May 29, 2010.

Our New CD 2010 - "this one's for You"

We recorded the first tracks for this album last summer - June, to be precise - and the last tracks were recorded in the middle of May this year. Then I spent a week mixing the tracks and finishing the album art - couldn't finish the cover until I knew what songs were on the CD and in what order. I had so many 18 hour days that I was losing track of what day of the week it ever was. The last night was spent mastering the album and completing the artwork to get it to the pressing plant on time - that was a 28 hour day for me, and nearly as long for James (he had time only to run home for a shower and lunch before he did another session that day...) yeah, we were getting just a LITTLE punchy! But, we got it done, and I managed somehow to drive through the eary afternoon mid-week Don Valley Parkway traffic up to the north end of Toronto to hand over the goods to the manufacturers, and then turned around for a very, very hazy and difficult to recall at all hour of driving through heavy traffic to get back to Hamilton and have a quick look at my bed before I passed out in it. And believe it or not, I was up a mere three hours later having a listen to my copy of the CD! Anyway, it comes out this week, and I hope you all enjoy it, and please buy copies for all the people you know......because now we have to pay off the bank!!!

Celtfest 2008

We had the great pleasure to play and teach in Victoria and Nanaimo this summer for Celtfest. We took part in concerts in both cities, and spent a week teaching music at Victoria Island University for the Celtic Performing Arts summer camp. The school is run by Rene and Carolyn Cusson; his background is pipes, hers is Highland dance. They hired a whole bag of fine musicians to teach the playing of Celtic music. There were students and teachers there from all across Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. We lived on the campus at the university, located on a hillside in Nanaimo. I counted 264 steps up from my dorm to my first class of the day...lost 13 pounds and only looked a day older! Ruth taught harp and Gaelic singing, Bob taught pipes, and I taught Bodhran and guitar. There were nightly ceilidhs, and a student concert on the Thursday of that week. The whole experience was wonderful! They held a last gala concert at the beautiful Port Theatre in Nanaimo on Saturday night, where all the teachers got to show off their stuff. The sound techs there did a really good job, and Scantily Plaid rocked, if I do say so myself!!! I can't wait to get playing again, and to get our new CD recorded.

Lorient Trip 2007

Ruth and I left on the evening of July 29th from Toronto on a ZOOM Airlines flight bound for Paris. We got the limo in Hamilton. He was a little early and I was a little late, but all was well by the time I got into the stretched-out white car and unfolded the paper airplane that Douglas had snuck into my carry-on knapsack. He had written a secret message for me inside of it, along with a super secret “random” thought quotation. (We’ve been doing a lot of that lately…just trading completely random stream-of-consciousness thoughts back and forth at each other.)
            We had chilled wine and cold beer in the limo, and arrived at the airport in good time and good spirits. We found the ZOOM  desk and checked in pretty quickly, so we had a bit of time to wait. I noticed a lot of abandoned luggage carts around the terminal. It costs a dollar to get a cart out of the machine, but when you return it, you only get back 25¢, so obviously there are a lot of people who don’t consider that incentive enough to bother returning their carts. Consequently, I made $10.75 in about 12 minutes, which bought us a couple of beers while we waited for our flight.
            Deeper into the airport, we found a small restaurant and were invited to join a table with Tammy from Kelowna. She and her teenaged daughter and son were heading back home after some time in Collingwood at a family wedding. We talked, told stories, drank some draught, and ate Timbits which Tammy had in a box on the table. We’re Canadians, and it’s something we do.
            The plane was a 767, which has two seats by the windows and three seats down the middle. Unfortunately, we got seats in the middle. I like the window! I mean, I want to see stuff! Why is it that so many people who ask for and/or get window seats simply close the blinds and read a book or watch whatever moronic movie is showing instead of looking out the window? The weather was beautiful too, all the way to Labrador. Ahh well…..
            Behind us were a Mum and Dad and a daughter about 7, and their two other daughters, aged either way from 10, were in the same row by the port side windows. On the starboard side, across the aisle from me, were a Mum and her three teens, two girls and a boy. The Mum was originally from Toronto, but the kids were all born in France, and they’d been on a summer visit with their Canadian family for a few weeks. They had with them a box of assorted Timbits. Perfect.
            Two rows ahead of me were a mother and her 8-year-old daughter of East Indian descent, but the little girl was born and raised in Paris, and spoke French.
            As the flight wore on, everyone was getting pretty friendly, but the children were getting antsy because the movies weren’t interesting to them either, and it was dark outside. This gave me a chance to dust off my French a bit, talking with the kids about their vacations and things. As the teens on my right had had their fill of Timbits, they offered some to Ruth and me, and said we could finish them. There were still about 8 of them left, so I went around offering them to the other kids on the plane. When they were all gone, some of the kids still wanted them, so I began offering imaginary Timbits, which I said were even better than the real ones because you could eat all you wanted and you never had to brush your teeth. These Timbits were in constant demand for the next hour or so, requiring me to move around our section making deliveries, or let the kids queue up to reach their hands into the empty Timbit box and see what they got. New flavours were discovered, with all kinds of different toppings and colours, until at last everyone was full and ready to sleep. (I’d completely forgotten about this episode while we were in France, but there was a guy on our return flight named Allan who’d been there on the way over, and he had watched the whole Timbit game, and said how much he’d enjoyed it. That was pretty nice.)
            My friend Nicolas met us at the airport. He had very generously offered to let us use his flat in Paris during our stay, and he took us there and showed me the door codes and how the keys worked, and we moved our stuff in. It was all a bit bleary by that point, but exhilarating nonetheless – I mean, hey, it was a beautiful warm summer’s day in PARIS! We did a quick tour around the St-Denis/Montorgueil neighbourhood and grabbed a bite at a café, by which time Ruth and I were ready to drop from exhaustion.
            After a brief rest, we went out to find some food. Despite the fact that many of the local shops were closed Mondays, we managed to find a boulangerie with fresh baguettes, and a small supermarket for meat, cheese and wine. But of course! We returned with our groceries to the 6th floor apartment, sat down at the table in the living room, and just gaped at the scene outside while we ate. I’m sure that tiredness was a factor too, but it was completely surreal. Across the street, the full moon was rising over a castle-like edifice that was built in 1408. It was originally part of the wall that surrounded and protected an early version of Paris. Now it stood there floodlit amid the grey-slated and chimney-potted 18th and 19th century rooftops of Rue Française and Rue St-Denis.
French windows were open to the warm summer night in apartments up and down the narrow street, while voices and echoing footsteps rose from the cobblestones below. Motorbikes and bicycles chased pedestrians past the busy cafés and restaurant patios all over the ancient neighbourhood, occasionally to the tune of a police siren out there in the city, singing its B-A-B-A-B-A, and doing the Doppler drop as it would speed away into the night. (Fire truck sirens jump a 5th.)  We ate, and then fell into our beds to dream on.
            The city of Paris is arranged in a spiralling series of 20 districts called arrondissements. The 1er Arrondissement is in the centre of the city. Nicolas’ flat is a mere 10 metres into the 2ième   Arrondissement. It was 10 minute walk to the Louvre! That’s the first thing we did on the Tuesday morning, in spite of the fact that the Louvre is closed Tuesdays! Just walking around that building, and indeed everything in the city, was absolutely incredible. We wandered along the Left Bank of the Seine, and then crossed over the river on Pont Neuf to Île de la Cité, the very centre of the old city. Louis III’s palace is there, as is Notre Dame Cathedral. We crossed another bridge to Île St-Louis, where the buildings and streets are basically unchanged since the 17th century. Back on the Left Bank, we wandered into a church wherein there were tombs dating from 1620. Walking around Paris that day, I felt like I’d somehow awoken and stumbled out into a history book.
            Wednesday was our chance to make the pilgrimage to the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge. Nicolas came by in the morning and left us a car to use for the duration of our trip. (We couldn’t have done any of this without Nicolas’ incredible generosity!!!) He also showed me how to use his “Tom-Tom” GPS system so that we could never get lost. We programmed Vimy into the GPS and left 9 Rue Française in the Renault Clio.
            Walking around Paris is one thing, but driving around that city is total sensory overload! Many, many streets, all firing off at different angles, are clogged with cars, buses, and motorcycles and pedestrians. The signs are difficult and confusing, probably just because there’s so much going on. The lines on the streets are often merely suggestions as to where one ought to be aiming one’s car. If the light turns green and you don’t go right away, pedestrians will simply take that as a signal that you don’t intend to go, therefore they do. And there are seemingly no rules whatsoever for motorcycles. They drive between the traffic, up the side of you between car and sidewalk, occasionally on the sidewalk, in the bus-only lanes, ANYWHERE! And there are lots of them, buzzing around like flies, and getting in your face at every turn. Driving in Paris is an exercise in total concentration.
            It was fun to be actually recognising streets while we were working way out of the city, despite our having traversed these roads only once before, and then in the opposite direction while in a jet-lag fog. Ruth was calling out the colour of the traffic signals for me, and our new partner, “Jane” was calmly calling out names of streets in a posh British accent, letting us know when we had failed to turn at the correct corner, and where we might turn later in order to make up for the mistake. Either that or she’d say “make a u-turn as soon as possible”. Between the three of us, we managed our way out of the city and onto the highway headed north.
            After two hours of driving the highway through countryside reminiscent of Southern Ontario, we approached the town of Vimy. There were some detours set up because of road construction, and Jane didn’t like that at all. She was insistent that we follow her directions, and finally withdrew into a sulky silence after we’d disobeyed three of her turn commands. We drove into town our own way and found a café and a super market. We bought a baguette, ham, and emmental from the store and café from the café. We sat outside of the smoke-filled café at a plastic table in the sweet and sunny summer air of in this agricultural village in Northern France and the patron delivered our coffees. It was a beautiful day.
            We left the centre of the village and followed detour signs to the Mémorial Canadien. This route took us across a flat plain of wheat, hay, and sun flowers to the east of the ridge. And there, a couple of kilometres to our left up on the ridge, there loomed above the forest the two white stone towers of the memorial. It was breath-taking.

NOTE: It’s been a couple of weeks now since I wrote anything on this story, and the momentum just seems lost, so I’m going to add anecdotes as they occur to me rather than continue with a chronological recollection of events.


    Festival Interceltique, Bretagne, France, August 2003

              Our limousine rides to the airport are usually early in the morning, but this time, it was at a sensible hour. Rob, the driver for Ascendia Limousines, was there to pick me up at 1 in the afternoon, and Ruth 10 minutes later. We had cold wine and beer for this trip, because on this trip, we didn't have to play until 3 days later. Yay! This time, it really FELT like a rock-star limousine ride! Although taking the stretch limo through the Tim Horton's Drive- Thru, is also very fun.
               We left Toronto on the 27th of July on a charter flight for Glasgow. We thought we'd saved ourselves a pile of dough by not flying Air Canada, but the Glasgow-based My Travel airline charged us for every little thing. By the time we finished paying for the harp case and $12 CDN for every kilogramme of luggage over 20 each, not to mention 75p for a cup of tea or a can of juice, and 3 pounds for a drink, we could have taken the Concorde ! Lesson learned... Anyway, we left a beautiful, hot, sunny Southern Ontario summer day, and flew through the night to a cool dark and drizzly Glasgow morning. (What else would you expect?!) Waiting for our gear at the luggage carousel, I kept seeing bags of hockey equipment and bundles of new sticks going around.... Turns out all these Scottish teenage boys and their families who'd been on the flight with us from Canada had been in Toronto for 2 weeks of hockey school ! Holy Tim Horton's !!!!!
              It took us a while to work out the telephone, but soon enough we were loaded up into one of those great black cabs I'd only ever seen in films, and were spinning through roundabouts on to the highway, and through the tunnel beneath the river Clyde, to the apartment of some friends who were kind enough to let us stay with them in Glasgow.  We spent the next 3 days walking around Glasgow with our umbrellas, letting the jet lag wear off, and gasping at the prices of EVERYTHING!!! (gas was about $2.60 CDN a litre, Tennent's Lager was $55 a case, and the same brand of shampoo I buy here for $3, was $9 there!!! Supermarket food prices were astronomical, and the selection was minimal. I don't ever want to hear complaints about the cost of living in Canada again! We've got it MADE here!!!) 
              Don't get me wrong, we LOVED Glasgow, and all the nice people we met. It was just very expensive to be there. A million thanks to Catherine Kirk for letting us stay at her place.
              On the third night, we boarded a bus for the trip to France. We were on with the Chivas Regal Pipe Band, and a couple of other "folk groups" from Scotland. There were 4 buses going from Scotland. Despite the the fact that it is illegal, and also that we had been assured by the head of the Scottish contingent that ALL of the buses would be non-smoking, nearly everyone on the bus lit up cigarettes just as we were leaving Glasgow. The drive to Plymouth was about 11 hours. I have asthma. It was a living HELL. I did the entire trip with my head out the window. I don't even want to THINK about this part of the trip anymore.
                  When we finally got to Plymouth, the bus drove straight to the docks and queued up for the ferry, which wasn't scheduled to leave for another 3 hours yet. We were parked along a 1 kilometre long stretch of road that had a sea wall and the port on one side and some gravel and another wall on the other. There was nowhere to go, so I took all my stuff off the bus and found an ancient doorway along the wall to sit in. It was chilly and breezy, but at least I could start to breathe. I huddled in that one foot deep doorway, sitting on rocks and dried up dead fish and bits of seaweed and garbage, and I covered my head and tried to sleep for a while. Ruth stayed on the bus trying to sleep there. After a little while, I gave up trying to sleep and took a walk back to the town. I left my guitar on the bus with Ruth, and the rest of the stuff outside on the rocks, to air out.
              Plymouth is a pretty touristy place. But it's also very old, and very different from anything I've ever seen in Canada, and it's in England, which is a place I'd never been before, so I enjoyed walking around a while. I found a fish and chip shop opening about 1 p.m.. I bought 2 orders and took them back to the bus. Ruth didn't want any, so I sat by the water and ate most of them. (Lots of malt vinegar!...)
              We boarded the ferry mid-afternoon and sailed out of Plymouth harbour, in the historical wake of Sir Francis Drake. We crashed a non-smoking first class lounge and slept a couple of hours in big comfy chairs. Luxury! After landing at Roscoff France, it was another 3 hours by bus through the hot darkness of the Breton countryside to Lorient. Yes folks, it was HOT! Like, about 30 degress C for the overnight low! When we arrived in Lorient, Ruth and I were dropped off at a little restaurant/bar called les Pecheurs. The beer was very cold, and the owners, Patrice and Sylvie kept the place open late to welcome us. It had been about 25 hours since we'd boarded the bus in cool, rainy Glasgow.....Les Pecheurs became the central meeting place for most of us in the Canadian and Scottish contingents to the festival. Cafe au lait and croissants in the morning, cold bevvies at night.There were a lot of young kids from Scotland who were either dancers or pipers who, along with their parents and chaperones, were actually staying at Les Pecheurs. Ruth and I stayed in a 5-storey block about a hundred yards from there.
    The Festival Interceltique is the biggest Celtic music festival in the world. It runs for 10 days every August, and it hosts thousands of musicians and performers from all over the Celtic diaspora. Mealtimes were fantastic. There was a cafeteria for the musicians about 2km. from where we lived, and seeing as how we walked there 2 or 3 times a day, we really needed the calories! We queued up with people from France, Spain, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Australia, and Canada. We showed our photo ID, and then we would go in and pick up our meals - one salad or cold cut or cheese plate, one fruit or dessert, one entree (chicken, fish, or beef), a baguette, and one litre of red wine. Then, our trays fully loaded, we'd seek out a table. It was great, surrounded by 4 or 5 different languages, smiling and eating and passing the wine around
    , passing the butter or a baguette. We quite enjoyed most of the food, but on one occasion, and believe me, it NEVER happened again, Ruth decided on a plate of cold cuts for the entree at dinner. There were maybe four little slices on the plate. The first one she chose looked something like summer sausage, but when she bit into it, she literally DOVE into a serviette to spit it out, and then grabbed for the wine to wash it away! I thought, "come on, it can't be that bad", so I tried it...............it really WAS that bad.....!...sort of a cross between a barnyard and the breath of someone who has never flossed their teeth......(sorry...) So, we thought that perhaps it had just gone "off" in the incredible heat. Ruth stuck to bread, cheese and wine for that meal. Later that night, we were wandering around midtown Lorient , which was like a crazy crowded carnival midway of celtic music. It was great - beer and music and food. Ruth was starving, and I was too, so we walked up to a trailer where they sold gyros and hot dogs and sausages and things. We decided to get two completely different things to double our sampling rate. Ruth picked a sausage on a bun, and I got a gyro. We found a spot with good sight lines to stand and watch a band, and chomped in to our food. One bite, and Ruth stopped dead - IT WAS THE SAME FLAVOUR!!!!!!!! She quietly put it into a garbage can and we shared my gyro. Afterwards, I insisted that we go back to the vendor and find out just what it was, for future reference. And if you want to know, it's called an andouillette, and it is apparently a widely enjoyed Breton sausage. An acquired taste, for sure.
    There was an unbelievable amount of music going on all the time, in theatres, arenas, tents, bars, and on the streets. They have something called "Fest Noz", which is type of Breton dancing that we called "pinky dancing", because of the way they often link pinkies while they're doing the steps. Fabulous. All sizes, ages, and walks do the pinky dance! It's a kind of ancient line-dancing, done to songs of certain structures and tempos, but we saw these songs/dances played variously by pipes and bombarde, bands with pipes and bombardes with bass and acoustic guitar, solo accordion, solo fiddle, fiddle and accordion, bagpipes and drums and bombardes..............Hey, wait a minute, you say....What's a "bombarde"? A crazy little instrument that sounds like a cross between a snake-charmer and pipes, REALLY LOUD and piercing, and a tone like something you'd think you heard in a 1920s cartoon.... I WANT ONE!

      (to be continued.....)

    Rhode Island Scottish Highland Games, May 2003

    Ruth and I figured we'd have PLENTY of time, having the limousine pick me up at 6:30 in the morning, and then pick her up 10 minutes later, for a 9:30 flight. It was a nice 10-seater stretch limo too, which actually left us some leg room after we'd loaded Ruth's HUMONGOUS harp case into the car. So, off we went, through the Tim Horton's drive-through for coffees, and then away to the airport in Toronto, which is usually about a 35 minute drive. However, the traffic was a little bit more troublesome than is normally the case, and so it took us until nearly 8:30 to get there. Straight in to the Air Canada departures area, with the harp and a cart full of suitcases, a guitar and a djembe, and we did the automated check-in thing. The machine showed us that Bob had already checked in (surprise, surprise!) . After that, we still had to deal with a human, who checked in our baggage and eventually sent us off to U.S. Customs. She noticed the time of our flight's departure and directed us to a quicker line, and also told us to speak to the uniformed person at the head of it, who would then, presumably, put us into some kind of fast lane so that we could make our plane. It still took FOREVER, and when we finally did make the front of the line, we were directed around the corner into what appeared to be a morass of U.S.-bound people, with a dozen or so different destinations, splitting up into a half-a-dozen queues to be interrogated about their business in that country. It was nearly 9 o'clock. Ruth was getting a bit anxious. I made jokes while I kept an eye on the clock. Finally, a hand gestured to us to come up to a kiosk for processing. We tried not to SPRINT, because, after all, you don't want to look too eager. The guy was the usual cold Customs guy at first, but he quickly changed into a human being, whether it was because of the musical instruments we were pulling/carrying, , or the careful jokes, or Ruth's hair, or just Ruth.......We spent a long time there... People who had been behind us were going by other agents of the U.S. government, and PASSING us . Don't get me wrong - this guy was a really nice guy. He told us that he lived in Oakville, and that he loved living in Canada for the coffee and the beer... We talked a bit more about music, about us, and the fact that we were going to play in Rhode Island, and then he told us that he had lived in Rhode Island, and that there were cool places to go there. It was impossible to tell him that we wouldn't have any time to go any of these places he was talking about, because HE was the guy who was going to either let us in, or deny us entry, to his country. It was 10 after 9, and our flight was leaving in 20 minutes.
    Finally, he decided to give us the thumbs up and pass us along. We smiled, remained calm, and BRISKLY walked on towards the next checkpoint, only to hear "WAIT!" from the friendly customs man. "Did you fill out a form #123-405? I mean, if you didn't have a P2 form, I could just let you go, but because you have a P2 form, you'll have to GO BACK OVER THERE and fill out a #123-405, and then bring it BACK HERE TO ME." We applied for that P2 form 6 months in advance of the gig, through the Musicians' Union and the U.S. government. It cost us $130 US and $20 CDN, and it's the LEGAL way to do things. But here, he tells us that he would have let us in without it, but, because we have this legal document, we'll have to fill out yet ANOTHER form before we can get any closer to the plane we are now quite likely to MISS!!! Ahhhh, the internationally inevitable bumbling of bureaucracy.... So, we went BACK to a desk we'd passed 20 minutes ago to fill out some forms REALLY QUICKLY! When we were done, we again dragged the harp case, the djembe, and my guitar box back to the line-up to the friendly guy. When he finished his 10 seconds of passport stamping with the travellers ahead of us, he waved us up. We tried to impress upon him, gently, the need for a certain amount of hurry-up on account of the fact that our plane was due to split in about 9 minutes. He wasted only a little time, and we were once again on to the last line of defense, which was a couple of American guys with uniforms, badges, and GUNS, who's job it was to give everyone a mean once-over before we passed through to the next phase, which was the baggage X-rays and the conveyor belt. Piece of cake! But, then we saw a very slow-moving MASS of people, destined for many different flights to many different places in the U.S., queued up for 3 little metal-detector check-points......AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!Only 6 minutes to post-time!!!!!....We got into what looked like the shortest queue, but there seemed to be a ROBOT at the front of the line - beepers kept beeping.....Ruth was on the verge......I kept saying, "Don't worry, we're gonna make it...", not knowing, of course, WHAT was going to happen, and looking at the clock, ............Every minute seemed like an hour......... I told some East Indian guy who seemed to be in charge that we were going to miss our plane. A minute or so later, we were waved into a new lane, that went into the next room and around a corner. IT WAS FASTER!!!! We were soon checking our carry-on bags into an X-ray machine.I had my steel-toed work boots in one hand,and my belt in the other, ready......"Can you play us something?", they asked Ruth, as I was loading up the tray with my clothes......While Ruth talked with them, my stuff went through, and as they were passing the wand around my coatless, beltless, and bootless body, an announcement came over the P.A. system..."Would Air Canada passengers Ruth Sutherland, Doug Feaver, and John Smith please go IMMEDIATELY to Departure gate S. Your flight is now ready for departure." Ruth and I looked at each other...What the...?!!!

    As the magic wand woman gave me the okay to proceed, I lunged at the conveyor belt, pulled on my boots,threw on my jacket, stuffed my belt and camcorder into my knapsack, grabbed the djembe, and BOLTEDinto the throng of people who stood between us and the "Gate S". Over the heads of the crowd, I could see an Air Canada jet at the first gate that was just getting ready for take-off. It had to be ours. We shouldered our way to the gate, only to find that this was "Gate C"! I spun my head around for a sign, and saw an arrow pointing towards another hallway that read "Gates D-W". "Come on Ruth, COME ON!!!", I yelled, and we burst into the hallway. It was so long, we couldn't see the end of it, and it was almost completely empty of people. With my boots still untied, and my pockets full of EVERYTHING (tickets, money, passports, gum, glasses, loose change..),as well as the djembe and my knapsack to carry, the best way I could run was to do a sort of "Groucho" run-walk, while holding everything as tightly to my body as possible. Ruth was falling behind, but I figured if I could just get to that sign up ahead (which MUST be the gate) and let them know that we were coming, we'd be able to make the flight. But when I got to the sign, it read "GATE S - 5 MINUTES" and it had an arrrow that pointed down yet ANOTHER endless deserted hallway.............Ruth was practically in tears. "Nearly there!" I yelled back over my shoulder, trying to be cheery. By now, she was about 50 metres behind me. I was still Groucho-ing along as fast as I could slouch, looking back occasionally to see that I hadn't dropped anything.

    I heard a motor thing behind me, and I looked back to see Ruth clambering on to a golf cart full of cleaning supplies. Besides the janitor (with the clean driving record...), there was another guy on the cart, holding a knapsack in his lap. "Must be John Smith" I thought. Good. About 60 or 70 metres ahead of me, I could see an opening in the wall on the right. Had to be the door! I turned it up a notch. YES! It's Gate S! I turned and sprinted the last 20 metres to the desk, where a man was about to close the door to the loading gantry. "STOP! WE'RE HERE!.....behind me....two more...........coming.......Rhode Island......" I sputtered. The guy pulled a walkie- talkie out from behind the desk. "I think I've got your last three here....Over.."...............YES!!!!! Ruth and Mr. Smith arrived on the cleaning cart a minute later, our boarding passes were checked, and we stumbled down the gantry to get on the plane. It was like a carnival ride, with all these downward tilted bits of ramp connected to each other at odd angles. At the end was a set of stairs with a clear plastic roof that descended to the wet tarmac. And about 20 metres away was our plane - a tiny Beech 1600 turboprop - 13 passengers and 2 crew !!!! No wonder they'd been able to wait! And thank goodness they had! I asked what the movie was, could I order a drink, and what time was lunch. The pilots turned and looked back over their shoulders from the open cockpit. "Yeah, we'll be RIGHT with you!"
    When we landed at Providence, Rhode Island, we were greeted by Liz Holt in her truncated North Stonington School Board school bus. An old (probably 1960s) half length full-girth school bus. Great machine. We loaded up our stuff through the emergency door at the back, and piled on board. (to be cont'd....)


    Uruguay 2002

    Never have so few come from so far to be met by so many who were so nice!!! What a great trip! What an incredible experience!! We left Toronto at about noon on Friday the 28th of June and flew to Dallas/Fort Worth, and then to Miami, and then to Buenos Aires, and then to Montevideo. We were greeted at the airport by most of the Southern Cross Pipe Band, who were all decked out in kilts, having just come from a wedding, at which they'd played! Bob, Ruth, and I rode in Tommy Hobbins' 70-ish VW Microbus (a beautiful machine!!!) I think Eduardo and Danny , and maybe Andrew took stuff in their cars too...I was so OUT OF IT after the flight that I don't really know quite what was happenning at that point. I mean, it was 34 hours from the time the limo picked us up in Hamilton until we checked in at the Sheraton Montevideo, and I hadn't slept much more than an hour in that time! I think Ruth managed to sleep a bit on the flight. Bob and Tyler were asleep before they told us how to do up our seatbelts!!! By the way, Tyler is Tyler Fry, world champion tenor drummer from Kincardine Ontario, who's been down to Uruguay to work with the Southern Cross Pipe Band with Bob a couple of times before.
    So, after we checked in to the hotel, we went with Eduardo to a restaurant where we joined a gang of the Southern Cross Pipe Band folks for a Uruguayan-style barbecue dinner. There I learned to say, "Perdon senorita. Un otro litro de vino, por favor!", and "Donde esta el bagno, por favor", which are two very important things to say en espanol. I'm really glad that I brought along my pocket translator. It was very useful. I spent some time teaching Tyler how to order food in Spanish. I told him to face the waitress, rub his tummy, and say "Estoy embarazada" to indicate that he was hungry. That worked quite well. I also told him that if he needed to know where the washroom was, he just had to shrug his shoulders and say, "el grifo piercle agua!". When it was over, Leandro drove us home.
    Edward McCubbin took Ruth and I out for a great tour the next day to see other parts of the city, and to have lunch at a beautiful old golf club outside of Montevideo. On the way back, I asked him to stop so that I could take some photos of a wrecked car that had been abandoned on a back street. I also took the license plate as a souvenir. There was only one plate on the car however, and Ruth was disappointed not to be able to get one too. Edward said, "hmmm, just a minute....", and he got out, opened the trunk of his car and pulled out 2 MORE old license plates, which he gave to us! They're special to us because they are a different size and shape than car license plates we have here in Canada, but especially because they say "MONTEVIDEO"!

    We stayed in the Sheraton Montevideo, right next to the Punta Carretas Prison. We went there each day to watch the prisoners as they paced the hallways, carrying their heavily laden shopping bags, and peering into every cell looking for more things to carry. We took to eating in a restaurant there called "La Gayola", and there we met Graciela and her twin sister. We only got one of their names. "Dos espressos grandes, por favor senorita!", I would say to one of them, or the other.....(oh, and I should tell you, the old Punta Carretas Prison is now the Punta Carretas Shopping Mall!!!) Tyler discovered an exotic Uruguayan restaurant there called "Burger King".
    Speaking of eating, one day, while Bob and Tyler were working with the pipe band, Ruth and I were invited by Andrew McConnell's parents to join them for lunch. On the drive, we got to see another part of Montevideo, and along the way, I saw an old Ford (Model A or T; I'm not sure which) that was being DRIVEN! - not as a showpiece, but as something with which
    to pick up the groceries!!! Absolutely brilliant! We saw beautiful old cars and trucks EVERYWHERE in Montevideo... Anyway, we had a lovely roast beef dinner with Andrew's Mum and Dad, which was a great antidote to all the airplane food we hadn't quite yet gotten over!......


    to be continued...


    tales archives...

    CD RELEASE PARTY (October 2001)

    The night was a BLAST!!! We had a great crowd and a great time! The Studio Theatre was SOLD OUT! That's 325 people! WOW!!! Our apologies to all the people who were turned away at the door, (and there were 50 or so!)..................

    It was really fun to play on such a nice big stage, which Doug was able to nicely fill with SMOKE from the fog machine which he borrowed for the gig!!!!! Rock and Roll, bay-beeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So, what we did was, we played our CD and lip-synched to it and......................NO!!!!! Just joking! But what we decided to do, seeing as how it was our big CD release and all, was to play all the pieces on the CD in order, but of course, LIVE.......So, we opened with Ruth singing Macrimmon's Lament in a cloud of smoke, which looked very cool, and then Bob struck up the big pipes for Davey The Corrupter and The Hawk. And we went through the album. It was really fun, after having spent so many hours putting it together in the studio, to simply go out and do the same songs in the same order for a "live" show. We added a few encores too, and we also stuck in a tune that will be on our next CD that was written by a friend of Bob's over in Scotland. We added it on to the end of what is track no.2 on the CD, and the piece we added is called "Spice of Life". Anyway, the night was wonderful and we'd like to thank all of you who came to the show for making it such a success!

    A big Thank-you to Al Bromke for doing the sound for us. Those of you who read the CD liner notes might recognise his name from his having been listed as our "Demo" recording engineer. Alek works in a recording studio in Toronto, so he doesn't get out much! By that , I mean that he doesn't mix "live" sound.! However, this past summer, Al did live sound for Doug at The Casbah@La Luna for a couple of months, which was a good warm-up for this gig, but still NOTHING like trying to mic drums, drones, chanter, whistle, harp, guitar, and voices in a 325-seater theatre!!!! Great job, Al! Thanks!!!!!

    Thank-you to Todd and Neil and Conor for selling CDs for us at the release. That was HUGE! And a special thanks to Todd for getting Doug's guitar strap from where it had been left behind in the dressing room, in time for the Breton March set! And thank-you also to our friend Carol Timm for coming out and photographing the evening!

    And a gigantic thank-you to Chris (Nikorak) Booth for the wonderful touch of the specially-labelled wine to commemorate the night. It was the piece-de-resistance to the whole thing. Everyone who bought a CD received a bottle of wine, thanks to Chris. Thank-you Chris for your amazing friendship and generosity.......

    It was a great, amazing, and wonderful night. Thanks again to all who came, and we hope to see the rest of you along at the NEXT ONE!!!!!!!!!!

    (by the way, there have been quite a few comments on the wine itself. It seems a lot of people are wondering just where they can get more of it. It's a full-bodied red wine , and it was made from a kit that we purchased from Wine-Time Products in Burlington Ontario. It's based on "Chateau-neuf-de-Pape" from France, but because they can't use that name for their wine kit, they're calling it "Vieux Chateau du Roy", which Doug calls "Vieux Chateau de Patrick Roy", because he can! Doug actually went to the Wine-Time premises in Burlington and made 4 batches of this wine, which he and Chris bottled, and the bottles were then labelled by Frances Feller, Jason Booth,Chris, Ruth, and Doug, with a few cannisters of spray-on glue, and a whack of labels that were made by Chris and cut out by Doug and Ruth. Frances also heated all of the special cork-covers onto the bottles with a paint-peeling heat gun!!!!!!.There, the story of the wine, and a few more thank-yous!!!!!!)

    Also, a hummungous thanks to Rory d'Eon, without whom this web site would not have gotten started! (I am learning this stuff gradually... ! This, by the way, is Doug speaking, writing, whatever...)

    And now........OTHER NEWS

    (November 2001)

    In November, we did a guest spot on a television show for the Food Network out of New York City. The show is called "Food Nation with Bobby Flay". They came up to Toronto to shoot one show in and around that city, and we were the music act that kept popping up as the show moved around from place to place! We were put up at the beautiful Royal York Hotel in Toronto the night before, because we had to be downtown at 8 o'clock in the morning on the 54th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Centre with our instruments, ready to go! (Bob with 3 sets of pipes, Ruth with her harp and the djembe, and me with my guitar and drums...)

    We were in a restaurant called "The Canoe"; a place the Toronto restaurant guide calls, simply, "VERY EXPENSIVE". There were only just the 14-person film crew, a dozen or so restaurant staff, and us. But the service was LOUSY!!! (okay, they don't open 'til noon....) We just stood around talking and watching the sun rising over Lake Ontario, which was pretty incredible. Our hotel, which, when it was built, was "the biggest in the British Empire", looked like a toy from up there.

    We filmed nothing at The Canoe! I found some lukewarm coffee that the staff hadn't finished up, and drank that while we watched Bobby Flay going through his paces with the Canoe chef. They cooked caribou with maple syrup, and had Canadian ice wine for afters. We kept quiet while they taped.

    At 11 0'clock, the producer told us that we could go down to the bus with our gear because we weren't going to shoot anything at that location. So, we piled it all back into an elevator for the trip back to Earth. (Aaaarrrrggghhhh!!!! Could've slept in and used the steam room at the Royal York instead of "just checking out" at 7:30 in the bleedin' morning!!!!!!)

    There's a park next to the T-D Centre, a bit of green-space in the middle of the concrete-and-glass, and it has a half dozen bronze sculptures of COWS lying around in it. Bob knew about it and told the producer of it. So we finally got to film something. The weird thing for us is that we'd gone in prepared to play our stuff, but it turned out that they wanted us to mime along with our CD! So, we saddled up on a cow and cued up the music and played along while Bobby Flay walked past us! (And something that made it REALLY weird is that, since we recorded the CD, Bob has had his pipes worked on by the maker back in Scotland, and they are now pitched LOWER than before, so we were playing along out loud with a CD blasting from a boom box right behind us that was in a slightly HIGHER pitch than us. Also, we were just as loud as the also DISTORTED boom box (cranked FULL so we could HEAR it!) so we had to listen REALLY HARD to keep on the beat for the film.(those border pipes are LOUD!) You see, they'll use the CD itself for the sound on the actual SHOW, but we have to look like it's us playing it LIVE! When we finished that, we loaded our gear and ourselves onto "the bus" to head for the next location.

    The next location was St. Lawrence Market in the eastern end of downtown Toronto. I helped the bus driver with some directions, and when we got to the market building, he pulled it over and some assistant types disembarked for a bit of reconaissance.... When they were sure that we were in the right area, the bus driver spotted a place to park. There was a perfect spot on a tiny dead-end side street right next to a set of doors to the market's lower level where we could load in our gear for the shoot. He pulled up to the street, and began to back the bus in, the beep-beep of the reverse sounding and the tiny video monitor showing just where we were and how far we had to go to be in the perfect position to be legally parked and ready to unload all of our gear.......... As the bus came to a halt and released a "psssssssssssssttttttttt" from the air brakes to signal our arrival, there came a furious knocking at the bus door. Two guys , (one with a clipboard and a cellphone) were banging away at our door. Our driver looked at them blankly, and then gave a perplexed look backward past us and towards the back of the bus. Immediately, two guys came running up from the back of our bus (one of whom carried a clipboard and a cellphone) to deal with the matter. Heated words were exchanged outside the closed door of our heated coach, and when our combatants returned, they informed us that they had just had a fight with the crew from " Brady Bunch III ", and that we had LOST!!!!!!!!! So, we had to move our bus about 40 metres across a cross street to the back of a car-park, and carry our gear from there. After the crew got off to go and scout out the place, I slept for about a half hour, despite the sounds of CNN on the TV monitors, with the latest from Afghanistan. Bob slept a bit too, while Ruth occupied herself with a chat with our friendly bus driver.

    After a little snooze, during which time photographs were apparently taken with MY camera, I woke up feeling hungry. "Better not leave the bus, because they'll be back ANY MINUTE ready to shoot!", said someone, who shall remain nameless. "I'm hungry, they've been gone for AGES, and I'm going to get something to eat!", I said, and I left the bus. Disoriented and sleepy-headed, I ventured into the bright sunshine and chilly outdoors of midday Toronto to find food. I decided to walk towards the Market just in case the crew might be on their way out to fetch us. Just inside the market doors, there was a wonderful smell of soup, and I went no further. A woman of 30 or so stood behind a stall, stirring a stainless steel vat of soup, speaking in Russian to an elderly woman who sat in a chair with her back to the outside wall, peeling potatoes. I stepped up and asked for a bowl of soup. It was ladled into a styrofoam bowl and handed to me with a lid, a plastic spoon, and a packet of saltines. I gave her some money, she gave me some change, she carried on her conversation with the old lady, and I walked back outside and across the street to the bus.

    A couple of the camera guys were just getting back to the bus as I returned. "Great!", I thought, "we're gonna get DOING something!" Alas, they were only there to report that they'd merely nearly decided what and where and how to shoot the next scenes. Ruth and Bob were sniffing at my soup. So, with no threat of anything happening anytime soon, they were off to find some food too.

    Finally, the word came to move our gear into the St. Lawrence Market, near a fish stand on the upper level. So we hauled over the drums, harp, and pipes, out of the bus, across the street, through the crowded market, up the stairs, to the fish stand where we stood around for about 20 minutes wondering. When all of the camera crew showed up from wherever they'd been presumably shooting some other bits, the director announced "lunchtime". Ruth was handed some U.S. cash, and told to return the change and get a receipt. So we ate again! I figured I'd spread some of that money around whether I was hungry or not. I looked for a stand that wasn't very busy and ordered the biggest, most expensive sandwich she had on her menu. When we handed her the U.S. money, her eyes lit up and she gave us a pretty conservative exchange rate! So she did all right!!! Ruth took the receipt and headed back to the scene of the scene. Everyone was eating, and we stood around for another 15 minutes...

    We finally got to do a song, or actually, half a song. We set up there in the middle of the market with the CD player behind us, and mimed along to Ruth's "Piping Jamie". Bobby Flay did his walk past us, and the director yelled "cut", and we packed up and carried it all back to the bus.

    Our next stop was a 2-storey carpark down near the harbour front, where a crew of 3 got out and did some quick shots of the CN Tower and Lake Ontario. "We're losing daylight! We're losing daylight!!!", said the director. It was about 4 in the afternoon, and he was right. The crew hustled back onto the bus, and our next stop was Nathan Phillips Square at City Hall. Bob had suggested that one. When we got there, a frozen wind was sweeping across the square, so we set up on the south-west side against a backdrop of shrubs, which gave us some shelter from the breeze.We were off the bus, set up, and ready to rock in 15 minutes.They had decided (at our urging) to do live recording of one piece. Actually, we wanted to do something with the big pipes, but there was absolutely NO WAY we were going to be able to hear the CD player over them anyway, so the director agreed to try one with "live" sound. The only problem then, was that as we were about to try a "take", a work crew doing repairs to the fountain about 50 metres from us fired up a huge, honking compressor and a jackhammer. The director looked behind him, looked at the sky, looked at his watch, looked at us, and then took his own blood pressure. Two minutes later, the hammering stopped, and we quickly fired up the tune as the cameras and recorders rolled. One take! Let's GO!!!!!!! It's cold!!!!!!!!! Back to the bus.

    Because the next location was in Milton Ontario, and close to home for us, we asked to be dropped back where our cars were parked so that we could drive ourselves there. The show paid our parking for the day, and also offered us gas money. They were great! My car was still under the Royal York Hotel, and there was just a little bit of hassle getting in because Jackie Chan was filming in the lobby! First The Brady Bunch, and now THIS!!! After having lost our bus parking battle with "the Bunch" that morning, I was in no mood to take any more CRAP from ANYONE! Come on Chan...you wanna GO?... But he seemed to sense that he was no match for a man in a kilt, and he wisely stepped aside. Ruth and I strode through the lobby without looking back. We got in the car and drove to an apple farm in Milton.

    The end of the show was shot at Chudleigh Farm in Milton Ontario. ( "Just how chuddly was it?", you may well ask...) They grow many varieties of apples there, and I think Bobby was baking a pie or something. I did see him eating an apple on the show. One of the crew members told me that Bobby has to drink oil in the morning to coat his stomach for the things he's forced to eat in the course of a cooking-showbiz day. Yum. Not that there's anything wrong with the food - it's all AMAZING food that the guy gets to eat, but he does have to cover ALL of the food groups during the course of filming, everyday, everywhere, after living in a bus for a couple of weeks, and with all the craziness of putting together a SHOW!!! It's not as easy as it looks, and these guys were ALL nibbling at the edge after 2 very intense weeks of work. Anyway, we finished up with 2 versions of "Trinques l'Amourettes" (one "live", and one Memorex...) as Bobby Flay walked past us for the last time that day. Fourteen hours to film all the requisite bits to make up a half-hour cooking show!!!!!!!!! Let's go home! They invited us to stay for food and apple pie, but we graciously declined. We bid farewell to our friends from New York, and headed out.

    Tired and happy to be going home, we drove down the 401 to our exit at highway #6. I went off the ramp, and then crossed overhead of the 401, heading south and home. Highway 6 is a slower road, and it was nice to finally relax. And then, BANG...........!!!!!!!!!!!out of the black, a huge deer ran out from the left and smack into the driver's door of my car......HOLY *$#@%&!..... I pulled over. The car was still drivable, but there was a huge dent in the door and quarter panel. I looked for the deer, expecting the worst for him. Nothing. I'm all over the ditch and into the grassy field, walking around in a kilt in the cold drizzle looking for an injured animal, but he's NOWHERE to be seen! I was thinking I'd be heading back to Chudleigh's to ask Bobby if he had any good venison recipes! I went back to the car. Ruth was okay, I was okay, the car seemed all right, so I drove on. About 10 miles down this rural highway, the road goes from 2 lanes to 4, and a car was coming up to pass me,so I checked my side mirror. Side mirror's GONE, wiped off by Mr. Big Buck..........Anybody have a spare driver's side mirror for a 1991 Pontiac Firefly? Anyone see a deer with mirror sunglasses?

    By the way, if you get The Food Network, the show is called "Food Nation with Bobby Flay", and it airs May 7th.


    (June 2002)

    Good news about our CD is that we are about to break even!!!! (June 2002) Yep, we ought to be crossing that magic line sometime this month, and then descending slightly again into debt in order to pay for another batch, but we should start seeing a profit by 2007!!!! It's only Rock-and-Roll, but we like it!....(actually, I guess you'd call it Piobaireachd-and-Roll....)