ALAN FREW

Musician. Author. Speaker.

Dear Canada Blog #52 April 16th 2018

What miserable weather. Damn!

Anyway, onward we went and unbelievably we experienced smooth flying the whole way, not a single glitch with our flight. We heard stories of flights being cancelled all over the place, yet AIR CANADA, came through for us big time. We even had enough time to relax in the lounge and take enjoy our regular scheduled flight at noon, getting us into Halifax Nova Scotia, bang on time at 3:30pm local time. 

 Halifax, Nova Scotia.  

Halifax, Nova Scotia.  

Halifax is located within the traditional ancestral lands of the Mi’kmaq indigenous peoples,  known as Mi’kma’ki. The Mi'kmaq have resided in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island since prior to European landings in North America in the 1400s and 1500s to set up fisheries. The Mi'kmaq name for Halifax is K'jipuktuk, pronounced "che-book-took". The first permanent European settlement in the region was on the Halifax Peninsula. The establishment of theTown of Halifax, was named after the 2nd Earl of Halifax, in 1749.

One might think that people from Halifax would be known as, Halifaxens or Halifaxians but they are not, they are known as Haligonians. Something that still resonates to this day among Haligonians, is the pain they feel when they discuss a disaster that took place in the harbour here, back in December of 1917. The SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship carrying munitions, collided with the Belgian Relief vessel SS Imo, in "The Narrows" between upper Halifax Harbour and Bedford Basin. The resulting explosion, the Halifax Explosion, devastated the Richmond District of Halifax, killing approximately 2,000 people and injuring nearly 9,000 others. One can only imagine the scope of such an explosion for it to cause such devastation. The blast was the largest, man-made explosion, prior to the development of nuclear weapons, releasing the equivalent energy of roughly 2.9 kilotons of TNT.

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 The Halifax Explosion remains ingrained in the memories of Haligonians. 

We checked into the Lord Nelson Hotel and went downstairs to the restaurant for an early dinner with the guys, joined by our manager, Andrew Turner, who is out here for his dad’s birthday. Andrew is indeed a Haligonian, born and raised out here and he is bringing his parents to the show. We chatted GT business, before heading back up to my room for, yes you guessed it, a warm soak in the tub and it was in the tub that I got to thinking,“Why is it I like being in the tub so much?” Well now, of course I enjoy the warm, relaxing, feeling, but I am convinced there is another reason at play. That reason Dear Canada, is .....Money.

Oh, I can hear you saying,“Wha..? Come again? Money?” Yes, money. Now, of course we all pay our hydro bills, as part of our everyday consumption of water, and we do the same with the likes of our electricity and gas etc. When I was a boy however, it didn’t work that way. I was born in 16, Kirkshaws Ave, Coatbridge, a wee tin-can of a home not much bigger than what you would see in trailer parks. It had no heating in the winter and no air conditioning in the summer. They were called, Pre-Fabs, short for Prefabricated homes.

  A prefabricated tin can. 

A prefabricated tin can. 

One had to depend on coal and blankets in the former and an electric fan, (if you could afford one) or a wee breeze coming through the window, in the latter. Here’s the killer though, your electricity and your hot water were........COIN OPERATED! Seriously, I shit you not.

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If you wanted a bath, you had to put coins in the meter to warm up the water in what we called the “immerser.” That however, was only the water heater, look out, if the telly was on and we were watching a big football match, when the electricity went off and left you powerless in the pitch black, for my father would go ape-shit.

“SIMMITS & DRAWERS,” he would yell. (Find yourself a Scot, Dear Canada, to translate that one for you;) As my dad searched for a match to light, in order to see if there were coins on the mantle above the fireplace, (which I might add, was the routine to keep a little stack on the shelf) he would grow progressively more agitated. The problem of course, was that forgetfulness or poverty would cause the pile to be consumed and not replaced and THAT would send him beyond ape-shit. Right about this time, I would know that I was about to get “the call.”

“JEEZUZ CHRIST, THERE’S NAE BLOODY COINS! AAAALLLLLAAAANNN! Yes, this was my call to action Dear Canada, for you see my dad knew that every now and again, a coin would slip out of a hand as it was in the process of being deposited into the meter. Coins would fall into the black hole of the little cubbie where the meter sat. Dad also knew his arm wasn’t long enough to reach down into that black hole to retrieve a coin. More importantly however, was the fact that he knew that if you HELD A SMALL BOY, BY HIS FEET AND LOWERED HIM DOWN THE HOLE, WHILE HAVING HIM HOLD A LIGHTED MATCH OR A LIGHTER, then coins could be readily retrieved. The hope of course was, that (a), you didn’t drop him and (b), he didn’t set fire to his hair or face while hanging upside down in a black hole with a flame in his hand. I always thought of it as a sort of “secret mission” which he knew excited me and my imagination and which he encouraged way more than the idea of me keeping a coin if by chance I found more than one, 😂

And now Dear Canada you know why I don’t take a warm tub of water for granted 😂 

The gig was pretty spectacular. Johnny is so beloved out here and these gigs have been sold-out for months. 5,000 people having a superb time. Our duet, and our rendition of Flower Of Scotland, had them on their feet. 

Afterwards we went for a beer to The Old Triangle Pub, where we got to meet our manager’s parents, Lynda and Howard, the sweetest couple, who reminded me so much of my own parents.

I received this cartoon in an email and decided to post it, but just as I was watching the last period, the lads did exactly as it instructs...

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The boys pulled off the victory. Win the next one and it’s game on. 

Headed back to hotel around midnight and my head was down by 1 a.m. I have television tomorrow morning with a lobby call for 8:15 a.m.  

Goodnight Dear Canada, until tomorrow ~ Alan.