Sunday, May 22, 2011

A night to remember - Clapton in Concert and Dublin's Docklands

The O2/Point Depot
A couple of weeks ago we had a real treat as we went to see rock legend and guitar hero supreme Eric Clapton in concert in the O2/Point Depot (can't use these commercially driven sponsorship product-placement names without a ton of cynicism and the original name) in Dublin. It was hubby Jan's birthday treat as he has been a fan since forever, and has some of his old vinyl LPs (remember those?!) which must surely be collectors' items by now.

Birthday boy and me!
We went up to Dublin in the early afternoon as we had some business to attend to - and then we called out to see middle son Martin in Drumcondra. We had a lovely early bird meal at the best pizzeria in Dublin - in my humble opinion - The Independent Pizza Company on Dorset Street, beside Drumcondra Railway Station. This was my first time in its current location as it used to be a few doors up the road above Quinn's pub, an iconic landmark, along with nearby McGraths pub, particularly for punters going to Croke Park to the hurling and football All-Ireland qualifiers and finals. I had a delicious Caesar Salad and Chorizo pizza while Jan had a Calzone closed pizza, something I first encountered on our Italian honeymoon almost thirty years ago! Along with a few glasses of house red, we were ready for the road.
Martin and Mammy

Scrummy Caesar Salad
 Chorizo Pizza
We walked over to the venue at the end of the Dublin Docklands at the old Point Depot which has undergone a transformation in recent years to become the O2, a nod to telecoms sponsorship and an anodyne ubiquity which irks me as I loved the uniqueness of the old Point - it meant something and referenced its original incarnation as the depot at the point where the River Liffey meets the sea and where goods were offloaded and stored.

We walked down long-familiar streets which were a trip down memory lane in itself as we lived in Dublin many years ago, at the start of our lives together. I spent six happy carefree student years there, living in flatland Rathmines and Rathgar, as well as the house in Drumcondra where our son is now staying. So I have many fond memories of Dublin and there are many landmarks that have a resonance for me. Down Belvedere Road, Gardiner Street and Mountjoy Square, and onto Custom House Quay past Busáras bus depot which housed the Eblana Theatre in the basement - I went to many plays there in my student days.

Jeannie Johnston Famine Memorial Ship
The evening was lovely, and the IFSC, birthplace (probably) of the Celtic Tiger, looked suitably impressive, if not majestic like the Custom House. The Jeannie Johnston seems to be permanently berthed around here and it looks lovely, but the highlights of the walk had to be the harp-like Samuel Beckett Bridge and the "Pringle Box" Convention Centre, so-called because of its backwards-tilting circular glass wall. They are beautiful architectural landmarks of the modern city, and have made the Docklands the vibrant place it is today. The Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay is a recent sculpture and is very haunting and evocative of our darkest days. I was taken with the World Poverty Stone, a UN commemorative stone.

Samuel Beckett Bridge
The Concert was wonderful even if Clapton isn't the most communicative singer around - as Jan said we are there to enjoy the music, and that was great. He sang lots of songs I didn't know as I'm not as diehard a fan as hubby, but the perennial faves like I Shot the Sherriff and Layla and Wonderful Tonight raised the roof of the revamped O2. He looked well for his 66 years and I hope we all wear as well given the hell-raising life he led in his young rock years - he has had his share of tragedy as well with his 4 yr old son falling from a 54th floor apartment in 2002. That inspired Tears in Heaven which he didn't sing - there wouldn't have been a dry eye in the house.

Claption in action on the big screen
I loved the people watching before the gig started and decided that ageing rockers attract a certain demographic - ageing rock fans! We had good seats and the big screens captured the detail we couldn't see from our dizzy heights. Clapton's crew was terrific, with backing singers, keyboard and piano players, and drummer and bass player.

Revolver by night
The crowd at the concert
He was supported for the first hour by Andy Fairweather-Low and the Low Riders - and I hadn't a clue who he was as we'd no programme - but the lighting was dire for that hour and he was like a skeletal underlit shadow - though I loved the two hits he sang - (If Paradise was) Half as Nice and Wide Eyed and Legless - I don't thing the setting did him justice. Eric played for over 2 hours and came back for an encore, which helped us forgive his being detached. There was a great atmosphere in the O2 but we were constantly being trodden on by people in and out for booze - I will never understand why people go to concerts and spend their time there in and out to the bar. Dublin's Big Wheel, Revolver, beckoned temptingly but I couldn't persuade hubby to overcome his vertigo to give it a go and see Dublin by night. That's something for the bucket list.

We were on a high after it and got a taxi back to Drumcondra where we'd left the car. We were back home by 3am - I slept for most of the journey and had the Tuesday off to recover. I went to the morning session of my knitting circle, and enjoyed the company of a bunch of formidable women with good chat and tea and cakes enhancing the quality of the knitting.

There are a few  more gigs I'd have on my bucket list, Springsteen being tops and one I hope to fulfill this on his next Irish visit. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Historic Week - and Conference Craic in Kilkenny

Having a laugh with colleagues from the Waterford Branch
Getting ready to party at the Gala Dinner
This past week has been memorable for many reasons - it was a bit of a rollercoaster as Friday saw the Royal Wedding where all commentators suspended reasoned judgement and went into sycophancy overdrive. In Ireland where we scorn such monarchic shenanigans as unworthy of a republic there was a dip in ESB Electricity usage for the duration of the broadcasting - indicating that the only appliance in use was the TV - nary a kettle or a cooker in sight! Seems they can monitor such things, and it reflects our ADLs (as in the Barthel Index used in nursing assessment) - our Activities of Daily Living! Despite that little aside - I did watch what was on view in the various homes I visited and saw the bride's arrival at the altar. Kate did look good, but her sister Pippa looked better. True to form, within hours there was a Facebook fan page set up for her rear-end attributes. The sheath dress she wore called for a total ban on any surplus adipose tissue (=fat) or cellulite - or the Spanx-type compression undies that haven't been seen since Victorian corsetry and wasp-waists were the order of the day and which many of my generation can't live without at functions and weddings. I have refused thus far to be reined in by such a garment and WYSIWYG in my gladrags. Comfort rules above convention and at my age I will endeavour to look good but to enjoy myself as well.

Minister for Health Dr. James O'Reilly's Address
 Which brings me on to the social events that went with the Annual Delegate Conference of the INMO - tge Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (some day they'll have to put in apostrophes - I know, it pains my inner grammar geek). This was held in Kilkenny and we had a busy 3 days of motions, debate, addresses, keynote speakers (the new Minister for Health, Dr. James O'Reilly) and lots of card-waving to pass or reject motions. That was by day - come evening and we let our hair down as only nurses know how - and we partied into the night. It always amazes me that regardless of how much partying nurses get up to they are fresh and ready the following morning - whether for duty or for another round of debates.

I had a motion to speak to from our PHN (Public Health Nursing) section and unfortunately it didn't get an airing until late on the last day by which point everyone's motioned out and there was no time for debate - just voting. It was carried unanimously so there was no problems bar my difficulty in limiting my address to the requisite max of 3 minutes - even after judicious editing I was timed out by the bell.

Claire and Mary (with the Gobnait O'Connell Award for Outstanding Service to the Branch) with Liam Doran Gen. Sec. INMO
Me and my new Twitter friend Dean
 On a lighter note, I was tweeting a bit during the lulls in the debates and between speakers and discovered another tweeter at the conference - a young student nurse from the Sligo branch. We met up at the Gala Dinner on the final evening and had a bit of a laugh at the joys of Twitter, as he had been chatting with Fergal Bowers, the RTE Health Correspondent, who was reporting on the Minister's address. The media got a hammering over their negative reporting on the public sector - we have been so vilified in recent years that you'd  think we were responsible for all the woes in the country.

Nicholas Mosse Pottery Shop, Bennettsbridge
Kilkenny is a lovely small city with narrow streets and a lot of lovely old buildings. It rained almost incessantly for the duration of the conference but on our free afternoon the sun appeared so I went to see the Nicholas Mosse pottery in Bennettsbridge and the gallery in Kilkenny Castle. The Kilkenny Craft Exhibition was on and had some lovely pieces on display. Unfortunately I was too late to see inside the Castle and one of the main galleries, the Butler, was closed but I enjoyed the bit of culture - there were lots of ceramics on display.

Dessert mmmm.....!
As is now the norm at these conferences we had a Table Quiz for local charities on the opening night, which was a good laugh even though we didn't win. The following night we were entertained by the Kilkenny Gospel Choir which was upbeat and uplifting. That was followed by an Irish Dance troupe who were brilliant - none of the wigs and fake tan that's become synonymous with Irish Dancing Championships like the recent World Championships in Dublin which brought down the wrath of the public over the homogenisation of the dancers - like Oompah-loompahs with mop heads, all distracting from the marvellous skills they have. Thankfully our troupe were more Riverdance than St. Tropez and their elegance was matched by their expertise. To everyone's delight, one of the student midwives, Danny Oakes from Alaska and Dundalk put on a spontaneous show of spectacular skill. You can enjoy the video clip below. Michael Flatley won't want for a successor if this guy decides to do a nixer from the labour ward.

The final evening's Gala Dinner was good fun though everyone was pretty exhausted by that stage. We had lovely food and danced if off afterwards, and the camaraderie and craic made it an enjoyable few days which has become a bit of an annual reunion for the nursing diaspora of Ireland.
Given the goings on in the rest of the world - Osama taken out by Obama - what a difference a letter makes!- and the triumphal euphoria of the West being slowly replaced by cautious optimism as the radicals threaten revenge, it  has been a strange week of polarisation. Ireland awoke on Saturday morning to the prophet of doom Morgan Kelly's diatribe against the Central Bank director Patrick Honohan over the bank bailout - he predicted bankruptcy for Ireland in the coming year or two as we struggle to bring our head above water let alone keep it there. It was so vitriolic and personal that I wondered - as did most of the Twitterati - what agenda is being played out.

Today hubby and me are heading to Dublin to see Eric Clapton at the O2 - a birthday treat for Jan who loves Clapton forever. I'm looking forward to it too, one of the rock stars I'll enjoy seeing before he hangs up his Stratocaster.