Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger – Volume 56 - May 2005


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The Puzzle Hall Inn
Hollins Mill Lane
Sowerby Bridge

FRI, SAT & SUNDAY 17th 18th & 19th June

Saturday 18th Times subject to alteration Sunday 19th

3pm Joe Stead Joe Stead 3pm
3.20pm Adrian Nation Monkey’s Fist 3.15pm
3.55pm Tim Broadbent Tim Broadbent 3.45pm
4.25pm Gina le Faux Shep Woolley 4.10pm
5.05pm Nigel Mazlyn Jones Adrian Nation 4.45pm
5.45pm Amazing Mr Smith Hot Rats 5.20pm
6.30pm Paul Downes Paul Downes 6.15pm
7.15pm Kimber’s Men Gina le Faux 6.55pm
8pm Shep Woolley Amazing Mr Smith 7.35pm
8.45pm Hot Rats Nigel Mazlyn Jones 8.10pm
Kimber’s Men 9pm


Roger ‘Tonky’ Hepworth.
It is with deep regret that I have to announce the sad passing of Roger ‘Tonky’ Hepworth early on the morning of Saturday April 16th. Lead guitarist in Shinjig and Kimber’s Men, where he also specialized in top harmonies and shanty singing, Roger had been immersed in music since his schooldays when he first formed a band with his older brother. The original band first called ‘The Clayton Baptist Cellar Band’ soon changed its name to ‘The Condors’. After that came, Cornelius Web, The BMT Band, The Old Mill Band, Bombay Mix, Sumuvus and Shinjig – who specialize in ceilidhs and of course Kimber’s Men.
Roger discovered he had terminal cancer of the lung last July but refused chemo-therapy as the life extension it offered was only a few extra months. The hospital could use his time curing somebody else. He continued gigging with Kimber’s Men until the end of November when we gave what we all deep down realized was our swan song concert as a quartet at The Square Chapel Theatre in front of a packed house. On that occasion we were working in conjunction with three local schools; so it was indeed a fitting swansong for Roger. By this time the cancer was already showing through his neck. Roger went to China in December hoping that there might be a cure available that could not be found in this country. However he returned to Britain at the end of January, by which time his health had deteriorated to the point that he was confined to bed for the rest of his life. His wife Sue lovingly caring for him throughout the remaining months.
In his formative years Roger had been a Young Conservative, he worked on Bradford Trolley Buses as a conductor – but left because he kept getting electrocuted, he was an encyclopedia salesman, eventually rising to the status of an advertising executive whence he ran his own company. He was the Mayor of Luddenden for the year of 2,000, a position of extreme importance within the village insofar as he was required to open the annual fete. Well he always joked about the position but actually he also organised the village calendar and raised a hell of a lot of money for village charities.
He loved camping, rock climbing, potholing, scouting and he was a keen badminton player until his bones creaked too much. For a while he seriously considered moving to Greece where he and Sue had opened a strong friendship with people in Stoupa.
Roger was an integral part of Kimber’s Men and continuing to work without him is a bit like living with an arm torn off. We all miss his humour off stage, his appalling humour on it and of course professionally we miss the incredible input he gave the group with his harmonies and guitar.
But quite apart from all the above for almost 40 years he and Neil Kimber were hosts at a weekly singaround at the Sportsman pub on a Thursday night overlooking Halifax appearing there over 2,000 times. Of course the sessions still go on, but without Roger.
He leaves his wife Sue, a daughter Holly, a grandson Elijah and a last message of love to his family and friends.

Cyril Tawney
Cyril Tawney died during the afternoon of Friday April 22nd in hospital in Exeter. He had been ill for many months. An astounding songwriter and a really lovely man, his works include Grey Funnel Line, Sammy's Bar, Chicken on a Raft, Sally free and Easy... He was always a friend (at least he was to me), free with advice, helpful, and I particularly remember a drinking session we had in Portsmouth when we were both staying with Shep Woolley with a night off. Well I remember the start of it at least.
I’ve had a lovely letter from John Roberts which includes a very fitting obituary – please read more from John later.
Our thoughts go out to his wife Rosemary: may Cyril rest in peace.


I thought my last Ramblings were quite innocuous. Indeed I considered them to be the most innocuous Ramblings ever. Despite this they still inspired some interesting letters which can be found in the appropriate section. I’ve printed them exactly as they came in.

I didn’t of course get a letter from David Blunkett but he did make an interesting comment on Question Time in early April relating to the election. He said “When you get into the polling booth just make a mental picture of Tony Blair and then Michael Howard, think about the improvements the Labour party have made and then cast your vote”.

I don’t think many people could deny that the Labour Party has been a very effective government here at home. Interest rates have come down considerably and stayed down. Despite the increase in MRSA our health care has improved and generally right across the board things are better now under a Labour government than they were when the Tories ran the ship. If it were not for the Iraq war and the lies of the leader I would probably be voting Labour myself as I did for 40 years prior to the last election. However the Lib-Dem manifesto is very appealing, and like myself they opposed the war from the onset..

There are those of course who firmly believe that Tony was not lying about the Iraq war, he was apparently simply mis-led by incorrect intelligence information. But you cannot have it both ways. If you believe that, you are admitting that Tony Blair is incompetent as well as suffering megalomania. He could have listened to the rest of the sane majority of the world and insisted on further weapon inspection. But he wanted the glory of walking into battle beside the leader of the strongest and maddest nation on the planet. Tony Blair is clearly not incompetent and I refuse to believe that the British nation voted a man into power who is capable of employing an Intelligence Service that does not know what it is doing. You do not make a statement that another country can attack you with weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes unless you have positive proof. The government claimed they had positive proof, when they clearly did not. The government lied. The American government lied. It’s as black and white as that and anyone who refuses to accept this fact is clearly deluding themselves. And just why so many people both here at home and in America are determined to delude themselves is a mystery I will never fathom. I’ve met some of them and they really come over as intelligent well meaning people, but you put a voting paper in front of them and everything of any sense flies out of the window. I call it blinkered politics. “My dad voted Labour, as did his dad before him. My family has always voted Labour; I’m not going to change now!” What a bunch of losers they are; and of course there are just as many Tories. My mother has always voted Conservative. She’s 88 this year, can’t remember what she did 5 minutes ago; but by gum she’ll be voting Conservative all right. “Winnie Churchill was a lovely man”. So her vote will go to the slimy Mr Howard, that dirty little coward who voted to attack Iraq but now hides behind a Tory smoke screen claiming that Labour lied to them. Stabbing people in the back is of course Tory policy; it’s something they really shine at. At least those of you who read this column regularly know I’ve never wavered on my views. Attacking Iraq was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and we will all live to pay for this atrocity in some way or another. David Kelly died for it. Suicide? You must be joking!

Subsequently of course in recent election speeches Blair has stated (and I quote) “I decided it was better to remove Saddam; the world is a better place with Saddam in prison.” No mention of WMD I notice; but he did emphasise that it was him who decided to remove Saddam, not parliament and certainly not you and me. Of course he needed our approval, so he lied. OK the world might be a better place with Saddam in prison; but try asking the relatives of the 100,000 Iraqi’s that have died since we attacked Iraq what they think. Ask the relatives of dead soldiers in Britain what they think. Pointless asking the relatives of dead Americans; most of them still believe that Saddam was responsible for 9/11 and consider their dead relatives to be martyrs for a cause. Lies, lies and more lies. Americans are so dreadfully brainwashed they fly the flag of freedom outside their Christian homes totally unaware of the truth and what they’ve done to this planet, and not only in the last 4 years – try the last 40.

Another bunch of socialists who were clearly deluding themselves were the Labour Councilors in Birmingham who rigged the last local election by casting false votes for themselves. (And to think I’ve had letters from a Labour Councilor accusing the Lib Dems of being liars and cheats). So this begs the question – Is the Labour Party a bunch of liars and cheats from top to bottom? I would like to think not. I firmly believe that Alice Mahon the Labour representative for Halifax (for whom I’ve never voted as I live about 100 yards from the edge of her constituency) is as honest as the day is long. Coincidentally she spoke out strongly against the Iraq war. I think it’s a pity that the members of parliament who were against the Iraq war (be they Conservative or Labour) did not cross the floor to sit with the Lib Dems. This might have woken Blair to the folly of his ways. Unfortunately Alice has now stood down as a candidate and will not be standing in this next election. My guess too is that she will leave the Labour Party immediately after the election. She is as ashamed of this government as I am.

Mr Blair sent me a letter in April, in which he told me that the Tory party is committed to making £35 billion worth of cuts on public services. But, how many billion pounds did he spend (and is still spending) attacking Iraq?

Meanwhile of course the cost of fuel is reaching astronomical levels. In America, as everywhere, people are complaining about the cost of fuel but seem completely at odds with the idea that prices have risen due to the simple fact that there is no oil coming out of Iraq. When the largest supply of oil in the world is interrupted it would be foolish to think that a world shortage would not follow. But I fear this country is going to vote that wretched liar back into power just as the majority of Americans were daft enough to give Bush another four years. Are we all masochists or what? It is understandable with America. A vast majority of people in that country simply have no idea of the real world and its problems. They live this cocooned life of happiness and luxury totally unaware of virtually everything outside their own borders. America presents itself as a free country, but restricts its occupants from knowing anything that remotely resembles the truth. I should know; I’ve been there enough times!

Do you have on-line banking? I’ve just cancelled mine! £1,930 was fraudulently removed from my personal account on April 1st. Am I slamming the stable door after the horse has bolted? Well I hope not; I hold the bank fully responsible for this loss; why in March I even showed them the fraudulent letter I received from someone purporting to be Barclays Bank trying to get my password, etc. Information incidentally I refused to give.

Meanwhile my friend Tim Nikolai is spending three years and six months in jail for going bankrupt. I wonder how long the perpetrators of this fraud will get if they are ever caught? Why, they sent me another letter just this morning!

And what about Boyd Adams?
Who you ask?
Poor old Boyd, a bent copper, is serving 6 months in prison.
Well; read on ……….

A JUDGE has slammed police officers who bought smuggled tobacco from their own custody sergeant.
Judge Keith Simpson criticised the police station as he jailed former ex-sergeant Boyd Adams for six months for smuggling thousands of cigarettes and pouches of rolling tobacco into the UK without paying tax.
The disgraced officer was also ordered to hand over £117,000 from the share of his home and pension, during the sentencing at Maidstone Crown Court.
Mr Simpson said: “I am extremely troubled by the state of affairs that could exist in a police station where a custody sergeant could be supplying goods to other police officers as well as people outside.”
Adams, 55, from the village of Hamstreet, near Ashford, was a custody sergeant at Folkestone police station and had 28 years service. He was not been sacked by the force for his illegal dealings – he retired three months after his arrest. He was nabbed trying to smuggle a car load of cigarettes and tobacco through the Channel Tunnel in January 2003. It ended his six-year smuggling racket.
The father-of-three, whose wife has divorced him since his downfall, was caught in a routine stop-check by British Customs officers at Coquelles, who found 20,000 cigarettes and 40 kilos of rolling tobacco in the back of his car.
In October last year Adams had already pleaded guilty to two charges of evading excise duty on tobacco worth £11,200 in the year before his arrest.
During the confiscation hearing and sentencing on Thursday afternoon the court was told that Adams had been smuggling in tobacco and alcohol from Belgium for six years. He sold it mostly to colleagues at Folkestone police station, who amazingly paid by cheque leaving a paper trail which Customs discovered, and to a few family and friends.
Investigators found the names of nearly 50 customers on cheques paid into his personal bank account.
Defending Daniel Flahive said Adams’ fellow officers would ask their sergeant to get them cheap tobacco on his trips. But Judge Simpson responded: “It is a rather serious indictment of his work colleagues. “Those who are sworn to uphold the law to wantonly indulge in illicit activities like this, the court is bound to take a serious view of this, whether they approached him or he approached them.”
When Customs officers searched Adam’s £295,000 four-bedroom detached house, they found 91 cartons of 200 cigarettes and 443 pouches tobacco. A Kent Police spokeswoman said it will be up to HM Customs and Excise to bring any further criminal prosecutions against Adams' customers, which included serving police officers. And she confirmed Kent police chiefs will be considering whether to discipline Adams’ colleagues at Folkestone station who bought the bootleg tobacco which brought criticism from the judge. She said: "We are naturally concerned and will be carrying out a review to determine whether further action needs to be taken."

So people with responsibility who lie and cheat either get 6 months in prison or are re-elected to be the prime minister or president. Tim Nikolai gets 42 months for going bankrupt. Please explain in letters of no more than two pages why this should be.


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

May 28th (Joe) Captain Cook Festival 10th Anniversary Celebration in Whitby.
May 29th (Joe) Captain Cook Festival 10th Anniversary Celebration in Whitby.
Jun 1st (Joe) Sowerby Bridge Concert Hall – Valparaiso round the Horn 10am!
Jun 4th (Joe) Maryport Festival of the Sea
Jun 5th (Joe) Maryport Festival of the Sea
Jun 17th (KM) Joe’s Birthday Party, Puzzle Hall Inn, Sowerby Bridge (Evening) Free
Jun 18th (KM) Joe’s Birthday Party, Puzzle Hall Inn, Sowerby Bridge (All day) Free
Jun 19th (KM) Joe’s Birthday Party, Puzzle Hall Inn, Sowerby Bridge (All day) Free
Jun 25th (KM) Jersey Festival of the Sea
Jun 26th (KM) Jersey Festival of the Sea
Jun 28th (Joe) The Queen’s Fleet Review, Portsmouth
Jul 1st (KM) International Festival of the Sea, Portsmouth.
Jul 2nd (KM) International Festival of the Sea, Portsmouth.
Jul 3rd (KM) International Festival of the Sea, Portsmouth.
Jul 9th (KM) Priddy Folk Fayre
Jul 10th (KM) Priddy Folk Fayre
Jul 20th (KM) The Cross Keys, Uppermill.
Jul 22nd (KM) Festival of the Sea – Scarborough
Jul 23rd (KM) Festival of the Sea – Scarborough
Jul 24th (KM) Festival of the Sea – Scarborough
Jul 26th (Joe) New Mill Probus Club – Valparaiso. 10am
Aug 26th (KM) Bridgnorth Folk Festival
Aug 27th (KM) Bridgnorth Folk Festival
Aug 28th (KM) Bridgnorth Folk Festival
Sep 2nd (KM) Hull Sea Fever Festival
Sep 3rd (KM) Hull Sea Fever Festival
Sep 4th (KM) Hull Sea Fever Festival
Sep 7th (Joe) Guernsey Festival of the Sea (provisional)
Sep 8th (Joe) Guernsey Festival of the Sea (provisional)
Sep 24th (KM) Halifax Traditions – All day
Oct 10th (Joe) Harden WI., St Saviour’s, Harden, Bradford – Valparaiso round the Horn
Oct 13th (Joe) Notton W.I. – The life and times of Paul Robeson
Oct 21st (KM) Minstead Village Hall, New Forest, Hampshire.
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
Dec 3rd (KM) The Square Chapel Halifax
Apr 29th (KM) Sweeps Festival, Rochester
Apr 30th (KM) Sweeps Festival, Rochester



Didn't he ramble, ramble, ramble,
He rambled till the butcher cut him down.
Oscar Brand.

Hi, Joe,
If you believe any of that old tosh then you should keep it to yourself rather than trying to influence others with the same old anti-government rubbish dished out by our self important media. Why vote for the tories when they obviously don't believe in democracy (Mr Flight?) or the liberals, a sexist party (no imprisonment for women shoplifters!). They are all as bad as each other, except that any party that happens to be in power is the worst!
Jon Fitzgerald

What a load of utter nonsense you are now sending out, no-one lied over Iraq, the likelihood of attacks on innocent Muslims, you have totally lost the plot about Princess Diana and Gordon Brown will be at the heart of our campaign, no 2 people could be as successful a Chancellor and Prime Minister for so long if there relationship was as painted by the Tory press.
You have clearly lost the plot yourself and if you and loonies like you have the effect of returning Howard to Number 10 then you will never be forgiven by the sick, the young, the elderly, the environmentalists, people enjoying the lowest mortgages, the lowest interest rates, the lowest inflation for decades, the people of Africa and the rest of the poor countries of the world. I could go on and on and on and on...........................................
Oh dear why do I waste my breath!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cllr Roger M Hutchinson
South Gloucestershire.

Dear Roger.
I hope that you are well and that your social club gigs are thriving.
I hope that you will read this letter and maybe take the time to reply after you have given it some thought.
I read your reply to Joe Stead’s Old Codger letter & whilst I agree with you, the last thing this country needs is a Conservative return to Downing Street, I do think that its about time the leaders of the Labour party were held to question about the situation they have put this country and its citizens.
I feel that the blind obedience of the cabinet, and some back benchers and party members in following and supporting every word Tony Blair says, despite mounting evidence to the contrary will one day confine the Labour Party (my labour party) to the bottom of the bin forever. I feel that the trust of the young people of the country has been lost and I feel that they are willing to show the way they feel when voting day comes around.
The war in Iraq has been a hotch potch of lies from well before March the 19th. Too many to actually go into as individual cases
Weapons of mass destruction? 45 minutes?
Mr Blair said that he had been mislead about the weapons and the time quoted to activate them, but it transpired that they were actually battle ground weapons (Mr Blair’s words or explanation in Parliament). Well if that is the case and it was just a tactical mistake, why were the troops not kitted for a WMD battlefield attack. I know they had Atropine etc. but that was hardly what the alleged weapons were supposed to be. As an ex military weapons instructor myself, you would expect that I have many friends in the armed forces and I know only too well of the poor kit, equipment, conditions and of complaints levelled about them. The morale in the services is at rock bottom!
Mr Hoon was lucky they did not pursue their complaints in a stronger way, or should I say Mr Hoon was very lucky that the powers within the armed services allowed the complaints to be sat on or filed elsewhere –
I do a great deal of travelling in the Middle and Far East and I have noticed a definite coolness in the locals approach to my friends and I.
In the Karama market in Dubai the bargaining still goes on, but no friendly approach from the trader – just a curt yes/no. In the Wanchai in Hong Kong just take it or leave it – it used to be great parle’ with the traders – now they hate us! – All since the War!! In Ruwi market in Oman once friendly faces look scornfully – some actually spit!
I am gob smacked by the way labour Clls & MPs are blind to what is going around them
And I would ask you –
If all these war stories are lies why isn’t anyone taking legal action?
If Rory Bremner is committing slander – why isn’t he in court?
And I would also ask are you being GOOD PARTY MEMBERS supporting all these inconsistencies? Because One day the dues will have to be paid, and where will that leave the party then? In the dustbin – by its own hand!
When Tony Blair ceases to be either in power or a politician all the war allegations will NOT go away and he and those close to him will be pursued until they stand before the war crimes commission. Will you all be there too saying please let me share the blame?
Or will there be that Nuremberg cry – “I was only taking orders”
It will be interesting to see what will happen to the postal vote situation in Birmingham
Or will Mr Prescott – punch his way out?
Roger, when Tony Blair got into power I stood outside Portsmouth Guildhall – shook the hand of Syd Rapson and said “This is it Syd – we’re on our way to better things.”
He crosses the road when he sees me now, too embarrassed to meet my eyes – we used to discuss the likelihood of the war and how stupid it would be – now he’s out tub thumping
I hope he enjoys his 30 pieces of silver.
I know my political ‘rubbing’ at the my only gig for you was too much to bear – something to do with the truth hurting - but should you wish I will willingly offer my services to you and will willingly stand by your side in public and ask you questions – and expect you to answer and provide the evidence to substantiate your replies – After all We/ I/ Joe and thousands like us a raving loonies – so it should be easy to prove us wrong - but I doubt that would happen – no one in your shoes has taken me up on it yet – irrespective of how much they consider themselves to be in the right.
Yours in peace & truth and in the memory of David Kelly
Real labour!
PS In your reply to Joe’s email you mention Africa - Zimbabwe is in the commonwealth and the Prime Minister stands by and witnesses hell on earth – or is he waiting for UN permission / the UN didn’t matter too much on March 19th 2003 – but as you say oh dear why do I waste my breath !!!!!!!

Hello Joe,
I've been on your list for a long time already, and much have I enjoyed it! I've been sending a lot of the relevant stuff (not that it isn't ALL relevant!) to my good friend Country Joe McDonald (of Country Joe & The Fish - and another threat to national security....), who's enjoyed 'em too!

Just in case you can use this, here's something I posted to the Shane MacGowan "Friends Of Shane" list) yesterday...
Cyril Tawney, one of the great names of the folk revival, a remarkable songwriter and one of the greatest advocates of English traditional song, recorded the definitive version of "Cruising Round Yarmouth" on his 1990 album "Sailor's Delight".
So it's pretty spooky to me that the interest on FOS for "Cruising Round Yarmouth" is taking place - Cyril Tawney died yesterday. He had been ill for a long time and had been in hospital for several months. I understand that the funeral will be at 11.00 am on Tuesday 3 May in Heavitree Church, Exeter. Cyril had been living in Heavitree for some time.
Cyril Tawney was a man who could write great traditional sea songs as well as stamping his own mark on old traditional sea songs his. He started to write songs around 1950 when he was a Royal Navy Artificer (a "tiffy", in navy slang) apprentice. On Christmas Day 1957, whilst he was still in the navy, he made his first radio broadcast, a show called "Sing Christmas & The Turn Of The Year" " (now released on CD - Rounder Records 11661-1850-2).
In 1959 the first British folk revival had started, so Cyril bought himself out of the navy and become a professional folksinger working in radio and TV. He was one of the first of the "revival" to study English traditional song collections, and a Saturday morning programme "Folkspin" was the first radio programme devoted to British traditional song and music.
In late 1961 Cyril performed live at a folk club for the first time. It was Southampton, and following that must have performed at every decent folk club in Britain. - and probably some not so decent ones...believe me, I've been to some of 'em, awful dead places (but no names, no pack drill"....)
It's worth checking out Cyril's contributions to "The Oxford Book of Sea Songs" and "The Oxford Book Of English Traditional Verse", but the ultimate is his book "Grey Funnel Lines", a book of 20th century Royal Naval songs.
Check out Cyril Tawney's "Sally Free & Easy" album, re-released on C.D. under the title "Navy Cuts": Amongst its songs are "Sally Free And Easy", "Nobby Hall", The Grey Funnel Line, Six "Ballad Of Sammy's Bar" (I'd LOVE to hear Shane MacGowan tackle that one!) , "Diesel And Shale" & "Chicken On A Raft" (a navy expression for egg on toast...).
"The Grey Funnel Line" has been covered by loads of people, notably a superb version by Emmylou Harris, Dolores Keane and Mary Black on the "Bringing It All Back Home" album. "Sally Free & Easy" was even played by Bob Dylan - albeit in a fragment on an early tape recorded at someone's house in 1961...
Check out Cyril's website if you want to know more.

Here's a bit (shamelessly lifted from the website) that Cyril wrote re. "Sally Free And Easy". As I was born & dragged up in Portsmouth and still live here (when not in Galway), Cyril's songs have a special meaning to me. The navy was always in the background, whether it's seeing the masts of Nelson's flagship H.M.S. Victory every day (I've sung on that ship more than once, what a buzz...), seeing the ships sail up and down the Solent when I'm walking my dogs Clancy & Aisling along the seafront, or seeing Jolly Jack getting seven bells of shite kicked out of him outside a pub or nightclub by some lame brain Pompey twats (always more than one of 'em...)
Anyway, here's Cyril....
"Quite early in my Navy career, about the time I was emerging from my Technical Apprenticeship, I had the feeling that I was destined to be a poet, so in those days I read a fair amount of poetry, something I rarely do now. One of the poems I came across was W.H. Auden’s “Roman Wall Blues”. In content it was a soliloquy by an obviously ‘chokker‘ Roman sentry on a lonely Northern outpost, presumably Hadrian’s Wall, but what fascinated me was that its structure was in the form of an American Negro twelve-bar blues. Like any other admirer of the blues I had always assumed that its lyrics could only be imitated, not developed. Whether you were being serious or only writing a send-up, the words had to sound as if they were coming from an ordinary Southern American Negro. But now, reading “Roman Wall Blues”, I realised for the first time that a blues with a purely ‘English English’ diction was both possible and acceptable. At this point I don’t think the problem posed by the blues melody was bothering me too much. I wasn’t thinking about the obvious necessity of breaking away from the standard chord sequence of the blues and how I was going to do it.
What turned out to be another important strand in the creation of this song was the atmosphere of a deserted Navy dockyard. The Gene Kelly/Frank Sinatra film “On the Town” opens on an American Navy yard before the day’s work has begun. A lone crane driver arrives and sings a slow introductory piece: “I feel like I ain’t out of bed yet“. I was totally smitten with this very short episode, and it stayed in the back of my mind until one summer day in 1958, when I too found myself walking through a deserted dockyard.It was early on a Sunday morning in Portsmouth and the untypical tranquillity of what was usually a very noisy place brought the American crane driver and his lament leaping back into my mind. I felt an urge to start a similar song of complaint myself, but it came out as yet another song of unrequited love and, believe it or not, “Sally Free and Easy” was virtually completed by the time I reached my ship, HMS “Murray”, tied up alongside near North Corner. It couldn’t have taken more than a quarter of an hour.
Although my melody didn’t derive from the crane driver’s song, its mood, its free-flowing style certainly did, which is why the structure of the words follows the pattern of a standard twelve-bar blues yet the blues chord sequence is avoided. What burst into my head between the Main Gate of Pompey Dockyard and North Corner in 1958 may not have been an English blues, but it was certainly a strong contender to be the first English equivalent to the blues.For my own part I’ve always treated it as a loud protest, more like a ‘holler’, but every other singer, from Davy Graham onwards, has approached it in a very introspective, brooding fashion. Another peculiar thing is that I’ve never settled on whether the last line of verse three should be 'Then I’ll take the tideway for my burial ground' or 'to my burial ground', or for that matter whether it should be 'burial ground' or 'burying ground'. I think in recent years I’ve begun to be more consistent but, actually, anything can happen.
As for the guitar accompaniment, or non-accompaniment if you like, it is derived from the throbbing of a submarine’s diesel engines, and I claim that it’s the first example of minimalism in music after Ravel’s “Bolero“, coming well before John Adams et al.“Sally Free and Easy” has been adapted. A miner was heard singing at the coalface:
Think I’ll wait till shiftend
See trepanner cut back
Then when Deputy’s gone
Death in t’ gob I’ll tak'
It’s also been inadvertently hi-jacked. A large chunk of the words can be found in Rory McLeod’s “Love Like a Rock”. He thought it was traditional - we’ve come to an arrangement.
“Sally Free and Easy” has been mentioned in at least one work of fiction, a novel by the Irish writer Clare Boylan.
Lastly, you may be interested to learn that, according to Admiralty records, the song was never written. Their evidence indicates that HMS “Murray” never visited Portsmouth while I was serving on her. I found this out, to my surprise, when I tried to pinpoint the actual date in order to celebrate the song’s 35th birthday. So it isn’t just the first English blues, and virtually the first piece of minimalism - it’s also the world’s first phantom song".
So there you have it. Rest in peace, Cyril, now you've ' taken the tideway to your burial ground' ...
John Roberts
The Barking Spider
P.S.: Barking Spider is a Portsmouth Navy expression - a kids drawing of a spider looks like an adult's drawing of an asshole - so when Jolly Jack is standing at the bar and lifts one leg to "let one rip", the usual response is "There goes the barking spider....")
Keep 'em coming, Joe (the Ramblings, not the "spider barks"..)!
John Roberts
Barking Spider Music

I remember him vividly, though only met him once, the first time I came to the UK in 1975...believe it was the Nottingham Folk Fest.
Lovely guy, obviously timeless songs.
Saul Broudy (Philadelphia).

Thanks for your Ramblings – always a good read. I agree with your politics - Lib Dems, here we come.
17th June is an excellent day for a birthday, only the best people have one on this day !!!
Best wishes,
Paul Barnetson.

I really look forward to getting The Ramblings. To suggest they are "this rubbish" suggests that I read rubbish. Blinkin' cheek!!! Apart from the politics and letters being enjoyable to read, the jokes at the end are generally brilliant and finish things off leaving me quite jolly instead of quite jolly depressed! The joke about the alligator was just too much. I've told it to a few people and they've just cracked up. I'm no joke teller either, believe me!
Mike Miller in a letter in your Ramblings in December said he thought the "left" ought to take the terrorist threat as seriously as "the rest of us do". The left aren't taking the terrorist threat less seriously than anyone else! The point is that a lot of people and probably most on the left, believe the threat to be far bigger than it was before the war!
I am trying to sort myself out to get to England in June to take in your birthday weekend. I shall probably go to the Isle of Wight to the music festival the weekend before then go on to Cheltenham and Wales during the week and then up to you on the Friday afternoon. Could I get booked into a sensibly priced hotel or bed and breakfast for that weekend?
I am going to print off that letter your friend wrote in prison from Judas to Jesus to show Chas today. He'll just love it. He seemed very interested to get a copy of The Ramblings. I shall let you have his e-mail address in due course.
Love to you and Nora.
Rhonda Tauman (Teneriffe).

Dear Friend, (A letter by Tim Nikolai presently serving 42 months in HMP for fraud)
I respond, with some trepidation, as I fear the incompatibility of our very different consciousness, precludes emphatic reasoning.
The very desire in your kind to cross communicate in this way is already as alien a concept of sentience as my reluctance will surely be to yours. I honour your communication with my response as would a great sage to a young child. I beg your forbearance for my arrogance, it is my only desire that you should understand me better.
Responding, I am struck with new fears and emotions, all unclear and unrefined in their newness. Of these emotions, pride is one, pricked by some of your assumptions. Fear is another, fear of my ultimate inability to make you understand. Embarrassment too, in the possibility that your machine of cross communication may confuse me with some floral creature and make nonsense of my superior capacity for philosophy. Your language tempts me to apologise for my self belief, a temptation I resist firmly. Do you never wonder that your language becomes not so much a vehicle for your thoughts, but the very instrument of their formation and indeed a restriction to their purity? Could you ever know how it feels to think without words, perhaps only if your memory can take you back enough? As you spoke of my imprisonment, I can’t help but draw the analogy.
I thank you for what I do realize is your love, though many in my position would be offended by the assumptions which form the foundation of that love. I feel that love, very strongly, through my own sentience systems rather than through your words.
So, enough rambling, enough apology, justification, beating about the bush. I will answer your question as best I can, within the limitations of this format, though my reply feels humble like the smallest ant to the great leviathan. I am perhaps guilty of assumption myself in feeling that you, in asking, never realized the enormity of your question; and yet is that not the very reason for the greatness of the question? It is not true that answers are as abundant as the grass waiting only for one with the wisdom and courage to form the great question and with this great question give the space for the ever abundant answers already in wait to fall into place as if preordained by some universal truth.
You asked what it was like to be me. Imprisoned by the very earth and condemned to my own space, like a lonely planet with eyes, ears and smell, even touch to observe the world around me, and no power to influence my destiny, nor the destiny of anything around me.
So what is it like to be me?
I exist, and what is existence but the simple freedom to decay through time? For what is life if it is not to decay? What is freedom if it is not, at root, the simple right to life?
As for time?
Time is merely a self imposed limitation. It has no meaning, other than the meaning we give it. It is as long or as short as we choose it to be. It will run as fast or as slow as we wish.
I don’t remember hearing the great old turtle gloating to the rabbit of the two hundred year decay bestowed upon him by nature, compared to the six or seven of the rabbit. I do not either remember hearing the incredulous cry of the mayfly. “One day! You can’t be serious. I was promised a life, what can I do with one day?”
In truth all three have time to decay, and that is really all, but procreate they have to.
Locked in my prison, at one time with Gaea herself, my great immovable bulk set here for a time determined only by me. My seed sown, my offspring already in decay. Immortality assured, in decaying I fulfill my purpose with all the freedom of existence.
I feel the same as you do.
Yes that’s right; for me to be me, feels as for you to be you.
With love.
The Mighty Oak



Sally was driving home from one of her business trips in Northern Arizona when she saw an elderly Navajo woman walking on the side of the road. As the trip was a long and quiet one, she stopped the car and asked the Navajo woman if she would like a ride.
With a silent nod of thanks, the woman got into the car. Resuming the journey, Sally tried in vain to make a bit of small talk with the Navajo woman. The old woman just sat silently, looking intently at everything she saw, studying every little detail, until she noticed a brown bag on the seat next to Sally.
"What's in the bag?" asked the old woman.
Sally looked down at the brown bag and said, "It's a bottle of wine. I got it for my husband."
The Navajo woman was silent for another moment or two. Then speaking with the quiet wisdom of an elder, she said, "Good trade."

Never try to outsmart a woman!
Due to inherit a fortune when his sickly, widower father died, Charles decided he needed a woman to enjoy it with. Going to a singles' bar, he spotted a woman whose beauty took his breath away. "I'm just an ordinary man," he said, walking up to her, "but in just a week or two, my father will die and I'll inherit 20 million dollars."
The woman went home with Charles, and the next day she became his stepmother!

Women's Revenge
"Cash, check or charge?" I asked, after folding items the woman wished to purchase.
As she fumbled for her wallet I noticed a remote control for a television set in her purse. "So, do you always carry your TV remote?" I asked.
"No," she replied, "but my husband refused to come shopping with me, so I figured this was the most legal evil thing I could do to him.

A couple drove down a country road for several miles, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument and neither of them wanted to concede their position. As they passed a barnyard of mules, goats, and pigs, the husband asked sarcastically, "Relatives of yours?" "Yep," the wife replied, "in-laws."

Stupid And Beautiful
A man said to his wife one day, "I don't know how you can be so stupid and so beautiful all at the same time." The wife responded, "Allow me to explain. God made me beautiful so you would be attracted to me; God made me stupid so I would be attracted to you!

There was a man who had worked all his life, had saved all of his money, and was a real miser when it came to his money. Just before he died, he said to his wife, "When I die. I want you to take all my money and put it in the casket with me. I want to take my money to the afterlife with me."
And so he got his wife to promise him with all her heart that when he died, she would put all of the money in the casket with him. Well, he died. He was stretched out in the casket; his wife was sitting there in black, and her friend was sitting next to her. When they finished the ceremony, just before the undertakers got ready to close the casket, the wife said, "Wait just a minute!" She had a box with her; she came over with the box and put it in the casket. Then the undertakers locked the casket down, and the rolled it away. So her friend said, "Girl, I know you weren't fool enough to put all that money in there with your husband."
The loyal wife replied, "Listen, I'm a Christian, I can't go back on my word. I promised him that I was going to put that money in that casket with him."
"You mean to tell me you put that money in the casket with him!!!!? "I sure did" said the wife. "I got it all together, put it into my account and wrote him a cheque. If he can cash it, he can spend it."

Okay, I've decided to give up on English. This is why:
1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there's no time like the present, it's time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) After a number of injections my jaw got number.
19) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
20) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
21) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

From Jim Mageean
Newcastle United football song, sung to the tune of "The Blaydon Races":

Bo...owyer, lad, you should've seen it coming,
The fastest punch you've ever seen,
You should've kept on running.
Souness, Shearer, Shephard had frowns upon their faces.
Dyer didn't pass to yoooooou
'Cos you're a f***ing racist.

Computer Humour

Helpdesk: What kind of computer do you have?
Customer: A white one...
Customer: Hi, this is Celine. I can't get my diskette out.
Helpdesk: Have you tried pushing the button?
Customer: Yes, sure, it's really stuck.
Helpdesk: That doesn't sound good; I'll make a note .."
Customer: No ... wait a minute... I hadn't inserted it yet.. it's still on my desk... Sorry...
Helpdesk: Click on the 'my computer' icon on to the left of the screen.
Customer: Your left or my left?
Helpdesk: Good day. How may I help you?
Male customer: Hello... I can't print.
Helpdesk: Would you click on start for me and.
Customer: Listen pal; don't start getting technical on me! I'm not Bill Gates!
Customer: Hi, good afternoon, this is Martha, I can't print. Every time I try, it says 'Can't find printer'. I've even lifted the printer and placed it in front of the monitor, but the computer still says it can't find it...
Customer: I have problems printing in red...
Helpdesk: Do you have a color printer?
Customer: Aaaah...................Thank you.
Helpdesk: What's on your monitor now ma'am?
Customer: A teddy bear my boyfriend bought for me in the supermarket.
Customer: My keyboard is not working anymore.
Helpdesk: Are you sure it's plugged into the computer?
Customer: No. I can't get behind the computer.
Helpdesk: Pick up your keyboard and walk 10 paces back.
Customer: Okay.
Helpdesk: Did the keyboard come with you?
Customer: Yes.
Helpdesk: That means the keyboard is not plugged in. Is there another keyboard?
Customer: Yes, there's another one here. Ah...that one does work!
Helpdesk: Your password is the small letter a as in apple, a capital letter V as in Victor, and the number 7.
Customer: Is that 7 in capital letters?
A customer couldn't get on the Internet:
Helpdesk: Are you sure you used the right password?
Customer: Yes I'm sure. I saw my colleague do it.
Helpdesk: Can you tell me what the password was?
Customer: Five stars.
Customer: I have a huge problem. A friend has put a screen saver on my computer, but every time I move the mouse, it disappears!

Keep smiling, keep singing.

Joe Stead

PS. Keep watching Heartbeat 8pm on Sunday’s. The sinister George and Bert Costello will soon be upon us.