Monthly Archives: October 2017

Koummya – a dark tale with echoes of the past

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Clutching the coffee cup almost as if it were going to protect her, Laney dashed into the project meeting two minutes and forty five seconds late. Her entire morning has been running late, totally against her natural super-organised nature. She had got stuck in traffic on the way into work and had then circled the car park three times before abandoning her car on the pavement beside the grassy embankment. A flashy orange sports car had been parked in front of her. Normally she wouldn’t have given it a second glance but the number plate caught her eye. It was a private plate. The sight of the letters, presumably the owner’s initials, sent an unexplained chill rattling through her… BIS 31.

Dismissing the thought, she had dashed across the car park and into the office building, calling out a hurried “hello” to the two security guards in the foyer. Quickly she ran up the stairs, conscious that she was tight for time. At the top of the stairs, she almost collided with an unfamiliar member of staff. He was talking animatedly on his phone but for a split second he glanced towards her and their eyes met. There was an instantaneous flash of recognition there and sub-consciously Laney smiled briefly as she scurried off towards her desk. For some bizarre reason, she could now smell spices, aromatic spices like cinnamon and nutmeg with a hint of sandalwood. She dismissed the thought, surmising that she must have caught a whiff of the man’s aftershave. In her heart, she knew these were scents to which she was overly sensitive.

Their paths had crossed for a second time when she had rushed into the staff restaurant to buy her morning caffeine fix before the meeting. He had been standing adding milk and sugar to his coffee as she had fetched hers from the machine. She was aware of his stare boring into her. Deep inside her soul something stirred and her sixth sense began to twitch.

As she reached for a plastic lid for her cup, her hand accidentally brushed his. Both of them had reached for the same lid at the same time.

Images of a Moroccan bazaar flooded her mind. The sounds. The screams. Again, her nose was tingling at the smell of spices. A sharp pain just below her left breast caught her breath.

The vision was gone as swiftly as it had appeared. However, the pain was real and her ribs were still throbbing as she detected the scent of sandalwood in the air.

As she paid for her coffee, she realised that the mystery pain was exactly at the point where she had a long thin scar-like birthmark. No one had ever been able to explain the mark. It looked purple and ragged. Her mother used to tease her that an angle with a shaky hand had drawn it on her when she was a baby.

Something about this stranger was un-nerving her. Deeply buried memories were stirring within her very soul.

“Get a grip, Laney,” she muttered to herself as she headed round to the conference room.

Her heart almost stopped as she entered the large room. Conscious that she was almost three minutes late, she apologised profusely as she took her seat. Seated directly across the table from her was the enigmatic stranger. His dark brown eyes were trained on her, drinking in everything about her as he sipped his coffee.

The birthmark along her ribs was on fire!

“Laney, I was just introducing the new project manager to everyone,” said her boss, his tone brusque and business-like. “You’ll probably be the one working closest with him as the design lead here. Allow me to introduce you to Benjamin Solomon.”

“It’s Ben, please,” said the stranger reaching across to shake her hand.

Swallowing down the wave of fear that was threatening to engulf her, Laney took his out stretched hand.

Immediately her blood ran cold. The birthmark hidden under her blouse almost sizzled.

Images of the bazaar returned, swarming through her mind. Fear. The pain in her lungs as she had run barefoot through the narrow paths between the spice sellers’ stalls. A glimpse back at her pursuer had told her he was carrying an ornate, unsheathed, koummya dagger in his hand.

“Pleasure,” she mumbled, withdrawing her hand hurriedly.

“Likewise,” he replied with a nod.

Throughout the two hour meeting, Laney struggled to remain focussed, feeling Ben’s eyes constantly following her. At the end of the discussion, he proposed that the project team go out for lunch to “bond over a burger” as he put it. Before she could make a polite excuse to decline, Laney heard her boss accept on behalf of all of them. Her heart sank.

Fortunately, she was spared his company as her boss drove her and his assistant across town to the restaurant. Laney was also relieved when the waitress seated their group at the front of the restaurant in full view of everyone. Much as she preferred the secluded rear area of the restaurant, today she wanted to be surrounded by light and people.

Again, she found herself seated across from Ben Solomon; again, his dark eyes followed her every move. It was warm in the restaurant but she noted he declined to remove his well-cut suit jacket.

As he passed her a menu, their fingertips touched.

It took all of her strength not to jerk her hand away as fresh visions flashed before her.

This time she was in New York judging by the number of old fashioned yellow cabs around her. Again, she was running full pelt through crowds of passers-by, trying to stay one step ahead of her pursuer. In this vision, she was clutching her ribs, feeling her own blood hot and sticky on her trembling fingers. As she reached the entrance to Central Park, she risked a look back. He was closing on her, the blood-stained dagger still in his right hand.

Instinctively, Laney reached for her ribs, rubbing the spot where her birthmark was.

“Everything all right?” Ben asked, noticing her movement.

“Fine. Just a little muscle strain from the gym,” she fibbed, fighting to remain calm.

Their business discussion continued over lunch as they thrashed out plans for the initial design phase.

“There’s a generous travel allowance for research visits,” Ben explained. “The client wants to ensure that all their personal requirements are met here. They’re keen to draw on several influences from around the world. Laney, I hope your passport is up to date?”

Her blood ran cold at the thought of travelling anywhere with Ben Solomon.

“Oh, Laney loves to travel,” revealed her boss before she could stop him.

“Wonderful!” replied Ben enthusiastically. “So do I. I love Marrakech and I’ve soft spot for the bright lights of New York. Love a run through Central Park.”

“Excuse me a moment,” said Laney getting quickly to her feet.

Swiftly she made her way across the restaurant to the ladies room. A wave of nausea was threatening to swamp her. The birthmark at her side was still on fire. Her sixth sense was charged and crackling with electricity.

Who was this man? What was going on?

Leaning on the edge of the basin, Laney gazed into the mirror and tried to quieten her mind.  As she took a long, slow, deep breath, a voice from her past echoed in her mind. It was her grandmother’s voice.

“Be careful, my dear,” she cautioned. “From the day you were born I told your mother that she needed to watch out for you. Told her you had an old soul. A twin soul. I’ve seen birthmarks like yours before. That mark was made by your twin soul in a past life. You might have had that birthmark through many lifetimes. It started out as a scar. A real scar. Your twin soul won’t rest until it’s free of you. It’ll hunt you down through your lifetimes till the job is done. Keep your wits about you, girl.”

The warning had been given to her in secret by her maternal grandmother on her sixteenth birthday and hadn’t made much sense to her at the time. She had barely given it a thought for almost twenty years…until now…..

Staring into the mirror, Laney “watched” the scenes from Marrakech and New York play out on its surface. Silently, she watch herself in previous lifetimes fleeing from an assailant with a dagger. One final scene from the New York vision caught her attention. It was a detail she had missed before. The assailant had the dagger’s scabbard in his left hand as he ran. It was brass with intricate silver inlays and there was a distinctive burnt orange cord tied to it that was wrapped round his wrist. The cord was woven in an entwined pattern with a forest green strand twisted through it.

Closing her eyes, Laney broke the vision’s spell.

What was she thinking? Her imagination was running riot with her emotions. Where had her usual pragmatic approach to life gone? What had happened to her common sense?

Taking a deep breath, she composed herself and returned to the table.

 

Almost an hour later, the waitress sat the small saucer with the bill on it, weighted down with mints, down on the table.

“My treat,” declared Ben loudly as he swiped the till docket from the plate. As he reached into his inside jacket pocket for his wallet, Laney stared in horror. The fabric of the jacket seemed stiff down his side as he wrestled his wallet free. Hanging down from his pocket was an antique looking burnt orange cord with a green thread woven through it, the ornate peacock tail pommel of the dagger just visible over the edge of the material.

 

 

(image sourced via Google- credits to the owner) 

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Sometimes You Just Need To Stop And Look At The Colours Around You…..

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I’ve been reflecting and thinking….. (Oh, no! Here she goes! I hear you cry!)

Life is busy. Life is chaotic. It’s demanding on us  mentally and physically. We are  overloaded on a daily basis with information thanks to the technology that we have at our fingertips. It’s terrifying the amount of information  that we carry around in our pockets without a second thought about it. At the touch of the screen, we can connect with friends all over the world and see snapshots of their lives. Web cams allow us to “peek”  live time into cities and beaches and  who knows where else the world over. We even have devices in our own homes that we talk to…”Alexa, play songs by….”  Sometimes she even does as she’s asked. (My Alexa is developing an attitude)

So, how often do you actually press “pause” and look at the world around you, the real world?

This thought first struck me a few weeks back as I strolled through a largely deserted Dublin on a Sunday morning. It’s struck me a few times since.

Autumn (Fall, if you prefer) is a myriad of colours. Have you even noticed? Did it even cross your mind to look?

I did….. and here’s some of the colours I found.

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So, next time you go for a walk, keep your phone in your pocket and look at the world around you instead of the screen. You might be pleasantly surprised.

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RnFnR Me Time…. yes, I escaped unchaperoned!

A wet lunch hour and a couple of breezy showery ones were obviously sent to help me get this blog post written.

The past ten days or so have been a whirlwind of rock’n’roll shows, work and home all wrapped up in a million precious memories to last a lifetime. Apologies for the lack of a proper blog post on here last week but I was up to my eyes in photo editing and gig reviews and, if I’m honest, was still reflecting on how to structure this blog.

After months of anticipation, the 5th of October finally arrived- the start of my RnFnR weekend. This is a blog of two halves.

 

Part One – Thursday   

With my overnight bag slung over my shoulder, I headed into the local station to start my rail journey to Edinburgh. Safely tucked away in my bag was my concert ticket for the Alter Bridge show at the Usher Hall.

You can imagine my horror at being greeted by a sign saying “All trains cancelled”! Cue panic! This was 11.13am. Quickly I asked at the ticket office “How am I meant to get to Glasgow to catch the train to Edinburgh?” Reply “There’s a bus at 11.15”

Apologies to any locals who witnessed my Usain Bolt impersonation as I flew out of the station and across the car park to the bus stop. I caught the bus by the skin of my teeth!

I don’t travel smoothly on buses and, ninety minutes later when it finally reached Glasgow, I was quietly turning 50 shades of green. At the earliest opportunity, I got off and walked the rest of the way to Queen St station.

Fortunately, trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh run frequently and I was soon settled on the express train with my kindle, a sandwich and a most welcome coffee. I loved the ticket collector’s sense of humour too. He punched a love heart out of my ticket. Wonder if he’s secretly hoping for a job on the Polar Express?

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I was booked into a hotel near the venue and finally arrived there around 2pm- still plenty of time to get to the Usher Hall for 3pm. Someone was definitely having a laugh at my fears and anxieties about travelling alone as I checked into the hotel’s Room 101!

Finding the Usher Hall in the bright warm afternoon sunshine proved to be easier than I expected. The Usher Hall truly is a stunning building.

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I had upgraded my humble standing ticket for the show to the whole VIP Meet and Greet package, hence the early arrival at the venue.

There’s a close-knit Facebook community of Alter Bridge fans and I was relieved to see a few familiar faces already basking in the sun on the steps.

By 2.35 it was more like a family reunion than a queue for a rock show. I hadn’t seen some of these people since last December. Others hadn’t seen each other for twenty four or forty eight hours. Others had never actually met face to face. The warmth being shown to all was incredible to see. Everyone, myself included, was made to feel so welcome.

I was especially delighted to meet my friend Miss M from Brazil. We caught up with each other’s news while we queued in the sun.

The VIP Meet and Greet package gets you entry for the band’s soundcheck, a signing session  where you meet the band and get tickets/cds etc autographed and have the opportunity to pass over any gifts you may have brought for the band then you queue up for a second time to get a souvenir photo taken before being shown back out into the sun to queue again for early entry to the show itself.

I could wax lyrical for hours over this band but I’ll spare you that. (PHEW I hear you cry!)

Suffice to say, hearing the band soundcheck and watching them work to prepare for the show was fantastic. For me it was a great research opportunity for future book babies. 😉

I’ve met these guys before but was still a tad tongue tied and nervous about meeting them. There was no need to be. They are all so sweet and skilled at putting fans at their ease. I passed over some small gifts, got my cd insert and ticket signed and wished them all the best for the show. (Sorry, not sharing details of actual conversations) The photo opportunity is a high speed whirlwind but the end result wasn’t too scary. It’s a little fuzzy but I’m happy with it.

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Time to queue again for the actual show. If you’ve never experienced this kind of event, be prepared to be on your feet for hours and hours and hours!

We queued outside for a couple of hours in the late afternoon sun, happily chatting together and making new friends. It was truly an international AB family gathering. I was the only Scottish fan in this group. There were fans from the USA, France, Belgium, Austria, Japan, Brazil, England and Russia and many more. People of all ages and from all walks of life made up the queue.

Soon it was show time and we were allowed to re-enter the venue to take up our positions on the rail to enjoy the show.

Some four hours later, after finally making a trip to the loo, we all found ourselves back outside the Usher Hall, smiles on our faces and music ringing in our ears. It had been an incredible show and Alter Bridge were in fine form. (If you want to read my gig review , here’s the link https://the525toglasgow.wordpress.com/2017/10/11/alter-bridge-at-the-usher-hall-edinburgh-05-oct-17/ )

While most of the audience headed off into the night and others headed to the nearest pub, a handful of us decided to wait on the band coming out to their bus.

I had never done this before…..honest!

Fortunately for us they didn’t keep us waiting for too long. The area outside was a hive of activity as the support act, As Lions, packed the last of their gear into their van and departed. The Alter Bridge truck was loaded up and departed then some of their crew hung about with us, happily chatting, while we waiting on the bus to return to pick the guys up.

It was all very relaxed and friendly. It almost seemed normal! When the band finally came out to board the bus, they happily posed for photos and signed autographs.

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At the Meet and Greet earlier, Myles hadn’t signed my ticket. I think I distracted him by asking him a question so I was delighted to steal a couple of minutes of his time to get it signed.

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I think it was the band’s drummer, Scott Phillips, who asked, “How many of you are we seeing in Dublin on Saturday?”

All of us was the reply.

 

Part Two – Saturday  

 

With my overnight bag re-packed and flung in the back of the car, I headed off for Glasgow airport to catch an early morning flight to Dublin.

Safely tucked away in my bag this time was my Alter Bridge ticket for the Olympia Theatre, Dublin.

After weeks of worry over whether my flight would actually take off I arrived to discover all was on time. Happy days!

It’s a hop, skip and a jump flight to Dublin. I’m sure I stood for longer in the queue to board the plane than the plane spent in the air!

I’d arranged to meet a fellow Alter Bridge fan at Dublin airport to share a taxi into the city. Only minor snag was that we had never met face to face before! After a quick exchange of messages, I determined I was looking for a lady in blue jeans and black boots with a red suitcase. I loved her message to me “Am I looking for a pair of Converse on you by any chance?”  But of course! – my purple gig shoes no less! The zebra print overnight bag may also have been an identifying feature.

The taxi dropped Miss N at her hotel then dropped me at mine just after 10am – too early to check into my room. Having left my bag at reception, I set off to explore a bit and prayed that I wouldn’t get lost!

I’d only ever passed through Dublin twice  nineteen years ago when we visited Ireland to see the Tour de France and I’d never been in the city centre before. Camera in hand I explored Christchurch Cathedral. Well, it was straight across the street from my hotel, then wandered off in search of the Olympia Theatre. It was closer to the hotel than I’d thought and just as quaint from the outside as I’d expected.

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With plenty of time to spare, I kept walking and eventually found myself at Trinity College. My rough plan had been to visit it on Sunday morning before heading back to the airport but as I was already there I wandered through the entrance and into the quadrangle.

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I had hoped to visit the Book of Kells exhibit in the college library and was a little disappointed to discover not only a huge queue waiting to get in but also two signs, one saying “temporarily closed” and the other confirming the restricted opening hours for Sunday. I wondered if it was closed for a VIP tour? (A VIP AB tour perhaps judging by some of the photos on Instagram later that day) Who knows?  I just knew I wasn’t going to get to see it this time round.

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I spoke nicely to the security guard and asked if it was possible to access the gift shop. If I couldn’t see the exhibition then at least I could purchase the guide book and read up about the history.

Souvenir shopping complete, I wandered back towards the hotel, pausing to pick up a sandwich, some iced tea and a bar of chocolate for lunch plus a large bottle of water for later, and then detoured round Dublin Castle.

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After finally checking into the hotel (no Room 101 this time – 410 instead) I relaxed in my room with its cathedral view while I ate my lunch and read my guide book. (Did you know the Book of Kells may date back before 890 AD?) then having freshened up, headed back out to the venue.

Again, I was doing the VIP soundcheck and Meet and Greet so I was on the look out for some familiar faces. It didn’t take me long to find the ladies that I had last seen on Thursday night in Edinburgh.

Instead of queueing up outside the front of the theatre, we were advised to wait by a back door in a small courtyard that was accessed down an alleyway to the side of theatre.

Soundcheck was a more relaxed affair than in Edinburgh. All members of the band were in a  playful mood. Myles even treated us to a little Led Zeppelin as he played a snatch of Stairway To Heaven and Brian Marshall needed little encouragement to demonstrate his dancing prowess – well, from the waist up!

The Meet and Greet and photo slot were over way too quick but for once I didn’t feel quite so tongue tied in front of them.

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All too soon we were re-assembled back out in the courtyard to wait for the show. No sun this time. It was decidedly chilly out there after a couple of hours. The time passed swiftly though as we all chatted and got to know each other a little better. Miss M wasn’t part of the Meet and Greet group this time but she did pop round briefly before returning to the front of the building and the main body of the queue of fans.  Again, I was the sole Scot amongst the group at the head of the queue. There were some new faces from other countries including a few ladies from England and a guy from America that I hadn’t met in Edinburgh. You really do meet some very sweet and interesting people at these events, although there were a couple of die hard fans who were slightly less friendly than others. Well, it takes all sorts. 

Eventually, the witching hour was upon us -show time! Entry into the venue was less well organised than in Edinburgh. A bottle neck in the doorway, not helped by the security guy half blocking the door, led to a fair amount of unnecessary pushing and shoving. However, we all got inside in one piece and I happily took up my rail spot off to the left (Myles’ side) of the stage.

The show itself was fantastic! Probably the best Alter Bridge show that I’ve been to so far. (You can read all about it here – https://the525toglasgow.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/alter-bridge-at-the-olympia-theatre-dublin-07-oct-2017/ )

Watching Myles perform Watch Over You for his folks was a magical moment, one that will live with me for a long time to come. You couldn’t miss the look of pride on his face and the glint in his eye.

Four hours on the rail disappeared in the blink of an eye.

As the fans trooped off into Temple Bar, I joined the group of die hard fans waiting down the side of the theatre for the bus to arrive to take the band to their next destination.

Further down the narrow cobbled lane where we were waiting was a nightclub called Sin. Our entertainment while we waited on the band was some of the best people watching I’ve ever done! I’ve never seen so many scantily- clad , drunk teenage girls in impossibly high heels teetering about on cobbles before in my life. It was hilarious! Shout out of the night goes to one friend (who will remain nameless here) who commented loudly as one young lady in a particularly tight skimpy dress staggered past, “Do they not sell that in her size?” Priceless!

While we waited Myles’ parents left and his step dad thanked us all enthusiastically for supporting the boys. He was just oozing pride and looked as though he had thoroughly enjoyed the show.

The band didn’t keep us waiting for too long and after an hour or so, once the bus had reversed down this tiny alley, they began to exit the theatre. Again, the atmosphere was relaxed and unhurried as we each got a moment with the various band members to steal a hug and pose for a photo or two. Precious memories.

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Again we were asked, I think it was by Myles this time, if we’d all be in Belfast the next night. Sadly Miss M and I shook our heads. He wished us safe travels home.

I arrived back at my hotel around 1.30am absolutely knackered (I’d been up since 4.45am) and ,if I’m being totally honest, more than a little dehydrated. The sandwich and iced tea for lunch had been the last sustenance for eleven hours, apart from the obligatory rock’n’roll polo mints (You can do anything on a polo mint according to my mum). The large bottle of water that I’d bought earlier awaited me and was most welcome!

Sleep, however, eluded me thanks to the cathedral bells that rang every thirty minutes all night! Trust me, at 3.30am I was thinking some truly unholy thoughts about those f**king bells! It gave whole new meaning to having ringing ears the morning after a gig!

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After a much needed breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon washed down with a strong cup of coffee, I set off for a walk along the Liffey Boardwalk. I didn’t stray too far as I was dead on my feet but I wandered across Grattan Bridge then crossed back over via the Ha’penny Bridge then meandered through a largely deserted Temple Bar area, past the sleeping theatre and back to my hotel in time to check out.

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As I walked I reflected back on the past few days. I’d had the time of my life! I’d met some fantastic people. I’d been on the rail for two incredible shows. Oh and a hug or two from some of the nicest rock stars you could ever hope to meet.

 Till next time, AB family.

 

Batteries recharging….

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Normal blog expectations will resume shortly……

 

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

Chucks On Tour….

It’s no great secret…I love Converse. (“You don’t say! ” I hear some friends cry…lol)

In fact, there’s possibly a slight addiction going on here… I’ll confess to having more than a dozen pairs at present with more on my Christmas list but there’s one pair that hold a special place in my heart.

These ones…

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I’ve had them for over five years now. I bought them at a Converse outletstore in the States for the princely sum of $20. They’re well worn and well loved.

Anyone who’s been to a rock show with me may well recognise them.

These beauties are my “gig shoes”

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In the past five years they’ve only missed two shows that I can think of and that was due to horrendous weather (They were substituted by an alternative pair of leather Converse – honest!)

These shoes have seen many, many rock fans feet! They’ve been trampled…many times! They’ve been soaked through in rain, beer, water and other fluids that have been flung about at rock shows (I’ll leave that to your imagination but it was truly disgusting! – and yes- they’ve been cleaned since then!)

These shoes have “heard” many, many great bands including Alter Bridge, Slash ft Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, Black Stone Cherry, Shinedown, Halestorm, Iron Maiden, Ghost, Tremonti, Crobot, Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Volbeat, Gojira, Massive, Airbourne, Black Label Society, The  Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon, Blackberry Smoke, Rival Sons, Theory Of A Deadman and many more…. They were also privileged to “hear” the late Chris Cornell on his acoustic Higher Truth tour.

If these shoes could sing!

It’s been a while since they’ve ventured out from the under bed drawer where they live. Their last outing was in May when they “saw” Iron Maiden. However, the time has come to finally bring them back out into the light, dust them off and lace them up.

Alter Bridge, here we come!

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