Sunday, 11 September 2016

Dublin - Food, Wine and Friends

20th August

My trip started badly, first I got to the railway station and saw my train was cancelled, the next one was an hour later. luckily I always leave loads of time when travelling so I was still ok timewise for my flight. Met up with Debbi at the airport good to see her again, but our plane was an hour late in taking off so more waiting, patience is a virtue.

St Patrick's Cathedral from our living
room window
We landed in Dublin and as usual immediately felt at home, it's the first time we've been there in the summer for a while. We got a taxi to our accommodation, an apartment right opposite St Patrick's Cathedral, lovely to look out at. It was a lovely place, very clean and in a super location. We got our food and drink supplies in and then ordered a Chinese to be delivered. It was delicious, sweet and sour chicken and duck in plum sauce, we decided every first night in a place we will be doing this in the future.We stayed up late chatting, lots of catching up to do, it felt wonderful to be back again.

21st August

We had a lie in and then walked to Sophie's, a rooftop restaurant in the Dean Hotel for brunch. The restaurant has windows all around three sides which give you views over the city. I had eggs benedict which was good, but a bit rich for me early in the day. On the way out we just had to have a go on some swings that were hung opposite the lifts. A bit weird but it was fun reverting to our childhood for a while.

Our Tagines at Dada's
Afterwards we set off on a mission, I had forgotten my ipad lead and Deb her plug, with four devices between us we needed these things.  We trudged across to St Stephen's Green, then down Grafton Street, onto College Green, Dame Street popping in and out of phone shops along the way, the prices were high and we weren't willing to pay them. We headed towards our apartment via Aungier Street and found a little shop off the beaten track that had what we wanted at a good price, mission completed. That day we walked around five miles, and the irony was, that once home, I found my ipad lead and a second plug in an inside pocket of my handbag! Ahh well the walk was good for us.

That evening we went to Dada Restaurant. We'd been there a few years ago and loved it so decided to go back as we had loved it so much. We were not disappointed, I had the most delicious lamb tagine with apricots, nuts and cinnamon amongst other spices. I will write a full restaurant review about Dada's in a separate post at a later date.

August 22nd
After breakfast we headed out towards the Powercourt Theatre to see the play Buridan's Ass. This production is part of the famous Bewley's Cafe Theatre but as Bewley's is being renovated at the moment they are using the nearby Powerscourt theatre. We had the soup and soda bread as usual and sat at one of the small wooden tables right a front so had a brilliant view. I thoroughly enjoyed the play, which is a dark comedy set in a struggling taxidermy business with the boss, Mahone, last in line of the family ("a genetic cul-de-sac" and his keen apprentice, Ernest. Mahone pondering on his life and future and it had a good twist at the end. So even though headless dachshunds came into it (don't ask, as I wrote it is a dark comedy!) I thoroughly enjoyed it.

So today was our lazy day, we have one of these where we just drift from place to place having a drink so our first port of call after the theatre was Cafe en Seine the fabulous place celebrating Belle Epoque where I had one of their gorgeous Singapore Slings.

The Bar at Kehoe's
We then wandered round to South Anne Street to try out Kehoe's pub and I loved it! We went into the bar and I asked if they had any prosecco, the barman said "I don't know, I don't work here" Apparently he was just filling in for a couple of hours, he had a look and found little bottles of prosecco and seemed surprised at how much it was and that we'd pay that much for the drink! There was an amazing old-style till at the bar. We sat in the snug (an original one, this pub dates from 1803) and it was lovely. There was a lot of Irish banter between the bar staff and the place just felt comfortable place, a world away from bustling Grafton Street close by.  It reminded me a lot of Dockers pub which was a favourite  haunt of ours for years until it closed. Now all that's left is the frontage on the quayside, all the atmosphere and history swept away.
O'Neills Chips, the Best in Dublin

Next stop was O'Neills in Suffolk Street. This is a large pub with lots of nooks and crannies and a pleasant and friendly atmosphere. Debbi was happy to go there because it had her favourite beer which isn't available in many places. By then we were getting hungry so we ordered two portions of chips and they were the best chips I've had for years and years, real chips!

We ended our lazy day pub crawl there as we had to be home as our friend Declan was coming round. Lovely to see him again, he only had a knee operation a week previously, so it was so good we managed to meet up.

23rd August
Next day we got the DART train to Sandycove and Glasthule to see our friends Ken and Elizabeth who had invited us for an Irish brunch. As usual Elizabeth was very generous with the food and it was delicious, glad it included white pudding which I love! We had a good chat and caught up on each others news.

Debbi and Me at the Trocadero



That evening we went to the Trocadero, a large restaurant that has pictures of famous people on the walls, lots of mirrors and very comfortable seats. I had pate to start and chicken in tarragon sauce with pesto and chorizo. It was good, but , for me, not exceptional.

Next day it was home, it had been a short but wonderful holiday. It's always like coming home when I visit Dublin. We did all the touristy things decades ago and now we just enjoy the Dublin for itself, good food, drink, theatre and friends, the best things in life!


Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Memories and the Bard in Stratford upon Avon

My first visit to Stratford upon Avon was on a school trip. It was the first break my friends and I had been on without parents and also our first time seeing live theatre. We had an amazing time, lots of sightseeing, messing about on the River Avon, soaking in the history of the area and lots of youthful
Me Messing About on the River Avon in the 1970's
fun. Shakespeare came alive on stage and I was captivated, and so started a lifetime of being a fan of The Bard. Not long after that trip I went back twice, and then never went back. I don't know whether it is getting older but recently I started wanting to go back and so my friend Marian (who was with me on the school trip) and I recently spent a few days there.

My journey took four and a half hours but it all went smoothly. Marian and I met up at the railway station and walked the short distance to our accommodation, a two-bedroom house in Guild Street. We had a cuppa and then went out to explore. It was another short walk to the centre of Stratford and it really hadn't changed much at all, so good to see.  We got a little shopping in and then went to look for a restaurant to at at. We found a place called Mida and had a lovely meal there, I had pizza that was delicious followed by an equally delicious tiramisu. The owner was a little eccentric but very friendly.

The Auditorium

 After that we headed for the theatre, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was a little different, there now was a tower to its right, and a change to the roof another floor I think, but otherwise pretty much as I remembered it. People sat on seats amongst the flower beds in the large open area in front of the theatre just as years ago, though there was now also a beautiful swan fountain.

We had tickets for A Midsummer Night's Dream, one of my favourite plays and it was good to see it at midsummer too! Once inside I realised how much the theatre has changed, it was now in the style of the original Globe Theatre in London. The stage jutted out into the auditorium was surrounded on three sides by galleries of seats, that were decorated in a actors also came on and off the stage via walkways between the stalls seats. It made for a very personal experience and you felt almost part of the play. I loved this production, the humans were dressed fifties-style and fairies in black and scarlet with Oberon in a striking white suit. Local school children were also amongst the fairy cast. Puck (played by a woman, Lucy Ellinson) was a feisty, mischievous and energetic character. All the humour, magic and brilliance of this play shone like a beacon. It may have been written almost 400 years ago but so much is still relevant today. And I've taken up one of the lines as my motto, "Though she be but little she is fierce."

Me Outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
We came out into a warm and relaxed evening with people milling around, I remembered well how it had been such a revelation to see Shakespeare live for the first time, I was blown away, and now here I was, many, many years later still being captivated by the Bard.

We strolled back to our house and had some prosecco before retiring to bed.

21st June
Marian was up early and went exploring, I met her at the theatre and we walked up to the Dirty Duck pub, which had been a popular haunt for us in the 70's even though we were under 18. In this day of constant change and age it is wonderful to be able to say the Dirty Duck was hardly any different. Two sets of steps up, seats and tables outside and a friendly atmosphere. I had a delicious brunch of ham, egg and chips.

We walked up to Holy Trinity Church and wandered around it, I couldn't remember much about it from that first visit to be honest.

Shakespeare's Classroom
After this we went to Shakespeare's School Room and the Guild Hall which have recently been renovated. The Guild Hall is downstairs and was built between 1416 and 1420 with a school, chapel and almshouses added over the next hundred or so years. The schoolroom is upstairs, and is a large room with huge oak beams, desks, chairs and a raised platform at the front on which stood a well used leather bound chair for the master. You could dress up and play the master which I couldn't resist doing! Boys here were schooled from the age of seven to fourteen and had long days, 6am to 11am and then 1pm to 6pm. Shakespeare attended this school in the 1670's. I couldn't help but look around and think that a young Shakespeare would have seen the same things, the room was so atmospheric, so much has been learnt there.

We went home for a while before heading up the the Fairy Portal Camp in Avonbank Gardens inbetween the theatres and Holy Trinity church. The camp was set up by Slung Low Theatre Company who do similar events all over the country. This particular production was based around A Midsummer Night's Dream and the belief humans can open a portal to the world of the fairies at midsummer. They provided free meals, classes and entertainment, all very interactive with people who drop in. We decided we'd go for the evening meal but when we got there it was curry, which I can't eat, so we decided to go to somewhere else and come back for the entertainment later.

Pimms at the Dirty Duck
We ended up back at the Dirty Duck and had a great meal, I chose chicken supreme which was delicious and very reasonably priced. We washed our meal down with an equally delicious Pimms, the perfect summertime drink.

Afterwards we walked back up to the Fairy Portal Camp which was in full flow. We were warmly greeted and given headphones for the silent performances and disco. There was a small bonfire surrounded by tree trunks on which people sat. There were also tables and benches and about eight teepees. We were given labels on which to write an "incantation" which would be used in the final big celebration the following Saturday, then we went to a small tree and tied the labels onto it. The performances were really good, I especially loved on by a young woman which was haunting, very "sean nos" in style. Then it was time for us, and we danced away to Whigfield's "Saturday Night" of all things! Finally it became a mad group dance, everyone joined in and it was great fun. All in all it was a lovely way to spend our time and it cost us nothing.

On our way back we passed a fabulous, huge oak tree which must have been around in Shakespeare's day. Still buoyed up by our hippy abandon at the camp we had a tree hugging session lol. We walked along the riverside path and it was a beautiful evening, there was a stillness about it I remembered from that schooldays visit. We passed the theatre and on back to our accommodation.


June 22nd
We first visited a nearby Costa for the WiFi (the only downside of the house we rented was that there was no WiFi.) Then went to the canal basin and went on a barge trip along the river on the Jennifer May. It was very relaxing, and went as far as the church and then back on itself. Some of the famous Stratford swans followed us for a while hoping for some treats I think.

We had a browse in the theatre shop which was quite expensive but interesting to look around. Although we'd been to Shakespeare's birthplace on our first trip we fancied going again and so headed there. However, on seeing the entry price of £17.50, we decided to give it a miss!

That evening we went to the Edward Moon Restaurant on the High Street for the pre-theatre menu. It was very reasonable and the food excellent, I had chicken again, in a white sauce with butter beans which I love.

Afterwards we strolled to The Swan Theatre, which is housed in a Victorian Gothic-style building that is the only remaining part of the original theatre that burned down in 1926. There was a very grand staircase that took us from the foyer to the first floor. We went into the auditorium and found our seats. This theatre was just like the main theatre but on a smaller scale.

We were there to see Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. I found this production very stark and dark, I have seen this play before and enjoyed that version more.  Both Marian and I commented that the two plays (though of course very different in content) really showed how special Shakespeare's work is, he speaks for very type of person in his plays and people can relate to that.

And that was it, my return to Stratford Upon Avon. They say you shouldn't go back to places that hold special memories years later as you remember them differently and places change so much over the decades and you are left disappointed. But I can say that Stratford hasn't changed much, Shakespeare still captivates and is somehow more special seen in his home town. The town itself also still feels very much the same for me as it did to the young girl all those years ago, and it was lovely to share it all with Marian who was with me on that first visit too, more good memories to add to those of the past.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Lake District Wildlife Park Keeper Experience

The other week my cousin Janet and I visited the Lake District Wildlife Park for their Keeper Experience. The drive was lovely, the Lake District looked so beautiful in the morning light of the sunny spring day with it's lush green foliage and spring flowers adding to the stunning landscape.

Zeke chilling
 We were greeted at reception by our keeper (I've forgotten her name but she was really lovely) and she told us a bit about the Park and how it plays an important part in animal conservation and works in conjunction with other zoos lending animals for breeding.

She then took us to meet the tapirs for their morning grooming session. We went in with Muffin and her son Zeke, they were very friendly and keen to be groomed. Both quickly went into raptures during grooming, first closing their eyes and then lying down, totally relaxed. Apparently tapirs are related to horses and hippos, I thought thy might be related to elephants because of their long, flexible nose. It was special to be able to be so close to an animal like this, they are so wonderful.

After grooming the tapirs we went to a hut to prepare fruit and vegetables for the meerkats and ring-tailed lemurs. It was a combination of bananas, sweet potato, apples among other things.

We had to get into the meerkat enclosure quickly as they get very excited at feeding time. There were fourteen animals, but only thirteen were out and about, apparently one female was due to have babies, the keeper said she was probably in her burrow having given birth. The meerkats were smaller than I thought they would be and quite flighty. After a while they plucked up the courage and jumped onto our knees and for the food, all the time chattering away.

We then went on to our final group of animals, the endangered ring-tailed lemurs. They were beautiful, with thick black and white fur and rings of it on their long tails, their faces reminded me a bit of a raccoon. They were a lot more confident than the meerkats and quickly jumped on our shoulders and arms. There were a couple of mums with their babies clinging to their backs, one with twins had one clinging underneath too. They especially liked the banana and would sift through the food you had looking for it.

And so that was the end of our Keeper Experience, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. We then looked a round the rest of the park and watched a bird of prey demonstration in which an eagle called Uni decided that she'd had enough and flew off to a tree for a while! Interestingly, during the demonstration a wild peregrine falcon flew over head being chased by two crows who must have been protecting their nest.

All in all it was a good day, the Animal Park is small and the animals look healthy and happy and well cared for and of course the conservation aspect of the park is vital nowadays. I would really recommend this Keeper Experience, it costs £35.00 and that includes the normal admission fee of £8.95. There are other animal experiences that you can do as well, all the same price.

Address:  Lake District Wildlife Park
                Bassenthwaite Lake
                Keswick
                Cumbria  CA12 4RD

Tel:          01768 776239

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Restaurant Review - No. 34, Carlisle

Three friends and I recently decided to try the mid-week wine tasting menu at No. 34 restaurant, it was a bit different, I don't know of any other restaurant in Carlisle that does a wine tasting menu.

My goat's cheese starter
 The restaurant has a relaxed ambiance, the chairs were comfortable and the tables spaced enough to give some privacy. For my starter I had slow cooked balsamic onion and goat’s cheese tart with a crispy vegetable salad and they gave me Sauvignon Blanc, Panul, Lontue Valley Chile to go with it. I was surprised that the amount of wine (which is complimentary) was more than I expected. I love goat's cheese and loved my starter was delicious, as was the wine.

I chose grilled sea bass, roasted fennel, pomme cocottes, roasted cherry tomatoes, olive tapenade, samphire and a lemon and white wine foam for my main course and this was accompanied by a Pinot Noir, Reserva Vina Mar Argentina. Again the food was delicious, the generous portion of sea bass melted in the mouth. I scraped the olive tapenade off the fish before eating it though, I hate olives in any form. My friends all had pan fried corn fed chicken, rosti potato, pancetta savoy cabbage, celeriac puree,  baby onion and chicken cream sauce with La Brouette Rosé, Vin de Pays du Comte Tolosan wine, they too loved their meals.
Chocolate dessert heaven!

We decided to go the whole hog and have dessert too and mine was chocolate delice with chocolate soil, cinder toffee, orange jelly, orange crisps and mascarpone along with Corney and Barrow Tawny Port. For a chocoholic like m this dessert was wonderful, the delice especially was heavenly! I'm partial to port occasionally, and this one went really well with the dessert.

My friends Kath, Margo and me, photo taken
by Tania




The service was very good, friendly and professional. The cost was reasonable for such excellent food - their wine tasting mid-week special Tuesday to Thursday is two courses for £18.95 and three courses £23.95,


Address:  34 Fisher Street
                Carlisle

Website:  http://www.numberthirtyfour.co.uk/

Monday, 14 March 2016

U2 ieTour Dublin 2 - The Finale

First of all sorry for the delay in finishing my blog about my experiences on the U2 ie tour, life got in the way of my writing for a few weeks. But now things have calmed down and I'll try to remember the last couple days of our time in Dublin!

24th November 2015

So-so Bono Photo
In the afternoon Debbi and I got the Luas to the 3Arena, we had decided to go for the meet and greet and joined the people waiting. It was still cold but not as bad as the day before. We hadn't been there long when a middle-aged American woman came along and asked if Bono had arrived yet. She then proceeded to say that Bono had a bionic arm after his bike accident a year previously (he had needed extensive surgery which included various rods to hold his bones together.) She said she had a bionic hip and then got out a photo of her hip xray which she said she was going to show Bono. Mmmm, we distanced ourselves from her as much as we could!

Bono eventually arrived and first went to the people on the other side from where we were. He took quite a while there with the result that he had less time for our side. As he got near us I heard his security man Brian say to him that they had to go. And Bono passed by us quickly, somehow Debbi
managed to get her copy of our book autographed by him (weirdly this gradually disappeared over time!!) It was all a whirl to me but I did get a so-so photo out of it.

Debbi and Me, Best Pals!
We needed food and warmth so headed to the Gibson Hotel and went into the Coda Restaurant for a meal. I had baked cod with mash and vegetables with bacon, it was absolutely delicious and just what we needed.

Later we met up with Paddy and picked up our tickets. As the previous night there was security, but not as much as I had expected seeing the terrible recent Paris terrorists attacks. Our seats were great, it is such a small arena all seats a close, so much better than the previous night. I could see the floor was very, very crowded, much more so than in London or Glasgow, I was glad I was in a seat. The end of the video screen was almost touching the balcony, they only just got it in. It was a wonderful show and it was good to be able to see it all.  During Beautiful Day Bono spoke to Dallas before going into Bad, later I heard that the setlist had I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For as the final song, so it seems Bono changed the ending and it was the right decision, Bad  performed in Dublin is electrifying, and yes, I cried again! This version wasn't as long as the Glasgow one, it also segued into 40 as in Glasgow and it too was shorter. Because of that, for me, it didn't equal the Glasgow version which was perfection. But it was still a good way to end our U2ie Tour.

We met up with Declan and Paddy, Declan had his son Owen with him, I'd last seen him as a toddler and here he was, a teenager, how time flies by. Paddy came back to our apartment for a few drinks and chat, it's always good to unwind with friends after a U2 show.

25th November 2015

Fire Restaurant
Debbi and I had a very lazy day, we needed to recover, nowadays we can't just bounce back when we are on tour! That evening we were booked into Fire Restaurant, somewhere we had talked about visiting for a long time. We met up with our friend from New York, Michelle, and first went into Cafe en Seine which is opposite Fire for a drink. Cafe en Seine is an amazing place which has a very interesting history, it also makes the best Singapore Slings ever!

After our drinks we went across to Fire and were shown to our table in the large, lofty Restaurant. The restaurant is part of the Mansion House which has been the official home of the Lord Mayor of Dublin since 1715.

Debbi and Paddy
Paddy joined us there and we had a wonderful meal, everything was perfect and it had a lovely atmosphere, none of us were disappointed in it.Unfortunately because of the passage of time I can't remember exactly what I had.

All in all it was a great way to end our stay in Dublin, good food and wine with good friends!

Michelle and Me






Friday, 1 January 2016

U2ie Tour, Dublin 1 - Catching Up with Friends and Another Show

November 21st

When we stepped out of Dublin airport into the breezy, cold late afternoon, it felt great to be back. It had been almost two years since I was last in this, my favourite, city and I had missed th place. W took a taxi to Smithfield and our lovely apartment. We had a quick turnaround after our arrival as we were both going out to different places. I decided to nip to the local shop for bread and butter so we could have breakfast next day. Well that was my intention. I ended up getting totally lost in the rabbit warren of corridors and the lift kept taking me to a dead end. After ten minutes I went back to the apartment, Debbi said that I'd been quick and I told her I hadn't even left the building! We both went to search for the way out, after another ten minutes we found a different lift and that took us to reception, finally sussed it. However, it was now too late to go to the shop, so we just got our coats on and went out. Debbi was meeting up with some friends and going to a Rush tribute band gig. I didn't really fancy that, it's not my kind of thing,  so I had made arrangements to visit Ken and Elizabeth, friends in Dun Laoghaire.

I took the Luas (tram) to Busaras and walked the short distance to Connolly Station to catch the Dart suburban train. I had a struggle getting tickets out of the machine so asked for help and found the most wonderful railway employee, very helpful and also very funny who went way beyond what he needed to to help me. When I got to the  platform and noticed the next train going my way wasn't due for 30 minutes! The platform was very open and a strong, freezing wind was blowing, I had to pace about to keep warm. When the Dart  came it was toasty warm and I gradually defrosted on the trip south to Sandycove station in Dun Laoghaire. Then I had a short walk to my friends' house.

As usual the welcome was warm. Elizabeth had prepared a lovely meal and we caught up on each others news as we ate and drank wine. Ken and Elizabeth are such genuine people and I've known them for 25 years now, how time flies by! I left just after 10pm and was back in our apartment by 11pm. Debbi was still out, I stayed up a while and then turned in. It felt wonderful to be back.

November 22nd

We had a lie in and caught up about each other's night, then got the shopping in. We had a leisurely afternoon, we have seen all the sights in Dublin over the many, many years we had been visiting, so nowadays we feel no need to do the "tourist" thing.  Later we got a taxi to The Green Hen Restaurant, a wonderful French restaurant we had discovered a couple of years ago. They have a very reasonable Early Eater menu that we took advantage of. We both had Goat's Cheese and Beetroot salad to start followed by Confit Duck, both delicious. I love this restaurant, it's lively without being too loud, great service and reasonable prices.

Afterwards we went home and had some wine and looked forward to the two U2 shows we had coming up.

November 23rd

Gig day! It was cold and windy when we got off the Luas behind the 3Arena. The area is known as The Point Village now and is mainly new (or as in the case of 3Arena a renovated old building) but nearby there are still some old buildings left from the days when this area was part of very busy docklands. We went into the new Gibson Hotel close by, I wanted to see the Bono and Edge painting in there by the Irish artist Fin Dac. We took escalators up to the hotel, the painting is on the first floor it is hug and very impressive, full of movement and energy.

The Fin Dac Mural in the Gibson Hotel
We met our friend Paddy in the hotel, he's originally from Dublin but has lived in the US for many years and had come over for the shows. However, he did not have any tickets! He said if we could get him tickets he would pay for ours for the second night (we already had the first.) I was bowled over, it was a very kind thing to do and he did not know me that well.  Debbi managed to score the tickets so w were now going to two concerts in Dublin.

We went into the Hemi Bar which served Asian food, Debbi and I shared a platter which was ok, but the sauce over the ribs was far too spicy for me. Also, the service wasn't the best, we sat for ages before being served, then there was a long wait for the food. However the place was lovely, it had a central outside courtyard that looked beautiful with all the Christmas lights, though the rain and wind whipping around it made it best just to look at that day! There was also a long outside balcony area that looked out over the arena. Again on a nice day it would be nice to sip a drink out there, but definitely not on a night like this!

We left the hotel and braved the weather as we had to go to the box office to pick up our tickets. For this gig we had Music Generation Zone tickets, it was all a bit chaotic and it took us a while to find the right queue for the box office. Eventually we got inside and it was lovely to be warm and out of that howling wind. We got our tickets and waited a while to get into the arena. When we got in were stunned at how small it was, it's unbelievable that a city like Dublin does not have a bigger arena than this. The place quickly filled up and as the Zone was not higher than the floor I soon realised that I would not be able to see much. And that turned out to be true, so I went to the other end of the area where I could see a bit of the e-stage and video screen. I enjoyed the show but must admit it turned out to be my least favourite and I think my feelings were coloured by my difficulty in getting to see anything, sometimes I wish I was six feet tall! I realised for sure that night that what people had said about the best place to be in these concerts is in a seat was true. It was rather disappointing as when we had these tickets last tour they gave us a great view.

Me, Declan and Debbi
After the show Debbi and I left and met up with our friend Declan and his wife Mary and had a catch up with them, we hadn't seen Mary for a long time. We waited for Paddy to come along and join us but after a while we left as it was freezing cold and that wind was still whipping in off the Irish Sea numbing us to the bone. Later he caught up with us and came to our apartment and we stayed up having a lovely night chatting, eating and drinking as we usually do post gig. I love the touring life!


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

Adam
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!

Friends
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

Cityscape

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

Website:  http://oldfirestation.carlisle.city/