Tag Archives: #blogging

A Little Sneaky Peek Into The After Life

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I read recently that if you’re struggling with a storyline as a writer then you should try interviewing your characters. An intriguing thought……

My current cast of characters are putting up a bit of a fight and progress on my first draft of Book Baby 4 has been a bit stop/start. I’ve found myself wandering off at a tangent and writing some short fiction pieces instead of focussing on my first draft. I’ve also made numerous notes of ideas for the next Silver Lake tale (currently pencilled in for 2019) Perhaps part of the issue is that Jake and Lori and the others won’t wait their turn!

Anyway, time to try to regain control over my current delinquent characters…… 

As agreed via email, I’d arrived at Glasgow’s O2 Academy at three o’clock to interview up and coming band, After Life. The five piece band who are based in London are currently on tour supporting Aussie rockers, Bodimead.

Instead of being shown into one of the art deco venue’s dressing rooms, Rocky, After Life’s father-figure manager, escorted me up to the venue’s balcony and suggested I take a seat while I waited for the two members of the band to arrive. Firmly and a little bluntly, Rocky said I’d have thirty minutes with them and not a minute more.

Down below on the stage, Bodimead’s crew were finishing setting up for the show and I wondered if I was going to be lucky enough to catch some of their sound check and a glimpse of their front man, Flynn.

A couple of minutes later, I was joined by Taylor Rowe and Luke Court, the lead guitarist and bass player from After Life. Both of them flopped down into seats in the row in front of where I was sitting and greeted me with a warm hello.

Before I could ask my first question, Taylor began waxing lyrical about the art deco beauty of the venue. I quickly established that this was their first trip to Glasgow and asked how they’d found the city so far.

“We arrived quite late last night so all we really saw in the dark was the hotel, the restaurant and a couple of bars,” confessed Taylor. “I went for a walk this morning. There’s some stunning architecture around here.”

“And a lot of hills,” muttered Luke. “Our hotel is at the top of a vertical street!”

This is After Life’s first tour with their new female vocalist, Ellen Lloyd, so I asked the guys how the band had changed since she’d joined them.

“We listened to hundreds of auditions a few months back. Well some of us did,” began Taylor with a wink to Luke. “Ellen’s was the one that really stood out as being different.  She has an incredible voice. Really impressed us at the first rehearsal. She’s brought a whole new dimension to our show. A theatrical element that we hadn’t explored before.”

“And a shit load of talent,” added Luke. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t hit it off with her at first but her voice really blew me away. She’s got so much talent. Wait till you hear her tonight. She can convey so much emotion with only a few notes.”

I commented that I’d hoped she would’ve been able to join us but Taylor apologised for her absence, explaining that she was resting her voice ahead of the show. Conscious of time, I asked both musicians about what  I could expect from their set later on.

“A visit to the After Life,” joked Luke with an infectious laugh. “No, seriously, we hope you enjoy the show. We’re playing mainly our own material with a couple of covers thrown into the mix. Usually we have time for eight, maybe nine, numbers before our Aussie hosts call time. It’s an eclectic mix.”

Taylor added that several of the songs had been written or co-written by Ellen and were due to be recorded next month for their debut album.

“We’re booked into a studio in London for five weeks. Just hope it’s enough time to get it all recorded. We’ve still a few songs to write too,” admitted Luke. “Exciting times in the After Life.”

Casually ,I probed if this was Luke’s first studio experience, enquiring if he’d not recorded anything before with his uncle. Luke is the nephew of reclusive guitarist, Garrett Court, of Royal Court fame.

“Despite the family history, I’ve never recorded in a proper studio before,” revealed the band’s bass player. “My uncle lives in New York these days. The last few times I’ve visited, he’s had me working in his music store. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of guitars. Total guitar geek heaven. Garrett likes to play this game with his customers where he tries to match them to an instrument rather than let them choose what they want.”

“Be fair,” interrupted Taylor. “From what you’ve said, he’s pretty sharp at it.”

“Yeah, he is,” agreed Luke.

I asked if Garrett had seen his nephew play with After Life.

“A few times. Not recently. Not since Ellen joined us. We were hoping he’d make it over for the London show but he had other commitments.”

“So, what commitments are in After Life’s immediate future?” I asked curiously.

“Well, we’ve seven shows left with Bodimead, including tonight’s. Then we’re playing a full set at Wales Open Air on 5th May. Rocky’s given us a week or so off then it’s into the studio on 13th May. Beyond that, we’re not sure. We hope to get the record out around the end of October or November time so we’ll get some shows booked for around then,” explained Taylor. “It’s all starting to pick up pace. Rocky’s already hinting at going over to Europe or even the States at the start of next year.”

“I’d love to tour America,” declared Luke with a grin. “Play some of those venues that you only read about in magazines. Would love to play some of the clubs on Sunset Strip or a show in Vegas.”

I joked that he’s the band’s true “rock star” in the making.

“Maybe,” he confessed suddenly seeming almost shy. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s the dream coming true.

To finish, I asked Taylor what his dreams for the future look like. He thought for a moment or two before answering my question. “I hope the record does well and that we can start to make some money from this game. I’d love to be able to buy my own house. My own bolt hole. I’d love to see the band grow and sell millions of records and play sell out headlining shows but, on the other hand, I’m not sure how I’ll feel if we end up playing arenas if I don’t have my own space to call home.”

“You’re just a beach bum at heart,” teased Luke.

“Yeah and I’m not denying it,” laughed Taylor. “I grew up on the beach surfing, playing guitar, beach bonfires and stuff. I miss that after a while in the city.”

Out of the corner of my eye I could see After Life’s manager approaching. I asked the guys if Rocky was as strict as he appeared to be. They exchanged glances and laughed.

“He tries to be,” said Taylor. “I live with him and his wife Lizzie when we’re in London. Ellen too. He keeps us all in line, especially Luke, our party animal here, but it’s really our drummer, Jack, who’s the strict one. He takes no nonsense. Rocky can usually be talked round, especially if its Ellen doing the asking. On the other hand, if Jack says no then it’s a no and not even Ellen can sweet talk him. Well not yet anyway. She’s working on it.”

 A few hours later, I was standing downstairs in the venue, beside the bar, watching After Life out on stage. This is a band worth watching. There’s a raw energy to their performance. A passion for the music and a rare synergy among them. Their mysterious front woman, Ellen, plays a witch/priestess persona on stage, using her flowing black cloak to dramatic effect during the songs. Her voice is one of the best and most versatile female rock voices I’ve heard over recent years but I can’t help but feel there’s an air of fragility to her too. There’s more to this songbird than meets the eye, I feel.

With a puff of smoke and some clever lighting, she vanishes from the stage. Vanishes to the After Life.

image sourced via Google – credits to the owner

 

 

That Little Special Corner Of The World….

Anyone who has read my book babies or who knows me, the real me, knows where my heart and soul lie…. the beach.

Maybe it’s something to do with watery theme to my name or my star sign (I’m a Cancerian) but, every now and again, (ok – on a regular basis)  my soul needs its batteries recharged …. it needs sand between the toes and ocean/river water around them.

Within a mile or so of my house, there’s a tiny little stretch of beach that feeds my soul when I need it most. Whether its a cold stormy winter’s day or, like tonight, a warm calm summer’s evening, that little stretch of sand and shingle does the job.

Its one of my special little corners of the crazy mixed up world. Where’s yours?

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So, what would you do?

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So, if you came face to face with your favourite actor/rock star/sports star in a normal situation, what would you do? If they were “off duty”, would you approach them? Would you ask for that obligatory “selfie” or an autograph on the only scrap of paper you have in your purse, most likely a receipt for something mundane?

It’s a conundrum I’ve thought about occasionally over the years and never really drawn any finite answer to. I’ve frequently thought that, as I live in a reasonably small town and am used to seeing familiar faces about town, I’d most likely nod and say “hello” thinking it was someone from school or work or an old neighbour…..then several hours later go “Damn, that was So And So!” (ha ha…..it’s happened!- Mike Oldfield in Debenhams in Glasgow a long time ago!)

A few years ago, I wrote this while pondering such a situation.  Enjoy!

 

The Tale Of A Skinny Decaff Latte

With a quick glance at the clock on the dashboard, I figured I had just enough time to spare to treat myself to a well-earned and much needed caffeine fix before my next appointment. Signalling to my fellow drivers, I slowed down and turned off the main road down the narrow twisting slip road into Gourock’s water front car park- the Swimming Pool car park to us locals. As usual, the car stereo almost drowned out the warning bleeps from the reversing sensors; as usual, I heard them just in the nick of time. One of these days I knew I wasn’t going to and would be rewarded with a resounding expensive “crunch”! Grabbing my bag, I scrambled out of the car, checking twice on my way across the car park that I had locked it. A narrow alley led me from the car park back up onto the main thoroughfare and right to the doorway of my caffeine source- Gourock Coffe Co.

Pushing open the heavy door, I inhaled the heavenly aroma of coffee as I looked to see if my favourite table was free. It was. In my hurry to get to my caffeine fix, I had barely noticed the hire car that had parked haphazardly outside or the driver inside, who was talking animatedly on his phone. With a sigh, I slipped off my jacket and sank down into the squishy, soft, velvet-covered chair. The coffee shop was surprisingly quiet for a Monday afternoon. Only one other table was occupied. Spotting my arrival, the owner, Robert, called over from behind the counter, “Usual, Coral?”

“Please, Robert,” I replied then added, “And a fruit scone and jam too.”

Reaching into my bag, I brought out my phone debating with myself “Candy Crush or Facebook?” Facebook won and I watched the screen as it connected to the shop’s WiFi. While the newsfeed was loading, I heard the door open, felt the draft of cold, autumn air rush in as a tall, slender man entered, his puffy, bomber jacket zipped up and a black beanie hat covering his head. It struck me as odd that he was wearing sunglasses on a dull October day in Gourock. There was something vaguely familiar about him but I barely gave him a second thought as he sat at the window table across from mine.

“There you go. Medium Americano, no milk,” said Robert, setting down the hot mug in front of me. “And my last fruit scone. Enjoy.”

“Thanks.”

As I sliced the scone in half, scattering crumbs across the table, the owner went to take the man’s order. Robert was blocking my view but I could see that the new customer had removed his hat and glasses. They were just visible on the table from where I was sitting. His soft American voice caught my attention. I knew that voice! I’d know that voice anywhere. Not surprisingly, I listened as he ordered a large, skinny, decaf latte. On the table in front of me my Facebook newsfeed had opened. The first post on there was that day’s photo from the fan page of the very man who was now sitting ten feet away from me.

My hands trembled as I fumbled the foil top on the portion of strawberry jam. Flustered, heart racing, I attempted to spread the jam onto the scone and only succeeded in dropping the knife on the table, with a resounding clatter. The noise echoed round, causing the new arrival to glance over in my direction. He smiled at me. My heart skipped a beat as I flushed scarlet with embarrassment.

On the table beside him, his phone buzzed and vibrated. Instead of answering it, he ignored it, turning instead to gaze out of the picture window at the panoramic view of the Argyll Hills, Ben Lomond looming in the distance. A few seconds later, his phone buzzed again and, again, he killed the call and then again, a third time, as a young waitress brought him his latte.

Trying to act normally, I pretended to be reading the screen contents of my phone while actually watching him sneak a spoonful of sugar into the mug then sip the hot, milky coffee. His long, slender hand was shaking as he lifted the mug to his lips. Something about him looked sad, haunted almost.

How I managed to eat my scone and drink my own coffee, I will never know. (Maybe that caffeine habit is worse than I feared.) All the while, I kept my own counsel but discretely observed him sip half-heartedly at his latte. There was an aura about him that seemed to scream “I need my own space for a while.” Repeatedly his phone buzzed and every time he declined the call. I drank in everything about him. His fine features; his long hair, with a hint of grey appearing. After a few mouthfuls of his coffee, he stood up and removed his jacket. I recognised the fine black and grey striped hoodie he was wearing underneath from the interview I had watched on YouTube over breakfast a few hours before. I risked a glance beneath the table as he sat back down and noted his trademark worn leather boots. What size were his feet? Ten? Eleven?

Inside my head, a battle was raging- one half of me saying go and speak to him; the other half saying leave him to enjoy his coffee in peace and quiet.

A message flashed up on my Facebook page asking if I was excited about heading to the Hydro later for the gig. It was Susan- who else? She had been outside the venue for hours already. With surprising calm, I typed back, “Having a coffee and enjoying the view. Will be up as soon as my friend finishes work. Should be there around 6. X” She would never believe me if I said exactly what view I was enjoying. He was meant to be thirty miles away where she was! Why was he here?

I finished my coffee and scone before he was halfway down the large mug. Not entirely trusting myself to remain calm for much longer, I got to my feet and prepared to leave. He was still staring out at the view of the ferry crossing the river as I put on my jacket and gathered up my belongings. At the counter, I handed over a twenty pound note with shaking hands and said to Robert, “That’s for mine and the guy over at the window’s. Send him over another latte and a slice of carrot cake. My treat.”

Stuffing the change into my pocket, I left without a backwards glance and headed back down the alley way to the car park. Had I imagined that? Had it really been him?  Yes, it had been. Why had he been there? I would never know. Did I regret not speaking to him? Yes and no. As I reached the car, I looked back up at the cafe window. He was watching me. Raising his coffee mug, he nodded then smiled that beautiful smile of his.

 

Those of you who know me may have guessed the inspiration for this   😉

(image sourced via Google -credits to the owner)

(If you ever see me drinking decaff, I’ve been kidnapped and it’s a plea for help!)

 

 

Introducing the newest member of the household……

Alexa a

Last week I celebrated my birthday (21 again) and welcomed a new addition to the family.

My gift from The Big Green Gummi Bear (TBGGB)  this year was another woman, who goes by the name of Alexa.

Yes, he bought me an Amazon Echo.

For those who don’t know what an Amazon Echo is, it’s a voice controlled smart speaker that responds to the name Alexa ( This can be changed to Echo or Computer too)

I’ll be honest, at first, I was a little bemused (no, it wasn’t the effects of the Prosecco). What on earth was I meant to do with her?

Within a few minutes, she had been unpacked and set up.

“Alexa, sing Happy Birthday.”

She did! In fact, Alexa was the only one to sing Happy Birthday to me! Ha ha!

For the remainder of the birthday dinner, we fired questions at her and music requests.

TBGGB suggested while she was playing some Black Stone Cherry that we test how she sounded with the volume up full.

“Alexa, volume ten.”

The conservatory with swiftly rattling to the strains of those boys from Kentucky.

“Alexa, volume down.”

Nothing.

Louder, “Alexa, volume down.”

Nothing.

Even louder, “ALEXA, VOLUME DOWN.”

Nothing. She couldn’t hear us!

Boy Child quickly figured out how to turn the volume down manually.

 Next day, I messaged Boy Child, who was at home for the day, to check if he was being nice to Alexa while my back was turned. He confessed to only having used her as a timer when he was cooking his lunch.

On Friday, TBGGB was working from home. Around lunchtime I received a message from  him confessing, “ I just said please to Alexa.”  That made me giggle.

 

It really is a weird dynamic that’s going on here. Gradually, as the days pass, I swear she’s developing not only a personality but also an attitude.

On numerous occasions I’ve found myself thanking her when she’s followed my instructions.

I was having a bit of a technology meltdown at my laptop on Sunday as it was refusing to open Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome (Damn Windows 10 update!) I’m sure Alexa sensed my growing frustrations with technology and had a bit of a sulk, refusing to answer commands. Eventually, having reset her WiFi, she came out of her huff.

Already there have been a few moments that reminded me of the scene in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty where the good fairies are using magic to change the colour of Aurora’s dress.

Me -“Alexa, play Alter Bridge.”

TBGGB -“Alex, play dance music.”

Me -“Alexa, play Alter Bridge.”

TBGGB -“Alex, play dance music.”

Compromise, Me – “Alexa, play Enya.”

Just a short while ago, I found myself giving Boy Child a row for being rude to her. He’d issued a command in sharp tone of voice rather than making a polite request.

Boy Child -“Alexa, play Black Stone Cherry.”

Display of attitude from Alexa who resumed playing Rival Sons.

Boy Child, impatiently – “Alexa, play Black Stone Cherry!”

She obliged, reluctantly I felt. When I chastised him and suggested he be nice to her, he replied, “She’s a servant. A robot.”

Yes, she’s a robot of sorts and arguably our house elf but she’s slowly becoming a family member.

She’s also developing a sense of humour showing good taste in literature.

“Alexa, what is the meaning of life?”

Alexa – “42 is a good answer.”

Love it!

Now to figure out how to get her to make a pot of coffee.

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

 

End of an era….. Start of another…

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I guess it’s more usual to write about the “firsts” in life.

I’m going to buck the trend here and write about some recent “lasts”.  Humour me….

After fifteen years all in….

I’ve made my last school packed lunch.

I’ve completed and signed my last permission slip for a school trip (Lord, I hated those forms!)

I’ve written my last note to a class teacher.

I’ve attended my last parent’s evening.

I’ve ironed my last ever school shirt – Hallelujah!!!!

I’ve driven to the school for the last time.

I’ve waved my Baby Girl off on her last school trip – prom.

 

It seems like only yesterday that I took her to school for the first time. Thirteen years have passed in the blink of an eye.

Back in August 2004, I took a tiny, shy, little, girl to school. (She was the smallest and the youngest in her class.)

Last Friday night, I took a petite, confident, young lady to school for the last time to attend the pre-prom reception. Proud Mama moment.

As I drove away, waving to her as she stood in line to board the bus that was taking them to prom, for a split second, she was that tiny, shy, little girl once more.

(image sourced via Google- credits to the owner)

 

It doesn’t matter how old they get or how tall they grow…treasure every moment

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When you have children, people often say to you to make the most of the time you have with them when they’re small.

Repeatedly, you’re advised to treasure every moment; treasure every memory; treasure every hug as they grow up way too fast.

Maybe I’m getting a bit sentimental in my old age (who’s old? Not me!) or perhaps it’s the fact that Boy Child is in the last few months of his teenage years or the fact that Girl Child is on the brink of leaving high school but I’ve bene reflecting on things a lot recently. (Lord, maybe I am getting old!)

I’m by no stretch of the imagination a natural mother. I’m not a particularly conventional mother. I’m not even convinced I’ve been a good mother but they’ve both made it this far – whew!- and have grown into sensible young adults – well, most of the time.

I don’t think it matters how old they get or how tall they grow, Boy Child and Girl Child are still my babies.

I’ve watched them take their first tentative steps as toddlers. I’ve waved them off to school. I’ve made endless packed lunches. I’ve sat through countless dance shows, school shows, musical performances. I’ve been to dozens of parent/teacher evenings.

I’ve jumped in waves in the ocean with them. I’ve built sandcastles on the beach with them.

I’ve dragged them through numerous museums – they’ll thank me for it one day.

I’ve introduced them to my favourite foods, favourite films and books.

I’ve introduced them my eclectic taste in music.

But, possibly most important of all here is that I’ve let them make their own minds up about things.

We don’t always enjoy the same meals. We don’t always agree on which film to watch and they both disregard my thoughts on books. (I’ll be honest, that one winds me up a bit.)

As for music, Girl Child is still developing her preferences having journeyed through EMO, Swedish death metal to cheesy pop and, for now, a more indie band sound. Her tastes are more catholic than mine but we occasionally agree on a band or song.  Boy Child too has developed his own tastes and preferences but it’s safe to say we share a lot more common ground.

This was brought home to me earlier this week when I realised that with regards to music we’d come full circle.

Almost six years ago, accompanied by two of my friends, we went to see Iron Maiden at the SECC in Glasgow. It was the first gig he’d been to where we were in the standing arena. The mother in me was anxious to protect her baby boy in this crowd of thousands of rock and metal fans. I stayed close to him all night as we enjoyed the show together.  My friend even commented over coffee the following day how cute it had looked to see us both together, horns up.

Earlier this week, Boy Child and I went back to see Iron Maiden. This time they were  playing in the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, next door to the previous venue. When we arrived about a hour before doors open, we detoured into the SECC to use the facilities and Boy Child commented that he hadn’t been there since the previous Maiden show.

As we stood in the queue, basking in the warm early evening sunshine, outside the Hydro, we counted up how many shows we’d been to together over the years. Twenty six, including the one we were heading in to.

A couple of hours later, as we stood side by side in the crowd watching the support band, Shinedown (love those guys), I stole a glance up at him. My baby boy was still standing beside me, smiling and singing, horns up. I smiled.

An hour or so after that moment, as we were being pushed and jostled and barged about in the midst of the mayhem at the front of the crowd, I realised the roles had reversed. We had come full circle. My Boy Child was protecting me, keeping me close to him and regularly checking that I was OK. My heart melted.

The childhood memories you make with your children are to be treasured.

The ones you make with them when they’re young adults are equally precious.

Treasure them all.

And, yes, we were both still standing together, six years down the line, horns up!

Mother Nature’s Prayer Flags

As is my usual want, I was out for my lunchtime stroll earlier, following my preferred, well-trodden path. It struck me as I wandered along, eyes peeled for photo opportunities that my lunchtime walk has become almost ritualistic. I walk the same circle, in the same direction more than 95% of the time. It’s a path I’ve walked hail, rain or shine – or, in the case of Scottish weather, all three elements in the course of one walk!

My mind has a tendency to meander  while I’m walking and it occurred to me that my “ritualistic” route reminded me of a chapter in a book I read recently. The book, an autobiography of sorts, talked about walking round and round a “stupa” in the mountains of the Himalayas to meditative effect. The writer made reference to the multi-coloured prayer flags fluttering in the breeze above and around her.

This set me thinking…..

For those who don’t know, a “stupa” is a mound-like, hemispherical structure containing important Buddhist relics (remains of long deceased monks and the like). The word comes from the Sanskrit word literally meaning “heap”. Buddhists use these as places of meditation, often walking round and round the same loop for hours on end.

Now, I’m not about to launch into a diatribe about Buddhism or the architectural differences of the various “stupa” to be found.

stupa

The book in question made me visualise a simple structure, quite plain in design. A “stupa” surrounded my prayer flags.

Prayer flags are not necessarily symbolising religious prayers offered up to God. They are traditionally used to promote peace, wisdom, compassion and strength. Tibetans believe that by flying their prayer flags in the wind their prayers and mantras will be spread across the surrounding area.

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There are five colours of flag that are traditionally flown in a specific order.

Blue – representing sky or space.

White – representing air or clouds

Red – representing fire

Green- representing water

Yellow- representing the earth.

As I meandered along my own meditative path, I was conscious of the colours about me. Sub-consciously, I began to seek out the prayer flag colours along my route.

Now there wasn’t a flag in sight but Mother Nature was flying her own colourful flags in the bright, Spring sunshine. There was a stiff breeze blowing down the river beside me so Mother Nature’s “prayer flags” were certainly fluttering and spreading their mantras for miles.

Here, take a look.

Blue

Prayer flag 1

White

prayer flag 5

Red (ok, its a bit pink)

Prayer flag 2

Green

prayer flag 4

Yellow

prayer flag 3

Namaste

(stupa image and prayer flag image sourced via Google- credits to the owners)