Whac-a-Mole

Back in the 1990’s when our Celtic band Seanachie was doing a lot of work, and our lead singer was doing a lot of really great song-writing, he used to tell the rest of us in the band that he always kept a pen and paper by his bed, because many of his best ideas came to him just as he was falling asleep. He would jot down the ideas, and sometimes when he woke up in the morning the notes would make sense, and sometimes they wouldn’t. (Photo below is part of Seanachie, taken in 1995, I think)

I don’t do exactly that, but as I was falling asleep the other night I had one of those weird thought trains that you can only have when you’re on the verge of falling asleep, and for some reason the thoughts stuck with me.

They were about the game Whac-a-Mole.

But wait – it was the process my thoughts went through to get to Whack a Mole that’s interesting. I had been out after work with some friends, and the conversation was quite varied, as Friday after-work talk often is, especially at the beginning of a long weekend. There was a story told by one person, and the rest of us had a hard time believing it. As it turned out, the moral of the story was that you just never know what’s going on in other people’s lives – what makes them happy, or sad, or anxious, or distracted. People who seem to have their lives totally together, and who are the envy of others, often have issues going on that no one knows about. And the opposite is often true as well – people who don’t always seem to be having a great time, or seem a little stand-offish and moody, are often getting lots of enjoyment from situations but simply don’t show it as much, because they’re introverts, not comfortable being the centre of attention.

Obviously I’m not a trained professional, and I’m just making these random generalizations to get to the point of the title of my story.

In 1970, Joe South wrote a song called “Walk a Mile in my Shoes”. The chorus is this:

Walk a mile in my shoes; Walk a mile in my shoes; Before you abuse, criticize, and accuse; Walk a mile in my shoes.

It’s easy – and often very mean – to judge others without knowing the full story of what makes them tick – without having walked a mile in their shoes.

Incidentally, Joe South also wrote the song “Games People Play”, also in 1970. There’s great cover of that song done by the Orkney group Fara, on their 2017 CD called “Cross the Line”. Great recording!

But how did all of this lead to Whac-a-Mole? (Other than the “Games People Play” reference, which was a rather subliminal – and very sneaky – segue!)

One of the people I was having drinks with, and having the “you just never know what goes on in other people’s lives” discussion with, has a cousin who often comes to Calgary to visit, and all of us try to get together when the cousin is here. The cousin is coming to Calgary in early July, and will be here for part of The Calgary Stampede, and the friend whose cousin it is can’t wait to go down to the Stampede grounds so she can play Whac-a-Mole!

Myself, I’m more about the crazy food at the Calgary Stampede. Last time I went, which was in July of 2016, I had macaroni and cheese pizza. Not surprisingly, I experienced a bit of a carb crash shortly after, but it sure tasted good at the time. Susan MacKay from Orkney, who I had met during my trip there in 2015, was here visiting her Alberta relatives, so she got to experience Stampede food too – I think her choice was maple poutine.

(I had some bonding time with Harry the Horse, but that’s another story!)

So there you have it – the thought process, as I was falling asleep, went from Walk a Mile to Whac-a-Mole, and it seemed logical at the time. In the light of day, I realize it’s a stretch. Perhaps I should have jotted down some notes as I was falling asleep, because the Walk a Mile/Whac-a-Mole connection seemed very real as I was falling asleep, and kind of cracked me up, because the two completely different topics sounded the same in my head. Also, as I was falling asleep I was sure I’d remember the connection clearly. Well, turns out I remembered the thought process, and I remembered it being very funny at the time, but it makes much less sense now that I’m wide awake. Still, interesting stories, don’t you think?

And now here we are just past our long May weekend! For anyone outside of Canada reading this, our long May weekend is also called Victoria Day. Yes, Canada still celebrates the birthday of Queen Victoria – and we celebrate it on the last Monday preceding May 25th – as such, it’s always celebrated between the 18th and 24th (inclusive) of May, which will always be the second last Monday of May.

In the City of Victoria, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, there are Highland Games on Victoria Day weekend every year.

It’s always absolutely gorgeous driving through the mountains in late spring. In fact, in 2016, it was my car’s first road trip! And incidentally, I’m happy to announce that I now officially own one-half of Herbie the Beetle. I’m going to assume that it’s the half which includes the steering wheel and all those pedals on the floor. Specifically, the half shown below, both in the shadow (cool picture, isn’t it? 😀) and in the picture on the right.

A few pictures from the 2017 Victoria Highland Games:

Two icons from the west coast piping and pipe band scene, Terry Lee and Colin Magee, shown below judging the Victoria games band competitions in 2017:

I’ve attended the Victoria Highland Games numerous times and always had tons of fun playing music and reconnecting with friends, but this year opted out of it, in favour of a “staycation”. Who invented that word, anyway? Crazy thing. Although I have to admit, I enjoyed hanging around at home, being lazy and throwing in the odd bit of housework here & there.

And it wasn’t a weekend without bagpipes, that’s for sure! I managed to get some necessary practising in, as the first outdoor competition of the Ontario season is less than three weeks away. Exciting times for the Hamilton Police Pipe Band, as the band was upgraded from grade 3 to grade 2 in February of this year. Read the story here:

Hamilton Police Pipe Band Moved to Grade 2

I was out to Ontario for the practice in February which was attended by three members of the Pipers and Pipe Band Society of Ontario’s music board, and the practice itself went well (as evidenced by the fact that the music board members recommended our upgrade), and, as always when I go to band in Ontario, I had a fabulous time in general.

A few random piper pictures from that February weekend, and some X-Ring fun with my fellow St. F. X. Alumni who also play in the band.

In spite of our exemplary St. F. X. educations, the three of us couldn’t quite figure out how to take a selfie that showed our faces and also our rings, so we had to leave it to the lead drummer to take the photo. (Embarrassing)

The grade 2 band made its debut at the Toronto Indoor competition Easter weekend. The Alberta Branch of the Hamilton Police Pipe Band (ABBHPPB) (and that’s just Robyn and me, by the way) wasn’t able to make it for that weekend, but the band put on a great show, and received tons of positive feedback. The story is here:

Toronto Indoor Competition 2018 Results

Earlier this month, the full Alberta Branch made it out to the band’s annual fundraiser/practice weekend. Two days of band practice, and an evening pub night/performance fundraiser – and a great time was had by all! The practices were productive and positive, and I believe the band raised over $5,000.00 over the course of the evening, between ticket sales and raffles and other fundraisers. Here are a few pictures from the weekend, thanks to Fraser Lomas, a piper with the Hamilton Police grade 4 band:

Warming up for our performance:

And a few of the performance:

And check out this raffle prize!

And the Tartan Treasures table – all hand-made goodies, using the band’s tartan:

And don’t you just love our drum major?

And here’s the ABBHPPB! (Well, the backs of our heads anyway):

Speaking of the backs of heads, this past March the Westwinds Music Society asked me to perform a number with them in their 30th anniversary concert. I had been a part of Westwinds for the 2016/2017 season, learning to play flute. For whatever reason, they didn’t request a flute solo from me in this year’s anniversary concert, but rather a bagpipe solo. Ah well. Regardless, here’s a cool shot of the back of my head during the morning dress rehearsal for the concert at the Jack Singer Concert Hall here in Calgary:

And finally, one more back-of-head shot, this one taken during the 2006 Canmore Highland Games, and then a few years later featured on the highway billboard ad for the games:

I would be remiss if I didn’t throw in a few pictures from the Winter Storm weekend in Kansas City back in January of this year. For the second year in a row, I was honoured to have been invited to attend as faculty – I judged, I taught, and I even played in the concert with one of my all-time favourite drummers and drum teachers, Gordon Brown, lead drummer of the Grade 1 Boghall and Bathgate Pipe Band. The last time he and I played in a concert together was in Oberlin, Ohio, in 2002. Hopefully I wont have to wait another 16 years before I have the privilege of playing music with him again!

A few photos from a fabulous weekend of music, merriment and mirth:

But let’s get back to the present. Here we are moving toward the end of May, and finally (hopefully) the end of winter! What a difference a few weeks makes. Actually, back in April I had contemplated putting together a new blog post, and its title was going to be “Skipping Tuesday”. I had this theory that we’d all be better off if we just left Tuesdays out of our lives for a year, and that, by doing so, we could correct the imbalance of months and seasons, at least here in Calgary. I won’t bore you with the theory here. If anyone wants to read about it, though, just let me know and I’ll gladly write and post it!

The reason “Skipping Tuesday” didn’t ever get written was that it simply seemed too negative – a theory on how to improve life and the world in general – and then all of a sudden spring happened, and it seemed much more appropriate to speak / write about positive things. Things like playing games, playing music, and being more kind to each other – not abusing, criticizing, or accusing before you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Oh, and don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers! (But perhaps don’t pick them – I almost got caught snatching these lilacs yesterday…)

And that brings me to the end of my stories for today, with more to come after our first outdoor band competition in a few weeks.

Thanks so much for reading! Till next time, have good days, and stay tuned.

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