EDINBLOG 2018

A milestone trip for me, as it was my tenth trip to the Edinburgh Fringe. My first time was in 2003 when I won a place on a Workshop, but I only saw a bit of the Fringe.

My first proper trip wasn’t until 2009, and it sort of came about by fluke.

I was waiting for a bus and had a lot of time to kill. I was wondering through HMV and saw a programme for the event. Having read through it on that bus journey to Dublin, I decided to book a trip. The rest is history, and i’ve been back every year since, apart from 2016 when I went to the European Championship instead.

I have travelled over at all stages of the month long festival. There’s no bad time to visit, but if you had to choose, definitely go in the middle. At the start, things are warming up. At the end, they are winding down. In the middle, is just perfect.

My choice of dates were more influenced by convenience, as I had other plans in Belfast in August that meant the middle of the month was the only time I would be available for a sustained trip.

When I go to Edinburgh, I usually have a weekend as part of my time there, but this time was different, as I stayed from Monday to Friday.

One advantage of being in Edinburgh on a Monday or Tuesday is that a lot of the shows have discounted ticket prices on those days.

The one downside of arriving in the middle of the event is, that some performers usually have a day or two days off during the middle week, so people you might want to see aren’t actually performing.

It’s not essential, but it is helpful if you get a copy of the programme (They are usually free in Waterstones) and have a plan, even if it is provisional, of what you want to see.

I might sound like i’m very organised, but the truth is I only finalised my list less then twelve hours before I flew out.

Upon arrival, I headed straight to the main Ticket Office in the Royal Mile, and got everything I wanted bar one, unable to get a ticket for Dylan Moran on Wednesday, or any other day unfortunately. I still had two days to get something sorted.

If you did arrive undecided about what to see, there are plenty of people and listings guides that are more than willing to help you decide what to see.

When you arrive at Edinburgh Airport, they have complimentary newspapers at Arrivals, including the Scottish Edition of The Times, which has a free pull-out. Of the papers you have to buy, The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News also have listings guides.

If you buy a copy of The Scotsman at a venue, you get a free goodie bag.

When I got mine on the Monday, it had a poncho in it, which was useful, unlike the free Suncream I got last year. We are in Scotland for crying out loud.

Another newspaper worth getting is the Scottish Edition of Metro, which is also free and comes with a section dedicated to the Edinburgh Festival.

Metro is also worth picking up for Rush Hour Crush, to laugh at the absolute oddballs who submit to it. I really wish we had Metro in Northern Ireland.

Each venue also has their own listings guide as well. Basically, there is plenty of reading material if you still haven’t decided what to see.

Earlier, when I referred to getting ready, that meant practicing my apologetic “I’m fine, thanks” to Flyerers, as you will be offered a lot of flyers during your stay.

As I arrived in Edinburgh, the weather was what would be described by locals as pishing doon, that’s rain to you and me. It would be that way for most of the week.

Thankfully, I had paid for early check-in. It wasn’t the weather for killing time, so I chanced it by seeing if I could check-in earlier than my early check-in, and my room was ready.

So, I unloaded my baggage and had a quick change into drier clothes, and my Edinburgh 2018 was ready to go.

My accommodation was in Cowgate, a brilliant location. Royal Mile, Waverley Station, Pleasance and Edinburgh University are all within a ten minute walk. I would make the most of this during the week.

Being a regular visitor to Edinburgh, I know how to navigate my way around the city. My first port of call was to Edinburgh University, where Assembly and Guilded Balloon were based, having a walk around the venue. There wasn’t a lot of people about, not that unsurprising due to the weather.

Monday was never going to be a busy day, but in late afternoon, I went to my first show, Battle Of The Superheroes, where four Comedians put their point across as to why their favourite Superhero is the best.

There seemed to be crossed wires as a lot of children turned up for the show, only to be told that it wasn’t really appropriate for kids.

You don’t have to be massively into comic books to enjoy the show. I don’t know the difference between DC and DC Thomson, nevermind DC and Marvel, and I still enjoyed.

The winner of this one was Mr Freeze (yes, you read that right) where it was argued that a lot of trouble could be avoided if Bruce Wayne just employed him to do Medical Research.

My main show on the Monday was Reginald D Hunter at EICC, a venue which is a bit remote from the main Fringe venues. This was acknowledged by Hunter during his set, saying that he keeps getting further away with his venues, his Edinburgh show next year will be in Glasgow.

Hunter is a big fan of the MF Word and a lot of other words you can’t say on TV. He was very funny, talking about how living in the UK for twenty years has made him appreciate irony around some of the events that happen when he visits his family in America.

On Tuesday morning, I went for a walk around George Street and Rose Street. It is good to escape from the Fringe for a while and see as much of the city as possible.

I also visited the site of Edinburgh Book Festival at Charlotte Square. Unfortunately, the events I wanted to see at it were taking place before or after my stay in Edinburgh. I had wanted to see Archie MacPherson do a talk, but ironically, it clashed with a football match I wanted to see.

What amused me was that Brian May was doing a talk about the history of photography. He was joined by a Professor called Roger Taylor. Yes, actually.

Another event which takes place at the same time is Fringe By The Sea, in North Berwick, a seaside town half an hour away by train which hosts concerts and shows. Unfortunately, the event had finished by the time I arrived, but i’ll be keeping an eye out for listings in future years in case our paths cross.

After escaping from the rain, it was time for my first show of the day, Hello Georgie Goodbye Best, a play about George Best’s lost weekend with Sinead Cusack in 1971.

Appropriately, for a show about football, it started at 3pm, although this was on a Tuesday afternoon, it was a show that will have spent a lot of it’s budget replacing smashed cutlery and dead fish.

Football was very much the theme of Tuesday, as in the evening I headed to Ainslie Park to see Edinburgh City take on Albion Rovers in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

Wednesday morning was spent in the University Area, hunting for bargains in the Charity Shops and Independent Shops in that area, as well as checking out some new murals that have appeared as part of a Community Project.

As it had just started raining, I decided to head to a free show, What Has The News Ever Done For Me?, where Comedian passionately argue why their favourite news story is the most important story in the world.

Problem was, I went to the venue it was held in last year, and it had moved.

I decided to cut my losses and go elsewhere, unaware that the venue it was in was across the street. Doh.

With a six hour gap in my schedule, I was looking for a show for late afternoon or early evening. I narrowed my choices down to Angela Barnes or Lucy Porter.

I decided to use the most foolproof model and let the people decide, and a Twitter Poll went in Lucy Porter’s favour.

Wednesday afternoon was spent at a recording of Matt Forde’s Political Party Podcast, the guest in this edition was John Swinney.

Going to see Lucy Porter represented my first visit to visit Pleasance, my favourite Fringe venue.

I’m trying to avoid sounding like a pompous wanker who uses words like “Vibe”, but there is a great vibe about Pleasance.

I’d seen Lucy Porter before, on my first proper visit in 2009, and she was once again very funny, focusing on the, um, joys and agony of middle age.

Wednesday night was spent seeing Tape Face, formerly known as The Boy With Tape On His Face, who I had seen before.

As with the times before, I was crying with laughter, and even dancing to The Twist, like the rest of the audience.

Thursday morning was spent having a stroll along Leith Walk, checking out some of the Independent Shops, before going to see What Has The News Ever Done For Me?, this time making it to the right venue.

Thursday afternoon was spent at Paul Merton’s Impro Chums.

As the title suggests, you don’t quite know what is going to happen, and I don’t think anyone was expecting to be, um, treated to Merton taking his top off for their, um, pleasure.

On Thursday night, I went to see Brendon Burns. I only knew of him due to a video clip of him taking the piss out of Scousers.

He entered the stage ridiculously happy, as he had to cancel his previous shows due to Tonsillitis. He came in carrying an energy drink, who he approached to sponsor his podcast, but they declined due to suggested jingles.

He was rude, sweary, obnoxious and offensive. I loved every minute of it.

Friday morning was spent chilling at the BBC Base, now at George Heriot’s School having moved from Potterow. As there is now a building where their Potterow base was, it looks like they will be at George Heriot’s from now on.

There are usually free events and recordings taking place there, if you are stuck for something to do.

Even though I was heading home that night, there was still time for one last show, Super Sonic 90s Kid, a 90s nostalgiafest hosted by Sooz Kempner.

It had it’s moments, but not a lot of them. I would have been better signing off with Brendon Burns.

It was another trip to Edinburgh for me where I didn’t visit Arthur’s Seat. I promise i’ll try to trek up it in 2019.

Unless you go for the full month, you will always miss something you want to see. The night I left, Paloma Faith did a concert in Princes Street Gardens, which I would have loved to have gone to.

It wasn’t all perfect as the city suffered from overcrowding. In recent years it has been suggested to extend the dates of it, or to spread it around the city.

All the venues being so close to each other is why the event is so convenient. If it was spread out around the city, the problem is, Edinburgh doesn’t really have the public transport infrastructure to accommodate.

It doesn’t really help matters that people are thick as shit.

Remember when you started school? What was the first thing you learnt? Walk on the left, it’s surprisingly effective.

People seemed to be genuinely horrified that I was not prepared to walk on the road when cars were driving past just to accommodate them.

The problem was even worse during Commuter O’Clock when people were coming home from work.

Of the acts I didn’t see, it felt sacrilegious to go to Edinburgh and not see David O’Doherty. I had Kieran Hodgson on my To See List, but didn’t get a ticket. Judging by the reviews and the buzz around him, I really regretted it.

Despite his poster being plastered all over Edinburgh, it wasn’t until I read an interview with him in Metro that I realised he is Gordon from Two Doors Down.

If you haven’t seen Two Doors Down, you should get into it.

My return to Belfast didn’t see the end of the comedy, as I headed to The Odyssey to see The League Of Gentlemen. Every bit as good as the TV show, I was crying laughing at times.

So, that was Edinburgh over for me for another year. All being well, i’ll be back in 2019.

Edinblog 2017

Edinblog 2015

Edinblog 2014

Edinblog 2013

Edinblog 2012

Edinblog 2011

Edinblog 2010

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DUBLIN STREET ART – JULY 2018

Made a short trip to Dublin over the Holiday Period. I was doing all the usual touristy stuff, but it would have been rude not to go and get some Street Art photos while I was there.

I would usually visit Dublin once a year, so I know where to go in search of Street Art. Despite that, I do enjoy stumbling on pieces.

I got off my bus at Custom House Quay, and immediately spotted some pieces on Tara Street. Unfortunately, there were vehicles parked in font of it, denying me any backlift.

Parked vehicles and smokers loitering about are the two biggest pains in the arse when photographing Street Art, had Dublin had plenty of it.

I then headed to Smithfield, and noticed that the mural of Stormzy has been replaced.

Something that is noticeable is the work of Dublin Canvas, putting paintings on electric boxes. Hopefully, something similar will start to happen in Belfast.

Featured on this are famous people from Dublin such as Ronnie Drew, or Bang Bang, a local character in Dublin in the 1950s and 1960s.

I also visited Tivoli Theatre Car Park and was able to get photos of it, for once, including a 3D piece, which is either a man or a dog, depending on which side of the 3D glasses you view it with.

I also managed to spot a new piece on the lane that leads into one of the entrances to Olympia Theatre, replacing a previous piece.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the picture I wanted of it due to a lack of backlift.

While in Temple Bar, I also spotted a mural of Kanye West. That was one of many pieces I spotted in Temple Bar.

Recently, there have been murals of Bob Marley and Phil Lynott appearing at Dalymount Park. There was a game on while I was there, but I didn’t go to it, so I didn’t get photos of it. Obviously.

Saturday was spent mopping up some pieces I missed in Temple Bar, and walking along Custom House Quay and spotting some pieces.

Photo Album

Dublin Street Art July 2017

Dublin Street Art May 2016

Dublin Street Art June 2015

Dublin Street Art July 2014

Dublin Street Art August 2013

LONDON

A week and a bit ago, I headed to London for a short break. It’s fair to say I enjoyed myself.

Why London? Usually, in late January or early February, I like to go away somewhere for a weekend.

I would have preferred to go to Mainland Europe, but there wasn’t a lot of value when I went to book it. September 2017 was a busy month for me so I didn’t get a chance to book anything until October.

London was a lazy option, but still a good option. I’d been before previously and enjoyed myself.

This was my first proper visit to London since 2014. I had been in London briefly in 2016, spending a day there as I was flying home from Gatwick after a stay in Paris.

However, I would not be flying in and out of Gatwick. My previous visits to London had seen me use Gatwick, but this time, I would be flying in and out of Stansted.

There would also be a change in my accommodation arrangements from my previous London visits as well. In my two previous stays in 2013 and 2014, I stayed in Paddington, but this time I would be staying at Easyhotel in Victoria. I would have to make do without a TV of Wifi in my room, but getting three nights in Central London for £87, I couldn’t really complain.

Flying into Stansted meant I would be travelling through London, and I got to see cranes that were working on Northumberland Development Project, better known as Spurs New Ground, from the train window.

Whenever I go away somewhere, there are two things I really want to see – Street Art and Football.

With the train from Stansted terminating at Liverpool Street, it gave me a perfect opportunity to search for Street Art, as I would be near to Shoreditch, where I had visited on my previous visit in 2014.

I walked around a bit and got lost, so I cheated by referring to the internet, London’s Tourism website has a feature on Street Art.

After lunch, I headed back towards Liverpool Street, racking up the step count. Yep, I got an Activity Tracker for Christmas, so i’ve become one of those guys. In case you care, I had four successive days going over 30,000 steps. You’ve no idea how much my feet hurt.

I stumbled into Spitalfields and specifically, Spitalfields Market. What a place. I’m annoyed at myself that I only discovered it on this visit.

Having walked past a man in a Coleraine shirt at Liverpool Street Station, I got a reminder of Irish League when I visited a stall of Scrabble Art, motivational phrases spelt out with Scrabble letters, one of which said “Fortune Favours The Brave”. A more apt one for Linfield players would have been the one that said “Keep it simple”.

£30 though, so I gave it a miss.

Spitalfields Market had lots of fantastic independent and quirky stalls. I really am annoyed at myself for only discovering it on this visit.

Having checked London’s Tourism Website, I was aware that there was a lot of Street Art in Spitalfields, so I went to check it out.

I used my instinct and stumbled upon pieces. I kept saying to myself that i’ll just walk to the end of the street, then spot something on the next street, and I just kept walking and walking, snapping loads of Street Art, only stopping to pop into a Vintage Market I stumbled onto. If I ever visit London again, i’m going to make Spitalfields a place I visit.

By Friday afternoon, it was time to check into my hotel. As stated earlier, it was Easyhotel in Victoria, a very convenient location for getting to and a very conveniently located hotel.

I was in Room 13. Thankfully, i’m not supersticious about that number. It might have been a different matter if it was Room 9 after seeing the Hotel Zanzibar episode of inside Number 9.

Just thought i’d sneak it in about how Inside Number 9 is the best thing on TV at the moment.

My original plan was to visit Camden as soon as I checked in, but having spent so much time walking around Spitalfields, I was a bit behind schedule.

I wanted to get Street Art photos in Camden, but with the sky getting darker, I decided I would leave that until Saturday morning. I had a teatime appointment in Covent Garden.

I was aware that Turin Brakes were doing an instore gig at Fopp in Covent Garden, so I decided to head over. I loved them back in 2001, and I was getting a free concert, so it would have been rude not to.

I headed to Covent Garden Underground Station to the venue. Did you know that Covent Garden Underground Station has 193 steps from the Platform to the Exit? I do. I found that out the hard way.

The funny thing is, I saw a massive queue of people wanting to use the list. I thought they were being lazy. Turns out they were smart. I won’t be making that mistake again if I visit Covent Garden.

After the instore gig, I went for a gentle stroll around Covent Garden, before getting a bite to eat before finding a bar to watch the United match, before heading to bed or a (relatively) early night.

When you are in London, you can take advantage of free publications such as Time Out or Metro to see what is on, which is what I did.

On Saturday morning, I headed to Brixton. I wanted to see the David Bowie mural in it’s current form. I had previously seen the mural in 2014. When he died in 2016, it became a shrine to him and a meeting point for fans to share their grief. There’ll be a write-up on the Bowie mural on the Street Art blog which will follow this.

During my time in Brixton, I spotted and snapped Street Art, checking out Brixton Market, and taking a stroll along Electric Avenue, immortalised in song by Eddy Grant.

After Brixton, it was Camden next for me, for pretty much the same thing, snapping Street Art and checking out the market. Every time I go to London, I make a point to visit Camden. The only downside is that it is infested with smelly tramps puffing on fags and vapes. Not cool. It really drags down the standard of the place.

Camden Underground Station is exit only, so to leave Camden, I had to get The Tube at Mornington Crescent. I took advantage of this detour by stumbling onto some more Street Art.

Saturday afternoon was spent watching Millwall v Rochdale in the FA Cup.

I checked the listings guides and there were some comedy gigs on, but I decided to go for a bite to eat, and then relax.

Up early, Sunday morning was spent being all touristy, having a walk around the main City Centre shopping areas such as Leicester Square, Carnaby Street, Soho, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square.

Another day, another market, having a stroll though Covent Garden Market, and catching part of an entertainment show by Covent Nick.

I then headed back to Brixton to purchase stuff that I had my eye on the previous day (I didn’t want to take loads of shopping bags to a football match) before heading to The London Studios for the recording of Unspun for Dave.

Unfortunately, I got lost, and found myself at the back of the queue, meaning that I missed out on getting a seat. There is compensation that I can get priority tickets for future TV recordings, so at least I can bank that for use at some point in the future.

I took the opportunity with my unexpected free time to walk along Southbank and check out Southbank Book Market, and taking in some of the views on offer at Southbank, before putting my feet up for the night.

Monday was a more relaxed day. Not going to lie, I was very tempted by a day trip to Brighton, especially as I was staying near to the train station that serves Brighton from London. If I was flying out from Gatwick, I would definitely done so, as there is a train direct from Brighton to Gatwick which is just over half and hour. If I go to London again, I might book an extra day and set it aside to go to Brighton.

I took the opportunity to head back to Southbank and walk along Jubliee Greenway. I was even able to see the Houses of Parliament, but as I have minimal interest in politics, I found it a bit meh to be honest. I was more excited at seeing the roof of Spurs new ground.

There was one last piece of Street Art for me to spot, calling in to see Leake Street Tunnel on my way back to Waterloo Station as I headed back to Spitalfields Market for a bit of lunch and relaxation before heading to Stansted to fly home.

As previously stated, I stayed in Paddington on my previous visits to London, changing to Victoria for this one. I like Paddington, and I enjoyed my stays there, but if I go back to London, I would try to use Victoria again, especially as you can have the option of a day trip to Brighton on your last day if I was flying back from Gatwick.

At the end of it, I had very sore feet and a lot of photos to sort through. I guess that was the sign of a good trip.

London 2013

London 2014

London 2016

EDINBLOG 2017

After a one year absence, I was back at the Edinburgh Festival.

I didn’t go last year as I went to the European Championship in France instead.

Not going to lie, August 2016 was unbearable, as I follow a lot of performers and venues on Social Media and all they did was post about Edinburgh. It was like hearing about a party you weren’t at.

I decided to go over for the opening weekend. There’s no bad time to go, it’s brilliant all month. From experience, the festival is at it’s best in the middle as you can find them just getting warmed up at the start and winding down at the end.

As I say, there is no bad time to go, and I began to count down from the moment I had the trip booked.

Part of the countdown is getting the programme and circling through it. Lots and lots of circling.

It’s not essential, but it does help if you plan what you want to see in advance. So, I created a database (stop laughing) and plotted my schedule of what I wanted to see.

However, I got lazy and forgot to book them in advance, so I would be gambling on purchasing them on my first day.

Thankfully, it wasn’t too bad. I got all I wanted, albeit having to rearrange the days I saw them to what was planned.

There was a mildly amusing (I’m downgrading it in order to manage expectations) moment when I asked the woman at the counter if Grainne Maguire’s free lunchtime show was ticketed and she replied “Grainne with a fada?”.

I thought her computer was case sensitive but it turned out she was asking if I was wanting to see Grainne Maguire’s other show she was doing.

I went to see What Has The News Ever Done For Me? hosted by Grainne Maguire, where a panel of comedians put forward a case as to why their light hearted news story of choice is the most important story in the world.

The show was ok, but I imagine it will get better throughout the month. What we did learn is that Maguire’s knowledge of Scottish politics is that Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale has a new girlfriend, with Maguire revealing that she once bought a dress because Dugdale wore it.

We also had people loitering outside, unsure if they wanted to see the show. They disappeared before the end of the show.

Despite a year away, I still hadn’t lost the knack of politely declining flyers and apologetically replying “I’m fine thanks”, a phrase I would say quite a lot over the weekend.

On my first day there, the weather didn’t disappoint. When I say it didn’t disappoint, I mean, I expected rain and got lots of it.

I went for a walk to Potterow where building work meant that the BBC’s location had been moved to nearby George Heriot’s School.

I only applied for one show, Steve Wright In The Afternoon on my first day there, and was unsuccessful.

While heading back from Potterow, The Scotsman were selling copies where you get a free goody bag. This include free sun cream …… as the rain continued to fall. Even the Newspaper Sellers in Edinburgh think they’re comedians.

As I headed into Edinburgh from the Airport, I browsed through the listings in Metro and saw an event which caught my eye called Fringe By The Sea, a counter event in North Berwick, a 30 minute train journey away.

KT Tunstall was playing on the Monday while I was there, but it was sold out.

Another concert I was unaware of until I arrived was Madness performing at Falkirk Stadium on the first day I arrived. Falkirk is only 30 minutes from Edinburgh by train.

No point crying over what I missed out on.

On the Friday teatime I went to see What Bowie Did Next looking at what David Bowie did when he entered heaven.

It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t something i’d preach about to others. There were some fluffed lines, but they weren’t disastrous due to some quick thinking and audience interaction, and we did get to see Jimi Hendrix as portrayed by Jim Broadbent.

Friday accidentally became a themed day of dead people as my next show starred Margaret Thatcher. Well, probably someone in costume as her.

Thatcher Queen Of Game Shows is the follow-up to Thatcher Queen Of Sho, where Maggie now hosts a Game Show where plebs battle it out for benefits.

As I queued outside, Thatcher came out to inform the crowd that the show was delayed due to technical issues, blaming them on Theresa May.

She even apologised for the delay. That was very uncharacteristic for her. She didn’t apologise for the rain though.

The show pitted Skivers against Strivers. I was sat in the Skivers section, as we were treated to Angela Merkel rapping and Nicola Sturgeon in puppet form. Seriously, go see it.

Saturday morning was spent visiting Grassmarket and walking around the general Princes Street area, before catching some football as Edinburgh City took on Montrose,

By Saturday teatime, Edinburgh was now bathed in sunshine and that free sun cream was coming in handy, as I headed to Pleasance to see Matt Forde with a show titled that it was hastily rewritten.

He covers Politics and, i’m not sure if you’ve noticed recently, but Politics is fucked up these days.

You don’t have to be into Politics to enjoy the show, as he talks about loving the way Paul Nuttall says “Fisheries” and not much else about him.

Sunday morning was spent looking for bargains in the charity shops near Potterow and visiting Royal Mile Market as Edinburgh got treated to more rain.

By this point, The Scotsman were now giving out ponchos to anyone who bought it.

I’d left a gap on Monday for KT Tunstall, but i’d resigned myself to not going, so I set about getting tickets for Monday.

I purchased one for The Damned United. I’d hoped to see James Acaster but he was sold out, so Monday night was still free.

On Sunday teatime I went to see a show called Ringo starring Alexander Fox, about his obsession with Ringo Starr.

His accent when impersonating Starr sounded a bit Yorkshire, but a quick audio montage during the show revealed that Ringo’s accent goes all over the place.

Fox stated that he couldn’t afford an agent of flyers as he spent all his budget on a drum kit to perform on stage during the show.

However, I saw Flyerers for his show on the Monday, so he must have had a good weekend.

On the Sunday evening, I went to see Whose Line Is It Anyway? which was worth it to see Phill Jupitus do Bollywood.

I toyed with the idea of getting up early on Monday to walk Arthur’s Seat, but slept in. Try again in 2018.

I walked around Edinburgh on Monday morning, really realising how much I miss going to MacAulay and Co on weekday mornings, with the show having been cancelled by BBC Scotland in 2015.

So, what to do on Monday night?

Monday lunchtime was a free show called Circled In the Radio Times by John Osborne about inheriting his Grandad’s old editions of Radio Times and being able to pinpoint the exact moment he stopped watching Eastenders. It involved a Mitchell family feud.

Monday teatime was spent watching a stage version of The Damned United.

We even got a programme. Well, a sheet listing the cast, but i’m counting it as a programme.

It was very sweary, with some of Brian Clough’s mannerisms being spot on.

I wouldn’t say it’s the best play about Brian Cough at this year’s Fringe, but it’s in the top one.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t run for 44 days.

Warning, it’s very sweary.

Monday night was spent seeing Fred MacAulay at The Stand.

I’ve been a fan for a while but never got round to seeing as I usually went to his BBC show for free so didn’t feel the need to.

He observed his level of fame as being people know his name but don’t know his name and shared his fear that he might be related to Donald Trump.

So, that was it, my Edinburgh was over for another year and I flew back to Belfast on Tuesday morning.

One downside is that when you go, there will be some acts you miss. Here are some i’d suggest if you are heading over that I would have loved to have seen but they weren’t on when I was there :

Fred MacAulay In Conversation

Iain Connell

Limmy

Live At The Pleasance

Mark Watson

In Conversation With Amy MacDonald

Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy

So that is me, until August 2018 when it will be uphill walks, apologising to flyerers, rain, and most importantly, a good time.

Edinblog 2015

Edinblog 2014

Edinblog 2013

Edinblog 2012

Edinblog 2011

Edinblog 2010

PARIS/NICE/LONDRES

This was a trip i’d been waiting a long time for. In fact, probably since 2010, when it was announced that France would be hosting Euro 2016. I’d be going regardless even if Northern Ireland didn’t qualify.

I’d never been to France before. In fact, i’d barely been to Mainland Europe. Subconsciously perhaps, i’d been saving my first French trip for this.

To get to France from Northern Ireland, there were only really three options, with direct flights to Bordeaux, Nice and Paris, though a route to Lyon was added earlier this year.

When the schedule of the tournament was announced, Paris was a no-brainer. The first four days of the tournament would see two games in Paris, one in Lens and one in Lille. Lille and Lens are both one hour away from Paris.

Last summer, there was an open draw for neutral tickets. I applied for a game in Lens on 11th June, a game in Lille on 12th June and a game in Paris on 13th June.

I sat eating my lunch one day last summer, when an e-mail came through from UEFA. The Subject Box said my application was Partially Successful. I sat staring at it, trying to make sense of it. Partially Successful?, that means i’ve got a ticket for at least one match. I opened the e-mail to check that was the case.

Monday 13th June 2016, 1800 hours, Stade De France, E3 v E4. I had a ticket for this match. I didn’t know who I would be seeing, but I would be going to a match at Euro 2016.

On the day the flights went on sale, I jumped in and got a bargain. I’d be going out on Thursday 8th and returning back on Tuesday 14th. With no flights from Paris to Belfast on a Tuesday, I booked to return back by London. An evening flight, spend the day in London. Might as well make the most of it.

The day of the draw came, and I had written down what every game would be, and where. I knew where C1 would be playing, I knew where F4 would be playing. My eyes were on E3 and E4.

There were two games I didn’t want. A Saturday night game in Marseille or a Sunday teatime game in Nice.

I had taken a gamble. If Northern Ireland were in Group F, i’d be flying back on the day they play their first game.

Northern Ireland came out in Group C. If it was C2, it was a Sunday night in Lille, and a 50,000 capacity stadium. C3 or C4, and it was the game in Nice, a 6 hour train journey away from Paris.

I couldn’t believe, the one game I didn’t want, and Northern Ireland got it.

My group came out, Group E, and it was Republic Of Ireland, and they were E3, the game I would be going to.

This was like an episode of Give My Head Peace.

It would turn out that Republic Of Ireland would be playing Sweden. I consoled myself with the fact i’d be getting to see Zlatan in the flesh.

I had resigned myself that i’d have to settle for watching Northern Ireland v Poland in a pub in Paris. Only briefly, I decided that I was going to Nice. This was too big to miss. I booked the last hotel room, and began to look at trains.

Nine months after booking the trip, the big day arrived. It felt like it would never come. I was even tempted to do that Facebook cliche of tagging myself as being in The Lagan Bar.

During that nine month period, a Francophile friend had been giving my advice and some key phrases. The one word i’d be hearing and saying most over the weekend would be billet, which means ticket.

My first billet, would be from Charles De Gaulle Airport to Gare Du Nord. Even though it was peak commuter time, we were squashed in on the train, with barely any room to put my luggage. It just seemed logical to me that a train serving the airport should have luggage storage facilities. The French must travel light.

As I got off at Gare Du Nord, I began to follow the directions to my accommodation, to find the Rue it was on. That’s French for street by the way. I had taxi drivers shouting at me to give them my custom, giving me sob stories about how they need work in these tough times, before quoting me €45 for a journey that is no more than ten minutes. They didn’t really grasp the correlation. I decided to walk it.

I found my accommodation, after navigating streets filled with binbags piling up and having to dodge smokers at a rate which is worse than Belfast, an impressive feat considering that Belfast City Centre is a smoke riddled shithole.

I have to say, this wasn’t the best first impression of Paris.

I then decided to have a walk around Paris and my impression got better. I checked out some Street Art on shutters. It was late enough for shops to be closed, but still daylight, a perfect combination.

I had planned to do a Street Art Tour but I wasn’t able to commit to the time (it only left on a Saturday morning, and I wasn’t sure if my Saturday morning would be in Paris or Lens), preferring to stumble upon pieces.

Friday was spent wandering around Paris. I bought myself an all day Metro ticket. I had a brief visit to Parc Des Princes to see what it was like, but it was heavily cordoned off. From there, I headed to the Saint Germain region, having a look around the shops.

A lot of the shops were very high end clothes stores that would attract the likes of France’s suavest men such as Francois Mitchele and Jacques Fullerton.

Friday night was the opening game of Euro 2016, France v Romania. The cheapest ticket for this was three figures. I decided to head to Stade De France to take in the atmosphere and try to pick up a cheap ticket.

The fact that tickets were still on general sale on the day of the game suggested this could be a Buyer’s Market the closer you got to kick-off.

I was planning to wait until 8.45pm (kick-off was at 9pm) before trying and would go no higher than €60. This wasn’t the game I headed out for, it would be no loss to me. I could find a pub and watch it there.

At around 8.30pm, I got approached by a tout (the fact I was milling about was probably a giveaway) who offered me a €195 ticket for €150. I said €60 and we settled on €80. For the extra €20, I was getting in the ground earlier and ensuring I would see all of the game.

Not only did I get to see all of the game, I was even in the ground in time for the opening ceremony. I’m not sure if that was a good or a bad thing, getting to witness David Guetta telling people to make some noise and wave their hands. What a showman.

France won the match 2-1, and everyone went home happy. Especially me, who discovered a shortcut to my accommodation from Gare Du Nord, and some Street Art within the station.

Saturday’s original plan was to go to Lens to try and get a ticket for Albania v Switzerland. Upon seeing that it would cost €70 for a one hour journey, I decided against it. Especially disappointing as SNCF had promised special discount prices for fans travelling to and from Paris.

I then walked around Paris some more, finding myself in an area called Le Republique, as well as stumbling upon some Street Art around the back of Gare Du Nord.

I had planned to watch Slovakia v Wales in the Fanzone at the Eiffel Tower, but I took a wrong turn on the RER and missed it totally. Saturday night was spent watching the first-half of England v Russia and having a bite to eat before heading for an early night.

The reason why I was having a early night, is because I needed to be up early to get a 0720 train to Nice. I thought i’d be the only one on the train, but it was packed, mostly Northern Ireland fans.

I found my hotel in Nice and checked in, relaxing for a bit before heading to the stadium.

The only way to get to the stadium was via a free shuttle bus from the City Centre, which dropped fans off a thirty minute walk from the ground.

The match I was in Nice for, was Northern Ireland v Poland. The stadium was fantastic, as was the scenery around it. The problem was, there was nothing else around the ground.

The match itself was a disappointing 1-0 defeat for Northern Ireland. Afterwards, I headed to get my bus back to the City Centre. What I saw, was utter chaos.

There was a line of people, but no queue. Basically, the bus parked wherever it liked, meaning it was pure luck if you were able to get onto a bus, a bus which was usually filled over capacity.

The match finished just before 8pm, and I didn’t get onto a City Centre bound bus until 9.30pm. There were still a lot of people waiting for a bus when I got mine.

It really ruined my plans for the evening. I’d planned on being in the City Centre by 9pm and watching a bit of the Germany v Ukraine match.

When I booked a hotel room in Nice, the plan was to head back to Paris the next morning. Due to the extortionate prices, I got on an earlier train just after midnight.

Even though I wouldn’t be sleeping in Nice, I still got value out of the room as it allowed me to drop my stuff off, relax, and get showered ahead of my train journey.

From what I saw of Nice, it looks like a city I would love to visit in full one day. There is the potential of some decent sport watching, with OGC Nice in France’s top flight, with Monaco nearby, as well as Toulon in Top 14 Rugby.

I had a look out of curiousity, and unfortunately the flights are seasonal (April to October. I’d prefer to go in February)

Back in Paris, and a wee lie-in on the Monday, it was to the Stade De France to see Republic Of Ireland v Sweden, before getting something to eat, and then beginning to pack up, ahead of an early morning Eurostar to London.

To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with France. I found Paris to be filthy, the public transport to be incompetent (The time of my train out of Nice was put back by twenty minutes without being told), police and stewards to be power crazed, and taxis to be a rip-off.

I won’t be rushing back, but don’t rule it out maybe one day.

It’s a pity, as there is the potential for a decent Football Weekend in Paris to be had, with PSG and Red Star, as well as Lille, Lens, Amiens, Reims nearby.

So Tuesday, was spent in London, as I flew back from there.

I’ve been to London before, so I knew where I wanted to go to, especially with only a day on my hands.

I headed to Camden, taking in Camden Market and getting some Street Art photos, before heading to Soho, to visit a shop called Vintage Magazine Shop, which is as it says.

I had a look around but found it too expensive for my liking, for someone who considers themselves a hobbyist rather than a collector.

On that note, I can exclusively reveal that there will be a new series of The Magazine Archive in January 2017. Keep an eye out for that.

It’s still a shop worth visiting, but I wouldn’t consider buying anything there. I’ll stick to rummaging for bargains in Empire Exchange whenever i’m in Manchester.

I’d planned to go to Shoreditch, but a monsoon stopped that plan.

With my flight at 8.10pm, I decided to go the the airport early to check-in so I could watch Austria v Hungary (kick-off at 5pm) while getting something to eat.

A strike in France meant that Easyjet wouldn’t allow me to check-in until 6.10pm.

Even though I was no longer in France, they were still managing to ruin my plans. I’ve never seen a more incompetent country.

To add to that, the hotel in Nice that cancelled my booking last December as they had no rooms, meaning I had to book another hotel, charged me for staying there. I’m currently getting that sorted by Booking.com.

There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer says “If you don’t like you’re job, you don’t go on strike, you just do it half-assed. That’s the American way”

The French way, seems to be going on strike and doing things half-assed.

I loved going to the matches, but didn’t really enjoy being in France.

I would have loved to have stayed a few extra days though, if only to see Northern Ireland v Ukraine, and James in concert in Paris.

The only concerts on in Paris when I was there were Iron Maiden and Adele, neither who i’m fussy about.

Despite that, i’m looking forward to going to Euro 2020. Hopefully. That tournament will be played all over Europe.

The games that interest me are the ones at Hampden Park and Lansdowne Road.

Hopefully, the Scots and/or Irish will be slightly more organised than the French.

2015 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

The start of February usually sees me head away somewhere, and this year saw me head to Barcelona for a short break.

While there, I toured the city, did a tour of the Nou Camp, got lots of Street Art pictures and went to two football matches

Upon my return from Barcelona, it was straight into Irish League action, to see Linfield take on Cliftonville at Windsor Park.

Four days later, I was headed to Stangmore Park, on my birthday, to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts, with Linfield giving me some birthday cheer by winning 3-0.

Three days later I was headed to Mandela Hall for the first time since 2011, for my first gig of 2015 – Echo and the Bunnymen.

A further three days after that, I was back at Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Portadown.

The final day of the month saw me see Linfield take on Portadown again, this time in the Irish Cup, and at Shamrock Park. It was the same result though.

Barcelona

Barcelona Photo Album

Nou Camp Photo Album

Barcelona Street Art

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 1

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 2

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 3

CE Europa v Masnau

CE Europa v Masnau Photo Album

Espanyol v Valencia

Espanyol v Valencia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Echo and the Bunnymen Live At Mandela Hall

Echo and the Bunnymen Live At Mandela Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Portadown

Portadown v Linfield

EDINBLOG 2015

August is my favourite month of the year, for the simple reason that it’s the month that I visit the Edinburgh Festival. If I could, i’d go there for the whole month.

I actually went later in the month than I usually do. The latest i’ve been since I first visited in 2009.

This year, for the first time, I bought my tickets in advance rather than waiting to purchase when I arrived. I got everything I wanted, barring having to rearranging my Saturday night and Monday night choices.

All I had to do when I arrived at the ticket office was to swipe my Debit Card, and my tickets printed off. It wasn’t totally problem free, as the printer ran out of paper when printing off my tickets. Only a minor hitch in an otherwise efficient system.

I flew out on the Saturday morning, and after getting my tickets and getting checked in, Saturday afternoon was all about football, as I headed to Tynecastle to watch Hearts take on Partick Thistle.

Despite being an Edinburgh veteran, I managed to get lost en route by not paying attention at Haymarket Station and taking a wrong turn.

I managed to make it to the ground in plenty of time for kick-off regardless, and saw Hearts maintain their lead at the top of the SPL with a 3-0 win.

I only went to one show on the Saturday, Stewart Francis at Assembly George Square. You will recognise him from various panel shows, specialising in bad puns. Groans and laughter were plentiful in equal measure.

On the Sunday, I decided to head to Glasgow for a few hours, while taking in Rangers v Hibs. Before I set off for Glasgow, I got some photos of Street Art in Edinburgh, near Waverley Station.

Every year that i’ve visited Edinburgh, i’ve always wanted to visit another city or town in Scotland, just to escape for a few years.

I have in my head to visit Stirling some time. Maybe next year?

I was a bit delayed getting out of Glasgow, I missed the start of John Lloyd’s show. That, and the fact I got lost en route to the venue. I am an Edinburgh veteran, trust me. It’s just that there are so many venues called Assembly.

Turns out it was Assembley opposite Hotel Du Vin rather than the one at Potterrow.

You probably know more about John Lloyd than you think you do mostly famed for his work behind the scenes on Spitting Image and creating QI. His show was an entertaining look at trivia and knowledge.

Later on Sunday, I headed to Pleasance to see James Acaster. I’d previously seen him do a slot at a charity gig in London a few years ago, so I was looking forward to seeing him.

His humour is very deadpan and surreal. This year, he has made a breakthrough into panel shows. This show focused on him sharing celebrity gossip about the Chilean Miners, and his experiences on jury duty.

One more show followed on the Sunday, and I managed to go to the wrong venue. Again, a case of two many venues called Assembly.

That show, was a live recording of Josh Widdecombe’s XFM Show. I’m a big fan of Widdecombe, and actually listen to the show when i’m getting ready on a Saturday morning.

As a bonus, James Acaster was on it. Double Acaster in the one night.

There was one bonus of my getting lost, as I found out where Roxburgh Hotel was. On the Monday morning, I headed there for a Record Fair. I didn’t get anything, but if I didn’t go, I knew I would have been annoyed at myself for not going, and thinking that i’d missed out on something.

I spend Monday morning wandering around the West End and visiting my two favourite shops in Edinburgh – Fopp and Football Nation.

One of the best things about Edinburgh is, that you can escape from the Fringe for a few hours if you wish, and you don’t have to go very far to do so.

One year, I spent so much time in Cowgate, Potterrow and Pleasance, I didn’t even spend a minute in Princes Street/George Street, so it’s good to get a nice mix of Edinburgh.

My first show on the Monday was to see Mark Watson do a show called Work In Progress, which as the title suggests, was to try out new material.

I’d seen him previously, as well as him hosting the Comedywealth Games last year. It was classic Watson, moving from one topic to another in rapid time.

I’ll be keeping an eye out if he does a full proper show next year.

From there, I quickly legged it from The Stand to Pleasance to see Batfan, about one performer and his obsession with Batman, and his quest to create the perfect Batman film. He’s not a fan of Joel Schumacher.

Not enough 60s Batman in it for me, but it was still enjoyable, especially some of the obscure/forgotten/unknown references. You didn’t need to be a massive fan of Batman in order to enjoy it.

I’d wanted to spend Monday night seeing FFS in concert, but unfortunately, all the tickets were sold out. I didn’t want to spend the evening at the venue in the hope that some tickets become available, so I decided to just go to a comedy show instead.

Quite literally, a case of FFS.

If you don’t know, FFS are a supergroup comprising of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks. They are rather good. Looks like i’ll have to cross my fingers for a Belfast gig.

So what would fill my FFS void? Aisling Bea. You may have seen her on various panel shows. She was very good. The audience got a bit of a fright when they entered to room, to see her dancing in a morph suit.

Tuesday morning was spent walking around Princes Street Markets and Rose Street, before going to see The Man Called Monkhouse, set in the mid 1990s around the time of the theft of his joke book and the 20th anniversary of the death of his writing partner, Dennis Goodwin, sees Monkhouse looking back at his life to that point.

The voice was good but not perfect, but the look was. It looked like Monkhouse was in the room. As a bonus, we got some classic Monkhouse one-liners as well.

That was my only show on Tuesday, as Tuesday night was spent watching football, making a short train journey to see Dunfermline Athletic take on Dundee.

On Wednesday morning, I was curious and went for a walk around York Place and ended up in Leith. Even though this was the seventh year I had visited, it’s always good to explore new parts of the city I haven’t seen before.

One part of Edinburgh i’d love to visit is Arthur’s Seat, a hill which offers some spectacular views over Edinburgh. I’d planned on going on the Thursday morning, but the weather had started to turn. I didn’t quite fancy a hill walk in the rain. Maybe next year.

It was great though to have a trip to Edinburgh without having to wear a raincoat for the first four days. There were short periods of rain in my last two days.

My only show on Wednesday was to see Matt Forde. He specialises in Political Comedy, but he’s not a preachy type of comic, instead focusing on funny things in politics and amusing observations.

I’d previously seen him on Rory Bremner’s Election Report, and was not disappointed. He began by saying that he supported Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to be Labour Leader, not for political reasons, but for the material it will offer.

Wednesday night was spent at Princes Street Gardens to see James in concert. James doing a gig was part of the reason why I chose this particular week to go to Edinburgh.

Thurdsay was my last day, where I went to Edinburgh University to browse through the various charity shops for possible bargains.

Thursday lunchtime saw one last show, Pippa Evans celebrating the guilty pleasures of life, through the medium of song, even briefly bringing back her character of Loretta Maine, who I saw make a guest appearance on MacAulay and Co a few years ago.

Talking of MacAulay and Co, it wasn’t on this year. It was cancelled by Radio Scotland, and they didn’t even bring it back for the Edinburgh Festival.

In it’s place, was Kaye Adams. I’d love to be able to tell you if it was any good, but I slept in each morning I had a ticket having stayed up too late the night before. Maybe next year.

After Pippa Evans, a wee brief stroll around Princes Street, before getting the bus back to the airport.

That was it, that was my Edinburgh adventure for 2015. I didn’t see an awful show, which is almost disappointing. Already looking forward to 2016.

Edinblog 2014

Edinblog 2013

Edinblog 2012

Edinblog 2011

Edinblog 2010

BARCELONA

As February begins, I usually go away for a weekend somewhere. This year, I chose Barcelona.

Why? Well, I hadn’t been to Mainland Europe for two and a half years, and I just had an inkling for Barcelona. I had been before, four years ago, so I felt the time was right for a return visit.

So set was I on Barcelona, that I travelled from Dublin, with flights from Belfast not available at this time of year. It wasn’t an ideal option, but needs must. I flew out on Wednesday and flew back on Monday. Realistically, the trip was Thursday to Sunday, with the late flight on Wednesday and early flight on Monday making those days a write-off.

Wednesday wasn’t a complete write-off, as I headed for a short walk to the Arc De Triomf, before heading to bed, ahead of a busy day on the Thursday.

I woke up on Thursday morning and headed for a walk around Placa Catalunya, spotted some Street Art to photo, and had a walk around the shops. I had planned to go on the Street Art tour properly, rather than just spotting stuff.

At lunchtime, I headed to Arc De Triomf, the meeting point for the Street Art tour, but I was to be disappointed as it wasn’t on that day.

With a change of plan, I headed for a walk around Barcelona, before heading to the Nou Camp. It was too late to do the tour, so I had a look around the shop, before heading back into the City Centre to get a bite to eat.

After that, I had a walk around Las Ramblas, one of the main squares in Barcelona.

Friday morning began with me heading to the Nou Camp to do the tour. Last time I was in Barcelona, I went to a Barcelona match and did a tour of Espanyol’s ground. I always promised myself I would do a tour of the Nou Camp and go to an Espanyol match.

On Thursday morning, i’d sorted myself out for a ticket for Espanyol’s match against Valencia from the tourist office, one of many outlets in the City Centre selling them.

At the Nou Camp, I did the tour, beginning in the museum giving a chronological timeline of the club’s history, containing memorabilia and trophies from throughout the club’s history.

From there, it was a case of following the arrows which led you into the stands, then into the dressing room, the tunnel, to the side of the pitch (but not on the pitch)

The only downside was the pitch being covered. Not sure what the technical term was, but it was the things that are used to heat a pitch from above. Apologies for my lack of pitch management knowledge. IT ruined any chance of getting decent photos of the stadium.

As you followed the tour, the tour ended on the top floor of the club shop. Barcelona certainly aren’t slow in trying to make money.

As I exited the Nou Camp, I walked past Mini Estadi, which translates as The Mini Stadium, which is used by Barcelona’s reserve team, and sometimes by Andorra’s national team. Disappointingly, there was no match on that weekend, as Barcelona B (who play in Spain’s version of The Championship) were away to Real Zaragoza.

That afternoon, I was back at the Arc De Triomf to try my luck with the Street Art Tour. I soon discovered the reason why there was not tour on the Thursday – The Tour Guide had suffered a broken ankle a few weeks ago and was still recovering. Obviously such an injury is inconvenient when yo do something that involves a lot of walking

The tour is split into two – a tour of the El Borne beginning at 2pm, and a tour of Raval beginning at 4.45pm. I planned to do both on the same day but was advised to do them seperately. It was wise advice, due to the amount of walking.

The tour was very enjoyable, with the guide very knowledgeable. It also exposed me to the El Borne area in Barcelona, which I was previously unaware of. A very nice area of the city indeed. At the end of that tour, I had the later tour, earmarked for Saturday. My poor feet were worn out from all the walking.

From there, I headed to Las Rambles, onto the Marina for a walkaround. I wanted to do the cable car over the city, but I missed out …… by minutes.

I had hoped to take in a concert but the listings weren’t kind to me. The week after I visited, George Ezra was performing, which would have been nice to go to, even though I saw him at The Limelight in October.

On Saturday, I headed to Las Ramblas, the marina, the beach and El Borne.

Late afternoon, I headed to the Raval to do the Street art tour. I met my guide outside Macba (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art). The area around MACBA is a beautiful area with lots of activity, it was a pity I only stumbled onto it to go somewhere else.

The Street Art tour of Raval was enjoyable as the one yesterday. The only complaint was that it wasn’t earlier in the day, as it began to get dark, meaning the quality of some photos wasn’t what I hoped it would be.

Sunday would be my “Day Of Football” with not one, but two matches in my plans. I went to Nou Sardenya for the lunchtime kick-off in Tercera Division (Spain’s version of League Two) between CE Europa and Masnau, which the home side won 1-0.

I then headed to Cornella, on the outskirts of the city for Espanyol v Valencia. I’d planned on going to the shopping centre beside the ground, but I ended up with too much time on my hands. I probably should have went to the City Centre for a while before heading on.

The match itself wasn’t very good in terms of quality, but was a brilliant atmosphere despite the stadium being nowhere near full.

Valencia won the game 2-1.

As I headed back into the City Centre for a bite to eat, my Barcelona adventure was almost over, as an early morning flight on the Monday would mean I wouldn’t be doing much in the city that day.

If you go to Barcelona, brace yourself for a lot of walking. Or you could be lazy and buy a pass for the Metro. I got a 10 journeys for €10, which was money well spent as I made 11 journeys (I bought the 11th as a single for €2.35)

You never had to wait a long time for a train as well, and all the stations I visited were very clean.

One thing about the Metro is that you are guaranteed to get a musical performance wether you want it or not. In Barcelona, buskers travel on the trains and give performances in packed carriages.

One down side of Barcelona is the volume of smokers, it was almost like an obstacle course at times. A blight on an otherwise beautiful city.

Despite that, I enjoyed my visit. I saw so much, and there was still so much I wanted to see.

2014 IN PICTURES – JULY

July began for me with a trip to Dublin, then Bray, primarily for a concert headlined by James and Paloma Faith, a bit of football to see Bray Wanderers, and some Dublin Street Art.

The following week, Linfield’s season was back up and running with the second leg of the UEFA Cup tie against B36 Torshavn at Mourneview Park, my first time seeing Warren Feeney’s Linfield in the flesh.

A 1-1 draw was enough to giver Linfield a tie in the next round against AIK, again at Mourneview Park, where and Andrew Waterworth goal secured a 1-0 win. Unfortunately, a 2-0 defeat in the away leg eliminated Linfield.

Two days later, it was back on the football wagon for Linfield’s friendly against Cowdenbeath. The only reason I went was to see Clandeboye Park, after having had some work done.

The month ended with another Wonder Villains gig, an instore at HMV.

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United Photo Album

James – Live At Killruddery

James – Live At Killruddery Photo Album

Paloma Faith – Live At Killruddery

Paloma Faith – Live At Killruddery Photo Album

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Linfield v AIK

Linfield v Cowdenbeath

Wonder Villains Live At The Loft Photo Album

MANCHESTER

Last weekend, I headed to Manchester for a short break. I’d been to the city many times, to go to Old Trafford, but rarely explored it. The only previous time I got the chance was four and a half years ago, in April 2010.

I usually travel to Old Trafford by bus the day before, and only get a brief visit to the City Centre on the day of the game before heading back home the next day.

In June, I decided I would pick a match and make a weekend of it. The problem was, with no European football this season, there was always the risk that I could choose a game, only for it to be moved to a Monday night. So, I chose a Saturday game leading into a midweek fixture list (Hull) and booked a trip from Friday to Monday.

Upon arrival, I got the tram at the new station at the airport. I had to stop off and get a connecting tram to get to my hotel. I would have had to do the same if I was staying in the City Centre. One of the stops on the route, Trafford Bar, is handy for Old Trafford if you’re flying in and out on the same day. In future, i’d probably get the train to Picadilly and travel from there.

My hotel, was at Salford Quays and easy to get to, served by two tram stops. I know the area reasonably well, and it is close to Old Trafford, my main destination of the weekend. Walking past the stadium en route to the Old Trafford tram station (I’d purposely chose to do so, just to have a look at the ground), there was still a lot of activity, with tourists visiting the ground, and unofficial stalls looking to capitalise on their visit.

Getting the tram into the City Centre, the first thing I did was the first thing I do everytime I visit the City Centre – visit Empire Exchange.

It’s a “Retro Junk Store”, but as the saying goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and there’ll always be something in there you want to buy.

From there, I headed to Affleck’s, an independent indoor market space i’d previously visited in 2012. I got sidetracked while there of the mosaics outside, of various landmarks such as both of the city’s football teams, Coronation Street and Factory Records.

I also spotted some Street Art, and then found some more, then found myself getting lost and photographing more Street Art. I love Street Art, but i’d never really got anything photoworthy in Manchester. That was soon rectified.

The Northern Quarter was a part of the city i’d never really ventured to, much to my loss. Lot’s of fantastic independent stores and Street Art, which I enjoyed visiting, and hope to do so the next time i’m in Manchester.

After a walk to check out the Christmas Market at Arndale, I was soon on a bus, to Accrington, to take in some football, Accrington Stanley v Exeter City, before heading back to Salford Quays, with two more busy days to come.

I got up relatively early on the Saturday morning, so I could have a stroll around the City Centre before the match, which kicked-off at 3pm.

Again, I decided to walk to the Old Trafford tram stop, deliberately, just to walk past the stadium. It was quire eerie and surreal to see Sir Matt Busby Way so quiet and peaceful (bar a few street cleaners and stalls) on a matchday.

When I booked the trip in June, Hull City were still in European competition, and i’d hoped they’d get to the group stages of the UEFA Cup so the match would be a Sunday, freeing me up to spend more time in the City Centre and/or going to another game in the Greater Manchester/Lancashire area. However, it was not to be.

I got a tram to the City Centre, having a look around Arndale and Arndale Market, as well as seeing some of the street performers and catching up on some of the Street Art I missed on the Friday (It was coming up to 4pm when I was taking photos, and there’s wasn’t a lot of natural daylight to work with)

It wasn’t just Arndale I went to, I also had a venture around Printworks, the Christmas Markets around there, as well as a visit to the National Football Museum. As I only visit Manchester every 6-7 months (my last visit was 8 months ago, and I didn’t get a chance to visit the National Football Museum), visiting there doesn’t become stale due to the turnover of exhibitions. I took the opportunity to purchase a retro Red/White/Black bar scarf i’d been trying to get for a while.

At around Noon, I got the tram back to Old Trafford to have a look at Red Star Sports and the unofficial stalls, before dropping off my City Centre purchases in the hotel room, before a bite to eat, then into the ground.

The match itself, my first seeing Van Gaal’s United in the flesh, was a routine win, though it wasn’t perfect, due to injuries to Di Maria and Rooney.

Back to the hotel room for a quick change, then out for a quick bite to eat, I headed to the University Area, got hopelessly lost, before finding The Deaf Institute, a bar on the site of an abandoned Deaf Institute (hence the name) to see The Ting Tings.

It was a rather good gig, when you ignore them walking off three songs in due to technical difficulties.

(They did come back on once the problems were fixed)

I allowed myself a bit of a lie-in on Sunday morning, before heading for a stroll along Salfrod Quays, photographing some Street Art i’d spotted from afar over the previous two days from the tram.

The end of that trail, saw me at Cornbrook tram stop, so I got a tram from there to Market Street, having a browse at the Christmas Markets, somehow getting lost in these markets (especially the German market) and ending up in Deansgate.

With a bit of time to spare, I headed to Moston to have a look at FC United’s proposed new stadium, Broadhurst Park, which is at a very advanced stage.

I’ve always been meaning to go to an FC United game, but whenever i’ve actually been in Manchester for a whole weekend, they’ve been away. Even this weekend, with “Big United” playing at 3pm on a Saturday, FC were away.

Hopefully, when the stadium is up and running, i’ll get a chance to visit for a match.

From there, it was back to the hotel, then out for a bite to eat, before heading to Manchester Apollo for Erasure. I’d tried to get tickets for their Belfast gig earlier in the month, but they were sold out. I couldn’t believe my luck when I checked the concert listings and they were playing when I was there, so it more than made up for missing out on the Belfast gig.

In fact, it was a brilliant weekend for gigs in the city, with Erasure, Human League, Ting tings, Imelda May, The Beat and Paloma Faith all playing between Friday and Sunday.

Erasure, were fantastic. The bus back to Picadilly turned into a party bus with revellers singing from Erasure’s back catalogue.

Unfortunately, trams to Eccles (which was the route to my hotel) finish early on a Friday night. If the gig venue was in a more central location, I could have made it. Unfortunately, I had to walk from Trafford Bar to Salford Quays back to the hotel, when I couldn’t have been bothered walking any more.

I had a bit of a lie-in on the Monday morning, before a bit of breakfast, then checking out. The 3pm flight home didn’t allow me much of an opportunity to see the city on the Monday.

With that, my Manchester break was over, I found myself wishing i’d stayed over a few more days for the Stoke game.

Photo Album

Broadhurst Park Photo Album