Past

Songs Of My People

Hey friend, hope you’re having a solid day, and there’s plenty of sunshine in it.  I know it hasn’t been the same everywhere, but if someone around here was looking for a grey, bleak start to winter they’d surely be disappointed.  ‘Ow’s a body t’get a decent grumble in with all that sun ‘angin’ about cheery-like?  Ah, hear that sound?  I think of it as the songs of my people.  Around here I can say almost anything in that accent and everyone smiles, I figure mostly because they have no idea what I’m saying.  Apparently I was born with that accent.  Well, not that I was actually born talking, although you’re right that would surprise no one, least of all my friends.  But when I eventually did speak it was in my parents’ accent, a fairly broad Lancashire.  Northern England, like ‘Coronation Street’ only not so posh.  You can imagine the kids’ response when I arrived at the Canadian country schoolyard.  Learned how to speak like the locals pretty darned fast lemme tell you, it felt like my survival depended on it.

It’s a funny thing about that accent.  You see, we were touring Britain, just at the beginning of a two-month schedule that had us going from Devon in the south all the way up to Thurso in the top of Scotland, where if you go any more north people start speaking Norwegian.  But first we had a weekend-long festival appearance.  And that festival was held in a place not far from my parents’ hometown, so I was looking forward to being around a bit of that culture.  We arrived in town and were directed towards our billet.  It looked like it was going to be quite a haul to get all the gear out of the rental, into the building, and all the way up where we were staying.  But I was assured that it would all be safe in the vehicle overnight.  Turned out they were mistaken.  We came down in the morning to find out that the specific model vehicle we had rented was apparently well known for being able to be opened with a slot screwdriver where you or I might use a key.  Lucky us.  Three guitars, all the gear, all of our recordings, all gone.  All they left was the harp, presumably because it was too big to get out of the car, and my flute, which they must’ve just overlooked because it was too small.  The rest of the stuff was just right, so it was truly gone.  Coming down and discovering all that was pretty darned special.  And no one to blame but myself for not sucking it up and doing the heavy lifting.  You’re right, I’ve never made that mistake again.  I may be slow, but I’m not stupid.

Now I want to tell you right up front that there was a reasonably happy ending.  Thanks to some local constabulary effort two of the guitars eventually came back, and the kind folks at the festival took up a collection which allowed us to at least continue the tour.  In the end we even got most of the recordings back, seems the guy who did the deed was caught with them in his vehicle, he just couldn’t offload them, which still tickles me somehow.  But before all of that, before we’d rolled up our sleeves to start dealing with it, before we’d cobbled together enough gear to roll on, and before I’d been offered several guitars to finish the tour with, there was some time spent in serious shock.  We didn’t know what else to do, so we went down to the cafeteria to pretend to eat breakfast.

Imagine, then, a cafeteria full of a few hundred people bustling about getting ready for their day, having a visit with friends, a bite to eat, buzzing with the excitement of the first day of their beloved festival about to begin.  Meanwhile the two Canadians are sitting at a table by themselves trying to make some kind of sense out of what’s happened.  There’s a few minutes of silence between us, and a few more minutes of talking about what to do, then a few more minutes of silence.  Like happy crowds everywhere, there’s a rise and fall to the sounds around us.  Except there’s this odd difference, it doesn’t sound like a roomful of people back home.  Somehow it’s just… different.  And after a while it becomes apparent that my partner and I are each having a completely different reaction to our surroundings.  It seems that in the chatter of the room something in me can pick out that for the first time in my life I am surrounded by a large roomful of people all speaking with my parents’ accent.  Without knowing why, I’m hugely comforted by that, and somehow it makes things easier to handle.  Meanwhile that very same sound is making a significant contribution to my partner feeling like we’re on a different planet, millions of miles from home, and it’s sure not helping matters.  The difference was so noticeable that we actually talked about it.  After a while we took a deep breath and made our way to our first performance of the day.  I didn’t know that there was already a guitar there waiting for me to use for the concert.  I didn’t know they’d already started passing the hat and would do so at every show on every stage all weekend.  And I most certainly didn’t know how the heck I was going to re-do all those guitar parts and make them work for the flute.

What I did know is that I had a new appreciation for the songs of my people.