On New Friends

With Beka, Cassandra and Subway at Amsterdam Bicycle Club

So here I am, its 8pm, and I’m at my favourite blog writing venue – yes it’s only a Starbucks across the road from the hostel, but it’s 24 degrees and balmy. I’m about to leave Toronto and the new friends I made here. Dave, my dear friend and lifelong advocate said to me that Canadians are the friendliest people in the world. Haven’t seen much of the world yet but I’m certainly feeling well integrated here and not at all like a regular tourist. The fact that I haven’t spent a single cent on tourist attractions such as the CN Tower, Cash Loma or the Islands (well they are closed anyway due to flooding) might keep me out of that category anyway, but I could still feel quite like an alien ( well more than usual) if it weren’t for the friendliness of the Toronto people. Not to say that my fellow travellers at the HI hostel are not so – but you seem to have only one topic of conversation – your  travels – and you have that conversation several times a week – or day – unpacking in you dorm or making tea in the kitchen. All the travellers are all interesting people, and I always have time for their stories, but you are all essentially wandering around in an artificial and even ‘hip’ reality that’s all a bit …vogue.

Being a musician makes travelling a little different. You frequent different places: open mics, bars and cafes where local people go, plying the same trade as you do. There plight is the same as yours, their trials and frustrations, and yes, some would say that, of all individuals living in a fake reality, musicians are there most. But that’s for another day.

Sandra playing at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club

At my first Toronto gig I met Sandra, aka Bea Fry, who did an opening set for me at the Cavern. I have very particular expectations when it comes to songwriting and instrumental proficiency, as you all know, and I saw this straight away. I absolutely love her dark, slightly rootsy Americana style and we share a love of non standard tunings.  And that is how we met. And she had brought a crowd of lovely people. Then we met at another place and so on. With her was  bass player, Subhayu – ebullient and energetic. Also at the Cavern Open Mic was Rebbeka Cynthia from Brazil but now living in Toronto: pianist, guitarist and drummer and just a human onslaught of enthusiasm. To be honest – these guys made my stay.


I met Sharon earlier in the week at an Irish session in Dora Keogh’s up on Danforth. Like me she was sitting alone in front of the music. We shared stories, had a lot in common, and her local knowledge and quiet wisdom was so valuable. She reckoned she might come to the Relish gig, and indeed she did – taking the second set of performance photos for me. She introduced my to stunning guitarist Paul, owner of the Twelfth Fret Guitar shop on Danforth. But so kind, she  brought for me an umbrella – which had been her late mother’s. because she remembered I did not have one.

Charles playing my brand new baby Yamaha in St James’ Park

Whilst I was paddling somewhat tentatively at Humber Bay on a baking hot day, there was a guy doing a full on channel swim. Superficial conversation conspired to reveal our mutual interests in art, writing and music; he being a local writer, visual artist and musician. He came to the Cavern gig and fought the noise there to listen to my set. Later in the week I spent a cool couple of hours playing grunge music in the basement of his house in Lansdowne, sharing a strange but not unpleasant meal, and talking 70’s music. Today, a coffee in St James’ Park. I don’t know how I get so lucky.

I will indeed remember Toronto exceedingly fondly and doubtless come here again.

Old Mill Walk

IMG_5573Yesterday, I decided to investigate the Arch Bridge at Old Mill even though it was a baking 29 degrees. It’s always good to be by water in this kind of heat and the Humber River was in full spate. Getting off the Subway at Castle Frank, I took the steps by the road bridge that go down into the valley below. A small brown snake reared its head rather aggressively – not sure what it is – a common brown snake, no doubt.IMG_5571

A short walk along the bank brought me to the bridge – a fine and well maintained stone arch from 1916. It’s got a certain regal grace reminiscent of a White Peak setting, but the river’s much wider obviously. Getting pictures was surprisingly more tricky than anticipated as the banks were very muddy owing to recent flooding, and I had to dodge a lot of goose shit!

I then followed the river in full milky churn, as it was, up a series of weirs to Lambton Woods where I met more dense woodlands. I hadn’t brought enough water for a big hike, so turned round and followed it back. Easy to have a snooze on the lush banks as there are plenty of benches and an abundance of dappled shade.



churn: what it says on the tin –

while its treacherous butterness
is pulling you in


Gadgets Update

I’m exceptionally please with the £11 macro lens that I got from Ebay and which you simply clip on to the iPhone in front of the camera.

The iPhone camera cannot focus anything that close and you can see how confused it becomes – but I think these photos are amazing – just having been taken on my phone at Allen Garden Conservatory off Jarvis Street.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_456So the other thing that’s working really well is the Twist Adaptr. Here it is with all 4 charging ports in use. My iPad, iPhone, USB Joystick (mtb light) and my portable charger are all just plugged in when I go to bed . The MacBook needs more power so won’t charge from the Twist plus so just got a cheap adapter for that.

And the selfie stick! No more of asking random people to take a photo of you in a weird place and position and you know they are thinking, ‘Who’s this idiot?’ It charges from the camera directly so no need to charge – and it’s just easy! So all of these bargain buys were well worth it.

Sorry there’s nothing witty, nerdy or philosophical in this post – although there’s an implied smugness perhaps.


On Baggage

So by this I don’t mean the sort of baggage that has you on the trip in the first place. The stuff rammed into the very darkest places of your self like a a rabid Doberman, your back against the door being the only thing between stability and cataclysm; or the buzzing type that keeps you awake at night, or even the heavy shit that you just drag around day after day. I’m really talking about mistakes I made with my packing decisions – but I suppose that’s just extending the analogy somewhat – because I made a lot of poor packing decisions . 

But practally speaking, I put all my electrical gadgets and adapters in my carry on – thinking it would save on weight in my checked bag (which it did) but security made me spread it all out – so that was four trays and a lot of time and faff! In addition there was terror of not getting it all back.  So I’ll have to revise that for the next flight – and consider swapping for shoes – or perhaps some regret. That attracts quite a bit of gravity.