1998 Jacob's Dream Tour of Bosnia

Part 1 - The Genesis

I've never been to Stafford before.

It's November 25th, 1997 and I am first for breakfast at Fatty Arbuckle's (and that's early). In order to make a 'first thing' appointment at Staffordshire County Council I have decided to get to the other side of Birmingham before the morning rush. Eventually it's time for the meeting and immediately we discover that I don't have the skills for the job they want done. I've been sold wrongly and am embarrassed. After apologies I take my leave and explore the town for a short while looking for a snack and maybe a music shop before returning South. Negotiating my way out of town I receive a call on the mobile from Martin Wells. 'I don't suppose you'd be interested but... how do you feel about touring Bosnia with a band in the summer?'. I explain I need to concentrate on driving and promise to ring him back later. I now have something to think about on the long drive home.

Later that day we talk again. Martin is surprised that I was even interested enough to ring back. He tells me about Bosnia Relief and Novi Most, about relief convoys and helping to open doors that are politically closed to the relief agencies. I hear Robbie's idea of a band to work with the community and with war traumatised children. It has been received with enthusiasm by Novi Most and that some of the band will be English and rest made up of all Robbie's 'friends and relations' from Dublin. The band will play huge venues to thousands of people. Several Milton Keynes based companies like Marshall and Yamaha will be sponsoring us by supplying such equipment as drums and backline amplification. This will minimise transport costs and we will be able to leave gear in Bosnia for local use. There is media interest in Dublin with the likelihood of a live linkups at the concerts. A television crew is interested in touring with us. Bono, Robbie's old mate, is likely to cough up some help. Over the phone we shrug our shoulders and smile. We know a little of the folk from the Emerald Isle. Still, it feels good and everyone we speak to seems positive.

Part 2 - The Preparation

I've never been to Martin's new house before.

It's a kind of tradition that the Paynes and the Wells meet up sometime around Christmas. On the third day of the new year we drive from Basingstoke to Milton Keynes to visit. We swap news, eat and go ten pin bowling. Robbie drops in with an envelope for each of us containing a list of songs (most of which we'd never heard of or played before), a cassette and lots of information and statistics about Bosnia and Novi Most together with some fascinating black on black photocopies of what were once photographs probably of something significant.

A view of Bosnia apparently

It has already been decided in Dublin that the name of the band will be 'Jacob's Dream' and that we will NOT be doing rock 'n' roll. Robbie shares with us his passion for Bosnia, both the country and the people. We set up some rehearsal dates and the ball begins to roll.

I've never been to Martin's work premises before.

It's impressively situated in the charming village of Maids Moreton near Buckingham in the grounds of a large house. The sounds of the distant Silverstone Circuit can quite clearly be heard on this chilly January 14th. The portacabin is cosy and the coffee is good. Robbie, Martin and I spend the day efficiently learning material. The bacon sarnies are a treat in the pub at the end of the drive. A lot is achieved during a long day and we finish with delivered curry from which Martin suffers greatly during the next day or so.

I've never met Robbie's brothers before.

On the third weekend of February I arrive at Springfield school in Milton Keynes and become acquainted with Fran, Doug and Al. It is evident from the start that we are going to be a pretty heavy band in more ways than one, in fact I feel quite slim. We check each other out with the musician's usual mixture of suspicion and vulnerability trying not to be intimidated (musos are a funny bunch) and begin learning Fran's material. There is a lot of work to do. We also meet Adam who is getting to grips with our PA requirements. We gig the material in the evening and it goes surprisingly well for a 10 hour old band! We learn that Al is different on stage! Hoz kindly lends me her room for the night and in the morning we sing a little in Wolverton church. After the meeting we snatch some lunch at Tescos and stay on to learn more material but we're a little too bushed by now. We are encouraged with the musical distance we have come and say our farewells.

In March it's just the three of us again. Apparently no sponsorship has been forthcoming for equipment yet. Today is not so productive because we can't remember Fran's songs! We try for a while and then rehearse some rock 'n' roll for a wedding we've been asked to do later on in the year. Disappointingly the pub at the end of the drive isn't selling food today so we go to Buckingham for fish 'n' chips. We eat by the river and council Robbie. Someone has given him a ticket for the British Grand Prix on the Sunday after we return from Bosnia. Surely no-one will think the less of him for not going to Celebration just this once. We finish early.

I've never been to Dublin before.

In the evening of Friday 24th April we fly from Heathrow and are met by the Irish contingent at Dublin airport. It's already late because of flight delays but Chinese take-away is generally considered to be necessary. We take the food back to Fran's house and watch the Crystal River Band and some other tedious music video until the small hours. (This was to be a foretaste of things to come.) Al drives Martin and me to the house he shares with two others and lends us his room, he sleeps on the sofa downstairs. The room is interesting, it's really a museum of 'The Story of Alan Frawley'. I get a taste of Martin's snoring capabilities and the deterrent possibilities of Al's cuddly toys.

We drive into the centre of Dublin's fair city to St Marks and find there's a prayer meeting most of the day so we must be quiet. This is actually a GOOD thing in the end as we sit and work things out acoustically. This is less stressful and a lot is achieved (which we will forget later). Guinness for lunch and back to work. We tear all the gear down and set up again with a hired PA in a theatre attached to a monastery next to the river and opposite the Law Courts. Adam has teething troubles with this unfamiliar equipment and there is some tension. The amp I have been lent has broken controls and has basically one sound, take it or leave it, but we manage. We snatch a meal of smoked cod and chips eaten with our fingers in the foyer.

For the fans!

The gear all suddenly works at gig time and, despite the foldback working too well early on and nearly deafening us all, things settle down and we are well received. A spot light bulb crashes onto the stage during 'Wonderwall' narrowly missing my head. We are surprised to see Roger and his wife. Apparently they have been visiting Belfast and decided to drive down. We have another late night. We play at the meeting in St Marks in the morning. They are civilised enough to have sausage rolls and coffee afterwards. We leave too late for the promised carvery lunch and eat chilli in an American Diner. We walk along the sea wall Dun Laoghaire close to where the ferry docks, drink a Guinness and hang at Fran's until it's time to fly. This weekend we have begun to realise that the Irish Exchange Rate doesn't only apply to money but also every other form of number. When so applied it is unpredictable and constantly varying. It must be factored into such quantities as 'the time' and 'the number of people at a gig' etc. This turns out to be a key discovery for us Brits that will guide us and help to keep us sane throughout our association with Jacob's Dream.

June 13th sees us all together again this time at the Crauford Arms in Wolverton. We meet Andy who will help drive the equipment across Europe and do the still and video photography. We have all the gear here today that we will take with us so it's time to become thoroughly acquainted with it. Adam, Dave and Sam spend a lot of time sorting all this out. No sponsorship has been forthcoming it seems. We get to rehearse a little, do a few publicity shots and gig in the evening. Another successful day. We feel we are as ready for the tour as we will be.

Part 3 - Croatia

Wednesday, 1st July 1998
Marg, Sam and I drop Tom off for work experience at Lasham and we continue on to Heathrow. The traffic is not as bad as it could be and we arrive 45 minutes before check-in time. Having said a lingering goodbye to Marg at Terminal 2 we locate the Croatian Airlines desk and wait. Sam wanders off to track down a Sprite and returns to allow me to get an expresso from Costa's coffee shop. The others arrive on time. This bodes well! There are the usual Heathrow delays so we have plenty of time to get a good English breakfast. We become slightly worried about the connecting flight to Split from Zagreb.

After a inedible, cold, cardboard turkey dinner and 2 hours 20 minutes we arrive at Zagreb and realise we need not have worried about the connecting flight because we are it. We pile out, visit the terminus, show our passports and re-board the same plane via the gate marked as the Skopje flight. I ask Robbie if Skopje is Serbo-croat for Split. He says 'Yes, the 'j' is silent'.

The sticky heat is a shock in our UK clothes and we're pleased to be back in air-conditioned comfort. The military hangers, fighter planes and helicopter gun ships are the first reminder of recent military action. From the plane window I watch orange and gold 'insects' buzzing around the two Croatian Airlines 737s trying to entice them to 'Follow Me' to no avail. We wait watching low, empty passenger carriers slide busily around the tarmac making like they are creeping with their heads down. What is it with airport vehicles; they all appear to be mutants, deformed horizontally or vertically. Eventually a 'wasp' attracts our plane and we follow it to the runway. We leave Zagreb very late for the 50 minute flight to Split.

The mountains are beautiful and the sea is deep blue and transparent and peppered with small islands as we circle to land. There can't be much room for pilot error here. We disembark and are reunited with our luggage. There had been particular concern over the safety of the acoustic guitars. A quick check inside the cases confirms no visible sign of damage thankfully. Contrary to Robbie's earlier assertion the plane continues on to Skopje (with the silent 'j').

The first thing we notice as we emerge from collecting our bags is the lens of Andy's video camera and nearby is Roger to welcome us - ever the Englishman abroad. They've driven overland with the truckful of gear and we're pleased to see them. The van is supposed to be a 3.5 tonner but the weigh-bridge on the Austrian border registered 4.4 tonnes. It was apparently very unstable to drive. We meet Naomi Lawrence, our tour co-ordinator and Keith, our driver for the day, load our bags into a pickup truck and choose one of the broken seats in a long-in-the-tooth chocolate Land Rover which looks as if it's liable to melt in the considerable heat.

We discover our Deutsche Marks can't buy us a drink in the nearby petrol station. This is considered to be a real shame on account of the warm weather and does NOT bode well. (Being fair this is the only trouble we had with Dms.) We never did fully understand the currency but Robbie had a handle on it thankfully and was readily available as a Currency Consultant for the whole of the trip. Apparently one can cause great offence by offering the wrong currency in certain areas.

It's a long, hot drive to Ploce. By the side of the road the drops down to the sea are often precipitous. Dave is sitting next to Naomi and chatting away to her as she drives. Doug is particularly concerned about driver distraction under these circumstances. He displays a certain nervous tendancy as a passenger.

It's dark long before we reach Ploce and we don't stop. Apparently it's Blace we're going to. We arrive at Camp Rio and they've eaten all the supper. They never received Naomi's fax to say we'd be late. There is an air of disappointment and we're pleased we got a good breakfast at Heathrow. It dawns on us that we are camping and we're told there is a problem with mosquitoes. We have neither insect repellent nor torches. I should have listened to Marg, she told me to bring both! No-one seems particularly pleased to see us and we have that spare feeling. They remove our passports from us. We're not too happy about this but it's government regulations apparently.

Naomi springs into action (the first of many times) and organises someone from the camp to go back into Ploce for pizza. It's 10pm by now. Some pastries and coffee are rustled up and we find our tents. We return and sit under the terrace, talking into the night. We wait. Martin rings Hoz and asks her to pass a 'Herb and Sam are OK' message to Marg. Fran discloses that they have organised 50 Jacob's Dream tee-shirts, indicating the number by holding up all of his fingers. We're impressed but there's a problem. Instead of 'Novi Most' the printer has put 'Noui Most' on the back of them. Fortunately this is not an expletive or an insult when translated - in fact it's meaningless. We wait. Pizza finally arrives at midnight (2 hour fast food) and we remember we are hungry. Andy rigs up his laptop and, unexpectedly, we can e-mail home. Coffee magically appears and despite the camp alcohol ban a little Irish 'sweetener' is introduced to it, on request, from Dave's bottle. This is another nice touch. We turn in, groping our way back to our tents in the darkness tripping over the guy ropes on the way.

The nocturnal chattering of the crickets and ducks together with the liberal snoring and close proximity of five sweaty men in the bell tent ensure we get minimal sleep. It's Thursday morning and Sam is horrified to find that everything he moves in the tent has 100 ants under it. They haven't bitten anyone though and so are assumed to be friendly enough. The cold shower is delicious. There is a choice; cold shower or no shower. We begin to realise that the promised 500+ war-traumatised kids and local punters was a little optimistic. The camp is miles from anywhere and few people pass. It only caters for up to 200. There are probably 80 people on site. The camp for war-traumatised kids is next week.

There is a teaching meeting on the terrace and the JD boys attend for the first half. Naomi plays viola we discover and very well, hmmmm. She is recruited for 'Dance with the King' and 'The River'. Roger calls us together for a meeting. We are determined to find time every day to pray together and share. Roger's theme for the week will be the armour of God.

We have some free time now. The weather is hot. In fact every day it was in the late 30s and early 40s centigrade. The sea is warm and shallow and the scenery is breathtaking. We swim, use the canoes and pedalos and cool off by sitting in the shallow water. Lots of high factor sun cream is splashed about. Action-man Dave snorkels to the distant headland. A 100 DM float is deposited with the local shop to prevent Jacob's Dream from dehydrating. Lunch is thin, clear soup with carrots and spaghetti and a rice salad. We're going to lose weight and not many of us can afford to do that! Dinner later turns out to be a rerun of lunch.

The owner of the campsite forbids us to talk to his mangy dog. This is all right by us but the dog seems short of friends. We have endless discussions about whether to use the staging blocks. In the end all this turns out to be pointless because we realise that if we use them we won't be able to stand up under the low roof. That's settled then. The equipment is set-up early and a game or two of boules is in the offing. The mangy dog insists on sitting in the path of the balls (OK, he was trying to find some shade). Martin wins and we melt away to freshen up and prepare. A boules tournament is a magnet for the campsite residents in the early evening and everyone seems more interested in the game than coming to the gig. We start late. The set is played to 50-80 people and the most beautiful backdrop you could wish for - the sun setting over the Adriatic and headlands. Was it worth it? Yes! We hear some conversations about Jesus as we pack up. It transpires that two Moslem guys had walked in off the beach, were seriously interested in the gospel and were prayed with for healing. They said they felt the presence of God like electricity.

Beds were reclaimed at 1am for the English and 2am for the Irish. We agree to be up and ready for a 7am start in order to hit the border early in case of problems. This will mean missing breakfast but the border is only half an hour away and 'there are plenty of places to eat breakfast where the border is'.

Part 4 - Republika Srpska

The Brits rise at 6am, take a cold shower, pack and wait. Naomi is an angel and manages to produce some coffee. JD is ready to leave, finally, at 8am (the Brits had failed to apply the Irish Exchange Rate again). The Land Rover is a pig to start and we find out that it's waiting for spare parts that are due imminently and those responsible for it don't really want us to use it. It must return to the camp today. Mark, a Novi Most volunteer from Somerset, comes with us as a driver for the day. The passenger vehicles pass straight across the Bosnian border with no problems. We wait anxiously for the equipment van for about half an hour. We pray. Finally all is OK and we and the equipment are all in Bosnia for the first time.

Bosnia border

Breakfast is the next priority. Can we find anywhere to serve a meal at this time of day? Eventually a restaurant is persuaded to produce fried fish, scrambled eggs and salami for us and we take our time over a very tasty meal. Mark's car is switched for Naomi's and Mark takes the driving seat in the Landy as we head for Trebinje. It's so sad to see wiped out communities along side the road, each destroyed house a tragedy. Many houses although toppled and burnt out themselves still have the vine covered veranda under which the family would sit, eat and chat. There is some brave rebuilding going on. As we pass into the Serb enclave there is a roadside market in the middle of nowhere. The Croatian flag flies defiantly in some villages we pass through. This is a reminder that the area is still a powder-keg. We notice SFOR (Stabilisation Force) vehicles everywhere in Bosnia (they are most Spanish in this area). Their presence is still essential to keep the fragile peace. We meet very few cars here, maybe one or two in a whole hour. Children wave at us as we pass. It seems that visitors are a bit of a novelty.

It was from the Trebinje garrison that some of the first Serbians solders apparently set out for Mostar. It's a surprisingly chic town in places. We unload at Naomi's apartment. It has a staggering view across the river and town to the mountain opposite. Pigs live downstairs next door. It's strange mixture of urban and rural life. There's even a hayrick 100 yards down this residential road towards town.

Bosnia hayrick

We return and set up at the 'Olympic Pool' at 6pm and time is tight. The gig starts and everyone is a long way away on the terraces on the far side of the pool. If this is going to work we need contact with the people. Fran has some inspiration, 'We've come far across the water to be with you. Will you come across the water and be with us over here?' It works and most come and stand in front of us. There are maybe 300 people here and lots of enthusiasm. They want to dance so, generally, the slower songs die on us. Both Sam and Daniel get their first chance to play here. We can't preach but we can identify with them. They are grateful. We sign lots of postcards, give away plectrums and Sam and Daniel have a fan club. I get a little peck on the cheek from Nicolina, she's probably 8 years old, bless her. Throughout the gig I was blinded by the lights and I couldn't hear properly. We could have been tighter. There was a drunk in an England football shirt. He came on stage and, for a while, it looked like he was going to do a striptease. He was very keen on my England shorts - bye bye.We pack the van in the sticky heat and Adam takes a midnight dip. We're all a little jealous but also too cowardly to join him. Martin and I walk home past the burial ground which has far too many recent graves.

The fridge has been stocked for us and we also drink some local brew that Dave acquired from the guys at the pool. It's yeasty (a bit like German white beer). Naomi cooks us delicious stuffed chicken at 2am. We retire shortly afterwards having sampled a noggin of Irish Mist. Sam and I share a room with Mr Wells. Mark has already driven back to Camp Rio with the Landy.

On Saturday morning we sleep until about 9am and then most of us walk to town for coffee. We are often recognised and probably stick out like a sore thumb. Are they playing U2 and Gary Moore in the coffee shop for our benefit? Down town there are posters advertising last night's gig.

Bosnia poster

As we walk around the old town and market we notice that these people are beginning to hold their heads up and there is some affluence. Apparently, though, they often ask Naomi what the West thinks of them and are at pains to point out that they aren't the aggressors. The ancient quarter of the town has an old fortress with ramparts and rusting cannons. Many trees have pictures of missing people stapled to them. Naomi knows of families in Trebinje that have lost 7 members in the war.

We return to the house to the inevitable strains of 'Don't look back in anger' coming from Daniel's bedroom. Naomi cooks us up some brunch at 12:30. We are concerned that Roger is doing too much and Al's voice is suffering a little. There is a discussion about tonight's set and we break bread together at 2pm. We pray that the postcards will be like the apostle Paul's handkerchief and will convey a blessing to those who receive them. A VW minibus and driver, Jovo, are hired for the rest of the tour. A local guy named Zoran will come with us for today and interpret. Jovo apparently thought he might never have the opportunity to see Mostar and Sarajevo again and it would certainly be too dangerous for him to try without the company of us foreigners. Both Jovo and Zoran are virtual prisoners in Bosnia at present. Serbs are not being issued passports yet and hatred is still rife.

We set out for Ljubinje and Zoran tells us of wolves in the woods and land mines in the fertile valleys. Over there are the battle lines and this whole area was rich in vines and fruit trees which, having been left unattended during the war, are now ruined. There is no money to replenish them. We follow a river with a concrete bed for miles and, further on, the road is blocked for a while by goats. Goats were apparently banned under Tito because of the damage they do to the vegetation. Andy is stung on the neck by an insect and almost crashes the van. On arriving in Ljubinje we immediately feel threatened. There is a bad feeling here. It's very run down. We check into the best hotel in town, it's also the only hotel in town, it's also the worst hotel you could imagine. Apparently it's also used for refugees. The rooms stink, the doors could easily be kicked off their hinges. There is no hot water, the basins leak and the shower doesn't work. There are bottles of water to use to flush the loo and the windows don't lock properly. Dry food and other goods are stored in the corridors outside the rooms and the carpets are threadbare.

The venue tonight is a sports court and we have problems with the earth connection on the power source. A local electrician is summoned and we pay him by giving him one of my flight cases. He tries to give us a separate 3 phase supply for the lights but we end up with severe hum from an earth loop. There are problems with the foldback. Tomorrow we will track this down to faulty multicore. This was the only time we used the full staging. We form a human chain to move the stage panels and I dropped one on Roger's be-sandled toe. He's obviously in great pain. We rush back for the evening meal of thin soup, greasy (no, sodden) chips and belly pork followed by scabby peaches.

During the gig the lights keep going out threateningly and tomatoes are thrown. One smacks Robbie on the head. This is disturbing and we finish early. To be fair there were a lot of kids enjoying themselves and the missiles might have been due to us playing U2 songs (Bono has aligned himself with the Muslims apparently). Al's free cosmetics are particularly popular here with the young ladies. Tonight was the Croatia v Germany match and we wonder what mood the locals will be in if Croatia win. By the time we walk back through town at midnight we have talked ourselves into considerable fear. People shout at us from the bars as we pass and some local blokes are walking alongside us silently. We have no-one to speak the language because Naomi has driven back to Trebinje with Zoran. Sitting outside the hotel waiting for Naomi the conversation is nervous. There are groups of local lads watching us from a distance and one or two under the trees outside the hotel. We muse on how to protect the gear and whether the van would be torched.

Then the strangest thing happened. All the lights went out. There was a loud scraping noise as we all with one accord, without thinking, pushed back our chairs and shot as fast as we could in the pitch blackness into the foyer of the hotel. Alarmed faces are temporally illuminated by flickering cigarette lighters. There was nervous laughter as the lights came on again. It has to be said that not all of us shared in this nervousness but most of us were fairly spooked.

Several stay up to wait for Naomi and the rest retire to bed anxiously. There appears to be no staff in the hotel and the door stays open all night. We pray for safety. The lads who wait up eventually go to a bar for a drink and chat to the locals who were pleased to see them and, it seems, were probably friendly all along. They seem quite chuffed that Croatia won. In hindsight we wonder what the problem was. Sleep didn't come easy because dogs were barking all night and some kind of animal or bird was making beeping noises every few seconds.

Part 5 - Bosnia

We survived the night and so did the equipment and vehicles. Thank you Father. Apparently Naomi had returned at 2:30am. Breakfast is greasy omelette and dry bread accompanied by fruit tea complete with a floating beetle. We leave town early to reach Mostar in time for church.

Jovo drives us back through the Serb border market. We wonder if the pigs had twigged that there were ideal escape ladders propped up against the lorries and whether they would tell the sheep. We reach the hills above Mostar and suddenly there is the often seen view of the city nestled vulnerably in its gun emplacement surrounded hills. It must have been terrifying just a few years ago; they were sitting ducks. It's a beautiful sight but the destruction stirs deep emotions again. Despite the sadness there is a lighter feeling here.

We attend church in West Mostar and sing 'Gloria' and 'The River' acoustically. Sam and a few others thought they would get out of church and have a rest by volunteering to store our bags in the apartment. Not a chance however and by the time they return there is only room for Sam in the middle of a group of elderly local ladies, well away from the interpreter. It must have been a long morning for him! Robbie speaks for a few minutes as does Roger. There is lots of Praise and Worship led by a young band and local testimony mostly about Camp Rio. Some visiting Americans also contribute. The service lasts 2 and a half hours. It was long and hot!

After church Roger goes to hospital for an X ray. His toe is confirmed as broken and he returns with a plaster cast. I feel really bad about this. Andy's sting is still troubling him so he goes to hospital later to have it treated. The rest of us go and find the church apartment where we are due to stay. It's a shock to find that it's in one of the worst shelled buildings we have seen so far in the city. It's about twelve storeys high, full of shell holes and largely burnt out. The third floor apartment is, however, large and well appointed with plenty of room and with all modern conveniences. It seems to be one of the only reconditioned areas in the whole building. We wash some socks and go round the corner to find a legendary and much longer for mixed grill. We lingered over this delicious meal for nearly 3 hours hearing some news of the Wimbledon final featuring a famous Croatian by the name of Goran.

We start setting up just after 5pm at the Youth Centre. The local P&W band, led by Dragan, will play 3 songs to start the evening. They're very good and feature some Delirious material. The gig goes OK. There are around 200 people there with others coming and going. The Americans help with security and packing afterwards. We're discovering that the locals have a short attention span and are not used to listening to bands. During the gig there is a loud, sharp bang. Was it gunfire or a firecracker? I step back from the lights anyway. We finish abruptly and slightly early due to light rainfall which soon stops. We pack and load the van without anything really getting wet.

Back at the apartment dear Naomi responds to the collective hunger and goes out with Martin to find hamburgers even though she's as beat as us. They return at 12:30. Nice burgers! We play Travel Trivial Pursuit until 2am; Irish 2, British 1. The Brits turn in, the Irish have a celebratory tipple. There are lots of night noises in the city. One muffled roar, not far away, turned out to be a grenade being thrown into a coffee bar at 3am according to some police officers we speak to later.

Who would be so inconsiderate as to ring the apartment door bell at 7:30am! It's someone from the church is delivering breakfast. This is a great gesture and much appreciated. I get up at just after 8:30am to ring Marg. It's July 6th, our 24th Wedding Anniversary. She must have left for Lasham already and I'm disappointed to get the answer phone. I find Roger and Andy picking at the breakfast and join them. There are meats, cheeses, pates, bread, fruit tea and juice.

We leave, later than planned, for a walk to no-man's-land and East Mostar. The destruction is difficult to come to terms with. It's still easy to find fired bullets and empty cartridge cases on the ground.

Bosnia slugs

The buildings are so pockmarked and riddled with bullets and shrapnel some of them have the texture of broken Weetabix.
Bosnia apartments
Bosnia hospital

Some of the lampposts have so many bullet holes they have collapsed. The hospital and apartment blocks are gutted. What was it like! There are no tourists here; just us.
Bosnia shotsign
Bosnia shotsign

I stand and contemplate a ruined, bullet-ridden home next to a pile of twisted, rusting metal and in the stillness, from some young vegetation, a bird begins to sing. It speaks of hope.

Bosnia hope

There are the pathetic remains of woefully inadequate barricades in the doorways of the apartments. Looking up you can still see the artillery emplacements on the peaks in every direction. On a hill facing West Mostar a message of peace from the East to the West can still be seen.
Bosnia ruined_east

We cross the river, via a bailey bridge built by the British Army, to the east (Muslim) side and walk up to the famous 'Old Man of Mostar'. This ancient bridge built in 1566 was destroyed by shelling during the war. The river is clear blue, deep and fast moving. A temporary bridge has been built to span the river by the side of the ruin and we use it to return to the west bank for refreshment in a caf´ under shady vines. We sit listening to wailing minarets calling the faithful to prayer every few hours. One in particular seems to have a pronounced squeal and we note that Adam has disappeared. We muse over whether he will be allowed in and will he actually be allowed to adjust the EQ. Kids still jump the 100 ft or so from this temporary bridge into the river for dares and money. The stones of the old bridge are being recovered from the river and are slowly drying out on a platform by the bank. It will be rebuilt in a few years.

We find the venue for tonight, Club Cairos. It's a caf´ in a complex of caf´s just on the west bank but still in the Moslem quarter. We sit here, discuss the gig and eat another mouth-watering mixed grill lunch. Robbie and Naomi leave for the local radio station, 'raddio ix'. We listen to the 40 minute interview in the caf´ and we only cringed when Robbie talks about Bono. Someone who was at West Mostar gig last night phones into the radio show to say how good we were and encouraging people to attend tonight. Sam and Daniel sit and write 100 publicity cards for tonight's gig. There are loads of feral cats around and we try to have as little to do with them as possible.

Bosnia east_gig

It's a relaxing, enjoyable 'pub' gig with good vibes. Andy takes a walk around the vicinity while we are playing and reports that we can be clearly heard on the far side of the river. Our wedding anniversary is announced all over East Mostar. Singing 'Gloria' was exciting in a Moslem area. The Radio X guys were there and everyone seemed to enjoy the evening. We had great help from the US and other local chaps in tearing down. As we were packing the van we were told about the grenade last night. Suddenly there was a loud hiss, some furtive scrabbling and someone asked if the pin is in. The heart begins to beat faster. It transpires there is trouble with one of the fire extinguishers! Home to bed at 2am. We haven't eaten since lunch time but we're too tired.

The breakfast lady delivers again and a quick phone call confirms Sarajevo for tonight. There is some discussion about whether to go as the church in Sarajevo don't seem too keen. If we stayed in Mostar the journey to the airport tomorrow would be far less harrowing. We decide to go and to be faithful to what we are here for. Roger is set to fly home today. The insurance will pay for a taxi to the airport and a club class flight. We try not to be jealous. The chocolate Land Rover and trailer has turned up again from Ploce. This will be our only means of transport after we dismiss Jovo at the border.

We leave for Sarajevo an hour late. Jovo is checked by a pedantic police officer at the petrol station. There is more mass destruction of communities as we go north out of Mostar towards the hills. The mountains are spectacular - tall granite peaks with lush green vegetation. The road winds north beside the fast flowing blue-green river. There are frequent road tunnels. We stretch out in the VW, 7 Up, orange juice, trainers off, music on, feeling relaxed. It's going to be a long 24 hours. We pass a hydroelectric plant and cross a bridge that's half blown away. There's a temporary, single carriageway built on top of the damage. We coin 2 new verbs; 'to be frawlied' means 'to be delayed' and 'to be franned' means 'to be severely delayed'. There are 45 degree fields in the hills with the obligatory conical haystacks. They seem cut the haystacks like a kebab or a ham. Many of the local drivers are lunatics. We've seen several near smashes in the last few days. Generally safety standards seem to be low. Many cars are in a bad state and electrical appliances can be downright dangerous.

We get to Sarajevo and it's not pretty. In fact it's like high-rise hell! There was a Hercules taking off from the airport as we arrive just like the news programmes of a few years ago. Serious damage is still in evidence but lots of reconstruction is under way. In fact as soon as we stop and get out of the van the predominant noise is that of building work. Two Sachas from the church met us (are all the men called Sacha?). Our bags are stored in the church building and we walk through dismal apartment blocks to eat a 'Big Mac' and chips but not in a MacDonalds (perhaps copyright doesn't apply here). It's very good or maybe we're just very hungry. This turned out to be the last meal for 18 hours. Young lads are playing football in amongst the apartment blocks as we walk back and they follow us eager to practice their English. There's a girl here from Oregon helping in the local church and we kid her that we are a country band doing Glenn Campbell covers. She pales a little and is not sure what to say.

We take the church bus (an English registered Mercedes) to the venue which turns out to be a psychedelic cellar, all orange and ultraviolet, seedy but funky. Someone said is was used as a mortuary in the war. There is some concern over the numbers likely to attend as the locals seem to have done little publicity and there's the football again tonight. There is also concern about bad vibes if we attempt to pack up at 10:30pm (which we must in order to make the flight home). Will the punters get stroppy? We pray and go ahead anyway. I get through to Marg on Roger's moby, say hello and ask for prayer. The equipment is showing signs of wear and tear and should ideally be checked out properly, especially the leads. There is difficulty getting some of the PA to work and we run on the bottom Peavey cabs only.

It was a great gig. We play really tight and creatively. Between 50 and 100 people attend and they boogie! The American lass looks a lot happier. We finish promptly and tear down at 10:45pm and the van is loaded and we are ready to leave at 12:15am. We pray for Naomi and for Martin and Andy's journey home. We've all signed a card for Jovo and we give a gift of cash and a card to Naomi. Someone has spoken to Roger earlier on the mobile. He's safely home drinking tea. Shortly after 12:20am we leave for Split.

Part 6 - The Exodus

We doze fitfully through the night, some more successfully than others. The way alludes us a couple of times and we have to backtrack. Unfortunately the Croatian border surprises us. We meant to stop a way back to switch the trailer from the VW to the Landy to allow Jovo to head off home with no hassle. He is caught however and as the young, po-faced border guard checks his papers Jovo is visible frightened. As a Serb he is not welcome here. The guards make a fuss and take their time. Eventually they let him go and we watch until he's well away. It'll be at least two long hours drive before he will feel safe again.

There are ten of us in the Landy now and all the bags in the trailer. There's still a couple of hours to go. As we approach Split we run into a spectacular thunder storm. This causes floods and slows us down. There is some discussion amongst the Irish about not touching the metal bits of the Land Rover (Faraday's Cage seems to apply here if I remember) and not being at risk due to the rubber tyres (they were wet). Robbie says (with great authority) 'We're OK travelling at this speed, it'll be difficult to hit a moving target.' The physics alludes me. We make the airport just in time for the 8am flight. We say a sad farewell to Naomi who now faces a long drive back to Ploce. She's dog-tired too.

We have a quick flight to Zagreb. Lucky Sam is given a ham roll by one of the passengers. We grab a quick snack and coffee at Zagreb before the 9:50am takeoff. There's another dismal, but non-the-less welcome, meal on board. Then, here's Heathrow and dear Margie waiting to greet us.

I suffer from sickness and the trots on return home and am glad for a couple of days to sleep and recover. Martin and Andy finally arrive home at 2am on Saturday morning. Martin had been stopped for speeding in Croatia and fined £5. The drive across Germany had been mind-numbingly boring but everything arrives back safely.

Part 7 - Abroad thoughts from Home

It was important for us that we weren't playing in stadiums to vast numbers of people. In fact it turned out to be quite the opposite. We had to be prepared to set up anywhere often on what looked like a scrap of waste ground. Our purpose for being in the Balkans was to connect with the young people and hopefully help to open doors for aid work. There is no room for pomp and pride.

The people enjoyed the rockier songs the best - rock 'n' roll went down very well. U2 is huge in Bosnia and the kids know the songs by heart. There was no problem singing Christian songs and, in some places, giving a bit of testimony. As they are not used to having bands to listen to it seems that generally their attention span is short and they will quickly wander off.

Our schedule had been so hectic that most of us hardly met any local people unfortunately. Naomi made contacts however and there seemed to be a measure of good will for Novi Most to capitalise upon. I enjoyed chatting to Dragan, the P&W leader in West Mostar. It would be great to see him again and share some more. If the equipment sponsorship had come off Dragan's band would have been the ideal recipients of the gear. We were able to recommend his band to the guys in Sarajevo who were planning some youth events.

The weather broke as we were leaving and it appears to have remained rainy for several days after we left. We are grateful for the hot, settled weather we had because most of what we did would have been impossible in the wet.

Robbie went to the Grand Prix.

Appendix

The Team

Bosnia team

  • Alan Frawley vocals
  • Fran Frawley acoustic and electric guitars, vocals
  • Robbie Frawley drums, vocals
  • Doug McCormack keyboards, vocals
  • Martin Wells bass guitar
  • Herb Payne guitar, vocals
  • Dave stage manager, load master
  • Adam sound
  • Sam Payne lights, drums
  • Daniel Frawley stage hand, guitar
  • Roger Clarke pastor, driver
  • Andy Peeble media, driver
  • Naomi Lawrence The Boss

Contents of the Van

  • Staging for six musicians
  • tables for speakers
  • 2 generators
  • 2 fire extinguishers
  • lighting
  • 2 fold up beds
  • 2 keyboards
  • 5 guitars
  • PA and backline speakers and amplifiers
  • tools
  • backdrop, cosmetics (free lipsticks etc) and postcards

Typical set list

  • Dreaming
  • Dance With The King
  • Round N' Round
  • Gloria
  • Don't Look Back
  • Wonderwall
  • On My Way
  • Tears in heaven
  • Crazy Love
  • One
  • Everybody
  • Feet on The Rock
  • Everybody Hurts
  • Sweet Home
  • With or Without You
  • Knockin on Heavens Door
  • Somebody Touched Me
  • The River
  • Stray Cat Strut
  • Shadoogie
  • Johnnie B Goode
  • Sweet Crystal River
  • Passing Through

Some Background Courtesy of Novi Most

Bosnia Hercegovina (often referred to as Bosnia) declared independence from former Yugoslavia and received international recognition in the spring of 1992, and almost immediately collapsed into war. Since the Dayton agreement of November 1995, the republic is effectively made up of two separate entities, the Muslim-Croat Federation (cities include Sarajevo, Mostar & Tuzla) and the Republika Srpska (cities include Banja Luka, Bijeljina and Trebinje). The names Bosnia and Hercegovina refer to two separate regions: Bosnia (its name derived from the Bosna River) occupies the great majority of the republic's territory; Hercegovina is a much smaller area in the south, around the city of Mostar; its name derives from the German Herzog ('duke'), the title borne by its former rulers. Most of Bosnia Hercegovina is mountainous, covered by the Dinaric Alps. The Bosna, Drina, Una and Vrbas rivers are tributaries of the Sava, which forms part of the country's northern border with Croatia. The Drina forms part of Bosnia's eastern border with Serbia. The Neretva river flows south into the Adriatic; near its mouth is the republic's only outlet to the sea about 12 miles of coastline. Bosnia Hercegovina's three main population groups - the Muslims, Orthodox Serbs and Roman Catholic Croats - are all of Slavic origin and speak Serbo-Croat but differ in language (Croats and Muslims use the Latin alphabet, the Serbs use the Cyrillic, and each group now emphasises their different dialects) and culture. At the beginning of the 1992 war the Croats were concentrated mainly in the West; the Muslims and Serbs were more widely dispersed throughout the republic.

Before the war Bosnia Hercegovina was the third poorest of the republics of former Yugoslavia. When it seceded from the Yugoslav federation, the Yugoslav government in Belgrade renounced all responsibility for Bosnia's share of the former federation's foreign debt (about 15% of the total US $2.5 billion), which meant the official government in Sarajevo was internationally bankrupt even before the war broke out. In the pre-war economy agriculture was almost all in private hands, but farms were small and inefficient, so Bosnia was traditionally a net importer of food. Its industrial base, which was greatly overstaffed (a reflection of the rigidities of communist central planning and management) concentrated traditionally on mining (coal, iron ore, bauxite, copper and zinc) and capital goods. Since the war, production has plummeted with many of the industrial plants having been damaged or destroyed.

The war in Bosnia, which raged across the country from the spring of 1992 until December 1995, was projected by the Western media as a purely civil war; the settling of old scores in a long line of inter-ethnic hostilities. It is true that not one of the last fifty-one generations of Bosnian people has been spared the horrors of war, most of which either resulted from, or led to, internal conflict between the country's different ethnic and religious communities. However, this latest war, and the vast majority of those which preceded it, have been provoked and/or sustained by external factors and powers. Eminent historians, Noel Malcolm and J M Roberts, both cite the involvement of foreign governments as major ingredients in the recent war.

'The biggest obstacle to all understanding of the conflict is the assumption that what has happened in that country is the product - natural, spontaneous and at the same time necessary - of forces lying within Bosnia's own internal history This is a myth which was carefully propagated by those who caused the conflict, who wanted the world to believe that what they and their gunmen were doing was done not by them, but by impersonal and inevitable historical forces beyond anyone's control. And the world believed them.' says Noel Malcolm.

The war resulted from the break-up of Yugoslavia, itself an artificial product of external interference earlier this century and held together by the iron fist of communism with the compliance of the West. At the end of the eighties, when communism was collapsing across Europe, republics within Yugoslavia, principally Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia, began to demand independence. In March 1992, a majority of the Bosnian electorate voted for independence leading almost immediately to the intervention of the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav army and to the arming by Croatia of the Bosnian Croats. As these nations, encouraged by their various sponsors in the international community, waged their territorial war in the Bosnian theatre, historical internal rivalries did surface again and many of the atrocities were indeed committed as acts of vengeance for the inhuman deeds perpetrated in World War II or earlier conflicts. Bosnia was historically much more mixed, in terms of ethnic and religious groups, than the other republics in former Yugoslavia. It was the religious and cultural cross-roads between Islam and Christendom and between the worlds of Eastern Orthodox and Western (Catholic) Christians.

At the outbreak of the war, Bosnia was said to have 'fewer Evangelical Christians than any other country in Europe' and the Bosnian Muslims were described as 'Europe's least evangelised people' 'Little or nothing has ever been done to take them the Gospel'.

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