Dec 5, 2016

So that was it for having fun. The next few months were filled with hospital appts and fluid drains, and the growing realisation that IT was back and I needed to go thru chemo again. I felt I was only doing it for the family, that Ovarian cancer is a killer, and no matter what I did, it was going to get me in the end. On the plus side, it was actually an entirely new cancer, not spread from the breast cancer I had before, so in some ways this was a blessing. I would just have to beat this one, like I did the last one.

After a few days of denial, I had it under control, and I set out to find out what I could do to get rid of it. My surgeon recommended 3 sessions of chemo, an operation to remove what was visible and then 3 more sessions of chemo, But he told me that I only had a one in 3 chance of being cured, and that, if it came back, they could only 'manage' it from there on in. And my Oncologist said the same - 'It's very hard to get rid of this' she told me. Great, huh.
And the hospital offered me a trial -  a new drug called Avastin, that targets only cancer cells, (chemo targets ALL fast growing cells) so I signed up for it immediately. And the chemo started.

After my last lot for BC, I was expecting dire side effects, but I have to say, Carbo Taxol is nowhere near as bad as FEC, and I managed to get through the 3 cycles (9 weeks) without too many problems. Oh, except for the blood transfusions, had a couple of those.....Taxol saps your red blood cells, so I spent entire days in the chemo unit, having  3 pints of blood dripped into me - thank you doners, whoever you are. I used to donate blood , don't think anybody would want mine now, but if you've ever considered it, PLEASE go ahead and do it, it's a bloody lifesaver to people like me. I am so grateful to whoever gave me their blood.......

And then it all stopped for The Operation. The pre op scan was good - all tumours had shrunk, and all the docs I spoke to were like, wow, you've done amazing!! So I slowly began to think, maybe I'm not going to die just yet after all. And then I had the op - even better! Total hysterectomy, plus omentum removal (look it up) , and no evidence of disease in any of it! 3 MUCH smaller tumours removed from peritoneum, and now I have lovely criss crossing scars, and a much improved prognosis.

Unfortunately, chemo after that made me feel really crap.....I have staggered through the last 3 sessions, thankfully, but am so glad it's over. Turns out I have the faulty BRCA 2 gene, which explains the second bout of the big C. Still, most of my dodgy bits have gone, so I am cancer free for now anyway. ....
Now looking forward to 2017, (and my hair coming back) and a BIG trip to Europe to see Alice LOTS of times......or  maybe even USA........Bring it on!

Slovenia and Milan

Slovenia and Milan

My goodness, this was a trip and a half...for some good reasons and a majorly bad one in my case....
I'd been feeling a bit crappy for a while before this trip came up. I managed to get to Sweden to see the Vamps, but then I developed a 'abdominal fluid' problem, and I kept having to rush off to hospital to get it drained before I could do anything......
So I said to them, 'I gotta go to Slovenia to see Alice, please can you drain it before I go, and I promise to come back as soon as I get home, it's only five days, blah blah blah -  and they said, 'Yeah, no problem'..............................but more of that later.

So, Peter and I decided to do VIP, I felt it would be better at Slovenia, because then we would have time to q for Milan if we were so inclined. But when we booked it, they said, 'Gotta be here at 5pm', which, since our plane was landing at 4pm, was a bit of a problem. So we panicked a bit, and then crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. And then, at what seemed like the very last minute, we got emails saying 'Meet at 6pm'!! Perfect,we thought, no problem. Land at 4pm, pick up car, drive 30 mins to hotel, change, wander 5 mins over to venue - what could possibly go wrong?

Well, the plane could be delayed for an hour and a half............................

FFS, don't these people know we have a Meet and Greet? With a stage tour? And a photo with FrankenAlice? AND a pic with our heads in the guillotine? Not to mention that I had an email 2 mins before I left home, telling me I was the VIP balloon winner?

Gah, I sat on the plane and tried not to panic. 'It will make no difference', I told myself. Obvs, that didn't help in the slightest, so, by the time we arrived I was a nervous wreck. We raced off the plane, ran to the car hire, agreed with everything the bloke said, anything for him to give us the keys quickly ( 'You will not take the car over any borders, no?' Nah, mate whatever you say', we lied), sped through Slovenian suburbs, and Steve (designated driver, and non vip-er) screeched to a halt at the venue, dropped us off, and left to find the hotel. Pete and I raced off to the box office and explained we should have early entry. She looked at us blankly and said, 'I know nothing'. But,  she at least had our passes, so we grabbed them and harangued every security guard in the vicinity, if they could let us in.......most of them, said, 'no no, they have gone in already', but thankfully one guy heard us and told us to follow him, and we eventually got in. As we walked toward the stage, I heard Bujie call ' Penny! You made it!' And we did, thank god!!

She had just finished the stage tour with the other 6 VIPs, but thankfully, she was happy to do it again for us. Pat had also just put the guillotine away, but he got it back out again, and we were able to take loads of pix!! Thank you Bujie and Pat!
Then they left us to find our spots on the barrier. There were actually 2 barriers, but I'd managed to work that out from the website  (unusually for me), and our tix were for the front one. At last, a chance to relax. ! think I must've changed on the plane, or in the car on the way, or mebbe I just put on my gig gear to travel in, I can't remember, but I seem to be wearing it in the pics.

What a brilliant gig. New songs - Public Animal No 9!! (One of my favourite songs. Takes me right back to 1972, my favourite year)- and Long Way To Go! And Woman Of Mass Distraction! And Guilty! And some new/old props- the toybox! Lots of smoke and dry ice, and things came out of the box.........mostly stuff handed to Alice by Amber, plus Sheryl a couple of times.
And Cold Ethyl was back - I love Cold Ethyl- but this time it was Sheryl, dancing and being thrown about by Alice.....Can hardly believe she is my age, she is so beautiful and elegant....and then I noticed that, hanging on the side of the left hand screen was a doll...and it was little Betty, that we had given to Andy May and Michael Miller to put on the crew bus last year! Michael, thank you for bringing her back, great to see her as part of the stage props on this tour! Andy May is sadly no longer with the crew, they have a new manager andd he had his own lighting guy....Andy we miss you, it's just not the same without you....

Stoked to find L'il Betty still around after her vacay in LA over the winter. Thank you MM

So, as Balloon Thrower, I wended my way backstage during 18,  met Chas on the way, so had to stop for a big hug. When I got to the balloons, Kyler said,  well, here they are, you know what to do, and  then when I made it back onstage, he passed me the balloons one at a time. I tried to throw them as far as possible, I wanted to throw one direct to Alice but he wasn't looking my way......... next time! I finished all too quickly, and made to go off, but Chuck came over and stopped me, and we had a little guitar tete a tete, bless him -  and then Ryan came down off his platform to give a me hug whilst he's still playing!! I am so honoured!! Honestly it was all over in 2 minutes, but it was the highlight of my year, thank you guys, it meant the world to  me.
As there was so much space either side of the stage, I watched the rest of the show from there, that's a first too. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera, as I given it to Peter so that he could video the whole thing........and he did!! Hope it works.


The VIP was brilliant, it's always nice when there isn't too many people, we always get a decent amount of time with Alice. And they have given up with the stoopid  'only 3 items to sign' malarkey, thank goodness, honestly the guy who oversaw that last year was a right little Hitler. I know there were sensible reasons for it, but really, it doesn't make a lot of difference in the long run, and Alice is always happy to sign anything you want him to, it really doesn't take any more time.
So I sat down next to him, and he gave me a big hug and said 'how are you, sweetie?' Honestly could my day get any better?? He talked about how he always forgets how to spell my name,  but remembered I am Penny Dreadful. We're besties now. He signed the rest of my album covers, my ticket, set list, dollar bills, Certificate of Insanity etc etc - we even got a beautiful print of a special dollar bill, with details on where to get your M&G pix - and he signed that too.

We went back out to the hall, when I bumped into Glen - congratulated him on a great gig, he was very chatty, although,  don't ask me what we talked about, haven't a clue. And eventually went back to our hotel, 2 mins round the corner - I am so good at picking hotels, right? Then of course we were hungry. There's always that after gig moment  when only junk food will do. We asked reception where we could get food and they offered to drive us to a pizza place! So we had a midnight feast in our room before collapsing into a well deserved sleep.

Next day it was off to Milan. After a lovely breakfast, we hit the road stopping here and there for some pics, and I just had to buy an enormous lump of authentic Parmesan cheese, nom nom. And some odd shaped pasta.
 Amazing how the road tolls shot up as soon as we hit the border (you remember, the one we promised the car hire guy we wouldn't cross.......oops)

So, on the way, we decided to go to Venice, as you do. We drove for ages over a very long bridge and were greeted by 2 massive high rise car parks , not in lovely Venetian style I might add. We round and round in circles, eventually arriving at the top -  and an extremely rude man (insert chosen profanity) wanted £35, even though we were only gonna be there for an hour or so! Needless to say, we drove out again..........and then we found a little unexpected car park, right by the bridge to the Grand Canal with about 20 spaces, when a guy said "d'you want my ticket? It has half an hour left on it''  Fate or what?! Well of course we did! Brilliant timing. Gave us just enough time to run down to the Grand Canal, take a few more sheep T pics, eyeball a few canals going off into the distance and then we were on our way again!

Eventually we got to our hotel in Milan. Gotta say I was underwhelmed looking at the outside unfortunately, but when you opened the door, there was a little oasis of gorgeousness on the inside. talk about bijou. Small and perfectly formed,  it was also only a 10 minute walk from the venue. Did I mention how good I am at picking hotels? Well, except for that one in Oxford with the toenails in the bed, but that's another story.

We managed to track down James and met  him in a beautiful restaurant - La' Imagine- and our table was full of sweetie jars. Foamy banana anyone?   We perused the menu,  not that I was hungry, I seemed to be developing a tricky cough.....and then the band arrived!! They had a table close to ours and I went off to chat with them - bless them they are so good to us fans  so sorry for interrupting your dinner guys,  lol.

Peter had just made us some great t shirts,  with the original band names on the front,  but when Ryan saw it,  he said 'I  hope our names are on the back! Not yet,  but I am gonna get some made up as soon as I get home. And maybe put the crew names on the back!
Dinner was amazing,  I have no idea how I managed to eat it all,  and then we ambled back to the Radisson Blu  for a drink or seven. guess who was in the bar?  Kyler and Ryan,  oh, and Amber briefly  she is a sweetie.
Have long wanted to buy some of the guys a drink for being such nice,  upstanding and all-round Jolly Good Sports, so I think I bought them one. The evening is a little foggy after that,  I vaguely remember chatting to Kyler about him taking portrait photos of 'key' fans, (said he would do mine tomorrow!) taking a couple of selfies, and having trouble climbing on and off the bar stool. Lost count of drinks after 5. I think I took one back in the taxi with me. And I think It ended up in a hedge somewhere. Or maybe that was me.

The next morning was a rude awakening. I cannot believe how crappy I felt,  because the fluid was coming back,  and (unbeknownst to me at the time) in one of my lungs hence the cough, and shortness of breath. Steve had already been along to venue at 8 am said it was buzzing,  which was more than annoying......
Since we all felt like crap,  we decided we couldn't face queuing all day,  so we got ready very slowly and found ourselves a nice cafe /bar to have some lunch. I don't know how the boys could drink beer,  I am never drinking again. I've said it before and I'll say it again.
Most of the afternoon,  we limped from bar to bar,  reassuring ourselves  how it would be interesting to see the gig from a different viewpoint,  always assuming we couldn't muscle our way to the front -ish. Really. It will be fine. I'm sure. Yeah, right.

There were lots of nice bootleg t shirts,  so we bought loads. Alice arrived with Sheryl in his usual mini van,  and gave us a wave. the crew bus was parked out the front so we saw some of the guys, and chatted with Dianne and Amber (who got my Tommy album signed  thank you!) Sadly, I didn't see Kyler for my portrait,  oh well, never mind,  next time......... the VIP-ers went in,  and by this time, I was beginning to wish that I'd gone for the cheaper VIP option of just the stage tour,  so's I could get in early too. Next time.
Then the doors opened, and hordes of people surged in before us *cries*
I bought a bandana,  I know I will be needing one before too much longer. Met up with Janice and also met some Italian fans with whom I am friends on FB, great to meet you gals!
We found ourselves a spot on a staircase near the bar, so at least we could actually see, but I gotta say,  the show from the back is a big disappointment. Won't be doing that again.
We had a quick chat with James (he gave me his set list, thanks!), and were herded towards the door. Unfortunately,  it was raining cats and dogs,  and the nasty security men wouldn't let us shelter until it eased off....... They practically pushed us out,  the bastards,  so we ran round the corner looking for some shelter-  I was really worried that my Tommy LP was gonna get wet. After about 30 seconds, we were completely drenched,  but miraculously,  Tommy stayed dry.
Back at the hotel, we dripped on the floor for a bit and then, once we'd dried off,  we watched the storm, including some mega lightening from the window.

It was a long drive back to Slovenia, thankfully  we didn't crash the car in Italy, would've been a bit of a downer, specially since the words. 'Do Not Drive Over The Border '  were written all over our rental agreement. I was feeling pretty bad by this point, think I slept most of the journey.

We dropped off the car with no probs, and caught the plane in plenty of time, and I coughed my way home. I ended up going to A and E in Glos, big mistake, but I had the fluid drained- and  then they decided to keep me in hospital grrrr.  for five days, ffs. So I missed Alice's  only UK appearance,  the Stone Free festival at the 02, for which I had not one,  but two, yes two tickets including a meet and greet  (which actually turned into a Q and  A), and a night in a the posh hotel next door. I think the food may have been better in the hotel.

Oct 19, 2016

The Hollywood Vampires!

Wow, this seems like ages and AGES ago, mainly cos it was BC, and also because, well, it WAS ages ago.........
I decided that, even though this was not a 'proper' Alice gig, as it were, I would like to see it anyway, so I made plans to go to Grona Lund, Sweden to catch the show there. Having been to the venue before, I knew what to expect, so I booked the hotel next door, and set off on my journey. But when I arrived at Gatwick I realised I had forgotten my phone...duh....OMG, How ever will I manage???
Anyway, having travelled by car, plane, bus, another bus and shanks's pony, I eventually arrived at the POP hotel - Home of the Abba Museum. Wow it's so close! Abso perf as my daughter would say.......

How dare all these people arrive before me
Y'know what? at £40+, I think I can live without the T shirt
I unpacked and decided to go over to the venue about 2 pm. I thought that would be ample time to get a spot on the barrier, but when I arrived it was already about 5 deep, owing to the Johnny Depp Effect I guess......pah. Luckily I had arranged to meet up with FB friends Tamara and Sarah, and they were already at the barrier, although right round at the side. Which was perfect actually, as it was on Tommy's side. The stage is a bit high, so it's hard to see more than about half of it, but the guys always come over to the side, right to the edge, so  it's a good spot to get decent pics, and catch stuff.

So we waited, and had drinks, and went off for walks, and sat in the sun, (got myself a bit of a tan!) and waited etc etc some point late in the afternoon, Patrick who Steve and I met ages ago, spotted me and came over to say hi! Was very happy to see him, it's been a year or more. I love the Alice fan community, it's like there's nowhere in the world you can go without seeing someone you know! Made a few new friends too. Love it.
Ridiculous ride goiing on behind us. No Thank You.

Eventually 8 o'clock came around and they came on stage, Alice looking so gorgeous in his frilly white shirt and long black vampire jacket. Gotta say Johnny D looked a bit scary.....I guess it's that thing with famous good looking people, they always seem to try and make themselves look as ugly as possible sometimes....
Kyler came out with his camera and took some great pics as usual - I got one of him at last! He gave me a very big hug, which made my day.

Johnny came over to our side of the stage quite a lot, and sort of leered at everybody...Hah, I think he thought he was smiling, lol. He's quite creepy really......He kept doing this kind of  low key 'waving' his fingers at us whilst still playing the guitar thing.


 I think he WAS actually playing his guitar, rather than just pretending just for show like, but you never know. Joe Perry , Tommy and Bruce Witkin were also there as backup, y'know what I mean....
On the whole, I got the impression he was rather enjoying himself, maybe he always wanted to be a rockstar rather than an actor. But now he's so rich, he can do what he wants.........well, good luck to him I say. I didn't do the VIP meet and greet, as it costs a whopping $1500, and I can live without meeting him......makes Alice's VIP seem very cheap, although I always thought they were reasonable anyway.

Alice of course was the ultimate showman, And, as he was not in 'Alice' mode, he talked to us quite a bit, introducing songs, even explaining them, and of course, telling us about the Hollywood Vampires in LA. I know lots of Sick Things don't like him doing the covers etc, but I've seen Raise The Dead 19 times, so I gotta say it was a refreshing change to see him singing different songs, at last. Lots of my 70's favourites, Suffragette City, 20th Century Boy, Pinball Wizard, My Generation, Rebel Rebel, Train Kept A Rollin', Come Together, plus loads of tracks off the new CD, even Whole Lotta Love, which I though I love, I didn't think would happen! It's my fave track off the CD, but without Brian there for the vocals, Alice did a pretty credible job, I gotta say. A few new songs too, like Raise The Dead, My Dead Drunk Friends and Johnny Depp's Bad As I Am. And some Aerosmith stuff too! Not that they ever appeared on my radar, but good nonetheless.

                                     TOMMY TOMMY TOMMY!

Various guitar picks sailed past me, Alice had only one cane......or it might've been a whip,  but that never went anywhere near me either, hey ho. One of JD's picks landed in the flower bed, I made a mental note to check it out later but was pre-empted by a number of other people, so I ended up with nada. Such is life!!




So, it was all over much too soon. Sarah and Patrick were  off to the Grand Hotel, where Alice was staying but I'd had enough    and I wandered the 100 yards back to my hotel, collapsed in a heap, and had a very good sleep. Managed to get up in time for brekkie, I love a hotel breakfast, and there was lots of bacon and dinky little pastries, plus the usual ham and cheese, and lovely bread so I made the most of it. And I made a cheese and ham sarnie for lunch too!

Seeing as the hotel was the home of Swedens ABBA museum, I thought I would have a look. But they wanted £25 for it, so, I decided that seeing Agnetha's blue pants and Benny's lovely white catsuit was not really worth the cash, so I decided to go and see Gamla Stan, the Old Town instead. The ferry from the hotel went right across the bay, direct to it, so I hopped on and disappeared into a maze of winding streets. What a brilliant place!! I pretty soon found a great cafe to sit and people watch - one of many that day! My flight wasn't til late so I didn't have to rush, the weather was gorgeous, so I had plenty of time to explore.


He gets everywhere

Since I forgot my phone, I wrote a journal as I went along, actually better for blogging purposes, as I have a record now all these months later - this doesn't happen when you're  online the whole time.................I am a little bit tired of lugging my suitcase around, it does have wheels but all the streets are cobbled which is a bit tedious after a while.
So I sat in many coffee shops, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and asked for black tea with often took several attempts, and the I often ended up with Earl Grey, which I love. But the Europeans don't really get it, you have to put the T bag in before the water, guys, honest....

Saw the Grande Hotel as I was crossing a bridge, this is where Alice was staying, bur, as I'm sure he's gone by now, I decided not to bother with a visit. Some lovely shops enticed me in and I bought a few things inc a beautiful glass lantern, no idea how I'm gonna get it home, lol. Missing my phone................................... even though I am enjoying some lovely fresh orange juice, accompanied by a really bad accordian player........

I caught the bus just down from the Royal Viking, where Steve famously walked straight past Alice and Sheryl last year, and ended up at the airport far too early as usual. And my flight is delayed by 20 mins, gah. I toyed with the idea of having a glass of vino, but it was £11..............OMG, forget it!!!

Except that 2 hours later, I am so bored, and, getting through passport control, I discover that it is only £8.50, so I have one ^_^

Still missing my phone....................