I’m officially That Crazy Whole30 Lady

I had to travel into London this week to go to the US embassy to apply for a new passport because, like the genius I am, I lost my last one. Going from Bath to London is kind of a pain in the ass. You either have to cough up an unreasonable amount of money for a train ticket, or get on a coach that takes 3+ hours each way. But I was determined to make a good trip out of it. 

The universe had slightly different ideas. Starting with the fact that the aircon on my bus from Bath to London on Monday night was broken AND the radiators were on full blast because of an engine fault. 

But turns out that was to be the least of this Whole30-er’s issues. 

I love living in Bath, but one thing I find myself seriously deprived of here is decent sushi. I’d never ask for ‘great’ or even ‘good’ sushi in this country outside Nobu because that’s just unrealistic. But I got used to having constant access to Itsu in Brighton, so I now go out of my way to find an Itsu whenever I’m in London or Brighton. Luckily, I knew that there are two Itsus close to the US embassy in London, so I planned to have lunch at one after I’d sorted my passport out. Only problem is I can’t eat soy sauce. 

But I have had a savior this month in the form of Coconut Aminos; a sauce made from the sap of coconut trees that is a surprisingly OK Whole30-friendly soy sauce substitute. I bought a bottle off Amazon for a whopping £9 when my Whole30 first started, but it’s been a worthwhile investment. 

  
 
So by now you probably know where this is heading. I brought my whole bottle of Coconut Aminos with me into London so I could bring it to Itsu and have it with my sashimi. I cannot tell you how how much I was looking forward to this meal after 3 long weeks of god damn salmon and sweet potato fish cakes and protein salads. 

But, as it turns out, the US embassy really didn’t care how excited I was to have sashimi with my precious Coconut Aminos because, as they informed me when I was going through security, it doesn’t matter how much money I spent on the stuff on Amazon. 

“Large bottles of liquid aren’t allowed in the building, madam.” Well, at least he called me “madam” as opposed to “ma’am” like they do in the States. I hate that. 

Now, I could break here to go on a rant about how the US embassy (and the US in general) takes itself so cripplingly seriously it’s almost comic. But I won’t, because I haven’t received my passport yet and I really need it to go on honeymoon next month soooo…

Honestly, when Mr. Security Man told me I’d have to dump my whole lovely bottle of aminos, I very nearly had a panic attack. He was fucking with all my sushi plans. DIDN’T THIS TOOL KNOW HE WAS FUCKING WITH ALL MY SUSHI PLANS? But, using my mindfulness, I attempted to find a solution instead of having a – what would have been entirely justified – meltdown over a bottle of imitation soy sauce. Mr. Security Man told me that I could either ask a pharmacy a few roads away to store it for me for something like £10 (LOL no) or I could leave it precariously next to a bin outside and just pray that it would still be there when I finished up my passport appointment. 

I weighed up my options (few) and how much I valued my dignity (not very) and tried as subtly as possible to leave my Coconut Aminos next to the aforementioned bin, all the while maintaining eye contact with Mr. Security Guard hoping that he might back me up in case anyone accused me of attempting to plant a bomb. Who knew my Whole30 journey would find me at one point getting dangerously close to being accused of attempted terrorism? Life certainly does take unexpected turns. 

So I spent my 1 1/2 hours in the embassy asking the universe, without a hint of irony, to please protect my Coconut Aminos. It was stressful. 

Leaving the imposing concrete building once my appointment was over, I attempted to remain calm. After all, a crazy lady running out of the embassy towards a bin was bound to look even dodgier than leaving the bottle by the bin in the first place. 

I saw a grounds worker collecting rubbish from off the pavement. My heart began to thud. I was too late. 

But then there it was. My Coconut Aminos still tucked next to the same bin, mercilessly untouched. 

I speed-walked up to it. I picked it up. I hugged it. I saw a bunch of people queuing outside the embassy looking at me funny. I did not care. I had officially become a Crazy Whole30 Lady, but what the fuck ever. 

I got my sushi. All was well. 

   
(And don’t worry, Whole30 police, I didn’t eat the edamame.)

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It’s too damn hot to not be allowed to eat ice cream

Day 18 of my Whole30! Woohoo! We’re WELL into double digits, people!
I feel pretty good so far. I can’t say I feel fantastic, but I certainly don’t feel bad in the slightest. According to the timeline in the official Whole30 guide, days 10 and 11 are meant to be the toughest, so if that’s the case, then I guess I’m doing pretty well, as last weekend really wasn’t so bad at all. Not to say that spending that weekend mainly in our flat by myself (hubs was away supervising DofE) hasn’t been a little hard… There’s most of a pint of Phish Food in our freezer that I swear was whispering my name when I was trying to read last Saturday night.

  
But besides that, I’m doing OK. Although I have to admit I’m eating probably way more dried fruit than is officially sanctioned by the powers that be behind the Whole30, but I need the energy. Because otherwise I get home from a full day at work PLUS teaching and/or practicing/going to the gym/going on a training walk and I’m totally exhausted. Like, head on the pillow and I’m out kind of exhausted. So I need to work on getting my energy levels up somehow.

  
In non-Whole30-related life news, we’ve just been for another training walk today for out 100 km walk from Bath to Cheltenham and good god it was HOT and I now resemble a lobster. So I have absolutely all my fingers and toes crossed that the actual event day (which is now less than 2 weeks away *cue crazy freakout*). James managed to complete the South Downs Challenge last summer in just under 19 hours. We’re not going to beat that record, but I’d be happy with completing within 20 hours. 
P.S. If you haven’t sponsored us, PLEASE DO! You can do so here.
And here’s the miscellaneous crap that’s been on my mind recently:
– I wrote an article about fitness for work that entailed going to a bunch of different workout classes and having my ass kicked numerous times. Read it here.

– By far my favourite meal I made this week was turkey meatballs in marinara sauce. Recipe here.

  
– Was very sad to hear of Adam West passing away recently, so now is a good time to bring attention to what I think is his best work, Lookwell.

– I’ve just started my 52 week Happiness Planner and totally love it!

– As recommended to me by mindfulness teacher/overall babe, Jackie, I’ve started reading a beautiful book called When Things Fall Apart by Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. Pema is an absolute badass and inspiration. You can listen to her talks on YouTube
That’s all from me for this week! I know this is a short post, but that article I wrote for work is fucking LONG and also my hayfever has turned me into a living breathing ball of mucus and sneezes the past few days. It’s desperately unattractive. 

I’m back. For realsies. Promise. 

I realised a few days ago that I have taken yet another massive hiatus from this blog. Oy vey. 
I’m not going to apologise, though, because the lack of writing was mainly due to the fact that I started a new job at a wedding website where I write A LOT about random shit about weddings… which I’m good at because I know way too much random shit about weddings anyway so it’s great to have a place to word-vom all of it.

  
But this new job has also been a catalyst for me making a couple of resolutions to myself (even though we’re half way through the year now but shhhh). The first is that, because I have to write so much for work now, I will write more for myself. Which isn’t something I’ve really done in a long time – especially fiction writing – so rebooting this blog is part of that initiative.
The second is that I need to get my shit together and finally do the Whole30, which I have been umming and aahing over for a couple of months. Now that my Uveitis is back and I’ve returned to pummelling my body with drugs (and not the fun kind), I have to start taking better care of myself. The Whole30 was first brought to my attention by my friend Bobbi as a way to help some awful stomach cramps I’d been having which I couldn’t understand the cause of. I went ahead and bought the book and did a load of research… and then didn’t start it. I realised this was stupid of me, so 7 days ago I cut the crap and went full speed ahead.

  
I’ll talk more about Whole30 in the coming days and weeks, keeping you updated on my progress, how much I’m craving Phish Food ice cream, and what my fave Whole30 compliant recipes are. And if you don’t give a shit, well, don’t read my blog until July I guess. (Only do because I love you!) I am going to need all the moral support and cheerleading I can get because tbh I just really love pasta and sugar and I’m dreading going to the cinema this weekend to see Wonder Woman and not being allowed my precious pick ‘n’ mix. Pray for me. 

  
Anyway, back to the topic of the new job. If you were wondering whether this means I’ve stopped teaching yoga, the answer is FUCK NO. I still teach at Bikram Yoga Bristol and I still love every moment of what I do. I just basically needed some more money. Because, y’know, food… and bills… 
Actually, though, I’ve discovered that teaching less has made me enjoy it more. Now that my opportunities to teach are rarer, I take more advantage of them, and I feel I can give more to my students. 

Not that I don’t miss teaching more; I totally do. But at least I know that, for the moment, whenever I walk into the hot room to lead a class, I am going in with complete presence of mind and excitement to see how my students have progressed, as opposed to slumping in thinking, “Oh not this shit again.” 
And believe me, if you’re a Bikram teacher, you have definitely thought that more often than not. If you haven’t, you’re lying to yourself. 
I must admit that this job has sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole, though, where I cannot figure out for the actual life of me what I actually want to do. Like, with my life. Do I want to have my own studio? Do I want to try to be a writer? Do I want to drop everything and go to law school so I can do my best to be an advocate and catalyst for change in this seriously messed up world? (Yes, this is something I am seriously considering.)
I’m at a serious crossroads here. And no, sadly I’m not referring to the Britney Spears film which was a masterpiece of our times. I mean I feel very confused and really quite lost. 

  
But hey, I got no time for feeling down about that right now because I have 23 days left of not being allowed pizza, which is definitely taking priority as a bigger problem in my head at this moment. 
God I just want some damn cheese.
IN OTHER NEWS

  • Just before I started my new job, I ended up getting corralled onto a Mindfulness retreat in Essaouira, Morocco with Jackie of Sky Garden Retreat. Essaouira is now my fave place and Jackie and I are soulmates. I also made friends with a lovely man there who makes shoes (because of course I did). You need this retreat. Learn more here.
  • Thanks to the aforementioned Bobbi, I’m now part of a book club in Brizzle where we read cool books and then talk about them whilst eating lots of food. Our most recent book was My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal. Not my favourite, but still a striking read.
  • I am the MOST pumped to be taking part in Inferno Hot Pilates’ first ever UK teacher training in Warwick next month! I’ll be teaching IHP around Bath and Bristol post-training, so I’m very excited to share the class with you and to share my teaching experiences here.
  • I am still traumatised over Valentina getting kicked off RuPaul’s Drag Race 2 weeks ago, but this interview with Bob the Drag Queen made me feel slightly better about it. I am also SO glad Alexis and Nina have gone the fuck home. It was about damn time. Still can’t decide whether I’m on Team Sasha or Team Shea, though. Bear with.
  • Re: RPDR. This:  

Methotrexate Revisited

The last time I had to take methotrexate via injection, I was barely 7 years old and had a phobia of needles. My specialist, Dr. Foster, didn’t have the bedside manner of a teddy bear then like he does now. He decided the best way to break the news to me was very bluntly, with no warning to my parents, and when I started crying, he simply said, “Well, it’s either that or you go blind.” What a charmer. 

Neither of my parents wanted the responsibility of stabbing me with a needle once a week. Whether that was because they were afraid I’d hate them for it, or that they thought they’d fuck it up, I don’t know. Either way, the job fell on the shoulders of a poor young male nurse from Westside Hatzoloh who, every week, had to come to our apartment and deal with me locking myself in the bathroom until my father’s threats of not letting me eat chocolate for a month eventually coaxed me out. And even then, I would kick and scream until the whole ordeal was over. God, I wish I could find that nurse now and apologise to him. That must’ve been such a shitty job.

 This time around, though, I can’t lock myself in the bathroom to try to hide from my nurse… Because my nurse is my husband. And honestly, at this point, I have had to stab myself with needles so many times that it only makes my hands go slightly clammy. After three tattoos and seven piercings, I can no longer use the excuse of being afraid of needles.

 Actually, this time around, it was me who had the idea of taking methotrexate via injection.

 I’ve been taking it orally (as tablets) for a while now, as a support act for my main treatment drug, which is Humira. I used to be able to take Humira on its own, but it faltered a little a couple of years ago, and so methotrexate was re-introduced in order to give it a little extra boost.

 Of course, I realise now that to many of you reading this, these drug names mean nothing to you, so let’s backtrack just a little.

 Some cases of Uveitis can be treated topically with a steroid eye drop called Prednisolone. However, these drops, if overused, can cause cataracts and Glaucoma. So, in chronic cases such as mine, immunosuppressant drugs called anti-TNFs are introduced. These are systemic, and attempt to retrain the immune system to not be fucked up by beating it down with a figurative sledgehammer until it can barely do jack shit anymore, let alone send pointless cells up to attack your eyes. This is why taking them leads to an increased risk of infection (and why I get about 50 colds per year).

 If you know anyone who has had to go through chemotherapy, you’ll know that chemo has a similar effect. Cancer patients are left susceptible to all manner of nasty viruses and infections because their medication compromises the immune system. Well, anti-TNFs kind of do the same thing, albeit on a smaller scale. Methotrexate is the most aggressive form these drugs take for a condition like mine. It’s only given in small doses to autoimmune patients (anywhere from 2.5 to 30 milligrams per week – I’m currently on 10), but it is often used in larger doses for cancer patients. Even in small doses, however, the side-effects can somewhat mimic those of chemo. Methotrexate (and some other anti-TNFs) often cause nausea, dizziness, extreme fatigue, and even minor hair loss.

It can be taken orally up to a certain point, but at doses of 7.5 milligrams and above, it is recommended that it be taken as an injection. So, after a while of fighting it, I finally agreed last week to give injectable methotrexate another shot (no pun intended). The injections come with a better chance of the full dose of the medication having the desired impact, and they may also make it easier for the body to deal with the dosage, avoiding nausea and dizziness for the most part.
 So, a few nights ago, I gritted my teeth and resisted locking myself in the bathroom as my husband cleaned the injection site with an alcohol swab (the smell of which I’ve grown to loathe). I knew I had nothing to be afraid of – after all, methotrexate injections don’t even really hurt, compared to Humira injections which I’ve been doing for years and which give you the sensation of having a piece of glass underneath your skin for hours afterwards. But it was the memories that came flooding back as I had to face doing this all over again; the alcohol swabbing, the checking the liquid in the syringe to make sure it was that clear yellow colour; the counting to five to make sure the whole dose had been administered. It all feels like history repeating itself.

Not long after I realised I had flared again only a month ago, I lay awake in bed thinking to myself, “How is this flare up different to all other flare ups?” Of course my weird sleep-deprived thought process would lead me down the road of a fucked up Passover question instead of just letting me sleep… And I thought I could name five or six ways. But I realised soon after that, actually, it isn’t the differences that are driving me crazy. It’s the similarities. Like this disease has got me stuck in a loop. I was told so frequently by all my specialists that there would be an end to this one day. One day the disease would burn itself out.
 They estimated it’d happen when I was a teenager, but my teenage years came and went. Now some are saying it might disappear when I have a baby one day… if I can have a baby one day… because pregnancy hormones can change everything. Except methotrexate will stop me from having a baby for as long as I’m on it because of the severe birth defects that can occur as well as the risk it could pose to me. You have to be clear off it for 6 months before you can even try. I’ve been asked one too many times what would happen if I got pregnant by accident and just went off my meds to have the baby – couldn’t that maybe save my eyes? Couldn’t that put me in remission? Well, I’ll never know. Because if that happened, I would have to get it taken care of immediately, and wouldn’t get the chance to find out. It would be too dangerous otherwise.

So, just like every other time before, now I wait. I wait for the inflammation to die down so that, slowly, gently, with my hands metaphorically raised over my head like the fucking hostage of this disease I sometimes feel that I am, I can start tapering off the medication. Again. Round and round we go.
 If you would like to learn more about Uveitis, its effects, how to get checked, what research is being done to find a cure, or how you can help, please visit:

 www.uveitis.org or http://www.oliviasvision.org

It’s funny when people tell me my eyes are beautiful because I’d quite happily rip them out of my skull 

Relatively few people on this planet know what Uveitis is. It only affects about 1 in every 5,000 people globally, and so the pool of people who even remotely understand it is limited to those 1/5,000 people and their sphere of family, friends, and medical professionals. That doesn’t add up to much. It is nowhere near common enough to merit routine exams suggested by GPs, or to be mentioned as a disease afflicting a fictional character in a film or a tv show, or even to be mentioned as something that certain medications advertised on TV could be used to treat. (Humira, for example, is one of the most frequently advertised medications on American television and is often used to treat Uveitis, but is only advertised to treat Psoriasis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.) 

So maybe now I can expand the pool of people who know what this disease is a little wider. This won’t take long. Ready? 

Uveitis (pronounced YOU-vee-eye-tiss) is inflammation of the middle layer of the eye (the Uvea) caused by an overreaction of the immune system. It has nothing – I repeat, NOTHING – to do with UV rays. Two cases are hardly ever alike. Sometimes a cause can be identified, but in many cases, the cause is completely idiopathic. 

I know this because I have it. I was diagnosed when I was in kindergarten (year 1 to the Brits), and was too young to understand what was going on. I was too young to understand why I had to take steroid eye drops every 2 hours, or why I had to go to the eye doctor’s every 3 weeks, or why I had to swallow 6 tiny pink chemotherapy-grade pills every week, – or why my mother cried every time she gave them to me – too young to understand why my father had to restrain me, kicking and screaming, as I had blood tests done every month. And far too young to understand the implications. That I’d be living with this into adulthood. That the constant doctor’s appointments and medication changes and frequent infections caused by a suppressed immune system would become my normal. That I wouldn’t be able to clearly remember a time when this wasn’t my life. 

Honestly, it’s not so bad. I am not here for your sympathy, BELIEVE ME. Saying “I’m so sorry” is not going to magically teach my immune system to not be dysfunctional. I appreciate it, but that’s not what I want. I just want people to understand this thing. I know my disease does not define me. Most days, I get to live like I don’t even have it (because I am very lucky, and will explain why in a future post). I also do what I can to not harp on about it or “put it” on people… And okay, if you are reading this and ever went to school with me, you may be thinking that that is definitely not true, but the reason why I freakin had to talk so much about it in the context of school was because NO ONE KNEW WHAT IT WAS AND WOULD NOT BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAID I WAS SICK BECAUSE I LOOKED FINE. 

See? All caps. It was frustrating AF. 

So I guess I want to educate you all a little. To tell my story in order to spread awareness, as well as to give myself a little mental peace. (I have spent a lot of years refusing myself the opportunity to go over the whole thing, much to my psychological detriment.) And, considering I’ve just had a flare, I figured now would be a good time to return to blogging, and to start writing it all down. 

Note: this blog is not about to become exclusively about my eye disease. I’ll go back to being an annoying yoga blogger in a few weeks. Bear with. 

CPH – VIE

“Hey Duane, you know why there’s always peanut butter backstage at rock shows?”

We all groan. “Not this shit again,” Matt shakes his head and laughs. “He can’t seriously fall for it a second time,” I try to reason. But there is no reasoning with Duane.

About seven years ago, my dad was bored backstage at a show and decided to kill time by attempting to convince poor, unsuspecting Duane that Early Grey was the former tour manager for Deep Purple, and that Earl Grey tea was always in dressing rooms at gigs and festivals because he retired from the music business and bought a tea plantation. And he was successful in his efforts. The joke went a long way and lasted years. Every band in the festival circuit was aware that we had a roadie who had been told this ridiculous story and they all went along with it. Someone made a fake Wikipedia page about Mr. Grey to show Duane. And the madness culminated at Download in 2011 when my dad pulled aside an old British guy wearing a tweed suit who happened to be backstage and asked him to introduce himself to Duane as Earl Grey. He did. And Duane was so excited to meet him that, after furiously shaking his hand, he asked for a picture together and an autograph.

It wasn’t until A.J.’s wake last March when Duane was finally told the truth. Without A.J. around, it wasn’t that funny anymore. And A.J. would have wanted Duane to know. And the most amazing thing? Duane thought THAT was the lie.

Now here we are on the flight from Copenhagen to Vienna, and my dad has decided to relight the fire.

“It’s because Skippy McFarlane was The Monkees’ producer.”

“Naaaaw,” Duane insists. “You’re fucking with me.” Like it could ACTUALLY still be true.

“Dad, come on!” I shout.

“Duane, you know he’s fucking with you. He was fucking with you over Early Grey, too,” Matt says.

“Nah man I got my pitcha [how Duane pronounces ‘picture’] with Early Grey. I believe that. That was real.”

“Danny, come on, man. Stop…” I hear from behind me. It’s Armadillo. He drew the short (literally, he’s 5’ 2”) straw this flight, sitting next to Mark and in front of Danny. Danny is busy shaking his seat while Mark is poking him. Then Mark decides Armadillo really needs to read the in-flight magazine, so he whacks him in the face with it. Then he whacks me in the face it. While Danny starts reaching over to rub his hands all over Armadillo’s face, Mark starts incessantly tapping Matt’s head.

And this is how we spend an hour and a half, as we hurtle through the air at 550 miles per hour. Duane and Russell promptly fall asleep, mouths hanging wide open, and get at least 50 photos taken of them. Poor Armadillo experiences – in turn – water boarding, wet willies, seat shaking, and monkey bites, except for the few minutes in which Mark chooses to turn his attention to me or Matt to poke us until we pay attention to him.

I feel so bad for the rest of the people on this flight.

Featured photo: The fear in Armadillo’s eyes when he realised who he had to sit next to.

Show 1: Sweden Rock 10/6/16

My dad’s girlfriend and I spent some time the other day trying to calculate how many of my dad’s shows I’ve been to over the years. 14 years, two of which I attended every show, two of which I was in summer camp and only went to a couple, plus all the Christmas shows, the benefits, the Bent Brother (unofficial) shows… We estimated about 140-150.

And yet I had never been to Sweden Rock.

It was always too early in the touring season. I still had school, still had exams to sit, still had essays to write. The years when I could’ve done it, they weren’t playing it. It’s all the more ironic that the farewell tour kicked off there, since it was the exact place where things really re-started for them in 2003 when they played there for the first time. Coming off the string of South Korean dates, the band flew to Sweden and played their first “real” reunion show on the same field in front of the same wild crowd and, according to my dad at the time, the show had been a massive success.

Apparently that was a lie. Only now will he and the band admit that the show was incredibly sloppy, that they fucked up every song, that everything that could’ve gone wrong did, indeed go wrong. But that didn’t stop them from being invited back to the festival four more times, including this past Friday. And even though this year’s performance there bore some resemblances to the first (timing issues that I won’t go into and were definitely not as big a deal as the band thinks they were), the show was still nothing short of astonishing.

To begin with, the sheer number of people who turn up to Sweden Rock is amazing. Some estimated 60,000 while others thought it was more around 80,000. I have no idea how accurate either number is, but what I do know is that there was a sea of people as far as the eye could fathom, all the way back to where the barriers to the campsites started, some two miles away from the main stage. And the enthusiasm the crowd showed was so strong, so heartwarming, that at one point it actually brought my dad to tears.

There were so many moments that gave me chills, made me laugh, and made me tear up during that show, and I wish I had taken better notes because they’re now becoming hard to recall. The day started for the crew at 7:30 AM when they all went to the venue to begin set up, and although I was unable to join them, I was still kept abreast of their antics. In this case, those included Duane adding his name to Mark’s dressing room sign so it read “Mark & Duane”, followed by Duane’s mouth being taped shut and hands and feet bound together by pink gaff tape, presumably by Danny. (For those who are unaware, Duane is one of Mark’s bass techs, and has assumed the role of resident punching bag for the band and crew. Mark claims to hate him, but we all know that without Duane’s presence, the band and crew would get at each other’s throats and inevitably tear one another apart. Duane is not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he is the band’s most essential one.)

Uncle Markie was none too pleased with his revised dressing room assignment.

Pre-show highlights on the band’s part included Mark practically crushing me during a sightseeing boat ride around the beautiful town of Malmö, (“Is this comfortable for you? It’s comfortable for me. I think I’m gonna stay here like this. I could fall asleep like this”) and Eddie informing us during the bus ride to the venue that he dislikes the term “Hispanic” because “It has the word ‘panic’ in it and I don’t want my people to be associated with something bad. I prefer ‘Latino’.” There was also a suggestion by Mike of re-naming their marketed Meet and Greet sessions as “Mark Mendoza Beat ‘n’ Greets”, as Mark was availing himself of the opportunity to (jokingly) throw around every poor schmuck who thought they were just getting a picture with the band.

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It was so cold that I had to wear 3 jumpers… and even then I was still shivering. At least I looked cute.

And as for the show itself… It may not have been the tightest. That’s a fair judgement. And the audience, for its enormous size, took some warming up (quite possibly because it was so fucking cold that I was wearing three jumpers and still froze my ass off). But a disappointment it was not. It was a million miles away from that. Time and time again I am reminded that Twisted Sister can rile up a crowd like no one else. Dee can get the most reluctant audience member on their feet and jumping up and down like a maniac – using humiliation tactics if he has to, but still. The fanfare after “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and the screaming after “I Wanna Rock” were only outdone by the fact that, during the audience participation segment of their cover of the Stones’ “I Know It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)”, they must’ve had at least 80% of the audience punching the air and jumping. Even the people at the back.

A particular highlight of the show for me was Dee’s fika (coffee) break mid-show, in which he had devoted roadie Armadillo come out with a cup of coffee for him and proceeded to chat with the audience while drinking it. What most of the audience probably didn’t see, though, was Mark chasing Armadillo around the stage afterwards while the poor guy was still holding a half-full cup of coffee… Honestly these guys are men-children.

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Daddy and Dee; an average day at work.

They aren’t so mean to their crew though, in all fairness. They even took the opportunity to introduce all the guys to the audience during their encore, and then invited them to come onstage on the catwalk to take a bow, a moment that I know meant an awful lot to all of them… And then I nearly pissed myself laughing when I saw Duane jogging backstage afterwards and realised he had a strip of white gaff tape stuck to his ass that looked like a tail. No one has yet confessed to committing the crime. But it was funny as shit.

And, of course, there was the moment during “The Price” when tens of thousands of people raised their mobile phone lights – and a few lighters – in the air in memory of those we have lost. Dee always talks about A.J. in the intro to that song. He dedicates it to his memory every night. But A.J. is not the only loss the band and crew have recently suffered from. Duane’s beloved son, Joey, was killed by a car in January at the age of 17. More widely known was the passing of Lemmy, a close friend of the band’s and the reason they came to be accepted in the UK after he introduced them to his fans at a Motörhead show in the early ‘80s. Seeing the sea of lights in Sweden the other night (especially facing the second stage, named the Lemmy stage this year) brought tears to my eyes as we all remembered those who should have been with us this touring season.

I still have a very difficult time looking at the drum riser with Mike behind it. It still feels like a tiny punch in the gut every time I have to reckon with the truth that A.J. is no longer there. The adjustment has taken much longer and has been far more difficult than I’d ever anticipated, in fact I don’t think it will ever really be made. For any of us. The whole vibe amongst the crew is so different now. The joking around is still there, but the laughter isn’t as hysterical. There has barely been any ba-di-ba-da-ba-ing. (If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry, you don’t need to.) But I do know that Friday night would have made A.J. proud. He’d have been grinning from ear to ear.

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Lighting up the night for A.J.

So basically TL;DR, Sweden Rock was a kick ass show. A fitting start to the farewell tour. A crowd none of us will ever forget. A wonderful tribute to A.J. And I cannot wait to see what the rest of this summer brings.

Post on Nova Rock to follow shortly. x

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Bonus pic: Pre-show with some of our amazing, lovely friends who we’ve met over the touring adventures of the last 14 years. L to R – Tanja, Tore, Håkon, Daddy, Me.