The weather has been so-so... But it hasn't been super cold, so I'm not complaining. Work has picked up, as has my novel writing.
MW DXing has been a bust, basically. I tune the AM band every night and hear the same 300 or so stations. I won't complain, though. As I work on my writing projects I tune the Sangean PR-D5 and get a great mix of South Asian (Indian) movie music, pop music, and classical music on KVRI 1600 every night. In fact, the past few weeks, I have kept the radio tuned to 1600 AM, and listen to the South Asian music booming south from Bellingham (about 120 km north of here).
I'm bored with anything else, listening wise.
Although I am a musician, I haven't touched anything musical in probably two and a half months. I have a relative who is staying with me, recuperating from an injury, and the only place they can sleep is in the same room where my guitars, amp, and stereo are -- it dampens any chance of cranking the amp and playing guitar.
Me playing the bagpipes a few years ago, many pounds heavier, and at an Uncle's funeral in June, 2011.
BAGPIPESI did pull out my bagpipes last weekend, however. I have a cousin who got married on Saturday.
When I was a kid I really didn't enjoy weddings. I don't know why, but I just never liked them much.
Now, as I get a bit older, I like them less and less. Being a single man at a wedding where everyone is all lovey-dovey just doesn't roll well with me. The plus side is that if it's a family wedding, they want me to play Amazing Grace on my bagpipes, which I actually enjoy doing.
I've played the bagpipes off and on since the 1980's, when I learned from one of the best local pipers, a Pipe Major named Angus Ironside. Angus learned from Donald MacLeod, one of the bagpipe greats (if you get a chance, check out his recordings -- he made the Scottish pipe tunes sing).
Angus had a band, and after I got my full set of bagpipes I was basically drafted in -- not that I was complaining about it. In fact, it was fun. We competed at Scottish Highland Games in places like Tacoma, Everett, Portland, Bellingham and in Santa Rosa (California), and we marched in fun parades like the Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival and Stanwood Pioneer Days.
Playing in the Clan Stewart Pipe Band was one of the best times of my life.
Pipe Major Angus Ironside, way back when.
When my father died, however, my enjoyment of piping nosedived. Since then, all I did was play at family functions and the odd birthday party or whatnot.
This past Saturday my mom and I went up to a church north of the Snohomish County border and attended my cousin's wedding. I took my bagpipes out the previous evening and fired them up. They worked fine. My cat hated them, though. She kept running over and pawing at me, complaining.
I guess she thought I was under attack by some strange looking, very loud octopus.
Surprisingly, the pipes worked very well. See, bagpipes can be cantankerous. In the days of all natural, cane reeds, they were a pain to keep in tune. Any change in temperature or humidity (even from blowing air into them) could throw them out of tune -- and sometimes the reeds would cut off.
Then the powers-that-be invented plastic drone reeds (the "drones" are the three pipes hanging over the shoulder, that put out one constant, droning note) -- instantly, the plastic reeds made life a bit easier. And finally, they invented plastic/synthetic chanter reeds (the "chanter" is the higher pitched pipe that plays the melody). No more pitch changes, and no more squeals or cut-offs. No sooner than I got my first synthetic chanter reed, playing the pipes turned from hard work to a pleasure.
Me playing at my aunt's house, some time in the 2000's.
So after playing a few marches, a couple slow airs (Amazing Grace, The Skye Boat Song, and My Home) -- and disturbing my kitty cat -- I tossed the pipes in their case and tossed the case into the trunk of my car. The next afternoon I drove up to the wedding.
The pipes played well, for what it's worth. I played the standbys: Amazing Grace and Scotland The Brave. For a while, when I needed a respite from the happy-dappy pop music at the reception (I was in a mediocre mood for some reason), I went out and marched back and forth in the nearly empty parking lot, playing an old competition tune which had garnered me a second or third place maybe in 1983 or '84: The Siege Of Delhi. I played it several times, and played it OK. Then the rain started dripping, but I kept playing, because it felt great. It was a terrific mood-lifter.
That tune, and another march, Dundee Military Tattoo, are probably my favorites to play.
I would have played The Siege Of Delhi inside at the reception, but a) nobody would know the tune, and b) because I hadn't played the pipes in over a month (I had a recent bout with the flu) I would have run out of air before the tune was done.
Playing at a neighbor's birthday, sometime in the mid-to-late 2000's.
GOING HOME : A BAGPIPE JOURNEYI have a sentimental but fun romance story about bagpipes on Amazon Kindle eBooks, which I placed under a pseudonym: the eBook is called "Going Home: A Bagpipe Journey". It's a story about a guy who rediscovers the bagpipes and finds a lost love at the same time.
The eBook is listed under my pseudonym James Fenamore Blake. The eBook has a pic of my bagpipes on the cover with a green background (the same picture as the one at the top of this blog post). Its sale price is 99 cents US.
Why did I use a pseudonym? Because the only book I want under my real name is the children's Christmas book (Woody The Woodchuck Saves Christmas) I wrote several years ago. It's a personal reason, I guess. The eBook (and my upcoming novels) have some rough language in them, and I would rather not have the same name on the novels and eBooks that is on the Woody children's Christmas story.
I chose the pseudonym as a partial joke, combining the names of two famous authors, the classic American author James Fenimore Cooper and famed British poet William Blake. The misspelling of "Fenamore" is intentional. I am 99.9 percent certain that I will use the same pseudonym for my other works of fiction.
Me playing the pipes at a friend's sister's wedding, with long hair, during better days perhaps.As I write this, my day's work is done and I'm listening to the CBC on 690 AM, coming down from Vancouver B.C. Canada, on my Sony ICF-38 (a great AM DX radio and probably a terrific disaster or emergency preparedness radio).
It's raining out. And why wouldn't it be? It's Seattle.
Here's hoping your Spring (or Fall, if you're in Oz) has been good so far.
May 15th, 2017