All birthdays should be celebrated, especially the big ones. It’s even more important to mark the occasion when we’re older, I think, because it shows that we’ve made it through another year and in this life, that’s an achievement. I turned 50 in September and I’m determined to make the celebrations last all year long.
I started early and bought myself a ticket to the Wet Wet Wet concert at Edinburgh Castle on 15th July this year. It was one of the best presents I’ve ever bought myself. I hadn’t been to a live music gig in a stadium for years and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was in secondary school when Wet Wet Wet’s hit song Angel Eyes was released in 1987. Listening to all of their songs at the gig brought back so many good memories. The best part of that concert for me was when they sang Goodnight Girl. Once they got to the chorus the crowd joined in…..and we sang it again ….and again …and again. It’s such a catchy chorus, we couldn’t help ourselves. The power of our voices as it surged through the stadium was amazing. It was great to have been a part of it. I loved Marti Pellow’s reaction to us singing. He stood there with his hands on his hips, dumbfounded, but laughing at the same time and you could see he was really enjoying it. It was brilliant. He was well impressed by us and so he should have been. We were on a roll and there was no stopping us!
The second major birthday treat was getting a good long spin on a Harley Davidson motorbike on the 1st September. That is something I’ve wanted to do for years and I’m proud to say that I managed to achieve that. I loved it. The opportunity came up when the weather changed at the end of August and as the weather forecast predicted, the 1st September turned out to be a glorious afternoon. So a colleague of mine at work, who drives a Harley, brought in a second helmet and off we went on his bike along the coast towards North Berwick. We couldn’t have picked a better day. There was no wind, the sun was warm, the scenery through Preston Pans, but especially by Seton Sands along the coast, was breathtaking. Seeing it all from the back of a Harley Davidson was even better. We were able to pick up a bit of speed once we left the city, which was great. The feeling of freedom, the movement, the speed, being outside in beautiful weather and holding on to a good looking guy, with a lovely smile, was wonderful.
On the weekend of 15th to 17th September Edinbop , who I take swing dance classes with, held the Edinburgh Lindy Exchange Swing Dance Festival. It’s a yearly event where dancers come from all over the world to have fun, meet some great people and strut their stuff on the swing dance floor. This year is Edinbop’s 10th anniversary, so the Festival this time around was a special event for everyone. There was dancing on Friday night at Thomas Morton Hall in Leith, at the Ross bandstand in Princes Street Gardens Saturday afternoon, at the Assembly Rooms on George Street on Saturday night, on Sunday afternoon at The Edinburgh Academy in Stockbridge and finally at The Compass on Queen Street on Sunday night.
What I really enjoyed was dancing outside at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens. It’s such an unusual location and dancing outside is something I haven’t done in a long time. The rain came and went and people kept on dancing. The venues were varied and the bands were amazing. The Hot Sugar Band, from Paris, who played on the Friday and Saturday nights, were one of the best bands I’ve danced to in ages. Ali Afleck’s band was very lively too at Princes St Gardens and kept us going through the rain. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend. This photo is courtesy of Jason Roseweir Photography. http://jason.roseweirphotography.co.uk/swingdancing
As if all that wasn’t indulgent enough, I decided to really push the boat out and booked a two week holiday to The Netherlands and Croatia, starting the weekend of my birthday. I thought “why the hell not? I deserve it.” I spent 5 days in Amsterdam and 6 days in Dubrovnik. Amsterdam was a celebration of my birthday with friends. Dubrovnik was more of a solo trip, travelling on my own.
On the big day, my friend Chantz and I went on a boat ride around the canals of Amsterdam. I love the different perspective you get from the water and the boat company Chantz had picked was a good one. They were called Stromma.com They have a variety of boat tours and the one we went on was an Open Boat Tour. The boat can fit about 10 people, including the driver/guide, so it’s quite cosy and with it being an open boat, the views of the city were unbeatable. There were 6 of us on the boat. Chantz mentioned to our driver Eric, that it was my birthday and he asked me “is there anywhere in particular you’d like to go?” and I said “yes, it would be great if we could go east please” and he did, surprisingly.
I was thrilled because the waterways around that part of the city are my favourite. It includes the area around the Zoo, the Scheepvaart Museum, The Hermitage Museum and part of the Amstel River. Not only that, he took us into canals that we had never been through before. Having lived there for 17 years and seeing these parts of the city for the first time from the water was so enjoyable. It opened my eyes even more to the beauty of the city. We had an hour and 15 minutes on the water and it was one of the most enjoyable boat trips I’d been on in Amsterdam. That evening we went for a meal and then my final port of call for the day was Mulligans Irish Pub, the best Irish pub in Amsterdam. I worked here a lot when I lived in the city and it was great to catch up with more friends, enjoy the live music and have a few drinks.
Dubrovnik was beautiful: an old walled town, on the edge of the Adriatic sea, with blue skies and glorious sunshine. I will elaborate more in my Highlights of Dubrovnik blog that is coming soon. I loved the city at night time especially. The crowds thinned out in the evening and the heat dipped to a comfortable 20 degrees. There was a lovely buzz around the main square by the Bell Tower and the major shopping street, Stradun. I was very lucky to catch an open-air performance by the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra outside the Church of St. Blaise. It was brilliant. The Buza Bar was one of the best locations to see the sunset. Other highlights included walking along the top of the ramparts of the city, (which provided stunning views of the coast and the Old Port), a guided walking tour of the Old Town and a boat trip to the Elaphite Islands off the coast of Dubrovnik. To top it all, the city was full of stray cats and as a cat lover that was a lovely surprise. It was a great holiday.
Ever since the Wet Wet Wet concert in July this year, I’ve become a big fan of Marti Pellow. I really like his voice and from all of the tv and radio interviews that he’s done, he seems to be a nice, down-to-earth kind of guy. And God, he’s still a sexy beast! He was good looking in the late ‘80s when we has singing with the Wets but the more mature version of him now, at 52, is even more attractive, especially with a beard. After the Wets did their gig at Edinburgh Castle Marti announced that he was leaving the band to concentrate more on his solo career. Fair play to him. I admire him for doing that. I’d love to see him perform at one of his solo gigs and in the last few months I’ve bought a few of his albums to familiarise myself with his songs.
He did 2 gigs at The Stables, in Wavendon, near Milton Keynes in September. The songs he performed were from his private collection and the gigs were smaller, more intimate ones, which I love. I was seriously considering going to one of these gigs but it would have taken me 5 and a half hours to get there by train or plane and with all the costs included, it would have set me back nearly £300. Too expensive. So I gave up the ghost and hoped that he would be doing some concerts in the near future in Scotland. In October he told his fans that he would be doing this Private Collection tour around the UK, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. I couldn’t believe it. I was delighted. So here’s my chance to see him perform live. I bought my ticket straight away for his gig at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh in June next year and I can’t wait.
There is something else I’ve always wanted to do and that’s to stay in a castle. The more haunted the castle is the better. My friend Maggie in Ireland knows some good castles to go to. She has a lot of interest and knowledge in the folklore, myths and legends of Ireland. So in October/November next year, we’re going to stay overnight in a castle in the Roscommon/Mayo area. That should be fun. We probably won’t get a wink of sleep with the drinking we’ll be doing to keep the boogiemen away. I’m fascinated by stories of ghosts, ghouls, spirits and the like and I’m hoping we’ll leave there with a few spooky stories of our own.
I’ve really enjoyed my celebrations so far and I’m hoping there’ll be a few more this coming year. Life is short and I intend to make the most of it when I can.