Monday, 27 February 2012

Bon Voyage Teaser


Newcastle International Airport – North East England


The voice booming out over the tannoy system announced that everybody for flight FX3235 to Palma, Majorca, should proceed directly to Departure Gate 3.  Or, at least, that’s what Aimee thought they’d said because, in all honesty, it sounded as though they were talking through a teabag.  And even if that was what they’d said she couldn’t proceed anywhere until Jemma came out of the toilet. 
  Checking her watch one more time, Aimee tried to block out that slight panic she always felt when there was a chance she could be late for something, fanning herself with a copy of Celebrity Secrets as she leant back against the wall and waited – rather more impatiently than she had done five minutes ago – for Jemma to show her face.  
  ‘What’s the matter with you?’ Jemma asked, finally making her exit from the toilets, her head buried in her far-too-oversized fake Luis Vuitton handbag, which Aimee was surprised had even been allowed through as hand luggage because she’d seen smaller suitcases being slung down that baggage belt.
  ‘The flight’s been called,’ Aimee replied, shoving Celebrity Secrets back in her rather more sensible-sized handbag, checking her boarding pass was still there.
  ‘We’ve got ages yet, come on, let’s go grab a beer.’
‘No, hang on, Jemma!’  Aimee ran after her friend, who was heading at an almost indecent haste towards the large bar in the centre of the Departure Lounge, which was a feat in itself in the heels she was wearing.  But that was one thing about Jemma – it didn’t matter what the occasion, there was no way she was going anywhere without her heels.  ‘We haven’t got time for a beer!’
Jemma turned round and looked at Aimee – but not before she’d thrown one of her flirty smiles at a group of young lads sat at a table behind her, which in turn earned her a barrage of wolf-whistles – her hands on her hips, her suitcase-sized bag resting in the crook of her spray-tanned arm.  ‘Of course we’ve got time.  How long does it take to get a beer down your neck?’
North east born and bred, Aimee Anderson and Jemma Jordan were both thirty-three-year’s old and had been best friends since Primary School, gone through college together, and now they both worked in the same branch of SuperStyle – a large and popular chain of beauty stores – as retail supervisors.  They’d always looked out for each other, always been there for one another through good times and bad; more like sister’s than best friends, neither one of them could really think of their life without the other one now.  They were good for each other – Aimee kept Jemma’s feet on the ground during those times when she had a tendency to get carried away, and Jemma brought out the more confident side of a much quieter Aimee.  They balanced each other out, which could only be a good thing when they were due to spend the next two weeks together sailing the Mediterranean on an all inclusive cruise.
‘It’s 7.30 in the morning, Jemma.  I’m having enough trouble getting a cup of PG Tips down at this hour; can we please leave the beer until we get on the boat?  We’re all inclusive on the ship, remember?  We can drink as much as we like once we get there.’
‘I’m a firm believer in the holiday starts the minute you set foot in the airport,’ Jemma smiled, receiving a round of applause and more whistles from the table of lads behind her.  ‘And anyway, where’s Marcie?  We can’t go anywhere until she turns up?’
Aimee sighed, suddenly feeling that, now, the only kind of holiday spirit she could cope with came out of a green bottle and belonged to someone called Gordon.  Maybe Jemma was right.  Maybe one drink wouldn’t hurt.
‘Where did you last see her?’ Aimee asked, turning round and scanning the departure lounge of Newcastle airport, which was growing steadily busier by the minute, filling up with more and more people heading out of the north east of England to sunnier climes.
‘I left her in WH Smiths about half an hour ago,’ Jemma replied.  ‘She was trying to sell a copy of her new book to a slightly startled woman she’d cornered by the bottled water.’
Marcie Marcello was Aimee’s mother – real name Kathleen Anderson – but ever since she’d won a short story competition in Ladies of Leisure magazine, which had subsequently bagged her a book deal with the well known romance publishing house, Hearts & Flowers – something which had allowed her to leave her good but mundane job as a doctor’s receptionist to follow her writing dream – she’d decided that the name Kathleen just wouldn’t do.  So, after careful consideration, and an afternoon of watching crappy TV movies on some satellite channel to gather together ideas, she’d come up with the name Marcie Marcello, and so the north east’s newest romance novelist was created.  Ever since then she’d made Barbara Cartland look subtle.  Gone were the slacks and blouses, the smart but safe clothes that Kathleen had always worn, and in came the flowing kaftans, candyfloss-pink-dyed hair and an abundance of gold bangles and earrings that made so much noise when she walked you could hear her coming half an hour before you saw her.  But Marcie Marcello had an image to keep up.
From across the other side of the departure lounge Aimee heard her mother’s familiar shrill voice, so loud they could probably hear her in Gateshead, and she couldn’t help but cringe.
‘She’s trying to hide the Geordie accent again, isn’t she?’ Jemma said, examining her newly-manicured nails before slapping away the hand of one of the lads behind her as he tried to grab her bum.  ‘That’s sexual harassment, that is.  Try that again and I’ll lay you out.’
And that wasn’t an empty threat either.  Aimee had seen Jemma deal with unwanted attention on more than one occasion on plenty of nights out.  One incident in a curry house near Newcastle’s Quayside stood out in particular after a keema naan bread had been used to ward off a table of over-exuberant lads from Stoke out on a stag night, causing more than one of them to wear their chicken rogan josh.  It hadn’t been pretty.
Aimee grabbed Jemma’s hand before anything else kicked off, and they ran off in the direction of Marcie’s voice, which was telling anyone within a five mile radius that she had a new book out and would anyone like a signed copy?
‘You grab one arm, I’ll grab the other, then we drag her – kicking and screaming if we have to – down to that departure gate, you got that?’ Aimee asked, shoving her bag up onto her shoulder, glad she’d made the sensible choice to wear trainers for this flight.  ‘I am not missing this cruise for anyone, or anything.  Okay?  I need this holiday.’
Jemma looked at her friend, stopping briefly to give her a mock salute.  ‘Why-Aye, Captain!’

Palma - Majorca


Back in the 1990’s, Bon Voyage had been a phenomenally successful boy band from the north east of England.  They’d been manufactured, of course, thrown together thanks to a long and lengthy audition process, but once the perfect mix had been found, a money-making, million-selling machine had been created.
  Back in the day they’d played sell-out shows in huge arenas all over the U.K. and Europe; they’d been followed by legions of screaming fans, had groupies hanging round stage doors at every gig, some had even camped outside their homes for days on end and those girls were usually the same ones who, somehow, always managed to find out which hotels they were staying in on tour – which meant they were also usually the ones who got to live out that fantasy they dreamed about constantly of meeting their favourite pop star, and maybe even do more than just meet them.  Bon Voyage had never been ones to miss out on anything the life of a popular boy band member had to offer.  Oh, Bon Voyage had had it all – fame, money, invitations to the biggest and best showbiz parties and award ceremonies, model girlfriends; their faces in the papers and magazines on a daily basis.  They’d been big.
Andy Crabtree, Danny Johnson, Ross Nelson, Cal Connor and Frankie Monroe had been 90’s heart-throbs, the dream men of a million and more girls and women of all ages.
Andy had been the “front man”, the one they’d pushed forward because he’d had the strongest voice.  Originally from a small Northumberland village his life in Bon Voyage had been a revelation, a chance for him to escape the rural confines of his close-knit northern community and get out into the big wide world.  Tall, with dark blond hair and a dry sense of humour, he’d been the sensible one, the grown-up of the group; the one who’d kept the band together during those wild times.  He’d never been the best looking of the bunch, but he’d had enough charm to get more women than he’d ever dreamed possible.  But the one thing about Andy was that the older he’d got, the better looking he’d become.  Time had been very kind to Andy Crabtree.
Danny Johnson, however, had very much been the one with the drop-dead gorgeous looks back then.  He’d been the group’s major heart-throb, the “bad boy” of the band with his many tattoos and a reputation for drinking, women and wild nights out.  He’d been the one who’d always got the most screams, the one all the woman had wanted first and foremost with his dark, sometimes unruly hair, piercing blue eyes and killer smile, but once he’d been taken the rest of the lads had been quite happy to accept his cast offs.  Time had also been kind to Danny because, unlike his hometown – the small seaside town of Whitley Bay – Danny had weathered the years extremely well, and despite now being in his (very) early forty’s, he still looked incredible with the body of a man half his age, thanks to tireless hours in the gym.
Ross Nelson, along with Frankie Monroe – two boys from the west end of Newcastle – had been the dancers of the group, the ones with the moves, the ones who had caused the band’s army of fans to scream with delight as they’d spun round on their heads or back-flipped their way across the stage during their energetic gigs.  Both of them had been good-looking in a quirky kind of way, very tall and very lean, thanks to all that dancing, but unfortunately the years hadn’t been all that kind to their physiques.  Middle-aged spread had come to say hello, and although they were still two fairly good-looking guys, the prospect of any head-spinning or back-flipping wasn’t looking likely these days.
And last, but definitely not least, there was Durham boy Cal Connor.  With his green eyes and dirty-blond hair, and a cheeky smile that could melt a girl’s heart all the way over in the back row, he’d been the cute member of the band with boyish good looks that had drawn him a fan club from all over the world.  Cal hadn’t been able to put a foot wrong during their hey day.  Popular didn’t even begin to describe him, and whenever he’d taken lead vocals on stage the place had erupted with the sounds of thousands of over-emotional girls begging him to take them home and do whatever he wanted to them.  Which he had done.  Sometimes.  As long as he’d been certain they were old enough.
Yeah.  Those had been the days.  But it hadn’t lasted, of course.  Bon Voyage had started to get very tired and very tetchy with each other during their spring 1996 Stretched to the Limit arena tour, which they should have seen as a kind of omen, really, because by the end of that tour they’d all but reached their limit.  The rows between Andy and Danny – their relationship had always been slightly on the edge of mutual dislike – had turned into something of a daily occurrence, and jealousy within the band had started to rock relationships even more when Cal had bagged a modelling contract for a trendy jeans company.  It soon became evident that Bon Voyage were very much on their way out.  Their time was up.
They’d called it a day just before Christmas 1996, causing an outpouring of grief from their loyal army of fans the like of which hadn’t been seen in decades, leaving the boys from the band with the biggest decision of their lives – just what did they do now the pop star dream was over?  Because it didn’t take all that long for Bon Voyage to be forgotten.  It didn’t take long at all.
They’d all gone their separate ways, with most of them heading back up to their native north east England.  Only Andy had stayed in London, settled in a house he’d bought with the more-than-good-but-not-quite-as-much-as-you-might-think money they’d made during their time in Bon Voyage, and tried to forge out a solo career that had lasted until the summer of 1998, when he’d realised that he couldn’t really hack it on his own.  His music was being panned, the fans were slowly deserting him, and a more-than-very-public-affair with an infamous glamour model hadn’t helped matters either.
With the money drying up he’d had to look into other ways of making a living, so he’d bought a pub with an old school friend, and whilst it was doing okay, it wasn’t exactly giving him the retirement prospect he’d hoped for.  And he missed the fame.  He missed it a lot.  So, when he’d got a call from a TV production company just a few weeks earlier asking him if he’d like to get the band back together for a reality show that would follow them over the course of two weeks as they performed a series of reunion gigs on a cruise ship sailing the Mediterranean, he’d jumped at the chance.  What did they have to lose?  Apart from their dignity, reputation, street credibility…
Luckily, with the rest of the band not exactly flying high in the post-boy band career stakes either – Danny had started his own painting and decorating business, Ross had become a landscape gardener, Frankie an insurance salesman, and Cal was a local radio DJ, making him the only one to have retained even a modicum of fame that he could cling onto, even if he was on at 4am – it hadn’t exactly been difficult to get any of them to join him in making their reunion a reality.  And, with failed marriages behind three of them (Ross, Cal and Frankie), Danny’s on the rocks, and Andy still free and very much single, nothing was stopping any of them from grabbing this opportunity with both hands.  Whatever the outcome.  Bon Voyage had faded into pop oblivion, so maybe now it was time for the world to wake up and see that they were back.  That was the plan, anyway.
So, here they all were, aboard the MS Atlantica for two weeks of heaven knows what, and this time they were going it alone.  This time they were in charge of their own destiny.  No manager, not even a record company as yet, but hopefully that could all change if this trip was a success.  They’d be getting some excellent TV exposure, the money they were being paid wasn’t bad, and who knew?  Maybe Bon Voyage could do what everyone thought was impossible.  Maybe they could actually make a comeback, and whip up the same kind of hysteria they’d created all those years ago.
‘Hey, Andy, we’re here,’ Frankie said, calling Andy back as he wandered off up the narrow corridor, wheeling his chrome-effect suitcase behind him.  ‘The cabins are here, mate.’        
Andy stopped and turned around, wheeling his case back in the direction of their allotted cabins.  Home for the next fortnight.  ‘Sorry.  I was miles away there.’
‘I can’t wait to be miles away,’ Danny said, swiping his key card through the slot on the cabin door, pushing it open with his shoulder.  ‘As far away as bloody possible.’
‘Davina giving you a hard time is she?’ Cal asked, holding the door open as Danny wheeled his suitcase through.
‘Like you wouldn’t frigging believe.  She’s changed her mind about the divorce now, hasn’t she?  Suddenly decided she doesn’t want us to split up anymore, and she says if  I still want a divorce then she wants half of everything I’ve got, which – right now – is precisely not-very-much-at-all.’
‘You should have something by the end of all this though,’ Ross remarked, opening the neighbouring cabin door.  ‘We could start raking it in again if this all goes well.  I mean, loads of 80’s and 90’s bands are getting back together now, aren’t they?’
Danny came back out of the cabin, leaning against the doorpost, folding his arms as he looked at Ross.  ‘Yeah, and that’s the whole problem though, isn’t it?  When I met Davina I had nowt, when I married her I had nowt – even though it’s quite evident now that she only married me because of who I was and how that might benefit her – and when that didn’t work and I still had nowt, and she still didn’t have that Z-List celebrity career she so desperately wanted, she started divorce proceedings, which I quite happily agreed to, but now – now she’s playing Queen Bitch, saying she’s decided to hold off on the divorce until after all this has finished.  She wants to try again, can you believe that?  When I had nowt I meant nowt to her, but now there’s the prospect of some cold hard cash on the horizon and maybe – maybe – even a sniff of some kind of rekindled fame, and she wants to try again!’
‘I take it you’re not happy about that then?’ Ross asked, standing aside to let Frankie through into the cabin they were sharing.
‘What do you think?’
‘Okay, look, I think we should all try and get settled into our cabins, maybe have a little bit of a rest, get our heads down for a bit,’ Andy suggested.  ‘We’ve got a meeting with the Cruise Director this evening, remember?  So maybe we should meet up in a couple of hours or so.  In the Show Lounge.  I’d like to start getting a feel for the place, you know?  Start thinking about routines and…’
‘Routines?’ Frankie asked, somewhat surprised to hear that word mentioned.  ‘What?  You mean, like, dancing?’
Andy stared at him, kicking open his cabin door, relieved he’d won the coin toss to get the single cabin.  ‘Yes, dancing.  What did you think we were going to be doing when we got here?’
‘Well, sitting on stools and singing, mainly,’ Frankie replied, looking around at the others for support.
Danny just rolled his eyes and walked back into his cabin, closely followed by Cal, wondering if this was the best thing they’d ever done – deciding to get back together – or the biggest mistake of their lives.

Palma - Majorca


Aimee stood on the dock, staring up at the imposing sight of the Atlantica cruise liner as it towered over her, the searing heat of a beautiful Majorcan afternoon beating down on her bare shoulders as she shielded her eyes from the sun that bounced off the bright white ship in front of her – this all-British, floating holiday resort that was about to be her home for the next two weeks. 
As what seemed liked coach after coach continued to pull up on the dock side alongside the ship, the crowd of people all making their way through the terminal building ahead of them and up onto the ship seemed to grow by the second, the ground around them covered in an array of different sized and coloured suitcases, all waiting to be delivered to their respective cabins so that their owners could start planning their wardrobes for the various dinners and long nights of entertainment that were going to take place over the course of this cruise.  It was a freestyle cruise – which meant that the dress code leaned more towards the casual than the formal – but dressing up was still very much a big part of this kind of holiday.  Especially for the women.  And Aimee was no exception.  She had a suitcase full of new clothes she couldn’t wait to start wearing.
A mixture of excitement and apprehension coursed through Aimee – excitement because she and Jemma had so needed this holiday, an escape from their okay but not-particularly-exciting jobs at SuperStyle, and apprehension at the thought of her mother joining them, but after losing her father to Mavis Wilson – the bowling club bike, as her mother liked to call her – Aimee thought that maybe she needed a holiday too.  Although, after an excruciating flight over from Newcastle where, for the most part, her mother had proceeded to interrogate a rather bemused middle-aged man sitting in front of her who was travelling to Magaluf to visit his daughter, citing the fact that he was proving to be the perfect inspiration for Rock Ransom, the hero in the new romance novel she was writing, Aimee was beginning to have second thoughts.
‘Are you coming onto this ship or not?  I’d kill for a cocktail,’ Jemma said, pulling her long dark hair back into a loose ponytail.
Aimee looked at her, smiling, running over to her and wrapping her arms around her in a huge bear-hug, squealing like an over-excited toddler at a birthday party.
‘Oh, Jemma!  I am so happy to be here!  I can’t wait to get this holiday started!’
Jemma hugged her back, smiling at Aimee, gently stroking her friend’s blond fringe from her pale blue eyes.  ‘I know you do, chick.  I mean, Robbie leaving like that… it couldn’t have been easy.’
Aimee slipped her arm through Jemma’s as they made their way towards the terminal building, joining the queue of people undergoing the embarkation process.
‘No, well, I had no idea he was going to dump me at our own engagement party, did I?’  She started looking around, suddenly aware that she hadn’t seen Marcie for about ten minutes.  ‘Where’s my mother disappeared off to now?’
‘She’s already in the queue, look.  Over there.  Talking to some dude who looks like that bloke out of Fantasy Island.’
‘Which one?  Tattoo?’ Aimee smirked, straining to get a look, wanting to make sure her mother really was about to board the ship because the last thing she wanted to have to deal with was Marcie Marcello stranded in Majorca, bothering the islanders with her tales of heaving bosoms and bare-chested heroes.
‘No, not him,’ Jemma giggled.  ‘The other one, Ricardo whatshisface.  The tall one.’
‘Oh, yeah,’ Aimee said, finally catching sight of her mother, who was in the process of throwing her head back and laughing – in that coquettish manner she’d recently adopted – at something the rather suave-looking, grey-haired gentleman beside her was saying.  And was he wearing a safari suit?  Aimee couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a bloke wearing a safari suit – not since the 1970’s, anyway.
‘Frigging coward,’ Jemma sniffed, squeezing Aimee’s arm. 
‘He’s only telling her a joke, Jemma.’
‘Not Ricardo over there.  I’m talking about your Robbie.’
‘He’s not my Robbie anymore, remember?’
‘Yeah, well, you didn’t deserve a bastard like that, and he certainly didn’t deserve someone as fabulous and beautiful as you.  I tell you, Aimee, after what happened to you it’s convinced me that I really am better off single.  Men!  We don’t need them, hon. ’
Aimee sighed.  ‘I thought it was what he wanted too though, Jem.  Marriage, kids, that lovely little semi-detached house we’d looked at near the quayside.  I really thought he wanted all of that too.  I mean, he said he loved me, didn’t he?’
‘He said a lot of things if it meant he got his own way.  I never trusted him.’
Aimee stopped and looked at Jemma.  ‘Why didn’t you tell me that was how you felt?’
‘Because he made you happy, Aimee.  You’re my best friend and all I want is for you to be happy.  And anyway, I honestly never thought he would turn out to be that much of a bastard.  I mean, who did?  The only saving grace is that your brother Eddie is still determined to track him down.’
They slowly shuffled forward as the queue of people in front of them got smaller and smaller, the embarkation check-in desks now almost within touching distance. 
‘It’s over now, anyway,’ Aimee said, linking her arm through Jemma’s again, reaching into her bag for her sunglasses.  ‘And what better way to get over a broken heart than to have a holiday?’
‘And what a holiday this could turn out to be.  Two weeks of all inclusive fun aboard a fabulous cruise ship… hang on,’ Jemma suddenly stopped, her attention directed towards a handful of people outside on the dock who were surrounded by huge silver boxes that were being opened up, one by one, as their contents were checked over.
‘What’s the matter?’ Aimee asked, following her friend’s gaze.
‘Over there,’ Jemma replied.  ‘That stuff looks like boxes of TV equipment and I know what I’m talking about, I was an extra on Byker Grove for a fortnight, remember?’
‘Haven’t you heard?’  A friendly crew member in a white shirt and smart white trousers smiled at them as they approached the desk, handing over their cruise documents and identification – the last step they had to go through before they could finally board the ship.
‘Heard what?’ Aimee asked, more than curious to find out what was going on now.
‘Bon Voyage,’ the crew member – who, thanks to his name badge, they found out was called Adam and was a member of the entertainment staff – said, still smiling. 
‘Bon Voyage?’ Jemma repeated, frowning slightly as she looked at Aimee.  ‘Bon Voyage as in, Bon VoyageThe biggest boy band of the 1990’s?  The boy band we used to love?  Hey, Aimee, do you remember that gig in Newcastle back in the early days?  We were second row centre and I threw a teddy bear in a tartan hat at Cal Connor only it missed and hit Ross Nelson right between the eyes… hang on…’  She turned her attention back to Adam.  ‘Are you telling me that Bon Voyage are here?  On this cruise?’
‘For the next two weeks,’ Adam replied, handing them both their all inclusive passes and cabin key cards.  ‘They’re filming a new reality TV series charting their planned comeback.  They’re doing a handful of gigs over the next fortnight here on the ship, in the Vegas Show Lounge.  Okay, that’s you both checked in so, if you’d just like to follow the signs over there to the gangway, you can begin making your way onto the ship.  Have a fabulous cruise, ladies!’
Aimee and Jemma walked slowly out of the terminal building, back out onto the dockside, following the line of people up onto the gangway.
‘Did I just hear him right?’ Aimee asked, still clinging onto Jemma’s arm.  ‘Did he just say Bon Voyage – our favourite, favourite boy band ever – did he just say they were here?  On this ship?  For the next two weeks?  The same two weeks that we’re on the ship?  Did he just say that?’
‘I do believe he did,’ Jemma smiled, a smile that slowly turned into a grin wide enough to please any Cheshire Cat.  ‘I do believe he bloody did!’
And all they could do was look at each other, and let out a scream that any Bon Voyage fan would have been proud of.

© Michelle Betham 2012

'Bon Voyage' is available to download HERE.
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Friday, 24 February 2012

10 cracking tracks from the 90's... in my opinion, of course...

It's Friday, and I'm in a good mood after a great week of writing, so I thought I'd do a bit of a wind-down post today and make it a music-inspired one.  Because I've doing a lot of listening to music this week, I always do when I'm writing.  Music is a great source of inspiration for me, I can get a whole novel's worth of ideas just from one song sometimes so it's a very important part of my life.  And this week I've been listening to a lot of music from a decade that threw up some incredible and diverse tracks - a decade that holds a lot of very happy memories for me: The 1990's.

So, what 10 tracks have I chosen from the 90's that I still love to listen to now?  Okay.  Here we go, in no particular order...

EELS - Novocaine for the Soul.  This track just epitomises all that was great about music back in that decade - in my opinion, of course.  But I just love everything about this song, it's got an almost eerie, atmospheric feel about it.  Even the video's great!  And I love Mark Oliver Everett's voice.

Shawn Mullins - Lullaby.  This is my kind of music.  And I just adore the chorus!

The Verve - Lucky Man.  A track from one of the best albums of the 1990's, Urban Hymns.  In fact, it's probably my favourite track from that album, and again, I love Richard Ashcroft's voice.  Never tire of listening to this.

REM - What's The Frequency, Kenneth?  Haven't got a bloody clue what the hell Michael Stipe's going on about here, but I just love this song!  It reminds me of my days on the Performing Arts course at college because it was released just as I was about to start that course, and it also reminds me of when my mum and dad got our first satelitte dish installed - I remember sitting on the couch watching this video on MTV and thinking, "Yes! Non-stop music videos have arrived!"

Pink Floyd - High Hopes.  Don't even get me started on how much I love this song!  Pink Floyd are one of my all-time favourite bands, without question, and The Division Bell is one of my all-time favourite albums, with this being the stand-out track for me.  Pink Floyd do atmospheric like nobody else, they give me the chance to switch off, kick back and enjoy everything that is great about music.  This album also reminds me of seeing the band live at Earls Court - an amazing night!  Incredible stuff.

Live - I Alone.  I love the way this track builds up to a cracking chorus!  And I think everyone knows by now how much I love the slightly heavier side of music!!

Foo Fighters - Learn To Fly.  Just squeezed into the 90's this one, released 1999, but no 90's line-up would really be complete without this track.  And the video (featuring Jack Black) is hilarious!  Dave Grohl is a legend!

Pearl Jam - Jeremy.  I was very much into my Grunge back in the 90's - Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden... I had the checked shirt tied round my waist and the heavy boots and the long hair.  I was never really a girly-girl, but I think I may have already have mentioned that.  Love Eddie Vedder's voice, this was an epic song, music just seemed to have more of an impact back then, and it proved that we had some great bands and great music come out of the 1990's. I still find the ending of this video quite disturbing though...

Degrees Of Motion - Shine On.  Bit of a curve-ball this one, but I didn't spend the entire 90's listening to grunge/indie/rock.  No, the (early) 90's was a time when I was out every weekend, and I loved a bit of dance music too because, in my opinion, the late 80's/early90's was the best time for dance music and that's probably me showing my age, but I don't really care.  There were some fabulous dance tracks released around the early 90's and so many of them bring back some great memories of Friday and Saturday nights down Whitley Bay, the days when you could go out with a fiver and still come home with change...

Felix - Don't You Want Me.  Ending with a classic dance track too, a song that had an infinite amount of remixes, but this was the version that I loved, and the one that I remember being played most Friday and Saturday nights.  Love it.  Still do.  Ah, how much did I love the early 90's...?

And those 10 tracks really are just the tip of the iceberg as far as my favourite songs from the 90's are concerned.  I could, quite frankly, do a list that topped over 100, so these are nothing but a taster, really.
And they're all songs I still listen to now, all songs that are on my iPod and will stay there.  And yes, I guess I've reached that age where I take very little or no interest at all as far as new music today is concerned because there isn't much that actually makes me sit up and take notice.  My hubby accuses me of living in the past, but I disagree.  I just like to listen to music that means something to me; music that I enjoy.  And if that makes me sound old then so be it.  I can live with that.

Somebody said on the TV this morning that there really are only two types of music in this world - good, and bad.  And you can't really argue with that, can you?


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Adam Lambert, that Bradley Cooper/Ryan Gosling debate, and my new book update - time for a midweek catch-up!

We're only a handful of days away from the biggest night in the movie calender, and I'd promised that I was going to write all sorts of movie-related posts on my blog this month to celebrate The BAFTA's, The Oscar's, etc.  So, where are all these posts then?  Well, my writing plans - as those of you who follow this blog may know - have taken a slightly different route than I'd originally intended and, to cut a long story short, I've begun writing a brand new book.  And I'd forgotten how good that feels, to completely lose yourself in a brand new story, completely new characters, a whole new world.  So, the thing is, my concentration has kind of been taken up with this new novel.  Yes, that's right, I haven't even had time to fantasise about Bradley Cooper/Ryan Gosling/Keanu Reeves - I know!  Shocking, isn't it?  But at the same time that's a good thing, because it means I'm totally wrapped up in the writing of this new book, I'm avoiding (most of the time!) any distractions, and I'm loving every second of working on it.

My new comedy-romance novel is set on one of these!
I've gone back to comedy-romance, set on a cruise ship, and I'm using my own experiences of cruise holidays - and some of the characters I've met on those holidays - to hopefully produce a fun, summer read.  I'm already looking for cover ideas, and I'm really quite excited about the whole thing.  I really am.  Although I'm giving myself daily headaches trying to think of a title but I'll get there - eventually!  I've even got hubby trying his hardest to think of one but, bless him, he hasn't quite got the hang of finding the right title for a chick lit novel.  Not yet, anyway, but if I give him enough time...
So, I'm almost halfway through the first draft of the new book and, to be honest, I'm flying through it so I'm still hoping for a May/very-early-June-at-the-latest release. I'll keep you posted on how things are going, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can get the book out in time for summer - if I ever get round to thinking of a decent title, that is!

Adam Lambert
So, what else has been happening to make me just a little bit excited this week?  Well, apart from 'Waterloo Road' returning for a new series tonight (yay!), it's just been confirmed that Season 8 American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert is to appear on stage with Queen when they headline this year's Sonisphere festival in July!  Now, whilst nobody could ever replace the legend that will always be Freddie Mercury, I have wanted to see Lambert front Queen for years now, and the fact that this is going to happen with a full set at Knebworth - where they played their last concert with Freddie - is great news!  And I can't wait to see the result of this because if anybody can do some kind of justice to Queen songs, then it's Adam.  He's got a great voice, I loved him on American Idol, and I think he can do it.  And I think he can do it well.

I'm going on March 25th! Excited, or what???
Oh, and while we're on the subject of rock music, I've bitten the bullet and finally got round to booking my ticket to see the incredible Joe Bonamssa when he plays Newcastle-upon-Tyne Metro Radio Arena in March.  I've got to go on my own (again!) because nobody else I know round here is willing to go with me (philistines!) but I don't care.  It was so worth it last time, and I'm just not willing to give up a chance to go watch this amazing, talented artist live.  Looking forward to another fabulous night of Joe's own brand of rock 'n' blues.

Okay, I'm off to get down to some serious writing in a minute but, before I go, I may not have dedicated a full post to this subject as I'd originally promised, but I think it deserves a little mention - Bradley Cooper-v-Ryan Gosling.  Where do you stand on this one?
Take a look at this picture and think carefully...

Which one are you having?
Do you know what my answer would be?  And this might surprise you, but after looking at that picture (for far longer than I should have) I've actually come to the conclusion that I'd be quite happy to throw Ryan down on the nearest available (preferably soft) surface and show him who's boss... oh, who am I kidding?  I'd have either one of them!  But Ryan does look exceptionally hot, I have to say... And, yes, I did post that particular picture for no other reason than it was gratuitous and I needed a bit of eye candy this morning.  Sometimes we writers just need that "special" kind of inspiration! That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. ;-)

Somebody open a window - it's just got very hot in here...

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The A-Z of me!

I've been tagged by the lovely @Mummy_Misfit, and also by the equally lovely @Missuswolf to complete my A-Z of me! And by accepting that tag, I've now got to, well, describe myself in 26 words - from A - Z!  So, want to find out a little bit more about me?  OK.  Here we go ...

Archie, probably begging for biscuits ...
A - Archie.  My little West Highland Terrier.  And I love him to bits!  I don't have children, so he's kind of like my baby and despite the fact he's got a huge mouth on him for a small dog, and drives me mad sometimes, I love him so much!

B -Books.  I love to read, I always have done.  For as long as I can remember I've always had a book or two on the go, always needed something to read, to allow me to escape the real world for a little while and enter a completely different one.  From my younger years reading The Famous Five and Malory Towers, to the days when I now love anything from a great Jackie Collins to a creepy James Herbert novel, not to mention some fantastic work from some of the fabulous indie authors I've met over the past year.  I may be a writer, creating stories of my own now, but I will always love to read.  Always. 

C - Clumsy.  Yep, if anyone's going to smash a glass or drop a plate without even trying, that's me.  I know I'm half Greek and plate-smashing is part of my culture but I can be a serious hindrance to our crockery collection at times.

D - Darts.  I love darts!  Have I told anyone that?  Can't remember if I've mentioned it before... ;-)

E - The Eighties.  Don't even get me started.  I loved the 80's!  I was a teenager in the 80's and it was a time when the music was much better than it is today (as I write this Adam & The Ants are playing on the radio), we may only have had 3 then 4 TV channels but kids' telly was more imaginative (come back Grange Hill and Cheggars Plays Pop!), oh, and we didn't have "proms" back then, no, we had an end-of-term school disco with a couple of sets of flashing lights on the DJ booth and the teachers hanging around making sure you didn't sneak off to the loo to down a bottle of Woodpecker!  Ah, those were the days...
The gorgeous island of Tenerife & the resort of Fanabe

F - Fanabe.  A resort in Tenerife, where I lived for a couple of years.  A lovely little resort with lots of bars, restaurants, and cafes and it was a place I loved when I lived in Tenerife.  It's also home to the best Chinese restaurant on the island (in my opinion) and I can't wait to get back there soon (hopefully!) to sample their Peking Crispy Duck and a plate of Ginger Beef and Spring Onions ...

Our Gambian wedding day.
G - Gambia.  Where I married my fabulous husband, Ian, back in 2003.  It's an - interesting, shall we say - country is The Gambia, and we had some incredible (and incredibly funny) experiences there, but our wedding day was lovely - quiet, but certainly a day to remember.

H - The Hangover movies.  Bloody love them!  Don't know what that says about my sense of humour but they both made me laugh out loud, and the sight of a hot and sweaty Bradley Cooper is never going to be a bad thing, is it?  


I - Ian.  My wonderful husband, and I don't tell him that enough, really, because he puts up with a hell of a lot from me!  We met back in 1994 when we were both on the same Performing Arts course at college and we've been together ever since.  We may clash when it comes to musical tastes (he hates rock music and I hate his ridiculous love of crappy dance rubbish) but we have much the same taste in TV and movies, he makes me laugh almost every day, and he's also been a great support to me when it comes to my writing.  Without him I'd still be working out how to upload a book to Amazon!  Yep, it's very handy being married to a computer expert, even if I have got what feels like the oldest computer known to man to work on...

Joe Bonamassa

J - Joe Bonamassa. A true blues/rock legend in the making.  An incredible guitarist and singer and one of the best performers I have ever had the privelege to see play live.  Just love his music.  Love it! 

K - Keanu Reeves.  Now, surely this one can't be a secret.  Surely everyone knows by now how much I love Keanu!  No?  Well, I love Keanu.  Have done ever since I saw him in that wet suit in 'Point Break' and it'll never go away.  He's my permanent celebrity crush!

Keanu Reeves - 'nuff said...

L - Life on Mars.  I absolutely loved this when it was on TV (UK version, that is, not the US one.)  John Simm was fabulous as Sam Tyler (and I'm still a big fangirl of his now!) and Philip Glenister, well, what can you say?  Gene Hunt is a legend!  In fact, writing this has made me want to dig out the DVD's and watch it all over again...

M - Michelle.  My name, obviously.  And apparently I was named after the Beatles song of the same name which was playing on the radio when my mum and dad were trying to think of what to call their first born.  Personally, I love the name, but that Beatles song was never me favourite ...

N - The North East of England.  I'm a Geordie (like Cheryl Cole, for those of you who don't know what a Geordie is), and I'm proud of that fact.  I love this part of the country, I love the North East - despite the fact I buggered off for a couple of years to go live in The Canaries.  I came back though, didn't I?  I don't know what it is but I just love being a northener, probably because I've always been one, but I could actually have grown up with a southern accent if me dad had taken that job in Surrey back in the 70's.

Newcastle's Tyne Bridge
But he didn't, so I grew up a fully fledged northener instead.  I just love the sense of humour we have up here, all the different accents and dialects, the beautiful scenery and the incredible cities.  I love the fact we turned out comedies like The Likely Lads and programmes such as Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Spender... I loved Spender... whatever happened to Jimmy Nail...?

O - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.  One of my absolute favourite Jack Nicholson films, in fact, it was probably the movie that made me sit up and take notice of him as an actor and I've loved him ever since.  But this movie was a classic, although, to this day I still can't work out why we were made to watch it during an 'O' level sociology lesson at school...

P - Peter Kay.  I just love this man!  He can make me laugh without even opening his mouth, he's just incredibly funny.  Not to everyone's taste, but he's certainly mine!  And I can watch Phoenix Nights again and again and it still makes me cry with laughter.  I guess I've got a very "old school" sense of humour, but all I know is that if ever I feel down, then a Peter Kay DVD can get me right back up there within seconds!

Q -Q10.  That stuff they put in face cream that's supposed to help make you look younger - I'm allergic to it.  Can't put anything near my face with that stuff in it.  Brings me out in an itchy, red rash so, unfortunately, I'm going to have to grow old (dis)gracefully!

R -Rock Music.  I'm a total closet rock chick.  Given half a chance I'd be riding off into the sunset on the back of a Harley Davidson clinging onto a Dave Grohl look-a-like and spending the summer traipsing round rock festivals (I think I've just given myself the idea for another book there...) but, apart from the fact I've got my very own tattoo on my right upper arm, I can only dream of being that wild and outrageous woman!  But I do love rock.  Anything from the softer sounds of The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac to the odd Iron Maiden and Motorhead track, and God knows how I came to love this stuff because I was brought up listening to Cliff Richard so I can only think that I subconciously rebelled somewhere along the line...

S -Sunderland University.  Where I used to work as a Media Technician, and I loved that job!  It was, at the time, the best job in the world as far as I was concerned.  I worked with some great people, in an environment I adored - surrounded by cables and TV equipment and edit machines - and I got to go to work every day in jeans, boots and t-shirts!  Result!  My perfect job!  The only reason I left the job was because we decided to throw caution to the wind and move to Tenerife for a little while, but I'll never forget that job.  Got some great, really happy memories of Sunderland University.  And I got to shake David Puttnam's hand when he visited our Media Centre. Nice bloke...
Take That - a hard habit to break...

T - Take That.  A habit I just can't seem to break, although, if Gary Barlow does return to The X Factor as a judge this year it might make my job easier because he irritated me so much last year that I really did consider terminating my two-decade-long fan-girl membership of this band.  But, I've loved Take That since they first crashed onto the scene back in the (very) early 90's, I've got some really great memories of the times we had following them round the country (back then - not now, I haven't got the bloody energy now!), and I just can't shake the habit.  I can't.  I've tried.  And, despite my better judgement, with rumours of another tour on the horizon, that'll be me standing in a very long queue outside the Stadium of Light some time around October... oh, deep joy ...

Me & the girls en-route to a Take That gig in Manchester back in the '90's.

U -Untidiness.  Not a great fan of this.  In fact, I think I may be slightly OCD over some things, I mean, if I see one of the coasters on the coffee table in the living room at a bit of a dodgy angle I have to get up and straighten it.  But I really can't stand mess.  It drives me mad! 

V - Vic and Bob.  Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, that is.  They're definitely not everyone's cup of tea but I find them hilarious!  I know I said before, when talking about Peter Kay, that I have a very "old school" sense of humour, but when it comes to these two - I don't know, I just love them!  I saw them live back in the 90's when they took the Vic Reeves Big Night Out show on tour and it was the funniest thing I've ever seen (bar the Peter Kay shows), their comedy is just so random and so surreal but in my opinion, well, it works for me! Especially The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer when they did 'Slade in Residence'! Vic Reeves' Noddy Holder was genius!

W - Worrying.  I've always been a huge worrier.  I worry about anything and everything, in fact, if I haven't got anything to worry about I'm worried.  It's a terrible habit (worse than the Take That one) because half the time whatever I'm worrying about is actually really not that important at all.  It drives my poor husband mad, so it's a good job he's an optimist.

X -Xanadu.  A song by Olivia Newton John that I think falls into the category of "guilty pleasures", but I love it!  And it also features ELO, which are another of my "guilty pleasures"... 

Y - Yellow.  One of my favourite colours, believe it or not.  I just think it's a beautiful, bright, sunny colour and I fully intend to paint my hallway a nice shade of this before the year is out.

Z - Zumba.  I've just started doing this, even if it isn't particularly good for me dodgy knee! I'm not a huge fan of exercise, but I wanted something that involved a little bit of dancing and could actually allow me to do some regular exercise and have a little bit of fun at the same time.  Well, it certainly involves dancing, and I suppose it could be fun, if it doesn't finish you off first...

So, there you have it.  The A-Z of me, more random facts that you might or might not have known about me.  In fact, one or two of them surprised even me... Olivia Newton John????

Monday, 13 February 2012

My Monday ramblings - The BAFTA's, and assorted other movie related stuff...

...because last night, in London, The BAFTA's happened!  So, what better way to start a new week than with a bit of a fun post to talk about movie's, movie stars and the films I watched over the weekend - and I watched a few, because the TV was, to put it mildly, rubbish!

So, what movies did I watch over the weekend then?  Well, on Saturday night we chose to watch 'I Love You, Man' - a bromantic comedy!!  Well, it was hubby's birthday and I thought he might like it!

And we both really, really liked it!  I'm sorry, but sometimes a bit of a near-the-knuckle (humour-wise) couple of hours is just what's needed, and if a movie makes me laugh out loud then that's a winner for me, and this one did.  It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I'm a sucker for movies like 'The Hangover', 'Horrible Bosses' and 'The Change-Up', so this one was always going to be a winner for me.

And last night, it was a movie starring one of my all-time favourite actresses - Meryl Streep.

'It's Complicated' - another comedy - was a movie I adored, but wasn't sure my other half would like, so I was surprised when he said he'd really enjoyed it.  The title of the movie may be 'It's Complicated', but the plot wasn't, really - the story of a divorced couple who end up having an affair.  But it was really funny, had a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, Alec Baldwin was great and Meryl Streep, well, she just continues to prove that she can turn her hand to anything.  She was fabulous, as always.  I loved it.  It was a great way to round off a nice, quiet, relaxing weekend.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of Meryl Streep, that brings us nicely onto the subject of the BAFTA's, really, doesn't it?  Because the lady herself won Best Actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, and I fully expect that it was very much deserved, because from what I've heard, she had our ex-Prime Minster down to a tee!

Now, I'm a huge, huge fan of Ms. Streep, but not a huge fan of Margaret Thatcher, by any stretch of the imagination.  Not many people are up here in the north of England.  In fact, mention her name in most places around the North East and you'll get, well, it's not wise, to be honest.

However, I'm intrigued to see how Meryl Streep tackles that role, so we will watch 'The Iron Lady' at some point, but hubby is refusing to pay money to sit in a cinema to watch a film about a woman who did absolutely nothing to help him at all during her time as Prime Minister.  So, we'll have to wait for the DVD, but in the meantime, who else won what at The BAFTA's?  Well, in my opinion, George Clooney won Best Looking Bloke to Grace the Red Carpet, but as far as movie's were concerned, it looks like The Artist seemed to have the awards pretty much sewn up there.  I'm saying looks like, because I didn't actually watch the BAFTA's on TV myself, for a number of reasons:-
1) Other half cannot bear these type of things and would just have moaned all the way through making it completely unbearable.
2) Other half can't stand Stephen Fry - although, to be fair, neither can I - and I didn't have the energy to sit through a two hour tirade of how much he dislikes him and why.
3) I didn't really want to sit through them.  Sometimes these things bore the life out of me.  I had a much better time watching 'It's Complicated', although I hear Colin Firth was the perfect gentleman when Meryl Streep lost her shoe on the way to collect her Best Actress award, returning it to her like a real-life Prince Charming...I love Colin Firth...

So, The Artisit...anyone seen it?  Is it as good as everyone seems to think it is?  Although there are rumours that a few cinemas have actually had people walking out before the end because they claimed it was that bad, but you can't please all of the people all of the time, and boy, do I know all about that!!

I'm just curious, because I'm not one of those people who tends to go see a movie just because it's getting hyped to hell.  That's not a good enough reason for me.  I mean, I still haven't seen 'The King's Speech', for heaven's sake!  I'm that behind with movies.  But I'd love to know if anyone out there has seen 'The Artisit' because it's a movie that intrigues me more than anything.  A silent black and white film shot in 4:3 that's taking the movie world by storm?  Really?  But I just don't know all that much about it, about from the fact it's got a very cute dog in it.  Did he not win anything?  By all accounts he's excellent in the movie! ;-)

OK.  I think I've rambled on enough for now.  There's not really much else I can say about The BAFTA's because I have no idea who was wearing what, who looked good and who looked like they'd taken 5 minutes to get ready, I just know that George Clooney looked gorgeous (as usual) and a silent movie swept the board. 

But, we're now heading at a rate of knots towards the Big One - The Oscars!  And where that one's concerned, I may pay closer attention, study the outfits, check out the talent on the Red Carpet, you know, all the important stuff! ;-)

But, until then, look out for the post I promised last week and haven't yet delivered (Bradley Cooper -v- Ryan Gosling - I'm still doing the research!) and let's look forward to the biggest night in the Hollywood calender because, if you love movies (as I do) then it's the one we all wait for.  Although, if the BAFTA's are any indication, then it's looking likely that black and white is going to rule the roost on that side of the pond too...