Lots of firsts

Hello, all. I’m just back from my first-ever tour in Scotland, which was also my first-ever tour with the family in tow ... AND my first-ever tour with my beautiful new guitar, made for me by Andy Manson. Past clients of Andy’s include such notables as John Paul Jones and Jimi Page (Led Zeppelin), Ian Anderson and Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Andy Summers (The Police) and Mike Oldfield – so I’m in good company! I’ll always have a soft spot for the beautiful old 1965 Martin D-28 that’s been my staunch friend since I bought it way back in 1988, but I have to admit that the trad tunes in particular are a revelation on the new instrument: clear as a bell, every note ringing out strong and true. By comparison with the Martin, it’s a bit like going from dependable riding-school cobs to hacking out on my neighbour’s highly responsive warmblood eventing horse – something else I did for the first time recently! The potential for excellence is much greater, but all my shortcomings are suddenly thrown into sharp relief. Ah well, practice, practice, practice.

You can see photos of the new guitar either on the Photos page or on www.myspace.com/sarahmcquaid – and on www.youtube.com/sarahmcquaid as well as the MySpace page, you can even see and hear it live in action, thanks to a very kind audience member who sent me his videos of my gig at the Old Brewery in Cromarty!

I was rather apprehensive about bringing the kids (ages two and four) along on the Scotland excursion, but it worked out much better than I would have expected. Nearly every day we managed to make time for some sort of fun – a lovely stroll in the mountains around Glencoe, a visit to Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness as well as Edinburgh Castle, the new visitor centre at Culloden Battlefield, a walk through the treetops at Landmark Forest Theme Park, a steamboat trip on Ullswater in the Lake District. The kids were surprisingly happy to settle down in different beds every evening – and on the night of the aforementioned Cromarty gig, as our accommodation was directly above the venue, Feargal even managed to sneak down to catch a bit of the concert! Better still, at the end of the night we were both able to enjoy a very pleasant glass of wine (or three) with the wonderfully warm and hospitable proprietors, Mairi and Bill.

Speaking of hospitality, we were bowled over by the kindness and generosity of the welcome we received pretty much everywhere – special mentions are due not only to the above-mentioned Cromarty hosts, but also to David and Anne Fiddes in Strachur, who opened their home to us and plied us with macaroni cheese; to Caroline in Glenfarg, who not only put us up but proffered homeopathic remedies; to all the singers in Glenfarg who made that evening a great listening as well as performing experience; to the superb singer/guitarist George Duff for allowing himself to be railroaded into playing an unplanned support slot before my Leith Folk Club gig as well as joining me onstage for a song ... and generally to each of the many individuals, most of them volunteers, who made all the various gigs possible.

Infinite thanks to Feargal, too, for giving up his holidays to be chauffeur, babysitter and sounding board all rolled into one. The poor man celebrated his birthday – which also happens to be Valentine’s Day – by coming down with a dreadful case of tonsilitis, navigating unfamiliar roads to find a doctor, and then minding the kids in a B&B while I was out doing my gig.

Last Friday I had a hair-rising 60-mile drive through thick fog to Bodmin and back again the same night – but it was well worth it for the pleasure of hearing Linde Nijland and Bert Ridderbos performing songs of Sandy Denny at the Bodmin Folk Club. They’ve just left this morning after spending two nights here with us – last night we had a bit of a session in the kitchen, which I hope will be the first of many!

And talking of sessions, I’ve finally managed to get out to some nice ones locally: at the Globe in Truro and the Blue Anchor in Helston, where I had some great tunes with Neil Davey and Hilary Coleman of the Cornish band Dalla. There's also a new session starting up here in Penzance at the Admiral Benbow, run by Alan and Linda Collins – I’m hoping to check it out next week. In two weeks’ time I’m off to Holland again, and then I’ll be heading over to Ireland – again with the kids in tow, but instead of coming along on the tour they’ll be staying with their granny and granddad while I gallivant around the country. As always, for full details see the Calendar. All the best until next time!