Birthday Celebrations In Belfast!

I know, you’re thinking when is this birthday thing ever going to end? It’s not every year you turn 30, so you might as well make the most of it.
My five best friends went together and gave me a brilliant thoughtful present that they knew I’d love, and that I’ve been looking forward to since February.

Last Friday Nicky and I took buses from Dublin and Derry and met up in Belfast for a weekend in Benedicts hotel. It’s one of my favourite hotels ever, with helpful friendly staff and a great welcome for guide dogs. I’m always impressed by the bowl and bed for the dog in the room, and this time the receptionist who showed us to our room said that if the dog liked the bed, the manager said I could keep it because they have lots!
We ate dinner in Made in Belfast in the Cathedral Quarter. I absolutely love this place! Again the staff were amazing, particularly the man working at our table who could not have been more helpful. When I thanked him at the end, he said he was only doing his job! The steak was lovely, and I really wanted dessert but I was too full up to even attempt it.

On Saturday morning after a lovely breakfas,t we got a taxi to the Victoria shopping centre so Nicky could go to the apple store. After he bought a charger and we asked about a couple of products, we found a Costa coffee to pass a bit of time. A staff member brought us to a nice seating area and came back to take our order. This was nicer than standing at a busy counter, trying to keep Sibyl away from food and low tables of nice smelling things. When he brought the coffee and muffins, he would only take £2 from me, saying that he wanted to give us our drinks free, and that I could use my money to buy something for the dog instead! People are so nice.

Along with our hotel, my friends booked us tickets to do the Titanic tour in the Titanic
exhibition centre. It’s not something I’ve really thought much about doing, but after living in Belfast for three years and doing nothing cultural at all, it was about time I did something. When we went inside the huge building, the first person we met was Stevie. It turned out that he would spend most of the next two and a half hours with us, doing much more than his job required him too. We had tickets for the longer tour inside the building, as aposed to the shorter discovery tour which takes place outside and is accompanied by a tour guide. At first we thought this might be a better option since we had no guide, but it turned out that the other one that we did was much better and really informative and interesting. We wore headphones which gave us short audio described pieces at different stages of the exhibition. There were also some videos we could listen to as we walked around. Obviously it was very visual, so there were bits we missed out on, but the audio was a great addition. There was a great variety of things to experience, including a short cablecar type ride that you went on to experience the sounds, the heat and the working conditions of the people who worked in Belfast during the building of the Titanic. There were a few seats along the way, and we watched a short film in the cinema towards the end of the tour. It is very well put together, with lots of things to entertain children if you had them with you. The staff are helpful and really know their jobs well.
The fact that we had nobody with us, and there was no tour guide inside made it a bit more difficult to know exactly what direction to follow on each floor. The staff kept an eye out for us, and Stevie was practically there for most of it. He took lots of time talking, explaining and describing things, as well as sneaking lots of pets of Sibyl along the way. She was very patient throughout the afternoon.

When we finished the tour, Stevie brought us to the carpark to wait on our taxi back to the hotel. The only small downside of the weekend happened when it came, and the driver said he didn’t have to take the dog because even though he worked for a particular company, he was driving his own private car. We asked him if he would call us another taxi then. When he did, and told his colleague that he didn’t want to take “a big animal”, they obviously told him who was boss, because he quickly changed his mind and said he’d take us. We didn’t speak on the way back, and I was careful that Sibyl didn’t put her face or head anywhere near him. He was helpful with his directions when we got out of the car, and we weren’t expecting that.
We met a friend for dinner in a lovely Italian restaurant, had a couple of drinks in the hotel bar and all sat chatting in our room for a while before she went home.

We didn’t stay around Belfast long after breakfast on Sunday. It was frustrating not really knowing my way around much, because the weather was great and I’d have like to have walked more with Sibyl. There is a park with grrass close to the hotel, and it took a bit of practice for Sibyl to find the lights, even though it wasn’t too complicated at all. The location of the lights are different in Northern Ireland. They aren’t very consistent which is annoying. Sibyl wasn’t trained to locate the button like O.J was, but I’m teaching her how to do it because it’s very useful. This weekend reminded me that I need to find reasons to go to Derry regularly and practice this with her. Our town just isn’t busy enough.

So there’s just one other birthday celebration to go. That is the Bruce Springsteen ticket I managed to find and by for myself. Because of course you should always buy yourself a present too, right?! The concert is this weekend, and to say I’m excited is an understatement!!

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The Boss in Belfast

I’ve given up trying to write about Bruce Springsteen when I go to see him live. Its just impossible to describe how good he is. Even after the forth time his performances are still adictive, and I want to see him again and again.

Set List:

(Pre show acoustic set which we unfortunately missed because we couldn’t travel to Belfast until 4 O’clock.)
1. Surprise, Surprise
2. MARIA’S BED
3. Growin’ Up
4. IN DREAMS (partial)
5. This Hard Land

Main set:
This Little Light of Mine
The Ties That Bind
Jackson Cage
She’s the One
Reason to Believe
Johnny 99
Atlantic City
NEBRASKA
Prove It All Night (’78 intro)
We Take Care Of Our Own
Wrecking Ball
Death To My Hometown
The River
FADE AWAY
Open All Night
Cadillac Ranch
Darlington County
Bobby Jean
Shackled and Drawn
Waiting on a Sunny Day
The Rising
Badlands
Rocky Ground
Born in the USA
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Shout
This Little Light of Mine
Thunder Road (solo)

This gig wasn’t my favourite Springsteen gig, only because I thought the crowd were a bit more subdued and the atmosphere wasn’t as good. That could have just been where I was standing though, and it did get better as we moved towards the front. I’d never heard Nebraska live before. It was perfect and beautiful. Thunder Road was a great surprise when we thought the gig was over.
I Liked the venue overall, as although it held at least 20,000 people, it didn’t feel too packed. The bus was able to drop us off and collect us right outside, and the sound was really impressive for an outdoor venue. The only downside which didn’t affect me was the length of the queue for the bar. Nicky and I waited by a stand while the people we were with went to get a drink before the gig started, and they waited for over an hour. It meant that we watched the first half an hour of the gig by ourselves, which might be scarey for some blind people, being in a field without somebody sighted, but it didn’t bother me. Bruce was on stage so I only had one thing on my mind!
Its funny though, because often when I’m at a gig, I’m happy to listen and not be interrupted by talkers, so I can concentrate completely on the music. But with Bruce and the E-Street Band, I find that i want to ask questions and know what’s happening on stage and what Bruce is doing, especially when he goes near the crowd and they go crazy!

One of the women we were with had an eleven-year-old child with her, and she was given two wrist bands to go up the front where her son could actually see what was happening. We weren’t with them at this stage, and even if we were, I don’t think they’d have let the five of us up. I’ll just have to come much earlier next time, and keep hoping I can make it to the front row someday.That would be a dream come true.

Glen Hansard, Belfast

Seeing Glen Hansard and the frames seems to be an annual pre-Christmas tradition for me at this stage. It was great to see them in Belfast this year, as its one of my favourite places. I’d never been to the refurbished Ulster Hall before, they’ve really turned it into a great venue!

The support Act, Seti the First weren’t the most exciting band I’ve ever seen, but I did like their cello playing!

When you hear Glen Hansard, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d imagine it to be a solo gig, but in fact there were, I think eleven people on stage, six more than the usual Frames band. This made it sound fantastic, very different to anything I’ve heard before, largely due to the addition of a trumpet in a lot of the songs. Naturally Glen played a lot of songs from his solo album ‘rhythm and repose’, which I’ve enjoyed listening to much more since hearing these songs live.

The band played:

You Will Become

Talking With The Wolves

Philander

Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting – Respect (Aretha Franklin)

Low Rising – Here Comes the Night (Van Morrison)

When Your Mind’s Made Up – with the audience singing along

Bird of Sorrow

Leave

Lay Me Down

Astral Weeks** (Van Morrison) – Smile** (Pearl Jam)

High Hope

Movin On

Santa Maria

Revelate

Where Is My Mind (Pixies)

Song of Good Hope – to the most silent, respectful audience I’ve ever heard in Belfast

Encore:

This Gift

Hey Day (Mic Christopher) – Glen quietly sang the chorus unaccompanied. The audience joined in and I think he intended playing the whole song later, but it never happened!

Don’t Do It (Marvin Gaye/The Band)

Falling Slowly – He broke a string during this, but not even during Astral Weeks! 😀

Fitzcarraldo

Passing Through (Leonard Cohen)

This was the perfect end to a great, almost two and a half hour set. Glen and the band walked around the venue, with the audience singing along. I think it could have turned into a very long night if the venues 11 PM curfew wasn’t so strict.

I love introducing new people to The Frames live shows, so it was great that they managed to impress my boyfriend! We spent the evening with a few friends I hadn’t seen in a while. When we went to the pub for a drink with them, ‘star star’ came on, and a big cheer indecated that we weren’t the only people in the pub who had been to the gig!

Another reason why the night was so enjoyable was how well our guide dogs were looked after. When I contacted the Ulster Hall to enquire about having the dogs watched during the gig because it would be too loud for them, they weren’t too keen at first. Nicky suggested I email them to outline in writing exactly what I wanted and how little work it would be. The staff, Zoe in particular couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly to us and the dogs.

We stayed in Benedicts hotel because I knew they’d be good with the dogs too, and its usually the best value hotel in Belfast. They gave us the wheelchair accessible room, which had lots of space. It also had two dog bowls and beds for the dogs on the floor, so we were very impressed! Every member of staff we met (and there were a lot of them) was so helpful and polite.

Other venues and services could learn a lot from the management of Benedicts hotel and the Ulster Hall. I hope they all have a lovely Christmas, because the staff members we met all did their businesses proud last weekend.

Belfast Part 2: dog training

I was a bit tired on Saturday morning after
the night before,
but a shower and a lovely breakfast soon fixed that. After getting directions from Anna, the very helpful receptionist at
Beneficts,
we took the bus to Newtownabbey, for my first experience of professional dog training. I’ve wanted to watch a training class in action since I talked about dog training
here
last year. I contacted Robin Bates (APDT) from
Dog Training NI
and he invited me to observe his classes to get a better idea of what’s involved. I had no idea what to expect as we made our way to the Orange Hall in Mallusk, but this was a perfect introduction to dog training, because of the variety of things to observe.

Robin taught three obedience classes between 1 and 4 PM. The first was made up of adult dogs whose owners wanted them to learn obedience. Some of them had done the puppy class already, and all had a good understanding of what was expected of them.
Robin asked each owner to do tasks such as sit, down, heel while walking etc, then practiced recall and off leash walking. The dogs had to be able to wait while their owners left them at one side of the room, go to their bed when asked, and retrieve objects and bring them back. Like humans, dogs have unique personalities, and this is never more obvious than in a training room full of them. Jack the mixed breed and Hank the German Shepherd were almost always obedient, while Ralph the spaniel barked a lot and had a mind of his own. The rest were somewhere in between.
O J was an absolute star during this class, lying still, taking everything in but not getting up at all. Even when other dogs got treats and ran past him to retrieve their toys and play tug of war, he never moved. The dogs are all familiar with each other, so bringing a new dog into the mix can be a challenge, but they ignored O J and he didn’t bother them, which was more impressive because his harness was off and he wasn’t working. Many other people noticed this too, and complimented him. It was nice to have the opportunity to have him in such a distractive environment and see that he can completely control himself.

The second class contained two dogs who had specific problems that their owners wanted to fix. The female labrador seemed quite quiet, but Charlie the westie was a character. He kept wanting to meet O J and play, because he is so friendly and loves everybody, so we added distraction issues to the ones he was already dealing with. They did get a chance to play at the end, and O J was very gentle with such a small dog. Charlie was afraid of nothing though. He seemed like such a fun dog to be around, and his owner was great fun too!

The third and final class was puppy class, and wasn’t as chaotic as I had expected. It was their fifth week, so the youngest pup was about sixteen weeks old. There were nine in total, and they were quite quiet and relaxed. Breeds included shitzus, a rottweiler, a golden retriever, a cockapoo (cocker spaniel x poodle), a keeshond, and black lab/retriever Greg, who is owned by a first time puppywalker, and will hopefully progress to become a guide dog. He is a beautiful dog, and his owner was very friendly, so we talked for a while after. She was happy to meet O J and see a working guide dog, and she had lots of questions which I was happy to answer.

Before the class finished, Robin came to talk to me about what I thought of it, what I wanted to do in the future with dogs, and to ask if there was any way he could help further. It was great to hear how he became a dog trainer, and his views on particular courses. I asked many questions, and told him my concerns about training dogs from a blind person’s perspective. The work can be quite visual, and so much of a dog’s behaviour is detected through its body language. He agreed, and gave an example of how a dog in class bit him recently. He saw it coming and was able to step back, therefore avoiding a more serious bite. He didn’t seem to think it would be impossible, and never implied that I wouldn’t be able to do it which was nice. Perhaps obedience is a safer option than working with dogs who have behavioural problems. He also suggested looking more at the theory side of things, as there is still a lot of learning to be done in that area. Its definitely what I’m going to start with anyway and see how things go. He promised to email me a reading list, so the search is on for books in braille or audio formats. He told me to keep in touch and to come up again if I wanted to. It was great to have such a positive beginning to my dog training adventure. Who knows how far I will actually go with this, but even if it becomes no more than an interesting hobby, I have to thank Robin for his great introduction. His gentle way with dogs impressed me, and I learned a lot about how to act better around dogs, just by attending his classes.

We collected Dougal on the way home, and I was surprised to see him so calm. He was happy to see me but not in a mad hurry to leave the kennels, which was a good sign. Apparently he was quiet and didn’t bark as much as some of the other dogs. The kennel is more expensive than where I left him before, but worth it for the walks twice a day and the more professional care he would get.
Both dogs spent the evening cuddled beside each other when we got home. They like being away for a change of scenery, but I think they miss each other’s company.

Belfast part 1: meeting friends

I never write posts in two parts like this, but since so much happened, it might make this easier to read.

I just got home a couple of hours ago, from a busy two days in Belfast. It was one of those things that was difficult to organise, because I wanted to do so much, meet certain people, and fit in with everyones schedule.
My PA Dierdre and I left my house at nine yesterday morning. My parents were also going away for a few days, so we left Dougal in
kennels
on the way to get the bus to Belfast. He’d never stayed there before, but they looked after our pet labrador often when I was small and always did a good job. We made it just in time for the ten bus, and it turned out to be an interesting journey. We sat in the seats at the back row because there was more room for O.J. There was somebody sitting at each window, and a seat free between me and one of them, a man who turned out to be absolutely terrified of dogs. We only discovered this half way through the journey. He told us how he had a dog of his own, and loved them until he was bitten by a golden labrador for no reason. I felt terrible for sitting there, and wished he’d said something earlier, but he was very nice about it and assured me that he was ok. To make me feel even worse, he was going to Belfast for a hospital appointment, which was no doubt stressful enough without being trapped beside an animal that you are terrified of for almost two hours!
O.J wasn’t offended though, because he had a teenager (who had mild special needs) keeping him company and hugging him lots. We also had an elderly woman in front of us, who at one stage removed a tissue from her top, blew her nose and then put it back again, all before putting on her glasses with only one lens. Sometimes being with sighted people who tell you absolutely everything that’s going on around them isn’t such a good idea!

I went to the RNIB to buy some things for my new house, including talking scales, a timer and sock locks (to avoid putting on odd socks, or that awful sock thief in the washing machine!) Then we went to Ruby’s Diner to meet
Torie and her guide dog Ushi.
I first met Torie in December 2007, through a project I was doing when I worked in Derry. We’ve talked online lots since, but only managed to organise to meet yesterday. I’d heard lots about Ushi, and she’s a lovely dog. She’s much smaller than O.J, though not tiny. She’s a great personality and seems like a good worker. Its clear that Torie absolutely adores her! The dogs were a bit excited to meet at first but soon lay quietly while we ate lunch outside. Then we walked them to Botanic Avenue for a free run in the park, which they loved. They played well together but did their own thing as well, and were both equally reluctant to come back sometimes when we called them. Those bushes must have been really interesting!
Torie’s dad and sister came back to meet us and we chatted for a while before they went home and we went to our hotel. We stayed in
Benedicts.
I always enjoy staying there as its a lovely hotel, but I had never stayed with O.J before. The staff were very helpful and friendly, and put a blanket in the room for him to sleep on, even though I didn’t even ask for one. Deirdre went to buy her son a birthday present while O.J and I chilled in our room. I made coffee and fed him, before getting ready to go out. I met a college friend for dinner, and another friend met us after for drinks in the hotel bar. We sat in a corner where nobody could walk past us or bother O.J. It was very busy with a hen party there, and the music got gradually louder. If we’d walked in first and it was that loud, I wouldn’t have went in, but O.J wasn’t bothered by it at all and stayed very relaxed for the few hours we were there. I think he is often more relaxed in situations than I think he is going to be. He handles things much better than I expect, and surprises me with his behaviour. This happened again earlier today, and I’ll write about that soon.

Waw, a blog award nomination?

The 2011 Irish blog awards take place on 19 March in the Europa Hotel in Belfast. They are hosted by
Rick O Shea
who is just one of the coolest people on Irish radio.
I usually always nominate blogs in the various categories, and keep an eye out for the results. This year I didn’t hear much about them beforehand, and was surprised to hear that nominations had closed sooner than I was expecting. I was even more surprised to read on twitter today that my blog has been nominated in the ‘personal blog’ and ‘specialist blog’ 2011 categories. Waw!

I don’t know who nominated me, but thank you, whoever you are. I’m pleasantly surprised 🙂
I doubt I’ll get shortlisted in either category, there’s just far too many good blogs out there. I’m quite happy just to be nominated.
Many people say that blogging is dead, but if you take a look at the long list of nominated blogs on the
Irish Blog Awards website
you will see that there are still many talented and dedicated Irish bloggers out there.

I’ve made my decision

You might remember back in November I talked about OJ’s
anal gland problem.
Seven months later and they haven’t got any better. They’ve got a lot worse and have to be emptied every three weeks. He’s gotten really good at going to the vet now. He goes in and finds the room no problem, stands on the weighing scales, then lets the vet work with him even though its obviously very painful. Bran, fruit and veg added to his food hasn’t helped the glands much, so I’ve made the decision to have them removed.

The vets in Derry have been very helpful during the last year since the problem began. The owner has insisted that I never pay for treatment or injections. He has left the final decision up to me, but offering advice and being very supportive at the same time. He said that they have only done a few of these operations in Derry, and recommended referring O.J to a vet in Belfast who would be more experienced. I really appreciate their honesty, because if they’d have done it themselves I wouldn’t have known any different.

I rang
Earlswood vet
in Belfast and they said they would do it no problem. They just needed confirmation from Irish guide dogs to go ahead. Julie from kennels rang me when she spoke to them, and the senior vet who will do the operation rang me to have a chat. Everything seems well organised so far, and they are happy to let him stay there to recover for as long as I want him to.

Luckily I have pet insurance. It sometimes seems pointless paying these things, but worth it when things like this happen. I have to pay for everything and then claim it back because they can’t claim insurance in the South from Northern Ireland. The operation costs the same amount that I’ve paid in insurance during the last two years.

O.J is having the glands removed on the 19th of July. I needed to pick a time when I know I can work without him for a couple of weeks at least. We’re both busy until then. Its going to be difficult, but luckily I have a few things on then that I wouldn’t be bringing him to anyway.
I just hope everything goes okay and he recovers well. Every dog owner I’ve spoken to hasn’t had any problems afterwards, but if something did happen I’d feel terrible.
I really hope I’ve made the right decision.

Happy fourth birthday OJ

He’s relaxing now after a busy couple of days.
On thursday during lunchtime I left him to a groomer for his first professional groom. This particular groomer in Letterkenny grooms guide dogs half price, so it seemed like it was well worth the 20 quid to have him washed and dried in an hour and a half, especially since we were going visiting after work. Apart from his toenails being a bit long (though i’m surprised with the amount of walking he does) it went well.

A friend from college teaches in Belfast so we stayed with her, had a lovely dinner and went for hot chocolate before bed. She was a bit unsure about how to look after OJ because she hasn’t had a dog before, but when she realised she didn’t have to worry or fuss, she was brilliant.

Next morning we went to her school which is in a quiet village. Her P2 class were very well-mannered and mature for their age. They asked very interesting questions and I think they learned a lot. We had a very busy day because there were two students in on work placement, so we worked with them and went to a science fair. I got a chance to play with play doh and I’ll admit that I probably enjoyed it more than the children! They were learning about vegitables and were asked to make ones from the doh, but most of them made birthday cakes for O.J instead. So cute! I read with some of them and showed them some braille. As the day went on they became less shy and we had some interesting discussions about what its like to be blind. O.J was the star of the show as usual and went home with some nice hand-made birthday cards.
The staff were very friendly, and when I explained that they couldn’t feed O.J and the reasons why during the buffet lunch (that they have during feed your face Friday), they didn’t offer him food.

After school we went to Co. Tyrone to my friend’s parents house. They are two of the nicest people you could meet and again they were fantastic with O.J. They took us for a lovely dinner and we listened to lots of great music before bed. I had time for a lovely walk after breakfast and before we got the bus back to Derry today. The bus driver didn’t realise that there was a dog on the bus until we were getting off.

We are doing the church gate collection for guide dogs this weekend. It doesn’t seem like a year since the
last one
We did two masses this evening and I have to go to three tomorrow with O.J. Then I have the horrible job of counting the money.

Currently listening to: nothing at the minute but I’ve had ‘the candy man’ from Charlie and the chocolate factory stuck in my head since 8 yesterday morning, thanks to Chris Evans who plays it every Friday. Tune!!

lots going on

Hey I got the computer again! I have lots to talk about too, and as usual these humans are confusing me so much, so here goes!

Last week Jen only had to work one day so we didn’t have to get the bus much. I got to go for dinner with all the family and there was cake and singing afterwards. I didn’t have a clue what that was all about and then I saw Jen taking stuff out of paper and people reading stuff from bits of cardboard, and I heard the dreaded word “birthday” and then I realised I should have remembered this. Ooops! Well this all happened the day before her birthday and then she went away to London without me, so she didn’t deserve a present anyway.

I had a great time with Jen’s dad when she was away. I went to the beach and lay beside the warm fire and I didn’t have to get my harness on once. He always drops more crumbs on the floor so I love it when I’m with him on my own. haha. Jen said I would have been ok at the lion king, but I would have hated the escalators and so many people in London. They would have had to get taxis or buses and the hotel room was too small for me. I think I saved them some money by not going! She said she wishes she had me in Harrods with her though. Her mum used to work there so they went to have a look, and I think when Jen saw pet kingdom she nearly died. Thankfully she didn’t. She said it was nearly as entertaining as the lion king!

People keep asking Jen if she is bored because she isn’t working as much as she was before, but I don’t think she has been this busy in ages. Just last week she was talking about going to a conference in Lithuania but then the people who told her she had a place told her she hadn’t. I think they just said that when they found out that I don’t have a passport yet and couldn’t go. There’s talk of her going to Dublin next week for some awards thing she won tickets for, but its too loud for me. Could I not stay with somebody who will pet me and play with me in Dublin when she’s there? I hear I might be going to Belfast on Friday so I’m excited. I love it there. Jen rang a couple of people today to see how much it would be to have me “professionally groomed.” Now what in the name of dog does that involve? It better not hurt. It better be nicer than the vet when he does that horrible thing that hurts. Ouch!

Before I go off to bed, I have to congratulate
Clive
on his nomination for the Irish blog awards. Well done for getting this far, and well deserved.

Woof woof OJ x

The happiest man in music

I went to Belfast yesterday to see
Josh Ritter
and the love cannon string band in the Empire. A friend from Derry got the same bus up as me and OJ and we met two others there. We had a few hours to relax and have food and coffee before the gig. OJ had a chance to dry out too.

The support act began before 8, so things started nice and early. I have no idea what his name was, so that shows how good he was! Josh came on smiling from ear to ear as usual. His string band also featured Zach (who plays in his own band) on double bass. I wasn’t sure about all the strings, and especially the banjo with Josh’s acoustic folk style, but by the third song I loved it! The crowd were brilliant, and apart from the noisy glasses at the bar, the venue is great for Josh. He loves playing there too and it shows. They played a two hour set of songs from his four studio albums, along with some new ones that people really seemed to enjoy. They played a beautiful version of ‘moon river’ as well. We didn’t get a springsteen cover, but I suppose you can’t have everything!

OJ is getting very used to this gig thing now. Steven who is the manager in the venue was very helpful, and got us a table with some seats where OJ wouldn’t get stood on. He was so good during the gig and got lots of attention when it finished.

Josh is known for being very friendly, and usually always takes time to meet people after he performs. He stood talking to people, taking photos, signing cds and tickets and giving hugs (he gives the best hugs ever!) for two hours, and he was still smiling when we got to talk to him near the end. I think he was glad of some non-human company too. OJ didn’t mind waiting so long because people kept petting him. Adam the banjo player even came over to say hello. Everybody was so friendly, because the vibes from the stage are infectious. I met a girl who I hadn’t seen in five years in the queue. She retired her first guide dog last year. It was great to catch up with her quickly, but I wish we’d met sooner.

Josh was great fun and asked lots and lots of questions! He wanted to know all about OJ, and when I told him the only other gigs he’d been to were Christy Moore’s, he said he thought he looked like the sort of dog who would like Christy, as he’s so relaxed and placid! When Josh petted him for the third time he tried to walk away. Josh said he wasn’t sure if OJ liked him, but I reassured him that he likes most people, and that he was probably just dying for a pee!

We listened to music and watched one of the
eyebrowy
DVDs when we got home. Three of us got the same bus back to Derry, and talked about music practically the whole way, and probably drove everybody else mad. We have so much in common, don’t all know each other too long, and would never have met if it wasn’t for the frames message board. We all shopped in Cool Discs before I went back to work and the others dossed for the rest of the day.

Josh thinks he’s going to be back in April or May next year. I can’t wait already. If you don’t already know him or his music, he’s inspired by people like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Check out his albums and then take the opportunity to see him live if you can. You’ll understand why I like him so much after you’ve done that.