Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Holiday in Paris. Well, I'm trying to Holiday, anyway...

Greetings from Paris! I know, I know, you hate me, blah blah. But no point in blogging when things are normal and not-super-exciting -- who wants to read about trips to the post office? Not everything is perfect in Le Monde Brigitte (insomnia, fatigue, etc), but it's pretty close.

We've been in Paris since Sunday evening, and I've no complaints yet. Yesterday we were whooshed to the front of the line at Notre Dame when the secuirty guard saw my pregnant belly. After warning me that pregnant women shouldn't climb the towers, he then told me I could go on up without waiting. If it had been hours into the day, I wouldn't have bothered. I had morning energy though, so I went up to visit Quasimodo. Four. Hundred. Stairs. Up. Yeah, eight months ago, that would have been no problem. Today, however, I'm pretty sure someone pushed me off the top of the cathedral, then ran me over with a truck.

But I've only got four more days in Paris, so I'm shaking it off and heading out for croissants. There's a whole city happening out there!

Quick list of yesterday's activities, all on foot, despite our attempt at "taking it easy for a relaxing holiday:"
- Notre Dame
- Elevensies on the Seine (ice cream and panini)
- Total Tourist Highlights of the Louvre (Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Hammurabi's Code, plus a few)
- A siesta in the Tuileries (it was 72 degrees and there were a zillion other lovers taking naps)
- MuseƩ de Orangerie (Monet's Waterlilies plus a bunch of other pretty paintings)
- People-watching at a cafe
- Pommes frites by the Pompidou
- Teaching a bunch of piano lessons on Skype from our AirBnB (yes, while on holiday. oops!)

A few photos to keep you entertained in the office today... I took these, but promise to post some of David's sometime. He's the photographer of the family.

Top of Notre Dame. June 2012. by brigid kaelin

Quasimodo coming out of the Bell Tower at Notre Dame.

Picnickers in the Tuileries. Paris, France. June 2012. by brigid kaelin



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Scotch Malt Whisky Society ... video!

I started this other blog, BourbonGirl.com, when I finally got settled in Scotland. The point was to taste all kinds of delicious whiskies (and whiskeys) and write about them. I made diligent on notes on several, and then I got pregnant. So much for my palette! Even in Europe, where I've seen plenty of pregnant women enjoy a glass of wine, drinking the hard stuff is frowned upon. Sigh.

The moratorium on liquor doesn't mean that I haven't enjoyed plenty of nights out at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, however. It's a relaxing atmosphere with great food and a fun night out for a group of friends. Plus, with my pregnancy super-smell, I've gotten really good at nosing David's whiskies and calling out toffee, bananas, chalk, and other flavours hidden within the single malts. While I sip on a lemonade and inhale their homemade chips.

Also, one of my superpowers is getting on-camera when I go out somewhere -- not in a paparazzi kind of way, just in a right-place-right-time style. In keeping with that power, lookie what we found on the SMWS Facebook page:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thoughts on that "All Songs Considered" Intern's blog post.

Have you been following the "All Songs Considered" intern and her post about only having bought 15 CDs in her life, despite having about 11,000 tracks on her iTunes? I read it a couple of days ago, and forming a response has been on my mind. I don't think I could top this response by David Lowery on his blog (thanks to several of my Facebook friends who shared his blog), so I'm not going to try. I'm very curious to see if Emily responds to it, and I hope she does.

Emily's post is not surprising. What shocks me is how many people apparently haven't realized that Emily is not alone. I got the big shock about seven years ago when I taught high school music. I asked students to bring in a CD one day, and just about every single one of them brought in something they'd burned from home. When I asked why, only a couple of them said they'd ever bought a CD. Several of them told me cheerfully that they'd downloaded my first album from Limewire, then burned copies for their friends.

Um, thanks? Sort of. It's complicated. Still, those kids have since graduated from college and have considerate buying power. But they're not buying music. Funny how a $0.99 app that makes fart sounds is no big deal, but a $0.99 song is a rip-off.

I understand things have changed, but there's no question that artists are suffering because of it. You wonder why I haven't released a new full-length album in four years? Well, promise me you'll buy it, and I'll make it. That goes for one thousand of you.

Anyway, I did think David Lowery's response was very well-reasoned. It's long, but worth the read. Then again, I'm over thirty now, so I can't be trusted...

Monday, June 18, 2012

One last holiday ... next week in Paris!

by brigid kaelin. october 2010.
We were originally supposed to spend April through June in Paris, while David did an exchange semester. After finding out we're having a baby, finding out we couldn't sublease our flat, and finding out how much new visas and short-term Parisian rentals would cost, we opted for the low-stress version: stay in Edinburgh. Boo hoo for no Paris, but yay for speaking the same language as your obstetrician.

But on Sunday, we're heading to Paris for a wee holiday! Yay for living in the land of budget airlines and credit cards, and for one last trip before we have to start saving for the little haggis's college fund.

We have no plans other than eating crepes and strolling through gardens. Both of us have been to Paris before, so we don't feel the need to run around and see everything. We haven't, however, been to Paris together, so expect lots of gooey stories about hand-holding and picnics.

Apparently, Paris is busy in June though. Stay tuned on whether or not we're sleeping on the streets. If we are, rest assured that our bellies are full. There seemed to be a few affordable rooms near Parc Disneyland...

Friday, June 15, 2012

A potential fault in my mate. Or, New Wave Grammar.

"Your mate's an old-fashioned man, sweetheart." It's sort of true. But considering he minored in Feminist Studies in undergrad, I also don't really believe him. Sure, I have stood stupidly in front of doors while walking with friends before realizing that I've grown used to David always opening the door for me. And I haven't carried a heavy bag in years (unless I was making a point).

Occasionally, however, I have to disagree with his old-fashioned ways.

I'm the editor of the family. You wouldn't know it from my blogs (sorry, but it's a blog, not a column), but I'm a fierce follower of Strunk & White. I also like to keep up with new rules on grammar and punctuation. I love that stuff. Sometimes I eschew changes (like the fact that "irregardless" has appeared in the OED for the last 100 years) it, but several years ago I began to embrace a modern punctuation change: the single-space post-period.

Double-spaces after a sentence are for those who were taught to type on a typewriter. Or for those who were taught to type by people who were taught to type on a typewriter. That includes most of us. Initially perturbed, I've come to agree that double-spaces post-period look awkward on a page of typed font.

Today, when editing and trying to single-space David's schoolwork, I was chastised and reminded, "Your mate's an old-fashioned man, sweetheart. I believe in holding doors for women, manners, and double-spaces."

Go ahead and google away at the single v. double debate, if you are shocked to learn that your double-spaces are generally considered incorrect these days. I won't judge you. After all, I married one of you.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On Seeing the Olympic Torch ... well, almost.

I still think I prefer the Apple IIC "Summer Olympics" game to the real thing, but I'm trying to get really into the Olympics this year, if only because I'm geographically closer to them than I've ever been. In the spirit of internationalism, yesterday we went to go see the Torch Relay through Edinburgh.

We walked up to the Mound and found a great seat with a perfect view of both the castle and the ginormous Olympic Rings. The official website said the Torch would be stopping by there at 7:00ish, and we were there by 6, claiming the last good sidewalk spot. I brought a wee stool with me because, well, I'm seven months pregnant.

After about 20 minutes of making friends and enjoying the sunshine, a few traffic wardens stopped by to ask everyone what we were doing here. "You're not here for the torch, are you? [hearty laughter] Well, you'll not see it from here," he said with a scoff. So, yeah, despite what the official website said, apparently hundreds of people were complete fools for thinking we'd see the torch where the torch relay map said we would.

Reluctantly, we all clamored up Lady Stairs' Close to stake out a spot on the Royal Mile, where thousands of others had already gathered. People were hanging out of medieval skyscraper windows, the BBC truck was taking up a lot of space, and we saw several people with their hair attached to their hats. It was our own little game of "Where's Waldo?" (or "Where's Wally?" as it's called over here).

Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland
June 13, 2012 by David Caldwell
We were both able to see the Torch path, so I figured I'd spent a little time resting on my stool before standing. Eventually, the crowds became tight, and the sponsors' buses were parading up the Royal Mile towards the castle. I stood up and watched the excitement for about ten minutes, during which time (again -- schedule, folks, schedule!) the Torch should have run by.

Then I suddenly became overheated, took off my hoodie, and sat back down. Then I was dizzy. And nauseated. I was on the verge of puking and/or passing out when David whisked me out of the crowd and through a close (that's a medieval alley) for some air, all the while upsetting the people around us who probably thought I'd gone into labour. And at the exact moment when I was out of the crowds and putting my head between my legs, the Torch ran by just where we'd been standing. How's that for good timing?

I'm already starting a list of awesome things this kid is making me miss out on (yes, yes, I appreciate my fetus, but am currently irritated with him).



At least David had gone back to get me water just as the Torch passed by. He caught a super-quick glimpse of it from a much-worse spot than we originally had ... and managed a photo:
Olympic Torch Relay, June 13, 2012, Edinburgh, Scotland. by David Caldwell. (Look closely!)

As for me, well, I can always watch the Torch on the ol' Apple II. (I was fine five minutes later, by the way. Just stood still in a crowd for too long. I'm a delicate flower these days.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mobile-Free living. Ugh and Yay!

I've been learning a lot about patience during my time in Scotland. I know I'm not the most patient person in the world, but I still have this great reverence for punctuality, something that isn't on the forefront of most folks' minds over here. Maybe it's "island time," being that it is an island, after all. But something else that I've had to cope with is a lack of mobile phone.

I've got a cel phone, and it is supposed to work. It rarely does. Text messages arrive hours after they are sent, and rarely does my phone actually ring (much less show a "missed call") when people swear they have called repeatedly. I'm not even going to bother going into the monthly trips to the Virgin store to complain about mistakes on our bill and my minutes plan, which then takes many weeks and tons of over-charges to correct. I've paid far more than I should have for a phone that rarely works. (I spend more using my old US iphone, which works perfectly over here, iMessaging friends back home who have iPhones for free.)

Maybe all this phone-not-working nonsense is a sign to inhale deeply and be free of the annoyance of phone calls. Of course, all that seems to do is annoy other people. But I shouldn't worry too much about other people, should I? Again ... a reverence for other people's time interferes...

I don't blame Scotland. We are just having bad luck with a particular phone company. If we were going to be here long-term, we'd switch companies and sign a contract. But I can't deal with horrible customer service anymore, so I've just resigned to hoping that my phone will work in an emergency, or at least when my waters break. And enjoying living a mobile-free life in the middle ages (or at least the 1970s).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Love in a Library.

A journalist once asked me if my home life ever involved just walking around singing, "You know, like in a musical." I laughed at first, but then I realize that in a lot of ways, it does. Even David has been known to burst into a song about cooking dinner from time to time, and a fly on the wall would definitely catch us dancing in the living room. I've always loved musicals.

I also love the library. And Edinburgh.

Yesterday, David and I saw a musical ... unexpectedly ... in the library ... in Edinburgh! It was a good day.

David was up there returning some books, and I was at home writing in my pajamas. When he walked in, someone handed him a program and said there was a little performance beginning in about 10 minutes. Reason #43958 that I love him -- rather than quickly returning his books and running out the door, he called me excitedly and told me to hurry to the library.

If I were a proper journalist, I would have asked all kinds of questions of the performers and those who looked like they were in charge. It was a lot more fun to enjoy the guerrilla musical as an unsuspecting library patron.

From what I gathered, "Love in a Library" (no relation to Jimmy Buffet) is part of the Edinburgh International Festival and is taking place in different libraries across the city this week (the location is announced on Twitter each morning). It's a 20 minute show with two stellar singers and a pianist who started with Gershwin, ended with Cole Porter, and included Wagner, Schumann, Robert Burns, and more, in between. Swoon!

The story is simple -- a librarian and an English teacher fall in various sections of the library -- but the best part is watching the audience reactions, especially the late arrivals who were certainly not expecting anything choreographed or vocal in their local library. All the while, the regular library staff carries on their business, helping people find books, and re-shelving.

It's funny how the safety of a stage -- or a frame -- somehow makes singing your feelings okay, but the minute you take away the stage, people get slightly uncomfortable. I've busked often enough to know that the busker makes the passerby much more nervous than vice versa. "Love in a Library" is a great example of blurring that framework between the stage and audience.

video
Seems like this whole Edinburgh Festival thing might be pretty cool after all.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Haunted Castles and Visitors from Home

We've got more visitors this weekend -- my aunt and uncle! Considering all the people who swore they were coming to Scotland sometime this year, I've been amazed by how few visitors we've actually have (yes, I'm talking about YOU!). It's therefore extra exciting when people do manage to get over to this wee island in the gulf stream.

Having guests in town is also a great excuse to go to Edinburgh Castle again. My friend and trusty tourmate, Dan, sent this link to me last week, in honor of Castle Day 2012. It's a story on the world's 10 Scariest Haunted castles, one of which is Edinburgh Castle. I've never seen a ghost there, but then again, I'm always there in the daytime.

My relatives are on an escorted tour, so I'm sure they will have seen much of the city by the time we're able to meet up. Still, we're looking forward to meeting them at the Castle and dragging them all over this cobblestoned, medieval city, up and down closes (tiny, ancient alleys), through tunnels, in palaces,  But maybe in a taxi this time. My energy levels are low these days ... I wonder why.

haunted castles

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Scottish folk music from last night's gig -- Kris Drever

Last night was the monthly "Adam Holmes & the Embers presents..." night at the Voodoo Rooms here in Edinburgh. Adam (well, truthfully, most of the hard work and organization is accomplished by his trusty bass player/manager Alex) hosts two or three other artists on the first Wednesday of the month on a great stage. Adam's band plays a set as well. I've played a solo set before, but usually I just play as Adam's accordion/keyboard player. Being a sideman allows me to relax and enjoy the show a bit more than the running-around that being a frontman requires.

Yesterday's show was particularly well-attended because the headliner was a well-known Scottish folk musician from Orkney (so far north!!) named Kris Drever.  He's a singer/guitarist who has won all kinds of awards, and everyone here was amazed that I'd not heard of him. Although I'm betting most of these people haven't heard of famous Kentucky folk musicians, and Kentucky and Scotland are pretty close population-wise (KY is 4 millionish and Scotland is 5 millionish), so I don't feel too bad about my missing Scottish folk music knowledge. Still, I'm glad to have discovered Kris, as his show was good fun.

Fortunately for Kris and unfortunately for me, the room was packed, and no one gave up their seat to a pregnant lady (the nerve!). My feet aren't my best friends these days, so I finally went in the green room, grabbed my accordion stool, and made my own place to sit. It seems my booty has outgrown that wee stool, so I really only heard half of Kris and Eamonn's (Kris's sideman) set. But it was good stuff, and I hope I get the chance to hear them again.

Here's a little video I found with a taste of what we heard last night...



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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jubilee Weekend!

It's Queen Elizabeth I's 60-years-on-the-throne-versary! Now, before you all try to correct me and tell you she's Queen Elizabeth II, not I, let ME be the know-it-all who reminds you that the Queen Elizabeth of the 16th century never ruled over Scotland. And I'm coming to you from Scotland.

Why, then, am I joining the London celebrations if I'm so Scot-centric? Well, the Queen is half-Scottish, so I think it's okay to get really into the Diamond Jubilee. Really, any excuse for a street party is reason enough for for me.

It's not quite the big deal up here as it is down in England, but there have been plenty of festivities. I'm only slightly bummed my original plans to be in London this weekend (for a wedding) fell through. We watched the boat pageant on the telly on Saturday, and our Stockbridge Colonies Street Party was loads of fun.

Street parties here are more like block parties back home -- minus the bouncy castles and funnel cake stands. We joined hundreds of neighbors (the population is dense here!) in a bring-your-own-picnic event while a pipe band played and we all made merry. There was a cake decorating contest, and the kids wore "Fancy Dress" (costumes).

Most of all, we met some neighbors and friends, and were reminded how simple it is to give in to a sense of community. So often, even in the friendly South (or the friendly North as it is in the UK), it seems easiest to walk fast and avoid your neighbors. Silly, I think. It's much easier to feel welcome.



Friday, June 1, 2012

Playing with Elvis ... again.

Namedropping alert!

The problem with Elvis is that he's just so completely down-to-earth it's hard not to be convinced he's a friend. Then you look over and see the Spectacular Spinning Songwheel and remember that you're joining him on-stage for a massive sold-out show in Glasgow and that, perhaps, this is kind of a big deal.

David and I bought tickets to the Elvis Costello show many weeks before the event, and I was just hoping to catch EC backstage for a quick hug and hello. But the minute I let him know we were coming to the show, I got an invite to bring my saw and accordion. Of course I was hoping that would happen, but I was also completely cognizant of the fact that he's got his own thing going and can't exactly just invite anyone on stage with him. So, yeah, I was not expecting anything more than a great concert and a fun weekend in Glasgow.

This particular tour just screamed for special guests, though, and it was such a fun night. Elvis's little brother's band, Biblecode Sundays, also joined the Imposters onstage ... you can see all of us below, in a video my dad found online. David was obeying the laws and not recording the show, so this and a few pics are all we've got to remember it by:



Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow, May 11, 2012
In addition to the above raucous finale, I played musical saw on a medley of "Mr. Feathers" and "God's Comic," plus sang a bit of backup. ("Put a vocal mic on Brigid!" was one of my favorite moments of soundcheck.) The show was so much fun, I almost wish I could have been in the audience. But giggling and chatting backstage with Biblecode Sundays while we watched Steve Nieve in awe (I got a private theremin demonstration post-soundcheck and wish I had more time to talk gear with SN) was oodles of surreal fun.



At least David got to see the show from the audience.
Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow, Scotland.

It's going to take everything I have not to name this little boy Elvis or Declan now.

The Return of Elvis Costello [in my life]

I just LOVE a good rock and roll show, especially a band that knows how to integrate a real piano player. That Steve Nieve is magical, and I...