Mid-Season Break

11 October, 2010 Leave a comment

Yes, I know I only posted yesterday, but it’s my party!

Unless something exceptionally noteworthy occurs in the next 48 hours this may well be the last post for a couple of weeks. On this blog at least. Why? Quite simply because I’m due my R&R soon and intend to spend the time catching up with family and friends.

I took the time to look over the posts on here today and have come to a conclusion; it’s been a hell of a ride so far! Emotions have run high, and low, tempers have flared, lyrical juices have ebbed and flowed, but one thing’s for certain…

I’m shattered!

So, it’s lie ins under the duvet, cuddles from the kids, cuddles from the wife, days out with the family, live music at night, and no boots for a fortnight!

In the meantime, here’s something I prepared earlier:

Flip Side

Waiting on something you don’t even know is on it’s way,
every day seems a lifetime as you wait for the call to let you know it’s ok,
you don’t want to worry but the night’s seem longer every day,
holding on to thoughts and memories of glory days

Waiting on the call to let you know it’s all a-ok,
getting back to the life you left behind you on your way,
it’s the little things that matter out here so they say,
it’s about time they called to let you know you can have your say

Different sides of life,
Balanced on a knife,
I’ll catch you on the flip side
Counting down the time
Waiting on the line
I’ll catch you on the flip side

Holding back the tears as you listen to your life fall apart,
trying to control the locomotive beating of your heart,
a simple knock on the door left you lying on the floor,
as you saw for the first time your nightmares come rushing to the fore

Guilt rides high as you balance your frustration with the cost,
it seems a small price to pay when you think of all that’s been lost,
petty little dreams take on whole new meanings in the light,
as you think of the reason you’re sworn to silence in the night

Different sides of life,
Balanced on a knife,
I’ll catch you on the flip side
Counting down the time
Waiting on the line
I’ll catch you on the flip side

And rest… See you in November.

P.S. You can keep up with all that’s Morpheus Rising on our band blog and on Facebook. And, if you’ve been given food for thought by any of the posts in this blog then please pop over to this page and lend your support, I would personally appreciate it as would everyone who benefits from the charities involved.

Categories: Lyrics, Personal

It’s the little things…

9 October, 2010 Leave a comment

The intention was to post to this blog each Sunday evening while I’m away. For many reasons that hasn’t happened;  long nights, trips away, nothing to say, too much to say, too tired, too busy, the reasons go on. The primary reason however is the lack of control over whether or not there will be internet access available.

All over Afghanistan there are pockets of British personnel and, in most cases, wherever they are there is the provision of welfare internet, both user terminals and WiFi hotspots for using with your own laptop, netbook or other internet enabled device. This service is a double-edged sword, both a welcome capability and a security threat. It is also a liability.

Every time there is an incident in theatre involving a British soldier (and some other coalition nationalities) the internet is turned off. It is done for many reasons but the primary one is that of protecting the relatives of whomever is involved in the incident from hearing rumours or gossip about what may, or may not, have happened. It allows the correct procedures to be followed and people to be contacted in the proper manner to advise them of the situation over here. Sometimes that contact could be a phone call from a son letting his Mother know that he really is fine, others may be a member of the unit advising parents of their child’s injury or, in the worst cases, a Casualty Notification Officer advising someone that their son, daughter, husband or wife has regrettably been killed in action while serving on operations in Afghanistan.A brass shell cross and stone cairn in memory of those fallen on operations in Afghanistan

The process is called Op Minimise and, for much of the two plus months I’ve been in theatre, it has been in force.

Yesterday, last night and this morning we were again in the grips of Op Minimise and something I heard discussed gave me pause for thought. There is much said of the British ‘squaddie’ and not all of it is favourable, we are maligned as drunken boors, womanisers and bullies (among other things not all of which I might add are as negative). And yet last night I heard something that epitomised man’s compassion for his fellow man or, in this case, his fallen brethren.*

A couple of young soldiers were chatting outside their accommodation and I heard the conversation turn to Op Minimise and the reason for the current imposition.

It’s terrible, don’t you think, that we know what’s happened and yet we also know that it’s taking so long for the relatives to be informed. It must be so hard for them to find out like that.

I’m ashamed to admit I was quite taken aback by this, and also impressed. I know the soldiers in question and despite my knowing their characters I hadn’t expected this train of thought from a young man in his situation. Especially when  most of his peers were simply feeling hard done to due to the lack of internet capability in the accommodation due to this inconvenience.

To say I was impressed by this would be an understatement, it made me proud and reminded me (not that I needed reminding) that there is far more to our soldiers than people give them credit for.

It also made me look at myself and wonder how many times I’d felt hard done to when I hadn’t been able to ring home or jump on Facebook or WordPress because some poor soul had found himself joining the ever growing list of casualties in this conflict.

And it made me count my blessings.

* The brass cross in the photograph had 3 plates of names when I was last here in 2007, it has now been moved and stands on a larger, two levelled stone cairn with 13 plates on it. Over 100 of those names have been added in the last year.

(I did have a lyric to post with this, but on second reading I think it’s better to wait.)

Wasted Days…

6 October, 2010 Leave a comment

The whole reason for this blog was to document the writing process for material for the band I sing with, Morpheus Rising, while on tour in Afghanistan. As with all things it seems to have grown legs and formed a life of its own. I always intended to write about songs I listened to as well, and various aspects of life out here, but it seems to have been so much more than that so far. And today is more of the same.

One aspect of this life I have never been able to reconcile with my role as husband and father is the amount of time I spend away, missing birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and other holidays. and this time is no different. I’m due to miss Christmas and New Year (again), my eldest daughter’s 18th (not that she’d want me cramping her style!), my younger daughter’s 13th and today… Well, today is the birthday of the most important person in my life and, yet again, I wasn’t there to celebrate and make her feel as special as she deserves.

When I was younger I used to listen to songs which meant something to me as they seemed to echo my experiences at the time. There were loads of them, some were up beat and full of life, others not so much. Through the years many of them have continued to have meaning and I usually find one to fit my mood, forcing me further into despair (in an effort to shake myself out of it), or lifting my spirits to a point where nothing else matters. Not so today.

So, today, I found myself trying to find something to voice my thoughts, air my concerns, but instead I found myself making up my own. As with ‘Another Life’ which I wrote earlier on this tour, I’ve written something which may not fit within the Morpheus Rising stable, but nevertheless I think it belongs on this blog which has become so much more than a diary of an album’s lyrics.

Special Days

Another one passes by
Did I say goodbye?
Should I?
What am I doing here?
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Looking out over the sands of time
Who’s watching over you
That labour should be mine

Time seems to fly
Did it really go by?
But I
I shouldn’t be here
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Leaving all of you behind
I should watch over you
More of the time

These special days will never return
These special days should be the greater good
Making up under cover of cold dark nights
Time spent together putting the world to rights
These days we’re wasting should all be special days

Little boys cry
Girls starting to drive
Flying by
I should be there
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Looking out for all that’s mine
I should be there
More of the time

These special days will never return
These special days should be the greater good
Making up under cover of cold dark nights
Time spent together putting the world to rights
These days we’re wasting should all be special days

To Rose, and my three beautiful children, I’ll see you soon.

North of Nowhere

24 September, 2010 Leave a comment

I wrote in the previous entry of my recent trip and the Danes that I met there. I talked of the traits I saw in them. One I didn’t mention was their renowned fierceness as warriors. History has proven the Danes to be great warriors and their involvement in this current conflict is doing nothing to harm that reputation.

I also mentioned an ‘interesting’ flight home after my visit and said I would write of it in this entry…

Once my work was done it was time for me to return to the safe confines of our desert bastion. On arriving at the departure point I was met by the normal rag-tag individuals heading onwards to their journey home and people going back to their base after a visit for whatever reason. There was also, on this occasion, a group of Danes with enough kit between them to finish the war!*

The LPC advised that these modern vikings were to board first with the rest of following on, we’d then be ferried ‘home’ before they were forwarded to their final destination.

All that changed as soon as the ride landed and the LPC spoke to the loadie, we were bustled on first, including the working dog on his way home for a medal, ann were followed on closely by the squad of tooled up Scandinavians all grunting, back slapping and showing each other the Devil‘s Horns (a la Ronnie James Dio \m/). The lights went out, the rotors changes tone and we lifted into the moonlit night…

I don’t know where we went, I do know it was vaguely North, and after an indeterminate length of time (it’s best to snooze on these journeys) we touched down, and waited…

The rotors surged again and we were once again lifted into the moonwashed skies and heading North(ish). This leg was slightly longer and I tried, once again to doze, to no avail… Even behind closed lids the brightness of the defensive flares are blindingly bright. Given the fact they have to divert attention await from the heat of the turbine engines keeping this thing in the air I can understand it, but it was a bloody rude awakening! After watching through the domes perspex window as the pale grey landscape rushed by not too far below I drifted of into slumberland once more. I was rudely awakened by the sound of weapons, more grunts and back slapping and shouts of ‘two minutes!’ as these guys readied themselves to disembark God only knows where… I must admit to being a tad concerned when one turned to my mate and, with two fingers held in a Churchill manner, shouted ‘two minutes!; at him and looked at the two of us! (Not bloody likely was both our initial responses.)

By this time we could feel the bird dropping fairly quickly and I glanced out the window again to see… nothing. There was a huge vista of  pale grey with light and dark patches here and there but no light, no activity, and more importantly to my defensive mind, no cover.

As we pulled a hand-brake turn (I don’t know how else to describe it) and  touched down they launched themselves into the great unknown (although I’m sure they knew where they were!) and dispersed themselves into defensive positions. We them lifted off and headed back from whence we came. This leg of the journey was far less eventful with little or no chaff or flares and a far greater height being reached. Having embarked on a 15 minute ride on a Chinook I arrived back safely over 80 minutes later.

I mentioned last night that this flight had spawned some lyrical musings. Here’s the bare bones…

Day’s over, the job’s all done
High time now to hightail it home
Light of day in dark of night
Full moon’s overhead

We’re not alone, there’s more to come
For some work’s just begun
Light’s out, head down
All Hell’s gonna let loose soon

Dark of night, flares so bright
We’re headed North of Nowhere
All tooled up, let’s stir it up
We’re headed North of Nowhere

Moon rides high, light’s up the sky
Washing sand and village white
Signs of life show down below
Dropping down, it’s time to go

Dark of night, flares so bright
We’re headed North of Nowhere
All tooled up, let’s stir it up
We’re headed North of Nowhere

* I know we’re not at war, but I hope you’ll allow a little poetic license!

Lords of the North (The Vikings are here!)

23 September, 2010 1 comment

Three years ago I found myself the guest of the Danish Battalion (DanBat) deployed to Afghanistan. Having moved forward from Kandahar before it was actually achievable we found ourselves without any of the life support necessary to accommodate a Squadron Headquarters and, to their credit, the Danes went out of their way to put us up the best they could. We had a roof over our heads and beds to lie on and that was about it. There was no aircon or other comforts and that continued until we managed to wedge ourselves into the camp of a British infantry battlegroup.

My memory of the Danes from that period is of a group of very tall, very calm and very likeable individuals. Nothing seemed to ruffle them, they were industrious, determined and, in our case, very welcoming. They seemed to epitomise my vision of the Scandinavians and only strengthened my opinion that the people of Northern Europe are how we should all hope one day to be, polite, focussed and proud.

Fast forward three years and I’ve walked into a well established rear location which allows a Squadron Headquarters to function in what many out here would consider luxurious conditions. Air conditioning, a ‘real’ office environment for work, and salubrious accommodation for sleeping in.

From this gilded tower I flew (slightly) North a day or so ago to touch base with one of our detachments. And once again I was to find myself a guest of the Danes.  The last 24 hours have been one hell of an education for me.

The DanBat are responsible for an expansive and important swathe of land in this area and yet, in the safe confines of my everyday environment, despite knowing the equipment I had deployed and the work our guys were having to do to maintain the existing infrastructure and their efforts to accommodate the plans for expansion I had no idea just how dependant they were on our assistance. It’s nice to know that, in some small way, I am able to repay their benevolence of three years ago. Promises of effort, and little advances in their aspirations, resulted in genuine platitudes which initially seemed slightly overdone until it was explained just how dependant on these they actually were.

This visit has done nothing but cement my opinion of three years ago, but it has also added a new dimension to it. As well as the traits they showed before I now know how much they deserve the respect they so rightly have earned. Despite their equipment shortcomings, and their dependence on our help they as forging on, punching above their weight, in a fashion reminiscent of the Danes we came to know as Vikings. And their countenance does nothing but reinforce that image. Tall, blonde, muscular and square featured describes more than a majority of these proud warriors (and more than a few had the obligatory beard!). Towering men, statuesque women, who carry themselves in a manner which portrays strength and pride.

Three Nations mourn... Flags at half mast in Afghanistan

A mark of respect.

The day I arrived the Danes had lost one of their soldiers and the flags in camp were flying at half mast when I arrived, they were still flying at half mast as I left.

I’m glad they’re on our side.

I’m now safe at ‘home’ despite an interesting flight back*, I think I’ve found inspiration for the next new lyric, but in the meantime one of the lyrics from Morpheus Rising‘s back catalogue seems more than fitting. To the ‘Lords of the North’:

Born of these Northern lands,
Tracing the line back to the time when the Gods of old still roamed
They’ve come here before, they’ll come here again
With an iron hand

Destined to rule these lands
The blood in my veins is the blood of kings
I’ve come here before, I’ll come here again
With an iron hand

Out of the mist they came,
Sailing across the sea from the land where the Gods of old still roamed
They’ve come here before, they’ll come here again
With an iron hand

Leaving the land in flames
Riding across the plains to the place that I call home
They’ve come here before, they’ll come here again
With an iron hand

I am a Lord of the North
I am a Lord of the North

This land will always belong to me
This land will always be free
It will always be free

This land will always belong to me
This land will always be free
It will always be free

I am a Lord of the North
I am a Lord of the North

I am a Lord of the North
I am a Lord of the North

Lord of the North
with an iron hand, Lord of the North
Lord of the North
I’ve been here before, Lord of the North

Written & Arranged by Harwood/Tennick  © 2008

* I’ll write about the flight ‘home’ the next time, just now I need to get some notes down for the lyric…

A Little Inflammatory Rhetoric

22 September, 2010 Leave a comment

As far as I’m aware Jesus and Mohammed were great advocates of peace. As were most prophets through the ages.

Not the peace we forge in these days of Government funded conflicts in the name of global stability and world peace. Peace in the true sense of the word, ‘love thy neighbour’ and all those sayings which are paid lip service the world over in quaint old buildings in villages and suburbs as people search for meaning to their existence.

Peace of the kind promoted by the very Gods that armies wage war in the name of.

The World Peace monument in a pond next to a s...

Image via Wikipedia

This is not a new occurrence by any means. All through history nations and alliances have waged war in order to prove their Faith is the one true religion. And they have done so with the impunity only secured by the knowledge that their belief is justification in itself for their actions.

Okay, enough already!‘ I hear you cry!

Yes, I know it’s all a bit heavy but, as I’ve stated before, it’s the whole premise behind this blog’s title. (Look closely…)

Despite the premise that this is a ‘War on Terror‘ everywhere you look there are religious icons to be seen. Crosses made of wood or brass shell casings, Stars of David, Crescents, you name it and you’ll find it here. Each of the sides have their religious elders along for the ride and they hold religious services to glorify the sacrifices made, on both sides.

This, in my Devil’s Advocate of a psyche, raises the question: Are we on a crusade? It was this question that raised its ugly head late last night while I struggled to get to sleep. It was this question that rattled around the empty space that I had been trying to fill with some words to put to the latest track I’d received from Pete. And it was this question which grew to form the lyric I have been searching for, for weeks.

This is not the peaceful, introverted or reflective lyric I’ve produced of late. To be honest I’m a little surprised by its anger, but I’m also pleased with it, as I am with everything produced so far…

Down through the ages they’ve answered the call, they’ll answer again
In history’s pages the worthy stood tall, will they stand there again?

The soldiers of freedom with faith as their guide, they’ll answer the call
Taking lands from the heathen regardless of right, their armies will fall

Holy Wars, fought in whose name?
Holy Wars, always in vain
Holy  Wars, who counts the cost?
Holy Wars, humanity’s lost
In the name of the Cross
This is the Last Crusade
Is this the Last Crusade?

Facing down evil at every turn
This is the reason you answered the call
Seeking redemption through others demise
Can’t you see reason? It’s all just a lie!

As hordes stand against them they’ll fight to the end, no matter the cost
When the world stands against them it’s time for the end, we can’t pay the cost

Holy Wars, fought in whose name?
Holy Wars, always in vain
Holy  Wars, who counts the cost?
Holy Wars, humanity’s lost
In the name of the Cross
This is the Last Crusade
Is this the Last Crusade?
This is the Last Crusade
Is this the Last Crusade?

Answers on a postcard…

A Female God* and Falling Angels

20 September, 2010 Leave a comment

Having meandered from the true path of music, in all its forms, in the last post I’m about to return with a vengeance to the reason this blog was created but…

Before I do I’d like to discuss one more song which smacks me straight in the face every time I hear it.

Now, before I go any further I must emphasise that, despite being a ‘modern man’, I am not really that into ‘chick flicks’ as they are called, but every now and then something comes along which really has an impact. Most recently it was ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife‘ and others would be ‘Meet Joe Black‘ or even ‘The Champ’ (but that’s going back a way… But of these, none comes close to the sheer splendour of a film about an Angel choosing to fall from grace in order to feel love.

City of Angels‘ has something special about it, a quality I can’t describe or quantify, and it doesn’t diminish no matter how often I revisit the film.

Perhaps because of this, or perhaps because it is such a powerful song in its own right, I have developed a great feeling for the song performed by Alanis Morrissette for the soundtrack.

Uninvited‘ is a haunting track using the passion created by strings to great effect over a simple keyboard and percussion setting. Perhaps better known now as the dance version released by Bailey Tzuke (I can appreciate both versions), the original is something quite special. Even before I took the time to listen to the awkwardly phrased lyrics (part of its charm?) I felt the pain and anguish it portrayed. Having taken the time to listen to the lyrics I can’t believe how accurately they reflect the emotion of the film’s primary characters

Like any uncharted territory I must seem greatly intriguing
You speak of my love like you have experienced love like mine before
But this is not allowed
You’re uninvited

I’ve often tried to express emotions like these in song and, as far as I’m aware, I’ve never succeeded. Songwriting comes in many forms, as my (soon to be teenage) youngest daughter, herself an avid singer/songwriter already, explained to me recently; there are moment songs, feeling songs and story songs. I think I have cracked the latter, and I’m sure I’ve dabbled in the first (I’ll need to check with her first I think!), but the middle one always seems to elude me, because of this I think I respect those who can achieve it so eloquently all the more. And Alanis Morrissette has done it here with such eloquence I’m speechless… well, not quite ;o)

* I do not consider Alanis Morrissette a deity before anyone starts a pogrom, I’m merely nodding to her cameo role in Dogma, a film I’m usually far more willing to admit to liking!