Friday, September 30, 2005

Friends, Hospitality, A Good Cup of Coffee: At Home In The Maritimes

HALIFAX – Saint John, New Brunswick has come and gone for The Caravan.

We were there yesterday. First thing in the morning was a "meet and greet" at the Saint John Arts Centre. It was scheduled from 7 am to 9 am. I said to Linda Forrestal, (the studio director for the local Information Morning) that I'd show up around 7:45, thinking no one would be there before then. She looked horrified and said to come at 7:00. We did and people were streaming in.

Coffee and muffins are always a good lure. But people really wanted to talk about the stories in their community that simply weren't being covered. Such as a cabin that's been built especially for troubled youth. Or Sister Angie's fight against poverty (an older nun introduced to me
as a social gladiator). The director of the art gallery told me she wasn't getting anywhere near the same crowds.

The message was that the community is suffering because CBC wasn't there in its community-building role. And this is a close-knit community.

After the gallery, which was something of a CBC love-in, my colleagues from Saint John and Sue and I went to Reggie's. Reggie's is a Saint John institution – it assumes the role that cafes did in Paris in the twenties. People talk. And eat good, high cholestrol food and drink great coffee and talk some more. No one gets special treatment at Reggie's, even if your picture is up on the wall. Mine is. But Phil behind the counter still landed a few well-aimed barbs. All in good fun...right Phil?

The next item on the agenda was addressing a high school assembly. I was terrified that I would put the kids to sleep with the story of my life so far. But they were hugely engaged, especially when I talked about interviewing politicians and how tedious it is trying to get past the spin – or what I called,"the walking wall of bullshit."

Maybe it was seeing someone their parents' or their teachers' age swear. More likely they are already so smart and so socially aware that they don't swallow spin either. They applauded wildly. You will be able to hear some of this session and their unsuing questions in a day or two.

Still having a problem sending sound files...should be resolved soon.

Today I am writing to you from Halifax. We spent four hours walking with our colleagues from radio and TV. The picket captain here is Brian Nordlund. Brian produces the Maritime TV news.

We worked together at CKWS TV and radio in the late 1970's. Brian left for a job at CBC. And it was he who told me about an opening at CBC in Ottawa that he thought I should go for. I did...and look what happened...

In spite of the last seven weeks, I am still grateful he called me. And it is some wonderful, as they say here, to re-connect.

Around noon, there was a concert on the street right outside the CBC Radio building on Sackville Street (pictured above). It was co-ordinated by Karl Falkenham and the technician was Pat Martin. It featured the Celtic rock group Mackrimmon's Revenge, the singer/songwriters Dave Carmichael and Meaghan Smith. Musicians throughout the country have been so generous in playing for us and with us. And this was a great event.

I really want to single out Karl and Pat, though, for special attention. I have worked with them on every "remote"...that is, outside-the-studio-broadcasts...I have done in Halifax over the years. They have always been technically complicated – quick changes from musicians to panel discussions, to audience participation, to monologues over music. And they have always been flawless. Karl and Pat are two of the best in the country, or anywhere in the world. I know Hollywood would love to have sound guys of such calibre. I've always called them my good luck charms.

A few years ago, after I took some time off to deal with raging high blood pressure and a prolonged bout of depression, I came back to radio on July 1st, 2003, with a live broadcast from Pier 21, where many Canadians first touched foot in this country, I didn't know if I could do the
broadcast, I was wracked with nerves after being off the air for six months. But both Karl and Pat told me they would be there if I fell. They were the net under the high-wire act. And it went well.

So it was mighty fine to see them in action again today. And it seems no lockout can keep these good men down.

- Shelagh

We encourage you to use the blog comment feature below to pass on your thoughts and/or you can write Shelagh while she’s on the road at: shelaghscaravan@yahoo.ca

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