Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Thirty Seven – October 2003.

“God never sleeps. He doesn’t even have a bed!” – Stan Hays (aged 5 years and two weeks)

Busy, busy, busy! Days are flying by now as my Americana trip looms ever closer. I leave with Nora for North America on Thursday October 23rd and we return to Britain from South America on December 12th. The office will be completely closed down during this period, so if you need to contact me please do so before I leave Britain. The trip home should be fun. Nine and a half hours flight from Santiago to Atlanta, sixteen hours wait in Atlanta Airport, nine and half hours flight from Atlanta to Manchester. 35 hours travelling! Wow. That’ll be a first.

For some people flying is an ordeal and having suffered a deep vein thrombosis which turned into a pulmonary embolism I always go through various layers of stress strata before arriving at the other end. It was therefore very relieving to receive the following mail from Paul Downes regarding Qantas Flight Maintenance

After every flight, pilots fill out a form called a gripe sheet, which conveys to the mechanics problems encountered with the aircraft during the flight that need repair or correction. The mechanics read and correct the problem, and then respond in writing on the lower half of the form what remedial action was taken, and the pilot reviews the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews and engineers lack a sense of Humour! Here are some actual logged maintenance complaints and problems as submitted by Qantas pilots and the solution recorded by maintenance engineers.

By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never had an accident.
(P = the problem logged by the pilot.)
(S = the solution and action taken by the engineers.)

P: Left inside main tyre almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tyre.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what they're there for.

P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget.

Right now however flying is furthest from my thoughts. I’m busying away preparing two new workshops which will be ready by next summer.
They are:-
1. The Life and times of Paul Robeson
2. The Life and Times of Pete Seeger

The Life and Times of Paul Robeson
In 1919 when Paul Robeson graduated from Rutgers the “class prophesy” suggested that by 1940 he would be governor of New Jersey and “the leader of the coloured race in America.” When 1940 came around that prophesy had not been entirely realized. Robeson had no desire to be the governor of New Jersey or any other state for that matter. But he had by that time added to his undergraduate laurels as scholar and All-American football player, international acclaim as concert artiste, stage actor, recording and film star.
Born the son of a slave Robeson rose from ‘white man’s lackey’ to become a belligerent, forceful spokesman for black human rights. He had a scholar’s ability to summon up wide ranging points of reference, a linguists ability to communicate in several languages. He had had an outstanding career as an athlete, a degree in law and a deepening commitment to improve the lot of coloured people around the world.
But by 1960 his career and his health had been broken, his name vilified, his honour – even his good sense – assailed, his image converted by a now hostile establishment from public hero to public enemy. Branded a Soviet apologist, kept under close surveillance by the FBI, his right to travel abroad denied by the State Department and his opportunities to perform at home severely curtailed, Robeson became an outcast, nearly a non-person.
This extraordinary turnabout in what had been one of the great twentieth-century careers is a singularly American story emblematic of its times yet transcending them, encompassing not merely Cold War hysteria but racial symbolism and racial consciousness throughout the history of the United States. That a man so deeply loved all over the world could evoke in his own country such an outpouring of fear and anger is in itself a tragedy.

The Life and Times of Pete Seeger
The God father of folk music. A musical career that has spanned over 60 years and twelve Presidents from Roosevelt to George Bush. Pete is now 84 and his voice is shot to pieces. The legacy he has left us however lives on.
Bob Dylan once called him a ‘saint’, Joan Baez claims that we all owe our careers to him. Yet his musical achievements have been overshadowed by political controversy. He was the first musician in American history to be investigated for sedition. He had an agonising clash with the House Committee on UN-American Activities which began seven years of grinding court battles. The FBI and CIA conducted secret campaigns against him. Blacklisted, picketed and stoned by conservative groups this son of an aristocratic New England family has survived and always outwitted his opponents.
I first saw Pete at St Pancras Town Hall on October 4th 1959. I was already a folk music enthusiast, but this performance by Pete totally locked me on. Seeger the idealist, Seeger the catalyst, Seeger the friend has surely been the inspiration to many performers. Perhaps the biggest thrill in my own career was travelling across the Atlantic in April 1995 to perform just one concert with him. Pete also recorded two long playing records on my label in 1984 and I’ve subsequently shared the bill with him in a concert in New York.
Join me in a workshop on the greatest folk singer who ever lived. Pete wrote such classics as ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’ ‘If I had a hammer’, ‘Kisses sweeter than wine’, ‘Waist deep in the Big Muddy’, and a host of other great songs. He has marched and sung tirelessly for the freedom of workers, black people and civil rights. He’s done many benefit concerts always completely without payment even of expenses for the causes in which he believes. Indeed the time I recorded him at The Royal Festival Hall in a benefit concert for Chile he had flown in from Chicago the night before and flew out to Baltimore the day after, all at his own expense during a night off whilst touring America with Arlo Guthrie. He was 65 years old at the time and the profits from the recording were sent to the British miners who were suffering under Thatcherism.
Born in May 1919 his life and his work remain thankfully unfinished.

Any folk festival organiser interested should contact me ASAP.

Generally speaking it’s been a very enjoyable summer. Kimber’s Men have played venues from Maryport in Cumbria the length and breadth of England to Jersey in the Channel Islands and we would especially like to extend our thanks to Doug Ford, Richard Grainger, Shanty Jack, and Shep Woolley for the confidence you have shown in employing us. Provisional bookings are already in place for next year so 2004 could be a bumper year for us. We had another good review this summer in Dirty Linen from America; which reads as follows ……..

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

Meanwhile my own personal thanks go not only to those listed above but also to Dorothy and Wendy at Pan Artists who have kept me gainfully employed during the summer filming for Coronation Street, Suspicion with Amanda Burton, Hollyoaks and The Royal; (still to be screened). Thank you for those who have written regarding Suspicion. Nobody mentioned Hollyoaks, but as that programme is geared towards teenagers with a mentality of a cabbage it is hardly surprising that (a) nobody saw it and (b) it was the second time I’ve been asked to do something!

As for the future. My diary looks like this ……..

Oct 3rd (Joe) The Wellington, Seaford, Sussex.
Oct 4th (Joe) Tenterden Folk Festival, Kent.
Oct 5th (Joe) Tenterden Folk Festival, Kent.
Oct 10th (Joe) The Grove, Holbeck, Leeds
Oct 31st.(Joe) Fredericksburg Songwriters' Showcase. Virginia, USA
Nov 1st. (Joe) Fairmount Park, Philadelphia 3pm. Pa. USA
Nov 1st (Joe) Philadelphia Folk Song Soc – Valparaiso workshop 8pm. Pa. USA
Nov 2nd (Joe) The Point, Bryn Mawr. Philadelphia. 11am – 2pm. Pa. USA
Nov 5th (Joe) Montgomery College, Bluebell Hill, Pa (Noon)
Nov 7th (Joe) Mom and Pop’s Club, Levittown, North Philadelphia. Pa. USA
Nov 8th (Joe) First Reformed Church, New Brunswick. New Jersey. USA
Nov 9th (Joe) Sit 'n Bull Pub, Maynard, Boston MA. With Rick Lee . 4pm USA
Nov 10th (Joe) The Cantab Lounge, Central Square, Cambridge. Ma. USA
Nov 12th (Joe) The Marine Science Center in Nahant. Ma. USA
Nov 15th (Joe) Skylight Exchange, Chapel Hill. NC. USA
Nov 27th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Nov 28th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Nov 29th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Nov 30th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 1st (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 2nd (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 3rd (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 4th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 5th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 6th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 7th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 8th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Jan 23rd (Joe) General Ludd Folk Club, Huddersfield.
Jan 24th (KM) The Square Chapel Theatre Halifax with pupils from Holy Trinity Junior School Halifax and All Saints School in Huddersfield.
Jan 30th (Joe) Kingswinford Folk Club
Feb 12th (Joe) All Saints Church, Bishops Stortford
May 1st (KM) Sweeps Festival – Rochester.
May 2nd (KM) Sweeps Festival – Rochester.
May 12th (KM) The Cross Keys, Uppermill.
May 14th (KM) The Grove, Holbeck, Leeds
May 15th (Joe) Bradford Day/Dance – Life and Times of Paul Robeson (Lunchtime)
Jun 2nd (Joe) Sowerby Bridge Concert Hall - Life and Times of Paul Robeson 10am!
Nov 11th (KM) Topic Folk Club, Bradford
Dec 14th (Joe) Barwick in Elmet Probus Club- Valparaiso Round the Horn 10am!

My last Ramblings (no 36) brought in nice letters in place of the abusive letters I so often receive and deserve. As the war in Iraq continues to linger on with more Americans and Brits being maimed and killed each week I have now to confess to a degree of sympathy with the forces left to clear up the mess. I was admonished in no uncertain terms a couple of months back for my attitude towards our fighting men and women. I was particularly impressed with the letter that pointed out, with employment in their area difficult to find, that some people have almost no alternative. It must be a terrible decision to have to make. No work – do I remain unemployed? Should I join up and go kill people? It’s almost a frying pan and fire situation.

Whilst there are two sides to every coin I find it difficult to agree with those who tell us that war in Iraq was worth it for the sake of the Iraqi people who are now free and no longer living under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. A recent Sky News report clearly demonstrated that there is now 60% unemployment in Iraq with tens of thousands of people homeless and living on rubbish tips. Thousands upon thousands of Iraqi children living in squalor, filth and disease. We have done well Mr Blair. Be proud of yourself.

The following might simply be nothing more than Iraqi propaganda. But for all the faults I might try to find, there still rings a large element of truth. What do you think? So try this for size! It comes from <>

Have You Forgotten?
September 11 was a tragedy. Not because 3,000 Americans died… but because 3,000 humans died. I was reading about the recorded telephone conversations of victims and their families on September 11. I thought it was… awful, and perfectly timed. Just when people are starting to question the results and incentives behind this occupation, they are immediately bombarded with reminders of September 11. Never mind Iraq had nothing to do with it.

I get emails constantly reminding me of the tragedy of September 11 and telling me how the “Arabs” brought all of this upon themselves. Never mind it was originally blamed on Afghanistan (who, for your information, aren’t Arabs).

I am constantly reminded of the 3,000 Americans who died that day… and asked to put behind me the 8,000 worthless Iraqis we lost to missiles, tanks and guns.

People marvel that we’re not out in the streets, decking the monstrous, khaki tanks with roses and jasmine. They wonder why we don’t crown the hard, ugly helmets of the troops with wreaths of laurel. They question why we mourn our dead instead of gratefully offering them as sacrifices to the Gods of Democracy and Liberty. They wonder why we’re bitter.

But, I *haven’t* forgotten…

I remember February 13, 1991. I remember the missiles dropped on Al-Amriyah shelter- a civilian bomb shelter in a populated, residential area in Baghdad. Bombs so sophisticated, that the first one drilled through to the heart of the shelter and the second one exploded inside. The shelter was full of women and children- boys over the age of 15 weren’t allowed. I remember watching images of horrified people clinging to the fence circling the shelter, crying, screaming, begging to know what had happened to a daughter, a mother, a son, a family that had been seeking protection within the shelter’s walls.

I remember watching them drag out bodies so charred, you couldn’t tell they were human. I remember frantic people, running from corpse to corpse, trying to identify a loved-one… I remember seeing Iraqi aid workers, cleaning out the shelter, fainting with the unbearable scenes inside. I remember the whole area reeked with the smell of burnt flesh for weeks and weeks after.

I remember visiting the shelter, years later, to pay my respects to the 400+ people who died a horrible death during the small hours of the morning and seeing the ghostly outlines of humans plastered on the walls and ceilings.

I remember a family friend who lost his wife, his five-year-old daughter, his two-year-old son and his mind on February 13.

I remember the day the Pentagon, after making various excuses, claimed it had been a ‘mistake’.

I remember 13 years of sanctions, backed firmly by the US and UK, in the name of WMD nobody ever found. Sanctions so rigid, we had basic necessities, like medicine, on waiting lists for months and months, before they were refused. I remember chemicals like chlorine, necessary for water purification, being scrutinized and delayed at the expense of millions of people.

I remember having to ask aid workers, and visiting activists, to ‘please bring a book’ because publishing companies refused to sell scientific books and journals to Iraq. I remember having to ‘share’ books with other students in college, in an attempt to make the most of the limited resources.

I remember wasted, little bodies in huge hospital beds- dying of hunger and of disease; diseases that could easily be treated with medications that were ‘forbidden’. I remember parents with drawn faces peering anxiously into doctors’ eyes, searching for a miracle.

I remember the depleted uranium. How many have heard of depleted uranium? Those are household words to Iraqi people. The depleted uranium weapons used in 1991 (and possibly this time too) have resulted in a damaged environment and an astronomical rise in the cancer rate in Iraq. I remember seeing babies born with a single eye, 3 legs or no face- a result of DU poisoning.

I remember dozens of dead in the ‘no fly zones’, bombed by British and American planes claiming to ‘protect’ the north and south of Iraq. I remember the mother, living on the outskirts of Mosul, who lost her husband and 5 kids when an American plane bombed the father and his sons in the middle of a field of peaceful, grazing sheep.

And we are to believe that this is all being done for the sake of the people.

“Have you forgotten how it felt that day
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away?”

No… we haven’t forgotten- the tanks are still here to remind us.

A friend of E.’s, who lives in Amiriyah, was telling us about an American soldier he had been talking to in the area. E’s friend pointed to the shelter and told him of the atrocity committed in 1991. The soldier turned with the words, “Don’t blame me- I was only 9!” And I was only 11.

American long-term memory is exclusive to American traumas. The rest of the world should simply ‘put the past behind’, ‘move forward’, ‘be pragmatic’ and ‘get over it’.

Someone asked me whether it was true that the ‘Iraqi people were dancing in the streets of Baghdad’ when the World Trade Center fell. Of course it’s not true. I was watching the tv screen in disbelief- looking at the reactions of the horrified people. I wasn’t dancing because the terrified faces on the screen, could have been the same faces in front of the Amiriyah shelter on February 13… it’s strange how horror obliterates ethnic differences- all faces look the same when they are witnessing the death of loved ones.

Geez, Joe. I will make sure that there's an ambulance at the door of the Sit 'n Bull during your performance! I don't want to leave it to chance that medical science might fail you! (Just joking, of course.)
Also, I was the one who found the 80 quid, in your pocket, as you turned the corner. Remember the chap who bumped you ever so lightly?
As for The Times being The Best, I think I was "promised" better following WWII. Over here in the US, and spreading over to you, is the issue of ethics and values, and the lack thereof. It weedles its way into everything
Here, both mom and dad need to work to pay for the progress that has been thrust upon them while a very few realize the profits of that progress and seek still more by stealing from the very people who work for them, alas. I think the economics of progress, including that of medicine, suggests that the age of rampant capitalism must come to an end because it is using up everything we have, including THE PEOPLE, over abundant as they may be. Progress and profit need to be reassessed. Kind of like cleaning up your room, kid. You've had a great time these past 2 weeks. Now clean up your toys, hang up your clothes, feed the parakeets, wash up. You and I will both feel better.
I, too, have made it through 2 cardiac events, a cataract bit, two awful wives, 4 kids (one who does not speak to me), one superb wife (you'll meet her), several very bad lawyers, one very bad doctor, 5 very good doctors, and numerous folk singers ranging from pathological to precious, precocious to promiscuous, pompous to pathetic (this is fun), puny to pugnacious, and pretty to BUTT UGLY. Life is okay, but it would be better if one parent could stay home to raise the kids. It's all about greedy economics and the loss of values.
David Fishken (Boston)

Dear Joe,
I thoroughly enjoy your ramblings and respectfully suggest you inflict them on those north of the border, and the visitors to our shores, by holding court at next year's Edinburgh Festival. The Oldest Swinger in Town could take on a new meaning !
By the way I now have my own 2-hour radio show 7-9pm every Sunday on Spirit FM, how cool is that - 2 hours of unadulterated music on ILR, the times they are a-changing cos that's an increase of 7 hours every month and they've even dropped the 8pm news to keep it flowing !
Best wishes,
Mark Ringwood

In your last Ramblings you said …..
‘I've not only escaped the jaws of death twice but also escaped the agonies of in grown wisdom teeth, blindness, crippled legs and a bulging crutch…….’
Noo then Joe...some people might think that one of the aforementioned deserves to be on the plus side of your ledger..I'll leave it up to you to guess which one.
Cheers for now
Benny Graham

I've just had a real bad day, Joe and readin' your ramblings has made me feel a whole lot better.
Thanks mate.
Regards Keith Farley

Hi, Joe:

As an ex-pat Brit who has lived in Canada most of her life, I appreciate your "rambles". They put me in touch with some aspects of life in England that are otherwise usually outside my awareness. Plus, your extensive gig announcements pinpoint where I might begin to look for work if I ever decide to return to singing in Britain as I did so happily so many years ago.
Joanne ( Hindley-Smith ) Crabtree

Two Nuns
There were two nuns...
One of them was known as Sister Mathematical (SM), and the other one was known as Sister Logical (SL).

It is getting dark and they are still far away from the convent.

SM: Have you noticed that a man has been following us for the past thirty-eight and a half minutes? I wonder what he wants.
SL: It's logical. He wants to rape us.
SM: Oh, no! At this rate he will reach us in 15 minutes at the most? What can we do?
SL: The only logical thing to do of course is to walk faster.
SM: It's not working.
SL: Of course it's not working. The man did the only logical thing. He started to walk faster, too.
SM: So, what shall we do? At this rate he will reach us in one minute.
SL: The only logical thing we can do is split. You go that way and I'll go this way. He cannot follow us both.
So the man decided to follow Sister Logical.
Sister Mathematical arrives at the convent and is worried about what has happened to Sister Logical.
Then Sister Logical arrives.
SM: Sister Logical! Thank God you are here! Tell me what happened!
SL: The only logical thing happened. The man couldn't follow us both, so he followed me.
SM: Yes, yes! But what happened then?
SL: The only logical thing happened. I started to run as fast as I could and he started to run as fast as he could.
SM: And?
SL: The only logical thing happened. He reached me.
SM: Oh, dear! What did you do?
SL: The only logical thing to do. I lifted my dress up.
SM: Oh, Sister! What did the man do?
SL: The only logical thing to do. He pulled down his pants.
SM: Oh, no! What happened then?
SL: Isn't it logical, Sister?
A nun with her dress up can run faster than a man with his pants down.
And for those of you who thought it would be dirty, say two Hail Mary’s!

Keep smiling and keep singing.

Joe Stead