Oct 16, 2017


It’s Stockholm Grona Lund time again. Having been there for the last 2 years, it seems like it might become a regular yearly Alice outing. Was a bit different this time, because Steve couldn’t make it, so I managed to convince hubby John that our next long weekend away should be in Stockholm, and he was like, ‘yeah, why not’.
We decided on a four day tour, Stockholm is such a lovely city, with lots to see, and a great atmosphere. We set off on Tues am, with our minimal luggage, I like to think we are getting better at not packing much, but I still have a way to go. But I will need to get better, as we are planning our gap year, hah, so it’s gotta be minimal. Planning to get tips of daughter Amy, when she gets back from her 9 months of touring 😊
 I booked a bus from the airport to the Central Station, and the hotel was a short walk from there. I was a bit worried about the short walk, I have been struggling with short walks lately, well, any bloody walks at all tbh, and having no energy at all, tis a bit of a problem, BUT it wasn’t too bad, really……….. Note to self, need to get some proper walking shoes….
 Lovely hotel, plenty of free tea in the lobby, well some kind of raspberry stuff, lol, but they can always find you some English Breakfast if you ask. Usually, I bring t bags. In fact, I ALWAYS bring t bags, but I forgot this time, oops.
Our room on 4th floor is via beautiful old fashioned wrought iron lift. But the room!!! It’s actually a cupboard. Just enough space for a double bed, small table on one side, wall on the other, bit of a gap at the end of the bed, your suitcase has to go under it,  and teeny (but adequate) ensuite by the side. No WINDOW. Thought this would be ok when booking but is horrible! You have no idea when morning arrives!! Honestly, I think if I had a room like this at home, I would just sleep all the time………
Wed am. Well, at least breakfast is great, ridiculous amounts of food……. Bacon, beans, eggs, sausages (frankfurters anyway), pancakes, about 6 different kinds of bread for toast, butter, cheese spread, marge etc, lots of different teas, cereals, yoghurt, fruit, dried and fresh, cookies, gluten free stuff, lactose free milk/yogs etc, ham, cheeses, salad vegs, so much food!! Lots of stuff to make lunch with!! And you need to, believe me, everything is ridiculously expensive otherwise, especially for us UK types. What I really liked was the bowl of fresh tomatoes. I have a thing about cherry toms, especially the ‘chocolate tomato’ variety, you know, the dark one that’s always in the variety pack, but there’s always only one of them………so I could cherry pick (pun intended) all my faves from the bowl!!
We spent the morning exploring the old town, Gamla Stan,  which is a fabulous complex of shops, cafes and small streets ………..great fun, but my feet were killing me after a few hours of that. I carried on anyway – I am such a trouper, (sarcasm) ……and we ended up in a nice looking restaurant opposite the hotel. But after 40 mins wait, we got cheesed off with the lack of interest, so we left and went somewhere else. The London restaurant, I believe it was called, which was very nice and the staff were much more attentive.
Thursday. The BIG Alice day!!! I made myself a nice lunch from the breakfast buffet, and  set off for the venue early. I got there at 10.30  - having been before, I know you have to wait at the steps until they open up the second part of the theme park, usually at 11.00.
 But there were shedloads of people there!! And I only just made it to the barrier………!
Luckily there was still room for friends Sara and Tamara who came along a bit later, and I made lots of new friends -  Paul from NZ and Sofie G. I actually managed to get a bit of a suntan, 😊. Gotta say, I quite enjoyed the  10+ hour wait – it helped that I stole some cushions from the hotel to sit on!  At about 4.30, I had to borrow Pauls umbrella for shade, cos it was just sooo  flipping hot. I should know better by now, I MUST remember to bring an umbrella next time…………………….
I took one of my scrapbooks along, hoping to get some band sigs in it, so I showed it to a lot of peeps, who all seemed to appreciate it, thank you one and all.
At about 5 pm, the masses arrived, so we had to stand up from then on.  John came back at this point and took away all my excess luggage, luckily for me he had already gone along to the Hard Rock Café, and purchased a vinyl album and a CD, complete with 2 raffle tix for M&G , bless him! I was so worried they were gonna sell out, and I wanted to win that Meet and Greet, SO much…..
He retired a bit further back at this point to watch the show, and take some pics. And how good was the show!!!! Abso LOVED it, so good to see Alice again after a year off…….( it was SUCH a crappy year………)
I was sorry not to hear ‘Escape’, because Tommy and I talked about getting it into the set a couple years ago,  but we did get to hear the new single Paranoiac Personality, plus Man behind The Mask, (but no backpack Bujie, ), The World Needs Guts, Pain, and all the usual stuff, and it was bloody AWESOME, it’s been a long, long year and it was a real pleasure to be back in the zone again! Tommy kept throwing me pics and I kept missing them! But I got one in the end, and also one from Nita, who kept pointing at me, bless her.
I couldn’t believe how quick the time passed, seemed like half an hour, and then it was all over…. Great ,great  show. SO MUCH FUN!!!

I love Alice shows, always makes me feel alive!!I only wish I could go on to Finland for the next one. But honestly, this is always such a great one to do, and there is nearly always an aftershow do at the Hard Rock, on account of Ryan living in Stockholm.
Tamara had ordered a taxi and she let me share it (thanks SO much, Tamara xx) so we actually managed to get to the Hard Rock Cafe in time for the prize draw – a M&G with Alice. -  pah . no 49 was the winner.  And I had 19 and 20…..not a lot of use,………..but  hey ho, such is life.
There is a VIP area in the back of the restaurant which you can’t get into without a pass, but you can loiter near it, so that’s  what I did.  Conveniently, the wall here was decorated with ‘Paranormal’ posters, so I unobtrusively prised one off the wall……..
Lucky for me, Tommy saw me and came out to chat. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him, so we had a quick catch up and a couple of hugs  - it was so great to see him it’s been ages!  He was very happy to hear that I am now in remission 😊 , yeah me too! He said that Alice was definitely coming along that evening, in fact he was probably already here. Panic! Need to get to the stage!! But I could see the tiny floor space in front of it was already heaving, so I decided to make my way across to the other side of the bar, in hopes of seeing better. But before I could move,  I bumped into Chuck and he asked how I was doing too, bless him for remembering.  I began to wend my way thru the crowd, spotting Ryan’s wife Bianca on my way -  and a minute later Ryan came through, spotted me, and asked how I was too! And then, if I’d seen his wife 😊, so I pointed him in the right direction and carried on with my mission to find a place to see the stage from.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t anywhere. Except mebbe the top of the bar, but I’m afraid my ‘leaping up and fending off the objectors ‘ days are over (which is sad…but it’s only because I can’t move very well any more, I would SO have done it 20 years ago, the attitude is still there!), so I abandoned all hope, and convinced myself that I was just happy to be in the same building.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAnd breathe……………………
So Alice came on to do a Q and A, but, not only couldn’t I see what was going on, I couldn’t hear a bloody thing either lol, …….ah well………………………….by the time he’d finished and all the lightweights had gone, I at least I got to have a chat with Kyler, and also Glen and Nita , who were both able to sign my scrapbook.
I kinda folded at this point, being completely knackered and also starving hungry, so I went outside and got some fast food at a local 7 Eleven, a lovely hot dog, (yuck, but hey, needs must etc) -  But where have all the UK 7-11’s gone? We used to them all over the UK, but I haven’t seen one for ages…… I guess it’s  probably because all the food they sell is crap…..and we still have Macdonalds for that.  Guess they couldn’t compete….Gah, they’re all rubbish, hah!
My sense of direction is totally pants, so I had no idea whereabouts I was in relation to my hotel, so I collapsed into a taxi……..which then drove me round the corner and charged me about £10  to do it, ffs
I was so happy to get back to our little cupboard, John was there already, so we collapsed in a heap as soon possible and didn’t surface for a very long time. …………..It may have been daylight, but who knows??  So weird not knowing if it’s light or not when you wake up….

We decided to go to the Vasa Museum the following day – good idea really as it was chucking it down with rain.
And WOWEE, it’s amazing, a reconstructed 15th century war ship – badly built, as it sank about half a mile into its maiden voyage……..luckily, It was covered completely by the mud, and so was preserved  for centuries, until some mad Swedish bloke on a mission discovered where it was, and managed to get it hauled up. Even though it was still intact, it had to be taken apart and reconstructed, which took , well, bloody ages, and shedloads of money, but it does look awesomely spectacklier.
We went on to the Viking museum, hoping for refs to our fave Viking, Ragnar Lothbrok, and he was mentioned a couple of times, along with his brother, Rollo, who became the first duke of Normandy.  There was a mannequin made up to look like a ‘typical Viking’, but it wasn’t really anything like the Ragnor TV  image ……..not surprising really, as Travis Fimmell was a Calvin Klein model before he descended into balding tattooed grimyness.
We ended up in a nice restaurant by the water, eating a ridiculously price -inflated pizza, and feeding the ducks all the crispy burnt bits. I hope they appreciated it.
Saturday morning.  John wasn’t feeling to good , so we went on a river trip that involved sitting down most of the day. It went round most of the 14 islands of Stockholm, lovely houses, scenery, etc, and we had a nice rest and got a bit of a tan, and then we had to get ourselves to the airport for the flight home. What a ridiculous place. I bought a sandwich and a glass of wine, and it was £35 quid! And then, we weren’t sure where to go, so we went downstairs looking for the bus,  and couldn’t get back up to the departure gate! Locked doors, the lift kept going past the right floor, ffs, at one point we could see the lounge through the glass, and in the end we had to bang on it, to get somebody to let us in again.  Even then they made us traipse a mile around the airport so they could let us in the ‘right place’. FFS
But all the while, John was feeling worse and worse, and then in the end, it turned out he had tonsillitis, something he used to get all the time, but hasn’t had for years,. But by the time we got to Gatwick, he was feeling really shite.
AND, about 10 mins after we’d got off the plane, I realised that I’d left my Paranormal poster on the floor by my seat. But they wouldn’t let us back to get it, as we had passed thru customs…  Pooo….I never got it back, in spite of numerous emails to the airline…..
Poor John, he managed to drive home, and we collapsed in our lovely bed at some ungodly hour. He spent the next week in it, swallowing bucketfuls of antibiotics, while I bombarded Norwegian Airlines lost property for my poster……..to no avail. It never turned up, I guess some rotten plane cleaner thought it was rubbish and threw it away……….. Will have to go to London, and swipe one from a random tube station…………

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.