Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger – Volume 77 – February 2007.

Kimber’s Men have been to Ireland. And if possible we want all our future bookings to be in Ireland. We will of course accept booking in England and Wales under protest; but having performed in Ireland we now know what constitutes a ‘good gig’. We will, if asked, also be delighted to play in America. Most Americans are loonies and as a consequence they are bound to like Kimber’s Men. I should know I’ve been to America more times than I can remember and the hospitality I have received in that God forsaken country was second to none; at least it was until I reached Sixmilebridge.

We met a busker called ‘Johny Creaded’. An eccentric, certainly, who possibly cannot spell his own name and who, despite the constant drizzle, performed deep into the early hours of the morning each night outside the Tramcar Diner in the centre of the village. I put a couple of euros into his bottle and had a brief and mysterious conversation in one longish sentence on his part that included Elvis Pressley, York Cathedral, English cricket, Ryanair and tortoises. We saw him a couple of times again after that, but we were all totally unprepared to arrive at a venue later in the weekend to discover that he had put 20 euros of his own money behind the bar so that we could enjoy a few drinks with him. (Even if he wasn’t there). Our amazement turned to utter disbelief when he again appeared almost out of nowhere just as we were leaving with a gift of four bars of Cadburys milk and nut chocolate and a congratulation card extolling the wonders of Yorkshire people.

It was a humbling experience for me and it brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion to think of the awful way we Brits have treated the Irish over decades and centuries. Yet Irish folk greet you with warmth and open arms unlike almost anyone else in the world. It brought back memories too of a trip to Waterford in 1981 when two complete strangers took us home and gave us their dinners. On that occasion it wasn’t until I had started eating my dinner that I realised they were going without themselves.

Food brings me nicely onto my next subject.

I have decided, following recent heated correspondence relating to recipes and what we do with them, that I should at the very least put something back into society by offering a few useful recipes myself each month. So for the next few months I shall have a ‘recipe of the month’ section. Having been suitably and probably correctly admonished from various sections of the globe; it is, I am sure you will all agree, the very least I can do.

This month the recipe is ‘A nice cup of tea’.

Recipe of the month
A nice cup of tea.
How often have you been asked “Would you like a nice cup of tea?” I find I’m asked it all the time, and invariably unless you specify exactly what you want, the chances of being disappointed are remarkably high. Hospitals are a prime example of this and having already had two operations on my left knee, an operation on my right knee, an operation on my crutch, an operation on my eye, an operation to remove wisdom teeth (and possibly any sense I ever had), an operation to rectify a torn tendon in my left ring finger (which was incidentally a complete failure), a lengthy stay to overcome a pulmonary embolism, another spell to overcome a poisoned leg, and an appendix operation, I can say without any doubt whatsoever that the chance of getting a ‘nice cup of tea’ in a hospital is about as remote as winning the national lottery. I’ve tried various hospitals in both London and Halifax, other hospitals in Yorkshire, hospitals in Kent and I’ve even tried a hospital in Tel Aviv. So I should know. ‘Nice cups of tea’ and hospitals are not compatible. So if you wake up one day in bed, not sure of your surroundings and a really ugly well meaning woman leers down at you probably wearing some form of blue smock offering a ‘nice cup of tea’, take my advice – bury your head beneath the pillow and shriek out “Go away” as loud as you possibly can. Otherwise I can guarantee you bitter disappointment. (Please note “Go away” cannot be shouted when they’ve broken your jaw removing the wisdom teeth – I know this from experience).

There is of course only one way to make a ‘nice cup of tea’. And this how you do it.

Place a Yorkshire tea bag into a cup or mug and pour upon it freshly boiling water. Stir contents to reach your own personal approved saturation, remove tea bag and add a little milk. I will allow beginners to experiment with the amount of milk to be added. Personally I prefer a splash of milk and no more. Indeed a splash of milk and no more is exactly what constitutes a ‘nice cup of tea’. I will not in any way condone or accept scented teas, milky teas, cold teas, iced teas, or teas where the milk has been added first. Cream must be avoided at all cost and so should Polonium 210. These do not warrant the word ‘nice’; and anyone serving such a beverage is without doubt bending the rules or simply lying if they attempt to persuade you.

This recipe is not my copyright, but you have no authority whatsoever to either give or sell this recipe to any other person either living or dead.

++++++++++++

I now turn to more serious matters. I have received two letters regarding websites that perhaps you ought to take a look at. I’m dealing with the lighthearted one first. It’s called ‘Folk songs of the far right’ and it can be found at…
http://folksongsofthefarrightwing.cf.huffingtonpost.com/
I have to confess at first it made me smile, but at the same time I realised the humour was a little too near the mark and I became very uneasy about it. Global warming is hardly something to joke about. Mankind will be history in 250 years time. Just like the dinosaurs. I would imagine it has been put together in America by a well meaning democrat. I would be interested to know your thoughts – especially if you are an American reader. So is this a matter we should be joking about? Does it prove that even the best intentioned Americans are totally unaware of the seriousness of global warming? Pete Seeger (as I’ve probably told you before) warned us of this problem in his songs some 30/40 years ago. I really do believe that 2007 is too late. There is nothing we can do to prevent a world wide disaster. Within 100 years our global weather will be completely different to the weather we experience today. The famine and destruction it will bring will cause world wide wars. Hopefully I will be dead and gone before it all breaks out. But then again – I always was a coward. It brings into stark reality the ridiculousness about discussing the legality of reproducing cook books.

The second website I would like you all to look at is……..
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/justice4us/
A lot of you on the folk scene in Great Britain will I’m sure be aware of the misery that Dave Sampson and his family have been through in recent years. Dave has kept me up to date with proceedings since his 14 year old daughter Caroline was gang raped in 2002. I’ve kept the story out of these pages until now because I felt it was too sensitive a subject to include. And whilst I also have great reservations about the honesty of some policemen I do not believe they are all bad apples and I believed it was better in this instance to let justice take its course without jumping in with both feet. I don’t want to make ‘The Ramblings’ a home for every dissident in the country who has a complaint, because if I do I will discover that a lot of them are completely unfounded and that is not what this column is for. Added to this, whilst Dave’s complaint and problem is very real, the story has been taken up by various newspapers and by his member of parliament so I would not be breaking new ground repeating the story herein. However the time has now come to let you the reader; especially those who are unaware of the horrendous story, make your own decision on the matter.

The Justice 4 Caroline Campaign online petition to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair is now on the No10 website http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/justice4us/. Already more than 33 people have signed it. It's about victims of crime funding Human Rights cases against The Police, The Crown Prosecution Service and other public bodies who
breach Human Rights laws.
If you go on that petition you will notice that Musicians Union legal expert Hamish Birchall was one of the first people to add his name. Television crime writer Andrew Rattenbury has already signed it. Andrew Rattenbury is a Television scriptwriter who sometimes writes scripts for ITV’s long running series The Bill. He has told Dave Sampson he will be talking to a the programmes executive producer Jonathan Young to see if they could incorporate the story into the series so as to show the public the way a number of police officers were able to not only to trick the IPCC but also an investigation ordered by the DPP Sir Ken McDonald.
Popular star of TV's Emmerdale folksinger Bernard Wrigley and West Country folksinger Barbara Brown have also signed up as has the chairman of our local Conservative Party John Waine. Folk comedians Shep Woolley and Jon Betmead have also given their backing.
This month the news of the petition has gone around the web via Myspace and the aim is to make it the fastest moving petition ever aiming for a million online signatures. So by the time you read this there will be more than 33 signatures. Indeed I’ve added my own. If you would like to discuss this matter with Dave Sampson you can contact him on 01788 832021. To get the full story before really committing yourselves however I urge you to look at www.justice4caroline.co.uk It does not make pleasant reading; but there are times when we all need to take stock of reality.


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

2007
Feb 15th (KM) Darlington Arts Centre, Vane Road, Darlington.
Feb 20th (Joe) St Aiden’s 50 Club, Mirfield, Huddersfield.
Mar 5th (Joe) Rossett School, Harrogate. (Life and times Paul Robeson)
Mar 7th (Joe) Morley Probus Club, Morley, Leeds. – Valparaiso
Mar 21st (Joe) Garforth Probus Club - (Life and times Paul Robeson)
Apr 16th (KM) Bacup Folk Club, Conservative Club, Bacup
Apr 19th (KM) Black Swan Folk Club, York
Apr 21st (KM) Puzzle Hall Inn, Sowerby Bridge
May 5th (Joe) Sweeps Festival, Rochester.
May 6th (Joe) Sweeps Festival, Rochester.
May 11th (KM) Clennell Hall, Alwinton, Northumberland National Park
May 12th (KM) Clennell Hall, Alwinton, Northumberland National Park
May 13th (KM) Clennell Hall, Alwinton, Northumberland National Park
May 16th (Joe) Maurice Jagger Centre, Winding Road, Halifax.
Jun 15th (KM) Alcester Folk Festival
Jun 16th (KM) Alcester Folk Festival
Jun 17th (KM) Alcester Folk Festival
Jul 2nd (Joe) Moreley Pensioners Club – (Life and times Paul Robeson)
Jul 6th (KM) Jersey Sea Festival
Jul 7th (KM) Jersey Sea Festival
Jul 8th (KM) Jersey Sea Festival
Jul 29th (KM) Puzzle Hall Inn, Sowerby Bridge
Aug 11th KM) Broadstairs Folk Festival
Aug 12th (KM) Broadstairs Folk Festival
Aug 13th (KM) Broadstairs Folk Festival
Aug 24th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Aug 25th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Aug 26th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Sep 3rd (Joe) Conservative Club Folk Club, Bacup.
Sep 7th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 8th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 9th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Nov 18th (KM) The Open Door Folk Club, The Royal Oak, Werneth, Oldham.
2008
Feb 2nd (KM) Square Chapel Theatre, Halifax. (Matinee and evening).
Feb 24th (KM) Southport Folk Club.
2009
Jan 11th (KM) Sixmilebridge Winter Festival, County Clare - Provisional
Jan 12th (KM) Sixmilebridge Winter Festival, County Clare - Provisional


Obituary
A radio programme!
I got the following letter from my old Pal Bob Gramann in Virginia. WETA radio closed the folk programme after 34 years giving the presenter Mary Cliff less than one week’s notice. If that ain’t a violent end tell me one.

Folks,
If any of you have connections at WETA radio's management, now is the time to use them. Here's the message from Mary Cliff. She has been very good to us for a long, long time. Personally, I will really miss this show.
--Bob Gramann

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mary Cliff" <mcliff@WETA.COM>
To: <FOLKDJ-L@LISTS.PSU.EDU>
Sent: Monday, January 22, 2007 3:24 PM
Subject: [FOLKDJ-L] WETA's Traditions

Hi, guys.
Something must be in the air.
I was just informed that my folk music program TRADITIONS will end this week and that my employment at WETA radio will end after 34 years.
Haven't decided whether to go to Memphis yet.
Mary Cliff, TRADITIONS soon-to-be-formerly at WETA Radio
Washington, DC

And another letter on the subject:-

Dear Friends in Folk,
This afternoon I heard the sad news that Mary Cliff has been asked to collect her things and leave WETA FM Radio this Friday, and that this Saturday night will be the last broadcast of her show, "Traditions." As the WETA FM website describes it, "Traditions, [Mary's] four-hour Saturday night folk music program, is known for its breadth: a mix of traditional, revival, singer-songwriter, ethnic, world and kitchen music, with a strong emphasis on artists and performances in the greater Washington area." It is notable that Traditions is Washington D.C.'s longest-running radio show devoted to folk music. The Institute of Musical Traditions celebrated the show's 30th anniversary with a special concert in January of 2004.
I called Mary and she verified the bad news, reading me excerpts of the official dismissal letter that began, "After careful consideration*" She is shocked, but taking it rather well, considering how sudden this is. She told me that only last week, she was assured that the station would keep airing "Traditions" until she retired. She is trying to remain hopeful, and says she is keeping her ear to the ground for other stations that might pick up her show (and Prairie Home Companion, which is also homeless!).
Word is spreading like wildfire on the internet. Washingtonpost.com already has an article in today's Metro section entitled "WETA to Resume Classical Music Broadcast: Move Comes as WGMS Changes Programming."
Print media will not be far behind*Mary says she has already talked to columnist Mark Fisher of the Post's Metro section, as well as someone from Washington City Paper.
This is a terrible day for the folk community -- for folk music fans; for folk musicians who depend on Mary to help fill the venues where they make their livings as performers; for the venues that book folk and traditional music; for small indie labels that publish this music; and for all who love the thriving Washington, D.C. folk music scene that Mary has nurtured all these years.
I'm sure that as word spreads, there will be organized protests with strategies that encourage us to pull together in a certain direction.
Until then, we can express our thoughts about the dismissal of Mary Cliff and the loss of the "Traditions" show by phone or email to WETA's Director of Audience Services, Sheryl Lahti. (Do remember, though, that Sheryl had nothing to do with this decision).
Sheryl Lahti's email address is: slahti@weta.com
The telephone number for WETA Audience Services is (703) 998-2724.
Someone will answer between 9 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday, and can transfer your call to Sheryl.
To leave a message after hours, wait until the pre-recorded message finishes, and you hear the beep. Make sure to spell your name, and leave your daytime phone number. Mary says that they will tally and catalog the comments they receive; the recording says they will make an effort to respond.
I'm sorry to be the bearer of this bad news, but I wanted you to know as soon as I did.
With appreciation for Mary Cliff and all they years we've enjoyed Traditions,
Jennifer Cutting - Bandleader, Ocean Orchestra


Letters

Joe,
Enter not into the horror of folksong copyright. Most of the bawdy songs were rewrites which I made in order to free them from censorship. After my first angry litigation, wherein I spent ten times more than the income, I gave up.
But your cookbook venture reminds me of the day a young lady from "The Villager" came to the door of my Greenwich Village hobble, ("humble plus "hovel"), and invited me to submit an esoteric recipe to "The Greenwich Village Cookbook". I said sure, positive it was either a joke or a doomed-to-fail project.
But it turned out to be real, with submissions from Agee to Eleanor (Roosevelt). I was forced to examine my "Joy of Cooking" which I'd been using to satisfy the three little hungry progeny for whom I was a solo parent. I picked out an astonishingly simple "asparagus special", phallic vegetables soaked in lemon juice. But to show how inventive I was, I indicated orange instead of lemon juice. You can find it in "The Greenwich Village Cookbook".
Unfortunately, the book was published. Some people joked and others gagged. One day I tried the "recipe" and served it at our little four-people dinner. It was awful. That night we ate at the hot dog stand. A good sauerkraut washes away the remnants of bad taste. The only way you can realize the horror is to taste it. I have never trusted cookbooks since then..
Oscar Brand (USA).


Hello Joe,
Thanks for the latest 'Ramblings'.
Glad to see the diary's keeping full and equally glad to read that your thought processes are as deep, provocative and clearly presented as they ever were.
Copyright and tradition: can of worms duly opened. I don't think anyone will ever resolve it. The argument may indeed become a tradition in its own right! In the end, it's down to the individual. And for what it's worth, here's my own standpoint.
Interestingly, a chance to air my view came up quite recently, when I had a request from a singer in Canada, to confirm whether or not I was the author/composer of a song which she had heard (and read) described as 'traditional' by a Canadian group, but which others had indicated was in fact 'one of mine'. I'll copy some of my reply, as it may help to illustrate my point:
"When I became interested and active in folk music in the 'sixties, I realised that my home area [Nottinghamshire] had very few archived songs, and I set out to create my own songs, based on the lives of the mining community in which I had grown up, and largely drawing on the stories which my grandparents and parents had told me. So, in a way, I was making traditional-style songs out of stories, which had already made the oral transition through 3 generations of the same family. Pedants may debate for ages whether these songs are therefore mine or 'traditional'. For my own part, I usually admit to being the creator of the tune and lyrics, where appropriate, but have never sought to make money from their publication or recording, and always 'credit' my family as the source of the theme and inspiration for its development into song form."
Most of my songs were published by the late Eric Winter in his magazines 'Sing' and 'Top & Trad'. My only fee was the enjoyment of seeing them in print (vanity publications?) and since then, my delight in them has been hearing other people sing them. But to continue with my reply to the enquiry, which concerned a song called 'Gilliver' about a pit pony my grandfather had once worked with:
"Gilliver is not the only song of mine which has been credited as traditional (a thing which makes me feel pride and humility in equal measures!). The Young Tradition (remember them?) recorded 'Watercress-O', a song about a child missing a Sunday teatime treat because of the conditions for mining families during the 1926 General Strike, from a story by my grandmother, Sally Clarke....... Tune and lyrics are credited to me on the YT's 'So Cheerfully Round' LP (Topic, 1967), but I have actually been present when it has been sung and the singer has announced it as 'traditional'. Another song ........ is 'Catherine Shaw', a straight attempt by me to create a mining version of the genre of 'women dressed in men's clothing' songs, such as the 'Handsome Cabin Boy',' Female Drummer Boy', etc. A well-known female singer once told me about the song, citing it as an 'early, probably 19th century, example of feminism in the workplace', without having realised that it was written by me in 1971."
I find it interesting that during the boom in collectorism in the 1890's/1900's, songs about the Crimean War, only a few decades earlier, were considered to be 'traditional'. So, if age is all that counts, are my songs, now 40+ years old in some cases, traditional? Discuss - at great length - ELSEWHERE! Here's my take on it:
"Some [of my earlier songs] I still sing, some are sung by others, often evolving into variations, which gives me great pleasure, as this, for me, indicates that they are being adopted and personalised by a wide range of singers - another step towards their becoming part of a tradition, (my bold - see note below) and carrying on in musical form, the story of my family and the community which has been so devastated in the last 20 years, by the political decision, ruthlessly taken, to terminate England's coal industry".
Note: my own personal definition of a traditional song is one that has stood not just the test of time but the test of variation; one that has, like so very many of the song variants collected by the great and good a hundred years ago, meant enough to someone for them to adopt it and make it relevant to their time, their place, their audience and most of all, their own personal feeling about the theme. Any lateral view of song collections indicates that songs are parts of families, varying from area to area in melody and lyric, adopting the best from older versions and bringing in new ideas which were specific and relevant, in place, in time and indeed in the individual's 'take' on the theme. SO - if you write a song in the style associated with a particular tradition, and then you ring fence it with copyright and make people beg your permission to record it AND then (and I know of examples of this) only grant that permission if they promise to keep lyrics and music word for word and note for note as your 'original', then I don't think you should call it a 'folk' song, nor yourself a 'folk' musician. (Raises shield in anticipation of brickbats ....)
Now someone taking one of my songs and claiming that THEY wrote it, would be a whole different matter .....!! And my non-copyrighting lays me open to that abuse. But it's a risk I'm prepared to take to maintain what I see as my integrity in the matter discussed above.
I share with you a great and truly traditional recipe; it involves two ancient staple foods: grain and pulses, which have sustained many generations through hard times in many parts of the world. In Central and South America, they present it as tortilla and frejoles, in the Indian subcontinent it's chapatis and dhal. I could go on .... BUT, here's my version: You take a slice of bread (available ready cut, if you like) and toast it. If you wish, or are rich enough, you may spread it with butter. Meanwhile, you heat, in a saucepan, the contents of a tin of Baked Beans. Then pour the heated beans onto the buttered (or not) toast. I think I'll call it 'Toast Under Beans'. Go on, Jamie Oliver, nick that!
Greetings for 2007
Roger Watson

ello Joe
A happy new year to you - you old cookerybook bootlegger that you are !!!!! Shame on you !!!!
I tried one of the recipes but the Kimber’s Men CD Rissotto was awful - it took so long to cook and nobody liked it - so it had to valpairiso round the horn
lots love
Shep the Wool (banned for hating T Blair).


Dear Joe,
HappyOLD YEAR.
WHAT SORT OF AN EGG ARE YOU BOILING, the times are all wrong for boiling a duck ,goose or ostrich egg. Jesus I could sue you for food poisoning. The red, red robin keeps bob bobbing along.
Dick Miles (Ireland).
PS. Never boil a robin’s egg.

Hi Joe,
Your analogy of copyright with a pond was a good one so I hope you don't mind me taking it up without paying you any royalties for it. My feeling is that you are deliberately stirring up that mud at the edge in an effort to create sufficient extra "murkiness" to obscure your own case. I am accepting (as did yourself) that the principle is based on your belief that the book was genuine when you passed it on. You explain that some recipes can be so old that passing them on isn't really such a bad thing, which I don't altogether accept as some can be original ideas, but we'll let that pass. The fact is that what you passed on wasn't just some recipes; it was a book. A book contains much input from those who put it together and when they sell it they are then rewarded for their efforts, the creativity input here being as much in the presentation as in the recipes. If passing Internet copies around prevents sales then I think the water in the pond is really quite clear where it covers your case. Yes I know this sort of book is likely to be bought as a coffee-table decoration and so not all sales would be "stolen" but we are dealing with principles here. This means any lost sales at all suggest you are guilty as charged.
All the best,
Ray Black (Harrogate)


Joe.
Here’s a recipe you can forward without controversy! Although lack of controversy isn't your intention, it should raise a smile.
Lynne Barnes.
Christmas Cake Recipe
Ingredients:
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
lemon juice
4 large eggs
nuts
bottle brandy
2 cups of dried fruit.
Sample the Brandy to check quality.
Take a large bowl, check the Brandy again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.
Repeat.
Turn on the electric mixer.
Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar.
Beat again.
At this point it's best to make sure the Brandy is shtill OK. Try another cup ... just in case
Turn off the mixerer.
Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Pick dropped fruit off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers pry it loose with
a drewscriver.
Sample the Brandy to check for tonsisticity.
Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something.
Check the Brandy.
Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
Add one table.
Add a spoon of sugar, or somephink. Whatever you can find.
Greash the oven.
Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.
Don't forget to beat off the turner.
Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Brandy and kick the cat.
CHERRY MISTMAS!

Joe
Thanks for ‘Ramblings’. Very interesting, especially about the copyright and the safety for women. Oh and I like the Christmas quiz to get into heaven joke and guess what...I forwarded it to Carol...naughty but nice!!!
Two tips I remember from a Townswomen's Guild day at York University given by a champion Jujitsu woman champion, who was very petite, were..........if they grab you from behind and you have heeled shoe on (hopefully stilletto heels) scrape one down their shin....they will release you from pain. And if someone grabs your bag, do as the 80 year old lady did and scream as loud and shrill as you can the shock is likely to kill them. It's the element of surprise; they never expect you to retaliate.
Tina Watkin

Funnies

Happy Australia Day – January 26

We, the people of the broad brown land of Oz, wish to be recognised as a free nation of blokes, sheilas and the occasional boong. We come from many lands (although a few too many of us come from New Zealand) and, although we live in the best country in the world, we reserve the right to bitch and moan about it whenever we bloody like. We are One Nation but we're divided into many States.

First, there's Victoria, named after a queen who didn't believe in lesbians. Victoria is the realm of Mossimo turtlenecks, cafe latte, grand final day and big horse races. Its capital is Melbourne, whose chief marketing pitch is that it's "livable." At least that's what they think. The rest of us think it is too bloody cold and wet.

Next, there's New South Wales, the realm of pastel shorts, macchiato with sugar, thin books read quickly and millions of dancing queens. Its capital, Sydney, has more queens than any other city in the world, and is proud of it. Its mascots are Bondi lifesavers who pull their Speedos up their cracks to keep the left and right sides of their brains separate.

Down south we have Tasmania, a state where everyone gets an extra chromosome at conception. Maps of the state bring smiles to the sternest faces. It holds the world record for a single mass shooting, which the Yanks can't seem to beat no matter how often they try.

South Australia is the province of half-decent reds, a festival of foreigners and bizarre axe murders. They had the Grand Prix, but lost it when the views of Adelaide sent the Formula One drivers to sleep at the wheel.

Western Australia is too far from anywhere to be relevant in this document. WA was the last state to stop importing convicts, and many of them still work there in the government and business.

The Northern Territory is the red heart of our land. Outback plains, cattle stations the size of Europe, kangaroos, jackaroos, emus, Ulurus and dusty kids with big smiles. It also has the highest beer consumption of anywhere on the planet, and its creek beds have the highest aluminium content of anywhere too. Although the Territory is the centrepiece of our national culture, few of us live there and the rest prefer to fly over it on our way to Bali.

And there's Queensland. While any mention of God seems silly in a document defining a nation of half-arsed agnostics, it is worth noting that God probably made Queensland. Why He filled it with dickheads remains a mystery.

Oh yes, and there's Canberra. The least said the better.

We, the citizens of Oz, are united by the Pacific Highway, whose treacherous twists and turns kill more of us each year than die by murder. We are united in our lust for international recognition, so desperate for praise we leap in joy when a ragbag gaggle of corrupt IOC officials tells us Sydney is better than Beijing.

We are united by a democracy so flawed that a political party, albeit a redneck gun-toting one, can get a million votes and still not win one seat in Federal Parliament while bloody Brian Harradine can get 24,000 votes and run the whole country.

Not that we're whinging, we leave that to our Pommy immigrants. We want to make, "No worries mate" our national phrase, "She'll be right, mate" our national attitude, and "Waltzing Matilda" our national anthem. (So what if it's about a sheep-stealing crim who commits suicide).

We love sport so much our newsreaders can read the death toll from a sailing race and still tell us who's winning in the same breath. And we're the best in the world at all the sports that count, like cricket, netball, rugby, AFL, roo-shooting, two-up and horse racing.

We also have the biggest rock, the tastiest pies, the blackest aborigines and the worst-dressed Olympians in the known universe. We are girt by sea and pissed by lunchtime. And even though we might seem a racist, closed-minded, sports-obsessed little people, at least we're better than the f*@*#*! Kiwis.

Subject: FW: Federal Court Ruling from the Melbourne Age, Australia (AP)

A seven year old Aboriginal boy was at the centre of a courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him.

The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with the child custody law and regulations requiring that family unity be maintained to the degree possible. The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his Aunt beat him more than his parents and he adamantly refused to live with her. When the judge suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried out that they also beat him.

After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him.

After two recesses to check legal references and confer with child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the English Cricket Team, whom the boy firmly believes are "not capable of beating anyone."

Keep smiling, keep singing.


Joe Stead