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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.

War Songs, Pt. 1: Shut Up & Sing!

31 August, 2010 Leave a comment
Cover of "Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing (F...

Cover via Amazon

It seems much longer, but it was less than a decade ago that I found myself in Camp Arifjan with a little time to waste before moving on up to Camp Fox and beyond as part of the British contingent roped into Operation Iraqi Freedom (OP TELIC to us)…

As usual our Colonial cousins had established an operational footing far beyond the scope of any that a deployed British force would ever be capable of. Among the Baskin Robbins, Subway, Pizza Hut and Korean takeaway there was a PX store which made every EFI store I have ever come across look like the tuck shops run out of the 4 tonners to boost Sqn funds!

Needless to say I made the most of the situation and purchased DVDs and CDs galore. These were the days before ‘global’ releases so the Americans had films and music we hadn’t been able to get our hands on yet.

As far as I can recall I bought Garfield for the little ones, another DVD for ‘Cole and a CD for Rose, all of which were posted home as we didn’t know when we’d be getting home from this tour. This all sounds somewhat un-memorable however the CD I bought for Rose was one which would widen my musical tastes/awareness and cause more than a little bit of a stir back home!

I’d always related the genre of Country Music with the likes of Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and all those famous crooners which we all know. I’d never heard the terms bluegrass, alt country or the like, or if I had I’d dismissed them off-hand. All that was about to change.

What was the CD I bought? It was ‘Home’ by the Dixie Chicks and remains, to this day, one of my most played albums. At the time I was blissfully unaware of the controversy they had caused (or were about to) and didn’t even listen to the album before I sent it home.

Several months later, once we’d ‘won the war’, and I returned home I was greeted by a tirade of abuse when I asked Rose if she liked the album! Among the gems included on the album was a track called ‘Travelin’ Soldier‘, a song about a young girl who had fallen for a soldier bound for Vietnam and the waited for his return only to hear his name read out in a list of the fallen at a local football game.

All this sounds a little ‘twee’ but unless you’ve been in the situation of a wife, husband, partner, parent or child waiting for news from your loved one who is, as far as your mind is concerned, in mortal danger 24 hours of every day they are deployed you will not feel the emotion the lyrics of this song can stir.

One Friday night at a football game, the Lord’s prayer said and the anthem sang
A man said “Folks, would you bow your heads for a list of local Vietnam dead”
Cryin’ all alone under the stands was a piccolo player in the marchin’ band
And one name read and nobody really cared
But a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair

The song still makes my hairs stand on end, as do several others on the album. I have since become a huge fan of Martie Maguire, Emilie Robison and Natalie Maines, the Dixie Chicks, all the more so because of their stand (albeit unintended) as spokespersons against the Iraq conflict, and their fight to re-establish their position after being ostracised by most of redneck America.

I cannot recommend their music highly enough. Tracks such as ‘Top of the World‘, ‘Godspeed‘, ‘Taking The Long Way‘, ‘Not Ready To Make Nice‘ and ‘Easy Silence‘ are highlights of an amazingly strong back catalogue.

Don’t trust me, check them out for yourself, and if you want to hear the song Travelin’ Soldier in all its glory check out the documentary Shut Up & Sing or the concert DVD An Evening with the Dixie Chicks, you won’t regret it.

And from one of those songs I’d like to send this to my youngest, my son Wilson, who has just suffered his first major loss in life:

The Rocket Racer’s all tuckered out
Superman’s in pyjamas on the couch
Goodnight moon will find the mouse
And I love you
Godspeed little man
Sweet dreams little man
Oh my love will fly to you each night on angel’s wings
Godspeed
Sweet Dreams

It never ceases to amaze me how someone elses words can have such a profound effect on me. It is a gift I admire and one I hope someday to attain in my own work.

And so it begins…

12 August, 2010 Leave a comment

Things have gone fairly well, and in our favour, over the last few days. The flight was delayed 24 hours which meant an extra day with my wife and children, the transfer in Cyprus was delayed an hour so there was ample time to start the browning process before the final leg, and the induction days were significantly shorter than we were led to believe they were going to be. Which can never be a bad thing, can it?

Actually, in this case it did not bode well… Finishing early today did not result in the hour’s roasting session followed by an upper body blast as hoped. Instead it meant I was available to start work 18 hours early! Yup, as ever, the best laid plans fail to survive first contact with the enemy!

The only annoying thing so far has been the lack of contact with the ‘real world’ (henceforth to be called RW) and the inability of the bloody system to recognise my WiFi login 48 hours after I registered it. This hasn’t been the only reason I couldn’t get online, but it has been the most palatable.

I was here in 2007 and I wrote a journal/diary at that time which made very clear how hard it could be dealing with incoming Chinooks… 3 years on and it has not become any easier. There were 3 flew into that HLS in the middle of camp yesterday and the flags were again flying at half mast last night. It didn’t take long for the reality to hit home when I heard the first ‘wocka, wocka’ this morning…

To top it all off I haven’t even listened to any music since I arrived! I meant to chill a little last night but having been on the go for 36 hours by the time we actually finished the day’s work I lay down at 19:00 and didn’t surface again until 04:45 when we started today’s sessions.

Hopefully I’ll get to post this tomorrow and, having started the normal working routine I’ll manage to get some time to start the ‘real’ work at hand! I can but live in hope!

09/08/2010

I know this was meant to be published on Sunday, but I do have a much better excuse for not handing in my homework than the proverbial dog!

12/08/2010

Hmmm… 3 days on and I’m only just managing to get back online… Ah well, at least the time’s passing quickly!  I’ve met friends from across the years already and have settled in to what looks like being a very challenging few months.

Op Minimise has been on more than off since we arrived in Theatre and today we’ve heard of a Mercian who died from his injuries back in the UK. It’s hard to justify this, to anyone, let alone the families and comrades of the fallen.

I finally managed to get in touch with home yesterday, that was an emotional experience… Some quiet time was called for.  I’ve taken every opportunity to listen to music over the last day or two, some of the lyrics seem particularly pertinent.

A Few Words For The Dead:

Somewhere in history you were wronged
Teach your children to bang the drum
Tell all your family, tell all your friends
Teach your brothers to avenge

Steve Hogarth, Marillion.

Expect a full update on Sunday ;o)

So long… And thanks for all the Fish!

2 August, 2010 1 comment

I intended to write a lengthy blog yesterday about the acoustic Fish show I attended a fortnight ago and the Peter Green/Mostly Autumn gig I was meant to attend at the weekend.

Unfortunately Mr Green is very ill and all future shows have been cancelled/rescheduled so I didn’t get to attend that one, a shame as I was looking forward to the opportunity to say goodbye to Liv, Bryan and everyone else before I go, and thank them for their support earlier in the year during our tour.

I did, however, attend an excellent show by Fish with some good friends. It was great to see the big man so relaxed on stage, comfortable as ever, and stretching the vocal chords a little after his recent scares. He is as self-deprecating as ever and was on good form for the entire night… Highlights for me? Pilgrim’s Address and my wife forgetting the lyrics to the 3rd verse of Just Good Friends (our wedding song!) as soon as Fish handed her the mic to sing along! A brilliant show and we topped the night off with a few drinks with the Judge and Fish in Stone Roses. Good times.

I had intended to see so many people before heading off later this week but, as usual, time has caught up with me and I find myself chasing my tail as is often the case after so much time has been spent planning for the unexpected.

If I haven’t been in touch to say goodbye, and you think I should have, then I apologise. On the other hand I’m sure you’ll appreciate that my focus these last few weeks has been my wife and children.

It may seem strange but, after all the training and planning, I’m actually looking forward to getting out there and getting on with the job at hand. I’m sure time will fly and I’ll be back with those  I need and love in what will seem like no time at all… In the mean time I intend to take every spare moment to read (for inspiration) and write material for the album which the guys will be recording in my absence.

We’ve already begun 3 tracks with two completed to guide vocal stage and one at the concept stage, I have several additional ‘streams’ I’m following and Pete and I have discussed what direction we’re aiming for. All in all it should be an interesting time.

I’ll be in touch…