Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another UK Excursion, 2013

Now that my wife Maria has retired from teaching, she was finally able to come along on my annual fall trek to  Birmingham, England, and we made quite a week of it!
             A first for me was driving in England. I felt a bit like I was thrown into the deep end of the pool, as we picked up the rental car after an overnight flight, feeling a bit fuzzy around the edges. It was a 5-speed Vauxhall Astra, so pretty much everything about the driving experience was new; driving on the left side of the road, driver’s seat on the right, shifting with the left hand, and negotiating traffic circles in urban Birmingham traffic.  After checking in with Garry Allcock and crew setting up for the UK Drum Fair, I delivered Maria to the train station and she was off to London to spend a couple days with an old friend from grad school. 
             The Gretsch Drum Book made it’s European debut at the UK Drum Fair, September 28th and 29th. Many thanks to show organizer Garry Allcock for his help with that!  As usual, the most vivid memories of the show involve all the people I was able to visit with. Many very good friends that I’ve known for years, and lots of new friends. The evening pub dinner for show staff and guests was particularly memorable.  Guinness draft, fish & chips, and fellowship with a couple dozen of my favorite people in the drum world- priceless!
               I sold most of the product that I took to the show, and left the remainder with Winnie Mensink, my longtime compatriate who distributes Rebeats products from his home base of Amsterdam. I left the drum show before it closed on the second day (Sunday Sep. 29th) in order to catch a train for London’s Wembley Arena. The Pittsburgh Steelers played the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley and the Vikings’ Communications Tech Gary Bosiacki had arranged for a sideline credential for me.  Since the American teams playing at Wembley do not take their usual coaches radio systems, all of the 10 coaches had 100-foot cables to keep straight.  Assigned to the offensive coordinator, I was   literally in the eye of the storm (sellout crowd of 90,000+ screaming fans) while I shadowed Coach Musgrave and kept his cables under control as he guided the Vikings offense to their first NFL victory of the season. 

            Maria and I took a train back to Birmingham the next day, retrieved the rental car, and set out for Liverpool.We did the usual tourist stuff there; ferry ride on the Mersey, The Beatles Story Museum visit, Cavern Club. I’d consulted with the The Beatles Story Museum on and off for a number of years on their exhibits that included Ringo kits. Although the museum is owned by a sizable corporation (Cunard) they have not been inclined to spend the dollars (pounds) to bring authenticity to the kits on display. They have at least made some major improvements in the last couple years by having Andy Dwyer (ADC Drums, Liverpool) recover the kits in era-correct Oyster Blue covering. There are still many problems to be corrected; metal-shell snare drums, incorrect hardware, and the ridiculous setup of the Cavern Club kit.  The unforgettable moments of The Beatles Story Museum visit were in the “Imagine” display at the end of the museum tour. There was a big group of waist-high schoolchildren who stood near the white grand piano and sang along as the display’s audio system played the Beatles’ classic. Maria and I were amazed that they all knew these lyrics, written when their parents (and some grandparents) were teenagers. Our Liverpool adventure culminated with another memorable pub dinner, this time with Andy Dwyer, his lovely wife Claire, and their daughter Ella.

           From Liverpool we took the scenic route through Wales, to a Bed and Breakfast near the Welsh town of Carmarthen. We spent a little time with Pete James who lives in Carmarthen. (Many Chicago Drum Show attendees know Pete, who has been coming to the Chicago show for years. His daughter Gail Louise was a featured clinician a few years ago and is now a very busy percussionist and teacher in London.)  The next destination was Swanage, a picturesque and historic village on England’s southern coast.  I had not visited Swanage since camping there as a teenager backpacking across England but it has changed very little.

           Our final stop was Stratford-Upon-Avon (near Birmingham) where we again did the usual tourist stuff; Shakespeare’s birthplace museum tour, boat trip on the Avon, etc.  All in all it was a wonderful trip with my only regrets being that I did not have time to hook up with longtime friends Nick & Mary Ormrod in London or Mike Kaskell in Poole (very near Swanage.)  Maybe next year! 

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