Our Aunt Ethel

July 17, 2016 on 2:46 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping, Stories | No Comments

IT’S estimated there are over seven billion people inhabiting our dear blue place — planet earth. That’s a seven and nine absolute zeros. To me, an unimaginable number of anything, let alone a measure of human souls. And yet, time and again, in the face of big numbers, we encounter a small world.

“It’s a small world — though I wouldn’t want to paint it,” said comedian Steven Wright. And there’s nothing like a looming, inestimable paint job to put something in perspective. Sure, we know the world is massive. I think it’s knowing this that has us easily imagining cosy comfort when some serendipitous happening meets our day. Like finding your neighbour is sister to your high school English teacher’s mum. “It’s surely a small world.” “Awww, we’re all connected,” you might groan. Or not.
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Vertiginous Pipe Bands

July 6, 2016 on 7:56 am by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands | No Comments

When I was a kid and whiling away summer hours at the lake and stuck indoors-bound by rainstorms and whatever – and if memory serves me right, rain aside, it might be punishment for something; anyway, I’d reach for any old amusement that might while away those hours. Playing with matches was never on the list because that was allowed at the lake – oh, sweet happy days. But still, a summer place with no electricity (or plumbing) helped mark the bar pretty low when it came to entertainment. Or, high, depending on the cut of your Birkenstocks.
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Happy Canada Day – 5 Random Facts

July 1, 2016 on 7:14 am by Michael Grey | In Humour, News, Photographs | No Comments

Today’s the day. And since we’re here, five random facts about Canada – it’s always five (it’s a blog):
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Halfway through 2016 and Reflecting

June 16, 2016 on 4:29 pm by Michael Grey | In Humour, News, Photographs, Pipe Bands | Comments Off on Halfway through 2016 and Reflecting

I think it’s the early sunrise and especially bright eye-squinting mornings, just a little south of the 49th parallel, that reminded me today that we’re almost at the halfway point of 2016. Whoosh! That’s how time goes – and that’s how time flies. And so, as not to forget, and maybe omit something from what will surely turn out to be a mighty and interesting late-December 2016 summary, I thought I’d jot down a few personal highlights of the year that’s been so far. Not for you, of course, but for me! Me. Me. Me.

When thinking, in processing thoughts, just what makes a person think – of anything? What ignites a thought? A chance meeting with a new acquaintance or old friend? An email, a text, a dog’s bark, the weather, an online video, the news – the cat licking it’s arse – what random action or environmental thing triggers (and apologies in advance for using that word) a thought or thinking? And, again, in this case, thinking as reflection.
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Fishing the Good Fish

June 1, 2016 on 6:42 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on Fishing the Good Fish

In my part of the world we’re just a little past the opening of fishing season for the “good fish”; that is, the fourth Saturday in April. That day triggers the good-to-go mark to land brown trout, speckled trout, brook trout and Atlantic salmon. Regrettably, I haven’t fished for anything – bagpipe prizes aside – in years. Fishing, I think, is a great pastime: it focuses a person’s thinking, yet relaxes; water flows, or, at least, is present (and how great is that) and daily stresses usually become less, even fall away.
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Piping Today: You’re the reason our kids are ugly

May 3, 2016 on 9:33 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Humour, Music, Solo Piping | Comments Off on Piping Today: You’re the reason our kids are ugly

The highland bagpipe can create some of the most rhythmically amazing music imaginable. A well-practised set of mitts can rattle off near endless streams of reels, jigs, strathspeys and hornpipes.

Highland dancers would be lost if not struck dead still without a piper’s tunes. The undulating groove inherent in any good-going reel has the power to move even the most rigid and uncompromising of feet. Dancing can reveal all the mystery that music conceals, wrote French poet, Charles Baudelaire. And on that, like drum and stick, wind and waves, bed and breakfast, music and dance are inextricably linked.
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Relatives and Hipster Beards

April 4, 2016 on 6:37 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Stories | Comments Off on Relatives and Hipster Beards

There seems to be a common line said among those that seek to know their genealogy: Know where you come from, so know where you’re going. That may sound great in that placard, protest-y, sound-bite sort of way but it seems to feel a bit trite to me. I “get” learning from your mistakes and successes, including those of rellies long gone; what has happened, history – but not sure my family history, by virtue of lives lived, has informed where I’m going – or where I’ve gone. My family history has laid the groundwork for circumstance, and maybe that is what that oft-said line is all about. Anyways, I write “not sure” in italics just to say, I’m open to convincing.
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Piping Today: A magical winter week in Glasgow

February 24, 2016 on 5:03 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Pipe Bands, Tips | Comments Off on Piping Today: A magical winter week in Glasgow

I once read something somewhere about the spiritual power of making music in a group. The words I recall spoke to group music creation in a sacred sort of way. Making music with others joined energy and life forces and, well, made magic. Magic a word used here, I think, to describe the indescribable. And the indescribable, to me, usually stands as the best and worst things in life and, from time immemorial, inspirational fodder for the poet. Anyway, these hazy recollections stayed with me and it was only in the last week of January did they again burble up.
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A Musician’s Struggle: Rehearsal Space

January 9, 2016 on 7:51 pm by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands, Random Thoughts, Solo Piping, Whinges | Comments Off on A Musician’s Struggle: Rehearsal Space

When you’re a musician it’s never easy finding practice or rehearsal space. In big cities especially, high density and thin walls make snagging the right reliable place tricky in the extreme. But when you’re a piper – or group, like a pipe band – the challenge is layered with bias, barriers and brutal complication. I’ve found myself “practicing” tunes in some seriously ropey places: the B3, or third sub-level, of an underground parking lot on Bay Street across from Toronto City Hall, pretty much every men’s WC of any indoor contest or event I have ever participated in and the reclined front passenger seat of a Renault 5 (in the pouring rain while parked on Dunollie Terrace, Oban).
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The Gift that Keeps on Giving

December 22, 2015 on 8:01 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag | Comments Off on The Gift that Keeps on Giving

These days we hear more and more about “ground-breaking” studies trumpeting the health benefits of one thing or another. News in tandem equally pronounces the many things that are seemingly bad for us. One day it’s a daily glass or two of wine that will add years to a body, the next your favourite Vino Collapso is marked as toxic organ-hardening poison. It’s all, in part, I’d wager, thanks to the wave of ageing “baby boomers” washing over the Western world. Perhaps more than others before it, the post-war generation wants to live forever — or, at the very least, not get old. There’s a trick.
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