how often can you get close to such magnificent birds?  It's well worth the entry fee.

The centre is open 11.30-5.00 April to November. The adult entry fee is £8.50, however we got entry and tea and scones for two for £14 via a Travelzoo offer, brilliant value!

Address: Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre
               Near Penrith
               Cumbria CA10 2HH


The Stunning Tinkerbelle

Wednesday 17 June 2015

U2 Magic in Montreal

A bit of U2 magic in Montreal last night, I've never seen so many fans on stage what an experience, great to see the band literally getting up close to fans, I missed that on the last tour. Can't wait for October when I'll be seeing them live!

Thursday 11 June 2015

Lodore Falls Hotel Pamper Day with Afternoon Tea

My friend Margaret and I bought an offer on Travelzoo for two treatments and afternoon tea for £55 each and took up this offer last week. The trip took a bit longer than expected and after an hour we arrived at the Lodore Falls Hotel. The setting can't be beaten with the hotel nestling at the foot of a tree covered mountain close to the shores of Derwentwater. The hotel is one of those slightly old fashioned Victorian hotels that I personally love, lots of wooden panelling, welcoming and warm.

We apologised for arriving late and were taken straight into the beauty salon for our first treatment, a back massage (we had a choice between this and a facial.) It was very nice and relaxing but not very varied in terms of the massage. It also felt a little hurried but I will not complain about that as we did arrive late.

After that we were taken into the spa where tea and fresh fruit was waiting for us which was lovely and refreshing. Then we were shown where to change, this room was very small with lockers a toilet and shower. I imagine if the place was very busy you would not be able to move. We went into the pool area where there were a few loungers and chairs, luckily we got the last two loungers available. We had to find someone to get towels. Again it was not a big pool but it was fine and we just chilled.

At 12:20 it was time for our slot in the outside hot tub. I noticed in reviews that some people thought having 20 minute time slots for this was ridiculous, but I think it is a good idea as it means that everyone gets a chance to have time in it. The tub was lovely and warm but boy it was parky (it was a cold day) when getting out, luckily it was right beside the door into the spa so we could dash in!

Now it was time for our afternoon tea (we could have opted for a light lunch if we wanted) and we had to wait only a short time for it to arrive. It was good except for the scone which was very dry and I would have liked some proper cream cakes, there were profiteroles, carrot cake and a lemon meringue tarts, but I always associate afternoon tea with cream cakes. There was also pannacotta that seemed very like jelly to me, tasty though. We took our time and enjoyed chatting and relaxing.

At 2pm it was time for our last treatment, a pedicure, (we could have opted for a manicure.) It said it could last for up to 50 minutes but it lasted 20, a short treatment but my toes look lovely! Stupidly I didn't wear sandals so the beautician got me some disposable shoes so my varnish would be able to dry.

All in all we enjoyed the day and it was good value for the money we paid. I have been to Oxley's at nearby Underscar and that is an amazing place and Lodore can't compare with the standard of facilities there. But for £55 we had a good day and felt much better for it.

A Moody Derwentwater

Thursday 23 April 2015

Review - The Watermill, Little Salkeld, Cumbria

Recently my friend Marian was visiting me and we decided to check out The Watermill at Little Salkeld. Now, for me this was a challenge, I'd tried to find Little Salkeld before and never found it, and I am good at directions, it is just not signposted when you approach from Carlisle. We found this had not changed, and were just about to give up hope when suddenly there was the sign saying "Little Salkeld" yes! Now to find The Watermill, but that was not difficult as the village is small. We drove through the complex to the car park at the rear. I'd read up about the site and reviews were varied, the main negative point was that the place was very untidy and I must agree with this, there was rubbish all over, even an old bathroom suite dumped in a corner of the car park! It did not create a good initial impression.

My meal at The Watermill cafe
We were hungry so we first went into the cafe which served organic vegetarian food. It was small but nicely decorated with a rustic atmosphere with old beams across the ceiling. They had their own flour etc for sale, plus breads and various other organic produce in the small shop area.

I chose to have the pizza and Marian had the mushroom quiche. We did not have to wait long for our food and both came with tricolour pasta, lentils and salad accompanied by three types of their own bread. The pizza was on a wholemeal base which was delicious and though thick was very light. Marian said her quiche was very good too. The bread was also lovely, I'm a bit of a breadaholic and this homemade organic bread was a treat - and also very filling.

We then explored the mill itself, it is the only working watermill in Cumbria. The present mill dates
from 1760 though there has been a building on the site for many hundreds of years. We went into the area where the flour was being ground and could see the finished product pouring out of the machine. It was noisy and dusty but fascinating, it felt ancient, like stepping into the past. I could imagine this amazing piece of machinery working away like this for over 250 years providing flour for the local community and now it is still working away and it's organic flour is being sent to outlets all over the country.

We left the room and walked round to the back where the two waterwheels were. They are powered by a millrace that is fed from a beck nearby and it had a surprisingly strong current. The water was turning the largest wheel at a very fast rate and the sheer power of it was palpable and awe-inspiring. The noise of the water and the wheel turning must have been a familiar sound in past times, again to me it felt like a window to the past.

I really enjoyed my visit to The Watermill at Little Salkeld. The cafe was lovely, had a pleasant atmosphere and served wonderful food. The actual milling area was fascinating and it is so good that it has been renovated and preserved to give visitors an idea of what a working watermill was like.

My only reservation about the place was the untidiness and rubbish in the outside areas. A lot of it just needs to be put in a skip and taken away, it really detracts from what is an otherwise great place to visit. However, I am aware that the mill has only recently changed hands and hopefully in time the new owners will sort out the outside areas and then it would be a perfect pace to visit.

Address:  The Watermill,
                Little Salkeld,
                Cumbria CA10 INN


Wednesday 15 April 2015

Cafe Review - Orton Grange, Cumbria

Last Sunday my friend and I went to the cafe at Orton Grange for a late lunch. The cafe is part of a complex containing a shop, a branch of Cumbria's well- known Cranston's butchers, a hairdresser, a pool and holiday accommodation. The building is a converted farm building (Orton Grange takes its name from the working dairy farm next door) which has been tastefully renovated with the original stone walls and oak beams alongside more modern decor. The cafe is on two levels, the lower one with tables and chairs and the counter and upstairs a mixture of the same and comfy leather couches. We managed to grab one of the leather couches even though the place was very busy.

Photo from Orton Grange Website
We chose what we wanted and I went downstairs to order, there was a queue and it took a long time to get served, they could have done with more than one person serving. But after ordering we didn't have to wait too long for our food, I had the Soup Combo, a bowl of  vegetable soup and a ham sandwich. The soup was definitely homemade and absolutely delicious, bursting with all kinds of vegetables. I had chosen ham for the accompanying sandwich, as I'd hoped, it had thick slices of Cranston's roast ham in it and again was very good. My friend Jayne had a baked potato with tuna and onion and she enjoyed that very much too.

The cafe has a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere, upstairs especially and, if you want it, there is the bonus of free WiFi. We sat and chatted for a long time, it's the kind of place where you can take your time.

The prices are reasonable, my soup and sandwich with a pot of tea cost £7.50, and Jayne's meal was a similar price. The menu isn't big or fancy, but Orton Grange is an excellent place to go for good wholesome and fresh food. The cakes looked good too but we were good and resisted!

Address:   Orton Grange
                Great Orton
                Carlisle CA5 6LA


Tuesday 31 March 2015

Anselm Kiefer Exhibition, Tullie House, Carlisle

My Cousin Glen and I recently went to see this exhibition at Tullie House. The exhibition is presented by Artist Rooms, a collection jointly owned by the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. I must be honest and say that I had never heard of Anselm Kiefer before but I am always ready to look at art that is new to me. This exhibition covers the period of the artist's career from 1969 to 2014.

Anselm was born in Germany in 1945 and now lives and works in France. He is considered one of the greatest European post-war  artists. He cites artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Caspar David Friedrich as influences and I can see some of the drama of Friedrich (who is a favourite of mine too) in his work but I can't see the van Gogh influence, except that there were some steel/iron sunflowers in one of his works. The first thing I noted about his art is that it tends to be either monochrome or earthy colours. He works in many mediums, paint, photography, metal, sculpture, collage, often using grit and sand to give the work texture, the earthy colours fit well with such media. He is fascinated by history, philosophy, mythology, science and the Third Reich and these subjects appear in his arts time and time again. There were a lot of exhibits on show but I will just write about three that interested me most.

The most striking painting for me was the one featured on the museum's exhibition information leaflet, (above) it was especially created for the exhibition and is called Urd, Verdando, Skuld (The Norns 1983.) The norns are "Fates" of Norse mythology representing Past, Present and Future, their names are written in chalk on the ceiling of the building. Hanging from the ceiling of the Third Reich-like building are the strings of destiny. All these subjects are ones that Kiefer frequently returns to. I looked at the pictures before reading the information about them and to me it looked like these strings were roots reaching down into a dark, murky vault of time, of history. Kiefer is of a generation of Germans that grew up after World War Two, and had to come to terms with and deal with the guilt of what had happened in their country shortly before they were born. He was not afraid to confront this history in his art, which also includes some self portraits of him doing the Nazi salute.  I am half German, born a few years after Kiefer and as I was growing up I was very aware of that feeling of oppressive history and guilt. I wasn't proud of my German background for a long time and even hid it, Now that has changed and I can embrace my heritage, because no country, no history, is totally negative and Germans have a lot to be proud of too. I think my own personal background made me see those things in that picture and I found it stirred a lot of emotion in me. It is a very hypnotic painting, it draws you in and looks much more impressive in real life than in the image in this post.

Another picture that I liked was Hortus Philosphorum (2010.) Keifer made piles of books from lead and photographed them. Over the books lay lead sunflowers, twigs and other items, Kiefer described lead as the "only material heavy enough to carry the weight of human history."  It was like the lead items were holding down the books, the knowledge trying smother them, but knowledge never dies. A very thought -provoking piece of work.

The next piece I liked was Untitled 1988. There were six small gold leaf covered items, and, being an ex-nurse, it soon dawned on me that they parts of the human body. These were casts of real body parts which included a kidney, inner ear and heart.  In the middle of them was a piece of seaweed that seemed to me like splayed out blood. Again, it made us think, these were such important parts of the body, of life, yet they were quite small.

I must admit I wasn't very impressed when I first went into the exhibition, it looked dull and strange. But as Glen and I  looked at the works we had many discussions about them, and they seemed to come to life. They captured our imagination, they made us think, made us talk and really, isn't that what good art should do?

The Anselm Kiefer Exhibition is at Tullie House, Carlisle until 7th June 2015, entry £3.00.

Monday 23 March 2015

Alan Davies Little Victories Tour, The Sands Centre, Carlisle

Last week my friend Jayne and I went to The Sands in Carlisle to see Alan Davies in his Little Victories tour. When he came on stage he was just as I imagined, warm, informal and having the ability to just chat to the audience like we were friends, all with a youthfulness about him that belied his 49 years. Initially he interacted a lot with the crowd, finding out where people were from (someone had come all the way from Birmingham, must be a superfan!) and he also asked about the ages of people which surprisingly ranged from teenagers to people in their 80's.
He talked a lot about his family. His mother died from leukaemia when he was six leaving his father to bring up Alan and his younger sister and older brother. Much of the early part of the show dealt with his fraught relationship with his father. Sometimes the honesty of it was very moving, yet not sentimental, and often very funny, not easy to meld together, but Alan managed this brilliantly. One of the anecdotes was that his dad loved every kind of jam except blackcurrant. So when the home help his father had hired was making a cake for Alan's father's birthday Alan told her to put blackcurrant jam in it because his dad like it. When his dad tasted it he exploded with anger and Alan got one of his "little victories" over his father. Another thing that made the talk of his father more poignant was that he is now suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.
After examining his own childhood he discussed his own role as a father and trials and tribulations of raising young children (he has two children aged four and five) a lot. Not having children of my own I couldn't relate to much of this, but that aside, some of it was still very funny, especially when he talked of his daughter swearing for the first time and his son pretending to choke to get attention. It was clear most of the audience fully related to the highs and lows of bringing up children that he related.
He also talked about being taken out of his school where he was happy and sent to a public school that his own father had attended and which Alan hated. He was the youngest at the school and more interested in toys than the more adolescent pursuits of the youths around him. But again, he brings humour to this in his own inimitable way and had the audience roaring with laughter.
The show lasted almost two and a half hours, and you can only admire someone who can do stand up for that long. It all felt very natural and unscripted, which of course it would not have been, but his professionalism made it feel that way.  All in all it was a excellent night and it does us all the world of good to have a laugh and Alan certainly gave us plenty of them!

Friday 20 March 2015

Restaurant Review - Ruen, Carlisle

I've been visiting Ruen Thai Restaurant for many years now and have always enjoyed my meals there. It is conveniently located in the centre of Carlisle and there is parking nearby. The decor is beautiful, intricately carved tables and chairs, silk wall hangings and Thai painting of the wall, each table had a real orchid in a little vase on it. Tables have a good distance between them ensuring privacy. The general ambiance of the restaurant is very relaxing

To start Glen and I had the Ruethai Platter for two - Thai fishcakes, chicken satay skewers and Thai spring rolls served with a variety of dips. Everything was delicious I especially enjoyed the skewers, the chicken was very tender.

Our Main Course
For my main I had Nue Num Mun Hoy, Stir fried beef with oyster sauce, mushrooms and spring onions. Glen also went for a stir fry, Gad Pad Med Ma-Muang, chicken in a "slightly sweet" soy sauce with cashew nuts. To accompany it we had one steamed rice and one noodles. I thoroughly enjoyed the beef stir fry, the meat was tender and plentiful and full of subtle flavours. Glen loved her dish too. To accompany our meal we had a glass of wine each.

We didn't have room for a dessert and so just had a cappuccino each to finish the meal.  Throughout the meal the service was impeccable, very friendly and efficient and they make you feel important - the staff always recognise me when I go back there which is lovely.

For a starter for two, two mains, two coffees and two glasses of wine (one a large glass) the cost was just under £50.00 which I felt was well worth the money. It is well worth visiting if you are looking for a very good Thai restaurant. It also does takeaways.

Address:   4 Crosby Street
                 Carlisle CA1 1DQ


Tuesday 10 March 2015

Songs of Innocence - My Thoughts

Well I've finally made myself sit down and write about U2's latest album, just six months after it's release lol! Not sure why I haven't written properly about it until now - it's certainly not because I don't like it. I'm not going to do a song by song review, there's no point now and I will not be writing a deep analysis either. I'm just going to write about what the album means to me.

Firstly, Songs of Innocence was a long time coming, over five years, which, even for the slow working U2, was a record. I must admit, though I've been a fan for over thirty years I didn't hold out much hope for this album. The band's last few albums, though good, were nothing outstanding, nothing that excited or surprised me and I honestly thought, that's it, they're in their 50's now and they have had an amazing career but they have lost that spark, that creativity. I hated to admit it to myself, but after all these years of being a fan, I was drifting away and not over-excited at the thought of a new album, I needed a U2 injection, a boost to bring me back to the fold.

The first surprise was the way it was released, we knew that we would see an album soon, but there it was, at the launch of the iPhone 6, free in your Cloud waiting to be downloaded, Songs of Innocence! Of course there were a lot of people who were "outraged" at this intrusion of their phones, But people didn't have to download it did they? I got a new HTC not that long ago and in my music there were various songs I didn't put there, I just deleted them, no big deal. But of course, the U2/Bono haters had to jump up and down about it.

Now I'm not into the corporate side of U2 that's developed over the last fifteen or so years, in fact I really dislike that side of them. I admired them when they were not into all that.  But, like it or not U2 is a business as well as a great band, that's the reality and this PR stunt really got them and Songs of Innocence into the headlines, something they probably needed as they had been absent from the scene for so long. I think in some ways it may have backfired a little as many people were talking more about the so-called phone intrusion rather than the actual music on the album. But that aside U2 were back in the spotlight.

So this surprise release got me all excited, and, once I'd figured out how to download it, I listened to it. And I listened again. For me it wasn't instantly an amazing album, but, for the first time in many years, here was a U2 album where the music surprised and excited me, it was not safe or predictable, it was, different, very different and had me both questioning and feeling a buzz inside which is always a good sign!

I quickly realised this was the album I'd wanted U2 to make for a very long time, it's an album about their own roots and influences in Ireland. They've explored other influences in their career but never the things that from their early pre-fame days formed them in who they are as people and a band. I've always felt that, besides their talent, two things make U2 special, the fact that they the best of friends and that they are Irish (or in the case of Adam and Edge grew up in Ireland) being Irish is a big part of what makes this band great. So for me it was only natural that they would one day explore that in their music.

The albums looks at both musical influences The Miracle of Joey Ramone (The Ramones) and This is Where You Can Reach Me Now (The Clash)  and more personal songs such as Iris about Bono's mother who died when he was 14, and Cedarwood Road, the street where Bono grew up, and the beautiful, melodic Song for Someone about Bono's childhood sweetheart Ali who he is still married to now. Iris especially is heart-breakingly personal and incredibly moving. I have always admired artists are able to open their heart and soul to the audience like this.

The lyrics (credited to both Bono and Edge) are some of the most honest and soul-baring I've seen from U2 and are some of the best written for many years. I've always been a fan for whom the lyrics are as important as the music and over the last few releases I felt that the lyrics were often lacking, but with this album they are up to the best U2 standard once more.

As a fan of 32 years, I feel Songs of Innocence is very much an album for longtime fans like myself. We are of a similar age, and really understand where the songs are coming from, many of us have lived through similar experiences. And we used to buy our U2 albums as 12 inch LPs, (as per SOI cover) no Internet or downloads then! There is a tour starting in a couple of months and these songs will change and develop as always on tour, so looking forward to hearing them live.

Finally, there is a rumoured follow-up album called Songs of Experience which will be a look at their experiences later in their career. To me, and many others, it feels like these two albums are a lead up to the end of U2. It's telling their story in music, and, to me, it would be a good way to say goodbye. The band are in their mid-50's now and you have to be realistic about how much longer they can go on. They will have been together for 40 years next year, and still producing good music, what an achievement - and it also would be a good time to bow out. But who knows!

Is Songs of Innocence a great U2 album on a par with The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby? I don't think so, but it is a great creative, honest piece of music from a band that still has something to say. It is also the album that brought me back into the U2 fold, even now U2 can still surprise me!