Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Five.  February 2001.

 

It’s amazing how wrong I can be. In previous ramblings I warned you all of the pending lack of teachers in Britain in a year or two.  Apparently this lack of teachers is here with us right now.  Well Mr North of Folk London – put that in your pipe and smoke it.   Both the Sunday Observer and Sunday Times report that there is a distinct possibility soon of a four day week in schools in some areas, indeed it appears to be so imminent that it might already have started by the time you read this.

 

A teacher’s lot is not a happy one.  Nora, my wife, teaches thirty 9/10 year old children (some of whom are actually quite disturbed) and is also in charge of Special Needs.  She gets an additional £1,000 a year for the responsibility and receives about £24,000 a year in total.  (Most of the staff at her school are paid less than this, a few considerably less). She works from 6am each morning (including lesson preparation time) until 5pm each evening and spends considerable time on schoolwork at weekends.  She has recently been granted 30 minutes a week away from the classroom during teaching time to prepare her special needs criteria.  (Big deal huh?).  Apart from this she is with her children from 9am until 3.30pm five days a week.  She’s also in charge of netball.  By the time her holidays arrive she is normally so exhausted that she becomes ill for the first couple of weeks of the vacation.  A sort of safety valve explosion takes place at the end of each term and she collapses in a heap. The government are apparently going to offer my wife and her compatriots a 3.5% pay rise at the beginning of the next financial year.  Teachers in America are incredulous at the working conditions and pay of their British counterparts.  Of course Nora is not the only teacher working under these conditions in Britain so we in the Stead household do not expect you all to start sending us food parcels.  But is it surprising that education is suffering?  Should we be surprised that Mr Woodhead got out of it a couple of months ago?  Or have I been reading the Sun again?  Would Mr North like to print an apology to me in Folk London?  I think the answer to all those four questions is likely to be ‘No’.

 

So in the end America went Republican.  Do I hear the Brits saying “So what?” And “Who cares?”  Well I have to confess that I was none too impressed when Clinton became president.  He appeared to me at the time to be the biggest nonentity on the planet, a man totally devoid of personality.  However if you leave all that silly sex stuff out of the equation it is arguable, at least from a British point of view, that he turned out to be one of the finest American presidents of the century.  Clinton did more for world peace than any other president I can think of.  He knocked English and Irish heads together (especially the English) and he worked ceaselessly in the Middle East to try to find a solution to the Jewish/Arab problem.  I can’t see Bush doing much peace making.  A recent TV documentary highlighted his many shortcomings and his determination to see the Star Wars project through with Britain as the front line of defence.  Worrying times?  I think so.

 

But now to some really exciting news which might prove Bush to be just what we need up here in Yorkshire.  Rumours are fast spreading round town that President Bush has ancestors right here in Sowerby Bridge. Goodness me this does sound exciting and certainly worth exploiting.  We could soon have American tourists here with or without their big fast cars putting thousands and thousands of dollars into our economy. And God knows we need it – there are more second hand junk shops in Wharf Street than there are barbers.  And that’s saying something.  We could twin the town up with some place in Texas and bring back the death penalty.  There is, after all, that famous gibbet just down the road in Halifax and I’m informed it’s still in working order.  The first (or so it is rumoured) gibbet in Europe could also become the latest and last.  We were beheading people here in Halifax long before the French started it.  We could even bring back the law about people who escape being freemen once they’ve crossed the river.  With public executions, like in the old days, our economy would soar especially if we claimed to be using the oldest gibbet in the world!  Those against executions could assist prisoners to escape to the other side of the river, and those in favour could bring back the huntsmen with their horns and dogs and chase escaped prisoners down Gibbet Street instead of ripping foxes apart.  Just the fare for Republicans and Royalists alike!  Think of the TV rights.  Frankly I’m all for it.  All we need is the right agency to promote it!  Watch this space, I’m working on it.

 

It’s rewarding to know that on the whole these newsletters are being well received globally although I sometimes wonder as I sit and write them if they are nothing but self-indulgent twaddle.  They began simply to keep my 26 world wide fans happily aware of what I was up to.  After all when you have a world wide fan club that numbers 26 people you have to try to do something to make them feel wanted and important.  Show of Hands have a fan club numbering thousands – and deservedly so Show of Hands have an incredible talent.  But how do you cater for 26 misguided souls who crave after an ageing bearded hippy who stands behind an out of tune banjo singing songs in 14/17 time.  It’s not easy.  But then life never was.

 

So the 26 mail shots have become 603 and the over all response from the 603 has been so rewarding that I will keep up this crazy business for a while longer.  However if you want to cancel – just shout at me.

 

Whilst I’m talking numbers – I’ve just noticed that the number of visitors to my web site has increased quite incredibly to just under 1000 over the last few weeks, with over 150 visitors in January alone.  I’m sure this increase in traffic has something to do with my Ramblings.  If you want to be number 1000 visitor to my web site you simply have to log on to…….. www.joestead.com

 

Here’s where I’m playing in the next few weeks……..

Thursday February 8th.  All Saints Church, Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire

Monday February 12th.  The Three Tuns. London Rd, Staines, Middlesex

Friday March 2nd   The Crown Street Hall, Lowestoft, Suffolk

Monday March 12th. The Shaw Inn, Barnsley, South Yorkshire

Thursday March 15th. The Half Moon, Old Ryton, Near Newcastle, Tyne/Wear

 

Do you remember Danny Doyle?  He topped the charts both in England and Ireland in the 1960’s with the song “Step it out Mary”.  Do you remember that one?  “Step it out Mary my fine daughter, Step it out Mary if you can, Step it out Mary my fine daughter, Show your legs to the countryman”.  Danny used to come to the folk club in Dartford that I ran with an old chum called Roy Duffin.  (More about Roy later in this letter). Danny came down from Battersea every week.  Suddenly, just before Christmas of 1965 I think it was, Danny’s father died and he went back to Ireland for the funeral.  Danny never came back to England to live after that.  Somebody of importance heard him singing in a pub and whooosh he was top of the hit parade.  Danny wrote to me last month.  He’s living in America now, somewhere near Washington.

 

Dear Joe,

 

First, a very happy new year and many of them.  Second, a very happy millennium, and many of them.  I hope you are in the best of health, in good  voice and making the odd shilling here and there.  Me, I'm in grand form, still above ground and able to sit up and take an egg and warble a note or three.

 

Delighted to get your wonderful "Ramblings of an old codger."  It keeps me informed and amused, the latter condition now more important than ever in the gloom induced by the impending arrival of Mr. Bush and his coterie of corporate cheerleaders and their determination to make the military industrial complex wealthier than they already are.  Sweet Heart of Jesus but spare me from Republicans.  Anyway, enough of that.  Please keep me on your mailing list.

 

I fervently hope that the next time you are in these parts I will be unemployed for the occasion and can turn up and renew old acquaintance.  I'm the fella' with the grey beard wearing a cap which covers the hole in me ozone layer.

 

Be good Joe, All the very best to you.

 

Danny Doyle.

 

 

 

I think I’ve got another old pal called Wayne Debeugny.  Wayne writes reviews for Folk on Tap.  But to my knowledge I’ve never met him.  But we must to an extent be on the same wavelength – so I think I ought to meet him one day.  Wayne has reviewed all of my cd’s for Folk on Tap over the years and he seems to have liked all of ‘em.  Here’s what Wayne had to say about Valparaiso.

 

Were this record a book there’s no doubt (in my mind) it would be called ‘Saltwater Sailing for Dummies’; and it would be essential reading for we, the unsuspecting public, as we find ourselves aboard a merchantman bound for far flung climes in most inhospitable times.  Mr Stead’s intention is to give one an idea of what it was like to ship out from Liverpool and head for Valparaiso – round the Horn – with all its attendant hardships.  It is supposed to be a cold December day in 1860 when one embarks on the voyage, so be sure to wear your mittens and woollen undies when you start listening.

As the album progresses we are informed of our geographical location, the state of the weather, and what sails should be in use.  An appropriate shanty is sung along with a description of what is going on.

All in all, the album is a very enjoyable experience – informing and entertaining – and giving enough of an idea of what life on board was like as to make one appreciate terra firma even more.  Joe Stead (as the shantyman and thus avoiding the hard work) and the rest of the crew give a most exuberant account of themselves – despite some extremely adverse weather conditions.

Very different and enjoyable – but I for one will be sticking with the Gosport Ferry.

Wayne Debeugny – Folk on Tap January – March 2001 (Winter Issue).

 

 

 

I got a wonderful little ditty sent in to me by Trevor Lister who is the editor of “Folk Roundabout”. Trevor has changed the words to the old sea shanty “Way down in Florida”.  It reads thus……..(obviously you stick the chorus in after each verse).

 

Way down South where the votes all mount

Way down in Florida!

Judges say that they don't count

We'll roll the old poll down

 

 Rollin', rollin', rollin' the old poll down, That lost vote of mine's On the Georgia Line And We'll roll the old poll down.

 

Southern voting can be Gory

Way down in Florida!

Judges tell a different story

And we’ll Roll the old poll down

 

Poll 'em low or poll 'em high

Way down in Florida!

Democracy will surely die

And we'll roll the old poll down

 

Democracy the U/S way

Way down in Florida!

KKK it rules OK!

And we'll roll the old poll down

 

Caryl P Weiss sent me a good one too.  I don’t know if she wrote it or not.  It’s called. The Kennebunkport Hillbillies, and is sung to the tune of The Beverly Hillbillies TV theme song.

 

Come and listen to my story 'bout a boy named Bush

His IQ was zero and his head was up his tush.

He drank like a fish while he drove all about.

But that didn't matter 'cuz his daddy bailed him out.

DUI, that is. Criminal record. Cover-up.

 

Well, the first thing you know little Georgie goes to Yale.

He can't spell his name but they never let him fail.

He spends all his time hangin' out with student folk.

And that's when he learns how to snort a line of coke.

Blow, that is. White gold. Nose candy.

 

The next thing you know there's a war in Vietnam.

Kin folks say, "George, stay at home with Mom.

Let the common people get all maimed up and scarred.

We'll buy you a spot in the Texas Air Guard."

Cushy, that is. Country clubs. Nose candy.

 

Twenty years later little Georgie gets a bored.

He trades in the booze, says that Jesus is his Lord.

He said, "Now the White House is the place I wannabe."

So he called his daddy's friends and they called the GP.

Gun owners, that is. Fallwell. Jesse Helms.

 

Come November 7, the election ran late.

The kin folks said, "Jeb, give the boy your state!"

"Don't let those colored folks get into any polls."

So they put up the barricades so they couldn't punch their holes.

Chads, that is. Duval County. Miami-Dade.

 

Before the votes were counted, the five Supremes stepped in.

Told all the voters, "Hey, we want George to win."

"Stop counting votes!" was their solemn invocation.

And that's how George finally got his coronation.

Rigged, that is. Illegitimate. No moral authority.

Y'all come vote now. Ya hear?

 

 

 

I’ve been saddened with the news of two more deaths.  It seems with each month I report on friends dying. Many of you will probably already know that Isaac Guillory died on News Years Eve.  Phil Beer wrote the following short obituary - which was published on the UK.MUSIC.FOLK newsgroup:-

 

“It is with great sadness that I have to announce the death of guitarist Isaac Guillory. He will be known to many as one of the greatest guitarists of our era. He had been battling with cancer for a while and he died at home on new years eve. He leaves behind a wife and a young family. He was born in Cuba and lived his early life in the 'states. He was a great influence on many players and will be sorely missed”. - Phil Beer.

 

On the home front I was devastated to learn of the sudden and unexpected death on January 13th in France of Roy Duffin, a life long friend of half a century.  I first met Roy at the age of nine at Junior School in South East London.  Roy was four days older than me.  I was Best man at his wedding, he was Best man at mine.  This newsletter reaches friends in New Zealand and America as well as folk in Britain who knew Roy.  I’m sure you will all be saddened by this news.  If you want to write to Christine then simply contact me and I will forward her address to you.  The service to celebrate his life took place at The Bedford Crematorium on Friday January 26th.  About 250 people were in attendance.  The service was conducted by yours truly.  This was quite an ordeal as you can imagine – but somehow I managed to stay very focussed.

 

Finally to end on a smile.  Here’s a short but true story.

 

I was talking to someone very recently and commented on the fact that I was suffering badly from sciatica.  His retort was.  “Yes I know, there’s a lot of it about, I had a cold myself last week”.

 

Still with me?  OK.  Remember.

Keep smiling and keep singing.         

 

 

Joe.

 

 

PS.  I was on Emmerdale Farm tonight.  But of course I missed it myself, I was down the pub.  Did anyone see it?