Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Ten - July 2001.


Some have called it The Social Event of the year in Sowerby Bridge.  But for me it was another extremely enjoyable birthday party.  My 60th to be exact.  I’m lucky to have so many good friends.  Joe Stead’s birthday parties started as an event sponsored by The London Borough of Greenwich in 1979.  In the January of that year Mark Ringwood of The London Borough of Greenwich telephoned me and asked me to arrange a one day folk festival on June 17th as a part of the Greenwich Festival.  When he discovered that day coincided with my birthday ‘Greenwich’ called the event “Joe Stead’s Birthday Party”.  Well Thames TV came down and filmed, a thousand people turned up in this glorious little park next to Well Hall Railway Station, the sun shone, everyone sang and the event was so successful that it continued within the Greenwich Festival framework each June until 1986.  As a consequence I’ve now had both a 50th and a 60th party in my back garden here in Sowerby Bridge as a sort of remembrance of the old days and a lot of the acts who came to the first festival way back in 1979 came again this year. These days they do it for love and not money.


So I would like to thank all the artistes and guests who came to make it a very memorable day.  The artistes who performed (in order of appearance) were:-David Kidman, Karl Dallas, Rahel Guzelian, Jon Harvison, Sum’v’us, Pete Coe, Danny and Joyce Macleod, Matt Armour, Mary Humphreys and Anahata, Kimbers Men, The Amazing Mr Smith, The Mollyhawks, Chris Manners (June 17th is also his birthday), Gina le Faux, The Wilson Family, Tim Nikolai and Namaste (Archipelago) and, finally, Paul Downes. Grandpa Joe did 10 minutes for the tots and opened the show.


Guests came from all over.  Danny (the Toff) Cohen flew in just for the weekend from Cape May New Jersey, Mick and Elena flew in for the weekend from Madrid, my old girl friend Liz flew in from Teneriffe with her son Ali, others came up from London and the Isle of Wight.  It’s wonderful to have so many truly trusted friends and I would like to thank all who came from the very bottom of my heart for making it such a special day.  Two of my own children Jonathan and Dominique came up from London.  Jonathan came with Gail whilst Dominique brought my granddaughter Angel.  It was super fun doing a ten minute spot for the tots.  All the ‘grown ups’ joined in ‘putting fingers on noses’ going on ‘bear hunts’ and trying very unsuccessfully to sing howdgadoodledoodledoochie, howgiehedgiehigihogi, howdgadoodledoodledoochie, howdgado, howdgado, howdgadoodledoodledoochie, howdgado.  I can’t understand why, the tots all got it right first time!


I have to say that Karl Dallas came up with an amazing song he made up on the spot, The Wilson Family were the best I have ever seen them, Tim Nicolai and Namaste (otherwise known as Archipelago) were just outstanding, Gina le Faux fiddled amazingly as ever and sang a remarkable song about critics which I’m simply going to have to learn whist Kimbers Men made an impressive debut as a shanty group.  The whole afternoon was recorded and a track from each consenting artiste will be released on a forthcoming compact disc.


There was a collection during the party which raised £165 for Mick Tems benefit.  Mick by the way has been transferred to a hospital in South Wales near his home town and is continuing to make a slow improvement.  Get well cards should be sent to

Mick Tems, Stroke Unit, Llwynypia Hospital, Tonypandy, Wales. CF40 2LX.


I am no longer doing Stainsby Folk Festival.  The festival was foreshortened to one day some months ago during the Foot and Mouth epidemic.  I am advised that as a result I will be engaged there next summer.  I am however appearing at the Cleckheaton Festival in July.  On Saturday July 7th I’m appearing within the folk club session during the afternoon and the following day (Sunday July 8th) I’m running the Valparaiso workshop up stairs in the George Hotel at lunchtime.  Budding shanty men are encouraged to attend.  On Tuesday July 10th I am doing a spot at the Rishworth Folk Club.  This is a benefit night for Mick Tems.


A part of my travels in June took me down to the village of Ash near Aldershot in Hampshire where I visited a very old acquaintance by the name of Keith Calton.  Keith makes quite wonderful instrument cases.  They probably only have one fault as far as he is concerned and that is that they last forever.  Well that is how it seems to me.  Keith made both my banjo cases over 25 years ago and it was eventually necessary this year to fix new handles.  He seldom gets return orders because the first article simply lasts and lasts.  Keith was in great form.  He’s still playing in bands and sails when he has the spare time.  If any of you would like to get in touch with Keith to order a new instrument case then simply contact him>  I promise you won’t be disappointed.


I turn now to the subject of The Ramblings being an offensive nuisance, because (as I have frequently said before) the last thing I want to do with my newsletter is to offend.  My reference to Tykes News in Ramblings Nine brought about a response from the editor that three invitations to my birthday party and two polite letters enquiring about the non-arrival of the subscribed magazine were unable to do.  Hooray!  That was exactly what I had hoped.  BUT the letter that I received started thus……..

Dear Jo, (sic)

I am afraid that your messages about your subscription have been deleted – I find your "Ramblings of an old Codger" so boring that I automatically delete anything from you on sight.  This time, my husband read the relevant paragraph in this "Volume 9" and brought it to my attention……..

The remainder of the correspondence refers to my subscription to the magazine.  It is interesting that Issue number 9 miraculously slipped past the ‘delete’ button, but I guess these things happen.  Now let me say this: If The Ramblings of an old Codger are becoming a nuisance all you need do is to drop me a quick line and I will delete you from the readership.  It’s no problem. I won’t be offended.  My dear friend Shep Woolley hates them – but I still talk to him and he still talks to me.  Indeed he even composed a song for my 60th party.  The Ramblings are after all only a piece of fun, but I appreciate certain people are not the least bit interested in my kind of fun.  So to the editor of Tykes News who followed the first letter up with a second I would say this.  1. There is absolutely no reason to start threatening me with solicitors.  2. No need to make veiled references about poor reviews for cd’s.  3. It is offensive and probably also unwise to start accusing me of taking iniquitous or illegal interest on loans, which is the dictionary explanation for usury.  The whole thing gets out of proportion, especially when my initial enquiries were simply about the non-arrival of a magazine and three separate invitations to a party.  It smacks of hysteria.  With regard to the last point; let me say straight away that when I am not singing I work as a self-employed mortgage broker.  I am not ashamed of my job.  I have passed all the necessary examinations to do my work and I am closely monitored by The Office of Fair Trading, The Finance Industry Standards Association and The Mortgage Code Compliance Board – all of whom can levy hefty fines if I transgress the rules.  My clients tend to be people with financial problems who cannot obtain funds from their local bank or building society.  Sometimes (like the farmer in the Yorkshire Dales) they might be people who are trying to obtain a mortgage on a property with agricultural restrictions.  I get all manner of strange enquiries from people who simply cannot borrow money from their high street building society or bank.  I do not loan the money myself I simply act as a broker and introduce the borrower to the lending source.  Borrowers are frequently people who have become bankrupt, been taken to court for bad debt, have/had mortgage/rent arrears or similar difficulties.  For this reason they sometimes pay a slightly higher interest rate for the money they are borrowing than they might if their high street bank were prepared to finance them.  But it is their decision to take out the loan and if it is for less than £25,000 eight days pass before the contract is sent by post for signature and after all is said and done they have come to me because their normal outlets have turned them down.   No pressure is put on them to sign for a loan they do not want and nobody comes round to break legs if payments are not made on time.  Most of my clients are very happy with the outcome.  Indeed some have visited my home to do maintenance work and some even came to my birthday party.    On one occasion I had a client who had run up a debt of £42,000 on credit cards.  Unbelievable but true.  I bailed the family out of difficulties, saved them over £700 a month, prevented them from losing their expensive home and will forever be regarded by them as a saviour.  There are of course a few who think the world owes them a living who then place the blame for their predicament on me rather than themselves.  Fortunately I have the official bodies referred to above to protect me from these misguided souls.  I never disclose to others to whom a loan or a mortgage has been granted.  I have friends in my local pub whom I have assisted.  None of them know anything about any of the others and all still talk to me.  I can only assume that the editor of Tykes News has obtained information about me by Chinese Whispers, which, as I know from my own experience, is a mighty unreliable source.   I have on occasions endured incredible sarcasm from the editor in the magazine and perhaps now I know why, because it had puzzled me.  I guess too that I can probably now expect more of the same in the future.  Well frankly I’m not too bothered about that.   But I have to admit in all honesty that I completely fail to understand how the editor of Tykes News thinks.  I would have thought she would, like many other magazines, have found my Ramblings useful, at least in part.  Folk on Tap print a condensed version each issue, Folk North West also think it worth reprinting and Sing Out in America have at least on one occasion extracted the piece about Eric Winter for their ‘Last Chorus’ column.  The letters of encouragement I get, especially from America, are so numerous I don’t intend to stop.  Tykes News can sling as much mud in my direction as they want to.  They will belittle only themselves.  Usury indeed!  Hum thanks.


Incidentally the editor of Tykes News has requested that their name be taken from the list of recipients – but, according to her last letter, she is now going to get a friend to forward her copies!  As I said before there is a lot about the editor of Tykes News that I fail to understand.


As expected the Labour Government strolled to another term of office without much opposition and they will certainly get my support if they now keep the promises they have made about education and health care.  My main concern is the time they are taking.  But whilst the editor of Tykes News finds my Ramblings boring, I have to wonder if Tony Blair has been reading a copy each month.  In Edition Number 2 (November) I wrote: “Mr Blunkett is a very special and intelligent human being and the one-thing disabled people do not want is special attention because of their affliction.  They are normally as much prepared for fair criticism as any other. Unfortunately for Mr Blunkett he is in the wrong job………..Mr Blunkett should have been made Home Secretary where his obvious intelligence and compassion would have served good purpose”.  Well Mr Blunkett has that job now and I applaud him for the enforced retirement of Paul Whitehouse the Chief Constable of Sussex.  The police are supposed to uphold the law not make up the rules themselves as they go along.  The shooting of an unarmed naked man in bed with his girlfriend deserved a bit more than promotion for the culprits who did the shooting.  Of course the Chief Constable retires on a full pension happy with his lot.  That’s more than you can say for James Ashley and his family.  What appals me is that Whitehouse shows absolutely no remorse for the actions of his men.  Of course our police are no different (indeed they may even be better) from those in any other country in the world, but that does not make it right. 


Like a lot of you however I’m sure I’m not certain about the early release of the child murderers Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.  They were after all only 10 years old themselves when they committed the atrocities eight years ago that eventually lead to the death of James Bulger.  A lot of this news sheet is read by Americans to whom this will all be new, so let me remind you again of what they did.  They abducted a two year old boy from outside a butchers shop and were stopped 32 times by members of the public who enquired why the young child was weeping so.  They actually calmly walked James passed a police station.  They had 32 opportunities to change their minds.  When found James had been beaten and abused, dropped on his head by a canal, then taken to a nearby railway line.  He was kicked so hard in the face that the imprint of metal shoelace loops were left in his skin.  Blue paint was poured into his eyes and he was battered with bricks and stones and hit with an iron bar.  His dead body was covered in rubble and left on the railway line, where it was cut in two by a train. The whole thing beggars belief.  Jon Venables and Robert Thompson may now be at liberty, but they will never be free.  If their sentence had continued they would certainly have met sticky ends in an adult prison.  But for the rest of their pitiful lives they will be looking over their shoulders because Mr Public wants them dead.


I understand that Mr Blunkett intends to crack down on drugs.  I hope he has the good sense to follow Switzerland, specialises on the heavy stuff and legalises cannabis.  Early rumours imply that he might. Somehow I doubt it..  But I can hope can’t I?


Do I smoke marijuana myself?  Not any more.  I smoked quite a lot when I was younger but decided to give it up.  After constant smoking of about 2 joints a day for 20 years I stopped over-night.  Marijuana in my opinion is not habit forming, the tobacco with which it is mixed however is a different story.  But like any smoker of regular cigarettes I found, with the right attitude and determination, that halting the pleasure was not difficult.  Do I miss it?  Well of course I miss it.  I enjoyed it – so I’m bound to miss it.  But despite the comments of doctors (yes two doctors on two separate occasions in two different hospitals both told me that two joints a day for 20 years was not harmful) I made an executive decision that my health was not being helped by gulping in lung-fulls of cigarette smoke.  It is strange however that my arthritis has got considerably worse since I stopped.  Whilst I accept that all users of class A drugs started on cannabis I do not believe that cannabis is the reason they started.  The drug pushers obviously do their evil job to make money, it is therefore in their interest to entice the weak minded to use stronger drugs.  Legalising cannabis will reduce that opportunity considerably.  A lot of you will doubtless disagree with me.  (Please write and tell me).  However experience has taught me that those who consider cannabis to be evil have never really experienced it themselves.  It is now generally agreed that alcohol is a more dangerous drug than cannabis so perhaps, as the new generation of politicians get older, those that used marijuana extensively in their youth will agree to relax the rules.


So it will be interesting to see just what kind of a job Mr Blunkett makes of his new positionOnly a few people like myself questioned his ability due to blindness to be The Minister of Education.  Now as Home Secretary he will be expected to dash off to the scene of a race riot to see for himself the damage that has been done.  He will of course have to rely on the words of others to describe the scene.  Political Correctness has stopped people criticising Mr Blunkett in the past – I wonder how long that will last?  If he does a good job he will get my support.  The early release of the Bulger murderers is a bold move indeed.


Meanwhile poor old Anne Widicombe has suddenly discovered that even in her own ranks she has little support and has decided to drop to the back benches.  Having Anne talking continual nonsense must have been a real asset to Tony.  He’s going to miss her!  I certainly am.




Dear Joe

Here's a moral question for you.

 The situation: You are in the Midwest and there is a huge flood in progress. Many homes have been lost, water supplies compromised, and infrastructures destroyed. Let's say that you're a photographer out getting still photos for a news service, travelling alone, looking for particularly poignant scenes. You come across George W. Bush, who has been swept away by the floodwaters.  He is barely hanging on to a tree limb and is about go under.  You can either put down your camera and save him, or take a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of him as he loses his grip on the limb.


So here's the question, and think carefully before you answer.  Which lens would you use?


Treated metaphorically it is 100% spot on but in reality I could not even let George Bush drown myself believing that all life is sacred!!!  If, however, he were swept downstream to a desert island where he would be out of harm's way for the foreseeable future that would be different.  The trouble is, George Bush is the mouthpiece for a powerful, entrenched establishment.  It would be a good idea, perhaps, to gather the people who run the giant corporations of the world and put them on a volcanic island, with a threat of an eruption at any time and no chance of escape, to see if they would evaluate the meaning of life in personal terms.  They also would not have the basic necessities of life and would be compelled to live, as millions of people in the world do, without access to clean fresh water or tools to till the land.  


Alternatively they could be sent to work in one of the many sweatshops which exist just to experience what they subject the poor people of the world to.   Maybe after a period of one or two years they would see the light of day and exploitation would be banished from this world altogether.  Of course, theoretically these would not then exist if the powers that be were banished.    Yes, it sounds like cloud cuckoo land but there is no alternative if our planet is to survive for future generations.


Yours in peace,    Louise Eaton


p.s. Have I told you about the visit of the Sydney Solidarity Choir in July?  I am organising a concert at The Victoria Hall, Saltaire on Friday 20th July.  The Bradford Women Singers will be a support group and probably one other local choir.  The event will be fund-raising for Yorkshire CND.  Tickets £5 and £3.  More details from me on 0845 458 9200 or Simon at Yorkshire CND on 01274 730795. 


“In a 13 year history the choir have collected some of the world's most uplifting songs of freedom, given them sophisticated arrangements, and sung them with joy, defiance, grief, consolation, humour and love.  They have sung at approximately 500 events: trade union pickets, protests, public meetings, conferences, concerts, street marches, folk festivals and clubs.   There will be between fifteen and twenty of us when we tour. Since we will be incurring travel expenses we are hoping to earn a fee, but this is negotiable. Here in Australia we very often perform for free to support causes we have sympathy with”.


The website contains more information including extracts from the CD 'Ten Years Strong' and from a second album [released in March]. The address is:

You can contact Louise Eaton at>


A general letter from: Tom Solly


Tony Blair is the most likely European leader to cave in to Bush and give up on Kyoto so we are planning a variety of actions to put pressure on him so that he doesn’t.   One of which is to play the numbers game in a virtual fashion. As it is unlikely that we would get millions of people on the streets we thought that we would ask everyone possible to send in photographs of themselves under the banner of "FACE UP TO CLIMATE CHANGE MR BLAIR" and thus come to London by proxy!


To raise the profile even more, we are contacting as many celebrities as possible to send photos and, dependent on the event, to help out in the creation of the end product.  If anyone has contact with any celebs, please ask to see if they would be interested.


Of course more details will follow but we need to start moving on the collection of the pictures. It would be great if the names of the people are on the back of the photos.  This request has gone out on several networks and in every copy of Earthmatters.


Please send your signed photographs to: Tom Solly, Friends of the Earth, 26-28 Underwood St. London N1 7JQ.   Tel 020 7566 1719.  Fax 020 7490 0881. 

email  (Please no photos by email)





I thought this might amuse some of your more theologically-inclined readers.  The item comes from Fred Langa's mailing list  (


A thermodynamics professor had written a take home exam for his graduate students. It had one question "Is hell exothermic or endothermic?  Support your answer with a proof."   Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law or some variant.  One student, however wrote the following:


First, we postulate that if souls exist, then they must have some mass.  If they do, then a mole of souls can also have a mass.  So, at what rate are souls moving into hell and at what rate are souls leaving?  I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for souls entering hell, lets look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to hell.  Since, there are more than one of these religions and people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all people and all souls go to hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change in volume in hell. Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in hell to stay the same, the ratio of the mass of souls to volume needs to stay constant.


So, if hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter hell, then the temperature and pressure in hell will increase until all hell breaks loose.


Of course, if hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in hell, than the temperature and pressure will drop until hell freezes over.


Karl Dallas





John Hartford


At around 5:00 p.m. today, June 4th, 2001, after a long struggle, John Hartford passed away at his home in Madison, TN.


For the last several weeks, John had been joined at his home by his family and friends telling stories and reliving a wonderful life.  He enjoyed having some of his musical heroes play old songs and recount stories of "show business".


Although he could no longer join in, he delighted in listening to the music that he so dearly loved and spent a lifetime creating.  What more can you say about a man who touched so many?  Rest in peace, John Hartford. (From Caryl P Weiss).



Finally I got a nice little story from an old friend that made me reflect on some of the mistakes I had made in my life.


A philosophy professor stood before his class. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, rocks about 2" in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was.


So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.


The students laughed. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. "Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognise that this is your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff." "If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.


Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical check ups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal." "Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."


But then a student took the jar which the other students and the professor agreed was full, and proceeded to pour in a glass of beer. Of course the beer filled the remaining spaces within the jar making the jar truly full.


The moral of this tale is:- that no matter how full your life is, there is always room for beer. 


So to all of you, especially editors of folk magazines who ALL do a wonderful job…..

Keep smiling and keep singing.


Joe Stead