Saturday, 28 December 2013

Gimme an F

There have been a couple of times in my life when I've had what Rab C Nesbitt called an "out  of anorak experience".  This is not quite as life affecting as a near death out of body experience.  It's more a feeling of How did I get here?  How did the course of events conspire for me to be right here, right now with this going on?  You still have that feeling of being an observer of your own life.

One of these experiences involved the legendary Country Joe MacDonald.  Here's the classic Fixing to Die rag.  I would have used the Woodstock version but this is a family show.

Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag, Country Joe and the Fish

Long story short: a bunch of young people with learning disabilities had helped to build a boat.  This was in the summer following the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.  The tsunami had wiped out much of the Sri Lankan fishing fleet and I knew a man who wanted to do something about it.  He had a project to get 100 or more flat pack fishing boats to Sri Lanka.  The flat packs would be prepared by asylum seekers but he wanted one made up to send out to show what the finished product should look like.  I said hey, we could do that.

So I assembled a top team of people who had never done anything like this before and we built a boat. 

Everyone pitched in, measuring, cutting, hammering, screwing, glueing, carrying, painting. Three and a half days later we had an Oru.  

 There were a number of reasons to carry out this project. One was to make a small, but practical, contribution to the people of Sri Lanka who had suffered as a result of the tsunami. 

There were a couple of other things.  One was to teach some really useful practical work skills and life skills to a group of young adults with learning disabilities.  Another was to say Look world, look what we can do.  We can make a contribution.  Tell the world, tell the local paper, tell our parents, tell our friends, our brothers and sisters.  We made a boat, what did you do?

With the boat ready - and test driven - ahead of schedule we were ready for a Big Launch.  Country Joe was playing at a music festival locally so I sent him an email.  Told him what we were doing, asked him if he'd come along and launch our boat.

Got an email back saying he would be there.  Didn't hurt that his driver was (legendary) spoons player, music promoter and all round good guy, John Roberts.

So we gathered by the river.

And there he was.  He played a couple of songs and then it was time for a symbolic naming ceremony.  We had chosen the name Trinity.  One of our number, Patrick, started to sing "Take me home, Country Joe, take me home, to the place I belong . . ."

We gave Country Joe a bottle of Canada Dry to break over the bow.  Seemed a good idea.  I (that's me in Echo & the Bunnymen tshirt) said to the legendary Country Joe MacDonald "I tried to drink Canada dry once.  Got as far as Toronto."  Boom boom.  He just looked at me and said "I'm a recovering alcoholic too."  And that was when I had my out of anorak experience. 

Thanks to Country Joe, John Roberts and especially the QE2activitycentre Transitions group 2005.

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