Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger – Volume 65 – February 2006

The long awaited (well long awaited by me anyway) next CD by Kimber’s Men is now recorded and should be available for the public in the summer. It has 25 tracks and lasts for almost 75 minutes. If anybody would like me to send them a short sample by e mail they have only to contact me ( and I will be delighted to oblige with a wee bit of ‘Get along down buddy’. But I don’t know how to condense songs, so you best have broadband or be prepared to wait a few minutes/days/weeks (depending on server and computer!).

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about falling asleep whilst driving. It is something I have done myself, many of us have done likewise, and of course my eldest son Mark has now served a twelve month prison sentence (with another year released on probation) for causing death by dangerous driving for killing somebody after falling asleep at the wheel. He fell asleep entering London on the M1 some 24 months ago and drove into the back of a stationary vehicle at traffic lights. There but for the grace of God go I; and many more singers and performers who have driven home late after gigs. Perhaps even Mark’s judge has found his eyes closing whilst at the wheel? It is an employment problem all professional performers have faced over the years. We all think we are invincible, but ask Nic Jones, for whom everybody on the folk scene sympathized. He was lucky insofar as he came out of the vehicle alive, although of course his singing and playing days ended with that late night collision and he spent many months in hospital as a result. I was told that Nic always drove home after a gig if he could possibly do it. The British folk scene lost a stalwart and wonderful performer that night. He was lucky his car hit a tree (or was it a wall?) and not a stationary vehicle with people inside it.

I remember some 25 years ago when I was earning £200 a night on the college circuit frequently fighting exhaustion to get home. I remember one short tour when I played Bristol University, Manchester University, Sunderland Folk Club and Middlesbrough Technical College on consecutive nights. At Middlesbrough there was no bed so I decided to drive back to London. At this point some of you will probably be appalled, but unlike Nic Jones I had bought some ‘speed’ and the four/five hour journey back to London passed like a dream. I remember to this day the elation of driving into London at 3.30am so bright and buzzing that I was actually tempted to drive back to Middlesbrough again just for the hell of it. It was summer and dawn was breaking.

I would emphasise at this point that I don’t think driving under the influence of drugs is an altogether brilliant idea. I’m sure that marijuana can be a very bad passenger in a car. As somebody who once smoked it for twenty years I’m somewhat of an authority on the subject. Speed, when you could get it, however in 1980 at least kept you awake and had Nic Jones taken some that fateful evening he might well have been performing today.

Now before the ‘Holier than thou’ element start to write in let me add that I’m not suggesting that Nic Jones should have taken drugs either to get home or for any other reason for that matter. But what I am saying is that he might well have survived the journey better had he done so and Britain would not have lost the genius that was Nic. But of course you cannot put the clock back.

This now brings me to another element of this topic. Is drinking and taking drugs, prior or whilst driving, the biggest killer on Britain’s roads today? Many think it is, but I would suggest, indeed I am certain, that sleep depravation (sleep apneoa) is the biggest killer we face on the roads, and many of you reading this will be guilty of this ‘crime’. (I use the word ‘crime’ here with some liberality, so please don’t take umbrage). Again I speak from experience, although specialists have told me that I don’t actually suffer from sleep apneoa, but to a sleep related complaint that has similar results. I’m rather splitting hairs at this point so I’ll link myself with the sleep apneoa brigade as the remedy to both complaints is identical.

Sleep apneoa can affect anybody, but those who drink alcohol or are over weight are more likely candidates. It is a lack of deep sleep due to snoring and constantly waking, even though the periods of waking are fractions of a second when the sleeper is unaware that he has woken. A friend of mine who was constantly falling asleep at school while teaching underwent tests at a hospital in Leeds and was informed he was waking on an average of 29 times every hour. I had similar tests and was told that whilst I was not actually waking during the night my snoring was incredibly loud so the specialists believed that my brain was not getting any peace at night. I actually fell asleep one day at traffic lights! If I had a four hour drive I always set off six hours early giving me the privilege of two hours sleeping time on the journey; often taken in four half hour slots.

Do you realize there are millions of drivers out there on the roads today in Britain who suffer from this? Millions and millions.

As a remedy I now sleep in a machine. I call it a ‘sleep machine’. For the uninitiated it looks and works a bit like a back to front vacuum cleaner with the nozzle going over the nose. Billy Connolly uses one. It pumps air into the back of the throat through the nose thus keeping the airway passage open stopping snoring. As a result I probably only get 5 or 6 hours sleep every night; but it is deep sleep and I’m a considerably safer driver as a result. I’ve been using my ‘sleep machine’ for over 10 years and would not be without it. The government of course can’t actually legislate against tiredness; although the DVLA is now very aware and threatened to confiscate my driving license when they discovered I was once a sufferer of sleep deprivation. This of course is a classic case of shutting the barn gate after the horse has bolted. The DVLA relented when they discovered from the hospital that my treatment was working and that I was a better and safer driver as a consequence.

But I would suggest that all heavy snorers, and some who don’t even reach the ‘heavy’ category, suffer from sleep deprivation. You are all a menace on the road, a potential death trap to others and you are certainly far more dangerous than anybody driving under the influence of ‘speed’ and probably more dangerous than somebody driving under the influence of marijuana. Alcohol is of course a different matter, but I would suggest that somebody just over the legal limit is a safer driver than many ‘innocent’ drivers who suffer unwittingly from sleep deprivation

I’m saddened to report the demise of Brian Ingham of Portsmouth Shantymen, Ramskyte and Victory Morris who died on Sunday January 8th. Brian will be missed, his friendly demeanour and good advice was always a welcome addition to any festival or folky event.

I would like to thank all of you who responded to my plea for a copy of Chapter 8 of Rome. Bryn Phillips from Kingswinford kindly supplied a DVD of the missing chapter so I now have the complete series on DVD. I would urge those of you living in the Americas, where I understand it is soon to start and those of you who are hoping to see repeats, not to miss it. I found it compulsive viewing. I did get one letter saying the first chapter was too full of soft porn and as a consequence had not watched any more. Well whether sex or violence is your idea of pornography (and frankly I find violence more abhorrent than sex) Rome 2000 years ago was a place where both were high on the menu, so it would be a foolish director who made an historical document but left out the main ingredients. I understand there is to be a second series. Frankly I wait with baited breath.

Whilst on the subject of television programmes. If you are a follower of Hollyoaks; and I have to confess it’s a programme I seldom watch probably because it is aimed at a teenage audience, then you can see and hear yours truly once again cast as an angry farmer. Indeed I even have a name; although I confess I’ve forgotten what it is. The chapter is scheduled to be on your television screens on February 14th, although as the programme is filmed 6 weeks in advance they are sometimes a day out either way.

Did you know that 75%of all credit card debt in Europe is in Great Britain? That is a frighteningly large percentage and a huge figure to boot. If it continues to increase (and one can only assume it is an increasing figure by its size) then there is going to be an almighty crash somewhere along the line. British people are mortgaging themselves to the hilt. Any ideas how it might end?

Oscar Brand’s plea for me to write shorter ‘Ramblings’ brought about a good response from other readers. Please see letter section after the Fixture List!

Joint Fixture List for Kimber’s Men and Joe Stead.

Mar 15th (Joe) Polish Club, Bradford, Private Luncheon – Life/times of Paul Robeson
Mar 20th (KM) Bacup Folk Club, Conservative Club, Bacup.
Mar 23rd (Joe) Spen Valley 41 Club, Liversedge. - Valparaiso
Mar 31st (KM) The Irish Club, Huddersfield.
Apr 1st (KM) The Trades Club, Hebden Bridge.
Apr 2nd (Joe) The Trades Club, Hebden Bridge. (1.30pm – Life, times of Paul Robeson)
Apr 3rd (Joe) Menston Women Institute 2pm – Valparaiso round the Horn
Apr 29th (KM) Sweeps Festival, Rochester.
Apr 30th (KM) Sweeps Festival, Rochester.
Jun 7th (Joe) Baptist Church, Oakes, Huddersfield 1.30pm - Valparaiso
Jun 7th (Joe) The Cross Keys Folk Club, Uppermill.
Jun 8th (Joe) Luddendenfoot Women’s Institute 8pm Life/times of Paul Robeson
July 1st (KM) Crawley Folk Festival
July 2nd (KM) Crawley Folk Festival
Sep 27th (KM) The Cross Keys Folk Club, Uppermill.
Sep 28th (Joe) Cleckheaton Probus Club – Valparaiso round the Horn
Sep 30th (KM) Halifax Traditions Festival
Oct 4th (Joe) Garforth Probus Club 10am – Valparaiso round the Horn
Oct 20th (KM) Minstead Village Hall, New Forest, Hampshire.
Dec 2nd (KM) The Square Chapel Theatre, Halifax.
Dec 14th (Joe) St Paul’s Church, Harrogate Men’s Forum. - Valparaiso
12th Aug (KM) Broadstairs Folk Festival – Provisional
13th Aug (KM) Broadstairs Folk Festival – Provisional


Hello Joe,
Greetings from Mystic, CT. USA.
Thanks for another year of ramblings. As to the chap who would like them to be shorter, why the hell does he think they're called "ramblings" instead of "concise and lucid thoughts?" I suspect he's a fellow American and doesn't have the time or inclination to read about things that are happening in other parts of the non-American world. I personally find that I can make the ramblings more brief and concise by reading every other line, or sometimes every third line. Once in a while I only read every 27th word. For a while I thought there might be a secret hidden message in code somewhere, but I haven't managed to crack the code yet. This in spite of the fact that I too play the banjo and should understand the way you think.
Anyway, keep up with the ramblings. I do enjoy them.
Here's some news from my world, for what it's worth:
After 20 years making my living as a chanteyman, singer/songwriter interpreter and more recently a program coordinator based at "America's premier maritime museum" I have decided to accept a "golden handshake" from the company and make an attempt to return to full time recording and performance. Any advice or assistance you can provide will be most appreciated. Advice other than "boost your life insurance and hang yourself in the garage." My wife has already given me that advice.
I all but gave up performance two years ago to try my hand at an office job, which was ok. It allowed me to focus my creative endeavors in another direction. But it seems that I'm not cut out for that sort of thing. Now the questions arise.
Did the folk music world miss me?
Did they even know I was gone?
Did they know I was ever there in the first place?!!
Will they welcome back the prodigal chanteyman/songwriter or will they throw rotten concertinas at me?
Rotten Concertinas. Isn't that redundant?
Time will tell. I hope to return to UK to do some work and will be getting in touch with old colleagues to see if they'll add me to their roster of performers for concerts, clubs, festivals and the like. Will it be open arms and warm greetings or protests in the street complete with placards and signs that say: "Kill the Yankee Infidel. Or just make him stop singing. No, kill him after all."
I may very well end up sweeping the floors in the local homeless shelter. I guess that wouldn't be all bad. At least I wouldn't have to hang my head in shame and hide my face when people on the street saw me carrying what was clearly a banjo case. And I wouldn't have to lie to my mother again. I can still hear her words echo in my head..."You're not REALLY still a folk singer are you? What would your poor departed father think? Can't you find a job in a more respectable profession, like child pornography or something? Why can't you be more like your brother the extortionist?"
But a man must do what a man must do. I just can't seem to recall what that is.
Please do me the kindness of changing my email address for the ramblings and such. I'll be working out of my home office until homelessness comes to take me away.
I'll be writing again shortly to inform you and others about my website, which I hope to have up and running before long. Original music to download, images of my paintings for sale to discerning or foolish art collectors, and that sort of thing.
Hell, maybe I can start a "Ramblings of a Yankee Curmudgeon" column.
Issue #1: Beat those kids, damn it. That'll fix 'em now AND will prepare 'em for a damn good American-style execution when they grow up.
What 'cha think buddy?
Happy New Year to you, Kimber's Men and anyone else who is of a mind to have such a thing.
Until later,
Rick Spencer
Program Coordinator
The Museum of America and the Sea
75 Greenmanville Avenue
P.O. Box 6000
Mystic, CT 06355
Celebrating 75 Years

I must comment here. Because of the length of the Ramblings, I usually store them in a folder for later reading, and only occasionally get around to reading one or two at a time. I'm having a relaxed evening here, so read this one before saving, and enjoyed it a lot. So I am torn...I agree with Oscar that they're too long, but on the other hand you include lots of good stuff. wishes for a very fine 2006!
Saul Broudy
Philadelphia, PA U.S.A
-Ph.D., folklore
-Folk/country music(vocal, guitar, harmonica)
-In Country: Folk Songs of Americans in the Vietnam War(Flying Fish)

I have been meaning to write for a couple of Ramblings about what I consider an almost schizophrenic double standard in your diatribes against our naive and wicked country.
I don't understand how you can ignore the fact that the U.S. is bitterly, and stridently, divided between urban and redneck factors, and the Bush Man and his pals are geniuses at dividing and conquering (for example, they have persuaded historical enemies like Catholics and Baptists to vote together). At the same time, you seem to be thrilled with your fair isle, a country which is NOT divided. For reasons that escape me, you seem elated that the U.K. has returned Blair to office by a smaller majority than he enjoyed previously. This is a big deal?
Far from burying our collective heads in the sands, the New York Times among other journals has repeatedly published blistering editorials and op-ed pieces condemning Bush's duplicity and cruelty. The recent (and, to be honest, few) edition of your Times I've seen seem docile. Come on, Joe. You have performed all over the northeast quadrant of our country. You know how we feel about Bush and his war. I can assure you that the other coast and the northern rim of the U.S. are similarly disgusted and condemnatory.
Charlie Reilley. Pa.

Your correspondent Dave Hogg writes: "I am not arguing that caning children turns them into murderers". Is he perhaps related to the late W.C. Fields, who when asked if he liked children, said he preferred them broiled or fried?
Karl Dallas

Hi Joe,
Thanks for a full year of news and commentary. Glad to see that your music is so active. The best to you & all across the Pond.
David H. Littlefield
The Museum of America and the Sea
Mystic, CT

I seem to have missed rather a lot in your last 'Ramblings'. Not only did I miss the joke that I sent to you, but I can't remember ever seeing you talk about corporal punishment. Perhaps I was in a daze!
Anyway, put me down as the second who agrees with you - but with some reservations. Many people object to its reintroduction as being an insufficient way to punish people - but the same would see a prison sentence as an equal form of punishment.
But to look on it as punishment is, in my opinion, wrong. The latter is most definitely about protecting society, the former about educating people that certain behaviour deserves retribution *without vengeance*.
The Mosaic Law Code (that's the law books in the Bible, btw) was plain that a person who caused mischief had to deal with what had been done by what he had in his own possession - if that was 'life with life' then so be it. But, in the Law, people understood that one was responsible for the consequences of one's own actions.
I find it deplorable that a thief who causes thousands of pounds damage gets away with a fine - until the debt is paid to society or to the individual, the offence isn't dealt with.
So, corporal punishment - yes. But we need a Law Code that makes people *have to* face up to the consequences of their actions.


With the new CD now safely in the ‘can’ I’m enclosing here below some reviews of our first album. The first, from Dirty Linen’ has not been printed in the Ramblings before; ………… least I don’t think it has! Suffice to say, we think our next CD is better than the first one – which of course got excellent reviews!

Reviews of ‘See you when the sun goes down’

Radio Seven Seas
Recent Recordings of Sea Music
by Sea Nerd Steve Winick
Howdy... or should that be ahoy? At this point in my listening life, I've heard enough good, basic sea chantey albums that I look for something extra special. Do they present some unusual songs, rather than the umpteenth identical version of “Haul Away Joe?” Do they tell me something I didn't know about some of the pieces? Are the arrangements unusual? Do they present their material from an interesting angle? The following five albums all get the nerd's nod as worthwhile, for a variety of reasons. Read on!
I'll start off with See You When the Sun Goes Down [A Private Label APL8 (2002)] by Kimber's Men, a quartet of singer/musicians from England. All four men have strong voices, from John Bromley's deep rumble to Neil Kimber's higher, lighter tones. Beyond the very good singing and the tasteful arrangements — mostly unaccompanied harmony voices, with the occasional guitar and banjo — they have a few things going for them. For one, they present a selection of ship and boat music, from the chanteys of African-American menhaden fishermen, to 18th-century British naval ballads, to Mississippi river chanteys, and on to modern songs by Peter Bellamy, Gordon Lightfoot, and Bob Watson. Favorites include sweet renditions of the chanteys “Shallow Brown,” “Blood Red Roses,” and “A Long Time Ago” and simple, pretty arrangements of the ballad “Trim Rigged Doxy” and the lament “Lord Franklin.” Kimber's Men also provides extensive notes to each song: A good history of the confederate ship Alabama accompanies the lyrics to “Roll Alabama Roll,” and a long description of the techniques of menhaden fishing accompany the lyrics to “Drinking that Wine.” Even a song like “Shenandoah,” whose history is not well understood, gets a learned note giving the opinions of Stan Hugill, William Doerflinger, and other chantey experts. Although not all the songs here are great successes, on balance the combination of music and information makes this an excellent chantey resource.

A while ago Joe Stead released a fine CD of Sea Shanties. Here he extends his repertoire joined by a cast of like-minded shanty men Neil Kimber, John Bromley and Roger Hepworth. I had the pleasure of seeing the group performing at both Maryport Sea Festival and the Tall Ships Race and remember how much they impressed me. So it seems fitting that this recording has done nothing to diminish my regard of their resonant tones (particularly the bass!). Discussing their performance of shanties and sea songs with my mate Shep Woolley, we both came to the same conclusion that if you’re going to sing either do it with an element of ‘entertainment’ and you have more chance of being widely accepted by a general audience. Kimber’s Men fill this position excellently and then some by including songs such as Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Ode To Big Blue’ along with more standard fare such as ‘Blood Red Roses’ and ‘Rio Grande’. Ok, so the songs might not be at the right speeds but to be perfectly frank who wants to remember them as they were? I know I’m more than likely being controversial but let’s give Kimber’s Men a resounding thumbs up for bringing an element of enjoyment (not heard since the heyday of the Spinners) that has sadly been missing for a while. More details from Joe Stead at:
Pete Fyfe


Kimber's Men' have nothing to do with the legendary 'Merry Kimber' of Morris dance fame. They are a group of singers specialising in maritime material. It would be unfair to call them simply a 'shanty group', although shanties are the bulk of their repertoire, because they range through nautical ballads and broadsides to modern songs such as Bob Watson's Mollymauk, and Gordon Lightfoot's Ballad of Big Blue.
The Kimber name belongs to Neil Kimber, described here as The Bosun, followed by John Bromley, Ships Cook, Roger Hepworth, Cabin Boy, and Joe Stead, Ships Doctor. I doubt that any actual sailing, cooking, or healing goes on between these stalwart Yorkshire- based gentlemen, but sturdy singing does, 25 tracks of it.
Kimber's Men have obviously given plenty of thought to their presentation. A sleeve note refers to the question of 'should shanties be harmonised?' They answer 'Yes' and give out with double tracked harmonies on all choruses. They say that modern songs, such as those mentioned above, have a place alongside old classics like Sally Racket, Lord Franklin, Shallow Brown, and Shenandoah. They sing them out with praiseworthy gutsiness. They believe that good information is part of the package, therefore they provide a booklet with notes on the songs by authorities like Stan Hugill and Roy Palmer, full sets of lyrics, and, nice touch, some Hugill drawings as well. They like to include unusual material too, as borne out by the Menhaden Fishermen's songs, Help Me To Raise 'Em, and Drinking That Wine.
The album is dedicated to the RNLI, and carries Ros & Neil Kimber's song The Robert Whitworth, a tribute to the men of that gallant service.
Sea song fans will love this, and I can foresee Kimber's Men appearing regularly on the rapidly growing maritime festival scene.
Roy Harris.



Subject: Bushcronium
A major research institution has just announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element has been named "Bushcronium." Bushcronium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an Atomic mass of 311. These 311 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
Since Bushcronium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Bushcronium causes one reaction to take over 4 days to complete when it would normally take less than a second. Bushcronium has a normal half-life of multiples of 4 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.
In fact, Bushcronium's mass will actually increase over time, since each re-organization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to believe that Bushcronium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass." When catalyzed with money, Bushcronium activates Foxnewsium, an element which radiates orders of magnitude, more energy, albeit as incoherent noise, since it has 1/2 as many peons but twice as many morons.


Good Manners

During class, a teacher trying to teach good manners, asks the students:
"Students, If you were on a date, having supper with a nice young lady, how would you tell her that you have to go to the bathroom? Michael?"
Michael: "Just a minute, I have to go pee."
Teacher: "That would be rude and impolite!!!
Teacher: "What about you Peter? How would you say it?"
Peter: "I am sorry, but I really need to go to the bathroom, I'll be right back."
Teacher: "That's better, but it's still not very nice to say the word bathroom at the dinner table. And you Little Johnny, are you able to use your intelligence for once and show us your good manners?"
Johnny: "I would say: 'Darling, may I please be excused for a moment? I have to shake hands with a very dear friend of mine, who I hope you'll get to meet after supper. "


The world's foremost authority on wasps is walking down the street when he sees a record in the window of a charity shop 'Wasp noises from around the world'. Intrigued, he goes into the shop and asks if he can listen to it.
"Certainly," says the shop assistant and pops it onto his turntable.
After listening to the first track for a while, the world's foremost authority on wasps is a bit confused. "I don't recognise any of these noises, and I'm the world's foremost authority on wasps! Can you play the next track please?"
The assistant obliges and skips the needle onto the next track. After a while, the world's foremost authority on wasps is still confused.
"No, I still don't recognise any of these wasps. Can you try the next track?" The assistant skips the needle on, and the world's foremost authority on wasps listens for a little while longer before shaking his head.
"It's no good. I just don't recognise any of these wasps"
The assistant peers at the label of the record and says "Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I had it on the bee side"


In the end, spying is a dangerous game
If I were a governmental secret agent, I imagine one of the first things that would cause me to be both shaken and stirred (not necessarily in a patriotic manner) would be the moment that I was issued with a rectal pistol.
These little (hopefully) beauties were manufactured by the KGB for use by their operatives. As the name implies, they were designed to be hidden on - or to be more precise, in - the person.
I mention their existence only in light of recent Russian revelations that the British were caught in Moscow using a fake rock containing sophisticated data-transmission equipment for nefarious espionage purposes.
It is often the minutiae revealed by these stories that is of interest. The rectal pistol was mentioned as a throwaway line in a sidebar story about other weird tools of the espionage trade.
I would quite like to have been at the meeting where the concept of this weapon was mooted. Surely the first thing that should have been suggested was that the gun be given a better name.
The rectal pistol is apparently encased in rubber, which is a mixed blessing since it smooths the surface while increasing the diameter.
Nowhere was it mentioned if the pistols were issued accompanied by doughnut pillows.
Neither could I find answers to the following questions: Were counter-espionage agents forced to attend classes in Facing A Rectal Threat, or FART?
Were Russians schooled in ass-assination techniques?
Would those who proved particularly adept at using these guns be known as "crack shots"?
Being armed with a rectal pistol would certainly add an amusing take to the old cliche, "This is a stick-up". I suspect those on the receiving end of that threat would barely be able to contain their mirth.
Nor would you want to be plagued by a spate of accidental discharges, although no doubt in a truly terrifying situation the removal of the pistol would not present too much of a problem.
All of this goes some way towards explaining why Russian spies always came across as a tad tetchy.
Fortunately, according to New Zealand's SIS website, our spooks don't carry firearms, so there would be little need to deal with this issue.
While not being averse to having a rectal pistol issued to me if I was employed by our SIS, I would be concerned, given New Zealand's small security budgets, if said weapon were second-hand.
The story made no mention of the Americans having such a weapon. Given their startling intelligence failures of late, there would have been no room for the rectal pistol to be holstered as their heads appear to be filling the allocated space.
One thing is certain: being shot by a rectal pistol would be embarrassing, but it pales compared with shooting at someone using such a gun and missing. With the pistol containing just a single shot, the ignominy would be the death of you

Finally you might like to look at this web site.

Keep smiling, keep singing.