Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Twenty Five - October 2002.

I watched President Bush give his speech to the United Nations and I have to admit that I was impressed. Some sense has come to prevail insofar as we can pray for weapon inspections and not a war. I just hope Mr Bush is not the kind of person who can’t take “Yes” for an answer. Do I hope in vain and should I be prepared to follow Mr Blair blindly? For my part I still find it difficult to accept Blair’s concept that Iraq is definitely building weapons of mass destruction when the same man does not know what’s going on in his education system, doesn’t hear the cries of the fire brigade, doesn’t see that the police force needs a drastic overhaul and doesn’t seem to care about the problems within the nuclear industry. If he doesn’t understand what is going on at home how on earth can he understand what’s going on abroad? Perhaps Matt Armour would like to comment on the education aspect. Matt after all marks examination papers.

Two years ago 49.999% of Americans were either hooting with laughter or shaking with fear at the prospect of having Bush as President. Now suddenly the man whom many considered to be a baboon is wagging the tail of power called the United Nations. But Bush seemed perfectly lucid to me, so convincing indeed that he even inspired Iraq to give a positive response. So I’m hopeful! But am I missing something here that 49.999% of Americans could advise me on? It was refreshing to see thousands upon thousands of people marching in London and Washington over the weekend demonstrating against a war, but depressing nonetheless to hear so many pundits predicting that a war is inevitable.

Two years ago, prior to his presidency, I was sent some pictures of Mr Bush. I don’t normally attach files to these newsletters. But with war looming it might be of interest to some to see pictures of the man leading the crusade. (A file is attached – view only if you are not squeamish!).

I would like to thank all of those kind people who have come up to me in pubs, clubs and theatres to commiserate with me on not getting the Captain Birdseye advert. All of you seem to think I would have done a better job than the present incumbent. I would like to think you are all right of course and the money would have been very useful too! Shep Woolley raised an interesting point during the summer with regard to that old folkie Billy Connolly. We wondered how much he earns from the lottery advertisements that are currently being aired on radio and more importantly television? I don’t want this to sound like sour grapes – the man has more talent in his little finger than I’ve got in my whole body. His timing is immaculate, his banjo playing is something I can only dream about, he’s a fine actor and deserves to be at the top of his profession. But what exactly would the old rebel we knew 25 years ago have said on stage about the lottery do you think? He’d have got some mileage out of that I can tell you. Yet here he is 25 years on with a died mauve beard encouraging the working class, those on benefits, those without a real hope in life to invest their weekly spare cash on a dream that will never come true. Has Billy Connolly sold out? I understand I would have been paid £50,000 for Captain Birdseye with up to £100,000 over the next two years in repeat fees. I would therefore imagine that the likes of Elton John (that awful parcel delivery advert) and Billy Connolly have earned considerably more than that. It’s the old, old story of the rich getting richer etc. What annoys me about this is that (Joe Stead aside) there are hundreds of actors, musicians etc in the big wide United Kingdom who could do the job a lot better, for half the fee, and what’s more they need the money. Let’s face it. Elton John, who it is estimated is worth £215,000,000 and spending £2,000,000 a year on flowers, is just awful in the advert where he falls over throwing parcels in the air. I would imagine that both he and Billy Connolly will earn about £500,000 each after repeat fees and initial filming fee have been accounted for; and in Elton John’s case possibly a lot more. Bernard Wrigley with that gorgeous deep gravely voice would have done both adverts better for a start. How do you fancy a million pounds for a week’s work in the Caribbean and another week in a studio somewhere Bernard? I’d have done it for a tenth of the fee myself!

Whilst on the subject of money wastage – I would like to talk about the Football Association who are going to spend seven hundred and fifty million pounds (Yes that’s £750,000,000) on a new football stadium. Apart from the dreadful cost, can somebody out there interested in football tell me why we are spending this money to make England’s chances of winning home games harder than they are at present? Most countries in Europe are happy to use the stadiums of football clubs for international matches where the home crowd is almost on top of the players. With proper circulation of games in Manchester, London, Newcastle, Birmingham etc the whole population of England has a chance to have an international match on their own doorstep. But we (good old England) want to build a new stadium where the crowd is so far from the pitch the players can’t hear them simply to have a stadium of which other countries are envious. Why do the English constantly shoot themselves in the foot?

Finally on the subject of shooting oneself in the foot perhaps I could use the pun to discuss Lord Archer and his Conservative cohorts. If anyone ever needed further proof that Lord Archer is underhanded with attitudes of grandeur and contempt for society one need look no further than his Lordship partying with his mates when he should have been at home in solitude. I’m glad he’s gone back to prison where he belongs. I’m going to make a plea. Lord Archer will be released quite soon with a new book in hand ready to promote it on television and radio. I beg you not to buy the book and to immediately turn off any television or radio programme that feels fit to bring him back into the public limelight, spurn any paper that serialises his writings – because you can bet your bottom dollar somebody somewhere will. The man has been found to be a cheat, a liar, and an embezzler who has made a fortune by dubious means, which is why he is serving a four year prison sentence. The fact that he abuses the small bit of freedom he was given is proof enough that he sticks a finger up at anybody and anyone. He should not be given house-room, well he certainly won’t get any in my house. By the way does anybody fancy a late night Curry? Recent revelations in this department of government has quite put me off my vindaloo especially if it’s going to come back and haunt me 18 years later. The next morning is bad enough!


An important date for your diary! Kimber’s Men are having a Christmas Party gig at the Square Chapel Theatre in Halifax on Saturday November 30th. Tickets are £6 with a reduced price of £4 for un-waged, children, students, OAP’s and any one else who deserves it. You can obtain tickets direct from me or from the box office. 01422-349422. We kick off at 7.30pm. Two one hour spots and a 20 minute interval to buy the CD! Only joking – you probably have it already. But it would make an excellent Christmas Present.

Oct 1st . The Ring of Bells Widnes - Joe
Oct 11th The Dog and Partridge, Bollington - Kimber’s Men
Oct 12th Shanty workshop Bradford day of Dance. 1pm Saltaire Methodist Church
Oct 14th The Green Dragon, St Helens – Kimber’s Men
Oct 17th Topic Folk Club, The Melbourne, Bradford – Kimber’s Men
Oct 19th Captain Cook Festival in Middlesbrough - Joe
Oct 20th Captain Cook Festival in Middlesbrough - Joe
Oct 25th Captain Cook Festival in Whitby - Joe
Oct 26th Captain Cook Festival in Whitby - Joe
Oct 27th Captain Cook Festival in Whitby - Joe

I saw the surgeon during September regarding the arthritis in my left knee. As a result I expect to be in the operating theatre sometime during either December or early January having a plastic knee inserted.


Kimber’s Men (Neil Kimber, Joe Stead, John Bromley and Roger Hepworth) have come up with an excellent collection of sea songs and shanties. Probably aware that an entire album of shanties might be rather hard going for landlubbers like me, they’ve wisely interspersed them with non-shanties, including a nice version of “Lord Franklin” plus Hugh Roberton’s classic “Mingulay Boat Song” and, of more recent vintage, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Ode To Big Blue.” Having said that, the shanties, most of them old favourites, are extremely well sung, so if you like to hear new versions of “Shallow Brown”, “Blood Red Roses” or “John Kanaka”, put this album on your shopping list.
Jim Marshall – The Sussex Folk Diary.

Hi Joe:
I have to admit to feeling unsettled today. (September 11th). It's my beautiful daughter's second birthday, and that in itself brings about contradictory feelings of joy and sadness.
To everyone outside of the United States (and I wish there was someway I could communicate this world wide) I must express feelings of great surprise and gratitude. I have been watching with some tears the beauty of what is being expressed in such places as Kosovo, Australia, the UK, France and even Behjing, and am moved by these expressions as they remind me that although our governments may not always agree on ideologies, as people most of us are quite similar in our desires and beliefs in general. To those people who have made public (in some cases at great risk) their sentiments regarding the events of last year, I extend my thoughts of heartfelt friendship and love. I have seen brief fleeting images of what's happening around the world, and I think it would suit us all better if the news media, especially in this country, would spend a little more time on this instead of showing airliners as missiles. I also must say that I personally consider this a day of memorial, not only for those killed in NYC, Washington DC and Pennsylvania, but also for the Palestinian, Israeli, Bosnian, Sudanese, Afghani, Kurdish, Czech, and others too numerous to list completely (tragically) to suffer at the hands of terrorist in Asia, Europe, Africa, & South America. I don't believe this in any way waters down the feelings I have for the Americans & internationals who were in the crucial spaces last year. I think it highly symbolic of the suffering and anger that manages to inflict its cancer upon the innocent world wide. Not a day goes by when I don't think of how many deal with terror and must incorporate this fear into their lives and go on as best they can.
Kind regards,
Chuck Dube (USA).

Dear Joe
Thank you for your Ramblings. I read them while I was feeling down. Ray Cooper's definitions made me giggle unmercifully. I am still aching from the experience!
Isn't English a strange language? As one who was educated in both English & Welsh, I still think that English is a weird language - both spelling and pronunciation! Welsh is phonetic and predictable. English is absolutely mad! I think I prefer English because I'm a bit unpredictable myself.
The shanty-ma'am issue needs a bit of debate. I have heard many a weak shantyman and many a wonderful shantyma'am. Why should a woman who does a brilliant job of singing a shanty be regarded as unacceptable - just because of her gender - when there are many men who couldn't do the job as well as she?
Mary Humphreys

Hi Joe!
Very short from Norway!!
I have not been able to check my mail lately, since I am busy at sea sailing on board the Statsraad Lehmkuhl (
I am out again on Saturday, sailing with the Norwegian Navy. We will then have a three weeks sail to the Canaries!
I still do a lot of singing on board, and also it has become a daily routine with the navy cadets. They really enjoy it, and we use as in the old days!
Storm Weather Shanty Choir has had a break due to my sailing, but we are planning of making some recordings for a new CD in October. We all look forward to this!!
Interesting to read the debate of women singing shanties, by the way!
Till next time: May yè sail afore the gales!!
Yours sincerely: Haakon Vatle
Sergeant/Quartemaster and shantyman onboard the Statsraad Lehmkuhl

Hiya Joe,
More interesting reading in this months 'Ramblings' - Thank you. I would like to pick up on the 'Caryl Weiss' letter though.
Firstly, Why shouldn't "Americans sing British music" ??
After all many of our shanties come from the slave trade in America when British 'Tars' either mimicked the Negro slaves chants as they were loading and unloading cargo. That is why some shanty words occasionally make no sense or the words can sometimes be indecipherable
In my opinion Caryl is absolutely correct - Sing what you like as long as it makes you happy, and if just one other person enjoys what you sing then you've 'cracked it'.
Secondly, here is a short true story about a singer/songwriter friend of ours who visits the Padstow May Day celebrations every year. In the 'Ring of Bells' he sang a May Day song ! - A Cornishman came up to him afterwards and said, " That was a Cornish song and you must not sing it again!!" our good friend replied "But I wrote it" - This, I feel is typical of the bigotry surrounding any type of folk song traditional or otherwise, and I would say that the person to whom Caryl refers is one of these bigots who detracts from what singing folk songs is all about.
Another Cornishman recently said to me, "A song is not worth singing unless it's 300 years old" - Now I ask you? - I was speechless.
As I understand it the only reason why it was bad luck to sing shanties ashore was because the perpetrator may well be severely beaten by his mates if he did so only because it reminded them of the hard work they have had to carry out on board!
I recall the 1984 Tall ships at Liverpool when one of my crew sang the 'Hogeye man'
He used a similar phrase to Caryl and sung "Some black bugger with his sea boots on" which caused a very large 'Non-white' lady to remonstrate quite forcibly with us following our set, she even reported us to the festival organizers! So the next time we sung the same shanty at the same festival the words were changed to "Some white honkey with his sea boots on" just in case he got 'Thumped' by this same very large lady! Do you know? - No one complained!
So Caryl, you have a minimum of four supporters on this side of 'The Pond' so 'Go for it'
Visit our web site on and see how widely we spread our nets even though we are still basically a shanty crew we sing and play anything we like providing it's entertaining to our audiences, whether it be English, American, Irish and even Czech. We book a very wide variety of guests for the same reason. (Joe will be with us next year!)
Thanks Joe, Incidentally, I bought 2 of your CDs from Ken and Jan Lardner when we played at Barrow festival last month. I particularly like 'Hearts on fire'
John Parker for 'Hearts of Oak'

Just read 23 and 24. Indeed, the inverted commas (not apostrophe) should be outside the question mark. But, as you say: "who cares?" Actually I do. But don't get me going. Yes, I know that in correct English one should not start a sentence with "but" .....ENOUGH!
Carryl's point was interesting, ie you shouldn't sing shanties unless you've actually done it on a boat in a work situation. It opens up many other questions, eg. Should Bob Fox and Martin Carthy sing mining songs if they haven't been at the coal face?; Should Steve Knightley and Nigel Mazlyn Jones sing songs about the West Country when they weren't born there?; Should the I'll try the Chardonnay/do you do coffee? Brigade be allowed to sing All For Me Grog or Good Ale, Thou Art My Darling?; even, should the Irish be allowed to play fiddle when, as any fule kno, it is originally and quintisensually an Italian instrument? I'm sure, perhaps as a form of amusement, you could come up with more.
Love you.
Paul Downes

Hello Joe.
Reading the letter from Caryl P Weiss reminded me of something my old granddad used to say:
"A woman's place is in the kitchen or the bedroom and if you find her anywhere else she should have a Hoover in her hand!" That should get a few of the Helen Reddys up and storming!
Be lucky - and keep your head down!

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was riding a NJ Transit train to New York City. Through its windows, I witnessed the fall of the World Trade Center. In memory of that ride and all those who died that day, I'm offering a new song,
"Two Towers Burnin’,"
for free download from my Web site
The song was inspired in part by two classic blues compositions, "Two Trains Runnin’" by Muddy Waters and "Love in Vain" by Robert Johnson. In addition to myself on vocals and acoustic guitar, the recording features Jon Gershen on electric guitar and Ted Klett on harmonica. It was produced by Jon Gershen, recorded by Ted Klett at Hobknob Studios, and uploaded to the Web by John McGlinchey of Fortissimo Folk Music.
It's a sad song, but I hope you enjoy it!
Best regards,
Bob Norman
Night Owl Productions
K-18 Shirley Ln.
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648


It was nine o’clock in the evening of Saturday November 4th 1961. I was sat in the accident department of the old Charing Cross Hospital with an enlarged throbbing left hand. Charing Cross Hospital in those dim distant days was a dank depressing Victorian building and I very much wished I had been with the rest of my mates in the West End enjoying the Chinese meal we had all originally set off to eat. I had already been there for almost two hours and it was to be another hour before a young inexperienced doctor advised me I had bruised it badly. My hand was wrapped up in a bandage and I was sent home. The swelling eventually went down and the pain subsided over the next few days, but the next few months were filled with restless nights when I awoke in agony with a pain shooting through the palm of that same left hand. After another hospital examination, in another Victorian hospital almost a year later it was diagnosed that the tendon that pulls the top joint of the third finger of the left hand towards the palm had snapped at the joint and had shrunk down into the palm of the hand. This was to be my first serious rugby injury. Thus it was some twelve months after visiting the Charing Cross Hospital I awoke in excruciating pain, my left arm in plaster with a button tied tightly to the nail. The surgeon had tied the tendon back onto the joint and simply carried on through the finger and nail to neatly finish the job with a button. The button was cut off a couple of weeks later when it was considered that I was healed. In the meantime the stretched tendon eventually stopped causing me pain. Whether the tendon was not put back in exactly the right place, or whether the 12 months that had elapsed had caused my brain to forget how to operate that particular piece of human machinery has never been established. However to this day I am unable to bend the top joint of my third finger on my left hand down towards my palm. This has caused me considerable problems in playing the banjo. The guitar meanwhile is a complete mystery as my third finger gets in the way of my second finger when trying to play even simple chords like C. I cannot put my second finger in the right place because my third finger won’t get out of the way! Even today there are some chords on the banjo I still cannot play – so I have to be careful to transcribe all songs to fit both my vocal range and my left hand. So a simple afternoon’s enjoyment playing the Old Rutlishians has lived with me forever. And I won’t forget playing Teignmouth away either on the afternoon of Saturday 23rd March 1963. I had only been on the field for ten minutes when I felt my left knee click and then lock into a bent position. Again it was to be another 12 months before the National Health Service put me onto the operating table and the butcher (then known as surgeon) removed the cartilage from the inner left knee. To be fair he did tell me that my left knee would always be 10 years older than the rest of my body, and in that he has proved to be correct. I’m going back into hospital in December or January to have a plastic knee inserted. But I suppose I should not knock the hospitals or the health service too much. They’ve put me back into one piece more times than most people have experienced. Here’s a brief countdown.
1947. Appendix operation at the last minute, when aged 6, after appendix had erupted. Operation leaving me with a massive unsightly scar on the stomach. (Subsequent stage gag about “Irish surgeon taking out my tonsils when I was only six, but I’ve grown since then” was of course dropped when I became aware of the racist undertones involved).
1961. The aforementioned finger operation
1963. Hospitalised in Middlesex Hospital whilst they unlocked my left leg
1964. The aforementioned cartilage operation
1968. Removal of wisdom teeth in hospital. Surgeon broke my jaw in the process. Some say he didn’t go far enough.
1977. Another cartilage operation (this time on my right knee) after jumping in the air on stage in Germany when on the first night of a twelve night tour with Shag Connor and the Carrot Crunchers! (Yes, I completed the tour on crutches and a consummate amount of pain killers).
1978. Hernia operation brought about by carrying boxes of LP’s (up to 125 LP’s at a time) around for years!
1995. Hospitalised with deep vein thrombosis after flying to America. The DVT turned into a pulmonary embolism. Thank you British Airways – but I did get a good song out of it.
1996. Hospitalised in Tel Aviv for two days with suspected DVT which transpired to be an ant bite!
1997. Hospitalised in Halifax for three days with suspected DVT which transpired to be a red herring!
1998. Hospitalised in Leeds overnight whilst tests were done on suspected sleep apnoea. Hospital specialist decided I was not suffering from apnoea, but my snoring was so loud my brain wasn’t getting any peace at night. I now sleep in a mask connected to a back to front vacuum cleaner!
2001. Hospitalised in Halifax for cornea operation on left eye and again later in the year to have a tube stuck down my gullet to investigate stomach pains. Diagnosis Hiatus hernia and a gaseous upper bowel. Well Nora could have told them that!

So I don’t go out now on windy days for fear of falling apart!

And very finally:
What’s the difference between a rotweiller and a Jewish mother?
A rotweiller eventually lets go.

Keep smiling, keep singing.

Joe Stead