Tag Archives: Love

Looking for Europe 16: Norwich – where I belong

November 2nd

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My 15th Switchfoot show in one year, and they’re finishing up at my former university, just five minutes from where I once lived ❤ This is some kind of strange and happy dream ❤

Before the show we had a little bit of time to explore Norwich, and it felt so good to be back ‘home’ I wondered again why I’d ever left. We looked round the ever-amazing market, buying fresh dates as I always have (is it the only place in the country that sells them?!) and delicious vegan wraps from one of the new street food stalls. Then we walked round the town a bit, taking in some of the lanes, the river and cathedral close before heading up to the B&B we were booked in to, and then on to the university.

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UEA was a parallel universe, so familiar and so utterly different! New buildings had popped up so navigating us in felt confusing. Once we found the carpark, memories flooded back; rabbits and buses and field trips and long-lost friends and late night student capers with talking car alarms… We headed onto the campus. It still felt, and smelt, exactly as it had before! We passed the notice board where I received my degree results, the cafe we used to hang out at in breaks, the chaplaincy centre, the square where I’d taken part in so many events and demonstrations. There’s a new fountain in it now. I wonder if anyone puts green bubblebath in it these days?

But it was another students’ union, and yet again we were faced with the same awkward situation of not knowing exactly where to go, made all the more awkward by the fact I in theory ought to know! However, although I could very much tell it was the same building, the whole inside had been completely revamped and nothing was quite how it had been rather too many years ago! We found the interior doors to the LCR without a problem (doors I’d gone through for numerous freshers’ fairs and poster sales!), but they were closed. We hung out there for a while with other lost VIPs, before hearing from our American friends that they were at the exterior door and we were meant to be out there! Oops 😀

We chatted to them whilst we waited to go in about British accents; apparently we sound very like Australians, and literally is literally the most British thing we say! It was very funny! M wasn’t coming to the show, so he brought his ukulele with him so he could hang out and work on songs whilst we were inside, and he played some songs for the VIP queue.

Eventually we were let in, and immediately discovered that the purple-painted LCR still has a sticky floor! I wonder if they’ve cleaned it at all since I left..?

We’d found confetti on the floor of every venue so far. To begin with it seemed UEA would buck that trend, but once we got to the barrier we discovered that there actually was some there on the other side of it. It was as if some other band with a confetti cannon had been touring the same venues a night ahead of us! 😀

For soundcheck Switchfoot played We Are One Tonight! That’s such a last night of tour song; they ended both my previous two tours with that one :’) I rocked out even though there were only about 15 of us there, tearing up. They took requests and decided on playing Thrive next. They were about to start when Jon asked ‘Do we need to test the fancy mic?’ to which one of the crew from the back (Travis?) shouted ‘You’re fancy!’ Jon laughed and said ‘That’s like the most demeaning word isn’t it. Fancy and little… ‘how’s that fancy little job of yours?” It was funny, and Thrive was beautiful and sung with a lot of feeling.

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Then it was Meet&Greet time. Tim asked me if I’d been bodyboarding! I laughed and replied there aren’t that many good waves in Norwich! 😀 Drew thanked me for sharing my story the previous day (he is so sweet and sensitive, always remembering the personal details) and the poster, and I said to him, Tim and Romey that they’d been such a big part of my journey the past 18 years, and that that’s a whole lot of inspiration over the years, and they really mean a lot to me. Then I told them this is my old university, and my favourite place I ever lived, and asked if they’d seen the city. Drew had, and the brothers had walked round the campus and said they loved the forest. Drew asked had I seen a lot of bands in this room? I said actually only one, and it was my second favourite band, Delirious? They told me Tim Jupp had been at the show last night, which was pretty cool! I told them I miss them, I used to see them a couple of times a year but I only ever waited for them to come to me, but I realised I had to make more of an effort for Switchfoot! I told them I was gutted I never saw them play together, I don’t know what I was playing at!

Some group photos were done, and I brought out the comedy chins for the last one! Each of us had already picked one (mine had a beard), and I asked each of them to pick one from the remaining stack.  They thought it was hilarious! After the group photo they swapped chins and did their own photo with them on, they looked absolutely brilliant :D! Tim said afterwards ‘Thanks, that was one of the funniest pranks of the tour!’ I asked him would he prefer to keep them or for me to take them, not wanting to presume either way, and he thought for a moment and decided on keeping them, so I gave him the box! Drew at the end said ‘Thanks for this; thanks for everything’. Tim said ‘We’ll see you next time.’ I replied ‘I’ve been very blessed to be able to do this, and I have no idea if I will ever have the chance again; I will if I possibly can but I never know’ and he said ‘Yeah, none of us know what the future holds, but it’s in God’s hands.’ ❤

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A very small queue had formed outside when we got back out, and it didn’t grow too much whilst we waited either. When we got in there was no rush, so I went Drew’s side of centre on the barrier. Even at the front we ended up with enough space to pile bags up next to us instead of having to keep them on our feet, penguin style, as usual!

Tonight Alvarez Kings played their intro song twice as they didn’t come on right away, and their mic was off for the very start of their set, but thankfully that was sorted promptly and they played a very energetic set, sweating! They were great but I couldn’t help noticing some fellow Switchfoot fans talking disparagingly about them, even during their performance, which I just found rude.

I was worried about that crowd; it seemed disappointingly small with the venue maybe only about half capacity, and I wasn’t sure they were that switched on either, with lots of drinking and chatting going on. It could be a difficult one… :/ Josh got loud cheers for testing the guitars during set up – was that a good or bad sign..? I couldn’t tell. A guy we’d met the previous night had a sidestage ticket tonight and he started leading the crowd! As it got towards the start of the show, everyone began chanting and clapping… What will Switchfoot make of this one?

The lights went down and there was much whooping. Then they came on to different intro track – the Needle intro from the Hello Hurricane tour featuring the voice of a child reading the song’s lyrics! Wow. I’d never heard that in person before! Switchfoot were full on right from the start, and caught that crowd up into their energy. It felt very meaningful to sing ‘It’s no accident we’re here tonight, we are once in a lifetime’ in that place, at the end of this amazing tour.

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Again they went into Stars next, and it was already pretty hot! No-one had pushed forward to join us on the barrier, and I found I had so much space in the sparse crowd I didn’t have to keep hold of the barrier at all so I just stepped back and rocked out! That was quite a novel experience!

They followed Stars with Dark Horses, this time with extra screaming! By this point I was enjoying having that extra space. Jon introduced the crew and hugged Josh, and then got Ryan’s name wrong, which was amusing.

 

Drew played a rich melodic solo during YLIAS tonight, and Jon’s harmonica playing was epic and seamlessly blended into a scream from Drew’s guitar. And oh those vocals..!

Bull and LAIWTF came next, and Jon disappeared off into the crowd, clearly connecting with a lot of people. I remember seeing Delirious? playing here, and Martin Smith popping up at the back there at one point, so it was extremely special seeing Jon now over where he had performed.

 

Back on stage, they brought the energy back down a little, playing IWLYG. I got a video of it tonight, which you can see here. I sang it back to them as a way of stating that I was sticking with them for the journey ahead.

Then Jon introduced House Burns, telling us he’d had ‘an authentic college experience, spilling some books in the hallway, burning the roof of my mouth on a slice of pizza (not that it affected his singing one jot! I was really into that voice tonight) and going for a walk in the woods’. He said the venue reminded him of his old college pub, and told us the story of how Chad had once been caught climbing on the glass roof there to watch a show inside! He dedicated the song to firefighters again. There was lots of windmilling tonight with the four guitars up front!

Then Jon told us he wanted to play a song they’d not played yet on this tour and wanted to bring Norwich something special; they played Mess Of Me, and woah! That yelling! I was rocking out completely; had we been more closely packed in and I’d been doing what I was doing it would definitely have been moshing, but here I had the space to go for it without jumping on anyone else – though I did fall over a couple of times! 😀 This show was getting very sweaty! I absolutely loved Jon’s solo where he sings and mirrors his singing on the guitar, it’s very creative and he does it so well.

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After that Jon said to us ‘Growing up, so many of our favourite bands were from this part of the world, so we’ve been playing a song on each stage of this tour from each city we’ve visited – but Norwich… we really put google to the test and came up with about 5 bands that came from Norwich, which didn’t leave us much choice! I think we can probably all agree that Led Zep is probably better than any of the 5 bands from Norwich!’ This got some cheers! And they played Ramble On again.

What. A. Voice. Oh my gosh..! 🙂

Then the ‘fancy mic’ came out again for Hello Hurricane; to begin with, Chad started a little too far away so Tim shifted him inwards whilst they played, and Jon accidentally hit Tim at one point, bringing some amused smiles! 😀

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And then Where I Belong. Once again I got my banner out, Jon asked for it, I threw it and he held it up before wearing it. Nothing new in one sense, but this time it took on so much meaning; not only the song, but here in this Switchfoot family, and here in Norwich, a place I’ve somehow always had a soul connection to. It all brought on the tears properly that had been prickling the back of my eyes since I arrived. In that moment, I was where I belong, and I soaked up every second. Forever, now.

Meant To Live blew me away, again feeling overwhelmed that there is more than this.

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Jon was still in awesome voice for the encore, adding an interlude where he got the band to play ‘a little bit softer now’, then ‘a little bit louder now’.

He began playing Live It Well, and then got Alvarez Kings up on stage to finish singing it along with them. They were so stoked! At the end, Simon picked Jon up and carried him round the stage; the drummer ruffled his hair, and there were lots of bear hugs and smiles between them!

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Finally, Dare You To Move. I got out the ‘Thank you Jon, you inspire me’ banner, and he repeated it back to us saying we inspire him; he has no idea how much I mean that though! He decided it felt right to go into the crowd with the mic stand and guitar to play it, right in the centre of the crowd. Tears, tears. Although he came back through the crowd a way from where I was, I went through the crowd to help him up as there weren’t enough people there to lift him. Today never happened before! :’) After the show ended I couldn’t move, still in tears; I just wanted to stay in it.

Eventually I faced up to it, and packed my things. I bought some merch and met up with M, somehow sneakily inside the venue! Drew was by the side of the stage signing stuff and thanking us, so I got my setlist signed and said thank yous and goodbyes. I told him this place was so full of happy memories for me already, but this was the best thing that ever happened here. Regardless of my doubts about that crowd, it had been an incredible show, and had felt really, really good.

We left.

A small group of us hung out by the bus in the increasing cold for about two hours, waiting to see if there might be an aftershow, and then at least just to say goodbye.

M fulfilled another long-held ambition by ‘hijacking the aftershow’, giving us an aftershow of his own by playing the uke and percussion jamming on his water bottle and cookie box!

Drew eventually came out again. Jude got to show him a letter she’d written and have a good chat with him, and I managed to say thanks and goodbye again; he said ‘See you next time’, and again I said ‘If I possibly can, I will’.

We waited some more and eventually Jon came out to the bus. He came over and gave me a high five. He said hi to everyone he knew then saw M and asked his name. I introduced him as my husband, and he said it was great seeing him at a few of his shows and said he always remembers the tall people, and thanks for the cookies! M said afterwards that Jon had spotted him in the crowd in Birmingham and pointed and smiled 🙂 Jon signed stuff for some of the others, and I thanked him. One of my American friends asked him about 25in24 and whether he had any plans for new solo material. He told us a bit about the movie (I told him I stayed up to watch the whole thing, and really loved being a part of it even via the internet!) And he said he still has about 20 Wonderlands songs saved, including some of his favourite songs he wrote for his daughter. He was so honoured we liked his music! But eventually we had to say goodbye and safe travels, and he got into the bus and was gone.

There were no tears till he’d gone. The taxi arrived almost immediately for the Americans, and we said goodbye, and then there were lots of tears. This is so, so hard!!

We eventually headed back to the B&B we were staying at. As we walked back across the campus, the rabbits were out in force just as they had been on many a late night back in my days there, and we passed the site of my old hall.

So many tears. But wow what a way to end!

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Looking for Europe 14: London – loud love

October 31st

Now things were really starting to get disorientating. Where were we, exactly..? We’d been at a show in Manchester the night before, slept in Birmingham, and were now going to London before coming back to Birmingham but sleeping in Nuneaton… oh help!

Even if we barely knew which city we were in, or to be honest, who we were, we somehow got ourselves out and onto the train, headed in the right direction, and with breakfast successfully obtained. I was so tired; the first thing I saw on exiting the train was a branch of AMT Coffee, and I beelined straight to it!

We hung out, recaffeinating, for a while until I heard from M that he had also arrived in London, and we headed off to meet up with him. He was already at the agreed meeting point when we arrived, and predictably had found the most awesome busker, possibly the coolest looking guy I’ve ever seen playing complex and rhythmic Spanish guitar. We stayed and watched him for a bit, and then went in search of lunch (to M’s favourite falafel shop, which he had find memories of from his time working in London!).

Gradually I began to feel a little more human! We headed to the hostel and checked in, and all of us crashed out. It took some effort to shake us awake enough to head back out again, but we did eventually drag ourselves and each other off to the venue.

Cold air, friends and pre-Switchfoot excitement did me good! We hung out with the US fans in the VIP queue, and before too long my own bandmates showed up too! They were not doing VIP, so M went and waited with them.

Drew’s daughter checked us in today! She had her work cut out, as this was by far the biggest VIP event I’ve been to (there were around 40 of us, which I appreciate is not large by many standards, but for Switchfoot in Europe that is a lot!).

This was an actual large venue, with a second tier of seating and very ornately decorated, the first time I’d seen Switchfoot play at such a venue since my first show back in 2011. Everything since has either been clubs of varying degrees of smallness, or large festivals, and since I loved the small and intimate shows so much I was unsure what this one would be like, and if it would feel as special with a bigger crowd…

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Once we were all in, Switchfoot kicked off the soundcheck with Afterlife (Drew – wow!! Such incredible guitar noise!) and then on request played Vice Verses (Jon – wow! But he always sounds sublime singing this one :D)

Then there was a more usual round of ‘Questions, comments and concerns?’: I asked why they often play rare songs at soundcheck even before anyone else has arrived and there is no audience. Jon said ‘Why do you climb a mountain – because it’s there’. I do wish they’d bring more of the back catalogue out in public though, especially if they still enjoy playing these songs.

I had meant to do a funny Meet&Greet photo for Halloween with us all looking scared, but with a lot on my mind I forgot. However Jude did it and she’d had an even better idea, to get Drew to do his scary joker face and have everyone else reacting! It creased me up to see that unreal face in person! 😀 But I did remember to hand over a box of pumpkin cookies from M, fulfilling a long-held ambition (they asked his name, said to say hi and that they’ll look for him in the crowd), and to ask a prayer request on behalf of a member of the ‘fam who had asked.

After a short wait back outside, the doors opened, and that large venue got pretty full, which was great to see. 🙂

Alvarez Kings were really stoked tonight! In the opener they yelled ‘London!’ And they played a great solo too. Simon the lead singer was performing a lot more with his hands, and putting in a lot more expression. He made several funny comments too: ‘I’m out of shape… stages are big!… taught Switchfoot some Yorkshire lingo… dodgy chicken..’ 😀 The drummer had his tongue out a lot! I got some eye contact from the bassist tonight, and was the human mic stand again, again I knew before they even started their set so I think Simon must give out telepathic vibes or something! 😀 The sound was noticeably a lot better tonight and I managed to pick up a lot more of the lyrics; thinking the last thing these guys needed was to be playing to a bunch of disinterested Switchfoot fans on the front row night after night I had made an effort to pick up enough to sing along and engage with the songs right from the start, but I felt like I was really getting to know these songs now.

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Then two more firsts for me; the venue gave out cups of water to us all, and there was a big display screen behind the stage, so we got all Switchfoot’s backing vids tonight (they’d used some in Basel, but they used them all the way through tonight)!

They once more opened with the full electric Hello Hurricane and got the crowd going, singing along and jumping. The crowd’s energy tonight was fantastic where we were!

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During Stars Jon paused, smiling, to survey the crowd in a way I’ve seen many times previously, but hadn’t seen yet this tour. It felt good already. 🙂

Stars led straight into a vid of John M Perkins on the screen, introducing The Sound; it was an INSANE performance!! Woah!! I let go and danced like a crazy thing, it was so much fun to rock out to!

Introducing YLIAS from there, Jon said ‘There’s a theme to tonight’s setlist. I believe in a love that’s louder than hatred, louder than racism, that all our wrong notes in this symphony of life will be made right by the Composer Himself.’

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Then he jumped into the crowd for Bull and LAIWTF, dedicating it to Chad as apparently this is yet another place he used to live! Jon wove his way through the crowd and worked us all from the back as though it were no different from any other venue I’d seen him play; even that large, two-tier crowd seemed just as engaged with his performance. Back up on stage, there were smiles and hugs between the guys and the crew. 🙂

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Beginning IWLYG, there was a funny moment when Drew made an accidental guitar noise somehow. 😀 Jon told us tonight feels ‘like family, church, community…’, and I had to agree.

They played House Burns*, and then at the end of the song Romey disappeared… and reappeared on the drums with Chad! They played The Clash’s London Calling! Jon was all hair, definitely getting into his punk side! 😀

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Dark Horses followed, then… Jon fetched a ukulele that he had been given at Meet&Greet!! :O Jude had requested The Edge Of The Earth a few days ago, and he had given a particular look in response like he was thinking about it… but this..! He said being given the uke he took as a sign since we’re a long way from the islands and it doesn’t happen often; he wanted to play one of his favourite songs that they’ve never played before as they wanted to bring something special out for London… and they actually played it!! I was pretty teary and trembling! That EP is up there with my favourite albums. I know many fans who have seen them many, many times and never heard them play a single song off it, but this is now the third time I’ve seen one of these precious songs performed. It was so special! They started all gathered around the ‘fancy mic’ then returned to their positions for a truly epic ending. Wow. :’)

I filmed it, and you can watch it here; the camera visibly gets the shakes over that ending, and I turned the camera round at one point and captured the pure joy on my face, which is absolutely genuine.

It took a little longer to get there this time, but by the time they were closing out with Where I Belong and Meant To Live the energy was so high I was back near Bristol heights of ecstasy, yelling and shaking and rocking out in absolute bliss… Singing ‘We want more than this world’s got to offer’ when the world can be so very good felt almost greedy. It was a mind bending reminder of God’s goodness, that God does indeed offer much more than even this.

They again played Float as an encore, and despite the prominent ‘No Crowd Surfing’ posters everywhere Jon did indeed Float (over me, I’m pleased to report that I did not drop him!).

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There was an interlude with Jon talking about s’mores whilst introducing Live It Well, and he got his old friend JJ up on stage for a shoutout to thank him for all he’d done to support them right from the start. This I was very happy about, as it was this same JJ who had made Jon’s solo show happen back in June, and that had been extremely important to me, so I appreciated being able to thank him too.

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And then they finished once again with Dare You To Move – but ohhhh it was so nice tonight! Jon got the crowd lighting the stage with their phone lights. It was as pretty in real life as the pictures I’d seen! A magical way to end another stunning show. 🙂

And then what happened?! Everything seemed ripe for a second encore but the crowd stopped! I stayed at the barrier, partly speechless, partly fangirling with other fans, and partly waiting for Josh to throw me back my flag, which this time had ended up backstage. When I eventually got my things together to leave I found one of Drew’s guitar picks underneath.

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Afterwards was funny; I met up with M and our friends and we were hanging out, and refreshing twitter, then suddenly everyone went round the side of the venue to the stage door. We didn’t know why for a while as there had been no tweet, but it turned out it was the venue staff wanting us out the street so we didn’t make a noise. It was funny as all of us were so hyped up that every time anyone went in or out there was a cry of ‘Wooo!!!’ ‘*shhhh!!!*’. And I met more cool SwitchFam! We had to keep letting cars and bikes through the barrier we were standing against, and soon had a sort of human gate system going! 😀

Eventually there was a tweet!! Jon came out a little while after, and wanted to take us somewhere else but the venue staff really wanted us to stay round the side of the venue where we were. So he got up on a wall, and I lost my vantage point 😀 He had just started playing Caroline when the Alvarez Kings’ bus needed to get out and we all had to move once again! 😀 Then no sooner had he started a second time there was a loud siren in the street..! It was fairly silly! But he played, and we sang. There had been a lot of singing from the crowd tonight. He played 24 and Your Love Is Strong, and our friend was pleased he played 24, a favourite of his, at his first aftershow. It was so lovely seeing M and Jon both singing together! 🙂 And then he was gone, and we headed back to get some sleep.

So it seems a large crowd can actually love even louder. That was easily one of the best ever concerts of my life. I had no idea music could feel like this :’)

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*Yes I was finding far too much entertainment in this silly saga but for the sake of completeness, and letting you know what actually goes through my strange mind during concerts… well, Jon did come over to me at the right point in the song tonight, but I wonder if I lost my ‘spark’ since I hadn’t been paying attention the night before when he did it! There was brief eye contact this time but he didn’t sing ‘to me’ 😀

Looking for Europe 13: Manchester – finding warmth on a cold day

October 30th

After a much-needed lie-in we eventually headed into Manchester and met up with SwitchFam friends from France and the USA for a late lunch and cocktails (‘Well it’s 5pm somewhere right?!’)!

It was not a particularly warm day, and though we were thankful it wasn’t giving us typical Manchester rain, we were so cold lining up for the VIP event! When we got let in I had on my very sensible, grownup, fox shaped mittens; they said hi so I waved to them wearing them, and when they noticed the silly foxes they laughed! Drew did a double, and triple, take! When they saw the American ‘fam were here they were amazed, especially seeing a hometown fan here, who got a joyful ‘What are you doing here?!’

The guys asked what they should play and the US fans all yelled ‘Awakening!’ There was a general agreement, so they went for it! Jon said it was quite a high one for ‘this time in the morning’ as it was for him back home. But they did it and it was awesome! I just rocked out 🙂 You can watch it here.

Then as a little boy was there, Jon asked what his favourite song was; it was Looking For America so he said the boy would have to do Lecrae’s part 🙂 Chad suggested playing Hope Is The Anthem, which went down extremely well with everyone, and they played with so much passion. Again, I filmed it so you can watch it here. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter how small the crowd is.

At Meet&Greet they asked me what we’d done the previous day. I told them about the ferry journey, and that I thought it was great but it wasn’t so for Jude (Chad kept apologising to her, as if it was his fault!!). I told them how I was up on deck watching the sky and the dolphins and how spectacular it was, and all the seaspray, and that I came away knowing how it feels to be a salted peanut! I got a hug from each of them.

I asked them to sign my setlist from Bristol; I said I don’t normally like asking them to sign lots of stuff but I felt they should put their names to this as they should be proud of it, it was so incredible and the best I’d ever seen them. Jon agreed it was special; he highlighted Teardrop as he spoke and said maybe they should release a cover of it, and I told him it was stunning, and they played it so well. Then I asked him if he had read his card; he said yes he had got it out the other night and gone through it and ‘unpacked it all’, he was really touched by it. I also passed on a request from one of the card’s contributors to play in her country and he said yes they’d love to.

Then I filmed Jude’s meeting for her; Chad saw me and photobombed it to say ‘Helloooo’ in a silly voice 😀

Then we headed back out to line up in the cold. We had some good chats to other chilly VIPs, it was great.

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The venue was a large club, with a black interior and a balcony running round that unfortunately was closed for this event. They were very strict about what you could take in, which was a bit annoying, especially for friends who wanted to use decent cameras. But with or without our bags we all made it in eventually.

The Alvarez Kings were back to their pranks tonight; in the process of stealing the drummer’s stick the singer again knocked the cymbals over, but less disastrously than in Dublin! Their drummer is amazing; he has such a loose style, twirling the sticks as he plays, and singing along with his eyes closed and a big smile, looking like he’s having the time of his life. We could hear more of the guitar tonight, and they put a solo on Somewhere Between.

Switchfoot opened with the full electric version of Hello Hurricane again, which got everyone jumping!

As on previous nights they followed up with Stars, Jon making eye contact but not for ‘partly cloudy’! Then he departed from the setlist to play Needle, before going into YLIAS and LAIWTF.

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Then they played IWLYG; Jon spotted a little girl in the crowd with ear protectors on, sat on her dad’s shoulders. He went over to her and asked if she was having a good time. He said to all of us he often gets asked how to write songs and that he has found it difficult to answer, but that he has figured it out now; ‘start in the darkness, and search for the light’. Going back to the child, he said this song feels like a father holding his daughter; ‘I look at you and have to try not to cry’, at which the whole crowd said ‘Awww!!!’ :’)

Next, Jon started Dark Horses with the slow, acoustic version of the chorus, before going into the usual rocked out version. It feels very moody, and was really awesome to see played this way.

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Then he went into the crowd for Bull, saying ‘Can we get the party started?’.

Back on stage, they started playing House Burns, and Jon started singing too late and caused a timing error, though he recovered it quickly, and the others were not thrown by it. Such professionals.

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Then they played 24 round the fancy mic!! Jon told the story about the skateboard incident and how he wrote it realising he wanted all the broken pieces of his soul to be whole. It was acoustic right to the very end when the others drifted back into their positions and seamlessly brought in the full band, gorgeous.

Then they played us one of their favourite covers, The Verve’s Lucky Man, for Manchester. I’ve seen them cover this one a few times on other fans’ videos, but never in person. Their version really does sound fantastic. I decided I’m a lucky fan! 🙂

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Again they ended on Where I Belong, Jon again wearing my banner, and then Meant To Live, and woah did they rock hard!!

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As Float began for the encore Jon came back on stage with a mouthful of water, and spat it out into the air like a fountain, which made us laugh! Tonight the disco ball was working, just a little slowly, but Jon crowd surfed and successfully floated this time!

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He got everyone swaying for Live It Well before finishing with a heartfelt Dare You To Move.

Afterwards we headed back out into the cold. There were doubts about an aftershow happening, but I was going nowhere, having done what I always tell others never to do the other night by leaving a show straight away when he tweeted that there wouldn’t be one. I at least wanted to see them again.

But I got the tweet; he retweeted another fan asking, to say ‘So, aftershow?’ 🙂 🙂 🙂 He got a whole lot of YES!! in response! I chatted to another friend who I’d met at a previous show. She had to get a taxi back to her friend’s house and was worried she’d miss it as he was late out (almost 12, having said 11:45!) But thankfully she caught the first couple of songs before having to dash.

He played right outside the venue just to the side of the bus to allow the other guys to get back on in peace (though Jude caught them!), and played Caroline, part of On Fire, Before Our Time (‘Whistle solo..? Anyone..? No..?!’ Clearly the London secret whistle chorus had not infiltrated this show!) and Inheritance, for a couple expecting a baby. He asked before he played it ‘Does anyone remember payphones?’ (‘There’s one right there!’) He told us how he used to have to get up at 3am on tour to call his wife, but that she had a huge family, so he’d spend forever dialling in the long code, mistyping etc, only to find the phone was engaged, again! 😦 🙂

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Afterwards he came back to the bus past me. People were just thanking him and he was shaking hands and just saying ‘Thanks, goodnight!’ to everyone. I thanked him too, and he turned to me and just said sweetly ‘See ya Helen’ before carrying on :’) I felt like he’s been so warm towards me today :’) I guess it means a lot to know the appreciation is getting through.

Then we had a lonnng drive on to Birmingham for the night, listening to Fiction Family Reunion in the car, accompanied inappropriately by comedy sound effects from Jude’s satnav!

It was a lot later than it felt as I was full of fan-love…

Looking for Europe 12: Belfast – embracing the chaos

October 28th

Today may have started with two of the worst cups of tea I have ever consumed, but it certainly improved from there!

Although we were not looking forward to taking a rail replacement bus over to Belfast the journey was actually pretty good, and we saw lots of autumn colours on the way there. Belfast itself was a surprisingly beautiful city. I realised as soon as I saw it that I had no mental picture of how it would be, but it still surprised me with its art and architecture.

The hostel was just a short walk from the venue and the VIP event wasn’t due to start until 5 so we had plenty of time to chill out. We took our time getting ready for the show and playing Switchfoot, but eventually the pre-show angst began to get to me, and I decided I needed to take a bit of a break from Switchfoot until the show before it got too much, so I went out for a walk along the river, grabbing a silly photo of our mascot KittyJon with a striking statue before rushing back to the show.

When we arrived at venue we could already hear them soundchecking Lonely Nation! We stood and listened through the door. This time we didn’t have long to wait before they let us in.

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We wanted to hear Lonely Nation so much that they agreed to play it again for us inside,  after a lot of jamming. Jon’s yells right from the start were really overwhelming, especially to such a tiny audience!! I was almost knocked off my feet 🙂 They took more requests, and were going to play Afterlife, but something happened and they changed the plan to do Meet&Greet straight away. And then our friend from Dublin arrived, having made the snap decision to come up to Belfast for a second show!!

Jon came over as they were setting up and I told him his yelling was awesome! I was so tonguetied! He said he liked my t-shirt (Fiction Family) and I said ‘I like your band!’, which made him laugh. Chad came over and told us that following them on tour means a lot to them; he thanked us and said it was special arriving in a place they’ve never been before and seeing familiar faces.

During the Meet&Greet Jon was chatting to another fan, saying the transitions between songs were as important to them as the songs themselves so they put a lot of thought into the structure of the setlist so it flows with some rise and fall. Romey gave me a hug. It was a rather confusing VIP event this time as there was a lot of stopping and starting, the guys kept coming over and hanging out, and we were never quite sure where we were meant to be!

However we got our photos; Jude was plotting something again! After we got my picture Tim again thanked me for following the tour. Jon had disappeared but I told the rest of them they’d been my top band since about 2001 and it had taken me over a decade to see them first, and then I had thought ‘what am I playing at, I need to make the most of this’, so I was making up for lost time. I got to tell them I took up bodyboarding this summer too. I was a bit embarrassed to tell that to pro surfers as I’ve really no clue what I’m doing, just got really into it, and I told them that. Tim said ‘That’s awesome, my wife loves it too, keep it up!’

Jude’s picture was indeed funny; she had found some guitar-shaped comedy sunglasses for Drew and he looked hilarious in them! Then she got me in the next picture with Switchfoot temporary tattoos on. Drew asked me should he take the shades off, and just looking at him creased me up so I said ‘No keep them on – for the show! They suit you!’ 😀 He looked so perfect! 😀 And then Jon told me I’d been in the picture the day before in my absence!! Jude showed me later – she had printed out an embarrassing picture of me wet from the sea and had it in the photo! Oh dear 😀

Then Jude got permission from Chico to go in the pit with a photographer’s pass; she was so stoked!! It was still confusing where we were meant to be as the event sort of just drifted seamlessly into the gig set up and no-one showed us out. But eventually we went out to queue and fangirled outside the venue, and we were joined by someone from inside the venue who had seen Jon and rather liked the look of him, which was pretty funny!

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The venue was a brick built club, larger than Dublin’s and plastered in band posters. And it was cold again; I had to keep my scarf on until Switchfoot started. I got a front row spot again, this time in front of Drew.

The Alvarez Kings were delayed coming on; it turned out that there was a lift between the green room and stage, and they had got stuck in it! But the rest of the set was much looser and smoother, with no pranks or mishaps this time, and they looked really pro. I had the feeling even before they started that I was going to be the No Resolve mic stand tonight, and I was correct!

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Switchfoot opened with Afterlife, the request from soundcheck that wasn’t played, which was a nice touch. They sounded amazing!

Tonight I admit I put far too much attention into testing my theory that Jon has certain lines from certain songs he always finds me in the crowd to sing to – and yes, as predicted, when they sang Stars I was ‘partly cloudy’ once again!

They then played Oh! Gravity again. I love how much they have been playing this one! To begin with Jon was having some trouble with vocal effects on the pedal but it nonetheless sounded as epic as ever, and they rocked!

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Then they played YLIAS, and then Bull and LAIWTF, for which Jon was in crowd, coming up by me during LAIWTF, and I lifted him back up to the barrier. I just love watching him interact with people whilst singing in the crowd!

They played Needle (And Haystack Life) for the first time of the tour; that’s the song I’d previously noticed Jon singing a particular line to me in so I was keen to see if he’d stick with it – but no, he didn’t tell me not to let go 😀 Maybe he has a new target 😀 This one really got the crowd singing. Drew was all hair tonight, really going for it!

Although it wasn’t on the setlist, Jon decided to go into Only Hope, saying it felt right. Again he omitted the second verse.

And then he introduced IWLYG: ‘There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world. I look at twitter, I get depressed. I look at the news, I get depressed. There are a lot of reasons to give up; but I realised a while back it’s always going to be this way. I want to be aware of what’s going on, but I also want to be aware of the transcendent love of the Maker Himself. When I write songs I want to acknowledge the darkness in the world and within, but I don’t want to let that be the end of the story.’ This was a new perspective on this song; perhaps it is a bit political and not just personal? None of this (world) is in your control. It’s an amazing song even just taken as a song about God’s love for us, but this gives it a new layer of meaning. As they played, the guys all had their eyes closed, as if each were playing to an audience of one.

Suddenly the last thing anyone expected happens: Jon decides to embrace the chaos, asking ‘Any questions, comments or concerns?’ in the middle of the show, and it goes weird! It went something like this:

Person in crowd – ‘What’s your favourite colour?!’ Jon – ‘The blue of the Pacific, or Atlantic (crowd – ‘wooo!!’), ocean!’

Another person in the crowd – ‘When’s the next album out?’ Jude – ‘Soon!’ Jon – ‘Ahhhh… Soon!!’

Person 3 – ‘Wanna come to my house for dinner?!’ Jon – ‘What’s cooking?’ Person 3 – ‘Whatever you want, your choice!’ Jon – ‘Some sort of really traditional Irish meal??’  Person 3 – ‘Then you’ve got stew! We’re going surfing tomorrow too.’ Jon – ‘Got spare boards? More importantly got spare wetsuits..?!’ Me – ‘It’s warm!!’ Person 3’s friend – ‘Got 1 year olds too!’ Jon – ‘What else you got?!’ Jude – ‘Chocolate!!’ 😀 So much hilarity! ‘Questions, comments or concerns?’ is a tongue-in-cheek question he frequently asks at sound checks and aftershows, but I cannot believe he did that in the middle of the show, especially right after IWLYG 😀

Somehow he managed to bring it back and play Hello Hurricane around the fancy mic! He said ‘We’re family; we’re going to get stew and surfboards and 1 year olds and chocolate…’ 😀

They again played the Thin Lizzy cover they’d had so much fun playing the previous night, the gleeful grins on their faces were infectious and we could tell they were having a blast.

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Then I got my last chance to test my song line theory, as they played House Burns – and yup, same line again! Jon wasn’t even my side of the stage, but shot over to me at that line. It’s just a little weird!

As with previous evenings they closed out the main part of the show with Where I Belong and Meant To Live. And they stuck to the same encore routine, except that when it came to Float the disco ball was broken and chugged round super slowly, causing a lot of amusement! Live It Well Jon again invited us to imagine we’re at a California campfire, and he said to ‘person 3’ ‘You’re bringing the stew!’ There were lots of smiles, and they were really grooving with it.

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Then they finished with Dare You To Move. Suddenly poignant, Jon said ‘I never know how many more times I will be able to do this; I live each day like it’s my last. Thank you for a beautiful last night in Belfast.’ 😥 Lump in throat. Cannot even go there. He began the song with a yell and Tim filled in with lots of bass. And then it was over, Josh once again returning me my banner.

There was no aftershow; a halloween party was coming in and it was raining so we went away eventually and got chips. My fan love was going crazy. Jon is full of miracles. 🙂


October 29th

The next morning I realised I had made a crucial error: I forgot to air the Where I Belong banner. Oops. I could see the sweat on it last night!! 😛 😀

I couldn’t believe we were half way through! At the same time, tour life had begun to feel like normal life. Perhaps I could live like this..? A voice in the back of my head reminded me that that would be pure escapism however; I do this to keep me fuelled and inspired for facing the real world with all its trouble and pain and injustice. It would be a lie to run away…

Today was purely a travel day; we had a chilled morning, getting up late and having a good breakfast in a cafe together with our Dublin friend, including a decent cup of tea! We went to the station, taking pictures of the venue as we passed…

But then chaos descended again. We arrived at the station to find that the bus we had booked on helpfully did not exist. The next one was going to be later and only arrive at 1:30, which was the last check in for the ferry, and it wouldn’t go to the terminal. I sent out another emergency prayer request!! We almost got put in a taxi, but that too fell through. So, we got on the bus, and prayed.

Embrace the chaos. None of this is in your control…

We arrived back in Dublin just after 1pm and got straight into a taxi, arriving at the ferry terminal just before 1:30… and ha, no way, the ferry was 30 minutes later than I thought, and we were well on time!! 😀 Suddenly all the stress dissolved into hilarity and thankfulness! Oh my gosh 😀 Oh well 😀

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The ferry journey was fab for me, less so for Jude! She got sick, but I spent the voyage up on deck. It was a fast ship and woahhh when it got going was it fast!! It almost literally blew me away! 😀 I found myself stuck fast to the railing with all my layers on, and a big grin on my face, wind beating against me, spray lashing, and the boat pitching! The spray threw up rainbows as we powered along and dissolved Ireland into ‘salt hazy pearls’ to quote one of M’s songs, and the sky was beautifully dramatic with a sunbeam-filled sunset as we arrived back in Wales. I saw a pod of common dolphins race past, leaping out of the water, and also guillemots and a shearwater. It was incredible! We got back to land with me saltcrusted, frozen to the bone, and totally stoked 😀

After a long drive featuring much singing along to Switchfoot, we arrived back at Jude’s for a chilled evening, sleeeep, and a fairly relaxed morning at home before setting out again for more adventures.

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Looking for Europe 10: Bristol – cloud 99

October 26th

I may have questioned my own sanity at 6:30am that morning but Switchfoot well and truly proved to me once and for all that they were worth travelling for.

Despite delayed trains I successfully made it to Bristol ok, met Jude, and obtained super hot burritos for lunch (Mission accomplished)! We found the venue, and as in Glasgow it turned out to be a litle confusing again inside trying to find the correct room in an open students’ union building. The guys had posted an earlier Meet&Greet time than their original email, but we took this with a pinch of salt, knowing how Switchfoot time tends to operate; they actually overran by 1.5hrs! 😀

We hung out for ages with the other VIPs, chatting, during which time I spotted a tour poster on one of the notice boards, and one of the others claimed it to get signed as a souvenir! Although it ended up being a bit of a wait, at least we were indoors and on sofas, and whilst we were there we got to chat to Chad, Tim and Drew (with daughter in tow) a bit as they arrived, and also to Josh from their crew. Drew said again we were joint SwitchFam queens (I really do have to hand that to Jude!), ‘possibly of the EU or international ‘fam, possibly secret agents…’ 😀

After they had all gone inside, we were talking about how we became fans when finally we heard them start soundcheck – and they were playing Holy Water!! Ahhh let me in!! It sounded amazing, and is definitely one of the songs I most want to hear them play. They let us in after they finished that song and took requests, playing Gone, and then playing On Fire at Jude’s request. It sounded incredible!! I went right to the front again and wowwww! I was happyyy! 🙂

The Meet&Greet itself felt a bit awkward today, the guys were sweet as ever but we didn’t really know what to say to one another. I did request Healer Of Souls again since I knew a lot of my friends who were coming are really into that song (not to mention how much I still wanted to hear it after the sound hadn’t been great in Basel!).

By the time we came out it was close to showtime, and my husband and friends were arriving. We met up and got in the queue, and M sat on the floor making and eating sandwiches whilst we waited! We also found a stack of gig flyers, which we handed out to anyone who wanted one; a good sign..? The last time I had found flyers for a show was in Mannheim and that had been a very special night.

Everything was still running late but eventually we were let in. I was first, so with complete choice of where to stand I went Tim’s side of centre. Jude had a sidestage pass again! I hung out with M, our friends, and friends I’d met at the VIP event, it felt like lovely family gathering.

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Oh my was this show worth the wait!

They opened with House Burns tonight, and however unsure I’d previously been about this song as an opener, this time it was an absolutely awesome, flawless start, and the sound was pretty much perfect! 🙂 🙂 🙂 There is a certain line of this song that I remember Jon singing ‘to me’ a couple of times back in the spring; he did it again in Glasgow, and yet again tonight, which got me wondering if he does it deliberately! But even one song in he was already giving me a lot of eye contact at this show.

Then they played Stars, and with so much energy! Jon introduced Tim as his little brother, saying ‘This means this is a family event, we’re all family here tonight’; it certainly felt like it.

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The energy continued to ramp up as they went into Dark Horses. Funnily, for the ‘made my mistakes’ line Jon wasn’t at the mic like he almost forgot he needed it! 😀 But they rocked hard, even adding a bit of a solo.

They turned it up even more, playing Bull to the delight of my friends, Jon venturing into the crowd, balancing on a rail and sending everyone wild! By this point I was enjoying this show as much as I had any of my previous favourite shows. The sound, volume, setlist, crowd, Jon’s interaction, and the level of energy and quality of singing and playing from Switchfoot was combining into a perfect storm of happiness.

But it carried on getting better! I filmed YLIAS, which you can watch here; Drew’s solo was incredible as ever. That led into LAIWTF, which Jon introduced saying ‘I’m obsessed with the idea that love is the anti-entropy. In a world where everything’s falling apart, lose yourself with everything to gain.’ The crowd were really into it!

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And then they did indeed play Healer of Souls – AAAHHHH!!! I had my banner out on the rail and Jon looked over at me before starting to ask for it so I threw it him and he held it up, getting it the wrong way round twice (‘…one of those rubber sole moments…’) He asked the band what key it was in, but there was no question he knew how to play it. They were so good, all solos and yelling, and although I was filming (evidence here!) I rocked out with them.

And then Oh! Gravity. OH!!! The energy surely couldn’t get any higher?! I was totally losing it, my legs wanting to give way under me but so stoked I was jumping and yelling with total abandon!

Before I actually caught fire they changed pace a little, playing Hello Hurricane acoustic; they had brought with them a new ‘fancy’ mic for the purpose, better designed for picking up their acoustic performance than their usual vocal mics. They brought Chad to the front, which got a ‘wooo!’ from the crowd; as they set up Jon commented that ‘at this point in the show it’s traditional to ask a question to which the appropriate response is always ‘woo!’ Doesn’t matter what it is… how are you feeling? ‘Woo!’ How’s your mother? ‘Woo!” The new mic sounded great, a whole different sound quality that was really nice. And from there they went into IWLYG. Jon sounded so good, and Tim’s bass was shaking the floor!

And then something really special happened; Jon said that on this tour they wanted to honour the UK’s rich musical heritage by playing a song from each city they visited, and tonight they played Teardrop by Massive Attack! Oh my gosh these guys can so play!! Here is a video, which entirely doesn’t do it justice as the sound has distorted a little, but if I can take you there in your imagination, imagine you can feel the sound reverberating around the room and right through you, and those vocals arriving straight from heaven :’)

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Teardrop led right into Where I Belong; I was already gone but this did me in big time! 🙂 I threw Jon my banner again, but then I just let the music sweep me away. I found myself crying happy tears and shaking and pretty much kneeling in prayer on barrier giving thanks to God and the band. I expected this to be the end of the show, but no sooner had that almighty yell faded they suddenly went into Meant To Live! I was undone!! More happy tears! 😀

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That was the end, but of course there was an encore, and they came back on and again played Float. It was so much fun, I danced as crazily as ever, enjoying the bubble party, and there was some wonderful chaos when Jon attempted to crowd surf but disastrously picked the wrong part of the crowd and discovered that gravity did exist after all! He made it back onto the stage nonetheless, and I helped him back up. They incorporated a snatch of Hope Is The Anthem into Live It Well, and then finished me off with Dare You To Move, again rocking out in happy tears to stop my legs giving way and finishing up draped over the barrier, absolutely wowed!

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It was the best show I’ve ever seen. It’s something I’ve struggled to explain, but it was a synergy of all the right elements that made it an incredibly powerful experience that I will call a kind of holy ecstasy that just ramped up and up. Wowow! I had no idea music could transport me like that..! Afterwards I could barely speak, it was very, very special. :’) I’d had a small taste of that kind of feeling at Jon’s solo show a few months back, but I’d put some of that down to experiencing that voice of his like never before, but this was definitely the whole experience of the music; God was in it, and I soared even higher than I’d been before. I’ve never seen the guys play like this; I’d been to higher intensity shows, but that was constant high energy, and I just wasn’t coming down from the ceiling!

There was no aftershow, but a group of us hung out by the bus, ostensibly so that one of the fans could get his favourite album Nothing Is Sound (NIS) signed, but really we wanted to see them and I absolutely had to thank them. We got to speak to all of them eventually, though it was touch and go as they had to make a ferry and the timing was tight as they were meant to go at 12 but were still not on the bus. Thankfully it was not so cold as the previous night!

Chad arrived first. He gave me a high five, and was sweet but implied that we probably shouldn’t stay.

Then Drew came out to hang properly with us, and was absolutely lovely like he had all night. He chatted about NIS quite deeply, all the heartache that went into it and how meaningful it was, the lyrics, Shadow, Politicians, The Blues… Two friends after the show independently commented how ‘Jon is a very sweaty man!’ 😀 They joked about it with Drew too, and he agreed and was like ‘yeah he’s like it all the time!’ 😛 😀

Next Romey arrived. He was very touched at our appreciation but was also anxious about the ferry as he didn’t think they’d make it, and was worried they’d have to cancel their shows.

Then Jon came over. He was so chilled!! How?! We talked about the show, I told him how amazing I’d found it, and there were laughs about him being dropped in Float! We ended up talking about weather, how hot it was back home and that he liked Fall best, and I thought to ask him a geeky question about water temperatures as he’d joked about our sea being cold and I wasn’t sure how it compared against San Diego, being as we have a warm current and cool climate and they have a cold current and hot climate. He asked Celsius or Fahrenheit, I asked if he spoke Celsius as my Fahrenheit was nonexistent and he laughed and thought, and then failed to translate! I said it was about 16°C here and lovely, and he said their sea temperatures range from 60-70°F usually. Translating afterwards, I conclude they would indeed find our seas cold, even if to me 16°C is leave-the-wetsuit-at-home warm!

Finally we also saw Tim; we almost didn’t see him as he was online with his wife, but he did emerge and sign the CD, I think Jon had sent him. I congratulated him briefly and he talked a bit about bass with the guy whose CD it was.

My friend said to me at the end that I looked like I was on cloud 99, and I think that was pretty accurate. Ahhhhhhhh!!!!! :’) A perfect evening. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Veggie Theology

“All creatures of our God and King

Lift up your voice and with us sing

Sun, moon and stars rejoice on high

Praise to the Lord of light divine!”

 

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above you heavenly host

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost”

 

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”

 

 

What do you think of that? We sing these songs, and others like them, all the time, but do we ever think about what we’re singing?

 

My initial reasons for going veggie were purely ethical, and I was extremely surprised when my Christian boyfriend, now husband, told me that he was veggie for spiritual reasons. It hadn’t occurred to me that being veggie related at all to Christianity. However, over the years, I have come to appreciate the links between my faith and our relationship to animals.

 

Here is some research I did into the subject a few years ago for a workshop I was leading at a food justice gathering; if you want to study along, I’ve included links to each scripture I quote, which will open in a new window, or you can look them up in your own Bible:

 

A Brief Biblical History:

In the beginning, all things were made by and for God (Colossians 1:16).*

We were made together with the animals, but we alone were made ‘in God’s image’ and put in charge of other animals and the rest of the Earth. We were given grains and fruits to eat. God looked at it all and was pleased with it. (Genesis 1:24-31) Jesus is our model for how to be good rulers.

We were put in Eden to care for and work the Earth, in companionship with animals (Genesis 2:15-20).

We were permitted to eat animals as well as plants following the fall and flood, when much of the Earth was destroyed (Genesis 9:3).

When the law was given, animal welfare commands were put in place (for example Exodus 23:12 and 19, Deuteronomy 22:6-7 and 25:4).

 

God’s plan:

We often assume animals have no soul, but the most the Bible says explicitly is ‘who knows?’! (Ecclesiastes 3:19-21) There are strong hints that they do, in that the creation story uses the same original words for the bringing to life of other animals as for humans, but this is translated as soul for humans, and breath for animals.

In Isaiah 11 a return to Eden’s peace (restored relationships, not mere absence of conflict) is prophesied.

John 3:16 says that God so loved the ‘kosmos’… (meaning pretty much exactly what it does in English); God’s purpose in Jesus was far bigger than just humanity.

This is expanded in Romans 8:19-21 and Colossians 1:20 – all created things are waiting for salvation, via us, via Christ!

 

So that’s the Bible’s view of our relationship with animals. However, I don’t think it stops there, as the Bible also teaches us ethical principles:

 

Ethics:

How we treat others is important, so we should always think about our impacts on fellow human beings and how we can best live in love (Matthew 22:36-39 and 25:31-46, Romans 12:1-2, 1 John 4:16, and many more!).

Meat impacts on the lives of other humans in many ways. About 10% of the average Brit’s carbon footprint comes from meat and dairy; beef and milk in particular have huge carbon impacts associated with them as cattle produce a lot of methane, which is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. A vast amount of land is also being deforested globally for livestock farming, either directly for pasture or indirectly to grow animal feed, releasing more greenhouse gases, removing a carbon sink, and also often taking land away from indigenous people. All of this matters as climate change is already hitting the poorest and most vulnerable people hard through famines, land losses and natural disasters, and adding to human migration pressures. Meat production also requires up to 20kg grain per kg of meat produced (and a vast amount of water); whilst there are still so many people going hungry in the world, isn’t it unjust to make more food into less food just for our own personal preferences? The land we have could feed many more people if we used more of it to feed people directly, rather than feeding so many livestock and making a relatively small amount of meat. I’m convinced that being veggie reduces my impact on others, and that this is therefore another way I can choose to live with a slightly more Christlike attitude.

 

And yet in spite of this, I still hear people say some weird stuff about Christianity and veg(etari)anism. Here are a few, and why I think they’re false:

 

  • Animals were made for our use

Animals, along with us and all other created things, were made for God and God’s praise and pleasure (Psalm 24:1, Colossians 1:16).

This is the stunning truth we so often, so easily sing in church without even thinking about it; we are not the only part of God’s creation made for worship, but everything that has breath should praise the Lord! Are we helping or hindering that praise to rise..?

 

  • We were given dominion over the animals

Absolutely; but Christ is to be our example, not a crazed, exploitative human dictator! Philippians 2:6-11 sets out what this looks like, a life of selfless love and service.

 

  • Christian men should be ‘real men’ (… which means eating lots of meat)

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians must conform to Hollywood stereotypes, or indeed, eat meat. Being a good Christian man means Christ-like selfless love, not machismo (Ephesians 5:25-33).

There are no rules for the Christian – although not all things are beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12); we are under grace, not law, and this statement comes dangerously close to undermining this Gospel truth.

 

  • We are called to be responsible stewards of the Earth

Absolutely; but let’s go a bit further. Stewardship implies that we are guardians of a resource to be used wisely. However, Biblical language speaks far less of animals as a resource to be used, and far more as living beings made of the same flesh as we are, made for God’s praise.

We are called far beyond mere stewardship, to bring the whole cosmos, including its people and animals, to salvation and resurrection in Christ  – see John 3:16, Romans 8, Colossians 1.

 

  • Animals will not be resurrected

Says who? All the Bible says directly is ‘who knows?’(Ecclesiastes 3:19-21), but ‘living creatures’, probably representing all animals, are present in the vision of heavenly worship in Revelation 4.

 

  • God made us carnivores

God made us not only vegan but fruitarian! (Genesis 1:29)

We are also made with sufficient intelligence to understand our nutritional needs and creative enough to meet those needs fully in more compassionate ways than our mere instincts would permit.

 

  • If I stop eating meat, it won’t make a difference as everyone else will carry on

This is not a Christian attitude – our smallest acts make a difference in God’s kingdom (Matthew 25:40). Mother Theresa was once asked why she did what she did, as her work was only a drop in the ocean. She wisely replied ‘Yes, but the ocean is made of many drops.’

 

  • If I stop eating meat, farm animals will go extinct, so meat eating keeps them alive

We have managed to conserve all kinds of species of non-economic importance, and any visit to a farm park or petting zoo will tell you that we love domestic animals enough to preserve them in the very least as tourist attractions if nothing more. Humanity, made in God’s image, has a unique ability to conserve, and even improve upon, creation in its current state – Genesis 2:15.

 

  • Vegetarians have weak faith; Romans 14:2 says so

Read the rest of Romans 14 too. The context of this advice is that some Christians were avoiding meat altogether as they were worried about accidentally eating something unclean or becoming spiritually unclean by eating meat sacrificed to other gods; they were afraid of accidentally angering God, a sign that their faith in God’s saving grace was weak. Weak faith may be one reason for some people to abstain from certain activities, despite all things being permitted the Christian. However, whatever reason a person has for abstaining, to them, doing that activity would be wrong, and we should not attempt to force them to change their views in case we caused them to act against their conscience.

Many Christians are well aware that there are indeed no food laws to adhere to any more, and are not afraid of accidentally losing their salvation in Christ, but still have ethical reasons for boycotting certain foods for the sake of loving others as ourselves – from meat to non-Fairtrade chocolate.

 

  • We were commanded to eat meat

We were commanded in Eden to eat grains and fruits, and later permitted to eat meat after the fall and after the flood had destroyed much of the land – Genesis 1:29, Genesis 9:3.

 

… and therefore, if Jesus was sinless then meat eating cannot be said to be a sinful act in itself.

However, Jesus modelled deep, border-crossing compassion that gives us an example to work towards where love has no limits.

It is also true that issues like factory farming, climate change and global hunger did not exist in the same way in Jesus’ time; perhaps He would take different ethical stances in today’s globalised world..?

 

I’ll finish there, but if you want to explore more, this is an interesting organisation to check out. Here is a prayer to close, which blew my mind when I first read how ancient it was; its powerful, beautiful insight far pre-dates today’s mass-market mistreatment of animals and is all the more relevant today:

“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

Oh God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things,

Our brethren the animals to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.

We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty

So that the voice of the Earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of travail.

May we realise that they live not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee,

And that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve Thee in their place better than we in ours.”

– St Basil of Caesarea, 4th century church father

 

*I’m leaving aside questions over whether the Genesis account of creation was literal or figurative here; I do firmly believe it has a lot to teach us about God’s plan and intent and why things are as they are, and that that is not dependent upon it being literal.

A decade vegan

I have been vegan for ten years this year! I was 24. I get asked about it a lot, so here’s my story:

I never actually went vegetarian.

I grew up a real meat lover in a normal omnivorous household. My favourite foods were roast dinners, steaks, seafood, and meat stews. And pizza. But it had to have pepperoni on it really. If I was taken out for dinner, it was always my mission to order the meatiest thing on the menu that I was allowed; the biggest steak, a whole chicken, a mixed grill… When my younger sister went vegetarian when we were older children, I mocked and criticised her mercilessly! Surely it was unnatural, we evolved to eat meat, we need it to be healthy..?

So, what happened?!

I’ve always been passionate about nature, science and the environment, so studying environmental science at A-Level and then university made perfect sense (if you’ve not come across it, environmental science is the scientific study of all aspects of the natural world; the physics, chemistry, biology and sociology behind weather and wildlife, geology, oceans, soils, landscapes and more, and the way they interact…). I was 17 when my A-Level ‘Env’ class studied a module on agriculture and food production. For the first time, I had to really look closely at the way my food was produced. I knew meat was made of dead animals; I unemotionally thought this a fact of life and quite natural. It wasn’t a surprise to me to learn about how animals are grown for food and slaughtered. What did shock me was how unnatural we have made the farming system, and how much of an impact it has upon the rest of the natural world.

The kind of farms I thought of as a child, small land holdings run by a family, keeping small flocks and herds of a range of farmyard animals, are largely consigned to history.

Today, most of our food is industrially mass produced. Animals do not have names. Large companies run the farms purely for profit. Many animals, chickens in particular, never see sunlight or reach anything near adulthood before slaughter, and have been selectively bred away from their natural shape and size to produce more meat or milk than their bodies can physically support, crippling them in various ways before their early slaughter. Those that are kept outdoors are kept on huge scales, and unable to be supported by grazing the land they live on, require feeding with tonnes of mass-produced animal feed. This has to be grown of course. To do this, vast amounts of land many times the size of the livestock farms themselves are required; land is constantly being deforested to grow more and more animal feed, including in the rainforests, and to keep producing the quantities of animal feed needed requires constant inputs of industrial fertilisers and pesticides to be produced and sprayed over the land. Gallons of water are needed to irrigate the feed crops, as well as to rear the livestock themselves and produce the meat. Both the production of feed and livestock farming cause shocking amounts of pollution; water pollution from run-off contaminated with fertilisers, pesticides, slurry and bacteria, impacting aquatic life and human health; air pollution from spraying agrochemicals and from ammonia from industrial poultry units; greenhouse gases from the methane the livestock produce, fertiliser production and transport of feed. In addition, stocking animals at high densities of the same species leads to disease outbreaks. In many places, this is mitigated by routinely feeding antibiotics to livestock, but this is leading to the rise of antibiotic-resistant disease in both animals and humans.

The more I learnt (and there is more), the more I became convinced that industrial livestock production was not environmentally sound. I cared deeply about the world we live in, so because I could no longer eat meat without knowing how it was produced, I felt I needed to make sure that any meat I ate had been produced to good environmental standards.

So I did some research, and decided that certified organically farmed meat was  produced in much more sensitive ways, with much higher environmental and welfare standards than factory-farmed meat. So I decided to go ‘organic vegetarian’ – vegetarian, unless the meat was organic. Because organic farming has higher standards it costs more to produce, so is more expensive. So I therefore ended up eating less, but better quality, meat. I was not at all vegetarian, but I was eating many more vegetarian dishes, and eating vegetarian food or seafood when eating out. I got used to eating a wider variety of foods, and to the vibrant flavours in vegetarian cooking, though I still loved my meat.

I lived like this for a couple of years before it occurred to me (or I had to admit to myself!) that eggs and dairy were also factory farmed, so for consistency if I was going to cut out all my support for intensive livestock farming, I’d have to go organic there too.

And this is where things got tricky.

Milk and eggs are ingredients in a lot of foods. Reading labels to find out if they contained animal ingredients, and if so, how they had been produced, got boring and time consuming. And the social impact – having to ask, before anyone fed me, ‘Is it organic?’! Nope.

I was living this awkward ‘organic vegan’ lifestyle when I moved to my second university. And it was here I met several real-life vegans, including the man who became my boyfriend and then husband. They seemed to have it a lot easier than me! They didn’t spend hours in the shops scouring ingredients lists. They could shop and eat out in normal shops and restaurants. They didn’t have to ask socially awkward questions – a simple ‘I’m vegan’ sufficed to explain their diets. And they could eat chocolate!! I’d previously assumed being vegan was miserable and difficult, and probably unhealthy, but the reality I encountered was anything but!

So, I gave it a try. I was helped by the discovery that, to me at least, soya milk tasted far, far better than the cows’ milk I’d hated the taste of all my life! I missed and craved all sorts of animal-based things. But I made what turns out to have been a very wise decision to be extremely gracious with myself; if I had a craving (for cheese or pork for example), I would wait a short while to see if the craving went away (as it sometimes would). If it didn’t, I would allow myself to go and get some (if I could find it organic!), eat and enjoy it, and then, be vegan again the following day. I found over time the cravings got fewer and further between, and went away more quickly. I found I was having to give into them less and less, and eventually, after a couple of years, I found I just wasn’t feeling the need to buy animal-based foods. Today, whilst I do remember what animal-based foods were like and that I enjoyed them, it no more occurs to me to eat them as it would for me to eat cardboard. It doesn’t register to me as food.

The final straw was unexpected. I was on a train, passing through some beautiful countryside, where a few extremely sleek and contented looking cattle were happily grazing in a huge, open landscape. I thought to myself as I passed, ‘This is how farming should be…’, and was just beginning to feel pleased with myself when I heard God say to me, ‘So who are you to cut short those happy lives?’. Wow. I was hit with the compassion for animals that I’d never really experienced before. It was a perspective I’d not even thought of, that yes these animals were living happily on such farms, but that in demanding meat from them, I was taking that happy life away prematurely. So. No more meat.

Over that time I’d also learnt more and more recipes. I’d got a lot more creative and adventurous with my cooking (and started writing recipes!), finding ways to produce my favourite meals, desserts and snacks without animal ingredients. I actually put on a lot of weight (this was a positive, I’d been underweight for years), mostly I think from baking more than ever!

The last thing to go was the seafood; I’d been convinced for a long time that this was free from the concerns of factory farming, which was largely true for wild-caught fish at least. However, much of our seafood is also farmed, with similar associated problems, plus requiring huge amounts of wild-caught small fish for feed, to the detriment of seabird populations (as a bird lover this is the killer for me!). And wild caught seafoods have a myriad of associated environmental and ethical issues of their own. I realised, reluctantly, that this was also an ethical minefield I was best off out of. In my 24 years to that point I concluded I’d already eaten my fair share of the world’s fish stocks, so I decided to stop. That was a little sad; however, there is so much good food still out there for me it really hasn’t been a major loss. Including chocolate. 😉

Most foods are not made from animals at all, and are therefore on the menu. Almost everything that is can be replaced straightforwardly, especially if you have a good grasp of what flavours and ingredients suit the cuisine you are cooking. For a long time, the only things I couldn’t replace were cheese (for sandwiches and crackers – I could make cheesy sauces and substitute tahini for melted cheese in many recipes), meringues and seafood. Hardly a hardship, especially gotten used to over a period of many years as in my case.

When I went vegan a decade ago, veganism was about where vegetarianism had been in the 1970s – very much a minority lifestyle, seen as a bit unusual, not generally well understood, and you’d have to go to a vegetarian restaurant if you wanted a good meal out, though you could find something to eat in most places, especially if you looked them up beforehand and explained what you did and didn’t eat. There was great icecream and chocolate and yogurt and cream cheese available out there, in specialist shops mostly, but other ‘cheese’ substitutes resembled vanilla-and-Wotsit/Cheeto-flavoured plasticine!

Over the past decade, veganism has grown by over 350% in the UK, and the revolution has been really noticeable the past couple of years. Today veganism is about where vegetarianism was when my sister went veggie as a kid around 20 years ago; you could find something to eat almost anywhere, it was normal for a restaurant to have vegetarian options marked on the menu, sometimes including desserts, and there were a few lazy options like ready meals available if you searched, most people knew a vegetarian, and people generally knew what being vegetarian meant.

We’ve discovered that coconut cream whips like double cream, that the water from a can of chickpeas froths up just like egg white and makes a mean meringue (admit it, egg white is just as gross in its original form…), and even cheeze is becoming edible as some sort of cheese, even if it rarely resembles the particular variety of dairy cheese it claims to mimic. I now have a few brands I buy regularly, after almost a decade cheese-free! And oh how I am having to re-learn the art of self-control now that new vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants are opening up all over town, and café after bakery after tearoom, that I have to walk past every day, now serve irresistible vegan cakes..! Waistline expanding.

My favourite foods today are thai curries and stir fries, chocolate ganache pies, and pretty much anything involving roast aubergines! And pizza. Especially with veggie pepperoni. 😉

As now a relative old-school vegan I’m having to up my game with baking and cooking, and re-learn what I thought were my limits. But over the years I’ve also discovered more and more reasons I’m convinced that veganism is a step in the right direction; it’s no longer just about the environment, though that remains my passion; it’s about loving my global neighbours, about walking kindly alongside other species, about health, about my worship and that of the rest of creation, about understanding others with special diets, and about a love of food and creativity.

Let’s see where things head over the next ten years; I hope we can really begin to shape the world into something a little better.