8 October 2011--Ron and I wander around Edinburgh's New Town this morning before meeting Bud for lunch at the Café Rouge. We
have chanced to notice that most of the staff on the lunch shift there are attractive young women...of course, we are there for the
fine food and warm Parisian atmosphere. After, we bid Bud adieu. He will shortly be returning to his job in a dangerous part of the
world. Who knows if we will meet again.
We're on our way to Milngavie, a small town north of Glasgow, to see Martin Carthy (solo this time). Catch an afternoon train from Waverly Station, and have just enough time in Glasgow to stop in at the Good Spirits Company to say hello to Mark Connelly, a partner in the shop, and chieftain of the Whisky Whisky Whisky forum, where I socialize online with Bud, Willie, Nick, the Jolly Toper, and countless others. I'm pleased after all this time to shake his hand and have a short chat. I wasn't planning on buying anything, but I walk away with a small bottle from Cask 23, the shop's "living cask". (The cask is topped up periodically with different whiskies, so it's an ever-evolving blend.)
Milngavie is an odd little town, best known as the southern terminus of the West Highland Way, a long-distance trail that runs 96 miles north to Fort William. The pedestrianized center is as charmless as any I've seen since, well, Northampton. I've scouted a pub in advance, one with real ale, but we find it uncomfortable and leave after a pint. Fortunately, the Cross Keys, while lacking in the ale department, is a very nice pub with a good menu, and we enjoy our dinner there.
The concert venue is a room in the community center. There is no alcohol served, but we're told local custom is BYO, so I run across to the Tesco and pick up a couple of bottles of beer. As I feared, there is an opening act--I'm worried about catching the last train back to Edinburgh. Reasonably talented local fellow, although I wonder why someone with such a strong natural baritone voice insists on singing in an unnaturally high register all the time.
Carthy knows where his voice is, and he delivers a fine set. Unfortunately, we are obliged to leave early to catch the train. We might go half an hour later, but the schedule appears to give us exactly one minute to change in Glasgow. We stand in the foyer, catching one last song--the spellbinding "My Son John"--before rushing out. Halfway through, the Tesco bag holding four empty beer bottles slips down my arm with an alarming clatter. Pro that he is, Carthy appears not even to notice, but the pressure of sixty pairs of eyes pushes a mortified Mr Tattie Heid out the door.*
On the ride to Glasgow, we find ourselves in conversation with John Miller, the Singing Conductor. Miller is one of Scotland's foremost exponents of American country music, the former front man for the Glasgow-based band Radio Sweethearts. His online bio, posted several years ago, states that he hopes to be successful enough in the music business to be able to quit his railroad job. Obviously, that hasn't happened. He's an interesting character, though, and meeting him very nearly offsets the disappointment of leaving Carthy's set early. Isn't that how it goes when you're traveling? You plan, some things go as expected, some don't; you do best if you stay open to whatever comes your way. Ron is better at that than I am. When I express my dismay at having to leave Milngavie early, he says he is happy to have seen three quarters of a Martin Carthy performance, something he wasn't sure he'd ever get to see. Damn glass-half-full bastard... he makes me feel like a whiner. But I admire his outlook, and resolve to try to be more like that.
The transfer time in Glasgow turns out to be closer to fifteen minutes--we could easily have taken the later train. Live and learn. If I ever go to a show in Milngavie again, I'll stay in Glasgow, or Milngavie itself, if possible. We are in any case back in Edinburgh in time to have a last pint at the Stockbridge Tap, and there's nowt wrong with that.
*There's video! Several years after the event, I found this while searching YouTube for live Carthy material. You can hear the clinking of my bottles at 4:08, and see me slinking away. The ignominy of discovering that my faux pas was immortalized for the world to see is somewhat mitigated by the fact that I finally got to see the rest of the show.