Pat Blythe – England, a surprise…..and Christmas music

I’m supposed to be writing a column today (Tuesday). I almost forgot. Not because I don’t like writing (I love it), I’m in the middle of a swarm of projects, and it currently looks like Christmas exploded all over my house. As well, getting back into my former world of telecom is akin to performing the Highland Sword Dance which involves finesse, footwork and a delicate balance, making sure you don’t touch the swords. Now that it’s “end of year” for most businesses, the almost palpable whoosh of calendars rapidly opening has generated a ripple effect creating a tsunami of meetings and conference calls. “Man the decks…’s everyone for themselves!”

I suppose there is no “good” time to take a vacation, but I bit the bullet. Heading north east about 4,000 miles, and traveling with my sister, I headed to England. As many of you know, I’ve been desperate to get back there for almost two years. Spying a window of opportunity and a very reasonably priced flight…..booked!! Now for all the paperwork involved. If I had known how stressful filling out the forms and scheduling appointments was going to be, I would have given this trip serious…..very serious second thoughts.

Paperwork nightmare

My sister and I booked Aer Lingus, official airline of Ireland. I must say, they were absolutely wonderful. The people, the food, the comfort and cleanliness of the plane…..I would highly recommend checking them out. Yes, they head to Dublin first where you change planes, of which I am not a fan, before boarding your final leg to England (in my case Manchester airport). However, Dublin airport is not so large that you have to steamroll everyone at the airport to make it to your gate. If you have enough time between flights, there is some great shopping on the upper floor…..and those scones…..melt in your mouth.  

As for the ridiculous amount of paperwork…..if you’re planning on traveling, contact me. I’m happy to provide highlights of the requirements. It’s insane to keep track of. Print everything if you can. If your phone dies, this will cause problems and unnecessary stress. Be prepared. Keep all documentation handy, as you never know what they will ask for and make sure your mobile phone is fully charged. Everyone was showing up at the airports with file folders (which was both sad and hilarious).

The trip…..

…..was fabulous! Once I arrived in England, I was home. The weather was more than accommodating, sunny and low double-digits during the day for the majority of my stay. Fish and chips in Whitby, Sunday lunch in Masham (silent “h”), pub crawl in Richmond, a play at the Georgian Theatre, lunch at Blubberhouse and shopping in Pately Bridge, fish and chips in Saltburn gazing out over the North Sea, a walk around Easby Abbey, a couple of nights at Littleside Cottage in Carlton-in-Coverdale, a visit to Ripon and a wee bit of shopping here and there. I managed to see many of my cousins as well as visit my lovely 94-year-old aunt in Saltburn. My sister came up from Manchester for a couple of days, so we had a big family dinner at the Ralph Fitz Randall, the local Wetherspoons pub in Richmond. Even the newest member of the family joined us…..three-week-old Erin. The day before I departed I enjoyed a fabulous meal at a local Mediterranean restaurant in Bolton, Manchester, with my gorgeous niece Emily and her partner Chris.  The food was amazing! The drive the following morning to catch the bus and train to the airport was exhilarating (to say the least). All-in-all, I managed to visit England and get back into Canada just under the wire.

Christmas is huge in the U.K. A time to celebrate and decorate, there are lights and festivities everywhere. It seems everyone gets into the Christmas spirit. The mighty but tiny English robin seems to have become the de facto symbol of Christmas in England, much like the red Cardinal is here. I finally saw my first English robin hopping around in a parking lot. They were also flitting about in my cousin’s garden, picking up the seeds from the feeder the squirrels had dropped. What I didn’t know is they hop up the trunk of a tree much like a woodpecker. Tiny and oh so cute. No wonder they are one of my mom’s favourite birds.


A road trip with a surprise destination was waiting for me when I got back home. I love road trips so this was something to look forward to. I waited patiently for two hours before I knew what our final destination would be. There was no point in asking questions as I really had no idea what to ask. Even when we drove past the theatre the only mention was Downchild Blues Band. It wasn’t until we were standing in line I noticed the poster and just about exploded.

No surprise to anyone, A Charlie Brown Christmas is my favourite Christmas movie, and to me, it’s not Christmas without Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to the movie. It’s been my Christmas tradition for years. If you haven’t guessed by now, my surprise was attending a performance of this music by Brian Barlow (drums), John Sherwood (piano) and Scott Alexander (stand-up bass) at the Empire Theatre in Belleville. The show was fantastic! Three exceptional musicians performing some of my favourite music live…..what an incredible way to spend an afternoon! Thank you so much to my very good friend Paul DeLong! What a wonderful and thoughtful gift. I cannot express in words what this meant to me.

Many, many thanks to Brian Barlow for co-ordinating this performance with Prince Edward Country Jazz Festival. The Empire Theatre was the perfect setting for this concert and the sound was excellent. Also, kudos to Brian for introducing Paul to the audience and announcing the upcoming Brass Transit concert at the theatre next year. We should all support each other.

…..and now to get you into the spirit, a little Christmas music.  This is my favourite holiday. I find great joy in the music, the voices and the richness of the colours and glowing lights. I also love to cook and especially bake. The sharing of food, the breaking of bread with friends and family, all the chocolate I can devour…..but it’s the feeling of Christmas that makes the season what it is. I am so very appreciative of what I have and what I experience in this life. For those of us with good friends, food in our bellies, a roof over our heads and families (chosen or blood) to support us and to celebrate with….we are truly the lucky ones. One small act of caring can brighten someone’s day. ‘tis the season…….

Christmas Time is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio

Linus and Lucy – Vince Guaraldi Trio

Oh Tannenbaum – Vince Guaraldi Trio

Fur Elise – Vince Guaraldi Trio

Carol of the Bells (for 12 cellos) – The Piano Guys

I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake

Another Christmas Song – Jethro Tull

The Coventry Carol – Kings College

Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Frank Sinatra & Bing Crosby

The Christmas Song (Chestnut Roasting on an Open Fire) – Nat King Cole

The Holly and The Ivy – Mannheim Steamroller

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo – Trans Siberian Orchestra

A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris De Burgh

Let It Snow – Dean Martin

Up Above the Northern Lights

Honourable mention… the car in front of us at the Tim Horton’s on the way home from Belleville….thank you for paying for our teas. Pay it forward….everyone!

This will be my last column of 2021. I will be back when DBAWIS is back in January after their Christmas hiatus. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a brighter New Year! Be kind, be generous, be patient, be you.


This week’s podcast is a revisit with Canadian singer/songwriter Ember Swift. Currently residing in Beijing she offers a view of what’s happening on the other side of the world.


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.


“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto.


Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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