Friday, November 7, 2008

Mayne Island, Sold Out!

It’s to be the Mayne Island Agricultural Hall this evening. We are up early because we are nervous about catching the right ferry and getting it on time. We’d always prefer to get to the gig early rather than late. This day we are worried about whether or not we’ll get on the ferry of our choice. What if there’s a big line up? We decide to try to catch a very early boat, so we’ll have a fallback (still early ferry) plan if we can’t get on.

First we need to stop by mile zero of the TransCanada Highway.

I ran past this point already, but didn’t have my camera with me. I’ve seen enough of this road that I want “Mile Zero” recorded for the Captain’s log! It’s pouring rain as we detour around downtown Victoria, through some very nice residential neighbourhoods to the foot of Canada’s blues highway.

There’s also a monument here to Terry Fox, the one-legged runner who did so much to raise the profile of cancer fund raising. Surely the rest of us can do less without complaining. What a runner he was, too! Terry’s body never made it across Canada in his run, but his spirit certainly did— so this marker is in the right place. A great Canadian.

Quick stop at Serious Coffee and we are good to go. The ride out of town to the ferry terminal is easy, and before we know it we are in line. We’ll get on for sure, so we’ll be quite early to the Island.

The ferry ride is perhaps 2 hours, with a stop at another island along the way. It’s grey, wet weather, with clouds hanging over the water. Michael stretches out on a bench in the passenger lounge and sleeps. I pace about, try to read the paper, and look out the window. There are some seals, briefly playing tag with the ferry. Very cool. But I want to see a whale. I chat with a couple of other travellers, and soon we are arriving at the Mayne Island Terminal. No whales today, I guess.

The Mayne Folk Music Society is presenting our concert here, and we’ll be staying with organizer Don McDougall and his wife. Finding their rural farm is surprisingly simple, and we are soon settled into our quarters on this magnificent property. The Island is so special, and so is this farm! Michael elects to stay in the “cob house” which is located nearby on the same property. It is a beautiful, semi-subterrainian home constructed with local clay and straw. The interior welcomes with warm beams and furnishings, skylights, roman tub, woodstove, stained glass. The home is a work of art, as well as being environmentally progresive and architechturally complimentary to it’s natural surroundings. Here's the roof, and the garden overhead!

I’m staying in the big farmhouse, where I believe I may get a good internet connection and work on this blog.

As it is early afternoon, I decide to go for a short run. This Island is so beautiful, I’ve just got to get out and see it on foot! This place is way behind the Mainland in terms of the advancing cold season. Most of the trees still have their leaves, and some, I learn, are not going to lose their leaves at all! Old growth cedars and pine crowd the sky over the little roads, flowers are still in bloom, the land is green, and it’s no longer raining!

I head out down the farm road, perhaps a kilometer out to the Concession road. It’s a soft run, the air is sweet, it’s not to hot and not too cold and not windy.

I trot by a big pen full of chickens (later I find out we’ll be selling eggs this night!), cattle, and startle the first of the many deer I will encounter on this run. I’m met by a pretty good hill, and it’s work— but as it crests the view is thrilling and I can see the ocean. This is great!! There are no cars, just me and the sound of my shoes on the soft, road shoulder, the birds caling around me, and the whisper of the trees. It’s a gentle downhill, an easy run that seems to go on forever. I am ruefully aware that I’ll have to run back up this to get home again, but push on. Here’s another uphill. Oh, steep sucker this time, but I push on. No problem, I’m a hill guy, now. After a time I glance at my watch to see that I’ve done it again! I’ve been running for twice as long as I intended, and I’ve yet to turn around for home. It’ll be a darn good, serious run before I get back now. This is a world class hill course, full of twists and turns. I’ve been out for 40 minutes and still have not seen a car.

Deer stand by the roadside as I jog by. I stop in front of one, get my camera out of my pocket, turn it on and take a couple of pictures. He doesn’t care. Off I go.

I’ve been running for a while, looking for the little farm road, when I come out at the highway. Damn! I’ve missed my road by a couple of hilly km, and I’ll need to run BACK to find it!!

I’m tired now. This has been a great run, but I need to do a show tonight. It’s been over an hour of challenging hills, and I bet I’ll feel this tomorrow. Finally the friendly farm comes into sight. I'm not from these parts, and the trees and plants seem rather exotic...

Back at the house I shower, snooze for half and hour, eat a bowl of lamb stew, and then it’s off to the venue for set up and sound check. It’s a beautiful old, wooden hall, built over a century ago. It’s going to be great! Michael and I unload in the dark rain, thump our way in through the big, old doors, meet our sound man. Rick Martin is our guy for the night, and he’s already done a pretty neat job of setting up the stage. He’s a player, too, and is going to take good care of us over the evening. The room sounds great. We’re pretty picky about what we want in the house, but Rick is patient and cheerful and soon we are finished.

It’s pouring rain out. Cold. Dark. I wonder what kind of house we are going to get? As I set up the merch table near the bar there are people coming in. We have eggs stacked next to our merch, and I’m to mention them during the first show! The Folk Society volunteers have all arrived, so the coffee and snack concession is open, as is the bar. The barman pours me a generous glass of red wine, and I sit to watch and wait for showtime. By the time the local opening act is introduced, the place is full. By the time we are to start the place is over-full, with spare chairs pulled out to fill the isles and entry area!

A great crowd. These folks are listening intently, clapping in all the right places. “Are you with me?” I ask, and they shout back a grand “hurrah!”

We've been blessed to meet some wonderful people on this journey— among them some great photographers. Tonight one of our new friends, Toby, is keeping busy documenting the show. I'm going to include a whole lot of his images because they are so good, and because they probably tell the story more clearly than I do!

At half time we sell eggs and raffle tickets. We’ve only got four jackets left, and indeed, we leave two of them on this magic island. The second set is, in my opinion, among the very best sets of the Tour. I enjoy every moment of it. Here's how some of it unfiolds...

The mighty Michael Pickett is hot tonight. Toby captures some of the action...

Michael and I end the night with a standing ovation. Great. Thank you Mayne Island. We’ve really appreciated every moment here.

After load-out we return to Don’s house, where he cooks us venison and perogies. We stay up talking and laughing into the small hours. In the morning, I’ll be leaving with a collection of heritage tomato seeds for my garden. These are good Quaker folk. Good folks with good dogs, good friends, good food and children. Bless this house and farm.

One of the border collies is able to open car doors, so before sleep I must go out and lock the truck! She’s not good at closing the doors, so the rain gets in, and the batteries will run down.

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