Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger – Volume 47 - August 2004

It’s August 2004, and Americans who don’t read The Ramblings of an old Codger are suddenly all waking up to the unpalatable fact that Iraq was not involved in 9/11! It must be a hard concept for them to understand. Their government has been lying to them for three years! I watched the recent debate on TV on Iraq from the House of Commons, and I have to say that Tony Blair is an incredibly clever manipulator. The only difference between our leader and the leader of America is that ours is a genius whilst theirs is a buffoon. Only a small difference I admit, but it is nonetheless a difference. So who gains from this? Well at least the majority of Americans can now see they have an idiot for a president and with any luck he will be voted out of government come November. Meanwhile our slithering snake will continue to beguile the nation with forked tongue and words so silver plated even I might start to believe in him. Well it’s possible! Blair made a nonsense of the Conservative Party during the Iraq debate and I’m afraid the Liberal Democrats, who admittedly are the only party with any honour left, still appeared as a rudderless ship with a turnip at the helm.

We have now been informed that a major terrorist attack is not just likely, it’s actually a certainty. So the government is now to spend 8 million pounds producing a leaflet to tell us all what we must do when the attack actually comes. That’s 8 million pounds on top of the billions of pounds the government has already spent attacking a country for no real purpose except to exacerbate a terrorist attack. Which is exactly what I warned would happen in my Ramblings 34 months ago. I hope you guys and gals enjoy paying your taxes.

These were my exact words in October 2001 (Eighteen months before we attacked Iraq)
Are we going to defeat this mentality with bombs? I think not. Indeed I believe bombing them will make them stronger, not weaker. Bombing them will bring more bombs into our own backyards and very possibly chemical or nuclear weapons to boot. Extensive and extended bombing may well unite Muslims everywhere in the world, even those who would otherwise be peaceful. At the moment many Muslim countries are united with the West but bombing is exactly what bin Laden wants and expects us to do. The attack on the twin towers had many purposes. One was to stir the Western powers into a reaction in order to unite more Muslims to his cause when we retaliate. ‘An eye for an eye’ results in many blind men on both sides. We tried, wrongly, to subdue the IRA with force and it took thirty years and Bill Clinton to bring us to our senses. The Muslim is a very different species of humankind to the Irishman. We must be very careful what we do. When our forces go into battle they are hoping they will survive to return home to their love ones. The Taliban fighter looks forward to a glorious death, but not of course before he has slain as many infidels as possible. We will be fighting an opponent who is not only not afraid of dying, he welcomes it. The Americans must remember their borders with Mexico and Canada stretch for thousands and thousands of miles. There could be many suicide bombers crossing into America in the next few years ahead. Sleeper units are probably already installed in both America and Britain. Immigrants have been slipping into England through the Dover tunnel for months. We must remember too that it is our attitude combined with their poverty that has driven these extremists to take the action they have. I do not condone what they have done, but we must examine the reasons and understand that every argument has at least two sides.

Anybody who votes for Blair in the next election seriously needs to see a psychiatrist.

But enough of that for now.

When is a new concept not a new concept?

I thought I had gotten hold of a new concept way back in 1972 when I asked Peter Abnett, who still makes quite wonderful instruments, to build me a hybrid instrument which was to be half banjo and half mandolin. A five string banjo neck with an enlarged mandolin body. It was duly completed in February 1973 and christened a ‘Bandolin’. I was, as I have so frequently quoted on stage, going to call it a ‘Manjo’ – but I was worried someone might come and eat it during the interval. So I didn’t.

Imagine my disappointment then when touring America in 1979 a club organizer in Connecticut showed me a photograph of an identical instrument manufactured in America in 1899. I could not believe it, but there it was, my unique instrument had been born some 73 years earlier! Maybe more!

It was therefore with some amusement that I discovered recently that Hartwood, a company I understand based in Leeds, should come up (and this is their words) with “A new concept for the 5-string banjo player searching for a different sound”. Yep it’s my bandolin with a different name. They’ve called it a ‘Banjola’.

I’ve waited a couple of years before I actually heard and saw one being played. I’m delighted they called it a ‘Banjola’ because their instrument is certainly inferior to the one I play. The body is very shallow and for some reason, better known to them, the sound hole is very close to the fret board and is nowhere near the middle of the body. The result, in my opinion, is a very tinny cheap sound. But I guess you get what you pay for. The banjola sells at £325, my instrument has been valued in excess of £1,000 and the difference in sound quality is quite marked. Some Hartwood instruments are manufactured in Korea. Just how they got this ‘unique’ idea is anyone’s guess. There is always the possibility of course that someone might have seen me playing my bandolin in the intervening 29 years. But if you want to be the owner of a new concept, that was actually a new concept over 100 years ago, nip out and buy yourself one. They aren’t that bad, just not as good as mine!

I have to say that I think the banning of smoking in all public areas is a poor idea. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, but I do believe that people should have facilities to smoke in public houses especially if the owner or manager of the establishment considers it to be a benefit to his business. I agree that singing in a smoky room, although I’ve done it countless times in my youth, is an unpleasant experience. I find the smoke affects my vocal chords and results in a sudden detrimental drop in performance. But surely an agreement can be reached where public houses provide smoking rooms, or as another alternative have a sign at the door saying that smoking is permitted in this public house. Surely we have enough public houses going out of business without adding more to the list. Small establishments in working class areas in particular are going to find winters extremely difficult to survive if we allow this stupid ban to come into effect. Smokers can stand outside for a quick puff in the summer if it’s absolutely imperative they do so, but come cold damp November evenings these drinkers will stay at home with a bottle of wine or a few cans of larger. Folk clubs rely on pubs as venues so whilst I would encourage folk clubs to be non-smoking I would still like the public house to have the facility to allow those who want to destroy their lives to continue to do so. And don’t let’s have any plaintive cries of “What about passive smoking?” If you don’t like the rules of the pub, then drink elsewhere. If the publican finds his business dropping off he/she will soon join the non-smoking brigade.

The Puzzle Hall Inn in Sowerby Bridge has decided to bring folk music back to the pub on a regular basis and they’ve asked me to find them some guests. The idea is to book a guest singer on the first Friday of each month, with an Irish session every third Sunday. Entry will be free

To date the guest line up looks like this …..
Aug 6th Stanley Accrington
Sept 3rd Kimber’s Men
Oct 1st Gina le Faux Band
Nov 5th Paul Downes
Dec 3rd Richard Grainger
Jan 7th Bram Taylor
Tel: 01422 – 835547 for other enquiries.

I’ve recently acquired 4 very different CD’s from Australia, and whilst it is a well known fact that people in glasshouses should not throw stones I’m going to review them here. I don’t normally review the musical works of others, but the contrast in styles and quality is so marked that I’ve decided to take the plunge.

Top of the tree and leading by at least 6 lengths is Margaret Walters – Power in a Song (FWCD045). Margaret has a wonderful voice that lends itself to both traditional and contemporary material. Be it Windsong or Llewellyn Walking by John Warner, Old Hammerhead by Jez Lowe, or Trees they do grow high (Trad) – the vocal is immaculate, the accompaniment just right. There is a timbre about Margaret’s voice I just love and I add this CD to my varied collection with great pleasure. But suddenly right at the end Margaret takes an incongruous turn. Quite out of place in this magnificent CD is Joe Hill. I say out of place because I found myself lulled gently along and then plunged head first into a song that is not really suited to her style. Joe Hill has been done a lot better by the masters: Robeson, Seeger, Guthrie, Paxton and many other fine American performers. Unfortunately comparisons are unavoidable when you include ‘Folk Anthems’ in your repertoire. Robeson of course was incredibly unpopular in Australia when he first toured there. He took up the plight of the Aborigines and everyone, with the exception of a few Liberals, took exception to his outspoken criticism of the Australian government. So just what is it about Joe Hill by Margaret Walters that I don’t like? I found it hard to put my finger on it. First I found the Australian accent hard to handle, (and I still do, to be honest – especially in the poem). But then I remembered that I had recorded the song myself – so that completely unseated that argument. Upon continual listening I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like the harmony male voice that joins her in parts of the song. Somehow for me it takes the strength away from the piece. Instead of adding a depth of feeling of protest it adds a quality of gentle sentimentality which of course is exactly what the song does not want or need. Robeson used this song constantly during the 1930’s and beyond as a strong protest song against the American way of life. The Russians of course loved it. Margaret naturally puts a beautiful sentimental feeling into her music as proven in ‘Llewellyn Walking’. Her voice frequently brings tears to my eyes and the added voice in Joe Hill regrettably exaggerates the mood in the wrong direction. Otherwise the CD is brilliant, quite brilliant.

Coming in a few lengths behind Margaret Walters is a group from Free-o in Western Australia. Summerhouse – Go with the Flow – This CD has just 6 tracks and I have to confess I had become a little bored by the end, so if it had had any more I might well have fallen asleep. But the likes and dislikes of music is very personal and sometimes falling asleep to music is a wonderful way of waking up! There are a lot of people out there in the big wide world who are going to just love Summerhouse. The sound is reminiscent of church music, the harmonies are brilliant and they have a great bass singer. I remember Pete Seeger saying “The tenors and altos think they are important, the bass knows he is important”. If anything the arrangements are a little too contrived, but the material stretches from Lou Reed, through Memphis Minnie, to traditional Georgian, Zulu and beyond. I understand this is more a demo CD than the real thing. I think when they get themselves into a proper studio, with a proper producer they might well produce some true gut busting brilliant stuff. I wish them well.

Mal Webb is an enigma. He has an immense following in Australia from coast to coast, with an act that is ever changing, very visual and highly energetic. Having never seen him myself I was left rather bewildered by his CD – Mal Webb – Trainer Wheels. My old pal the Amazing Mr Smith is another genius on stage who has problems transferring his zany live show to disc and I think Mal probably experiences the same problems. Mel had a gig in Hebden Bridge just a few miles from my house in July and I was keen to catch his live show. However his agent Sian de Lier (yes that’s right its pronounced ‘chandelier’) was less than helpful and in the end I decided to give the show a miss. However if you want to book him you might get more sense from her than I did. Try phoning 07803-955658. I’m told on very good authority from at least three independent sources that he is just brilliant and very different from anything you might have seen before.

My final CD came via Australia, but it is actually American. My first reaction when hearing – Roll and Go – Outward Bound – was that it was absolutely awful. But I have given it a second, third, fourth and fifth hearing from start to finish and come to the conclusion I was wrong. It’s actually very nearly absolutely awful. There is one truly commendable track on this collection of 19 sea songs and sea shanties and it comes from one of the females in the group. ‘Plains of Mexico’ has a vitality and energy sadly lacking in the rest of the CD. For some strange reason however the group decided not to sing the choruses on masse and instead they chose to allow the other female singer of the group to accompany her on her own. Unfortunately the second lady seems to be doing her best to drag the song down to the level of the other material. She does a damn good job of it too, but fortunately the lead singing is so strong that she fails. There is a version of Sally Free and Easy with wild yelps in it – just what Dr Tawney ordered, whilst the lead singing in Bully in the Alley, Shallow Brown, Blood Red Roses and John Cherokee is simply laughable. I’ve heard vixens calling male foxes late at night; Shallow Brown comes a close second. This recording might just suit you if you enjoy your sea songs quietly sat in your very best drawing room sipping tea from your best china cup with your little finger cocked in the air, otherwise I advise you to leave it alone. You should file this one under ‘Nice’, but be warned there is one track about ‘chucking up a roast beef sandwich’.

There is a movement here in Britain, and possibly elsewhere in the world, by singers who have never made it to the ‘main stage’ on their own to gang together to form a shanty group. Festival organizers must quickly come to terms with the simple fact that quantity does not always mean quality otherwise the general public will soon obtain an image that portrays shanty singers as second class performers. Really poor renditions of really good songs do nothing to help the image. There are some class acts out there singing shanties and there is a load of dross as well and it’s time perhaps someone told the emperor about his new suit.

You can obtain these CD’s as follows>
1. Margaret Walters – Feathers and Wedge, PO box 615, Glebe, NSW 2037, Australia. Email >
2. Summerhouse – Write by email to
3. Mal Webb – PO box 1521, St Kilda 3182, Australia.
4. Roll and Go – 76 Main Street, Richmond, ME 04357, USA.
Finally please remember the above is simply my opinion. You might well think otherwise.

I’ve been doing a spot of ‘acting’ on TV recently. I was supposed to say one word “Four”. But I got carried away, said it twice, and realizing I had made a mistake followed it with a hysterical laugh. The director liked it and has apparently kept it in. You can see it for yourself if you watch ‘Hollyoaks’ on either the 4th or 5th August. You don’t watch Hollyoaks? OK you have an IQ higher than 60 then. I understand.

Last month’s tirade on the Bush government brought responses I fully expected from American readers. The Brits (and one Russian) meanwhile sent me very short letters agreeing with me. These were not controversial enough to include. All the other letters, including those from Bush supporters, follow after the gig list including a very long – but well worth reading letter – from Richard Weed of Trenton NJ. He has other opinions.


Aug 4th (Joe) Hollyoaks – Channel 4 TV
Aug 5th (Joe) Hollyoaks – Channel 4 TV
Aug 20th (Joe) Ridley Park Hotel, Blythe, Northumberland
Aug 28th (KM) Bridgnorth Folk Festival
Aug 29th (KM) Bridgnorth Folk Festival
Sep 3rd (KM) The Puzzle Hall Inn, Sowerby Bridge. (Rushbearing Festival)
Sep 24th (Joe) Probus Steering Committee Lunch, The Cricket Club, Elland. (Noon)
Sep 27th (Joe) Menston Probus Club - The life and times of Paul Robeson 2pm
Oct 15th (Joe) The Prince Consort, Havant, Hampshire – with Shep Woolley
Oct 16th (Joe) Shep Woolley’s 60th Birthday Party - Portsmouth
Oct 18th (Joe) The Three Tuns, Staines
Nov 11th (KM) Topic Folk Club, Bradford
Nov 20th (KM) The Square Chapel Theatre, Halifax
Nov 24th (Joe) Sandholme Fold Res Home, Hipperholme – Life + Times P Robeson
Dec 14th (Joe) Barwick in Elmet Probus Club- Valparaiso Round the Horn 10am!
Dec 15th (Joe) Savile Probus Club Christmas Luncheon, The Cricket Club, Elland.
Jan 10th (Joe) Todmorden Ladies Probus Club – Valparaiso round the Horn
Jan 13th (Joe) Topic Folk Club, Bradford – Life and Times of Paul Robeson
Jan 26th (Joe) The Cross Keys, Uppermill
Feb 5th (KM) The Square Chapel Halifax
Feb 10th (Joe) The Square Chapel Halifax – The life and times of Paul Robeson
Jun 1st (Joe) Sowerby Bridge Concert Hall – Valparaiso round the Horn 10am!
Sep 2nd (KM) Hull Sea Fever Festival
Sep 3rd (KM) Hull Sea Fever Festival
Sep 4th (KM) Hull Sea Fever Festival
Oct 10th (Joe) Harden WI., St Saviour’s, Harden, Bradford – Valparaiso round the Horn
Nov 18th (KM) Walton on the Naze Festival of the Sea
Nov 19th (KM) Walton on the Naze Festival of the Sea
Nov 20th (KM) Walton on the Naze Festival of the Sea
Nov 23rd (Joe) Whitkirk Probus Club, Leeds (10.30am) – Valparaiso round the Horn

A great friend to a great number of folk singers and performers died very recently. John Smedley launched ‘Folk South East’ a series of concerts that ran for 15 years or more in venues across Kent in Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, Dartford, and East Grinstead in Sussex. John was a firm favourite at The Sweeps Festival in Rochester every year where he hosted singarounds, concerts and all manner of folky things. He was also a member of the ceilidh band Pugwash. I’m sure Ralph McTell was as shocked as I was to hear of his sudden unexpected death from a heart attack. The day before John died Ralph had appeared at a concert in Sevenoaks promoted by John. A great servant to the folk scene in south east England, John will be sorely missed by fellow performers and friends; and more so perhaps by the thousands who never met him who have, or might have, benefited from his enthusiasm to promote the music we all share and enjoy.

God's in His heaven, all's right with the world. Joe Stead has done his part in perpetuating negative stereotypes. Your characterization of Americans (all those who don't agree with whatever it is you stand for, that is) is a fun exercise. Let's do a few more, while we're at it. As I recall, the standard anti-British picture of a Brit is humorless, elitist, class absorbed and jingoistic. Not that I would include you in that picture, mind you. After all, you are a folksinger and, by definition, a caring, fun loving populist who wouldn't harm a fly or, if you did, you certainly wouldn't eat one (flies do not qualify as vegetable matter).
My goodness, Joe, aren't you, a little bit, embarrassed by these childish tirades? America is not Utopia or Eden but it is not Sodom or Klingon, either. You are more than old enough to get over these knee-jerk piss fits.
Of course, this doesn't make you a bad person.
Mike Miller (Philadelphia)

Hi Joe,
I just finished reading your latest “Old Codger.” Much as I enjoy it, I must take exception with a few things. Are Americans overweight? Yes. However, I traveled throughout England, Ireland, and Italy a few years ago and saw just as many big butts there as over here. Obesity is not just a U.S. problem; it is a world wide problem.
As you know I am a conservative. I may be a few yards to the right of Attila the Hun. Does that mean that I am for the war? No! It seemed like a good idea at first but now it has become a disaster. You say that we have no interest outside our own borders. If that were true we wouldn’t be in Iraq. I am tired of being the “cops of the world” and wish we would stay within our own borders. On the other hand had we done that in WWII we would probably all be speaking German now.
Am I interested in problems other than our own? Hell yes! I almost cried when Man U lost the title this year. They were probably worse than Bush this year…Well on second thought…
Back to you soon,
Walt Manning (Florida)

Every time I write something that gets published, and I think I've said what I wanted to say, I invariably read something later by a professional journalist who has said it so much better. There has always been a huge difference between amateurs and professionals but, that said, here is my latest attempt.
The two biggest issues I have with the Bush administration just happen to be two of the most contentious. In plain and simple terms, this president is a little too religious for the nation's good, and not quite intelligent enough to grasp the complexities of his position. If these conclusions seem harsh, just consider how these traits have influenced his actions.
The founding fathers had a definite purpose in mind when they wrote the church and state separation clause into the Constitution. They knew that a leader with strong religious convictions could actually be a destabilizing force. A leader who is strongly centered on his own personal ideology will not be a consensus builder who will draw a nation together but, instead, will be one who polarizes it into two angry groups – those who share his particular beliefs and those who do not. Worse yet, he may be inclined to act impulsively on his beliefs. The current state of world turmoil, in which the United States has played a major role, demonstrates how harmful this type of leadership can be.
The other contentious issue is the matter of intelligence, and I don't mean the military kind. Bush's critics have alluded to this issue by accusing him of lacking intellectual curiosity and of being unwilling to encourage debate. Unfortunately, today's complex problems require both in-depth thinking and thorough debate. But a leader must have an open and agile mind to engage in these activities. Our current president may have the best of intentions, but he does not seem to possess this essential attribute.
When you consider that the president of the United States is the de facto leader of the free world, these issues are too important to ignore. I want a president who believes that all religions should be equally respected, and that none should hold sway over powers of state. I also want a president whose cognitive abilities are equal to the task.
The seemingly endless string of disastrous events occurring under the Bush administration's tenure, most of which have been the result of conscious policy decisions, has spawned an unprecedented number of critical books by highly placed, credible insiders. When this many critics become this vocal, it is time to question whether the management style and decision-making processes of this administration are truly serving the best interests of the country.
George W. Bush appears to be the most overtly religious president in this nation's history. The huge question being begged by current events is whether this is a desirable or an undesirable trait in an American leader. Judging from various articles and interviews, those who support him see this as one of his strengths, while his critics fear that his willingness to base decisions on his beliefs without a thorough understanding of the nuances of a situation has already led to serious errors of judgment.
The situation in Iraq certainly reflects a succession of judgmental errors of monumental proportions, the kinds of mistakes that can easily be made when a group fervently believes that its way is the "right" way. The irony of the postwar treatment of prisoners and its similarity to the evil regime that was overthrown is not lost on anyone. Religious zealots seldom feel compelled to justify their actions, so perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising that an ideologically driven administration could blunder into such a situation. Whatever the reason, the damage to international peace and harmony has been incalculable, and we have so enraged a large portion of the world that it should be easy to recruit terrorists for years to come.
The president likes to talk about "staying the course," but just think where we could have been today if we had only stayed the course in Afghanistan instead of diverting our efforts to the administration's obsession with Iraq. If the pursuit of Al Qaeda had remained a priority, it might have been a success instead of a failure, it would have preserved the rare sympathy and good will we briefly enjoyed immediately following the attacks of September 11, and it would have served the additional purpose of sending the message to Iraq and other potential troublemakers that attacking the United States can be a grave mistake. Instead, with an unjustified response in the wrong direction, we have totally squandered that opportunity and, worse yet, have convinced much of the world that the United States is little better than the many two-bit dictatorships scattered around the globe. I can't speak for others, but I know the conduct of this administration has made me less proud of my country than I used to be.
Domestic issues are not faring much better. The Iraq debacle, at a cost of $100 billion and counting, has certainly played a role in turning a huge surplus into the biggest deficit in our nation's history. Many average Americans are still struggling to understand why the majority of the recent tax cuts went to the wealthiest members of the population, or why politically connected firms seem to be getting lucrative war-related contracts without benefit of the competitive bidding process. This administration's flat-earth approach to science is totally blind to the suffering that might eventually be relieved through stem-cell research. The detaining of prisoners for years with no legal recourse under the Patriot Act doesn't seem American to me. The rapidly growing number of manufacturing and other skilled jobs being outsourced overseas is another particularly disturbing trend. And while these critical issues are burning, our president seems more interested in the non-issue of a possible marriage amendment to the Constitution.
But the most important issue of all is to understand how so many things could have been managed so poorly. If we don't get to the bottom of this problem, and do it quickly, we will face even greater problems in the future. The answer is leadership, and leadership isn't just important -- it's critical. Past presidents whom history has looked upon favorably had certain qualities in common. They tended to be reflective, sought consensus on important issues, thought carefully about critical decisions, had both a knowledge and respect for the Constitutional principles upon which this country is founded, and regarded war as a last resort in settling international disputes. The current president's critics accuse him of lacking intellectual curiosity, of not being one to encourage debate but, rather, of being an individual who believes that his own personal ideology is all that a leader needs to know. When that personal ideology includes a disdain for the Constitutional separation of church and state, and a willingness to go it alone on whatever course the leader feels is right, the stage is clearly set for some very questionable decision-making. Sure, anyone can make mistakes, but the presidency of the United States is not the place where a novice should be learning his craft.
The president himself, in an address at Yale University, made light of the fact that even a "C" student can become president. Maybe the lesson to be learned is that, whether Republican or Democrat, candidates for what is arguably the most challenging job in the world should be "A" students, not just in college, but throughout their careers. Add to this a solid grasp of Constitutional principles, and a track record of increasing responsibility and successful performance, and you have the makings of a leader. This president's lack of these essentials, as we have seen, has been a recipe for disaster.
Because he associates his actions with a religious calling, I doubt that this president is capable of understanding the enormity of his errors of judgment, or what a threat they are to world stability. The damage that has been done on an international level is almost beyond comprehension, and for this we owe the world an apology. We can't turn back the clock on the terrible mistakes that have already been made but, come November, we can show the world that these actions do not represent mainstream America by voting to rid ourselves of the perpetrators of this mess.
Richard M. Weed – Trenton NJ. USA

Hello Joe,
Although certain parts of your rambling newsletters have some minor points of interest, i.e. music, I fail to understand why you now feel the need to impose your views regarding football, on us unsuspecting and indifferent recipients of your e-mails???.
So called football fans should be reminded that the great majority of people in this nation do not know one end of a football from the other - nor do they care. We have no interest in watching, or indeed hearing about an overrated team that chooses to wear white shirts and for some reason are presumptuous enough to think that they represent us, or the country of our birth.
It is well known, that the over inflated salaries that many footballers receive are matched only by their own over inflated egos. It is not however, so widely understood why so many non participants, i.e. football supporters, remain obsessed with the need to continuously finance these players and to treat them as Gods.
It is also beyond the comprehension of normal people why this pretentious form of patriotism has to involve flying flags on cars. Perhaps this reflects a basic but deep need in the football fan, to consistently confirm that there are other Neanderthal men that still exist too - but then most of us normal people know that already.
The use of the once proud flag of St. George in the hands of mere football fans is demeaning to its own history.
'Blame it on the referee' is one of the oldest clichés known to modern man. Perhaps we are due to see an upgrade of this well-used phrase. Considering the performance of the team in question over the last few years, I would suggest that 'blame it on the penalty takers' would be far more apt.
However it's all pretty irrelevant anyway.
Football is after all only a game. Isn't it???.
Best wishes,
Keith Burge.

I really do look forward to meeting you again, even though it's near 40 years.
You used to start your act by explaining that you were a very quietly spoken artist, you would apologise to all the audience because some of them might not be able to hear you. You would then launch into "I am my own Grandpa" in a voice that need no PA, I booked you in Bath, but you got heard in Trowbridge, Bristol, Frome, and northerly parts of Dorset.
Via your "old Codgers news sheet" you are now heard in NZ/ Aussie/Toronto/the west of Ireland. I am just the go-between. Do I get an agency fee? Doubt it!
Any way Joe stop sitting on the fence, tell us what you really think of war and killing people, etc. Give us the Banjo version of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant".
Tim Justice

Ode from a Brighton supporter to a Swiss referee

“You Swiss are famed for your precision...
But what a cretinous decision!
Was it incompetence, or malice?
Fuck off and manage Crystal Palace!”

Floor singers?
Ok. But versions (even good ones) of ‘Scarborough fair’ and ‘Streets of London’ are HANGING OFFENCES
Attila the Stockbroker

Dear Joe Stead,
We just recently thought to look you up on web. We were in Wales Christmas of 1980, Phil & Diana Brown, from Derby & America. We got married Jan 1981.
We saw you in a pub just over a bridge in ?????????? (maybe Betswy/Coed). After the show, we chatted and Phil remembered that he had seen you years before at the Priesthouse in Castle Donnington. You took us to a pub down the street from your home and introduced us to the woman in the pub. You invited us to visit you at your home the next day, and the woman in the pub gave us directions. You showed us a window sill upstairs where you had discovered some old coins or medallions. We had one of your (probably original) albums where you don a pink tutu on stage. Don't remember album name, but we've got it packed over the years and can't find it. We had shared it with many friends through the years. Also, we now own a British Import food and gift store on the central coast of California, a tourist town on the bay. We would like to get a sampling of your old and new music to share in our store and perhaps sell them, also. Please give info on how to obtain some cd's and we'd be happy to forward the funds necessary.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Phil and Diana Brown.

I am passing this on to you because we all need inner peace. By following the simple advice I read in an article, I have finally found inner peace.
The article read:
"The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you've started."
So I looked around the house to see all the things I started and hadn't finished.... and before coming to work this morning I have finished off a bottle of Bacardi, a bottle of red wine, a bottle of Jim Beam, my Prozac, some valium, a small box of chocolates and 2 litres of Fosters Lager, a ½ can of cider, a large joint and some cheese.

Ypou hvae no ideaa how bolody gerat I fleel rgiht aobuut now....
....You myay wnat to psass tihs on to aynmoe yoiu feeel isin needof smome InenPoeace


A young newlywed couple wanted to join a church. The pastor told them, "We have special requirements for new parishioners. You must abstain from sex for one whole month."
The couple agreed and after two-and-a-half weeks returned to the Church. When the Pastor ushers them into his office, the wife is crying and the husband obviously very depressed.
"You are back so soon... Is there a problem?" the pastor inquired.
"We are terribly ashamed to admit that we did not manage to abstain from sex for the required month...." the young man replied sadly.
The pastor asked him what happened.
"Well, the first week was difficult.... However, we managed to abstain through sheer willpower. The second week was terrible, but with the use of prayer, we managed to abstain. However, the third week was unbearable. We tried cold showers, prayer, reading from the Bible.... anything to keep our minds off carnal thoughts. Then one afternoon, my wife reached for a can of paint and dropped it. When she bent over to pick it up, I was overcome with lust and had my way with her right then and there." admitted the man, shamefacedly.
"You understand this means you will not be welcome in our church," stated the pastor. "We know." said the young man, hanging his head "We're not welcome at Homebase either."

The European Union commissioners have announced that an agreement has been reached to adopt English as the preferred language for European communications, rather than German, which was the other possibility.
As part of the negotiations, the British government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and have accepted a five-year phased plan for what will be known as Euro English (Euro for short).
In the first year, "s" will be used instead of the soft "c". Sertainly, sivil servants will reseive this news with joy. Also, the hard "c" will be replaced with "k". Not only will this klear up konfusion, but typewriters kan have one less letter.
There will be growing public enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replased by "f". This will make words such as fotograf" 20% shorter.
In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of silent "e"s in the language is disgrasful, and they would go.
By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" by "z" and "w" by "v". During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "O" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou", and similar changes vud, of kors, be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.
Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German lik zey vunted in ze forst plas...
Auf wiedersehen

The following letters sent to me by Paul Downes are purportedly taken from an actual incident between a London hotel and one of its guests last year. The hotel apparently ended up submitting the letters to the Sunday Times. They maybe fiction – but it’s such a wonderful read I have to include them herein.

Dear Maid,
Please do not leave any more of those little bars of soap in my bathroom since I have brought my own bath-sized Imperial Leather. Please remove the six unopened little bars from the shelf under the medicine chest and another there in the shower soap dish. They are in my way.
Thank you,
S. Berman

Dear Room 635,
I am not your regular maid. She will be back tomorrow, Thursday, from her day off. I took the 3 hotel soaps out of the shower soap dish as you requested. The 6 bars on your shelf I took out of your way and put on top of your Kleenex dispenser in case you should change your mind. This leaves only the 3 bars I left today which my instructions from the management are to leave 3 soaps daily. I hope this is satisfactory.
Kathy, Relief Maid

Dear Maid
I hope you are my regular maid. Apparently Kathy did not tell you about my note to her concerning the little bars of soap. When I got back to my room this evening, I found you had added 3 little Camays to the shelf under my medicine cabinet. I am going to be here in the hotel for two weeks and have brought my own bath-size Imperial Leather, so I won't need those 6 little Camays, which are on the shelf. They are in the way when shaving, brushing teeth etc.
Please remove them.
S. Berman

Dear Mr Berman,
The assistant manager, Mr Kensedder, informed me this morning that you called him last evening and said you were unhappy with your maid service. I have assigned a new girl to your room. I hope you will accept my apologies for any past inconvenience.
If you have any future complaints, please contact me so I can give it my personal attention. Call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM.
Thank you.
Elaine Carmen Housekeeper

Dear Miss Carmen,
It is impossible to contact you by phone since I leave the hotel for business at 7:45 AM and don't get back before 5:30 or 6.00 PM. That's the reason I called Mr Kensedder last night. You were already off duty. I only asked Mr Kensedder if he could do anything about those little bars of soap. The new maid you assigned me must have thought I was a new check in today, since she left other 3 bars of hotel soap in my medicine cabinet, along with her regular delivery of 3 bars on the bathroom shelf. In just 5 days here I have accumulated 24 little bars of soap.
Why are you doing this to me?
S. Berman

Dear Mr Berman,
Your maid, Kathy, has been instructed to stop delivering soap to your room and to remove the extra soaps.
If I can be of further assistance, please call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5 PM.
Thank you,
Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Mr Kensedder,
My bath-size Imperial Leather is missing.
Every bar of soap was taken from my room, including my own bath-size Imperial Leather.
I came in late last night and had to call the bellhop to bring me 4 little Cashmere Bouquets.
S. Berman

Dear Mr Berman,
I have informed our housekeeper, Elaine Carmen, of your soap problem. I cannot understand why there was no soap in your room since our maids are instructed to leave 3 bars of soap each time they service a room.
The situation will be rectified immediately. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.
Martin L. Kensedder
Assistant Manager

Dear Mrs Carmen,
Who the hell left 54 little bars of Camay in my room?
I came in last night and found 54 little bars of soap. I don't want 54 little bars of Camay. I want my one damn bar of bath-size Imperial Leather. Do you realise I have 54 bars of soap in here?
All I want is my bath-size Imperial Leather.
Please give me back my bath-size Imperial Leather.
S. Berman

Dear Mr Berman,
You complained of too much soap in your room, so I had them removed.
Then you complained to Mr Kensedder that all your soap was missing, so I personally returned them. The 24 Camays which had been taken and the 3 Camays you are supposed to receive daily.
I don't know anything about the 4 Cashmere Bouquets. Obviously your maid, Kathy, did not know I had returned your soaps, so she also brought 24 Camays plus the 3 daily Camays.
I don't know where you got the idea this hotel issues bath-size Imperial Leather. I was able to locate some bath-size Ivory which I left in your room.
Elaine Carmen

Dear Mrs Carmen,
Just a short note to bring you up-to-date on my latest soap inventory.
As of today I possess:
* On the shelf under the medicine cabinet -18 Camay in 4 stacks of 4and 1 stack of 2.
* On the Kleenex dispenser - 11 Camay in 2 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 3.
* On the bedroom dresser - 1 stack of 3 Cashmere Bouquet, 1 stack of 4 hotel-size Ivory, and 8 Camay in 2 stacks of 4.
* Inside the medicine cabinet - 14 Camay in 3 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
* In the shower soap dish - 6 Camay, very moist.
* On the northeast corner of the tub - 1 Cashmere Bouquet, slightly used.
* On the northwest corner of the tub - 6 Camays in 2 stacks of 3.
Please ask Kathy when she services my room to make sure the stacks are neatly piled and dusted. Also, please advise her that stacks of more than 4 have a tendency to tip. May I suggest that my bedroom window sill is not in use and will make an excellent spot for future soap deliveries.
One more item, I have purchased another bar of bath-size Imperial Leather, which I am keeping in the hotel vault in order to avoid further misunderstandings.
S. Berman

This really is true:
My wife Nora took me to the theatre on Tuesday. We were exactly four days early!

Keep smiling, keep singing.

Joe Stead