Archive for May, 2012

As I have written earlier, my father was a veteran of World War II. He landed in France on D-Day and fought across northern Europe until the end of the war as a combat engineer.

He never said a lot about his experiences – certainly not to me at least. He was an avid reader and there were always books around the house, including books on the war. One of the books he particularly liked was The 85 Days by R.W. Thompson. It was an account of the campaign across northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands – where Dad was.

I think all of my friends got along pretty well with my parents. Dad and my friend Gord got along very well. Gord was interested in war history and he and Dad chatted a few times about Dad’s experiences. Gord’s father was about the same age as Dad and also a war history buff but he had spent the war working in a defence plant in Toronto. One day during one of their discussions, Dad was telling Gord about what a great book The 85 Days was. Gord indicated that his father would be interested in the book and Dad said sure, feel free to borrow it but please bring it back.

Well, the book never did come back. Many times Dad would ask me to ask Gord about the book. First it was that Gord’s father hadn’t finished it and then it became a case of the book could not be found. When Gord would come over, Dad would kid him about the book but I think he was upset that he never did get it back. My sister and I looked all over for that book. Every time I would go into a used book store I would ask and scout around. My sister checked with some used book services but we never got lucky. Dad passed away in 1994. It was a small thing but I always felt guilty about Dad never getting the book back, even though I was not the one who loaned it out.

Two weeks ago, I was visiting my second son who works in an antique mall. He had seen a 1935 Toronto directory in one of the vendor’s stalls and thought I would be interested in it. We were looking through the directory, searching for records of my grandparents, when I happened to glance up at one of the book shelves and there was a copy of The 85 Days. The book was a first edition paperback from 1957 and in great condition. I had to buy it, if for no other reason, to close the circle. Finding the book was one of those moments that is hard to describe. On one hand I was really happy that I had finally found it. But then the sadness kicked in when I realized that it was too late. In the grand scheme of things, it really was only a book but I still hated the thought of letting my father down.

So, finally got you the book, Dad. Sorry, it took all these years.

The 85 Days


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Our First Album!

After six months of recording, re-recording, mastering and other forms of musical torture, we, as in the Big Sky Gliders, have finished our first album – On the Horizon.

It is now available for download at www.bigskygliders.bandcamp.com.

Thanks very much to Rick Garvin at the Backyard Studio in Edmonton for shepherding us through the process. I certainly learned a lot about the recording business through Rick. It was really neat to watch the learning process as we lost our fear of the “booth” and figured out how to be efficient at recording (after all, it did cost us money).

Never did I think when I got my first guitar 50 odd years ago, that I would finally be part of a recording like this. We already are thinking about our next project – but that will have to wait until the fall. Next up – the Heart of the City Festival. We are on at 7:40 pm on Saturday night – June 2, so if you are in the neighbourhood, come on out and have a listen.

Don, Brian and Jim
The Big Sky Gliders

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Don is out on the west coast at his island retreat so Jim asked if I would like to play the Carrot coffeehouse on Saturday night. I really like the Carrot. It is on the edge of the inner city in a neighbourhood that is seeing a rebirth of sorts. The Carrot is very neighbourhood orientated. And it is always an interesting time to play there.

Jim arrived first and signed us up. I got there at around 7:30 and Jim and his friend Ernie were first up. Other acts followed and I started to wonder when we were going on. Finally, around 8:30, the final performer was thanking everyone when we indicated that Jim and I hadn’t been up yet. A bit of a mistake, but no worries. Jim and I started our first song – a Youngbloods tune called, ‘It’s a Lovely Day’. It was the first time I had ever played it on the mandolin and all went fine until my pick decided it was happier on the floor. Again no worries – best thing to do is laugh it off and keep going. We followed with a couple of our own songs – Randy Rolled a Tractor and Back to You. And the comedy continued as I caught one of the buttons on my shirt sleeve on the strings. A bit of an interruption – laugh and carry on. It’s a great environment to screw up and continue on – everyone is just having fun. Jim’s wife Wanda joined us on Back to You.

Wanda joins Jim and I

The rule is 3 songs or 15 minutes. We finished our songs and there was no one left to follow us. So we kept playing. Jim’s friend Ernie joined us for a couple and we ended up playing for about 40 minutes. Finally we asked a couple who had earlier got up and played on wooden flutes to do another set and we could sit down. Tonight’s lessons: always have more material ready than you need and watch the buttons on my shirt sleeves!

Ernie, Jim and I at the Carrot

Next up for the Big Sky Gliders – finish the album and then the Heart of the City Festival on the first weekend in June. It is therapeutic to get out and play again. And thanks to all the fine folks at the Carrot – always fun.

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It has been a while since I last wrote a post. Life has been particularly hectic and while that is not a reasonable excuse, it is pretty well all I have to offer for my lack of writing.

We, as in the Big Sky Gliders, have just about completed our first album. Just some technical things to work out and we will have 10 songs done. Add to that, lots of turmoil at work as well now that the provincial election is done and we know who we are working for. Life has been busy.

And then there is the issue of threes. A couple of weeks ago I noticed the furnace was making some interesting noises (and yes, it is May, but the temperature is still cool enough in the mornings – sometimes just above freezing – that we still need the furnace). Finally the noises stopped – as did the furnace. The response for service was very quick and almost $800 later, we had a new blower motor and clean furnace. Number 1. The next morning the toaster quit. Not as a big a deal as the furnace but toasters are not meant to be repaired, so off to get a new one. Number 2. And then, later that afternoon, the dishwasher refused to empty the water from the tub. After a couple of days to get a repair person, it was determined a balled-up rubber band was in the outlet drain. We are still trying to figure out how that got there. Number 3.

Hopefully the appliances have settled in and are now happy. I have had enough for one week – thank you very much. Forget about threes – one lottery win would be enough for me.

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