Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Twenty Two - July 2002.

I remember seeing Pete Seeger once at The Albert Hall get a piece of paper out of his pocket and stick it on the microphone to introduce the audience to a new song he had not yet learnt properly. It was 1961. There was a buzz of amusement around the audience that he had done so. But if you have a good song, that you’ve not yet learnt, then it’s perfectly good practise to do this. I’m sure as soon as Pete was happy that he had the song fixed in his brain the piece of paper was thrown away. I’ve very occasionally done this myself at gigs. I’ve had the words handy to a new song just in case. But I was at a festival of the sea a couple of years ago where one of the main acts (who was clearly not that well aquatinted with sea shanties or sea songs) without any shame whatsoever read every song in a 45/60 minute spot from a book on a music stand. This was after discussing openly in front of the audience with the fiddle playing accompanist which song they might do next. I was appalled. Not only was there no fore thought, no gig list, there was, unsurprisingly, little to no feeling in any of the songs either. I really wanted to join the many others who were leaving the concert room. My problem was that I had sat myself down right in front of the microphones, I obviously knew the performer and was therefore reluctant to walk out mid-performance. I was probably also annoyed to think that this particular singer was probably getting three times my fee, but that is not my business.

I’ve seen song reading in front of the audience more and more often of late, mainly of course at festival ‘sing–arounds’ where the singers might claim that it doesn’t matter. But sometimes too floor-singers at folk clubs also sing from books. Some have even claimed that they cannot sing without a book. Well I’m tempted to say to them “Well don’t bother at all then”. Did it all start with poets, who have to read their own literary masterpieces from books? Why when you’ve written a poem yourself do you have to read it out from a piece of paper? Is this simply laziness, or fashion? Do you know, come to think of it, I’ve never seen a poet do otherwise, except I think John Cooper Clark at the Cambridge Folk Festival. He was dynamite that day – and that’s probably why – he wasn’t reading!

When you read a song, you lose the spontaneity, you lose the freshness and the song never changes. A song is after all a living thing. I’ve moaned in the past about singers not bothering to learn the correct words, but this is when this form of laziness or manipulation either changes the song completely as with Aragon Mill becoming Belfast Mill, or when the pure poetry of the writer has been abandoned completely. It is not fair to the listener, or the song if you constantly sing from a book. The singer who sings from a book merely becomes a playback device. If you have such little respect for the song, the listener and yourself be it at a festival sing around or folk club floor spot, then don’t bother to sing the song at all if you can’t be bothered to learn it. To be a main line act at a festival and do it twice on stage for 45/60 minutes is totally unforgivable. Another sadness here is that the particular singer I mention is very good when performing songs other than sea songs. So what induced this performer to accept the booking but not bother to prepare is a total mystery to me and I would have thought totally out of character.

Nora took me to see Scaramouche Jones at Leeds Playhouse a couple of weeks back. A one man play it starred Pete Postlethwaite and was gobsmackingly good. Riveting, breathtaking are words that leap to mind. And do you know he did it all from memory! Ninety minutes of some of the most brilliant acting I’ve ever seen. No he didn’t do it from a book; think how boring it would have been had he simply stood there and narrated a one-man play from a book?

And so the World Cup has been and gone for another four years. If this particular competition has proved one thing it has proved that FIFA, the governing body, is currently rotten from top to bottom. The President is under suspicion of flagrant manipulation of funds whilst match officials, considering the odd decisions, would appear to likewise be receiving back handed compliments as well!

I’ve come to the conclusion however that each country has a factory somewhere that manufactures human commodities. The French for example have a Complacency and Laissez-Faire Factory. The French strolled into the competition thinking they simply had to turn up, but went home early without scoring even one goal. In Rome there is a Factory of Tragedy. What other side but Italy could score four perfectly good goals in three different games but have them all ruled out by dubious officialdom? The Spaniards have a Factory of Disbelief and Underachievement. They too suffered from the hands of poor refereeing but had other chances to win games they either lost or drew. The Irish Factory of Pluck over all Adversity was very much in evidence. To overcome the loss of your only outstanding player due to a sulk but still reach dizzy heights proved that that factory was working at full capacity. The Americans have a Factory of Blood Sweat Tears and Bewilderment. The American soccer fan (I think there probably is only one and I’m lucky enough to know him) must be totally bewildered that both a referee and a linesman could at the same time miss a blatant hand ball on the goal line, whilst the team itself excelled under difficult circumstances only to be eventually cheated into defeat. The rest of the nation meanwhile, normally bewildered at the knowledge that there are other lands beyond the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, must also be bewildered that there is a world championship ball game that actually involves other nations. Argentina’s Factory of Spite was not working at full capacity this year, but The Factory of Spit kept to its normal production quota. In England we have a Factory of Stoicism and Lack of Ideas. We limped sadly out of a competition, almost without ambition, we had no game plan and certainly no method by which to beat a team a man short. The German Factory of Luck (over which they have had a monopoly since 1970) was again working at capacity levels. Lucky to be in the competition in the first place, they had the easiest opposition for two weeks, and then luckily beat America in a game in which they were totally outplayed. The referee missed a blatant hand-ball which should not only have been a penalty but a sending off offence. A poor side (and that’s being kind) they were lucky to have the best goalkeeper in the whole competition who saved them from defeat after defeat in games they deserved to lose. As a result they reached the Final where they met Brazil a team they had never met in the World Cup before. No surprise then that they always do well. Brazil played with verve, skill, showmanship and every asset necessary as usual and duly won as we all knew they would. And here is the essence of it all .……………… and it’s just like not singing from a book.

Wednesday July 3 - The Cross Keys, Uppermill, Nr Oldham.
Friday July 5 - The Dog and Partridge, Bollington, Nr Macclesfield
Saturday July 6 – The Cricket Club, Copley, Halifax. (Kimber’s Men)
Sunday July 14 - Sea Food Festival, Aberaearon, Near Aberystwyth (Kimber’s Men)
Sat+Sun July 20/21 – Scarborough Festival of the Sea (Kimber’s Men)
Fri+Sat Aug 9/10 – Maryport Festival (Kimber’s Men)
Thur, Fri, Sat 15/16/17 Aug – Tall Ships Festival, Portsmouth (Kimber’s Men)
Sunday August 25 – Fleetwood Nautical Museum (1pm) Valparaiso round the Horn.

After my grandfather had died and left me his Clifford Essex XX Special five-string banjo (which I still play) I entered a short period of folk hibernation. I still visited folk clubs of course, but some of the best in London were on Saturday evenings and by this time I was playing rugby at a reasonably high standard with the Old Askean First XV. This meant that some Saturday evenings found me on coach trips back from outlandish outposts like Birmingham, Stroud, Lydney, Devon and South Wales. After home games I often stayed at the club where my singing was becoming almost legendary. The club at this time had some interesting individuals. Dick Hills and Sid Green (known to us as Sick and Did) were script writers for Morecombe and Wise. Danny Quastel was a millionaire (even in those days) who owned about 20 booking shops in South East London. Finally there was Malcolm Keen – one of the funniest men I have ever met who spent his spare time in bed with his wife composing the most outrageous rugger songs you are ever likely to hear. Saturday nights at Kidbrooke were loud raucous affairs with much singing and a great deal of horse play so by seven o’clock I was in no fit state to visit a folk club and become involved in the Arts! Johnny King was another OA celebrity. Johnny managed The Temperance Seven who topped the music charts with such wonderful musical pieces as ‘Winchester Cathedral’ etc. This meant we frequently went on Saturdays to the Chislehurst Caves Jazz Nights. I have to confess that a travesty of justice occurred here. Hundreds of people queued for hours to get in whilst we simply walked to the front of the queue with Johnny and got in for nothing! The Chislehurst Caves stretch for miles and miles beneath the Kent Countryside so there were bands playing in all directions. Many were skiffle groups which of course was a form of folk music. Chris Barber, Ken Colyer etc all had their own Skiffle Group section who would break off from the traditional jazz to play such stuff as Pay me your money down, Freight Train, Midnight Special etc. On Sundays we would all go to The Shakespeare in Powis Street, Woolwich. Traditional jazz again – but there was always a folk interlude that involved either Steve Benbow or perhaps Big Bill Broonzy

During this period I spent much time with Roy Duffin, whom I have mentioned before in Ramblings Past. Roy joined the Askeans rather than play for The Old Colfeians. As you can imagine we had many wonderful evenings together, most of which have disappeared into a foggy memory bank brought on by the number of years that have elapsed since and the uncountable pints of bitter that were consumed when we were together. But I do remember one very funny occasion when we were playing St Mary’s Hospital. It was a cold wet November afternoon somewhere in South West London. Now bear in mind that the opposition would have been mainly young doctors. A loose scrum had formed a few yards from their line when one of the opposing forwards decided to bite Roy’s ear. Now most of us would have probably dropped the ball and given the offending gentleman a good hiding. Roy simply shouted very loudly … “YOU CARNIVEROUS BASTARD!” This might not seem very funny in cold print but at the time the response on the pitch that day was a mixture of amazement and mirth. The whole scrum subsided into fits of laughter, with the exception of Roy, who charged like a mad bull through their ranks, blood spurting in all directions from his savaged ear. Doctors were trampled beneath his feet as he charged forward to dive over the opposition line in the most spectacular fashion to score the most magnificent try you will ever see. Well that was how it was told many times in the bar afterwards. But of course Roy who was seventeen stone and five feet six inches tall was totally incapable of performing a spectacular dive, in all honesty it was more of a crumpled collapse with the ball stuck somewhere beneath his ample midriff. Indeed it wasn’t even his ear that was bitten – I believe it was his left thumb. But score he did and thus the story passed into Old Askean folk lore.

Roy was also my right hand man in a Sunday side we ran together for a number of years. We called the team “The two magnificent sevens plus one”. We had our own shirts, unusually numbered for those days. With the backs numbered 1 to 7, the forwards numbered 1 to 7, and with the number 8 forward wearing a shirt numbered +1. The side was so successful that we were forced by popularity to form a second team which we called The Terrible Square Root of 225. I remember Roy fixed up a match against the White Lion, a pub side from Fulham. They turned up with four Irish Internationals and a South African trialist. Fortunately for us they all had horrendous hangovers so somehow we kept their score below four figures. Now that evening after the match ……… well that’s another story.
To be continued.

My step daughter Angela sent me a computer tip to avoid viruses which might just work. I’ve not tried it yet – because I’m so paranoid about computer viruses that I’m concerned that it might have an adverse effect and actually assist a virus to attack. Tell me what you think. Is the following idea good, or not? I must admit it sounds good. (Serious observations appreciated).

Subject: How to protect your address book

I learned a computer trick today that is ingenious in its simplicity. As you may know, if/when a worm virus gets into your computer, it heads straight to your email address book, and sends it to everyone listed, thus infecting all your friends and associates. This trick won't stop the virus from getting into your computer, but it will stop it from using your address book to spread further, and it will alert you to the fact that the worm has entered your system.
Here's what you do: first open your address book and click on "add new contact" just as you would do when adding a new contact to your list of email addresses. In the window where you would type your friend’s name, type in AAAAAAA. In the window where it prompts you to enter your friend’s email address, type in Then complete everything by clicking add, enter, ok etc.
Now here's what you've done and why it works: The name AAAAAAA will be placed at the top of your address book as entry #1. This will be where the worm will start in an effort to send itself to all your friends. But when it tries to send itself to AAAAAA, it will be undeliverable because of the phoney address you entered. If the first attempt fails, (and it will, due to the phoney address), the worm goes no further and your friends will not be infected.
Here's the second great advantage of this method: If the email is undeliverable, you will be notified almost immediately in your Inbox. Hence, if you ever get an email telling you that an email addressed to, could not be delivered, you know right away that you have the virus in your system.
You can then take steps in getting rid of the virus.
If everybody you know does this, then you never have to worry about opening mail from your friends or contacts.

Whilst on the subject of computer virus paranoia, try this for size……… It’s INCREDIBLY important!!!!!
If you receive an email entitled "Bedtimes”, delete it IMMEDIATELY. Do not open it. Apparently this one is pretty nasty. It will not only erase everything on your hard drive, but it will also delete anything on disks within 20 feet of your computer. It demagnetises the strips on ALL of your credit cards. It reprograms your ATM access code, screws up the tracking on your VCR and uses subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD's you attempt to play. It will program your phone auto-dial to call only premium rate numbers.
This virus will mix antifreeze into your fish tank. IT WILL CAUSE YOUR TOILET TO FLUSH WHILE YOU ARE SHOWERING. It will drink ALL your beer. It will leave dirty underwear on the coffee table when you are expecting company. It will replace your shampoo with Immac and your Immac with Deep Heat. If the "Bedtimes" message is opened in a Windows 95/98 environment, it will leave the toilet seat up and leave your hair dryer plugged in dangerously close to a full bathtub. It will not only remove the forbidden tags from your mattresses and pillows, it will also refill your skimmed milk with whole milk.


And if you don't send this to 5000 people in 20 seconds you'll fart so hard that your right leg will spasm and shoot straight out in front of you, sending sparks that will ignite the person nearest you. Send to everyone


Hello Joe-
Just perusing "Ol' Codger" quickly this morning and wanted to pass along a quick note. The Gordon Sinclair statement you quoted was from the early 70's and has re-entered the internet (at least here in the US) as something recently stated - which sort of became a joke to those of us who remember this from the 70's. Although the sentiment remains somewhat true, after years of botched US foreign policy, it rings a little dated. The US often is the most altruistic country in the world, with billions flowing out of relief agencies both public and private. But unfortunately this silver lining is tarnished by the ineptitude of corporate-serving foreign policy decisions. Again- the points Mr. Sinclair underlined (he died many years ago) were true and I don't mean to diminish the good works that so many in this country perform (one can cite thousands of organisations based in this country). Its age is given away, however, by references to the Lockheed Tri-Star etc.
My best to you. I eagerly await to read the rest of OC this evening..
Your friend

Dear Joe,
Just in case you hear the whispering-down-the-lane version of the story, here's the real poop: I broke my neck on April 23rd. I got hit by a dog, knocked down, and hit my head on the wall behind me as I went down; my neck snapped forward and it broke. I was VERY lucky, yet again. No tingling, no loss of sensation, no paralysis. Just MUCH pain. I went to the hospital three days later--just rolled in and told them that I thought I'd broken my neck. They rolled their eyes, as if to say, "Yeah, right". I told the nurse practitioner (they don't even let you see a doctor here anymore!) that I'm an EMT (emergency medical technician), I'm a bad patient, and I hate doctors. She said that she hates doctors, too, so we hit it off well. She asked me why I didn't seem to be in pain, and I told her that I'd taken a pain killer before leaving home. She said that I should know better, and I told her that I also knew that it would be at least four hours before I got to see a doctor. I could describe the pain, and knew the pain of a fracture, as I had had so many. I had her convinced that I knew what I was talking about, so she went ahead and ordered a CAT scan. They later took two lateral x-rays. After about an hour, I asked her what we were waiting for. She replied, "The neurosurgeon". That got my attention. He showed up, didn't even examine me, said that I had a C4 fracture of the facet, he had a patient about to go to sleep on the operating table, and he'd see me in 2 weeks. He didn't even come into the room! Actually, I just went to get a confirmation on the fracture and to get a prescription for some REAL pain medication. The Tylenol and brandy weren't cutting it! I had to miss my performance at the Maryland Maritime Heritage Festival, as I went to the hospital that day; but, thanks to the oxycodone, the Liverpool Judies gave a splendid performance the next, best as I can recollect.
So, there's another adventure in my life!
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE send me a copy of Valpariso. Don't make me fly over there to get it! I don't plan to be over until the Trafalgar Day celebrations in '05. Check out and you can hear the song that I wrote for the 74-foot schooner Woodwind for the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. I teach shanties aboard Woodwind every Thursday evening, during the two-hour sunset cruise. Life's a bitch...
Hope you can come and visit Annapolis soon...
--Caryl P. Weiss

I first met Caryl P Weiss in the autumn of 1979 on my first tour to America. I was playing at The Painted Bride Music Club in South Street (down-town) Philadelphia. A club that was a shop window in more senses of the word than at first seems appropriate. The Club was held in a shop with a big front bay window. Actually the more I think of it wasn’t a shop at all – just a big bay window. Therefore people wandering down the road were often tempted to walk in. Caryl and I became friends and have kept in contact ever since. I was impressed not only by her musicianship but also by the fact that she roamed the Eastern States of America on a Harley Davidson of some considerable size. She was involved in an horrific accident a few years after I first met her breaking countless bones and I recall her bravery and determination arriving in England on sticks to perform at The Cambridge Folk Festival. It should therefore be of no surprise, or to any one else who knows her, that she has subsequently broken her neck. Get better soon Caryl.

I end, hopefully with a smile. Well I always try to don’t I? Here follows excerpts from a dog’s diary followed by one from a cat.

EXCERPTS FROM A DOG'S DIARY...(cats diary down page...)
Day number 180
8:00 am – Oh Boy! Dog Food ! My favourite!
9:30 am - Oh Boy! A car ride! My favourite!
9:40 am - Oh Boy! A walk! My favourite!
10:30 am - Oh Boy! A car ride! My favourite!
11:30 am - Oh Boy! Dog Food! My favourite!
12:00 noon - Oh Boy! The Kids! My favourite!
1:00 pm - Oh Boy! The Yard! My favourite!
4:00 pm - Oh Boy! The Kids! My favourite!
5:00 PM - Oh Boy! Dog Food! My Favourite!

Day number 181
8:00 am – Oh Boy! Dog Food ! My favourite!
9:30 am - Oh Boy! A car ride! My favourite!
9:40 am - Oh Boy! A walk! My favourite!
10:30 am - Oh Boy! A car ride! My favourite!
11:30 am - Oh Boy! Dog Food! My favourite!
12:00 noon - Oh Boy! The Kids! My favourite!
1:00 pm - Oh Boy! The Yard! My favourite!
4:00 pm - Oh Boy! The Kids! My favourite!
5:00 PM - Oh Boy! Dog Food! My Favourite!

Day number 182
8:00 am – Oh Boy! Dog Food ! My favourite!
9:30 am - Oh Boy! A car ride! My favourite!
9:40 am - Oh Boy! A walk! My favourite!
10:30 am - Oh Boy! A car ride! My favourite!
11:30 am - Oh Boy! Dog Food! My favourite!
12:00 noon - Oh Boy! The Kids! My favourite!
1:00 pm - Oh Boy! The Yard! My favourite!
1:30 pm – Ooooooo! Bath! Bummer!
4:00 pm - Oh Boy! The Kids! My favourite!
5:00 PM - Oh Boy! Dog Food! My Favourite!

DAY 752 - My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat another house plant.
DAY 761 - Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded, must try this at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favourite chair... must try this on their bed.
DAY 765 - Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body, in attempt to make them aware of what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear into their hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was...Hmmm. Not working according to plan.
DAY 768 - I am finally aware of how sadistic they are. For no good reason I was chosen for the water torture. This time however it included a burning foamy chemical called "shampoo." What sick minds could invent such a liquid. My only consolation is the piece of thumb still stuck between my teeth.
DAY 771 - There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event. However, I could hear the noise and smell the foul odour of the glass tubes they call "beer." More importantly I overheard that my confinement was due to MY power of "allergies." Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.
DAY 774 - I am convinced the other captives are flunkeys and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The bird on the other hand has got to be an informant, and speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal room his safety is assured. But I can wait. It is only a matter of time...

From the tramp in Nice Guy Eddie
Keep smiling, keep singing.

Joe Stead