After four hours of sleep my alarm woke me up at 4:15 AM on Tuesday, 30 of July, 2013. Juli and Ashlyn graciously took me to the airport and after a quick kiss, hug, and goodbye to both of them I was queuing in the security line and then sipping my first cup of coffee as I waited for the call to board the plane to Edinburgh. The Edinburgh airport is a few miles outside the city centre, so about an hour after landing, I was wandering the streets of this historic burgh. I've been to the Scottish capital on a couple of other occasions, so I found a cool coffee shop and sipped another caffeine infused beverage while reading the latest soccer transfer news from the local papers. I then took a stroll up the Royal Mile before descending into the shopping district of Princess Street. I bought a couple of discount books and then made my way to Waverly Station to catch my train to the Highlands.
After a quick change of trains at Glasgow Queen Street and another 3 hour journey through mountains, hills, rivers, and lochs, I arrived in Oban with only 30 minutes to kill before my ferry journey. I quickly booked my ticket and then boarded the ferry for the 45 minute crossing. I was able to get some great video of the sea, mountains, inlets, castles, light houses, and the like as we made our way to Craignure on the Isle of Mull. Once there I hustled over to the bus to Tobermory and bought a return ticket. The bus quickly departed and 45 minutes later we were on the north side of the island in the picturesque village. After waking up at 4:15, 13 hours later and I was at my destination. The village of Tobermory was the film location in a BBC children's program called "Balamory". Ashlyn has watched this show on occasion, so I made sure to get lots of video of the village to share with her. I made my way to the hostel (I later learned that I could have stayed in a B&B for the same price - I am officially done with youth hostels!), dropped my backpack on my bunk, and then set out to explore the area and get myself some dinner.
On the north end of the village I located a fish restaurant that seemed to have been written up positively in quite a few travel and food magazines and since the prices listed seemed reasonable, I popped in to eat some fresh, locally sourced catch. However, I was told that the place was all booked up for the evening, so I disappointingly made my way back to a fish & chips van that was parked by the pier. The line was long but the wait was worth it as I enjoyed the best fish & chips I've had in years. The British do fish & chips better than anywhere else in the world!
By 8:00 pm I was making my way up the steep hill to the AnTobar arts and community hall for the gig. As I arrived inside the venue I noticed the dreaded sign saying "sold out". I hadn't actually booked my tickets yet because there was no online link to do it. You were to simply call the centre and reserve a place over the phone. I had assumed there would be plenty of tickets available when I arrived. I sheepishly walked up to the desk and the friendly lady behind the counter inquired if I had a reservation. "No, I'm afraid I don't", I responded pathetically. "How many are there of you?", she asked. "Just one.", I said, hopefully. "Well, we had one cancellation, so if you'd like to take that, it's yours." I of course jumped on the offer and I went ahead and reserved my place for the following evening on Iona. That was a good move, because I found out the next day that the Iona gig also sold out. Before heading into the room for the music, an English lady named Christy who had witnessed my denial at the restaurant earlier asked me if I was able to find a place to eat. I confirmed that I had enjoyed some fish & chips and we had a wee chat for a few minutes. I discovered that she was from Bury St. Edmunds, the town where my grandfather had been stationed during World War Two. She was in town for a whale/dolphin watching expedition and had decided to check out the concert, though she had never previously heard of Roddy Woomble.
We were soon ushered into a small little room and the hundred or so of us in attendance were gifted a wonderful set of contemporary folk music by the four musicians and Roddy's lead vocals. The band took a half hour break and we were all able to stretch our legs enjoy some refreshments. I walked outside and witnessed an amazing sunset over the harbor with the sky colored pink, blue, and purple, highlighted with a few stray clouds. As I enjoyed the view, Roddy popped out to near where I was standing and had a seat at a picnic table. I extended a handshake and had a seat across from him and we chatted for 15 or 20 minutes about music and life and a little bit about ourselves. He was impressed that I had traveled all the way up from Dublin for the gigs and he introduced me to the bass player, Gavin Fox, who had previously played with him in Idlewild and is a native Dubliner. Gavin and I chatted about Dublin and discovered that we only live a couple of miles a part and frequent many of the same city haunts. Before long it was time to head back in for the 2nd set. It was equally as good and after saying goodbye to Christy and a couple of the other nice people I had met, I wandered outside and found a nice quiet place to phone Juli and tell her about my day. I eventually went back to the hostel and did my best to sleep in a room with 5 other strangers who I had never met and never would meet. But for 6 hours one Tuesday, we all slept just a few feet from each other. I hope that was my last night in a hostel, if not forever, at least for many, many years. - Shay