Winging It



My ceilidh band the Wild Geese were formed in 1996 in Leith, Edinburgh with Martin an incredibly talented musician, singer and artist, and eventually we added in a great bassist, Andy and drummer, Nick and dance caller Annabel.
Guy, Martin’s friend was a constant source of great technical advice and so it was with Guy’s help that we acquired our bandwagon - an old very used ex-Courier Mercedes 307D van which we kitted out with coach seats and belts and also with Guys research we installed a reconditioned engine.
We called the van  Morrison for such was our rock and roll humour and once we started to get our long distance gigs it was myself who took over the driving.


The van having just been through its MoT test was perked up with oil and screen wash for its journey up north to the next bunch of gigs.
The leaking radiator issue on the A9 on Drummochter summit had been resolved with a good gallon or two of Radweld !!


At that time in Scotland the sponsored Irish theme bar scene provided a constant supply of smaller money events for us to play which bolstered up the diary if we didn’t have enough weddings.


So it was that we loaded up with PA and kit and overnight bags and our intrepid souls and on a rainy day in Leith we headed on out of Edinburgh and up the M90 motorway to Dundee via Perth making good time on a wet and not too busy motorway.
We were rolling past large trucks and playing our usual spot-the-Eddie-Stobart game. Stobart is a popular long distance haulier and his trucks are instantly recognisable and famous.
Our final destination was Aberdeen up the Scottish east coast and we were on time despite the rainy conditions.
When we got to Dundee we switched onto a more narrow road and were still making good time. The rain seemed to have cleared up and we were due to make Aberdeen and our infamous bed and breakfast - or should that have been our infamous bed and recycled breakfast - legally and in good order.


On the approach to Aberdeen we were on the 50 mph speed limit and just about on the city limit when suddenly the steering track rod broke and as I was braking and battling for control the van, its steering wheel giving not much direction, veered and slowed to a stop into a miraculously convenient lay-by that just started to open up for us as the loose wheel finally went totally sideways.


There in the layby we got out and looked at the injured Morrison, parked neatly near a public toilet and to cater for all our immediate needs was a garage on the opposite side of the road.


This was one issue that Gaffer tape was not going to fix - and yet somehow this vehicle had gone through its MoT inspection only yesterday.
My more immediate memories of passing those big trucks on the motorway came back and I suddenly realised that we had all had an incredibly lucky escape - miraculous as our van was full of gear.
Our gear was secure but then what were the guarantees it was going to remain so in a rough and tumble accident ?


With a quick phone call the recovery vehicle arrived and with Morrison in tow - we were taken to our destination which was a popular Irish bar in Aberdeen.
Having offloaded the gear and our van Morrison off to the garage to repair its steering we surveyed the space inside the venue that we were to set up in tonight.
Not the usual stage because it was full of diners but a more cramped space that seemed to squeeze me in front or adjacent to the front of one of our PA speakers.
Although my electric fiddle wouldn’t be bothered by the excess noise - certainly my ear drums would be and as I play by ear and improvise through the song arrangements it was going to be crucial that I was comfortable listening to the sound of our music.
With no time to buy earplugs I made the mistake of using a block of soaked tissue which is great as long as it stays together.
During the noisy gig that saturday evening it certainly did its job - it was just that getting it back out of my ear in fragments was a bit of an adventure and I already felt like I had had too much adventure that day already.
At night in our strange bed and breakfast I wondered what was going to save my ears tomorrow on Sunday night when we played there again.


I remember having a strange dream about Aberdeen high street and I awoke unusually early and took the 5 minute walk to the main town centre street - perhaps thinking of an open popular pharmacy store - though exactly what could be open in Aberdeen at any time on a sunday morning remained a mystery.


As I walked slowly for a few yards from the corner of my B&B road down the deserted high street I could see that for a long way off things were very quiet and shuttered.
I realised though that I had stopped in front of a small white van parked near my corner where a joiner appeared to be going into a small empty shop.
I stopped him and asked if there was a Boots the Chemist open and explained that I was a musician in need of earplugs.
He smiled and said that he was a fitter on the oil rigs - the oil business being Aberdeens source of wealth and went to a metal expanding toolbox in the back of his van and produced two of the very foam earplugs that I had intended to buy had there been any open shops that could sell them.
I offered to pay for them but he smiled again and wished me well.
I thanked him profusely for his gift and recognised for the second time on this trip north that I was being looked after.
What were the chances of me obtaining earplugs anywhere in Aberdeen on a sunday in that decade - almost zero - yet it appeared that all I had to do was walk a few yards from my B&B to the corner of the high street and there was somebody parked there waiting to give me some and at a very early part of sunday morning.


I thought that that was another miracle.


Scottish Andrew

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