Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger – Volume 48 - September 2004

Issue 48 marks exactly 4 years of Ramblings. What have I achieved? Well I know a lot of you enjoy reading them, even if some of you do skip straight to the Funnies at the bottom, and I know too, that I’ve stimulated some very interesting correspondence over the years. I’ve frequently been told where I’ve gone wrong and on some occasions the criticism has been valid. Although, at the same time, some of your letters very easily indicate that you’ve not actually read what I’ve written.

But frankly at my age I no longer care. I really, really don’t. I don’t intentionally go out of my way to upset. I just write what I think, although there is an excuse for the argument that I don’t always think when I write. I’ve been called The Victor Meldrew of folk music and I accept this pseudonym with much pride. In this issue I’ve become a ‘Cantankerous old Bastard’! Frankly I love it. I love stimulating responses. It’s exactly what I used to do on stage.

Audiences today (some festival audiences excepted) don’t seem to understand the word chorus. But I remember folk clubs packed to brimming with people laughing, singing, barracking. In the very old days the beer was swilling to excess, both in my glass and in the glasses of those crazy or naïve enough to partake in a night with Joe Stead. At Bridgnorth Folk Festival this last weekend I was constantly being stopped by people remembering the old days. One of the staff of the festival actually thanked me for stopping him from smoking! They were good times alright and they leave me with many wonderful memories and a few awkward ones too! The night I hauled some poor invalid chap in Leamington Spa on stage with me to join in a chorus sticks out in my mind like a sore thumb. He was happy enough, he really thought it was very funny, but the reaction from the audience clearly showed I had made a wrong move. I didn’t realize he couldn’t walk and I was dragging his legs along scraping behind me on the floor. So what do I do? Do I haul him back to his seat and tell him he’s no good or do I make the best of a terrible moment and hold him up while we sing the choruses of Wild Mountain Thyme together? Either way you’re onto a loser – believe me, and Wild Mountain Thyme is too long even if you leave out two verses! Of course I should have left him where he sat, but more often than not interchanges with audiences resulted in much mirth, although the anxious moments always cropped up on an odd occasion. In Portsmouth one Monday night I was dancing around the back of the room doing the chorus of ‘Hop, hop, hop’ when I saw a sailor, with his girlfriend, smoking and not singing. As I passed him I whipped the cigarette out of his mouth as a form of encouragement that he should join in. Being a non-smoker I didn’t expect half his lips to come away with it! Neither did I expect the expletives that followed! But I think that was the same night that Jon Isherwood and Pat Nelson poured a pint of beer inside the front of my trousers during the encore. I drove home to London smelling like a brewery, the sailor went home happy and hopefully found kissing his girlfriend with only half a mouth an invigorating experience that he wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Well you have to look on the bright side don’t you?

I received the following documentation from Mike Caswell who was sent it by Philip Brown of British Tools & Fasteners under the title of “My sentiments exactly”. I find it an interesting piece of prose because the composer is obviously totally unaware of the reasons of America’s general unpopularity around the globe. Again I find someone writing to me telling me how much he is fed up with America being the policeman of the world, when in fact it is the reverse. It is the world who is fed up with America being the policeman. Read on and enjoy!

Or perhaps I should say “Read on and be alarmed!”


WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT TO TURN ON THE TV AND HEAR GEORGE W. BUSH OR
JOHN KERRY GIVE THE FOLLOWING SPEECH?


“My Fellow Americans:
As you all know, the defeat of the Iraq regime has been completed.
Since Congress does not want to spend any more money on this war, our mission in Iraq is complete. This morning I gave the order for a complete removal of all American forces from Iraq. This action will be complete within 30 days. It is now time to begin the reckoning.
Before me, I have two lists. One list contains the names of countries which have stood by our side during the Iraq conflict. This list is short. The United Kingdom, Spain, Bulgaria, Australia, and Poland are some of the countries listed there.
The other list contains everyone not on the first list. Most of the world’s nations are on that list. My press secretary will be distributing copies of both lists later this evening.
Let me start by saying that effective immediately, foreign aid to those nations on List 2 ceases immediately and indefinitely. The money saved during the first year alone will pretty much pay for the costs of the Iraqi war.
The American people are no longer going to pour money into third world Hell-holes and watch those government leaders grow fat on corruption. Need help with a famine? Wrestling with an epidemic? Call France!
In the future, together with Congress, I will work to redirect this money toward solving the vexing social problems we still have at home. On that note, a word to terrorist organizations. Screw with us and we will hunt you down and eliminate you and all your friends from the face of the earth. Thirsting for a gutsy country to terrorize? Try France,
or maybe China!
To Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Yo, boys. Work out a peace deal now. Just note that Camp David is closed. Maybe all of you can go to Russia for negotiations. They have some great palaces there. Big tables, too.
I am ordering the immediate severing of diplomatic relations with France, Germany, and Russia. Thanks for all your help, comrades. We are retiring from NATO as well. Bon chance, mes amis.
I have instructed the Mayor of New York City to begin towing the many UN diplomatic vehicles located in Manhattan with more than two unpaid parking tickets to sites where those vehicles will be stripped, shredded and crushed.
I don't care about whatever treaty pertains to this. You creeps have tens of thousands of unpaid tickets. Pay those tickets tomorrow or watch your precious Benzes, Beamers, and limos be turned over to some of the finest chop shops in the world. I love New York!!
A special note to our neighbors. Canada is on List 2. Since we are likely to be seeing a lot more of each other, you folks might want to try not pissing us off for a change. Mexico is also on List 2. President Fox and his entire corrupt government really need an attitude adjustment. I will have a couple extra tank and infantry divisions sitting around. Guess where I am going to put em? Yep, border security. So start doing something with your oil. Oh, by the way, the United States is abrogating the NAFTA treaty --- starting now.
We are tired of the one-way highway.
It is time for America to focus on its own welfare and its own citizens. Some will accuse us of isolationism. I answer them be saying, "darn tootin."
Nearly a century of trying to help folks live a decent life around the world has only earned us the undying enmity of just about everyone on the planet. It is time to eliminate hunger in America. It is time to eliminate homelessness in America. It is time to eliminate World Cup Soccer from America.
To the nations on List 1, a final thought. Thanks guys. We owe you and we won't forget. To the nations on List 2, a final thought.
Drop dead.
God bless America!!!
Thank you and good night.”

Wow – I wonder what Richard Weed thinks of that? Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this account is the line “Nearly a century of trying to help folks live a decent life around the world has only earned us the undying enmity of just about everyone on the planet.” You see there really are people in America who truly believe this dictum.

Well – this is exactly what Richard Weed from Trenton NJ thinks -

Since the current Bush administration has made just about every mistake in the book, this must be a particularly difficult time for his campaign speech writers. Running on his record is not an attractive option, and any assertion of incompetence of his opponent only invites criticism of what Bush has already done.

They tried the phrase “We’ve turned the corner and we’re not turning back,” but this was quickly dropped because it was obvious to everyone that it didn’t apply either to Iraq or the economy. Americans are still dying nearly every day in a war for which no justification has ever been found, and there is no end in sight. The economy is still sputtering as layoffs continue to be announced and skilled jobs are still being outsourced overseas. The national debt is higher than it has ever been, and it’s only a matter of time before we all begin to feel the pinch.

How much more damage can this president do? Elect him again and you’ll find out.
Richard M. Weed Trenton NJ. - 13th August 04


REVIEW

KIMBER’S MEN – See you when the sun goes down.
Folk Northwest.

It is well documented that Joe Stead, one of the prime movers behind “Kimber’s Men” and this album, is an enthusiast and an authority when it comes to shanties and sea songs. I really enjoyed his album “Valparaiso round the Horn”, previously reviewed in this magazine, and therefore looked forward to hearing this latest offering with Kimber’s Men.

Once again, with an impeccable eye for detail, Joe provides incredibly comprehensive and informative sleeve notes that add greatly to the listener’s pleasure. Shanties, many of which it must be said have been recorded by various artists and shanty groups over the years, acquire a different perspective when their history and actual working are revealed. I suppose, in a way, it is a kind of “reality shanty” album. You can almost smell the sea, taste the salty spray and feel the wind blowing across the deck, as you try to brace yourself to the pitch and roll of the ship that acts like some bucking bronco as she pitches and rolls across the ocean.
Kimber’s Men variously described as “Ship’s Doctor” (Joe Stead), “Ship’s Cook” (John Bromley), “The Bosun” (Neil Kimber) and “The Cabin Boy” (Roger “Tonky” Hepworth) in the “Ship’s Log” were formed in the summer of 2001 but have been sailing around the folk scene, albeit in solo skiffs, since the 1960’s and 70’s. As Joe says in his notes, it is a bone of contention amongst so called purists as to whether shanties, in their original form as work songs, were sung in unison or harmony. Personally, I agree with Joe that harmonies not only enhance the enjoyment of singing any song but also add to the enjoyment of the listener.
Source material used in the sleeve notes comes from the acknowledged greatest authority of his era, the late Stan Hugill, who was still singing up to when he died in his early 80’s, only a few years ago. His definitive book “Shanties of the Seven Seas” is still quoted and used by all those interested and involved in shanties and sessions.
The music as you would expect from such an experienced crew, is full of endeavour and professionalism with double tracking on choruses adding the “full compliment” of deck hands one might have expected to hear on a ship under full sail. In the main (or should that be “On the Maine”?) the songs are acapella as they would originally have been, although there are exceptions when instrumentation adds a different dimension and variation to the mix. I particularly liked “Bully in the Alley” (traditional) a shanty of negro origin and the Peter Bellamy classic from The Transports “Folk Opera”, “Walk around my brave boys”.
Old favourites like ‘Admiral Benbow’, ‘Shallow Brown’, ‘Blood Red Roses’, ‘Lowlands’, ‘Sally Rackett’, ‘Lord Franklin’, ‘Donkey Riding’, ‘Mingulay Boat Song’, ‘Roll Alabama Roll’, ‘Rio Grande’, ‘Shenandoah’ sit easily alongside lesser known songs like ‘Help me to raise ‘em’, ‘The Robert Whitworth’, ‘A Long time ago’, ‘Pay me the money down’ and ‘Lindy Low’. Guitar, banjo and whistle are used sparingly but effectively on ‘Ode to Bg Blue’, the classic Gordon Lightfoot song, ‘Trim rigged Doxy’, and ‘Lord Franklin’ (both traditional) and ‘The Mingulay Boat Song’.
I also learned something regarding the latter song that I had always thought to be traditional. It transpires that it was written by one Hugh S Roberton, founder member of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir, and was first recorded by the legendary McPeake Family in the 1950’s. It is also nice to see Joe and the boys have dedicated the CD to the RNLI who save so many sailors lives at sea.
Thanks to Joe and Kimber’s Men for a fine collection of the sea song heritage of this and other Maritime Nations from the great days of sail. It is certainly great value for money with 25 tracks. I am sure if you telephone Joe on 01422-833659 he will be delighted to sell you a copy. All I can finally say to Joe and the Boys is – “may your canvas never lie slack”.
Ian Chesterman – Folk Northwest


GIGS.
August has been a quiet but enjoyable month. I played a small venue in Blyth (Northumberland) where the landlord is very supportive of folk music and Kimber’s Men were invited to perform at Bridgnorth Folk Festival where Paul Downes, the original stowaway, took the place of Roger our cabin boy who is presently unwell.
I would like at this point to congratulate the committee of the Bridgnorth Folk Festival on running a quite superb folk festival. It reminded me of early days at The Cambridge Folk Festival. Overall quite superb.
Future bookings look like this …………
Sep 3rd (KM) The Puzzle Hall Inn, Sowerby Bridge. (Rushbearing Festival)
Sep 23rd (Joe) Streets of Halifax Town Centre with various local schools singing shanties
Sep 24th (Joe) Probus Steering Committee Lunch, The Cricket Club, Elland. (Noon)
Sep 27th (Joe) Menston Probus Club - The life and times of Paul Robeson 2pm
Oct 15th (Joe) The Prince Consort, Havant, Hampshire – with Shep Woolley
Oct 16th (Joe) Shep Woolley’s 60th Birthday Party - Portsmouth
Oct 18th (Joe) The Three Tuns, Staines
Nov 11th (KM) Topic Folk Club, Bradford
Nov 20th (KM) The Square Chapel Theatre, Halifax
Nov 24th (Joe) Sandholme Fold Res Home, Hipperholme – Life + Times P Robeson
Dec 14th (Joe) Barwick in Elmet Probus Club- Valparaiso Round the Horn 10am!
Dec 15th (Joe) Savile Probus Club Christmas Luncheon, The Cricket Club, Elland.
2005
Jan 10th (Joe) Todmorden Ladies Probus Club – Valparaiso round the Horn
Jan 13th (Joe) Topic Folk Club, Bradford – Life and Times of Paul Robeson
Jan 26th (Joe) The Cross Keys, Uppermill
Feb 5th (KM) The Square Chapel Halifax
Feb 10th (Joe) The Square Chapel Halifax – The life and times of Paul Robeson
Jun 1st (Joe) Sowerby Bridge Concert Hall – Valparaiso round the Horn 10am!
Sep 2nd (KM) Hull Sea Fever Festival
Sep 3rd (KM) Hull Sea Fever Festival
Sep 4th (KM) Hull Sea Fever Festival
Oct 10th (Joe) Harden WI., St Saviour’s, Harden, Bradford – Valparaiso round the Horn
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

Those of you who live in West Yorkshire, or who intend to visit this part of the world, might like to remember that there are now folk nights at The Puzzle Hall Inn on the following Fridays. The featured guest list is ………
Sept 3rd Kimber’s Men
Oct 1st Gina le Faux Band
Nov 5th Paul Downes
Dec 3rd Richard Grainger
Jan 7th Bram Taylor
Tel: 01422 – 835547 for other enquiries.


LETTERS,

Dear Joe
My response to the critique of my album in your last Ramblings:
1. Out of place
The title of the album is "Power in a Song". As John Warner writes in the introductory notes to the album: The power of words and music - to lift the spirit, to unify the powerless in causes, to make and change relationships, and to tell the story of our eternal struggle with ourselves and our environment - is a vital resource in humanity's survival. I would say "Joe Hill" fits the theme of the album almost more than any other single item.
Many of the songs on this album (Windsong, When McGuinness Gets a Job, Ballad of Many Crows, Joe Hill and even Llewellyn Walking) reflect the struggles of the working class and industrial history - this is a recurring theme in my repertoire as you'll know from the previous recordings I've made, especially "Pithead in the Fern" and "Who Was Here?"
2. Lulled gently along/incongruous:
I can't really account for you being lulled gently along... the song preceding Joe Hill is one about the high rate of suicide among rural workers in Australia.
3. Not really suited to her style.
I don't have just one style. As Gordon Bok said in a letter to me:
Power in a Song is not only a delight of a wander amongst trad. and "new" songs, but a lovely "tour de voice" also. I enjoy hearing the different textures you use and how well you handle the different styles you sing in and it sounds like you're enjoying them all.
Joe Hill is an anthem: I think there's also an anthem-like quality about Murrumbidgee Water, Old Hammerhead, Newell Highway, I Will Stand Fast, and heaps of other songs I generally do unaccompanied but haven't recorded. Same goes for protest songs. Why don't we have a session of labour and anti-war songs next time I visit.
4. Joe Hill has been done a lot better by the masters: Robeson, Seeger, Guthrie, Paxton and many other fine American performers.
No doubt, but I don't think you have to be American, or a male, to feel entitled to record the song. I don't know of any relatively recent recordings of the song (though there could be dozens) - but while the song will always be sung by Trade Union choirs and the like, it seems important to me that the song continue to be recorded. No reviews other than yours have mentioned the inclusion of Joe Hill as a negative. Several were very positive. Simon Heywood's review in Stirrings: “My personal favourites are Joe Hill, the driving When McGuiness Gets a Job and John Warners hymn-like Murrumbidgee Water. Overall, this is heartfelt, proficient, and certainly worth a listen.”
Jim Low in Folk Australia website review: “The CD ends on a high point with Margaret joined by John Warner in the song Joe Hill. The inclusion of Margaret's reading of Joe Hill's "will" to introduce the song is both inventive and effective.” Folk on Tap Review: “I particularly liked 'Llewellyn Walking', 'Largo' and 'Murrumbidgee Water'(all Warner songs) and the trade union ballad 'Joe Hill'.” Folk Rag Review: “But the track that brought tears to my eyes with no warning was the spoken intro to Joe Hill where Margaret reads Joe's 'will' as written by Joseph Hillstrom.”
5. Robeson of course was incredibly unpopular in Australia
You say this as if, in consequence, all Australians have therefore forfeited the right to sing anything associated with him. Robeson may have been treated badly by the establishment and the press in Australia, but he was incredibly popular with the working class. The story of how he sang to the workers on the steps of the Opera House when it was under construction is vivid in the memories of many of my friends. And the story of what happened to the envelope of Joe Hill's ashes that was sent to the Australian Wobblies also looms large in the folklore of the left.
6. The Australian accent hard to handle: Makes me cringe too!!
7. I don’t like the harmony male voice that joins her in parts of the song. Somehow for me it takes the strength away from the piece. Instead of adding a depth of feeling of protest it adds a quality of gentle sentimentality which of course is exactly what the song does not want or need. Well, Joe. That's John Warner adding harmony there, and you know HE doesn't do "sentimental". The harmony line is not the close thirds that are more typical of songs one might consider sentimental; John's doing unison, fourths and fifths, and varying his harmony in a deliberate attempt to strengthen the protest element. Sorry if you feel this failed.
8. Margaret naturally puts a beautiful sentimental feeling into her music.
This seems to be at odds with your previous comment. I'm not sure we mean the same thing with the word "sentimental". I try to avoid mawkishness - though there's a bit of it in Drover's Sweetheart. Tender emotions are not something I mean to arouse. There's usually something much grittier, I like to think, in my interpretations.
Summary:
I reckon that Joe Hill was the only song on the album that you were already well-acquainted with - and because of your long association with Pete Seeger, your research and workshop on Paul Robeson - you feel a certain degree of ownership of their material - certainly a wish to protect it from an Aussie sheila who doesn't know her place!
I think I must be thankful that you didn't know as much about the other songs, or you might have had 14 times the amount of criticism to level at me!!
Warm regards - you cantankerous old bastard!
Margaret Walters.


Joe
My only complaint about your newsletter is, it's so damn long! But, whether I agree or disagree with you, I always read it in its entirety. You're one of the better writers out there. Every word of every sentence dripping with suspense... sort of.
I don't have time to give you a long intelligent response, but I just wanted to mention that if they held the American Elections today, Bush would win! Polls show things are not going so well for the opposition. One interesting note though. Only one TV channel is Broadcasting the entire Democratic Convention, and in an Interview after his speech on that PBS (Public Broadcasting Station), Jimmy Carter called Bush and his supporters “Liars” and suggested it was an impeachable offense. He also implied Bush is only a figure head for the folks who are really in charge. I thought this was very interesting on National TV. I guess Jimmy figures, "What can they do to me now?" He's 80 years old I think. It's just a shame the rest of the Democrats can't be as honest and open about what they really think is going on. I know many people of my parents generation, as I think I mentioned before, think Kerry is a Red Communist Traitor, because of his Jane Fonda associations during the Vietnam War...
Ted the Fiddler (Philadelphia)

Joe
Let's see if I am getting your meaning. You say, "It is our attitude, combined with their poverty, that has driven these extremists to take the action they have." That is an interesting observation in light of recent findings that the "martyrs" have a higher level of education and come from a higher economic standard than the average Arab. Osama bin Ladan is neither poor nor disadvantaged.
You, then, say that you "..do not condone what they have done but we must examine the reasons and understand that every argument has two sides." Yeah, right.
You don't condone it, you mitigate it. You just can't believe that their reasons are fanatical and that they have no interest, whatsoever, in negotiation, tolerance, compromise or a peaceful solution. (If you think I'm making this up, ask them). There are no two sides to these "people". They have God on their side. There is no other side. Religious fanatics are, pretty much, all the same. They are more than willing for all of us to die for their beliefs. These scumbuckets are not the first sacred tumors to threaten the world. The crusaders did it and so did the "missionaries" who conquered the Americas for Christ in the age of exploration.
Every religion has its nuts but, when those nuts take power, we all get screwed. The terrorists, no more, represent Islam than the KKK represent Christianity but, as long as the Arab world supports, houses and funds the terrorist activities (in a mistaken belief that their best interests lie in that direction), those of us who are not Muslims are in grave danger.
Oh, you could sacrifice the Jews again, in hopes of appeasing the terrorists but that didn't work out so well last time, did it? Still, it might buy you a little time.
My God, why does the left force us to the right for defense? I, along with most Jews, have always favored a Palestinian state for reasons of humanity, empathy and security. No people (Not even the Jews) should be without a homeland. The only consistent opponents of the original UN concept are the Arabs.
I mention these things because the war has become a war of semantics. Terrorism has been perverted to include reaction to terrorism. I am trying very hard to believe that your persistent defense of these murderers is misguided sympathy rather than specific, if veiled, rooting.
Mike Miller (Philadelphia)


Joe
Here Here - Bloody Americans living in their American Dream - about time they really woke up I think!
WMD? Weapons of Mass Deception to quote al cliches. I'm on your side on this one!
Here's some Welsh
Bush - Clawdd - also means Cover
Blair - Blêr - Unclear
My little play on words -
Yours like a spawning salmon (another Welsh play on words!)
Sian Fiddle


Hi Joe,
I really enjoy your news letter but your thoughts on smoking in pubs "is out to lunch". There is not much consideration in your smoking logic for the working staff of the public tavern. Indoor smoking and the general public should never mix. Let the cigar club meet in a private home.
David H. Littlefield
MYSTIC SEAPORT
The Museum of America and the Sea
Mystic, CT
http://www.mysticseaport.org

Joe
Sorry to go back two months but did your correspondent, Eric, who was eulogising about the company's record, realize that BP paid nearly a BILLION dollars into Bush's last presidential campaign?
Paul Downes

Dear Joe
Thank you for another helping of your entertaining tosh. I feel a little like Meldrewman with his mini soaps.
Just one query - apropos your most recent balanced and incisive critique of UK politics at the next election: does the caring voter throw in her lot with the Lib Dems (shurely shome mistake?), the Tories (you cannot be serious) or the only viable if flawed alternative? I don't want to be thought of as lacking in the sanity department, and I can't see the point of a wasted vote on any party containing Arthur Scargill or yogic fliers....I eagerly await your advice.
Anne Todd

Hi Joe
Good to catch up with you at Scarboro’ last weekend. I specifically copy this from below.
There is a movement here in Britain, and possibly elsewhere in the world, by singers who have never made it to the ‘main stage’ on their own to gang together to form a shanty group. Festival organizers must quickly come to terms with the simple fact that quantity does not always mean quality otherwise the general public will soon obtain an image that portrays shanty singers as second class performers. Really poor renditions of really good songs do nothing to help the image. There are some class acts out there singing shanties and there is a load of dross as well and it’s time perhaps someone told the emperor about his new suit.
I wrote to my pal Dai Woosnam and said, do you know, Joe Stead is uncannily perceptive not just his own opinion, but in the way I think the same too, and that I obviously have strong beliefs about. I have picked-up on this ‘shanty thing’ especially. Floor singers or even just audience members milking a possible chance and getting paid for it, and paid well, as the events they play for are guaranteed money and they themselves don’t have to pull it on the door as we professionals often have. It seems to me it is money for music that under normal circumstances I can’t access. The fact that Richard Grainger recognized there was a niche that required satisfying at Scarboro’, where a range of music was needed for a broad based audience, has let me, Flossie, Nicky Mitchell and others in for a day or twos work is probably unique in the sea festival calendar.
But I also concur on the Blair Government stuff and the Iraq War situation. I have met Tony and know his agent, John Burton and right-hand constituency man Peter Brooks very well, and another co-conspirator Ian Luck (who road managed for Lonnie Donegan on his last tour and had me supporting Lonnie at Trimdon Labour Club back in 2001 and fixed for me to do the Labour Party Conference in 2002). But in the last two years I’ve come to a different understanding about what power does to people who you once trusted. I come at it from a very personal stance tho’ I hope not a selfish one because what I wanted from this lot is not only for me but for a lot of other people too. The fuck-up on the PELs is unforgivable but lay that almost entirely at the door of Dr Kim. I say almost, because he was surely chosen as the bull-neck that Blair and Jowell needed to offensive-mouthy blast it thro’. But being a traveler all these years I have seen Britain, Central to Southern England mainly, grind to a steady halt when the taxes taken from me in the name of paying for travel have steadily increased. Being a regular traveler of the roads of almost the entire continent of Europe I have not seen this anywhere there. And having toured Italy on the train, I know it is possible to actually do this in that country conveniently and cheaply as well. I have so many points on travel that I could make, about what happens elsewhere that we NEVER consider adapting in Britain, that my disgust with a government in power for so long has failed to deal with, I cannot bring myself to continuing to support them just because they have shortened the Health Service waiting list by one for hip operations in Middlesbrough (or some such other spurious statistic that they trot out!). I mean, what this lot have done in its own unique way is treat the electorate exactly the same as the Tories have ever done. Now it is expected that the Tories would act thus, but back in ’97 when I gave my vote to Labour, I could not have known that it was to be thus. Then I hate the way that these government talking-heads come on the TV, never answer the question that they are asked, take up valuable air time that any self respecting punter with a point of view could have used ten times better to convince the public that in fact this government are a collective of numpty donkeys. In short I am livid at these people and not just a little less angry at both the Conservatives and Lib Dems for putting up no fight in opposition for fear of offending the general public too much themselves in case their individual comfortable little jobs are lost in the cause. We are sunk as an island race as our leaders have no answers any more, we don’t want to line-up with our European partners because we feel we are stitched-up in that club (when we should not be if it was truly and only about FREE TRADE. Oh! And don’t get me going about how we as free-trading, cross Channel shoppers are treated as criminals when we come back with goods bought in our European neighbors shops TAX ALREADY PAID but we are not allowed to do with it as we choose).
So I am an extremely frustrated individual in a country where the majority of the electorate refuses to vote, but must make allowances when those that we are asked to vote for, none of them are trustworthy or even capable of getting the job done. YCNMTU! (you could not make this up!). The cutting edge of aviation technology that is Concord is now dumped, but in Weardale in Co. Durham a regular steam hauled railway service has just been reinstated after 40 years. We are a nation of complete nutters and I don’t think idiosyncrasy comes into it as an excuse.
But just to close I really think that people who don’t want to either smell like ashtrays themselves or breath in the noxious fumes that are tobacco smoke should be made second best in this game. Actually you must have missed that there are signs already outside pubs that say that all areas of that establishment, smoking is permitted. If we were serious about this issue then the pub trade should be made to put in the kind of ventilation that cleaned the air properly, not just for the public but the people working in that particular trade and the environment. Child chimney sweeps went out with Dickens. We should at least give protection to workers in any industry where they are at risk. Let’s be big enough to turn it round and say that the BAR area is a smoke free zone and that there is a room set aside for smokers. That way the majority of the public and the workers are protected from the harmful fumes and they won’t stink the same stink as the addicted ones who could do it outside or more especially in their own homes if they feel they need to. Certainly any enclosed space, no matter how big (I am a season ticket holder at The Riverside where Boro play and am very happy the seating area is now no-smoking, even tho’ below stairs where you can get drink and food smoking is permitted) should be made no-smoking for both the comfort and safety of the majority. In the case of pubs and clubs there might well be a case for compromise, tho’ I’ll guarantee with better education and understanding about improvement of one’s lifestyle and general health and existence, a greater number of people would do just as I do and keep the smoking to a minimum, when it doesn’t affect others, just as you would with binge drinking and over eating that are in no way normal actions either. Everything in moderation Joe, how about that? Not to stop people entirely from enjoying themselves but getting them to accept that there is a tolerable level and a right time for everything, not this hedonistic existence that people are throttling along in with such selfish disregard for everyone around them. Including in my town especially, the children of smokers who are trapped inside cars and houses with their parents puffing away, being intoxicated and addicted to more than serious viruses or heavy drugs that are always more emotively flagged-up. Another piece of government brainwashing probably. Tho’ it really seems that saving people from themselves is an issue in itself now. Is the new ‘self destruct’ a population control measure, now that the majority of people in Britain are not in a position to go and get their heads blown off or dismembered by enemy bombers as they lie in their beds? Bring on the terrorists? I josh of course but it is a mighty strange world we live in and a confused one on our little patch, that is quite evident.
Best now.
Eddie Walker.


Joe
Subject: how to start each day with a positive outlook
1. Open a new file in your PC or Mac.
2. Name it "George W. Bush."
3. Send it to the trash.
4. Empty the trash.
5. Your PC or Mac will ask you, "Do you really want to get rid of George W. Bush?"
6. Answer calmly, "Yes," and press the mouse button firmly.
7. Smile broadly.
Dan Arcani (NJ)

Joe
Anyone who doesn't vote Labour had better examine their consciences when the Tories under Howard take us back to the days of Thatcher and look what great good that did for the poor of this country and the poor of the world. Is that what you want Joe or is this you adopting the tactics of the Lib Dems, wash your hands of any decision that might not be popular and hope the rest of us make sure the Tories don't get back? Then you can be as pious as Kennedy and his cronies.
Roger M Hutchinson


Joe
In case you haven't heard, on Thursday, President Bush offered up a new entry for his catalog of "Bushisms". Bush misspoke as he delivered a speech at the signing ceremony for a $417 billion defense spending bill:
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
Albert Coffman (Pa)

This is ostensibly from a Manchester Police Officer
- Beware of a new car-jacking scam -
Imagine you walk across the car park, unlock your car and get inside. Then you lock all your doors, start the engine and shift into reverse. You look into the rear-view mirror to back out of your parking space and you notice a piece of paper stuck to the middle of the rear window.
So, you unlock your doors and jump out of your car to remove the paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view.... When you reach the back of your car is when the car-jackers appear out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off. Your engine would be running (Ladies would have their handbag in the car) and they practically mow you down as they speed off in your car.
Please be aware of this scheme that is now being used
Just drive away and remove the paper from your window later and be thankful you read this notice.
Please inform all friends and family, especially women. A handbag contains all identification and you certainly do not want someone knowing your home address, as they already have your keys!!!

FUNNIES

Olympics 2004

A woman had great tickets for the 2004 Olympics. As she sits down, another woman comes over and asks if anyone is sitting in the seat next to her.
"No," she says. "The seat is empty."
"This is incredible!" said the woman. "Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the 2004 Olympics, the biggest sporting event in the world and not use it?"
"Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. My husband was supposed to come with me, but he passed away. This is the first Olympics we haven't been to together since we got married."
"Oh ... I'm sorry to hear that. That's terrible. But couldn't you find someone else - a friend or relative, or even a neighbour to take the seat?"
The woman shakes her head. "No they're all at the funeral."

HER DIARY:
Saturday 27th March 2004
Saw him in the evening and he was acting really strangely. I went shopping in the afternoon with the girls and I did turn up a bit late so thought it might be that. The bar was really crowded and loud so I suggested we go somewhere quieter to talk. He was still very subdued and distracted so I suggested we go somewhere nice to eat.
All through dinner he just didn't seem himself; he hardly laughed and didn't seem to be paying any attention to me or to what I was saying. I just knew that something was wrong.
He dropped me back home and I wondered if he was going to come in; he hesitated but followed. I asked him again if there was something the matter but he just half shook his
head and turned the television on.
After about 10 minutes of Silence, I said I was going upstairs to bed. I put my arms around him and told him that I loved him deeply. He just gave a sigh and a sad sort of smile. He didn't follow me up - but later he did, and I was surprised when we made love. He still seemed distant and a bit cold, and I started to think that he was going to leave me
and that he had found someone else. I cried myself to sleep.

MAN'S DIARY:
Saturday 27th March 2004
England lost to France. Gutted. Got a shag though.


Laura Bush bought her husband a parrot for his birthday, and told Dick Cheney, "The bird is so smart! George has already taught him to mispronounce over 200 words!"
"That's impressive, all right," Cheney said. "But you realize that he just *says* the words, right? He doesn't understand what they mean."
"That's okay," she replied. "Neither does the parrot."


They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years, and hell, we're not using it anymore.


An airplane was about to crash, and there were 5 passengers left, but only 4 parachutes. The first passenger, George W. Bush said, "I'm President of the United States, and I have a great responsibility, being the leader of nearly 300 million people, and the world's greatest superpower. I am also the smartest president ever." So he takes the first parachute, and jumps out of the plane.
The second passenger said, "I'm Antoine Walker, one of the best NBA basketball players, and the Boston Celtics need me, so I can't afford to die." So he takes the second parachute, and leaves the plane.
The third passenger, Hillary Clinton, said "I'm the wife of the former President of the United States, a New York Senator, and the smartest women in the world." So she takes the third parachute and exits the plane.
The fourth passenger, an old man, says to the fifth passenger, a 10-year old boy scout, "I am old and frail and I don't have many years left, so as a Christian gesture and a good deed, I will sacrifice my life and let you have the last parachute."
The boy scout said, "It's Ok, there's a parachute left for you. The world's smartest president took my backpack.”

The reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse?
You cannot post "Thou Shalt Not Steal", " Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery", and "Thou Shall Not Lie" in a building full of lawyers, judges, and politicians. It creates a hostile working environment.


Like mother like son then Mrs T?

Keep smiling, keep singing.


Joe Stead