Thursday, 30 April 2009

2004 May - Another Meeting At HQ

Julie and I had another weeks holiday in Dublin, by now it had become a tradition to holiday in Dublin in May - which actually is usually a lovely month to go there weather-wise. We did some of our favourite things there and also went beyond the city.

One place we visited was the ancient tomb of Newgrange (it's around 5000 years old) about 30 miles north of Dublin. I'd been before but this was Julie's first visit. It's an amazing, atmospheric place that still has a mystic feel about it, almost as if that magic is seeping out from within the stone it is made from. As you walk down the passage to the inner chamber you see symbols such as wavy lines, concentric circles, spirals carved into the stone - their meaning long lost in the passing of time.

We also saw a play at Bewley's Cafe Theatre, and went on the Dublin Ghost Tour. During this we found out how Misery Hill (which then was a piece of waste ground at the western end of Hanover Quay, now it's full of anonymous glass and steel buildings) got it's name. Apparently hundreds of years ago there was a leper colony there and that's where the name came from. Lepers were secretly taken by boat up the Liffey to St Audoen's Church in the city where there was a special door where they could hear mass. They say there is a ghost with missing body parts seen on the 40 steps at St Audeon's which is supposed to be one of the poor lepers. I must say those steps feel pretty creepy, so you never know.....

Anyway, I digress from U2. On the Thursday we went to HQ and again it was a United Nations of U2 fans with Hungary, USA, Austria, Holland and the UK represented. The American girl had been there two weeks previously and had met Edge, Adam and Larry. She heard Bono was back at the studio, so she came all the way back from the US to try to meet him! Dedication or what??
Bono arrived first and went into the garage, but didn't come out. Dallas came out not long afterwards for no apparent reason and chatted with us, think he was just sussing us out. Adam arrived and then Edge. Not long after Edge had arrived the front door opened and Bono stood in the doorway and gave a peace sign and just stood there. So we went across and gathered round the door, which was a bit dangerous as the Kilsaran lorries were careering up and down the road! Soon though I forgot all about them.

The American girl flung herself at Bono and gave him at hug which he returned, he seemed really overwhelmed. He looked really tired and I remember the girl saying he must be tired just getting back home and he said he was. Around this time Edge joined Bono, they often seem to do the meet and greet in twos when there are quite a few fans. I was quite near Bono and he looked across and recognised me. "Awww, hello sweetheart." He said and leaned forward and gave me a kiss on the cheek, I was so chuffed! I had Peter And The Wolf book ready to sign but as there were eleven fans there, he was busy with someone else. I noticed Edge was unoccupied so asked him to sign a DVD a friend wanted signed. Then Bono got to me and signed my book with his usual self portrait and name.

At this point I pulled back and took a few photos. I noticed Bono was quieter than usual, friendly and warm, but seemed worn out and slightly distracted. His hair was a lovely auburn colour, but needed a wash!

One of the Hungarian lads told Bono about the U2 tribute band he and the other guys with him were in and gave him a CD they had made. He really listened to the lad and seemed genuinely interested. They were really nice and I took a photo with Bono and Edge and the lads from the band.

Then Bono said he would have to go as he had a lot of work to do, and he quickly disappeared into the building. Edge then kind of took over, signed everything people wanted signed, posed for photos with all who wanted them and chatted. He was so lovely! I find Edge's quiet, calm manner and touch of shyness so endearing, he's very sweet.

So another meeting over with, we had been incredibly lucky over the last few years with meetings with U2 and really appreciate the band giving their time as they did. It's also really lovely to meet fans from all over the world at HQ.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

2003 October - The Peter and The Wolf Exhibition In Dublin

My friends Chris and Andy were in Dublin on their honeymoon and they asked me if I’d like to meet up with them there for a couple of days, they didn't need to ask me twice.

While we were there, on the 1st October, the Peter and the Wolf exhibition for which Bono had done some paintings, was opening, this being the first stage of a mini-tour for the paintings, so of course we were keen to go to see them.

We walked down Dame Street to the City Hall where the exhibition was being held. It was really interesting to see Bono's pictures - which were huge in some cases, large in all cases. Some were more like practice sketches, and, though I feel Bono isn't amongst the great painters, others were good and interesting, the longer I looked at them the more I saw. His father featured a lot, in one picture he's very stern and there's a tiny Bono below looking up at him. There was a menace and darkness about the paintings in general and the wolf tends to look a bit stoned in my opinion!!! Bono’s daughters' additions of the flowers are the gentlest, softest aspect to the pictures, which I felt really worked as they offset the general harshness that came across in the artwork.

The CD of the music by Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer for Peter and the Wolf was playing in the background and there was also a short film running about the making of the CD and paintings. All were being sold to support a very worthwhile cause - The Irish Hospice Foundation.

The City Hall itself, built in 1779, is a wonderful building. The exhibition was held on the first floor which was reached via a sweeping staircase. In the centre of the large room there was a circle of pillars with classical figures on pedestals in between them and high above a beautiful done in the centre. The large Georgian windows ensured the room was well lit.We were almost first in, there weren’t many other people there.

Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer arrived not long after we did and they did a photo shoot. There was also a man videoing the proceedings, and at one point I noticed him videoing us as we looked at the paintings, I tried to keep my back to him once I'd noticed! Later he approached us to say that they hoped to make a documentary about the making of Peter and the Wolf and the exhibition and as we were in some of his film and he'd like our permission to use our images. He didn't have his usual forms to sign so he asked us to say our names and give permission as he filmed us. I don’t know if the documentary ever came about.

Chris asked one of the women there if she thought Gavin would sign autographs and she said he probably would once he'd finished with the shoot, so we waited. Chris went to him first and he was really nice to her, she told him that she and Andy had just got married and he congratulated them, asked where they came from. He is so like Bono it's uncanny. His voice, his mannerisms, his humour, his clothes are all very similar. Then I went up to him giving him the auction brochure to sign. He looked at me and said.

"Aren't you buying the CD?"

I told him I'd ordered it online, he asked which website and I said the Irish Hospice one, he seemed pleased at that. Then with a grin (like Bono’s!) added.

"But you should go to the official website, that's much better!"

I told him I do go there too and he seemed chuffed about that. He asked my name (and how I spelled it – how many ways can you spell Sue?!) as he signed my brochure and looked right at me smiling as I thanked him afterwards. He also has Bono's charm!

It was really good to see the paintings in real life – there is something special about seeing the actual brushstrokes it makes paintings really come alive, I could easily visualise Bono working on them. I heard that he came to the exhibition in person later that day, but we were long gone by then. It was really good to meet Gavin, I can certainly see why he and Bono are friends, they are like two peas in a pod as they say.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

2003 May - UK Coolness, Italian Fire At HQ And A Big Surprise

May 2003 saw Julie and I taking a weeks holiday in Dublin. You may think from reading this blog that all we do when in Dublin is hang around at HQ, that's certainly far from the truth. On this visit we went for dinner at our friends house in Dun Laoghaire and met up with another friend. We visited Powerscourt House and Gardens in County Wicklow, a gorgeous place close to Enniskerry (which itself is a lovely place). The house was built around an original 13th century castle (owned by someone called la Poer which was eventually anglicised to Power) between 1731-1741. A devastating fire in 1974 reduced the house to a shell before it was renovated in 1996. The gardens were added in the 1800s.

We had a wonderful time wandering around the gardens, which lie in the shadow of Sugarloaf mountain, that apparently had been influenced by those of Versailles. There was a touching pet cemetery where much loved pets of all kinds, including two dachshunds and a cow, were laid to rest.

We also went to see the play Sive, by John B Keane at the Gaiety theatre. When in Dublin we always try to go to see an Irish play and I can say that this one is still at the time of writing this, the best I've seen. In the brochure about the film it says: "Written 40 years ago it is a rich character and social portrait of mid-century rural Ireland, a classic morality tale about the consequences of greed and bitterness." If you ever get the chance to see it, go, you won't regret it.

But this is a blog about my U2 history, so enough of the other Irish stuff! On the Tuesday afternoon we went down to HQ, there was a Dutch couple already there. We saw all the band arrive but no one came out. We left at 4pm and went out to a favourite restaurant where we had a table booked that evening, food won out over U2!

Next afternoon, after a bit of shopping we went down to HQ again, usually there were no other fans there. Not long after we arrived edge drove into the garage, not long later Bono arrived and after a couple of minutes he came out of the front door and crossed the road and came to see us. He looked well, I noticed his stubble was quite grey now. We were lucky that we got time with him on our own. He asked how we were and said he was late again and "Always running from one thing to another." I thought what a hectic life he has and how people, including myself, were always wanting something from him.

He continued to say that he was very busy and asked us to tell our friends or anyone we saw at HQ that if he didn't come out he wasn't ignoring them it was just because he was so busy.

"I have two jobs now you know." He laughed and said that the band seemed to be doing ok without him. I jokingly said.

"They don't need you now then."

"Oh no no no I'm here quite a lot!" he replied defensively, but with a smile. Bono had recognised me and said.

"You come here every year don't you?" I admitted to it! We then asked when the album would be ready.

"Maybe in the Autumn, maybe before New Year, maybe after New Year" he said shaking his head and shrugging as if he had no idea really. He said it was a "Real firecracker" and I said I was ready for some new U2 music and he smiled.

Bono then asked us what we had planned for our stay and I told him we were going to friends in Dun Laoghaire for a meal that night.

"That's nice." Bono said.

I then asked him if he would sign something for us and he said of course. I had the Irish first day cover of the Rock Legends stamp issue with U2 on it.

"Ahh, you've got the stamp, that's great!" he exclaimed. He was just going to sign it when out of nowhere appeared a very excited Italian couple. They kind of barged in and took over.

"We are from Italy!" the young man announced loudly.

"Oh are you?" Bono said with a laugh. They were so excited, the girl was hyperventilating and thumping her chest and the man was just saying. "Bon-o, Bon-o, Bon-o" over and over. It was really funny and Bono took it all in his stride. It struck me that this meeting showed the difference between the Brits and the Italians. We were excited but did not express it, they were also excited but the Italians let it all flood out!

The girl then just went up to Bono and kissed him, he seemed to enjoy that, she was very pretty. They told him that they had just got married, he asked when and where, and if they were on their honeymoon now which they were. Bono then turned to me and said.

Bono turned to me and said. "You'll have to take a photo of them." Meaning of them and him, which I said I would. He then remembered the envelope he still in his hand and said.

"I'll do this first though." And proceeded to write "Bono stamps on Pop" on it, which I thought was very witty considering he'd had little time to think.

I took a photo of the couple with him and it turned out really nice. then the couple talked to me at breakneck speed in Italian, eventually through sign language, I realised they wanted another photo taken with Bono which I did. The man himself was just laughing through all this.

He then took Julies Best Of CD cover, looked at it and said that the buffalos "Look like sunglasses." What?? Strange how his mind works sometimes. He then proceeded to draw sunglasses around them. The Italians borrowed my pen and also got an autograph. Strangely after that they seemed to lose interest in Bono and kind of talked between themselves! Bono came over to Julie and me and held a hand out to each of us and said that he was sorry but he had to go, he then kissed us both on the cheek, squeezed our hands, said bye to the Italians and went back in the studio. We left very happy women!

It was a lovely meeting very personal, and funny too. Bono has the ability to make you feel very special, that's a rare trait in a person. How many people as famous as him could you meet like that so informally and without security? I wish Bono's detractors could see things like that.

Two days later. In the morning we drove out of the city to Avoca Weavers and then Powerscourt. It was our last day in Dublin and that evening we went to the Killiney Court Hotel for a meal in the Library Grill, a favourite haunt of ours for years (no long gone unfortunately). Afterwards we went upstairs to the Coast Lounge. We ordered at the bar and looked for somewhere to sit, it was very quiet and I went to sit near the open fire, not really looking at the few people who were in the lounge. Then behind me I heard Julie frantically calling. "Sue, Sue, Sue" in a low, but rather desperate whisper. I turned and went back to her and all she could say was.

"He's here!"

"Huh?" Said me.

"He's here!" Said Julie again.

"He can't be." I said dumbstruck. But then I could hear Bono's voice not too far way, I couldn't believe he was there, it was 9pm and I thought he'd be still in the studio . I must admit I felt a bit panicked, I have no problems with meeting him at HQ or on tour, but I was worried that if he'd seen us here he might think we followed him there or something. This was his private time and I don't think fans should intrude into that and I felt distinctly uncomfortable.

We went to a table as far away from him as we could, so that if he had seen us he'd know we were not trying to eavesdrop, in all honesty I don't think he did see us. There weren't that many people in the lounge and even though we were far away we could still hear him sometimes. He was with three women who I didn't recognise. He talked and laughed a lot, part of me wished I was part of that group as they seemed to be having fun.

Initially I felt self conscious, and was texting Debbi frantically for something to do as Julie had kind of gone mute with shock! Debbi texted back saying "Buy him a drink!" LOL. But we both soon relaxed more as time passed and I told myself to stop being silly - this was a public place, we had not followed him, it was pure coincidence and we had every right to be there!

After about 30 minutes Bono left, we saw him clearly as he went out, he looked at the floor, not making any eye contact with anyone, (best way not to get stopped by anyone) most people's eyes were on him. A couple sitting near the women went over and asked them if it had been Bono who was with them and they said yes. Though people had noticed him no one had disturbed him.

It was certainly an exciting way to spend our last evening in Dublin, talk of surprises. Can't get away from the man LOL!

Friday, 10 April 2009

2002 September - Dublin, Happy Birthday At HQ

I decided to spend my birthday in Dublin this year, I travelled over by myself and met up with my friends Andy and Chris over there. We did the usual Dublin things, walked on the beach, had nice meals.

We wandered down to HQ on the Wednesday, it was soon obvious that the band were around, lots going on. We waited for a while and saw Adam arrive he waved to us but didn't come out, and we left about an hours later.

Next day was my birthday, I met up with Chris and Andy at HQ that afternoon. They gave me some cups and tea for my birthday - the cups were lovely and people often still admire them. Not long afterwards another friend of mine, Rosie, arrived - it was wonderful to see her again. She gave me some beautiful silver earrings which I still love to this day.

It was really warm and sunny so it was very pleasant sitting waiting on the bench opposite the studio. Adam was the first to arrive and shortly afterwards came out to meet us. He looked very well and was very laid back and polite. He asked who had been here yesterday and I said Chris, Andy and me and he said that he'd come out later but we were gone. I asked him if the others were coming down and Adam replied that there wasn't much going on at the moment and that they were popping in occasionally. He added that Edge might come down later.

Rosie told him it was my birthday and asked if I could have my photo taken with him, he smiled and said yes. I went beside him and he put his arm round me, he seemed very tall compared to Bono. Then the other had their photos taken with him, all the time he was friendly and chatty.

Finally Adam said what a lovely day it was and he was going to go now to enjoy it. We waited a bit longer but things were quiet there so we took our leave. This was our last day in Dublin so it was so nice to have met Adam, an extra birthday present for me!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

2002 May - Dublin, Just What I Needed.

For once I didn't feel particularly excited about going to Dublin as I'd been through a very difficult time in my life. In the last four months my mother died after a long illness, a close friend died suddenly and totally unexpectedly at the age of 55, and just two days before the trip I had to put my gorgeous dog Toffie to sleep. I was wrung out emotionally and felt numb, but I went ahead with the trip that had been arranged for months as I felt it would do me good. And it was true, once in Dublin I was able to get away from reminders that caused pain, and start the road to recovery.

On the Wednesday Julie and I went down to HQ. There were a few fans there from the US, Spain and Romania - an United Nations of U2 fans. Hanover Quay was it's usual noisy self. Lorries trundled in and and out of the concrete works which was busier than ever with the building boom in the city. Cement dust was in the air and every now and twice a bulldozer came out with water in its trough and spewed it into the street - the wave of water slammed into the door of the studio. Maybe they were trying to damp down the dust, who knows!

At 3pm Bono and Edge arrived together and shortly after their cars went into the garage the front door of the studio opened and Bono appeared in the doorway. He looked at us, we looked at him, not sure whether to approach or not. Eventually he broke the silence by saying.

"Are you going to come in?"

We all shot across the road and were allowed to enter the hallway at the bottom of the stairs of the studio. Edge was there too and did a very polite meet and greet, shaking hands with everyone as they came in. By now Bono was sitting on the stairs, he looked tired and pale, but was very warm and kind to us all. When I got to him he looked at me, smiled in recognition and said.

"Hello darling." My knees went weak! The rest of the people there kind of took over then and I stood back and took a few photos. Bono was saying.

"Don't come to close, I've got a bug." While the others were talking to Bono I got a photo and autograph from Edge. Eventually I got my time with Bono, he was talking about the Slane video and said it was coming together well and was affirmative when I asked if it was going to be released.
Edge took his leave at this time saying he wasn't well either. He looked rather flushed.
"Have you all got the cold?" I asked.

"Yes." he replied, "I'm going upstairs to get some Aspirin."

The Romanian lad was in a U2 tribute band and asked Bono if he could swap glasses for a photo, he obliged, saying afterwards. "I'd give you them but I can't." When asked why, for once he was lost for words! Bono then took a guitar the lad had and played it a little and sang a few lines.

I was last to get a photo with Bono, as usual he put his arm around me and pulled me close. He gently rubbed my arm soothingly as he held me, it was almost as if he knew I was fragile at the moment and needed some TLC. He is a very intuitive man and maybe he did pick up some of my sadness.

And that was it, We all said our goodbyes and we left and the studio closed behind us. Bono is my favourite (as you've probably guessed!) and meeting him and having that soothing hug really did make me feel better. He'll never know how such a simple gesture helped me. And over the next few months I was to get strength from U2's music which helped me to gradually heal.