Back to the 80s

Back to the 80s: Y is for Yazoo.

Another week in and as we’re nearing the end of another year, so too are we nearing the end of my Back to the 80s Challenge. This week, we’re looking at the letter Y and I’ll be focusing on a synthpop duo.

Formed in England in 1981, Yazoo consisted of Alison Moyet on vocals and Vince Clarke on keyboards. Alison placed an ad in the hope of forming a band and it was answered by Vince Clarke, once a member of Depeche Mode.

The song ‘Only You’ was released in 1982 and reached No.2 in the U.K singles charts. The song ‘Don’t Go’ was released the same year and reached No.3. Their first album, Upstairs at Eric’s was also released in 1982 and reached No.2 in the U.K album charts. Yazoo became known in the United States as Yaz and their song ‘Situation’ had become a hit, making it into the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1983, they released the single ‘Nobody’s Diary’, which reached No.3 in the U.K charts. It was not long after the release of the single, that the duo announced they had disbanded due to a clash of personalities and lack of communication between the pair. Despite the split, their second album, You and Me Both, was released later that same year and reached No.1 in the album charts. Alison Moyet has an amazing voice and after Yazoo, she went on to have a successful solo career.

Other bands formed or who had hits in the 1980s starting with the letter Y include:- Yothu Yindi, Yello.

What other bands of the 1980s that begin with the letter Y can you think of?

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Writing · Writing Process

Writing In a Different Genre.

As an unpublished writer, I have the luxury of experimenting with what I write and how I write it. Recently one morning I woke up with an idea for a story title. I thought it sounded good – if I wrote in that particular genre. And therein lay the problem. Was my subconscious mind trying to tell me something?

For years I have struggled with this. No, I do not write romance, simply because I do not always like to see a happy ending. And right there are two important words – not always. So, sometimes I do like to see happy ever afters. In my teenage years I devoured Sweet Dreams Romance books, was introduced by a friend to Mills & Boon and enjoyed reading Jane Austen so much, back then I wanted to write just like her (yes, seriously). And just for balance I also read a lot of Stephen King (can you see my dilemma now?) 😉 This is why I believed my writing would be more suitable to women’s fiction, and my longest short story so far reflects that as there is no happy ending.

After I left High School, I wrote to Mills & Boon and received submission guidelines and a tape on how to write for them. Try as I might, I just couldn’t do it. I believed I could not write a romance, but perhaps the real problem for me was that they were too formulaic.

Perhaps, also, my greatest resistance to writing a romance is because I always looked at it in terms of the novel. As I enjoy writing in the shorter form and thanks to self-publishing, lately I have some ideas for romances of short story/novella length. It is a starting point to stepping out of my comfort zone and experimenting at the same time. Who knows if it will lead to something or not, but clearly such thoughts have remained repressed for some time. It just needed a little push. 😉

Do you write in different genres? Have you resisted writing a particular genre or are you happy to experiment? Has your subconscious told you something about your own writing and have you acted upon it?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Back to the 80s

Back to the 80s: X is for XTC.

It’s the end of another week and once again, it’s time for my Back to the 80s Challenge. We are now down to the last three and it hasn’t always been easy coming up with band names. These last few have left me struggling sometimes to even to come up with more than one band name. This week is a perfect example of that!

XTC were formed in England in 1972 and their debut album, White Music, was released in 1978. It wasn’t until their third album, Drums and Wires was released in 1979, that they had their first hit single, ‘Making Plans for Nigel’. Their fourth album, Black Sea, was released in 1980. This album contained the hit single ‘Generals and Majors’, which made the U.K Top 40 and the album reached No.1 in Australia. In 1982, they released their fifth album and the single ‘Senses Working Overtime’ made the Top 10 in the U.K.

In the early 1980s, the band embarked on a world tour, but had to cancel due to health reasons for one of the band members. They then became a studio band and released six more albums in the 1980s, including two under their alter-ego, ‘The Dukes of Stratospher’. Over the years, despite issues with band members and their record labels, they released at least three more albums, but eventually disbanded in 2006.

‘And all the world is biscuit shaped, it’s just for me to feed my face’ – it sounds silly I know, but I always liked that line! 😉

What are some silly song lyrics that you like listening to? What other bands of the 1980s that begin with the letter X can you think of (it’s got me stumped)?

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IWSG · This Writer's Life · Writing

What Would You Do Differently in 2017?

It’s time once again for another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), a blog hop to share and encourage other writers.

Looking back, 2017 has been quite a personal journey for me. It began with an operation that helped with a long-standing medical condition. Recovery took longer than I expected, but in the end, the result was well worth it. I went on a diet, lost a few kilos and still have a long way to go to reach my ideal goal, but I’ll get there! In more recent months, I have reached a milestone birthday, saw my favourite band as well as discovering that I may be a ‘sensitive’ and I’m keen to find out more about such things. 2017 was also the year when I came to the conclusion that I needed a change in direction when it comes to writing and will be going down the path of self-publishing.

In 2017, I did a couple of courses, found some helpful beta readers, submitted stories to competitions and tried my hand at writing a novella only for it to turn out to be a long short story (the longest I’ve ever written). I also have a clearer picture of my genre.

So what will I do differently?

Write a heck of lot more than what I have been doing, that’s for sure! Unfortunately there are a couple of things that continually get in the way. One is called life, the other is time management. As a writer who has a family and household to maintain, there isn’t much I can do about the first one, but the other I can control. I’ve struggled with time management for a while now and I know that if I really want to get anywhere as a writer, especially on the self-publishing route, I have to lift my game and make some big changes.

One of those changes will be cutting back on time spent on the internet. Over the past few years I have become a political tragic (sad, I know), but with two teenage kids, I do worry about their future and that of the planet. Also, with social media lately, I have become a bit sporadic, so I have at least started to cut back on that and may need to start using a timer for this as well as my writing. Of-course I will continue to blog – it is still writing after all! 😉

Breaking some of those old habits is not going to be easy, but I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when I have reached one of my goals; and for me right now, the biggest goal of all is publication.

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently? Have you learnt something about yourself this year? Do you find yourself struggling with time management? What habits have you had to break to get more writing done?

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Main image courtesy of Unsplash

Back to the 80s

Back to the 80s: W is for Wang Chung.

Another week in and just as fast as Christmas is approaching and catching me unawares, so too are we getting closer to the end of my Back to the 80s Challenge. As we are down to the last four, I’ll be doing one every week in time for Christmas to see off 2017.

Wang Chung were formed in the U.K in 1980. The term ‘Huang Chung’ means ‘yellow bell’ in Mandarin and the band initially used this as their name, only later to change it to Wang Chung for better translation in English. The band signed a two record deal in 1981 and their first album was released a year later. In 1982, while working on a new album, they released the single ‘Dance Hall Days’, which failed to chart. It was at this point that their contract was cancelled and they signed up with an American label.

Their second album Points of the Curve was released in 1984 and had two successful hits, ‘Don’t Let Go’ and ‘Dance Hall Days’ (a re-recording of the original version). In 1985, they released the soundtrack to the movie To Live and Die in L.A., which became their third album. Their fourth album, Mosaic was released in 1986, which contained their biggest hits ‘Everybody Have Fun Tonight’ and ‘Let’s Go!’, reaching No.2 and No.9 in the U.S. respectively. Wang Chung released their fifth album, The Warmer Side of Cool in 1989, where they had a minor hit, but overall, the album was considered a disappointment. Band members then went on to other projects and eventually disbanded in 1990.

As pointed out in some of the comments on YouTube for this video, this clip needs to come with a seizure warning. And yes, I’d hate to be the one responsible for the editing! 😉

Other bands formed or who had hits in the 1980s starting with the letter W include:- Wham, Was Not Was, Wet, Wet, Wet, Warumpi Band, White Snake.

Have you been caught off guard at how quickly Christmas is almost upon us? What other bands of the 1980s that begin with the letter W can you think of?

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Australia's Historical Places · Ghosts & The Paranormal · Spooky Stories

More Ghostly Encounters at Quarantine Station.

Last week, I wrote about some of my ghostly encounters at Quarantine Station. Due to the long post, I have broken it up into two parts and this week covers both the Caretakers Cottage and the first class shower block. Both these buildings left me with a rather uneasy feeling and I was quite surprised that in one of them at least, my sceptical husband has been left wondering that there’s ‘something not quite right about that place’.

Further along our walk away from the morgue, we approached what the tour guide referred to as the Caretakers Cottage. As we approached, I thought it looked like a nice old house and I imagine it would look rather ordinary during the day. Our tour guide informed us that we were going to go inside, but told us very little about it. Some of the records regarding the Quarantine Station had burned in a fire and there was very little information to go by regarding the house, other than it had been used as a staff quarters. We were to go through the house in the dark and see for ourselves if we could pick anything up. Once again, my husband and I were the last ones to enter.

As we walked through the first few rooms, our eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness and found there was nothing out of the ordinary. The house was quite warm and stuffy after being locked up all day and with twenty odd people walking through the house, things got a little bit cramped. At the back of the house were a sunroom, bathroom and laundry, which was north facing. The tour guide began calling everyone together into the lounge room at the front of the house, but my husband and I had not finished our viewing. My husband decided to go to the laundry, while I go to the bathroom and then swap before heading back towards the group.

The steps down to the warf at Quarantine Station, Manly.

Once I stood at the doorway of the bathroom, I was rather hesitant to enter as I had a bad feeling about it. Even though there was no light and my eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness, somehow, the bathroom was darker than the other rooms. Despite my hesitancy, I entered the room and on my left was the bath which had a window over it. As I approached the bath, the temperature dropped and I put out my hands towards it. I could feel a breeze circulating around my hands and it was then that my husband came up behind me. I asked him if he could feel anything and once again he said no. I told him I had to get out of there as I didn’t like the feel of it. I went straight towards the laundry, which turned out to be the coldest room in the house. It felt like walking into one of those walk in freezers. I didn’t waste any time in leaving the room and together my husband and I joined the group in the lounge room.

Being the last of the group, we stood in the doorway facing the lounge room with our backs to the back of the house. No sooner had we arrived, I felt something touch my back and from that moment, I stood side on with my back against the doorframe. At this point, I noticed my husband had done the same. From such a position, I could see into the lounge room as well as keep a constant vigil towards the back of the house.

The tour guide explained certain things about the house, including the belief from various psychics that someone had been murdered in the bathroom (in the bath) and that there was a bad spirit named Samuel. Some tour guides refuse to enter the house or take tour groups inside. During his talk, the EMF meters were said to have been going off the whole time and one of the group members asked to leave the building and was the only one to do so before the rest of us left. My husband later told me he was one of the other sceptics.

Standing in the doorway, I had the feeling that someone was watching and they weren’t very nice. I felt they were angry and wanted us to leave. I felt most uncomfortable and kept looking towards that back room, where at one point I heard something drop upon the wooden floor. I said nothing about it; the tour guide did not notice it either, but it wasn’t until talking it over with my husband a few days later that I discovered he had heard it too. I left the house shivering with cold, with goose bumps upon both arms. As we walked away, I couldn’t help look over my shoulder towards the house, but I could not see anyone in the windows watching us leave (which has been reported to have happened once).

The last building on the tour was the first class shower block. When people came off the ships they were required to have a shower, which were supervised and each shower cubicle had tiny holes placed in each one to make sure the people showered properly.

Once again, we were to wander this building in the dark and foolishly, I was the first one after our tour guide in which to enter. It was only after taking a few steps inside that I didn’t like the feel of it and I was overwhelmed by the strong smell of urine (the tour guide later told me this was the chemical, carbolic acid, that was used on the patients). We were to stop midway and after we were all assembled, I saw a dark figure coming towards me. I instinctively moved back and the figure continued coming towards me, only to discover that it was our tour guide. He then proceeded to inform us about the various spirits within the building, including a ‘Gollum- like’ creature that if you walked into it, feels as if you have walked through cobwebs.

Given its history, I was not at all surprised to feel like I was being watched in here and I felt exposed and vulnerable. This was why I needed my husband with me and he took my hand as we walked in single file around the showers. He walked in front of me and I told him to slow down as I looked in at the shower cubicles. Down one in particular, I caught a quick glimpse of some dark shape that didn’t look completely human.

A ‘Gollum like creature’ is said to inhabit the First Class Shower Block.

Before leaving the building, one couple believed they saw something white in one of them. I went with them to help them try to find it, but could see nothing. I heard the tour guide tell them once we were outside that a woman has been spotted in there. One other couple said they had also seen something, but it was different to what this other couple had seen.

‘I saw something too’, I replied. ‘I’m not sure what it was. It didn’t look human’.

‘That sounds like what we saw’.

‘It was a small, dark, shadowy figure. Broad shoulders and it was hunched over, like this’, I replied as I demonstrated (it was very much like the image of Gollum in his cave in the picture above).

‘That’s it!’ the woman exclaimed. ‘That’s what we saw’.

‘Oh good’, I said. ‘I’m glad I’m not the only one who saw it and not going mad’. I had asked my husband if he had seen it and he had not.

It was with that final note that our tour had ended. Of-course in the light of day, I began questioning what I had seen and experienced. Did that really happen? Did I really see what I thought I saw? From the experience I learnt something about myself that I had suspected from childhood and am interested in finding out more.

When we arrived home, my husband looked up the Caretaker’s Cottage on the internet to see if it had been investigated, but it had not. It had certainly piked his curiosity.

‘So’, I said. ‘That was a good start. When are we going back?’

Did you ever experience a ‘bad vibe’ about a particular building or place? What was the scariest place you have visited and would you go back? Have you ever experienced something you can’t explain?

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Australia's Historical Places · Ghosts & The Paranormal · Spooky Stories

Ghostly Encounters at Quarantine Station.

Recently, as part of my birthday celebrations, my husband and I visited Quarantine Station in Sydney. Quarantine Station was established in the 1830s for migrants arriving in Australia who might have had infectious diseases, such as Spanish influenza, tuberculosis and bubonic plague. It ceased operating as a quarantine station in the 1980s. Q Station is now used as a hotel and conference centre. It also has a restaurant and caters for both weddings and ghost tours.

Of-course being on a ghost tour was the main attraction for me. After having had some experiences at Monte Cristo, I was curious when it came to Q Station, after hearing it is regarded as one of the most haunted places in the country.

My husband and I were in a group of about twenty people and the first building we came to was the Inhalation Chamber, situated near the Boiler House. Patients were placed here every day to undergo special treatments, using steam infused with zinc sulphate to protect them from such cases as Spanish influenza. Basically, they looked like two cement sheds joined together and our group was broken up into two halves and spent some time within each one of them in the dark. Unfortunately, we weren’t inside for very long before having to change rooms. Once finished, the tour guide spoke to us outside and gave us some information regarding this building. Some people in previous tours, he said had been known to experience smells. It was then I looked at my husband.

By the warf at Q Station, Manly, waiting for the ghost tour to begin.

‘Yeah, I smelt something’, I said to him. ‘Didn’t you smell something?’

‘No’.

‘The moment I walked into that first one, there was a really strong, sweet smell. I couldn’t smell anything in the second one, but definitely the first’.

My husband simply shook his head. It was at this point, that I interrupted the tour guide and asked the people in the group if they had smelt anything. Their responses were the same as my husbands. Okay, this is weird. The tour guide looked at me and told me that I had passed the smell test. Trust me to be the weirdo amongst the group, I thought! Since my visit to Monte Cristo and being the only member of my family to have experienced something, I had become increasingly suspicious of a long held belief (since childhood) that I may be a ‘sensitive’. As we walked our way towards the hospital, my husband told me he believed that may well be the case.

Within the hospital we were told of some interesting stories experienced by other people during the tours and some of the spirits that occupy the hospital, including a couple of nurses and the matron. As I sat on one of the beds, I felt something prick my hand and looking down I thought it may have been a mosquito, but saw no evidence of one. The tour guide informed us some people have felt the same, as if being pricked by a needle. My husband, the eternal sceptic, who stood nearby said he felt something cold brush up against him.

The Hospital, Boiler House and Wharf at Quarantine Station. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Later, my husband and I were amongst the last to enter the morgue, which was a small building, so it was difficult to find a place to stand. People stood against the wall and in the middle of the room was the mortuary table. This was the only available spot for me to stand and it was here that I could smell the horrible stench of rotten meat. It was so bad I had to cover my nose and mouth with both hands, but I could not see anybody else picking up on the smell. The mortician, nicknamed Mr Slimy by the staff is believed to frequent the place. Eventually it went away and when the time came to leave the room, I was frightfully cold. I know it sounds cliché, but there were literally goose bumps on both my arms and I had to rub them in order to keep warm.

Our tour then continued within the Caretakers Cottage and the first class shower block, so rather than make this an extremely long blog post, I’ve decided to break this up into two parts. I look forward to telling you more about our ghost tour next time. 😉

Have you ever been on a ghost tour? Did you ever encounter anything unusual? Are you a sensitive? If you’re a sceptic, have you experienced anything that made you question your beliefs?

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