Loving Liverpool

Last week we took our first little holiday of the year, to the city of Liverpool. Neither hubby nor I had ever been before, but we’ll definitely be back. What a great place!

After arriving late on Sunday evening and only having time for a meal and then bed, we rose bright and early on Monday morning, ready to start exploring. The day was dull but dry, so we braved the open-top bus for a city tour. I find this is a great way to get your bearings in a place you’ve never visited. After doing one full round of the tour, we ended up at Pier Head, where the Ferry ‘cross the Mersey leaves from. Well – what to do next? 😉 After a fortifying coffee and cake, we boarded the ferry, being very twee and singing the song as we went.

Both the bus tour and the ferry had commentary about the history of Liverpool and what we were seeing, so our heads were soon stuffed with facts. Did you know there has been a Ferry ‘cross the Mersey for over 800 years? Or that Liverpool gets its name from the lava seaweed that used to gather in a pool near the shore?

Liverpool skyline

Liverpool skyline

After this rather chilly day of sightseeing we decided to warm up and go for dinner. Unfortunately, by this time the weather had taken a turn for the worse, with rain and high winds buffeting the west coast, so we got a little bit soggy on the way to and from the restaurant. As this continued into the next day, we decided indoor activities were in order and off we went to The Beatles Story.

The Beatles were one of the main reasons hubby and I both wanted to visit Liverpool. I’ve been a fan ever since I could operate my mum’s record player (younger readers: look this up) and listen to her singles and albums. The Beatles Story takes you on a journey from the birth of all the band members to the present day. It’s a very comprehensive account of their story with great photographs and other memorabilia. It also has a shop (of course) in which we managed to spend far too much money.

The next day dawned much better weather-wise, so we wandered down to the Albert Dock, home of The Maritime Museum. This free museum is chock-full of exhibits on all types of maritime history, so there’s something for everyone. We learned about the Lusitania, the Titanic (naturally), the Merchant Navy, smuggling and customs, slavery, and there was a fantastic exhibit about gay life on board ship, called Hello, Sailor! Our heads were stuffed with facts once again.

To get our brains nice and empty, we rounded off our Liverpool visit with an afternoon in The Cavern Club – for real this time, not the replica in The Beatles Story. Although it is only 75% on the site of the original Cavern, it has a great atmosphere and still has live music all day long.

So after a great three days we left Liverpool, full of facts, food and booze – and there was lots we didn’t see. I heartily recommend this place for a city break. See you again, scousers!


(All photos by Karen and Gordon Soutar)


People Watching at a Rock Concert

So the rock music year began a couple of days ago with a visit to legendary Glasgow venue ‘The Barrowlands’, to see Halestorm. For once hubby and I didn’t queue all day like mad people to get to the front. For this one, we lurked at the back, drank Irn Bru, and enjoyed the music. I also enjoyed something you can’t do if you’re on the barrier: people watching.

The wonderfully tacky  Barrowland sign  - its been like this for as long as I can remember. Pic courtesy of Gordon Soutar

The wonderfully tacky Barrowland sign – its been like this for as long as I can remember. Pic courtesy of Gordon Soutar

It’s fascinating to watch other people at gigs. Most people are similar: bouncing up and down, air punching, horns up, singing along, having a good time and not spoiling anyone else’s night, even if they’ve had a few drinks. It’s great fun looking around and seeing everyone united in support of a fantastic band.

Then there are those who behave in such a way that they either a) mystify me or b) get on my nerves. Here are a few examples:

Moshers. Especially the ones who are clearly off their face. Why go to a gig and throw yourself into a melee of nutters where you’re extremely likely to get injured? The ones who are totally out of it – they could be anywhere. Why pay all that money when you’re not paying attention to the band?
Having said this, my friend’s son seems to be on the way to becoming an expert mosher. Must ask him what he sees in it… 🙂

Excessively drunk people in general. Who appear to have no idea where they are. Again, why not just go the pub? Then there are the ones who are rowdy and aggressive and spoil it for others, especially youngsters who are new to gigs. Take your drunken bad attitude somewhere else. Home, preferably.

On to something not annoying, but mystifying…okay, it is annoying. The couple who stood near to us and basically snogged the faces off each other for most of the gig. Hello, the band is over there! Yuck, you’re distracting me. Again, please take it home where you can’t gross everyone else out.

If you’re a big lad, don’t squeeze through and then stand in front of the shortest lassie you can find. That’s just rude. Stand behind her, you moron! She might thank you for it later…okay, probably not. 😉

When the band play the occasional ballad, don’t talk all the way through it. There’s Lzzy Hale with her beautiful voice and piano, singing her heart out – for all of about two minutes. Don’t worry, hardcore rockers, the noisy stuff will be back shortly. In the meantime, shut the f**k up.

I’m sure those of you who don’t see the appeal of going to gigs are thinking ‘Ugh, that’s why I don’t want to go!’ Let me reiterate that most people are NOT like this. Rock fans are some of the nicest folk you will ever meet. I’ve made so many friends around the world and had so much support from my rock music community. It’s become a cliché in itself, I know, but I find that the tattooed, pierced, black-clad brigade are usually far nicer and much less judgemental than many others I’ve met. Anyway, I digress.

Mz Lzzy Hale rocking out wearing our flag. Pic courtesy of Coral McCallum

Mz Lzzy Hale rocking out wearing our flag. Pic courtesy of Coral McCallum

Halestorm played a blistering set and further secured their place on my list of top bands to see live. I love Lzzy Hale’s lyrics – her songs really resonate with me: strong empowered women taking charge of their lives, especially in the bedroom. Sexy stuff. Some of my erotica pieces are actually inspired by her words. Then there’s her brother Arejay on drums. This guy has to be seen to be believed! No hiding behind the drum kit for him – he’s a consummate entertainer and a huge part of the rock show.

Arejay Hale demonstrates his unique drumming style. Pic courtesy of Coral McCallum

Arejay Hale demonstrates his unique drumming style. Pic courtesy of Coral McCallum

Next gigs are folk and orchestral music – yes, really! Then it’s back to rock again at the end of April. Until then, I’ll just have to crank up the new surround sound system. 😉


(This post also features on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog Fiction Writers Blog Hop.
Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hopapril-2015/)

RnF’nR! Slash Brings Proper Music Back To MTV. I’m there!

Well, what a night that was! You all know I like a bit of rock ‘n’ roll. Last week I ended up at one of the best gigs EVER (and I’ve been to a few). 🙂

An amazing announcement was made two weeks ago: Slash, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators would be playing a gig to be filmed as part of MTV World Stage, on the run up to the European Music Awards in Glasgow. This gig would be available only to fans on Slash’s mailing list. Anyone who knows about music television will get what I mean – MTV don’t play music anymore. Especially not rock music. And an unexpected Slash gig! This was a pleasant surprise.

I lurked by the computer on the appointed sales day and got tickets, which were limited to two per person. The morning of the gig dawned, and hubby arranged to leave work early. Like the madpants that I am, I took the day off and queued at the venue in order to get to the front. I was accompanied by the usual suspects (you know who you are). 😉

Security was tight: bags were searched on entry, as well as tickets being scanned and photo ID checked. This did make entering the venue a slightly saner experience than usual, as everybody was slowed down. Usually it’s a mad dash to see who can get to the barrier first! I marched in quickly (walk, don’t run) and gazed in surprise at a completely empty hall. I was first in! I strolled down and took up my favourite spot, right between where Slash and Myles would be standing. My crowd of crazy friends soon joined me and the hall filled up. MTV bigwigs and VIPs were up on the balcony, safe from us moshers downstairs.

The gig was a double bill with Glasgow band Biffy Clyro going first. They’re not my kind of thing, but their fans had a ticket allocation as well and certainly got things going. After that came one of the quickest turnarounds ever seen in order to get their gear off and Slash’s on, so the latter wouldn’t break curfew. (Ha – they still ran over). The already-buzzing crowd got more and more excited, and totally drowned out the wee lassie from MTV when she announced Slash.

Slash and Myles take command of the stage

Slash and Myles take command of the stage

From the moment the guys took to the stage, the crowd, myself included, went MENTAL. This band just get better and better every time I see them. Every rock fan (and many others) knows Slash’s signature guitar style and top-hatted appearance, but vocalist Myles Kennedy is a force to be reckoned with. I stand by my opinion that he has the most versatile voice in rock. He delivers songs by Guns ‘n’ Roses, Velvet Revolver – basically every band Slash has played in up to now, as well as their own stuff – and manages to keep the feel of the old numbers as well as adding his own style. I could listen to this guy sing forever. Yes, I do have a crush.

Myles singing - to me! *swoon*

Myles singing – to me! *swoon*

Bassist and backing vocalist Todd Kerns is an amazing musician in his own right – check him out, rock people – as are Brent Fitz on drums and Frank Sidoris who provides extra depth to the guitar sound on tour. They all manage to be slick and down ‘n’ dirty at the same time. Although the set was shorter than usual, they squeezed in 14 tracks, including four from the new album ‘World On Fire’. Brilliant stuff.

Talented guys

Talented guys

Highlights of my evening: having Myles sing part of ‘Anastasia’ to me, getting a handshake and a thumbs up from him at the end, and Slash throwing a setlist in my general direction – which several hands grabbed for and missed, but a nice security guard handed it up to me. Result!

The Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat

Long-suffering hubby enjoyed himself alongside me and took these super photos. Big kisses to him.

Addendum: Since I began writing this, the guys also closed the MTV EMAs show proper, with a tribute to Ozzy Osbourne, who received a Global Icon award. Slash and the boys (together with Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro) played a fantastic rendition of Ozzy’s hit ‘Crazy Train’. Ozzy and Sharon were in the audience and loving it! Awesome.

If you like your rock ‘n’ roll loud but fun, go and see Slash, Myles and Co. You’d be mad not to. I’ll stop burbling now. 😉

See you again soon, guys!

See you again soon, guys!

World On Fire! It’s Music Monday and it’s hot hot hot!

I LOVE a bit of heat! Yes, there is a double meaning to that. 😉

Let’s get the weather out of the way. This week has been toasty, even when it’s been raining. Since we bought an air conditioning unit a few years ago, this is not a problem when it comes to a good night’s sleep. As for the daytime, bring on the heat! The car is air conditioned, too. Shades on, visor down. When not working, I’ve actually been able to sit in the garden. Sometimes with a beer.

World On Fire album artwork. Bonkers.

World On Fire album artwork. Bonkers.

So, the other kind of hotness…my fave rock musicians Slash, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators have just released their new single ‘World On Fire’. It’s AWESOME! Link is below. Rock fans – give it a listen. Amazing guitar from Slash (duh) and fantastic vocals from Mr Kennedy and his back up singer (and bassist) Todd ‘Dammit’ Kerns. So much talent in this band. No video as yet, but I’m sure there’ll be one soon. In the meantime, feast your ears!
I can’t wait until the full album comes out in September. I also can’t wait to hear this high energy track live. Unfortunately, this won’t happen until December. Oh well, it’ll heat up the chilly Scottish winter.
(Warning to sensitive people: there is a pretty obvious swear towards the end. I love it when Mr Kennedy swears – he’s the nice boy of rock ‘n’ roll, so it always gives me a thrill when he’s bad. And it fits the song. So there.)

Todd, Myles, Slash and Brent. Too much talent and hotness in one band.

Todd, Myles, Slash and Brent. Too much talent and hotness in one band.

Also on the subject of hotness: checking my stats for the last week, you know what people have been searching for? Sexy poems. Well well. As it happens, I have a few of those on here, and some more waiting to be added. Must be something in the air… 😉

Who says social media isn’t real?

As some of you may know, I took a short holiday last week, to Yorkshire. Long-suffering hubby came too. We did all the usual British holiday stuff: visited historical sites, ate too much, and complained about the weather. But at the end of the week, I left hubby playing online snooker, looking in sports shops, and doing other ‘man’ things, and went on a little adventure of my own.

A few weeks ago, my online friend, author and rock chick Nicky Wells , had noticed that I was going to be in Yorkshire and had mentioned that I would only be about an hour or so’s drive away from her. This got me thinking – could I meet another of my awesome social media friends in ‘real life’? I asked hubby what he thought and because he’s easy-going as well as long-suffering, he said ‘Yeah, whatever’ or something like that. He then said that he wouldn’t come along (even though he was welcome) as he didn’t want us ladies to be worried we were boring him to bits, talking about books and such. I think what he meant was he didn’t want to listen to us drooling over various rock stars. As if! 😉

After some to-ing and fro-ing over what we would do and when, the visit was organised. Nicky graciously invited me to her home, as kids needed to be collected from school, fed and watered, and made to do homework. I obviously didn’t look like too much of a nutter, as she let me in when I landed on the doorstep. Over a cup of tea, a scone AND a glass of Buck’s Fizz, we chatted about our history with the rock music world. Queen, Europe, Bon Jovi – all the influences from our childhood and our teens were discussed. We talked about first gigs, following bands around, and being in the front row and TOUCHING rock stars – wow! Then we took a brief walk to meet the boys, and I was treated to a quick tour of the village, with expert commentary from said boys. We also discussed snakes, spiders, and giant snails, as ‘The Rainforest’ was the school subject of the moment. Eldest boy had got to handle some of these creatures that day, and delighted in telling us about it. Fine for me (you know I like creepy things), but not so good for Nicky, who’s not keen!

Hmm - maybe selfies aren't our strong point...

Hmm – maybe selfies aren’t our strong point…

Homework was tackled once we got back, with promises of Chinese takeaway if it was completed. I was quite happy to help with homework if there was a Chicken Chow Mein at the end of it! That was another thing Nicky and I found we had in common – a fondness for Chicken Chow Mein. Delicious it was, too. In between homework, eating, and me fussing guinea pigs (in the absence of cats), we managed to talk lots more about writing, blogging, music, juggling life and writing, reading…you name it. As darkness approached, I reluctantly said goodbye to my sister-in-rock and drove back to my hotel, leaving Nicky to tackle boys’ bath and bedtime. Long-suffering hubby didn’t escape the girliness, as he got a detailed account of my visit once I got back. (He got his revenge by doing the same to me the next day on the journey home. Apparently he had McDonald’s for lunch AND dinner while I was away – good grief).

So…who says social media isn’t real? I’ve now met up in person with two online friends. I hasten to add that we had interacted A LOT before meeting up, and it may not be something everyone would feel comfortable doing. But the world of Facebook, Twitter and the like CAN lead to friendships as genuine as those formed in more ‘traditional’ ways. Among the trolls, arguing, and other nonsense, this is a great thing. Thank you very much, Nicky, for a lovely visit, and rock on, all you online friends!

Nicky’s bit:

What a fabulous account of our day! May I just add that I was honoured and touched that Karen decided to drop by. It felt both surreal and completely normal to suggest to this total stranger, who wasn’t really a stranger after hours and hours of social media interaction, that perhaps we might be able to meet ‘for real’ when the occasion of her trip to York shortened our day-to-day distance from six hours (give or take) to just one and a half (give or take).

As fate would have it, Karen was only around during the week and, of course, my husband had to go to Israel during that very same time. All plans to clear the day and do proper sister-in-rock girlie things went straight out the window when I realised that I’d have to be on mummy duty. Hence the to-ing and fro-ing that Karen mentioned: I was fretting whether I could subject my known-yet-unknown friend-from-afar to a dose of my daily life. But if I’d been just ever so slightly concerned that Karen would be put out, or put off even, I worried for no reason. She took our hectic routine completely in her stride and fitted in as though she was, in fact, a favourite old-time friend. It was wonderful to sit down and chat amongst the kids running ever-so-slightly riot, the guinea pigs demanding food and cuddles, the telephone ringing, and the Chinese takeaway requiring pick-up from the store rather than being delivered. (Karen drove, of course. Bless you!)

We talked non-stop and considered, briefly, whether we should finish up the bottle and have Karen crash out in the guest room for the night. And then we thought, heck, no, we’ll simply have to do this again one day soon.

So thank you Twitter and Facebook—and Julie Valerie!—for brokering the introduction between two soul-sisters who might otherwise never have met. Rock on, Karen, and thanks for letting me add my two-cents-worth to your feature. See you soon!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day Music Monday!

If this blog post is full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, blame the Guinness. I’m writing this after a couple of pints of the lovely stuff.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! As a fellow Celt, I love the Irish and their beautiful country. I have visited the Emerald Isle, but not nearly enough – must go back soon.

A much younger me on the top floor of The Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

A much younger me on the top floor of The Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

I’m actually typing this the day before, but we’ve had an early celebration in our house, as hubby is working all of St. Paddy’s Day itself. Hence the reason I’ve had some Guinness. I love Guinness – I’m not just drinking it for St. Paddy’s. It’s been my pint of choice since my University days. I used to be able to get through a lot more of it, but never mind… 😉

Great music and musicians of all sorts have come out of Ireland. One of the things I enjoyed when I visited was just wandering into a pub, and finding people playing and singing. Some of you may know that I love folk music as well as being a rock chick. So we’re having a traditional Irish number today (although I first heard this performed by a Scottish singer. Hello, Steve Eaglesham). ‘Star of the County Down’ is an old Irish ballad set near Banbridge in County Down, in Northern Ireland. The words are by Cathal McGarvey (1866–1927) from Ramelton, County Donegal. This song has been widely performed and recorded, but I’ve gone for the version by Van Morrison and The Chieftains.

When I visited Dublin, many years ago, one of the singers in the Temple Bar area asked for requests, so I chose this – and got complimented on my smile by a smooth-talking Irish musician. He was lucky I was still standing, never mind smiling, as I’d had about eight pints of Guinness by then. I’d be in hospital if I had that many now. Ah, the foolishness of youth…

The video is a leetle cheesy (apologies to its maker), but has some good pics from the Emerald Isle. Sláinte! 🙂

Music Monday: Fairytale of New York

Our Christmas decorations are up! Hubby must put them up on 1st December. He can’t wait any longer. He’s a big kid really!

He decorates the outside of the house, while I do the tree and the indoor decorations. We have a real tree for the first time in years. It’s huge! It does look lovely though.

My lovely hubby, and my lovely Christmas tree! Hubby is six feet tall, so you get an idea of the tree size...

My lovely hubby, and my lovely Christmas tree! Hubby is six feet tall, so you get an idea of the tree size…

I also have cinammon-scented pine cones. I’ve been seeing them in the garden centre every Christmas for ages and saying ‘I must get some of those’. Finally, I got some – and between them and the piney scent of the tree, the whole house smells gorgeous.

I know some of you will be saying ‘Bah Humbug! How can you be doing Christmas things already?’ Truth is, I love it. I’ve always loved Christmas, but sadly in the household I grew up in it wasn’t a happy occasion. I’m not going to go into why in this post. Maybe I’ll explain some other time. But I always wanted Christmas to be magical (probably through reading too many books where it was), and ever since I left my childhood home, and especially since being with hubby, I’ve endeavoured to make it that way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that there’s far too much consumerism and that the goodwill often gets lost. I try not to lose sight of the fact that it’s about love, not how big a tree you have or how many presents you’ve got. (Says the person with the ridiculously big tree). I know Christmas is a difficult time for many. Anyway, that leads me on to…

…Christmas songs. I love them too. The carols, the cheery ones, and of course the cynical ones… My Music Monday choice this week definitely falls into the latter category. Frequently voted the best Christmas song ever, Fairytale of New York, performed by the unlikely pairing of The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, was first released in November 1987. It has been re-released several times since, and re-enters the charts every Christmas.

The song tells an Irish immigrant’s story about Christmases past while sleeping off a binge in a New York City drunk tank. It becomes a back-and-forth between the male and female characters of the story, their youthful hopes crushed by alcoholism and drug addiction, as they reminisce and bicker on Christmas Eve.

Kirsty MacColl’s melodious singing contrasts with the harshness of Shane MacGowan’s voice, and the lyrics are sometimes bittersweet — sometimes purely bitter: ‘Happy Christmas your arse/I pray God it’s our last’. The title, taken from author J.P. Donleavy’s novel A Fairy Tale of New York, was chosen after the song had been written and recorded.

Since Kirsty MacColl’s untimely death in 2000, the song has become even more poignant. It’s been a favourite of mine ever since it was first released. During my University years, a friend and I used to give a rendition of it at pub sing-songs. Not sure how well we did it, but it always went down a treat (possibly because our audience was inebriated). 😉

Here’s Fairytale of New York and the wonderful video that accompanies it. (Look out for an appearance by actor Matt Dillon, as the cop).