Joe Stead Ė The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Six - March 2001.


I have to say my Ramblings are getting longer and longer.  Soon Iíll have to start printing a book each month!  Amazing response to the last issue!  Some were funny some angry.   So Iíll start off this month with a selection of just four of some of the letters I received.



Thanks for consistently interesting ramblings.

Your thoughts on teachers: it's good to hear that the view that teachers are drowning under unnecessary paperwork is becoming accepted Ė by newspapers/radio/most people (but not Blunkett of course).  I go into a lot of schools as a musician/storyteller and I'm really disheartened. Comparing the work with what I did when I was teaching 20 odd years ago no-one can deny that standards have dropped and the teachers who are coming into the profession, and the ones who are 'making it' are all the ones with no creativity, no ideas, the pen pushers.  Definitely not people who can inspire kids.

I understand about the start-of-holiday exhaustion/illness too.  My wife Sue was forced to take early retirement through stress (caused by government and heads and paperwork rather than kids!) 5 or 6 years ago.  More or less a 'nervous breakdown' although that term isn't used any more.  She still hasn't recovered fully and can't work. Neither can she get any benefits because she falls between stools - is either not bad enough for one or too bad for another.  No-one believes this but we've run ourselves silly trying to sort it out and have now given up. It was just making her worse. Government and Social Security deny that anyone can fall through the system but Sue has!   Anyway keep making good music.

Pete Castle



Hi Joe.

Well, Volume Five went on for a while, didn't it? I've only just finished reading the bloody thing!

It's not only in the UK where there is a problem with teaching - it's here in NZ as well. Too much political correctness and catering for ethnic minorities and their problems have diverted the teachers away from teaching and more into a social workers role which has resulted in a drop in educational standards. The older I get the more thankful I become that I attended Aske's and was there when Ned was in charge. Christ, I'm starting to sound old!

Has your weather picked up over there yet or are you still up to your wedding tackle and beyond in rainwater and raw sewage?  We've had a lot of rain over the last couple of months but now it's turned very hot and humid - a bit like a honeymoon suite in Ibiza! - even our cows, goats and pig are starting to complain. I have to hose the old pig down every night now, he comes up and shouts and yells until I put the hose on him. The farmers roundabout have started to shear the sheep as it's so hot.

We've just got over Valentine's Day at the shop - it was a boomer! God bless commercialism! - so we're going to try and get away this weekend for a little rest. Probably go to Lake Taupo and have a paddle.  I'm not too sure how much you know about New Zealand, Joe, so for your illumination I have written a potted history of the place.  It goes like this: Maori legend has it that many years ago a bloke called Maui went fishing with his brothers, using his grandmother's jawbone as a fish hook (apparently his grandmother's jaw fell off through overuse - like most women she talked too much).  He caught a fish and hauled it to the surface.  It was a big fish - like, really, really big: about as big as the North Island of New Zealand.  In fact, if the truth be told, it was the North Island.  But that's okay, because Maui's canoe was pretty large as well, as big as The South Island of New Zealand - get the picture?

Maui's brothers, seeing the size of the fish, became jealous and laid into it with their clubs and axes and similar shit, thus conveniently transforming it into a fairly rugged bit of heavily forested fish (or land, as geologists prefer to call it).  A bit after that, in a huge migration from Hawaiiki, the Maori people arrived and named this new land Aotearoa, The Land of The Long White Cloud.

After spending about 1000 years not inventing the internal combustion engine, nuclear weapons, mobile phones, fish and chips, Kentucky Fried Chicken, those horrible guttering systems which get clogged up with leaves and twigs and dead sparrows and need to be cleaned out every six months, the country was colonised by Europeans, bringing blankets, muskets, beads, whaling ships, God, syphilis, tuberculosis, sheep and guttering systems.  The Maoris, overwhelmed by the European's staggering generosity, occasionally went berko and killed and ate some settlers, but to no avail - in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi, erroneously advertised as New Zealand's founding document, was signed by the Governor of New Zealand, representing Her Sovereign Majesty Victoria, Queen of England and all those other pink coloured places on the School Atlas, and various Maori chiefs, representing some of the tribes.

After another thirty years of bloodshed, thieving, cannibalism and inter-cultural rumping - so much of this latter went on that every Waitangi Day (see above) many Maoris spend all day denigrating their Pakeha ancestors - things began to settle down a little bit and the real business of farming sheep and building towns like Bulls could begin in earnest.  Bulls was built. It still exists today: it is a shithole.

The capital was moved from Russell to Auckland to Wellington to London to Washington. There was speculation during the 1940s that the new capital might be Berlin or Tokyo, but such rumours were unfounded in the cold impartial light of military superiority and nuclear weapons.  World War One came, and with it came the battle of Gallipoli, in which heaps of Kiwis and Aussies got dropped on the wrong beach by a Pommie Bastard who was probably marinating his brain in gin at the time. A battle that should have lasted about twelve hours lasted six months, and cost Gunner Spinley , my mateís granddad, his face, which stopped a  Turkish bullet.

World War Two rolled around, and thousands more Kiwis died displaying the refreshing lack of self-preservation with which Allied High Command was so enamoured. The French blew up a Greenpeace ship, The Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland in 1985.  Because of this we like the French slightly less than we did before.  However, due to the fact that we export dairy products and beef and lamb to France, we don't dislike them enough to really do anything about it.

Now let me tell you about our pies. Other nations are unfamiliar with this phenomenon. A pie is a savoury pastry thing, filled with meat from any available source and with a lid on. The worst pies in New Zealand can be had for NZ$1.60 a piece at a grimy, smelly cockroach-infested petrol station on State Highway One, not too far from Lake Karapiro.  Incidentally, $1.60 will also buy you a house and section in Mangakino (another shit hole in the North Island) - which tells you how bad the pies are.

Coming a close second in the pie stakes are the infamous Putrid Pies - sold at many sporting venues and also available from many bakeries  - do not touch them, they are the source of all evil.  There are some quite nice pies in Tauranga - but I really hate Tauranga - so they donít count.  There are also some quite nice pies in other parts of the country.  However, it should be noted that pies can never be rated at anything above "good".  Also, pie criticism is one of the most subjective things imaginable!!

Well, my old son, that's it for today,

Be lucky,




Dear Joe,

When I receive your newsletter every month I find it literally incredible how one person could have so much political insight.

With regards to American politics your newsletter could almost be the Yorkshire equivalent of Alistair Cooke's Letters from America.  However when I heard that you and your wife were struggling along on a mere 24 thousand a year I am not ashamed to say that I burst into tears.  Therefore please don't send me any more newsletters my

fragile emotional state wont allow it.

Best Wishes

John Joyce



Hi Joe.

1, Tell what it's like to earn £24K a year will you!?

2, It is a very, very small % of foxes that actually get caught let alone 'ripping them apart'.  At least that's what the score is down south, can't vouch for north of Watford though!

But hey! I like your ramblings, it cheers me up, it's no fun in a wheelchair, keep up the good work.

Keith Farley


The last two letters are interesting to me for whilst encompassing different emotions they envelope the same problem Ė something we are all likely in Britain to have to consider deeply in the next few months.  Iím talking about Poverty.  During the last Conservative government I did a benefit concert for the Labour Party in a local concert hall to raise funds for the forthcoming, at that time unannounced, election.  I really did believe that a Labour Government would bring about an improvement in standards for those who were struggling in the poverty trap. We are now hearing rumours that a General Election is likely to be called any week soon.  What are we going to do about it?  Iíve been talking about the lack of improvement in schools and hospitals for some time and it appears from the letters Iíve received that a lot of you agree with my sentiments.  So do you agree with me that the Labour Party have had long enough to put the country back on its feet after years of Tory legislation; and if so have they done a good job of it?  Because frankly Iím not convinced and I certainly wont be volunteering my services to sing for their supper again this year.


I found the sentiments expressed by John Joyce extremely interesting.  Is £24,000 too much to pay each year to a schoolteacher?   Do you not think that somebody who educates children, who works close on seven days a week from 6am in the morning until 8pm sometimes at night should not be paid a sensible wage?  Do you think £24,000 a year is too much or too little?


I wonder how much Billy Bragg earns a year?  I would estimate around about £100,000.   How much do you think Ewan MacColl earned every year?  Ewan was  revered by folk followers and fellow communists for decades.  I can tell you now that Ewan was earning more 15 years ago than my wife earns today.  I wonder if John turned off the radio every time he heard Ewan sing?   How much do soap stars earn in programmes such as Emmerdale Farm, Coronation Street Etc.  I understand the going wage is close to £5,000 a week, if not £5,000 an instalment.  Now I don't envy any of them earning this money. Ewan MacColl in particular wrote some wonderful pieces of music and he deserved every penny he got.  Itís arguable he was a modern day Shakespeare.  I just think my wife should be paid more than £24,000 a year.


But as a socialist what alternative do I have?  Do I simply not vote?  Would I consider voting Conservative?  Or do I vote for the Raving Loony Party?  (Perhaps I should stand for Parliament as a member).  Let me tell you something my old grandmother said, and my old grandmother lived to be 102 Ė not of course that that has anything to do with it.   My old grandmother never liked Malcolm Muggeridge very much.  (Malcolm Muggeridge, for those who are too young or of another nation, was a television personality in the 1960ís and 70ís.).  She always said ďMalcolm Muggeridge had a face like a monkeyís arse and a mouth that spoke like oneĒ.  Now I have to confess that I feel exactly the same about Anne Widdecombe Ė although of course in todayís politically correct climate Iím not supposed to say so.  But damn it, I never was that politically correct so assume Iíve not only thought it Iíve said it too.  And I would add that she has the brain of a monkeyís arse as well.  Can you imagine a Tory government with Anne Widdecombe sitting in the Cabinet leading us all down the righteous path to war?  Please save us from that!


No, if I vote at all, Iím going to have to vote Labour.  Perhaps itís up to us to work the necessary changes from within.


Of course we men know deep down that we are inferior to women.  Itís a fact males have to accept.  And no Iím not being sarcastic, Iím being realistic. Sure they have their idiosyncrasyís just the same as we men do.  But it is because we are inferior that we dream up ways of demoralising them.  So with that firmly in mind read on.  For those of you who consider yourselves to be strictly politically correct, be warned, the following will not amuse you. 


A famous British Folk Singer sent me the following Drive through cash point machine procedure for men and women.


Please note that with the arrival of the new Drive Through cash point machines customers will be able to withdraw cash from banks and building societies without leaving their vehicles.


To enable users to use this new facility the following procedures have been drawn up.


Please read the procedure that applies to your own circumstances i.e. Male or Female and remember them for when you use the machine for the first time.




Male Procedure


1.    Drive up to the cash machine

2.    Wind down the car window

3.    Insert card into machine and enter PIN

4.    Enter the amount of cash required and withdraw.

5.    Retrieve card cash and receipt

6.    Wind up the window

7.    Drive off



Female Procedure


1.     Drive up to cash machine

2.     Reverse back the required amount to align car window to machine

3.     Restart stalled engine

4.     Wind down the window

5.     Find handbag, remove all contents on to the passenger seat to locate card.

6.     Locate make up bag and check make up in rear view mirror

7.     Attempt to insert card into machine

8.     Open car door and walk to machine due to its excessive distance from car

9.     Insert card

10.   Reinsert card the right way up

11.   Re-enter handbag to find diary with your PIN written on the inside back page

12.   Enter PIN

13.   Press cancel and re-enter the correct PIN

14.   Enter the amount of cash required

15.   Recheck make up in rear view mirror

16.   Retrieve cash and receipt

17.   Empty handbag again to locate purse and put cash inside

18.   Place receipt in back of chequebook

19.   Check eyelashes in mirror.

20.   Drive forward two metres

21.   Reverse back to cash machine

22.   Retrieve card

23.   Re empty handbag locate cardholder and place the card into the slot provided

24.   Restart stalled engine and pull away

25.   Drive for three or four miles

26.      Release handbrake


Whilst this is highly emotive might I add that upon entering Manchester Airport Car Park Terminal Three last week I did actually witness the driver in front of me undertake procedures 2 and 8 of the above listed items for women drivers.  The driver was not male. 


Iíve had both of my instruments electrocuted over the last couple of months. (My brain follows shortly).  This means I can now play out doors and in noisy or large environments safe in the knowledge that I can actually be heard.  A little bit late in life with my 60th birthday looming I admit, but nonetheless I decided if Bob Dylan can do it; well so can I.


So where will I be taking my new electrocuted instruments in the forthcoming weeks?



Friday March 2nd:  The Waveney Folk Club, Crown Street Hall, Lowestoft, Suffolk.

Monday March 12th Barnsley Folk Club, The Shaw Inn, Barnsley.

Thursday March 15th Ryton Folk Club, The Half Moon, Old Ryton near Newcastle.

Saturday March 17th Hope Village Hall, Minsterley, Shropshire. (Valparaiso round the Horn)

Saturday April 1st The Celebration of Eric Winter, The Church Inn, Stalybridge.



Festivals booked thus far for this year far include.

May 5/6.  Rochester Sweeps.

July 7/8.  Cleckheaton.

July21/22. Stainsby.

August 10/11/12. Maryport.


My new album Valparaiso round the Horn has had another review.  This time in fRoots.  I didnít see the review myself as I stopped taking the magazine some years ago.  I suspect the album was reviewed in the section marked ďThe Good, The Bad and The UglyĒ Ė at least that is where all my past albums have been reviewed. They sure know a critter when they see one.   Anyway I have Dave Kidman to thank for kindly sending this review on to me.


"Alternating narration and shanties (with large supporting cast) depicting a voyage from Liverpool to Chile in 1860 with a cargo of steel. The effect is a little like a schools broadcast perhaps, but it's an informative way of putting the songs (and the jobs they accompanied) in their due context."

It got the "thumbs level" graphic at the side, by the way.

As with all that section apparently there was no author credit!


Well thatís just about it for now.  Oh Yes!  My web site is now getting hit three times every day on average.  You can see the bruises for yourselves if you look at page three.


If you are still here Iíll leave you with the words of a song written over 100 years ago.

The author is unknown.  The song is called The Farmer is the One.  Drop me a line if you would like me to send you a copy of the music.


Oh the farmer comes to town, with his wagon broken down

But the farmer is the one who feeds us all.

If youíll only look and see, I think you will agree

That the farmer is the one who feeds us all.

    The farmer is the one, the farmer is the one, who lives on credit to the Fall

    Then they take him by the hand and they lead him from the land

    And the middle manís the man who takes it all.


Now the banker stands around, while the butcher cuts a pound

They forget that itís the farmer feeds them all

And the preacher and the cook, they go strolling by the brook

For they forget that itís the farmer feeds us all

    The farmer is the one, the farmer is the one, who lives on credit to the Fall

    With the interest rates so high, itís a wonder he donít die

    And the mortgage manís the man that gets it all.


Now the banker says heís broke, and the merchantís up in smoke

They forget that itís the farmer feeds them all

It would put them to a test, if the farmer took a rest

Theyíd remember itís the farmer feeds them all

    The farmer is the one, the farmer is the one, who lives on credit to the Fall

    His pants are wearing thin, his condition itís a sin

    Theyíve forgot that heís the one who feeds us all.


The farmer is the one, the farmer is the one, who lives on credit to the Fall

But diseases force his hand, and now heís got to sell his land

So let us pray that Tony Blair hears the call


Keep smiling, keep singing and save a prayer for the farmer.



Joe Stead.