Growing to Like the U2 Album

When the U2 album appeared, last week or the week before, I burned it on a CD and stuck it in the car stereo. Whenever the radio was annoying me or failing to enthrall me, I put it on.

I’m coming around to it now.

I never really like anything first time out, unless it’s some super-catchy riff with an instant hook. 

At the moment, I like that ‘All About the Bass’ song but I will probably be completely fed up with it in a week or two. That’s the trouble with the catchy stuff, it wears off pretty quick.

Back to U2 though.

I’m not a defender of U2 or anything. There’s lot of their songs that I like and a lot that I don’t like. I also know how that front man fella has the capacity to annoy people, myself included, from time to time. When I heard some songs off this new album for the first time, they didn’t impact with me. They didn’t cause me offence or outrage or anything, they just didn’t click.

But that’s nothing new. As I was saying, songs generally take a few plays to get into my brain and settle there. It’s only then that I get a feel for whether I like them or not.

So, yeah, the CD has been played a few times now and I’m coming around to the songs. They sound similar to ones that have gone before but, still, some of them are pretty good.

What I’m saying here is completely true but I’m also trying to be a little bit provocative. 

I was interested in what happened when the U2 album appeared last week, or the week before. I think it was a good example of something that occurs quite regularly now, something that we perhaps should be a little bit concerned about.

Basically, people hated the U2 album.

But why be concerned about that, Ken? People are allowed to like or dislike things as they see fit. They are also allowed to express their opinions openly and without fear of reprisal. This is a situation  to be celebrated and staunchly defended.

Of course it is.

The thing I’m talking about is not the hating of the album. It is the speed of the hating of the album.

People hated the album in the very moment it appeared. 

There was no time to listen to it a few times. Hell, there was no time to listen to it even once. It appeared and it was hated. The end.

Of course there were mitigating factors in this particular instance. The album was perceived as having been forced onto people’s entertainment devices by a corporate entity. That fuelled the hate a bit. Also it’s ‘U2’, with the stacks of baggage that they and their front man have hauled along through the last few decades.

These are reasons which made this a grander and more visible ‘blind hating’ that most of the ‘blind hatings’ we have previously seen. Still, though, it’s an interesting and, to me at least, a rather scary example of the phenomenon. 

What phenomenon, Ken, what are you on about?

I told you. People, en masse, hating a package of songs without having taken a moment to listen to them. Doesn’t that scare you even a little bit? I mean it’s not about the songs, fuck the songs. People coming together and hating a thing and the only knowledge they have of it is the propaganda and their own prejudices. Doesn’t that ring a bell at all?

People do well if they are part of a group. This is true in life and doubly-true on Facebook and Twitter and such. It’s can be a cold isolating place, that Social Media, and people long for common ground and shared experience on which to rest and warm themselves a while. If you don’t believe me, look at any statement made on Facebook and then look at the comments beneath. The vast majority of those comments will be in concurrence with the original statement. A few argumentative types, sure, but, generally, people with be supporting the original statement, making themselves part of a little cohort. Belonging.

It’s only natural, I suppose. 

It’s a shame, though, that the easiest gangs to belong to are the ones which dislike things. It’s easier and safer and warmer and more comfortable to dislike things. You don’t have to defend a dislike. You just have to run with the pack and feel their hot breath on your neck.

I’m getting carried away now and I know I am. And, before you start, it’s not about bloody U2. Hate them all you want, I couldn’t care less. It’s a free country. Go for it. Knock yourself out.

Just consider one thing for me.

Before you decide you really, really hate something, why not try it?

Of course, if you have a strong instinct that you’re going to hate it (Semolina, Cauliflower) you don’t have to try it but, if you don’t ever give it a go, then don’t run around publicly hating on it. Just disregard it.

There is warmth and companionship to be found in being among the people who like things and even, perhaps most wonderful of all, the people who disagree with you about things.


I’ve completely gone off U2 now.

Anybody got any Coldplay? 

Doors to Manual

This week’s blog post is just a thought, really.

The way this blog works, usually, is that I think about something through the week and I decide that this thing will be the subject of that week’s post. Then I let it steam gently in my brain for a day or two and then I write it down. If it’s a story or a memory, I can usually tell if it’s passable or not. When it’s just a thought, though, it’s harder to ascertain whether it has any value. The only thing to do is to write it and see.


Life is like a journey on a commercial flight.

That’s the thought.

The danger is that it’s one of those lines that a priest might throw out at the start of a sermon and then go on to flog it to death in a yawn-inducing litany of awfulness. I’ll try not to do that. ‘Get in and get out quickly’, that’s the plan.

‘Life is like a journey on a commercial flight,’ I though to myself this week. 

Here’s why.

On a commercial flight, most of us sit in the regular seats, Economy Class. We cram in to undersized accommodation, beside people who we don’t want to know, and (if we’re lucky) we get fed little containers of stuff that we wouldn’t look at twice at on the ground. Oh, and a hard bread roll. Let’s not forget the hard bread roll.

But there are other people on the plane. Up the front. People you don’t see much of, unless a curtain gets parted or momentarily left askew before being rigorously tugged back into place. These are the First Class people, the Business Class people. Call them what you will, their lives are better than ours. They get better food and drink, and more of it. Their seats are wider and comfier. They get smiled-at more. Life is just a darned-sight better and easier for them.

This analogy would be better if there was a class behind us too. A sort of ‘Airplane Steerage’ where folks in flat caps are made to sit on wooden benches and are prevented from breaking into impromptu jigs for reasons of safety and health. These steerage people would regard me in my Economy seat with ‘envious eyes’ just as I would be staring up at the Business Class bods with the same green-eyed ire.

There we would all be, flying along, envying each other, in our airplane… in our life. 

Then turbulence hits. 

It hits hard.

It doesn’t matter what seat you are in then. It doesn’t matter how comfy the cushion is, how fizzy the pomade. Everybody in the plane is rocked the same way. Everybody becomes aware of their heart beating in their chest.

Push the thought to the ridiculous extreme. The plane loses control, tumbles to the ground and crashes. What matters it then who is in First or who is in Imaginary Steerage?

This week, I thought that life is very much like that. 

Some of us sleep on feathers, some on cushions, some of us on hard rocks. It matters little, in the bigger picture. We are all on the same ride and the things that make the poor tremble make the rich tremble too. The things that devastate the steerage man will surely do the same up in that rarefied place where the grapes and the linen serviettes are.

It’s all window-dressing and it isn’t worth our envy. Whatever seat you find yourself in, bring along a good book and enjoy the view and the interaction as best you can. Don’t waste time worrying about the dude in front of you with the caviar. When it all comes crashing down, as it inevitably must, it won’t be about the quality of the ride. It will be about how well you enjoyed it.

That’s it.

There are no original thoughts or very few at best. I know this. These thoughts I have won’t ever be new or startling or revolutionary. The only real value they have is that they are mine and I made them myself. 

It’s like the difference of you eating your corn flakes out of a bowl you bought in the shop and eating them out of a bowl you crafted  yourself, with your own fair hand. 

There’s no difference, not really. Not to anyone but you.

That’s enough thoughts and comparisons for this week, Ken. Ta very much.

Any chance of a funny story next week?

For a change.

Last Night of The Proms

There was other stuff I was going to write about today but those great bombastic anthems are still ringing around my head, from watching it on the telly last night, so I might as well stick with that.

I’ve always watched the Last Night of the Proms. It just one of those things that has always drawn me in. Mostly I tune in for the second half, when the party atmosphere reaches its zenith and the hits come fast and loud.

Last night’s was a good one. Ruthie Henshall sang a Mary Poppins singalong medley and Roderick Williams beamed his way through ‘Rule Britannia’ in a most amiable fashion. The conductor speech by Sakari Oramo was as smiley and top-lip-sweaty as is required and the Promenaders bobbed and weaved as only they can.

As usual, I really enjoyed it.

Hang on.

Am I not Irish? Shouldn’t all that rousing British patriotism rile me just a bit and make me want to switch over and watch something else instead?

Well, no. It never has.

And I am Irish.  In fact, I'm about as Irish as they come.

I don’t for an instant see why any of the flag waving and patriotism should alienate or threaten me. It’s my neighbour country, partying-down and singing some of their big songs, waving their flags and strutting their waistcoats. They’re having great fun doing it and I’m having great fun watching them. 

What wins me over most is the positivity of the whole thing. I love positive things and the Albert Hall is replete with positive people on that evening. They love the music, the silly traditions, the pomp, the circumstance. It doesn’t have to be my ‘thing’ for me to enjoy it. I just do.

This all goes to something I was thinking about myself over the last few days. I always tend to react positively to stuff whenever I can. If it’s bad, it’s bad and there’s no getting away from that but, if something is even half-good, I will tend to focus on the half-good part and run with it. It’s a thing I like about myself and I also think it’s rather a good thing. I see a lot of people, out in the social media world (and in the real world too) who seem to sit quietly in wait of something negative to come along and then it is their meat and drink. They tear at it and chew it until they find they nourishment there. Then they retreat and wait for the next negative thing upon which to sup. 

I don’t envy them. I’m glad I am the way that I am.

One year, back when I lived in London, Patricia and her sister Una and me took a journey to the Albert Hall to watch the last night promenaders go in to the concert. There was a great vibe outside and we really enjoyed seeing everybody in their garb. 

When most of them had gone in, we set off around the circumference of the hall to head back home. As we passed a rear exit door, it swung open and attendant stuck his head out. We were the only ones around.

“There’s some room up on top,” he said, exactly like a bus conductor might.


“It’s two quid in and it’s standing only, I’m afraid.”

We took it, of course we did. We watched the whole 1992 Last Night from the highest balcony in the room. The overview was simply tremendous. Kiri Ti Kanewa performed that aria from La Wally. You know, the one used in ‘Diva’. She sang ‘Rule Britannia’ too. It was a tremendous, memorable evening, made all the more special by the shock and surprise of actually getting in. 

It was twenty two years ago, last night.

So thanks for letting me in, London. To the concert and to everything else too.

The best of times.

The worst of times.

The best…

Who Gave You That Thing?

Sitting on the couch this afternoon, taking such pleasure in quietly reading my book, I had two thoughts, one arriving fast upon the heels of the other.

The first went something like this;

“How lucky am I? That Mum and Dad gave me this gift of loving to read.”

The second was considerably sterner;

“What are you on about, fool? Your Mum and Dad hardly read a single book in their lives.”

I’d forgotten that but it’s true. Dad liked his ‘True Detective’ magazines and Mum would splash out on a 'Woman’s Way' now and again but neither of them were committed book readers. There was no great shelve of literary tomes waiting for me to discover. There were many other great things but not that, never that.

So where did it come from, this reading fascination? Was it something I just fell upon myself, out of the blue? No, it wasn’t that. It was given to me. It was handed down.

It was my two older brothers, that’s who it was. 

The elder of the two (let’s not do names – they’d kill me) was always a voracious reader. He would devour books, tossing them over his shoulder as he went and I would catch them and read them because reading was obviously cool ‘cos Big Bro did it. He gave me reading, no doubt. 

The second eldest gave me music. He was the devourer of all things musical. Coming home from school with borrowed LP’s and singles. Cozy Powell, Cat Stevens, Mountain and the omnipresent Bob Dylan. This brother assembled a stereo system in our bedroom with huge speakers and cables that ran all over the place and which could clearly pick up Radio Moscow even though there was no radio tuner in the setup.

They both gave me movies, I reckon, although my Mum and Dad loved the movies too. I remember going fishing with the Bros and listening to them talking about the flick they had seen the evening before in the Gaiety. I particularly remember one film being described which I only identified years later as Polanski’s ‘Dance of the Vampires’.

The great thing was how they shared all this stuff generously, without quibble. They never seemed to get upset with the stumbling little fellow who was following behind, hoovering up all the stuff they left along the way.

Maybe we tend to forget what we get from our older brothers and sisters, in among the moments of dominance and the occasional Chinese burn, there are things we might not have if they hadn’t been around.

I see the very same spirit of generosity these days in another set of brothers. My own sons. I can note the openness with which the eldest shares his experiences with the younger. No request seems too much of an imposition. Nothing is too much trouble.

And I can see shades of myself in the younger boy. Old and wise beyond his years, thanks to his elder sibling. Following along trustingly. Soaking it all in. Reaping all the advantages from the one who had to do it all first.

It’s great to see.

So thanks, bros, for teaching me about all of the cool stuff. 

It’s taken me a while but, now, finally, I appreciate it.