Touring Tales: Fog, fog, glorious fog

“It’s unique, you know’, our performance hostess beamed, “Gale force fog. Only the Channel Islands get it.” And boy oh boy, do they get it.

Our tours to the Channel Islands are something we look forward to immensely. Four islands and eight performances in five days may sound hectic, but it never really is, thanks to efficient organisation on the part of the Channel Islands Music Council, and copious amounts of alcohol provided by our various hosts on the islands.

However, such a tight timetable doesn’t leave much room for error. Our usual adversary are the tides around Sark, which seem determined to ensure that we always have to make a dash down to the harbour to catch the ferry after the schools workshop, held horribly early in the morning. We were counting our lucky stars as we bounced back across to Guernsey on the ferry (a.k.a. tug-sized boat with cabin seating and two benches out on the back.) Yes, it was ‘choppy’, and yes we did have to hang on like grim death to avoid being rolled into the briny, but even I managed to keep my dignity intact. (I usually get sea-sick on a millpond, so I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself.) Did you know you can’t sing and be sick at the same time? So if the feeling comes over you, get to the outside and sing!

When we arrived, we rolled onto the harbour side, piled the cases into the taxi, and headed up to the airport for the flight to Alderney. This means small planes, and I mean, small, like ten seats, and just enough room for the luggage. Or so we thought. No, said Blue Islands airways, you can’t take the luggage. It’s our props and costumes, we wailed, we have a show to do. No, said they, you can’t take ANY luggage, no clothes, no show stuff, nada, just hand luggage.

So, a frantic repack later, and a promise from the airline to DEFINITELY get our luggage to us by 9am the next day, (or we would set Toni the soprano on them), we boarded the plane with just a plastic carrier bag each, a briefcase of music and a plastic chicken (there are just some props you cannot do without).

Then the problems started. Thick fog rolled in, and the next morning (Thursday) we couldn’t see the end of the garden, let alone the sea. We performed the schools workshop in jeans, and waited for our luggage – in vain. Fog meant no planes, and no planes meant, no luggage. So, we did the evening show in our morning workshop jeans and trainers, except our Toni, who in true diva fashion had packed into her carrier bag some extra make-up, a pair of high heels and some tight designer jeans. We became inventive with props – the chicken was for the workshops – but Carmen needs some castanets, so the only thing for it was to play the spoons. I’ll never sing the seguidilla again without longing for spoons!

By now it’s cold, really cold, and all our fleeces and jackets are in – Guernsey airport. So, stoically, we borrow jumpers from our extremely accommodating hosts, and eat cake with lashings of yellow Alderney butter next to the wood-burning stove in our cosy boathouse accommodation. Come Friday morning, and we’re due in Jersey for an afternoon workshop and evening performance, but there are still no planes. However, we are on fifteen-minute standby just in case the fog lifts just a smidgen. I now know how WWII Spitfire pilots felt; fifteen-minute scramble is not fun. We have to cancel the Jersey show, the first time EVER we have not made a performance, and we feel absolutely awful. So, in true Alderney fashion, we drown our sorrows by working our way through our host’s wine cellar.

By Saturday morning, the boys were wearing holes in the carpet in frustration. Then my mobile rang – it was the airport. “No flights” they said, “But Billy’s taking his fishing boat ‘Out of the Blue’ the twenty miles to Guernsey. Do you want a place?” I booked us in pronto, and we legged it down to the harbour. Then we saw the boat. Or rather, the fishing smack the size of a large pick-up truck, with an open back and a tiny cabin. Toni freaked and I joined her. The boys did the macho thing and we did the ‘wave them off at the quayside’ thing. For the boys, the adventure had only just begun…

To be continued…