Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

It's Halloween tonight and I'm currently locked in the study with the dogs as they go absolutely mental every time the door bell rings.

It's gone four times in the last five minutes so it looks like it's going to be a noisy night!

My wife likes to see all the kids dressed up and hand out sweets so I don't mind being on dogsitting duty. The costumes and the strangers begging at your door is all a bit too American for me.

Last year we had people knocking all night and the ages of the kids got gradually older the later it got.

We even got one lady who must've been in her late thirties who showed up on her own. She hadn't even bothered to borrow some kids to look legit!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sticky situations

There's a new HEB near us where we've been doing our big shop for the last couple of weeks.

Usually I don't like being dragged around the supermarket on a Sunday morning but this place is different. They've got a great marketing ploy that makes husbands more likely to want to go there.

In the fruit and veg section you put what you want in the little bag as usual but they have electronic scales all over the place. That's not the exciting part but what comes next is. You hit the print button and it prints a little sticker with a barcode and the weight and price of the item. Brilliant!

This makes the check out faster and also makes the cashier's job easier but it is very exciting for the customer too.

Go on, give it a go. You know you want to.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cooler weather is cool

It's coming up to the end of October and the weather is almost perfect.

It gets very hot in Houston in the summer but this time of year it gets a bit cooler, while still being nicer than summer back in Manchester.

It was around 80 degrees yesterday and glorious sunshine so we've been able to turn off the air conditioning for a couple of days and open the windows.

It doesn't take much to get us excited these days!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Daddy of them all

You know when you're a kid and your Dad is a cross between the King of the world and a super hero?

And then when you're a teenager, you blame your Dad, unfairly, for all the bad things that happen?

If you're lucky, in your late twenties/early thirties, you realise that you were right in the first place and your Dad is a super fucking hero.

Today, my Dad is a Global Vice President of one of the world's biggest oil companies.

Twenty or so years ago we were living in Burnage, south Manchester and my parents were eating cheese and onion crisps for dinner so that me and my brother could eat properly.

I cannot express how proud I am of my Dad.

He's my hero, although I'd never actually tell him that in case he gets big headed.

Fort a start, my wife and I would never have met if he wasn't as ambitious/smart/hard working as he is. I grew up in Burnage, my wife grew up in Dublin, but somehow, thanks to our Dad's we both ended up in Houston, Texas where we met, fell in love and married.

Thanks Dad.

I don't say that enough. Not to either of our Dads. But every single day I'm thankful for the choices they made and the hard work they put in, at work, but especially at home.

My fondest memories as a kid often feature my Dad.

The Dad who took time off work during school holidays to take me and my brother out. Either to the football, ice skating, to the park etc. My Dad wanted to spend time with us, and that makes me want to spend time with my kids so they have the same happy memories as I have.

My Dad took me to my first football match and I hope he's there when I take my son to his first football match. Three generations supporting the same team. That will be special, for all of us.

My Dad is my hero, and it took me long enough to realise it. And even longer to tell him.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bands I've seen

After seeing Snow Patrol and U2 in recent weeks, it gave me an excuse to update the list of bands that I've seen live.

Sadly, I rank all of the bands I've seen and give them points whenever I go to a concert.

The headlining band gets 3 points, and the supporting band get 1 point.

At the top of the chart at the moment are Oasis with 15 points. I've seen them twice in Houston, and also at Wembley & Finsbury Park in London and Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester.

In case I happen to misplace my list, I'm posting the chart on my blog so I will have a record to update whenever I go to a gig.

So here it is in all it's glory.

Oasis 15
Gomez 12
Travis 12
Embrace 9
Doves 8
Shed Seven 7
Coldplay 6
Manic Street Preachers 6
Red Hot Chili Peppers 6
Snow Patrol 6
Charlatans 4
Happy Mondays 4
Ian Brown 4
Anechoic 3
Alan Jackson 3
Billy Bob Thornton 3
Brooks & Dunn 3
Celtic Woman 3
Christina Aguilera 3
The Complete Stone Roses 3
Fun Lovin’ Criminals 3
Hinder 3
James Blunt 3
Matchbox Twenty 3
Ocean Colour Scene 3
Paul McCartney 3
Paul Weller 3
Robbie Williams 3
Rolling Stones 3
Scissor Sisters 3
Stereophonics 3
Toby Keith 3
U2 3
The Verve 3
The Who 3
The Magic Numbers 2
Proud Mary 2
Athlete 1
Badly Drawn Boy 1
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 1
Black Stone Cherry 1
Burden Brothers 1
Cornershop 1
The Coral 1
Chikinki 1
The Delgados 1
Dogs Die In Hot Cars 1
Electric Soft Parade 1
Finker 1
Franz Ferdinand 1
Groucho 1
Idlewild 1
John Squire 1
Kaiser Chiefs 1
Kasabian 1
Keane 1
The King 1
Maroon 5 1
The Mars Volta 1
Muse 1
OK Go! 1
Pete Macleod 1
Plain White T’s 1
The Pussycat Dolls 1
Richard Ashcroft 1
Mo Solid Gold 1
Ooberman 1
Razorlight 1
The Redwalls 1
Shack 1
Sheryl Crow 1
Tim Burgess 1
Toby Lightman 1
Toploader 1
Witness 1

Reading through the list now, I have no idea who some of the bands are and have no recollection of seeing them.

Most support bands I'd never heard of before the gig turned out to be terrible, with the odd exception. Cornershop were unknown to me when I saw them support Oasis in Houston back in 1998. The Magic Numbers were scary to look at but if you closed your eyes they weren't that bad actually.

My first experience of Keane was when they supported Travis at the Manchester Apollo. A mate of mine had seen them the night before and said they were good but I'd be surprised by how many people were in the band. I'd recently seen The Delgados in a support slot and they had about 20 people in the band so I was expecting the stage to be full of people on various instruments but there were just three members, and no guitars. This was the first gig I'd been to where the crowd were actually shouting for the support band to come on. As you're probably aware, Keane went on to become (and still are) huge.

Ooberman were an annoying cockney student band and the only memory I have of them is a daft song about 'going down to talk to the cows', which actually turned out to be about talking to the girls.

The Fun Lovin' Criminals usually put on a good show and always surprise with their choice of support. They had a Chinese Elvis impersonator called The King at one show, and the other time I saw them they decided to do away with a support band altogether and made a film in the style of Hawaii 5-0 in which the band members starred. They also stopped a couple of times during the show to re-enact scenes from their favourite films.

There are some good memories on this list!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

U2: Updated


Where to start...

Those guys put on one hell of a show!

With huge stadium shows with bands that have been around for ever, you know you're in for something special. You know the will put on a show to remember, regardless of whether you know a lot of the songs.

With U2 however, you know most of the songs.

We arrived at Reliant Stadium nice and early to get a drink and grab something to eat ready to soak up the atmosphere. In line at the gate we got talking to a lady from Colombia who had brought here niece to Houston for the show as U2 weren't playing near where they live. They'd arrived about twenty minutes before us and were walking passed the back entrance to the stadium just as Bono was walking in.

I know what you're thinking, yeah right! But they showed us the close up photo of Bono signing the autograph they then produced. My wife was very jealous!

We were one of the first in the stadium so we found our seats and took some photo's of the impressive stage. We had great seats by the way! I will put up some photo's under separate post.

The roof was closed when we arrived but just after 7pm it opened.

Around 7.30pm, Muse came on and burst straight into their current hit Uprising. No introduction, just straight into the action. They would've blown the roof off if it was still closed!

They put on a great show and looked at home playing in such a big venue. Muse are only just breaking the US but they sell out stadiums this size on their own back in The UK.

After Muse exited the stage, the lights came back on and the roadies hit the stage to get set up for the main event.

Interestingly, one section of lights on each corner of the stage were lowered and we could see that each light was attached to a seat where the operator would go. We watched as 12 guys got in place and were raised up 150 feet into the air.

Just after 9pm U2 arrived. Larry Mullen Jr appeared from the back of the stage to thunderous applause. The remaining members all arrived from below the stage and we were off.

They kicked off with four straight songs from their latest album "No line on the horizon" before mixing it up with some older tracks.

Bono then greeted space city from his own space station stage and declared "Houston, we have no problem!".

One lucky lady was picked from the crowd by Bono who went on to hug her and hold her while serenading her. For the second time, my wife was very jealous!

The stage featured a number of rotating ramps that were set to various positions throughout the night for the band members to get in amongst the crowd.

Luckily, Bono kept his political preaching to a minimum, until near the end. We'd seen a lot of people in the standing section just in front of us wearing paper masks with a woman's face on them. For some reason it was mostly men wearing them and it was starting to bug me, not because I didn't know who the woman was (at one point it looked a bit like Miley Cyrus) but because so many were wearing them even though I'm sure they had no idea who it was either.

It turned out to be Aung San Suu Kyi who was elected Prime Minister of Burma in 1990. However, she has spent the majority of time since then under house arrest. You can read all about her here.

Volunteers from Amnesty International mounted the stage wearing Aung San Suu Kyi masks as her image appeared on the big screen.

Another video message appeared at the end of the show with Desmond Tutu describing how we should all care for each other as we are basically the same person. The introduction to "One" then started as the band reappeared.

You can tell the band like to mix it up a bit to make things a bit more interesting for themselves and at various points throughout the night their songs merged into versions of Ben E King's "Stand by me", "Two tribes" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and "Amazing Grace".

Stephen Gately, the Boyzone singer who died of natural causes last weekend aged 33 was also given a name check to an unknowing audience. Boyzone performed backing vocals on U2's "The sweetest thing" and also appeared in the video that accompanied the song.

At 11.15pm the band finished and we headed home.

As we made our way to the car we were passed by a prosession of speeding SUV's carrying the band off to their hotel.

We had no problems getting out of the car park, which was a nice surprise for such a big venue.

No problem indeed!

U2: Photos

Photos from U2 at Reliant Stadium, Houston.

U2: Set List

The U2 show last night was Epic!

I will post in more detail soon but here is the set list from the show:

Get on Your Boots
Mysterious Ways
Beautiful Day
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Stuck In A Moment
No Line on the Horizon
Your Blue Room
Until The End of the World
Unforgettable Fire
City of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy - Remix
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Walk On

Where The Streets Have No Name

With or Without You
Moment of Surrender

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


We're going to see U2 tonight.

It's at the Reliant Stadium in Houston so it should be a big show.

I've never seen U2 live before so I'm looking forward to seeing how they compare to other big stadium bands I've seen.

I saw The Rolling Stones at Wembley back in 1999 on their Bridges to Babylon tour. That was a fantastic show and even though I didn't know a lot of the songs they played it was one of the best gigs I've been to.

I've seen Oasis many times at big stadium venues, as well as smaller indoor arenas and they never disappoint.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers also put on an excellent show at The City of Manchester stadium a few years ago.

U2's 360 tour promises to eclipse them all with a monstrous stage known as 'The Claw' that gives 360 degree views of the band.

Muse are the supporting band and I've only heard good things about them too so it should be a blast.

I will let you know what I think!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Old Dog & Bone

Our dogs get very confused when you're talking on the phone.

They don't quite grasp the concept of phone calls they see you talking away and they just stand there looking at you as though you're crazy thinking:

"what are you saying", "what's going on?". "are you talking to me?", "what are we talking about?".

Busby looks at you and tilts his head to the side if he doesn't understand what you're saying. I think this helps the words travel from his ear to his brain.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and some friends very kindly game me an iTunes gift card.

You can't go wrong with iTunes gift cards. Remember that if you ever feel the need to buy me something and you're stuck for ideas. Anything to do with music or movies will do.

Whenever I get gift cards for iTunes the hardest thing is narrowing down my choices but this time it was more like when I find myself at the mall, go in, grab what you came for and get out as quickly as possible.

I picked up the latest Gomez & Doves albums. They're two of my favourite bands of all time who I've seen live many times. They're bands that I will go and see every time they come to town, which unfortunately is less likely since I moved to Houston.

I also picked up the debut album from Proud Mary. This is a few years old but it's a great album from a little known band. I did own it before but somehow before I was able to load it on to my iPod the CD got damaged so I hadn't been able to listen to it for ages.

I'd much rather spend hours browsing iTunes than being dragged around the mall!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Snow Patrol: Update

Snow Patrol were excellent last night.

I was pleased they did a lot of songs from their last album and just three or four from their latest (less successful) album.

It was a smaller venue this time with around 1500 people tightly packed into the Warehouse Live! in downtown Houston.

Support band The Plain White T's were ok. They started off with a few decent songs but then got a bit boring. Plus the lead singer talked too much.

Maybe I'm old fashioned in my belief that at gigs this size, the support band should come on, sing 5 or 6 songs, let the crowd know the name of your band if you must and get off. We're not there to see you, or hear how funny you are. Keep us entertained for half an hour while we wait for a band we actually like to come on stage.

We do not care that you're about to go into the studio to work on a new album that you're dedicating to the good people of Houston.

The only wrong move Snow Patrol made on the night was when the lead singer suddenly thought he was in Austin. This was despite correctly saying Houston approximately 64 times before.

I think he was more upset than anyone and spent a good amount of time apologising and saying how much of an idiot he felt. At least it lead in nicely to the next song "Make this go on forever" which is all about begging forgiveness from a (perhaps ex) partner.

If the band are playing in your town, I would recommend catching them live.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Snow Patrol

We're going to see Snow Patrol tonight.

It's our first concert in a long time so I'm looking forward to it.

If you're not familiar with Snow Patrol, they did that "If I lay here, if I just lay here" song you've heard a million times on the radio and in TV shows.

We've seen them before, a couple of years ago but it's a smaller venue this time.

Can't wait!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

You're making me nervous

Last week, we attended a funeral.

Funerals are never nice but my wife was asked to do a reading during the service.

My wife is much better at that kind of thing than me and always impresses me when she's talking to a large group of people.

I remember when my Grandad died and someone decided to tell the Priest that my brother and I would read something.

I only found this out when we arrived at the church and that was it, it ruined the rest of the day for me.

Ok, so we're still allowed to joke where death is concerned but my wife made me very proud.

She was worried that she'd break down and be unable to get the words out. She even asked me if I'd go up and help her if that happened.

Knowing that she was nervous made me even more nervous than she was. I spent the whole time up to that point worrying about her reading, even though it was my job to reassure her that she would be ok. I knew she would be but it doesn't stop you worrying.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rio Olympics

If you haven't heard, yesterday the 2016 Olympic games were awarded to Brazilian city Rio De Janeiro.

Rio beat Madrid in the final round of voting after Tokyo and Chicago were eliminated earlier in the day.

The main thing I'm pleased about is that Chicago didn't get it.

I'm just really bored of hearing about, and seeing the Obama's on TV every single day and as native Chicago residents they were obviously involved in the city's bid.

I actually think the US gets too many of the world's big sporting events so it's good that they are spread around more fairly but it's surprising that this will be the first Olympic games held in South America.

Rio knows how to put on a show so I'm sure the games will be a big success.