Sunday, 16 November 2014

Reckless: 30th Anniversary Tour

Last year for my birthday and Christmas I got several Ticketmaster vouchers (I admit I'm hard to buy presents for). I thought I'd wait until someone toured who I really wanted to see. Then Bryan Adams announced his Reckless: 30th Anniversary Tour. 

First check - was he coming to Liverpool? Yes!

Second check - what day of the week was the concert? Now this is important as, due to my husband's job, weekday concerts can be difficult to attend. So keeping everything crossed I checked December 15th and it was a Saturday! 

The only problem with booking through Ticketmaster is you can't always pick your seats and my husband likes an aisle seat. So on the night we made our way to our seats and luckily we had the aisle seat.

The Echo Arena in Liverpool is a decent size. It's not as big as the Phones 4 U Arena in Manchester which means that even on the top tier you get a decent view. So this was our view of the stage

Just after 8pm Bryan Adams came on stage and launched into "Reckless". He then proceeded to play the whole album in running order. I didn't think I knew the album but was surprised at how many songs I did know. From the lesser known tracks to the hits he gave his all. 

This was the fifth time I'd seen Bryan and each time during "Summer of 69" he has played chicken with his guitarist while running from one side of the stage to the other. Every time it's worked - except this time. This time he was taken clean out and landed, luckily on stage, flat on his back! And yes it's on You Tube.

Once the "Reckless" album was finished Bryan launched into songs from the other eleven albums he's released starting with "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)" which happens to be my personal favourite song of his. And yes I do know it was Number One forever!!

A mixture of both ballads and belt out songs continued, some sung with simply his guitar for accompaniment before ending with my second favourite song. "I Want To Be Your Underwear" isn't played often live so I was more than happy to hear this.

The encore consisted of four songs of which his band joined him for just the first. The stripped down versions were as enjoyable as anything that had full backing. The very last request from Bryan was to ask everyone to turn on the torch on their phones. He then finished with "All For Love". Approximately eleven thousand mobile phones made a wonderful twinkly sight.

Did I enjoy the night? Most definitely. Whilst Bryan does not put in a show in the way some bands/singers do he does put on a very good gig. From start to finish it's him and his band singing. No props. No gimmicks. And for me that's what a concert should be.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A Trip to Skye - Day Seven

Another wet day on Skye meant another day exploring. This time we headed for Waternish on the west coast. We finally ended up in Slein which has a few houses a restaurant and a pub. As we passed the pub I noticed the date above the door - 1720. 

From Slein we headed for Broadford. This is one of the larger villages on the island and has a couple of walks clearly signposted. Not being in the mood for a long walk we wandered around the village for a bit before heading off again.

Our final call of the day was Armadale where the ferry to Mallaig can be caught. A quick check on the ferry times as an option on the journey home resulted in us realising that it wasn't due to it now being the winter timetable.

The final purchase of the holiday was Skye Red a ruby ale brewed near Uig. The Skye Brewery produces an impressive twenty one beers/ales from it's premises which can be purchased online. 
From "Diary Cloud"

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Trip to Skye - Day Six

Thursday brought another fine day on Skye. First thing was a trip to Uig to visit the pottery. 

After a quick walk around we took the road via Staffin to Portree. When we travelled this road on Sunday the weather was bad but the scenery was lovely. However on a clearer day it was simply stunning.

The thing about this road is that there are several places to stop off and enjoy a short walk to a viewpoint. Most of these passed us by on Sunday!

One such place was Staffin beach where I was happily looking out to the islands in the distance when my husband asked if I was enjoying watching the wildlife. It turned out that on some rocks there were about four or five seals - none of which I had noticed!

Further along the road are the Kilt Rocks so named as they look like the pleats in a kilt.

After a few pleasant hours taking in these wonderful walks and views we returned to Portree and purchased a haggis as there is no way you can leave Scotland without one.

A Trip to Skye - Day Five

My husband's choice of trip on this holiday was the tasting tour at Talisker. We arrived in much kinder weather than we had on Monday and could appreciate the surroundings.

A few minutes after our arrival our tour guide collected us and one other couple for the tour. We're now approaching veteran stage of these tours having done several now but it is always interesting to hear about the slight differences. 

At the start of the tour Lesley, our guide, explained where the barley was grown and malted before arriving at Talisker for grinding. At that point the machine sprung into action making the floor vibrate. Considering the amount of barley that passes through at each time (about nine tons) it's not a huge machine.

The next room is the mash room which is the smelliest room in the place. It's a smell I quite like as the large tubs wash the barley in hot water to remove the sugar. 

Sadly we couldn't see the maturation tanks as the room they are kept in was having a new roof and was not accessible. Instead we went straight to the stills where the machine that splits the spirit was in full flow - the first time we'd seen one working.

Next was a look at some of the barrels sitting around while the whisky matures and picks up some of the notes of the barrel. Talisker use predominately bourbon casks with some sherry. The barrels on view had been there since 1979 and we were told that once the contents were bottled they would be the oldest Talisker to be sold.

Finally we headed for the tasting room. Not knowing what strength the whisky would be I had opted out of tasting but has happy to nose them. The options were the first cut, Talisker 10 yr, 18 yr, 25 yr, 57 North and Distillers Choice.

The first cut was the clear spirit that comes out of the stills before it goes into the barrel. It smelt very sweet but with hardly a hint of peat. Those who tasted it said it was surprisingly sweet. Next a few drops of water were added which brought the smokiness out.

These steps were repeated for the five whiskies which my husband enjoyed tasting. At the end I decided to smell the first cut again. It now smelt incredibly peaty but you wouldn't want to taste it!

Having finished the tour we headed back to Portree for a late lunch. In Portree harbour is a fab fish & chip shop. Well worth a visit as they do the best chips I've had in a long time.

The downside of visiting Skye at this time of year is that is gets dark early and so sightseeing finishes early. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

A Trip to Skye - Day Four

Monday and more horizontal rain and wind! Again it was forecast but it's not the sort of weather you can really do anything in (unless you're very hardy)

Another day of exploring Skye by car beckoned. First we headed for Dunvegan Castle and discovered it was shut (seems to be a theme!). So we headed south to see how far we could go. The answer was Kyleaken which was just south of the Skye Bridge. As seemed to be typical as soon as we stopped for photos the rain came down! A quick walk round just to stretch our legs and it was back in the car and heading north. This time we turned off towards Carbost and the Talisker Distillery. As my husband is fond of single malt whisky we wanted to check what tours were available. It turned out that the taster tour was to take place the following day. When we mentioned that I wouldn't be tasting as I would be driving they explained that I would still get the two hour tour but pay the basic tour rate. 

Having booked up for that we headed back towards Dunvegan as we had spotted a turn-off to Portree. This nine mile, mostly single track, road went through some of the most spectacular scenery I have seen. The heathers are different shades of autumnal golds set against the background of mountains. Sadly due to the nature of the road it wasn't possible to take photos.

A Trip to Skye - Day Three

Our first full day on Skye and it was raining. The wonderful rain I have only experienced in Scotland - horizontal rain. To be fair it was forecast and so we weren't too surprised.

Knowing that previously in the Highlands we've come across whole towns shut on a Sunday we set out to have a bit of an exploration by car. First stop was Uig about six miles away. Uig is the ferry point for the Isles of Lewis & Harris so we thought something may be open. Nothing. So we turned round and headed for the town of Portree about fifteen miles south. 

Portree was slightly more open in that the cafes and bars were open as was the Co-Op but nothing else. We had a brief walk around before getting lunch in The Granary. This is a cafe/restaurant which sells everything from breakfast to a Sunday roast. A cheese & ham toastie & a decent coffee set us up for the afternoon. 

Now there are not many roads on Skye. And not all of them join up so we were pleasantly surprised to discover we could drive from Portree to Staffin and back round to Uig. 

This is essentially a coast road and on a clearer day must have some spectacular views. As it was we enjoyed what we could see. What can be a bit hair-raising is the single track roads and not knowing what might we round the next bend. Luckily the sheep stayed off the road!

A Trip to Skye - Day Two

Saturday morning meant being woken by geese on the lake behind the services. Luckily not too early! A quick look outside showed that this Days Inn is set in one of the more picturesque motorway services.

Once breakfast was over we set off North again heading for the village of Uig. South of Glasgow the scenery is nice but not spectacular. Once past Glasgow however that changes.

The road bends around Loch Lomond before heading off towards the magnificence of Glencoe. If you've never been but have seen the film Highlander then the scenes of Conor MacLeod & his wife are filmed in Glencoe. It is simply one of my favourite places in these isles.

Once through Glencoe Fort William beckoned where a quick stop for lunch and a supermarket shop gave us a break. Fort William is the nearest town to the Nevis range and is a haven for tourists and walkers/mountaineers alike. I have previously spent the odd day there quite happily including having an unexpected private tour of the distillery.

Supplies for the week collected we drove past the turn off for the Nevis range and headed towards the Kyle of Lochalsh and the Skye Bridge. Until fairly recently the only way to reach Skye was by ferry. Then the bridge was built which originally was tolled. A campaign by the locals has resulted in the toll being dropped.

Once across the bridge we carried on northwards past Portree until a few miles short of Uig where our home for the week was situated. It only had 3 rooms but was spacious and comfortable enough for the two of us.

A Trip to Skye - Day One

Our holiday to the Isle of Skye started on Friday evening. Knowing that it was a long drive, about nine hours, we decided to leave and head for the Days Inn at Annandale Water on the M74.

Personally I rate Days Inn hotels above Travelodge but below Premier Inn. Functional and useful for the odd night but not for a long stay. This one suited our purposes perfectly for a night. The downside is using the motorway services for breakfast. Thank heavens for Costa Coffee!

I have to say the room was comfortable and clean with added bonus of a balcony. Sadly the view had to wait until Saturday morning. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Concert Behaviour

I have a bugbear when it comes to concerts and one that I share with at least one person. That is why do people buy concert tickets and then proceed to get drunk & talk through the whole concert?

I do realise that it's a night out but YOU'VE PAID MONEY TO WATCH SOMEONE PERFORM FOR YOU!!!! If you just want to get drunk then why not go to a pub or club for the evening?

Last year I went to see Deacon Blue at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. I had very good seats being fairly central and three rows back. By the end of the concert I was glad I hadn't worn decent shoes as the floor was covered in half filled cups of alcohol swimming in more alcohol. The couple sitting in front of us had put their jackets on the back of the chairs. At some point they ended up on the floor and were soaked through.

All through the concert people were leaving their seats to go and buy alcohol which is very annoying when you have the aisle seats. Others were watching the concert through their mobile phones or just chatting. 

I find this behaviour very strange. Tickets cost usually £30+ depending on venue/seat/artist. Presumably you've bought the tickets because you like the artist in question. So why miss huge chunks of a concert queuing for drinks? 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Have you ever started reading a book thinking you knew roughly what is was about? I've done just that with "Philomena".

I decided to read the book before watching the film and it started how I expected. However instead of concentrating on Philomena it concentrated on her son Anthony.

During the story of Anthony's life I learnt a few things about the USA and in particular about events during the Reagan years. Although I grew up during this period what we learnt about current affairs was given to us by the newspapers and tv news. No such thing as the internet or even 24 hour tv back then! So unless you devoured every broadsheet available some things passed you by (plus I have an appalling memory).

I have to say that, sad as the story is, Philomena was superbly written and I could barely put it down. Written to give the reader enough information without giving them the feeling they were reading a gossip magazine. The one down side were the photos. Placed in two sections in the middle of the book it meant discovering the ending well before getting there.

I would have liked to have found out more about Philomena's life after she gave up her son but the story was so compelling it didn't really matter. But it seemed that's what Philomena herself wanted - her son's story told

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Is It Still My Club?

It’s hard being a Charlton fan at the moment. We knew at the start of the season that things were going to be tough when the team wasn’t strengthened and players that could give us a fighting edge were let go. All we could hope for was that Chris Powell could work some magic and keep us in the division. The realisation then set in that several players, including those deemed most important by the fans, and the management team’s contracts were up in the summer of 2014. Would these be sorted in time?


The first half of the season was a struggle but with talk of a takeover there was hope. We knew it wouldn’t be an investor with multi-millions to throw at Charlton but someone who could at least bring stability to the club. Now we realised why players & management’s contracts were not being sorted. Why commit to something that new owners would not like/want? Christmas came and still no takeover. The transfer window opened with rumours that a takeover would soon be finalised. Would this mean there would be money to spend? More importantly  would it be completed in time to spend?


January 3rd and all was revealed. Roland Duchalet, the current owner of Standard Liege, was now the owner of Charlton. And early enough in the transfer window to make a difference - hopefully.  An interview with him had him talking about a “network” of clubs which players would be able to move around giving them experience of other leagues. Specifically young Charlton players could experience Champions League football. Hang on…..we bring these talented young players on and you will move them because Liege are in the Champions League? Where does that leave Charlton?


The players brought didn’t seem to be that inspiring. Most came from abroad and we knew it would take some time for them to settle into English Football. The only one who seemed to be reasonably up to speed was Astrit Adaravic who seemed to understand the passion of the Charlton fans and reciprocate. Then at the end of the transfer window there were not one but two hammer blows. First up Dale Stephens was sold to Brighton & Hove Albion. Dale could frustrate the life out of you at times but was clearly the midfield creator who has a wonderful habit of scoring absolute cracking goals. So much that a song was made up about it.


If the loss of Dale was bad enough then worse was to follow. Our talisman Yann Kermorgant was sold to Bournemouth. There had been rumours and a Twitter campaign was started to show the depth of the fan’s feelings. But still he was sold. Who was going to score our goals now? Yes were guilty of playing a long ball game but Yann was more than capable, with the right service, of scoring the goals that would keep Charlton up. I can honestly say that I have not felt.


In the midst of all this we had a cup run which culminated in a quarter final trip to Sheffield United. The less said about that game the better as Charlton slumped to a 2-0 loss. Again the rumour mill was rife that should Charlton lose then Chris Powell would lose his job. If this was the case then the team certainly didn’t play like a team fighting for their manager. If the other rumour (that Powell was released before the game but told to keep quiet) was true then that would explain the performance.


This decision did seem planned ahead as within a day or so Jose Riga took over as Head Coach. The fans consensus seemed to be split between those who  were prepared to give Riga a chance and those who were still pro Powell. At the time, and even now, I still find it hard not having Chris Powell in charge. Yes I will cheer on the team but I’m not convinced that the soul of the club is still there.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Robert Enke

I recently read “A Life Too Short The Tragedy of Robert Enke” which took some time to finish. Not because it’s a bad book because it isn’t but because, in places, it’s a tough read.


For someone who suffers from depression and loves football this book was fascinating. On one hand it explained the ins and outs of football transfers in Europe and gave an insight into the German national team as well as some of the top club teams in Europe including Barcelona. On the other it gave an insight into what it like not only to suffer from depression but also how the family and friends of the sufferer have to cope day in day out.


On the surface Robert Enke had it all. A wife and family, doing something he loved and representing his national team. But he suffered from anxieties over how good he was like many other people. I certainly understood his feelings of not being good enough even if others around you say you are. His daughter died at a young age – something that can break the strongest of people.


The struggle that Robert Enke went through is one that depression sufferers will identify with on a varying level. There is always the thought in your mind that one day you will be brought so low that there seems to be no way out except to end it. Luckily, for me, I have not yet experienced that but I know others who have. Having said that I could feel nothing but empathy for Robert as he felt he was brought so low. It must have been hard for him to ask for the help he so desperately needed knowing he was a public figure. At the time he was suffering the world in general was still very reluctant to understand depression as an illness. To admit to depression felt like admitting you could not cope and yet many depressives hold down jobs just as Robert did.


If you have never suffered from depression then this book will give you an insight into what can be a dark and frightening place. I would say read it even if the football side of it does not appeal.


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Chris Powell

I've had some dark days as a Charlton supporter. Leaving The Valley has to be the lowest but 11March 2014 is down there with them.

Today Charlton's new owner decided to sack Chris Powell. A man who has worked miracles in the last three seasons to give us back a club we felt proud of and loved in the way only Charlton fans can. A man who we felt was one of us and not just a man in a suit. A man who wasn't scared to celebrate with the fans when the circumstances were right.

Now we have a new "Head Coach" a title which always makes me think that someone else is running the team. Is he a yes man? Only time will tell as it will as to whether Charlton stay up or descend to League One again. 

Whatever happens we have a lot to thank Chris Powell for. Personally it's promotion at Carlisle for me but I'm sure other Charlton fans have their own special moment. 

Thank you Chris. You will be missed. 
From "Diary Cloud"

Monday, 10 March 2014

Wembley or Bust

I haven't blogged for a while and definitely not about Charlton Athletic but feel I need to get yesterday out of my system.

The day started well having woken up on time and the first train was on time to get me to Liverpool South Parkway. The train to Manchester arrived on time and I set off with high hopes for Sheffield. All was going well until trespassers on the line meant a detour via Leeds. Instead of a leisurely walk to the ground a quick dash was made to finally find the away end and my seat just before kick off.

There was plenty of optimism amongst the Charlton fans but still the nagging thought that things could go wrong. First half was pretty even with neither side really making the keepers work.  

The second half started much the same as the first with neither side looking like scoring. Then a break for Charlton left Callum Harriott with a shot from 12 yards with the keeper stranded. It became a head in hands moment as Callum shot narrowly wide. 

That seemed to galvanise Sheffield United and it seemed that almost immediately they went down the other end and scored to the delight of their fans. Still there was hope. One goal and we would be back on level terms. Two minutes later another goal was scored - sadly a deflected shot off Richard Wood which left Ben Hamer completely wrong footed.

That goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Charlton and it was all we could do to keep United at bay. In the end the final whistle could not come soon enough for me personally and certainly for the delighted Sheffield fans.

As the final whistle blew the Charlton team and fans all looked and felt totally dejected. We all knew we had that chance of Wembley glory but for us it wasn't to be.