Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Mariah Wade in America - Day One

Appalachian Mountains.jpg

Booking a taxi in London for an early morning pickup is a bit like waiting on a blind date. You’re never quite sure if they are going to turn up. Perhaps they’re lurking somewhere in the distance checking you out, willing to ditch the red carnation if you don’t appear up to scratch, or more likely, as in our case, they simply forget to come. Trying therefore to then hail a black cab at 5am is no mean feat. This time occupies a sort of no man’s land in the life of taxi driver’s; just late enough that most have finished the graveyard shift, but a little too early for even the early birds to be up and about. But as luck would have it, one came trundling along, it’s sign glowing like a great yellow eye in the centre of it’s black blunt head – a sort of a mythical mechanical cyclops. Our journey from Bermondsey to London Bridge is a short one and when we arrive at the station our train to Gatwick airport has been delayed. Once you’ve lived in London for a short while a kind of stoic acceptance about transport delays becomes part of your reality. In a city this size delays inevitably occur and most accept this as part and parcel of living in one of the busiest cities in the world. But then, as you live here for longer, something changes. You forget that at home there’s only one bus a day from Donegal to Dublin and that the gallant McGinleys who run this service do this without the support of the state or public purse; all those times you stood on the side of the road thumbing a lift to the airport because there was no-one to drive you there evaporate from your memory like the steaming mist off a hot whiskey; and those long moonlit walks for miles back from Biddy’s along the Glen road to Carrick (you just stayed a bit too long over that last pint, the craic being good and all) have softened in your memory the same way those painful callouses that crowned your feet in the morning did. Yes, complaining about transport in London is a sign of a peculiar type of amnesia unique to denizens of this city that have been here a bit too long. Another tube, train or bus will inevitable be along quicker than you could boil a kettle and whip up a cup of tea (no sugar, just milk please). And so, without much further ado, the great hydra’s head of railway tracks at London Bridge delivers us another, but later, train that has us out to Gatwick with plenty of time to spare.

We check in uneventfully on our flight to Atlanta (our stop-off destination before we reach Greensboro, North Carolina), and we drop off our guitar (our sole stringed instrument to accompany us on this trip) at the oversized baggage belt. The feelings that arise as you watch a bubble wrapped guitar case disappear down a conveyor belt and into the bowels of Gatwick airport must resemble in many ways the mixed emotions a parent must have when they first drop their child off at primary school. There’s a sense of anticipation of the journey ahead, excitement about the experience this first day will bring them, but mainly there’s dread, dread that no-one will bash your baby to pieces between now and the end of the day. See you on the other side kiddo!

We’re on the plane in no time and an eight hour journey of reheated food, bad movies with even worse sound – you know the sound I mean, a kind of small nasal snarling that resembles a pint-sized terrier that can somehow only be produced by those infernal headphones airlines insist on providing you with. It always amazes me that these headphones always come with their own unique mini-jack connectors, so that you won’t be able to steal them and plug them into any of your own devices. Are they nuts!

We’re not quite sure of all the reasons we’re flying to North Carolina and driving the circuitous route from here through the Appalachian mountains to Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington and finally ending up in New York. It’s hard in some ways to say why we find such an affinity with the music of this area and the music we play. It’s got something to do with our love of a certain type of sound, a certain way of playing, and the chance to meet the people who play this music in the hills where it first chimed out. Coming from a background in Irish traditional music, all of these emotions move through us very naturally and we’re able to accept them without having to give them voice.

There’s a song-line that goes “searching for water from a deeper well”.  Maybe that’s the best way to put it, and leave it at that.

Glenn (for Mariah Wade)