Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Nobody expects the Battle of Britain

Vancouver, B.C.

"NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!" they shouted in old episodes of Monty Python, as a crew in inquisitorial drag, headed by Michael Palin, irrupted into a scene.
    My cry last Saturday was "Nobody expects a Korean rock concert!" I was leading a workshop in the Pavilion in Vancouver's Stanley Park. Nobody had told us that a Korean rock concert - "Feel Korea!" - would be setting up and rehearsing right outside our windows. The noise was ear-splitting and by the end of the morning at least a thousand Korean kids were in the gardens. I drummed for a lot of journeys that day, and projected my voice so I could be heard above the din outside. Nobody in our group seemed to be overly distracted by the Korean rock, but I left with a terrible headache which only receded after a couple of drinks and a walk in the misty gloaming on Kitsilano beach.
     We had drawn solace from the assurance that Sunday, at least, would be quiet. But when we arrived, an events organizer, after briefly apologizing for the clash with the Koreans, informed us that unfortunately, we would have to contend with low-flying planes. "You're joking!" my coordinator said. No joke. Today, they were doing the Battle of Britain - a parade and celebration complete with marching bands, bagpipes and a fly-by.
    NOBODY expects the Battle of Britain. At least not in 2013 in a Vancouver Park.
    It was easier for me to keep my sense of humor during the Battle of Britain than during the Korean rock. The drilling feet of Canadian Air cadets, the pipes and drumrolls and choruses of "O Canada!" were sweet birdsong compared with the previous day's cacophony. And I could feel the story value in what was developing.
    A thunderstorm in the middle of the day prevented the planned fly-by, and drove those of us who had chosen to lunch on the terrace at Stanley's Bar and Grill to huddle under umbrellas. The amazing patience and good humor of the group continued. Our work together was rich and deep, the dream theater was wonderful fun, and at the end of the day several people told me that they would not have known anything was going on outside had they not gone out of our meeting room for the lunch break.
    Nobody expects the Battle of Britain.
    As people often say about my travelogues, you can't make this stuff up. What we can do, and are required to do,  is to make up our responses as we go along. I cleave to one of my survival rules: if there is story value, I'll put up with just about anything. It is often true that if nothing goes wrong, you don't have much of a story.



Justin Patrick Moore said...

Did Dion Fortune make an appearance as well?

Robert Moss said...

Too noisy for her. But I did feel a stir of memories shared with a WWII RAF pilot who was an inner companion in my early boyhood.