Saturday, 21 June 2014

Expectant Mother

I'm in expectant mother mode. Not that I've ever had kids, nor am I pregnant. I don't think any of my friends are pregnant either (Like they'd tell me. I tend to give these out as gifts).

No, I've decided to grow something.

From a seed.

As a family, we're not too keen on the overly packaged, overly produced supermarket fruit and veg. We like ours with a bit of dirt on and we don't care if they're not perfect shaped. Honestly, we don't mind wonky carrots and lumpy potatoes. We definitely don't mind peeling them. Last year, we started growing some of our own vegetables and came away with a pretty good crop of peas and chillies (which seem to go into a lot of our meals)

This all started with the “Rae can't cook” comments (I can't. My idea of cooking is to call the local pizza place. In fact, with the invention of online ordering, I don't even have to do that any more. Just select my favourite food, pay with my credit card, and it turns up at my door within the hour. Genius!). Apparently I also can't garden, although I can use a lawn mower, and I'm quite happy to sit out in it on sunny days.

So I started growing some tomatoes at work. Before you think that I've got nothing better to do, my job actually involves keeping elderly people entertained and my (often failed) attempts at gardening start a lot of conversations.

Except that the tomatoes haven't died! Oh no, they've gone from strength to strength and this weekend I bought one home to transfer to a bigger pot. According to the seed packet, they're patio tomatoes and, well, I have a patio. So one of the plants suffered a two mile walk and a single bus journey to make its new home in my back garden.

I was ever so careful when it came to giving it its new home! It has a nice, big pot, lots of new compost, and special food. It also has a special place beside the back door so that I can lean back from little writing spot and look at my new baby.

Needless to say, it's amusing my family and friends, especially my constant fawning over it (Yes, I'm talking to it. I'm not going to sing because then the rain will come again).

Truth be told, I've found the whole experience extremely relaxing and I can see why people are so taken by gardens and gardening. There's something soothing about creating something in such a way and working with nature. As well as that, it's wonderful to be out in the open air and feeling the sun on one's skin.

The battle's not won yet. I've still got to contend with slugs, British weather, and the England-Getting-Kicked-Out-Of-The-World-Cup style tears if no tomatoes appear. But, right now, I managed to grow a plant from a seed and that's all that matters!

From small seeds...

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Spirits of Las Vegas

Las Vegas; a city famed for its bright lights, plentiful drinks, shotgun weddings, and, hopefully, a meeting with Lady Luck. Every year, nearly forty million people make their way to this Mecca of excess to soak up all it has to offer and to, hopefully, get lucky.

But Sin City also has another side to it. For the spiritually aware, this other, often unseen, part of Vegas hovers above the city, a mix of lost souls and spirits. A few moments of standing in a hotel lobby can provoke a wave of different feelings. For Las Vegas is home to more than spirits of the alcoholic kind.

For a single week in April 2014, I stayed at the Luxor hotel. For me, it was the end of a ten year dream, one which had seen me travel half way around the globe to stay in a hotel I’d only seen in photographs. Something had drawn me to the iconic pyramid and I was desperate to stay within its walls. Driving at night from the airport to the hotel was like watching ever Vegas themed movie come to life. The millions of lights, the long, sweeping Strip, and the sound of a million slot machines singing their songs all come into sight as the freeways sweeps up from the airport. It’s an excitement like no other, one which crackles through the air like lightning.

Yet, within a few hours of stepping into my hotel room I began to feel things other than overwhelming excitement. Creeping chills which were more than the air conditioning and an ache in my head that indicated the start of a drop into depression. Without even stepping onto the Strip, I was picking up something other than the city’s vibrant life.

I’ve always been spiritually sensitive. It’s what my Christian mother calls my ability to pick up the vibrations of places and people. Strangely, she doesn’t see it as an odd skill. For her, it’s more of a blessing, a super strengthened sixth sense if you will. But it’s not just the living I’m able to pick up these energies from. It’s those who’ve passed, or those who aren’t even a part of our Earthly plane.

I knew before I went that Las Vegas was going to send this sense into overdrive and that staying in a massive pyramid would only add to the experience. Before I left, I made sure I had enough protection watching over me, and every night I asked for a white, protective light to surround me. Still, I was interested to see exactly what the self-proclaimed City of Light had in store for me.

Within a day of arriving, I had my first experience with a shadowy figure on the twenty-fifth floor of the hotel. For those who’ve never been, the Luxor pyramid holds the record for the world’s largest atrium. Check in desks, a food court, and the casino are crammed into this massive space with the interior of the pyramid stretching upwards for thirty three stories. The rooms are on the outside of the pyramid with the hallways running around the inside. These walkways are open to the atrium with nothing more than a four foot high wall to stop anyone from stepping over the edge. The elevators run up the inclined struts of the pyramid.

It was while exiting the elevators on my floor that I began to notice the shadowy figure. As I was turning onto the first of the long stretches of hallway, it would step up beside me and always on the right side. I never felt any threat from this being. Instead, I felt sadness and pain. By the time I reached my room, the figure had always faded away.

When I returned home, I did some reading on the history of the Luxor and discovered that, in 1996, a woman had jumped to her death from the twenty sixth floor, the floor above mine. A few years later and a gentleman took the same final journey down into the atrium. The Luxor is also supposedly haunted by two construction workers who lost their lives during the building process.

It’s no wonder there are so many lost souls, both human and spirit, wandering the Strip. Las Vegas sadly also holds the title as the suicide capital of America. A mix of huge hotels and a sense of anonymity allows those who’ve lost their way to end their lives without involving friends and family. Sadly, it’s often the hotel staff who are left to deal with the fall out.

Nowhere in the world is the energy concentrated like it is in Vegas. A single four mile road is what many people come to see, and they come in their millions. Most people stay for an average of three days. Nearly all of the major hotels and casinos can be found on the Strip with more being built every year. This causes a massive vortex of energy, a place where souls and spirits are attracted like moths to a flame. Not all are those who’ve lost their way. Some belong to people who fell in love with the city’s crazy lifestyle and chose to return in the afterlife. Others have come from the city’s past, a time when Las Vegas was run by mobsters and the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis put bums on seats. They appear to be more active at night, gathering on street corners and wandering the Strip. Maybe to show an unwary traveller the way, or to guide someone hunting the elusive Lady Luck?

The famous also remain long after they've departed this mortal coil. Elvis is reported to still be in residence as the Hilton, while Liberace haunts Carluccio's Tivoli Gardens.

For me, the casinos were the hotbed of activity. Ghostly fingers whispered across shoulders or there was a sudden overpowering smell of a long discontinued perfume. I noticed it more when I was playing alone. Hunched up at a slot machine, my feet perched on the ledge below, I'd often feel as though there was someone sitting beside me. They were friendly spirits, there because they had once enjoyed what I was now doing. Perhaps they liked the idea of sitting with a rookie gambler, one who had come to the city because she had heard tales of the bright, noisy machines. More than once I felt a hand on my shoulder. Again, it wasn't malicious, more of a reassurance when I found myself feeling lost among the city's crowds. Often the hands felt as though they belonged to a man, and they went no further than my shoulders. Maybe, just maybe, they once belonged to a protective husband?

In its own right, Las Vegas is a beautiful city with many things to offer. But you may come away with more than a spectacular week in this most decadent of cities.


Rae is an award winning author based in Leicester, England who loves being silly and taking photographs. “The Eve of War”, the third book in her LGBT Steampunk series is out now. Oddly, her ability to communicate with, and see, spirits shocked her more than it did her family. She accepts it now and enjoys travelling to see who she meets, whether living, dead, and from the spirit world.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Vegas Tips Part 2!

Back in April, I wrote the first Tips and Tricks of Las Vegas post (primarily aimed at those of us on a budget). Then a friend asked for advice and it's spawned a second post! If you've got any questions, feel free to ask. I've been travelling on a budget for my entire life and there's no such thing as a stupid question. :)

  • Major bands tend to play there outside of the big touring months so keep an eye on their tour dates. A lot of bands have also taken up residences in Vegas. GN'R are at the Hard Rock at the moment.
  • If you're from Europe, you'll know how crazy a metal or rock show can get. For some reason it doesn't seem to be the same across the pond (Unless the band is from outside of the States) so make the most of it and get to the front.
  • If you're not bothered about staying on the Strip, there are a wealth of cheaper Travelodges and motels just a block or so from the action.
  • The North end of the Strip (Freemont Street etc) is cheaper than the south end. If you're on a budget, you'll find the cheaper places to eat there.
  • If you absolutely can't live without your tea and coffee (like me!), take a travel kettle, drinks, and milk. I bought the sachets of pasturised milk from ebay and they travel well stuffed in the kettle.
  • Be warned that there may not be a fridge in the hotel room, even if you are staying on the Strip! Hence the milk sachets. To find out if your hotel will have either a fridge, coffee making facilities, or both just Google the hotel name and what you're looking for. People tend to post those kinds of things on Trip Advisor. Failing that, email the hotel directly.
  • Also, if you're taking a kettle, be prepared for your suitcase to be searched by the TSA. Mine was and they packed it far neater than I originally did!
  • Speaking of drinks. Bottled water in the Strip hotels is notoriously expensive (we're talking between $5 - $8 a bottle). Go to one of gas stations, smaller shops, or Walgreens and get it from there. I think I paid $1.99+tax at the gas station across the road from the Luxor. The exact same bottle in the hotel? $5+tax.
  • Nevada tap water is drinkable so refill those bottles!
  • Alcohol? We're talking $7+ for a bottle of beer. It's cheaper down Freemont St (although that may be changing as they're looking at making the actual street area alcohol free). Or play the slot machines for a while and wait for a waitress to come and take your order. The cost of that drink? A dollar tip!
  • Google Maps is your friend! It'll show you where everything is. The search function is awesome for finding specific places (Hellllloooo In N' Out Burger!).
  • Internet. Yeah, this is a big one. Some places it's free. Some places it's included in the resort fee. Some places it's supposed to be included in the resort fee but isn't. Some places will give you 48 hours free before charging you. Some places will give you 48 hours free and then charge you even though it's supposed to be included in the resort fee. Some places charge you outright for it. If you don't have a compatible data plan and need to be constantly online, just leave your phone/tablet/computer turned to wireless and scan as you walk. Try every connection which is unlocked because you don't know when you're going to get lucky!
  • If you're going to the States from the UK, you might want to sign up to 3 Mobile. As long as you've been with them for longer than 30 days, you'll be eligible for their “Feel At Home” program. This allows you to use your allotted minutes, texts, and data in the States. If you go over, you will be charged but it'll be lower than the normal roaming rate. Great for if you're in Sound City Studios and you want to call your musician brother to say hi! I did have problems connecting while in LA but this post answered my questions. "Feel At Home" is available for both contract and Pay As You Go customers.
    • If you absolutely need to have a US number Go Sim have some of the best deals.

      Brewing up British style in Las Vegas!