Sometime in the middle of the 1990s, I spent a week of my holidays visiting the major cities on the island of Ireland. Specifically, I was going to these places to check out their record stores and bookshops. I was based in Limerick, so I made a few day trips by bus to Cork, Galway and Waterford. I also went to Dublin and stayed there with a friend in order to make my first visit to Belfast. This would have been a few years before the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and I remember a lot of my friends being a bit concerned about me going to Northern Ireland. I wasn’t too worried and was looking forward to visiting the record shops and bookstores I had somehow found out about
I’m just back from a weekend of culture and fun in Bruges. Perhaps some of you reading this don’t know where Bruges is. Well, it’s in Belgium. It’s a small little town that’s just over an hour’s train ride from Brussels on the way to Ostend on the coast. Bruges is what the town is called by French speakers, but it’s in the Flemish region of Flanders, so it’s known as Brugge there. It’s been a popular tourist destination for a while, but it was the success of a film by Martin McDonagh that really put the place on the map for me. I remember going to see In Bruges at the cinema when it was released and I was immediately blown away by the tightness of the script, the sparkling dialogue, the quality of the acting and, perhaps most importantly, the use of Bruges as the location. Previously, I had been vaguely familiar with the name of the town thanks to its football team, but the film made me fall in love with its buildings and canals, its nooks and crannies, its beer and, well, its beer. I’ve since watched the film a few times and have even sampled some of its beer that comes in those effeminate glasses
This is the second part of my double post about my recent trip to Bruges. You can read the first part about culture and fun in the Belgian town by following this link. I’ve already written about some of the sights to see on the streets of Bruges and it seems that every single street and footpath is made from cobblestone. There are few cars on the streets, though the occasional taxi or police car passes through now and then. There are a lot of bicycles and the cyclists tend to travel at faster speeds than the cars. Horse drawn carriages are another way of seeing the town, but we decided that going around in a boat while looking at stuff would be a far relaxing way to see Bruges. And it was. It was perfect weather to go cruising and there are many places where you can hop on a boat. There was a bit of a queue when we got there, but we didn’t have to wait too long to get on board. Each little craft fits about 30 people snugly and we took our place on the stern bench where we soon got talking to a couple of friendly Belgians
The Queen of England is popping over to Ireland for a few days and her visit has been greeted with fascination, hatred and indifference. Personally, I fall into the latter camp. I’ve always regarded the British royal family as something of a sitcom and have never been too bothered by them. I’m sure I’d have a lot in common with working class English males who cannot relate to royalty’s sense of unearned privilege. To this end, I’ve always been a big fan of two songs written by Englishmen with Irish roots
Last year, I wrote a post about about the 250th anniversary of Arthur Guinness’s decision to lease out the St. James’s Gate brewery in Dublin and his success at developing an alcoholic beverage that has become synonymous with Ireland and Irishness. I thought it would be just a once-off, but Arthur’s Day (as it was called) has returned again this year. I guess Guinness need all the marketing they can get. So, I’ve decided to do my bit to assist this cottage industry by spreading the word again. It seems that most of Ireland’s main urban areas will be offering promotions and putting on live music to commemorate the day (and to get thirsty punters to spend their cash in their pubs, of course). I won’t actually be taking part in these celebrations myself as I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow. I need to ensure that I don’t wake up with a hangover in the morning and the only way to do that is to stay away from beer and pubs tonight. You see, I’m going to be babysitting my two nephews tomorrow and the next day. Neither of them are babies and there won’t be much sitting involved, so I’m going to need to have my wits about me. Instead, I’m going to spend the day listening to drinking songs. Here are a few that come from some seasoned veterans as well as a new kid on the block. I’d like to dedicate these to the Gilday family in Ohio who know a thing or two about drunken lullabies. Sláinte!
Today marks a day of celebration and commemoration for some of my favourite musical figures. The American singer-songwriters Amanda Palmer and Willie Nelson both celebrate their birthdays. Amanda turns 34 while the legend that is Willie is a sprightly 77! Eighteen years ago, the influential rock critic Lester Bangs overdosed on tranquilisers in New York city at the age of 33. A year later, 70-year-old bluesman Muddy Waters died in his sleep in Westmont, Illinois. And, in the last few hours, it has been announced that the Irish TV and radio presenter Gerry Ryan has died in his sleep at his home in Dublin, aged just 53. This song goes out to anybody who is celebrating a birth or commemorating the passing of a life on this day
When Oil City Confidential, Julien Temple’s film about pub rockers Dr Feelgood, was given a limited UK cinema release in February, I must admit that I read its excellent reviews with some envy. I would have loved to have seen Temple’s documentary, his, if you will, rockumentary on the big screen, but I knew that my local cinema would never screen such a wonderful film. I thought I’d have to wait until its June 14th release on DVD, so imagine my surprise and delight when I learned that BBC Four will be screening the film tonight. Oil City Confidential is the third in Temple’s trilogy of music documentaries about three of the most energetic and influential English groups of the seventies. It follows on from The Filth and the Fury (2000), about The Sex Pistols, and The Future is Unwritten (2007), about Joe Strummer, one of the founding members of The Clash. Dr Feelgood formed prior to both the Pistols and The Clash, but never attained the same level of fame and notoriety as the two leading lights of British punk