Tag Archives: Beauty

Looking for Europe 8: Budapest – Floating!

June 4th

Budapest! It was a beautiful day again, and the city is stunning!

After a somewhat inadequate amount of sleep we went for a breakfast wander. Very little was open; it turned out it was Pentecost, which I’d forgotten, but we found an incredible café, which blew my mind by serving my iced tea packed with forest fruits! It was already hot by then, we just wanted to jump in the fountains!

We wandered back to the hostel to pick up swim things, admiring all the beautiful buildings on the way, then headed to find a spa. Budapest is famously full of amazing thermal spas and grand bath houses, so it was something we both felt we had to try, especially since we were in need of a bit of relaxation. The first one we went in was too big and imposing for someone who’d had very little sleep, so we went to a smaller one; it didn’t look much from the outside but was perfect for us. It had a lovely little swimming pool so we chilled out, swam some lengths, then went to the gorgeous thermal pools. The main pool was octagonal, surrounded by pillars holding up a beautiful domed roof with coloured glass stars set into it, with the sun shining through them onto the water. We hung out in there, wowing, for a while, then tried the little corner pools, which turned out to be set to different temperatures, 28, 30, 33 and 42oC. I didn’t go in the cold one but went in the others. When I put my foot into the 42 oC pool I thought it was going to cook me! But I stepped back in… and eventually got in fully… and then decided I didn’t want to leave!! Cook me anytime, please! 😀 Eventually we went back to the main hot pool, and floated where the light shone through the stars… 😉 A quick last swim in the pool to get rid of the very slightly smelly mineral water, then we wandered back. On failing again to find a shop, we ended up eating at a Hungarian restaurant, where I was served a nice stew of peppers, and some mind-numbingly fiery fresh chillis, which I took as a challenge and was indeed victorious! It felt good. Then it was back once again to the hostel to get ready for the show, and back out.

It was all so beautiful! Amazing, elaborate architecture, beautiful hills including one with a church built into it, patterned roofs, and the Danube cutting right through the middle of the city. We could see the venue, a boat on the river, so it was very easy to find. A friend we’d met in Germany was there already, so we went in and had a drink on the deck with him and a guy from Ecuador but living in Spain, who had a Where I Belong banner with him. I told him I had one too but I’d make sure his got on stage this time.

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VIP was on time this time, but later in the day and very short. When we got in, the guys were just jamming together; it sounded incredible, very different to when they’re performing something, and they were all turned to face one another, so it was great seeing how they interacted. At one point, Jon looked like he was teaching Drew a riff… were they learning something new?? It was really fun to watch anyway and they were all showing a lot of skill and looking like they were enjoying themselves. Then they said hi, and played us Learning to Breathe, which was just lovely.

At Meet ‘n’ Greet the band got given a gingerbread artwork and a Hungarian football shirt. And Jude was all the giggles! She had her hair in Princess Leia buns and gave the guys a bunch of silly Star Wars themed gifts to go with a Star-Wars-punning poster she’d made to promote Bro Am…! She even brought some bubble wands that looked like light sabres. Legend. Drew used the bubble light sabre to make bubbles, and Chad rolled up the poster and used that as a light sabre, complete with sound effects, to pop them!

I had composed the guys another letter on the journey (written into a card I made at 5am in the hostel!) and I handed it to Chad; I had a job getting him to take it, I think he was surprised I was giving it to him but I had written a message to each of them this time, with only one (silly) line in it for Jon, so I was keen for one of the others to take it. I asked how they were as they all looked so tired, and thanked them for putting themselves through all this for us. My friend prayed with Jon at the end and encouraged him to keep writing. Jon said he couldn’t help it, he didn’t know how to stop, so I said ‘Please, don’t ever!!’ 😀 Music addict 🙂

The show – wow! I was shattered by this point and had trouble staying awake through the opening band, even though they were again really good, and extremely loud, and using a lot of strobe lighting. I literally was falling asleep. But then the crowd got really hyped up. There was a lot of chanting, silly selfies, sitting on the stage, Switchfoot puns…

Then they were on!

So many feels. As predicted, the awesome Romanian crowd was indeed there again; the room absolutely erupted when Jon asked who was from Romania! Again you could tell they were thinking they needed to play a show there, and they actually asked where they should try to play if they came (Cluj!) There were also fans there from India, Dubai, Nigeria, and of course us, and we all got a little shout out. Jon also remarked how amazing Budapest is, and that it isn’t a place they ever hear of in the USA, though he thought they should – we were quite surprised!

Jon took the mic stand into the crowd to sing When We Come Alive and Love Alone…, and got up on the bar to sing. Someone had a Love Alone… banner that he held up on stage. He came back right through the crowd to where I was stood, so I helped lift him back up onto the stage. Everyone started ‘Oreo’ing again after the song supposedly finished so Jon had to sing some more of it!

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Jon once again picked me out to sing ‘Don’t let go’ to in Needle, the same line he’d sung me at an earlier show. Deliberate? Probably not, but I wonder if he thought I might… But I got a lot more interaction in general. All four of them who could move were right up front a lot, leaning right out over us and easily within touching distance. Romey spent more time than ever up front with the guitar playing to the crowd, almost more than he was at the back with the keys!

They were having a lot of fun on stage that night, with each other and with the crowd. Drew soloed like crazy, totally original as ever. And he and Jon had some fun with Where The Light Shines Through (WTLST); there’s a section where they break it down and sort of play solo tennis, Jon playing a phrase and Drew playing a reply. This time Jon had a mischievous look in his eye; he gave Drew some really weird solo lines, and it seemed like they were messing with one another, trying to throw one another off by playing the unexpected, but they were both coming up with awesome ‘replies’ each time! That was very funny to watch! The ‘samba breaks’ were epic too!

Jon came over to me as he introduced WTLST, took my banner, and this time handed me it straight back saying ‘thank you, it’s beautiful!’ He came over as they began Where I Belong too, again as if to ask for the banner, but this time though I had it in my hand I didn’t hand it to him, and instead turned around to look for the other fan’s one. Sure enough it made its way to the front and Jon took that one and held it up instead. Then during the song I got mine out and a bunch of us held it up at the front for a bit… until Jon took it anyway to wear/ use as a towel!

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They stuck completely to the setlist this time, but got encored again twice, so they played Mess Of Me, We Are One/ Shadow Proves…, and then as they couldn’t finish with the crowd going so crazy and Jon having so much fun, he carried on and played 24, the others rejoining him at the end again. For the second encore, Jon came back on wearing the Hungarian football shirt – and turned round part way through the song to reveal that it had ‘Foreman 24’ written on the back! The crowd went wild!

Towards the end the crowd was giving them so much love and encoring so much the guys all had big teary smiles, Drew, Jon and Romey especially, which was so sweet to see. I can’t get enough of Drew smiling like that! I applauded them all a whole lot, and managed to mouth ‘thank you!’ to both Drew and Romey. And at the very end, Drew came over and emotionally clasped big handfuls of our hands in his saying ‘thank you, thank you’. It was the best feeling seeing them feeling the love. I managed to catch Josh and Chico packing down to say thank you too as well.

Afterwards we stayed on the boat as there was a rumour Jon wanted to play an aftershow on the deck; in any case, an aftershow seemed inevitable! The tweet eventually went out, aftershow on the boat in 15 minutes… but then the staff cleared the venue so we decamped to the gangway and waited there. And then after a while, a clean Jon emerged with a detuned guitar, ready to be packed away, and he led us down onto the steps of the Danube, playing there for us with the city lights reflecting on the water behind him. He joked that the river was ‘exactly like the Pacific Ocean.’! I got front row again, wearing the Where I Belong banner partly because it was wet again 😛 and needed to dry out, and partly because it had actually turned cool and windy by then, I think there had been a storm whilst we were inside.

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Thanks to Jude for capturing this shot!

He played Caroline, The Moon Is A Magnet (WOW! There was indeed a pretty moon, though it wasn’t full and kept hiding behind clouds. Very special!), Vice Verses (he asked did we want a sad song or an upbeat song, and started strumming Just Rob Me! But though I confess I voted for both, Vice Verses won; someone called out we’d had lots of upbeat at the show and it was time for a sad one), and Your Love Is Strong, with everyone singing.

At the end, he said to us that in his mind, the perfect way this would end would be for us all to leave as equals; ‘No elevation, no photos; we’re all one family here, we leave as equals…’ It was both very smart, and very sweet! I let him go; but I did stop him briefly as he passed me just to thank him sincerely for this tour, and I found myself clasping his hand again, just as in Mannheim. And then he was gone, with minimal mobbing. We waved him off and cheered as he returned to the boat down the gangway.

Jude was top of the world as while that was happening she’d met Drew again to hug and thank! We went back to the hostel; a whole group of us across the bridge, then four of us back to get a taxi from the hostel, then after some deep late night conversations with new friends we dropped the other guys off en route and headed to the airport.

We spent an uncomfortable night on the floor of the deserted airport, me wrapped in the banner to keep warm. At 4am the place began to fill up… and suddenly I spotted Josh amongst the crowds, pulling two huge cases of gear!! :O Sure enough, sooner or later we spotted most of the others, and witnessed them checking in the most enormous mountain of kit. That was quite a sight. They were on the flight after ours!! We stayed well out of their way and out of sight at the other end of the check-in hall, and went off to get ourselves some much needed coffee as soon as the café was opened, then checked in for our flight. We saw most of the guys eventually come through security and head to the lounge, looking beyond tired 😦 Love them so much! Their flight was announced just after ours was, their gate was in the same area as ours, and as we boarded, the last person we saw was Romey walking towards it. As our plane took off, we saw theirs pulling out from the terminal (tears!), and then we flew directly over the venue and aftershow spot (more tears!!) and away from them.

Oh the love miles!! Such pain of being pulled (temporarily!) away from these lovely guys, and so many wonderful new friends across the continent and world. I knew I was going to miss everyone so much. I just wanted to stay and hang out with everyone… oh my heart! It was all beautiful, and I cannot wait for more. ‘147 days!!’*

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Read Part 7 here

*I set up a countdown app on my phone when the first tour date was announced; as they announced more dates for the autumn whilst still with us, I reset the countdown on the last day of the tour to give myself something to look forward to when they were gone 🙂

Looking for Europe 7: BCDO North, all the feels

June 2-3rd

We got back to the house of the friend we were staying with very late that night – she had put out a happy birthday table for me, really sweet! We were all tired so I opened it in the morning to the accompaniment of some spectacular 90s cheese on the TV, it contained some nice arty gifts, and also some silly birthday gear for the VIP photos! We took our time packing, and then drove up to BCDO, set up the tent, and eventually got on site. I met up with my parents, there for the day, which was nice. It was a beautiful site, a big old house by a picturesque lake, with a boathouse and lots of waterlillies, birds and flowers, and also a big yellow hot air balloon saying ‘Jesus loves you!’ on the side! However the weather did not show it to its full effect, and we had rain for most of the day!

We found out that Switchfoot were doing another interview, so after getting lunch and hanging out with fellow fans and my parents for a bit we went over to see that. We ended up sitting in on the previous interview with a worship band (who credited Switchfoot for inspiration, but had not learnt the secret of playing full on, loud, crazy rock shows in a small intimate venue a la Paris!), and then there was some uncertainty about whether Switchfoot were around or not. But eventually Drew and Romey were located, and came in for an interview. They were very good again, but funnily kept getting asked questions about how they started out – despite both of them having joined a little later than the others! They said hi to us when they came in and saw us there. At one poibt Drew commented on how goid the tea was in England and said ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ I may have called out ‘Boil the water!’ 😀

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VIP was right afterwards, we were met at the merch table and taken right over to the grounds of the house where the tourbus was, and they used the bus as the photo backdrop. It stopped raining just for that! I felt a huge amount of nervous excitement meeting Jon again after the solo show, it literally felt like I was meeting him for the first time, like it was all new again! I gave him the letter I had written for that show but hadn’t had the chance to pass on to him there, in which I’d reaffirmed that I was doubly a megafan of his as his solo music meant as much to me as Switchfoot’s, and that he had a fan for life. I was so in awe!

Jude had themed her VIP photo this time around the SwitchFam, so it was appropriate we were there with our friend, and I could tell them they had set me up with all the birthday stuff. She was so chilled, and handed Drew a piece of artwork to open later. In my photo I had on a huge birthday badge, saying ’34 today’, which I had stuck a ‘2’ over: ‘It’s 34 really but SwitchFam are always all 24, right?!’ Drew sang a line of it, and Tim wore the ‘happy birthday’ shades! Then Jude got a very silly podcast-style facebook live video of the guys sending a message to the SwitchFam group!

As with BDCO South, there was nothing else on the programme any of us particularly wanted to see (that day at least; had we not been running off the following morning again there were bands on I’d have gone to see). A fellow fan had brought her little bear mascot along to the festival, so afterwards we had a bit of time for some more silly photos with him and Kitty Jon before the show, very cute!

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The show was awesome, again, but it was very wet. We just about got to the front again, but it was a squash. A lot of water had to be swept off the stage before they started, so I was a bit freaked when Jon came right out and stood on the speakers… and then got up on the wet crowd barrier a couple of times!! (Please don’t slip, please don’t slip..!) He came right over to us twice.

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They rocked awesomely and gave us a lot of emotion too. Jon referenced the rain a couple of times, for example holding his hand up to catch some on the appropriate line of Stars. They played I Won’t Let You Go again and Jude had a total emotional meltdown; that song brings a lot to the surface. So it felt powerful when they then played We Are One, and I had my arm around her, singing it out, and Jon came right over to us to sing too, like he deliberately wanted to do something nice for Jude. Afterwards I spent a while just sat with her, trying to find a way to comfort her, but it was hard to know what to do or say – I guess as others had found me at the previous BCDO when I had found myself in that sort of state. My mum found us, and gave her a massive cuddle!

 

There was no aftershow, to be expected as they were going straight off to play in Slovakia the next day (the only show we couldn’t get to), but we went to the campfire just in case! It was really nice, small and fun, and we sang some worship songs, especially Rend Collective. The band tried to play Dare, but they mangled it so much we couldn’t really sing along! 😀 Eventually I took a wrung-out Jude back to the tent to get some sleep, and sent out a prayer request as it seemed everyone was battling their own minds somewhat.

The following morning we woke too early; the sun was blazing in and the campsite was awake. On the other hand, it was perfect weather for our friend to go out and get some stunning photos on site, which hadn’t been possible the day before, and for us to get the tent properly packed down in the dry weather. We got off site in good time, had an early and chilled out lunch, and then went our separate ways, our friend to catch her train and us to the airport bound for the final show in Budapest!

The airport was hell. I decided I am never flying again if I can possibly help it! There was just so much hassle and stress and getting through the airport took literally hours. I can’t help thinking I can put up with a whole day on a bus easily in comparison, when you can just walk up half an hour before departure, show your passport and stay with your luggage! Delays meant we came close to missing our connecting flight, which added to the stress, but thankfully we made it ok in the end. We got to our rather interesting hostel, and I got a bad night’s sleep, but thankfully Jude recovered just fine.

 

Read Part 6 here and Part 8 here

Looking for Europe 6: in London, with Jon Foreman, for the first time

June 1st

Today. Wow.

We checked out of the hostel and pretty much spent the whole day travelling back to London for our emergency appointment with a Jon Foreman solo show! We had planned a morning in Köln and an afternoon in Brussels, but in the end had only about 30 minutes to get a drink in a café in the Brussels train station (featuring a rather awesome statue of a horse dressed as a zebra sat at one of the tables!!) before boarding the Eurostar. Once we got back we had to repack the car since we had an extra person to fit in that evening, and still had to actually properly pack away the tent, which we had hastily shoved wet into the car after BCDO. Miraculously that worked out pretty well!

Then we headed into London, with Jon’s music playing on the stereo. At one point we found ourselves following a white van, which had the words ‘all dead inside’ written on the back in the dirt – which was firstly a really weird thing to see written on the back of a van, and secondly a Jon lyric (I commented that ‘nothing left inside’ would have been more usual if you were going to stick a line of that song on a van…)! Driving in felt like a treasure hunt. London had a magic to it suddenly!

Unfortunately there was a horrible incident involving an unreliable satnav, car parking in London and a panic attack, but once we were all safely parked up and at the show in a little venue opposite Great Portland Street tube station, we met up with more wonderful SwitchFam and the magic returned.

The show was delayed starting because, having sold out despite being announced only two days beforehand, there was apparently a queue right round the block to get in and Jon wanted to get everyone inside before starting. My heart was happy at hearing that! I hope he feels the love, and realises how much he is wanted here. He came out on stage and explained, and then brought out Josh the guitar tech, and said he would guitar tech for him that night instead and let him play us a few songs whilst the venue filled up. Josh was very good, and seemed so happy to be playing in London! It was amazing of him to be doing that on what should have been his day off.

Eventually the show began! To begin we saw tour manager Chico in the crowd handing out paper on which to write our request set list, but the paper never reached us – I think it only got half way round the front few rows! We thought we might miss out on putting requests in but as the show went on we started to write requests on any bit of paper we could find and started passing them forward. Jon was picking up papers by the handful and only choosing one song each time, so we ended up putting our requests in multiple times as we saw ours passed over again and again! There were some funny awkward left/right jokes about which side of the stage was winning on the requests (‘… your left, my right..!’) And he started to have fun with what the requests were written on, reading out the wrong side of the notes (receipts, theatre tickets..!). I was torn between wanting to record the entire show, and just wanting to put the ghost machine away entirely and just fully immerse myself in the moment. After recording a couple of songs, the camera made the decision for me by declaring itself totally full, so I don’t have a lot of pictures or videos.

Jon played:

Caroline

Terminal – watch here

The World You Want

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The Shadow Proves The Sunshine – watch here

Resurrect Me – ‘Can anyone play the guitar..? No, seriously?’ He pulled a girl up on stage to play whilst he jammed on the harmonica, and she was absolutely brilliant! I loved seeing the two of them jam together! There was a lot going on in him as he sang this one, he showed some real frustration, anger even, on the line ‘but I’m still waking up with myself’, it was intense.

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Live It Well

Wouldn’t It Be Nice – there was a disco ball!! 😀 Jon asked for the lights to be put out so we could just have that! He said it kind of made him think about asking a girl to skate at a roller disco and just how incredibly awkward that is when you’re 15 😀

This Is Home

Just Rob Me – at the request of one of my friends!

In My Arms – this was requested by a couple who had the song at their wedding; when Jon asked who, several of us admitted we’d had it at our weddings! He seemed honoured 🙂

The Blues! Wow! What a powerful song, I don’t think he’s played that in a long time but it was amazing

Only Hope – this he prefaced with a bizarre introduction involving hitchhiking, surfing and tomatoes, which had pretty much nothing to do with the song except ‘… and this song was on our next album.’ 😀 There was also a really funny moment when whistling broke out across the audience, he said there was an incognito whistle chorus group infiltrating the audience but they won’t let on who or where they are! 😀 He couldn’t see who was doing it, it was hilarious 😀 Watch it here and judge for yourself (It’s not my video so it’s infinitely better than any of mine, but it’s such a beautiful thing I had to share! More videos from the night on that channel too, and all brilliantly filmed 🙂 )

Cure For Pain – this was my request! It’s one of my absolute favourites of his, which I’ve never heard live but know that he does play. Plus it felt appropriate. He said as he picked the paper up ‘I’m going to play this one because it says ‘Cure For Pain – please??’ – so polite, so London!’ Score. 😀

House Of God Forever – he got some girls to sing together on the second verse, which was lovely. None of us were brave enough to sing on our own, but they dared to together. And they took a selfie on the stage afterwards, so sweet!

Dare You To Move

Vice Verses – Wowowowow!! This was the most beautiful performance of this I’ve ever seen. He was really feeling it for one thing; as he introduced it he talked about sitting on his rock in the ocean in the night, the place he goes to think and wrestle with the darkness, the only thing that doesn’t change… 😥 But the way he sang it too… My legs disappeared from under me almost completely! I really would have fallen under it except the stage was high and I didn’t want to miss anything, so I leaned onto the edge of the stage and just soaked it in, and the weak knees spread into head to toe happy shivers… wow!

Lean On Me – I got out my thank you banner, the only one I brought with me, and Jon bent down to it and gave me a sweet, emotional smile and put his hands together in a silent ‘thank you!’ 🙂

Your Love Is Strong

Here is a friend’s playlist of almost the whole show, including Josh! You won’t get the full effect of being there, but it is a little taste.

 

So that was my first ever solo show, finally 🙂

I was SO, SO happy!! Wowow*. I really don’t think I was prepared for how wonderful that would be, even after years of listening to Jon’s music, seeing him play with Switchfoot and at aftershows, and watching solo shows online. Nothing prepared me for the first-hand experience of being immersed in that beautiful voice, just minimally accompanied, for a full two hours, and how nice it would be to be a part of Jon’s inclusive, participatory performance style. I was absolutely blown away.

Afterwards me and the other ‘fam just had massive grins on our faces and I was literally bouncing and skipping, I felt like a little kid! I ended up just sat on the kerb outside the venue reliving it all inside, smiling and smiling in a happy dream. All is well. I felt so fully healed from the pain of missing the last show. I got everything I need…

And Jon so completely owns me now as a fan, I am 100% sold out, for life.

Yes.

Great Portland Street is now by far my favourite tube station!

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*I know what you’re thinking, but I’m thinking I haven’t said ‘wow’ as many times as that show warranted 😀

Read Part 5 here

Looking for Europe 4: Basel, hidden treasure

May 29th-30th

Wow! Wowow! Basel is gorgeous!

We spent the morning in Paris, seeing the Seine and Notre Dame cathedral, battling too many stairs, and looking for food/Sprite/ icecream/ peace with varying degrees of success! We had some fun with Kitty Jon, and randomly bumped into a fellow fan from last night’s show, which was nice, and eventually got expensive but delicious sandwiches in a café.

Then it was off to Basel! The journey was beautiful, and unexpectedly, so was Basel!

We fell in love with the place almost instantly. After a few stressy days lugging suitcases, overspending and failing to find any grocery shops, we were rather too excited to see food shops, ramps, clean and unpotholed pavements, and finally feel like we were not going to get run over! We got a bit hyper; I think I ran into the first food shop we found, went straight up to the bread and said ‘it’s so nice to meet you!’ before buying some, and some fruit, and consuming the fruit almost immediately despite intending it for breakfast..! You’d think we’d never seen fruit or bread before! The town was pretty, and the hostel ‘amazeballs’ :P, situated in this courtyard complex of arty little businesses and full of surreal artwork itself. And I really wished I had the time, money and luggage to be able to go shopping, the shops were lovely! We ended the day goofing around in the hostel, dancing, internetting, making terrible puns and literally moonwalking on the ceiling!

On show day #4, we had a wonderful morning cooking and eating our own real food, during which time I think I finally shook off the tears and began to feel whole again, then an afternoon just wandering and seeing the town, eating far too much vegan icecream and taking too many pictures, it was so beautiful!

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We arrived at the venue just in time to find Jon giving an interview for a radio station, and he performed The Most Gorgeous Acoustic Version Of Float Ever Heard! Stunning 🙂 We saw the guys going in and out the venue again and spoke to Tim about their day off in the mountains, to Drew, to Mark Foreman as he and Jan were there – they’re so nice! And to Jon – I thanked him for Float and told him that’s the best acoustic version I’d ever heard. He said he’d not played it like that before, and I told him I really liked it (which was a huge understatement; my JonForemania was going through the roof!).

Eventually they disappeared off inside, and (alas, whilst we were out the room) sound checked Healer Of Souls and Hope Is The Anthem. When I heard them start Healer Of Souls I whooped, jumped and ran to the doorway, and applauded even though I was in another room! It was that great though 😀 And ‘Hope…’ was intensely beautiful; I’d just been talking to a fellow fan about which songs we’d most like to hear and those two songs were our respective picks, so it was very special. And then we got to go in, and they soundchecked Shadow Proves. Wowow; happy shivers. Jon was singing so, so well that day, and they were soloing like crazy and sounding incredible.

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Then it was time for Meet ‘n’ Greet. I was fangirling to Jon after the sound check, and he pulled me up first for a photo! I told him I was trying to rearrange our trains to get to his show as we were meant to be in Belgium that day, and he said ‘if it’s meant to happen it’ll happen.’ I got my ’10th show’ banner out (‘This is my last banner and it’s a special one; I never imagined I’d get to this!’) Tim said ‘Hey it’s Jon’s 10th show too!’ as he was holding it! Drew gave me a hug and asked how I was, I said ‘Much better!’, and he and Tim gave me sweet smiles and I thanked them. I then managed to show Jon my diary, where I had written out my survival strategy after my depressive episode at BCDO; I’d wanted to show him in Paris, but it had been too rushed and I’d felt too fragile. I showed him, and read to him, what I’d written about lyrics as a part of this, and told him that so many of the lyrics that met me in those moments were his, just one of many things he’s done for me, that I had been there in the dark with his songs meeting me and pointing me towards light and hope. He said it was good advice that he too could use… Ohhh..! Oh my heart.

At the end of Meet ‘n’ Greet he drew me this little picture – so random! I just asked him if he would draw me something and with no hesitation whatsoever that is what he drew! I got talking to Romey whilst he drew it so I only saw it afterwards! Romey asked to see it too, and laughed and shook his head when he saw it!

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I asked Romey was he vegan as rumoured, and he told me he wasn’t but was mostly veggie, so I asked how he found Paris as I almost didn’t eat and he laughed and said yeah he had to eat meat, and I told him Basel is amazing and that I’d eaten so much icecream! I also told him that I wasn’t getting much chance to talk to them but wanted to say how incredible they are all playing at the moment (which he laughed off!) and how honoured I am to be on this tour with them playing like this. Then… he asked after M!! (which he opened with ‘are you married?’ :D) I said yeah, he’s hard to miss, he was with me at the last tour (he remembered!!), and at BCDO (he hadn’t noticed him there). What a memory!!

Ah the show… alas the speakers were too far forward from the stage, so despite how incredible the sound check had been, we couldn’t hear the gorgeous vocals at all from the stage, bar what we could hear audibly 😦 It would have sounded much better from the back, but that would have meant not being at the front and getting to interact with the guys as they played. Unfortunately it meant I didn’t catch what Jon said to me as he addressed me a couple of times from the stage, though I know he thanked me for each flag, told the crowd I’d brought them from England, the artwork was beautiful, and mentioned ‘friends from England’.

 

He picked out so many people from the crowd this time, far from just me, it was lovely to see him making moments for people. They played Bull again, and finally played me Healer Of Souls (video here), and then played Vice Verses ‘for Jemima’, who was one of several fans wearing a Vice Verses t-shirt.

 

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There was no aftershow, I think too many people left straight afterwards, but we did get to speak to Jon again as he still came out to hang with us – and whilst we were there I found out from the ‘fam back home that his solo tickets were on sale!! I couldn’t believe I was literally there with him and he hadn’t told me! I told him he was in trouble 😀 but I forgave him immediately when he said he’d only just found out himself. That was funny. 😀 I told him I’d do whatever I could to rearrange plans, and he said again if it’s meant to be it’ll happen… let’s hope…

I booked the tickets when I got back! I ended up buying a whole new set of train tickets but it was clear it was going to be worth the expense to me. We walked back to the hostel via several adorable kitties and could hear crickets singing, and found some fun sculptures. Basel wins!

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Read part 3 here and Part 5 here

2015 – An intense year

DSCN73852015 was a crazy year for me; I’ve never known a year so packed or so intense in my life! There’s been some bad-intense moments, but overwhelmingly more good-intense experiences. I’m left feeling pretty humbled by it all.

Life in general

It began particularly intense for my husband; 3 major deadlines in the first 3 weeks of the year (requiring a lot of all-nighters to finish it all), and culminating in a two week trip away from home to the USA for a conference and visit to his relatives, and a first experience of properly cold temperatures and American snow. And so the year continued from there!

We’ve been away a lot; my work has taken me away from home more than ever before, with 10 trips to London alone for meetings and climate rallies, plus visits to Bradford and Sheffield to lead workshops, a training weekend in Derbyshire, and several festivals. We went to three weddings, and our band managed to meet up eight times for performances and recording sessions, we attended a very geeky reunion weekend for our old university, and visited family in different parts of the country a few times too, during which we were introduced to three new ‘fur baby’ relatives.

And then there were the two holidays of a lifetime; the second, a trip to the incredibly beautiful Isles of Scilly with my family, and the first, following Switchfoot’s European tour and taking time during our travels to visit friends and family in London, Edinburgh, and Freiburg as well as some quality time exploring European cities together. Both adventures have left us with the most precious memories of happy times together. And we’ve seen some incredible wildlife too; cranes, storks, black woodpeckers, sunfish, dolphins, starfish, sea urchins, sea anemones, seals… amazing.

We’ve had a lot of visitors when we have been home; now we live in a nice part of the country a lot more of our friends and family have been keen to visit, and we’ve been busy giving tours of the local sights. There have been a fair few daytrips just as a household too, including some long cycle rides, hikes on the moors, a fossil hunting expedition (in which M actually found a dinosaur bone), a pirate festival, and trips to the beach. I’ve done a lot more sea swimming than usual; it usually takes a lot to get me in the sea but one day in the autumn the sea was so lovely I spent over an hour swimming!

The little time we have had at home, to ourselves, we’ve spent trying to redecorate our whole house, which has obviously not got all that far given how little time we’ve been able to give to the DIY project! But we’ve learnt to put up wallpaper, and crammed in time for a little housewarming party too once we got the worst of the DIY out the way.

So that’s what my life was like on the whole last year; this is how things panned out with my faith, politics, poetry and fandom:

Faith

Two recurring themes of this year in my relationship with God have been grace, and death as part of the resurrection process. This was a really significant year for me as it was the year I could finally celebrate having been ‘alive for half my life’. I’d been thinking about it a lot as the anniversary approached, and these lessons God has been teaching me seemed really fitting; a time to refocus on all I have been given, both in having my life saved in the first place, half my life ago, and all that I have been given since, and then to question what happens next in this process of being reborn, recreated and resurrected.

Grace has impacted me in so many ways in the past year, and I’ve encountered it from so many people as well as supremely from Godself. I’ve posted here already about the profound grace experience I encountered through my meetings with Jon Foreman whilst following Switchfoot on tour last spring, and also about a very different grace experience, which came about as the result of what felt, to me at least, a real epic fail, but which opened me up to a fresh sense of God’s love for me and my absolute dependence on that Love for strength, goodness and second chances. But I’ve also experienced a huge amount of grace from others through my failures, struggles with health and work, and my political activity; my husband has met all of this with forgiveness, love, patience and humour, and my friends, family and colleagues have been so amazingly supportive, offering prayer, sympathy and practical support over and over again, regardless of whether or not they’ve agreed with me. I feel deeply humbled by it all.

The intimate connection between death and resurrection has been on my mind a lot over the year. It began, logically enough, at Easter, as I remembered again how in Christ death itself died to bring life to us all through the resurrection. But I am a Jon Foreman fan; this past year he has seeded my thought life with so many new songs exploring life, death and resurrection, as well as the older songs that had accompanied my musings over Easter. As I spent the year looking back to the day one version of myself died and a new me came alive, and forward to the future, a day-to-day process of learning to die little by little to myself and live more fully the life I was made for to play my part in bringing in the Kingdom of God, it has been extremely powerful to share the journey with these songs. There have been some beautiful contemplative moments, experiencing God close by in still moments in festivals and out in nature. And I’ve seen more answers to prayers, big and small, than I can possibly count, everything from miraculous healings of people we’ve prayed for at church to good weather when I’ve needed it for travels and work. God is good.

Politics

Politically, this past year has been a battle, and it has taken me beyond what I’ve been able to handle – which in itself has meant depending more and more on grace, and sacrificing a little more of myself to allow more life in, but it has also stretched me to breaking point. I spend a lot of time campaigning for social justice and environmental protection, both with two of my ‘jobs’, and in my personal life, but this year has been very tough, with the election, the Paris climate summit, and the fall-out of both to deal with. It has felt like we’ve had to push extremely hard just to hold our ground, and at times it’s felt like things are heading in a backwards direction instead as poverty, inequality and xenophobia have risen, and climate change and nature protection measures have been in most cases cut, just when we need to be becoming more internationally cooperative, working more actively for peace, and pushing hard for real cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and a halt to species losses. So we’ve been working hard. And unfortunately I’ve felt extremely isolated in it all, working alone from home most of the time, and not having a good network of activist friends living nearby to rely on for help and solidarity.

For the positives – I’ve had a few different chances to speak and lead workshops this past year, including taking part in my first panel event on faith and the environment, I went on my first ever pride march, had wonderful encouraging visits to other activist groups, particularly with SPEAK, which reminded me I’m not alone and that good things are happening, and went to some really inspiring events, including Friends of the Earth’s Basecamp training weekend/ minifestival. And since it has been so hard to move things in conventional ways, I’ve turned to non-violent direct action; firstly supporting a fairly low-key prayer rally and banner drop in the Church of England synod meeting calling on the Church to disinvest from fossil fuels for the sake of those we should be showing love towards, and secondly, whitewashing and ‘rebranding’ the Department for Energy and Climate Change to expose the deadly policy changes taking place behind all the government’s talk on climate. And both went about as well as we could have hoped, and have received a lot of support. I just hope they lead to meaningful change…

Poetry

I haven’t written a lot of poetry this past year; however, I have managed to write, and actually finish, four songs, which is pretty amazing for me. It was mainly a year for the music; my band worked hard to release a new Christmas album at the end of the year, so we had a lot of band meetups and recording sessions to get it done. We also performed at two small festivals and two weddings, which was nice. In the process I have begun to learn to sing out loud, performing with a microphone, singing a duet with M, and finally recording a lead vocal! And improbably, despite our disorganisation, we did get the album out on time, and it’s quite fun!

Fandom

Wow this really has been a year of change in my life as a music fan. Although I’d largely given in to the inevitability of becoming a megafan years back, even up to the end of 2014 I was still fighting myself over it to some extent, trying to convince myself that it wasn’t an integral part of me. After spending some time fasting from all things Jon Foreman at the end of the year, it became clear to me that trying to detach myself too far from my fandom was actually unhealthy, and that I was fighting against my own self. I decided that whilst an occasional short ‘fast’ could be a good thing to stop me becoming too obsessed or unhealthily dependent, on the whole it was far better for me to give in to it completely, stop fighting myself and just become all that it can make me. And it has been an incredible ride!

As well as finding out just how much I can be changed for the better through it, I’ve also been learning what it is to really be a fan; that an artist-fan relationship is not the one-way, purely commercial process that I had previously thought it to be, but that it truly is a two-way relationship, that artists need our support in so many ways, including hearing from us personally.

So. I joined a couple of online fan forums to meet fellow fans. I took the chance to follow Switchfoot on tour around Europe back in the spring. I got tickets for five shows, plus all the buses, trains and hostels that involved to make it all possible. And I made some fan art to take along to show the band, a t-shirt and four banners, plus a couple of letters. And it worked out so incredibly, beautifully well! I made some great new friends, had some wonderful times with M and friends, and finally felt I’d made the connection with Jon and the rest of the band that I’d missed making all these years. I’m still even now getting the happiest flashbacks to it all that make my heart skip a beat or two, it’s hard to get my head around. It even spilled over a little to my relationships with other artists; if I’d been a bad fan to Switchfoot in the past I’d been a worse fan to band #2, Delirious. But last year I also finally got a message of appreciation through to the band’s Stu and Stew too, which helped heal some of those old regrets too.

And the intensity of the last year of fandom did not end when I returned home from that tour either; all last year Jon Foreman was releasing a series of EPs collectively called The Wonderlands (and ended the year by giving us a new Switchfoot song, New Year’s Day) – new music that has had, and continues to have, a lifechanging impact. For someone like me, this is more than ‘just music’; a major release like this becomes a significant life event, new songs become friends, lovers, mentors to me, guiding my walk with God and shaping who I am. I won’t go into details on individual songs here, I’ll leave that for a future post, but these songs truly make me who I am.

I was obviously a huge fan already, but by the end of the year my fan-love really was off the scale; he topped everything by celebrating the final release of The Wonderlands by performing 25 shows in 24 hours in a whole series of different weird and wonderful locations around San Diego, featuring each of the 25 songs from the project played at its appropriate hour, and all done to raise money for local disadvantaged kids. I couldn’t be there in person, but I was more than there in spirit; I stayed up the entire 24 hours, watching social media and periscope to catch as much of the event as I could and sending supportive messages and chatting to fellow fans watching from home too. Oh my heart! I don’t think I can exaggerate how beautiful the whole thing was! I’m not sure what I expected but Jon earnt my admiration hundreds of times over that day, not only keeping going but getting better as it went on, showing a lot of kindness to the fans and fellow musicians there, and having a lot of fun with it all too. There were some absolutely classic moments. It has been filmed, and trust me, if the film gets released you really do want to see it! For now, I collected a playlist of as many fan videos as I’ve been able to find.

Wow wow. Where does it go from here?!

 


 

2015 was also the year I:

  • Got a smart phone
  • Got locked out of facebook over changing my name
  • Discovered I like hazelnut lattes
  • Watched a solar eclipse
  • Tried again to join a samba band…
  • Found out how to chop down the tallest tree in the forest with a herring
  • Had my first eye test for 10 years, and found I have the beginnings of long sight
  • Became a music reviewer
  • Got my first henna tattoos
  • Discovered cheesy chart music
  • Enjoyed a stunningly beautiful autumn
  • Saw my work colleagues in a panto
  • Quit 2 jobs
  • Had a deep conversation with a random guy on a megabus journey
  • Gatecrashed a thanksgiving party

It’s been fun! 😀

Autumn

It’s October; my favourite month of the year. There’s so much I love about this time of year, and I felt it all so clearly today. This was my first day back at my work helping with the maintenance of a local nature reserve, so I had the pleasure of being outside in all autumn’s gloriousness all day. The air was crisp for the first time this year, that I’ve noticed anyway, as I cycled down the canal out to the reserve, and for the first time this season I began to wish I’d brought my gloves. The trees glowed with colour, the birds sang, and the air was sweetly scented by cut grass and fallen fruit. Without a cloud in the sky it became a beautiful sunny day, hot for the time of year, and certainly hot for the physical work we were doing, but in the sunshine and blue sky the hedgerows were radiant with colour. The leaves of most trees are still only just turning but here and there one would already be in red or gold, and the hedgerows were jewelled with blackberries, hawthorn berries, sloes, apples, rosehips and guelder rose berries. I think I spent almost as much time foraging wild fruit today as I did working! I cycled home past all manner of flowers having a last go at blooming before the winter, regardless of their ‘proper’ flowering time – buttercups, vetch, mallows, daisies, hogweed, and even the apple tree in my garden! Then a gentle pink sunset setting the trees in the park across my street glowing as a great flock of rooks and jackdaws assembled in the sky above before dropping down into the trees to roost. Such a beautiful day, and such a precious time of year.

I love the autumn. It perplexes summer people, who can never understand how I could like it so much when summer is over and cold, dark winter is on its way, but I love it. Everything is changing and it feels exciting. Autumn is exuberant; summer to me seems monotonous and seems to drag. It feels like everything is holding its breath as the birds stop singing, the grass browns and the flowers fade away, waiting for autumn to come and bring the rain and wake everything up again. Then suddenly it happens, and everything breathes again; the birds begin slowly to sing again, the flowers have one last burst, the grass begins to grow again, everything produces fruit, and flocks of migrating birds appear, preparing to leave or newly arrived.

I have so many more memories of autumn than of any other time of year. I think it’s because my senses seem so much more awake and I feel alive in a new way, so I pay more attention. But it’s always been a significant time of year. It begins for me in mid August as the first signs of change appear in nature and the year seems to wake up. I remember getting excited as a child when the leaves on the trees in the garden first began to turn during the summer holidays, and the chestnut tree dropped its first conker of the year. I looked out for it each year so I could go out to thank the tree for it! Then everywhere I went I’d be picking up tree seeds and planting them to see how many tree species I could get to grow. These days, I’m out foraging blackberries and looking for the first migrating birds, trying to record the date I last spot a swift and watching numbers of wading birds on the estuary increase week by week. September is a month of reunions. There was a lot I disliked about going back to school but I did look forward to seeing everyone again – especially since I went through a couple of hopeless crushes both at school and university! And the geek in me looked forward to the new year’s lessons. It’s also often been marked by reunions of SPEAK friends too, as we’ve held a lovely chilled out skill sharing weekend together. The sea is at its warmest in early autumn, and once the schools have restarted the beaches become so much quieter, so M and I always try and make time for beach days. October gained its place in my heart early on as it was the time of year for fairgrounds, family holidays and harvest parties. Growing up in Nottingham, the legendary Goose Fair was a highlight of my year (now I have moved away I still miss it!), one of the biggest funfairs in the country. It occupies a large city park with enormous numbers of silly rides, a famous vintage carousel, and lots of great fairground food, and we used to make an evening of it every year as a family, leaving with bags of doughnuts and brandy snaps and helium balloons as it grew dark and the lights shone brightly. We often went on holiday together at half term, usually finding a cosy cottage with an open fire somewhere wild. And then harvest parties, my family’s answer to Halloween, where me and my friends would get together to play silly fruit and vegetable related party games, eat a ploughman’s meal with homemade hedgehog-shaped bread, and usually end up playing very silly fantasy games and/or dancing to the funniest song we could find in my parents’ music collection! Fun times 🙂 And then November – bonfire night and fireworks, which these days involves me and my husband cooking far too much campfire food in the garden and seeing what fireworks displays we can spot for free from outside! But there was always a really spectacular display at my first university too, which me and my friends loved going to see. M and I have made it a tradition to go on a pilgrimage to find great displays of autumn leaves in November, when the colours reach their best. And thanks to our various transatlantic connections we’ve also imported the tradition of holding Thanksgiving celebrations – even if not on the day itself! Since it’s my favourite season I like to stretch my definition of it as far as possible to capture all its magic – beginning in mid August, as defined by nature, and ending at the winter solstice, as defined astronomically, therefore taking in the very last of the autumn colour, shortening days and sparkling fairy lights before I finally have to accept winter’s arrival.

Perhaps surprisingly autumn means a time for new starts for me. I’ve three times moved to a new town, and each time it’s been in the autumn. The last move two years ago was a major upheaval, leaving my job commuting to London to move for M’s new job, moving away from most of our friends but to a lovely part of the country and a much more relaxed way of life. M and I first met properly and became friends at this time of year – now somehow 10 years ago! It was November 4 years ago I first saw Switchfoot play live, which was a profoundly life-changing experience, not just because it forever confirmed me as a megafan but also because I came away buzzing with poetic inspiration for the first time. I may still be a very imperfect poet, but it has been so freeing to be able to put words around my feelings sometimes, something I was very rarely able to do before. And although October was already my favourite month, it now has a particularly special meaning to me as every October 24th is another anniversary of the day I first met Jesus, and He saved my life, and effectively brought me to life for the first time; it marks another year of life and grace.

Autumn speaks deeply to me too in many ways I haven’t yet really managed to put words around. It’s one of the most powerful demonstrations of grace that I know of, as nature over-provides, even for those of us who spend the rest of the year fighting her; the most abused and neglected patches of land produce flowers, autumn leaves and tonnes of blackberries. The nights draw in, reminding us that the day is finite and we should make the most of it before hurrying home to warmth. Beauty rises as everything falls; imperfection is never more beautiful than in autumn, as death and decay produce the wonderful colours, scents and exquisite leaf skeletons, bare trees, mushrooms, and eventually new life. All is revealed, and it is incredible.

I could go on. What have I missed? Wild fruit and autumn leaves, colours, scents, golden light, long shadows, the constantly changing feel of the air, the light and the weather, migrating birds, frosts, mists, sparkles, sunsets, fires, pumpkins, tree hugging, fireworks, planting seeds, harvesting food, cold birdwatching trips, kicking leaves, getting the winter woollies out for the first time, real outdoor work, storms… Can you feel it?