Joe Stead - The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Nine - June 2001.


The June issue of The Ramblings is coming out a week or so early. There are two reasons for this. In the first instance I am on holiday in Spain from May 23rd until May 31st, but more importantly there is news of Mick Tems (of the folk group Calennig) which is too important to leave until I return in early June.

Many of you will by now know that Mick had a very serious stroke in April

News of the stroke reached me just too late for inclusion in 'Ramblings number 8'. Various benefit concerts are underway all over Britain to help Mick and Pat. Mick was, to say the very least, very seriously ill for a time and at the time of writing he is still too ill to leave Colchester Hospital to return to Wales.

However the following letter has been received from Andy Jackson in South Wales.

Mick Tems - The Visit

On Thursday 11th May I was pleased to be able to accompany Pattie on her visit to Mick in Colchester Hospital.

Following his stroke, over two weeks ago, there seemed to be only a small improvement in Mick's condition. They hadn't reckoned on Pat and the "Calennig magic". After half an hour or so of listening to assorted Calennig tracks on CD, Mick was working hard at singing along with Pattie

Then Pattie produced Mick's trusty melodeon and with me holding the bass end and his, not-so-clever hand, and Pattie pulling and pushing before long Mick was actually playing tunes and certainly joining in the singing. From here he seemed to go from strength to strength. At one point while singing the Mari's Song, one of the nurses went to fetch the staff nurse- they could not believe this was the same man who until then could only mutter yes or shake his head. Now he was word perfect and in tune - in Welsh !!!

No, this wasn't Calennig's most polished performance, but it was to me, one of their most powerful and a moment that I felt privileged to be part of.

To watch Mick mouthing the words of Gowerton Fair would have been heartbreaking had it not been such a sure sign of hope for the future. Within an hour not only was Mick managing to play and sing, but he was laughing at his own inability to speak or even spell properly, (melodeon will never be spelt the same again!). It was a very moving experience made more so by the fact that at no time was there any sign from Mick of frustration or anger and certainly never tears.

I don't want to build up too many false hopes - Mick is still very ill, but yesterday he showed a real interest in his music and the way forward. It will be slow and hard work, for both Mick and Pat, and they will both need our support for some while yet.

For the time being he will be staying in Colchester Hospital. Mick is in the excellent, brand new, purpose built, Rehabilitation Unit with very caring staff - he is in very good hands, although a long way from home.

As we left you could almost feel the sigh of relief as that whirlwind we call Pattie and quiet little me, left the ward to regain its normal peace and quiet. What the other patients may not have realised is that Mick now has his melodeon and will be practising every day as part of his physiotherapy!!! On our next visit we plan to bring the Mari with us, if that doesn't get him deported back to Wales nothing will!! Andy Jackson.

This would have been called a miracle in days gone by and perhaps it still is. When you have been near to death, you are left to wonder afterwards why and how you escaped it. I know because I've been there. So let's all keep Mick in our hearts and prayers and hope the improvement in his health continues.

If you want to contribute to the financial benefit of Mick and Pat you should contact either Andy Jackson at >

or Russell at >

Please send any Get Well Cards to:-

Mick Tems, Birch Ward, Gainsborough Block, Colchester General Hospital, Essex

Telephone:- 01206 747474


How often have you said 'I turned round to him and said….', or heard somebody else say 'He turned round to me and said………'. Did you ever stop to think from whence such a stupid saying came? I'm told it comes from the time of the plague in Great Britain. In order to avoid giving somebody the plague it was believed that the best way to talk to them was with your back turned towards them. Consequently you would walk up to somebody, turn your back and then start talking. Amazing huh? I do that all the time. It's called 'talking out of my backside!'

I had a wonderful time at The Sweeps Festival in early May. The Valparaiso workshop was well attended. Eight members of the audience had come to the festival simply to attend the workshop and went home directly afterwards and it was good to get participation from the audience of whom another eight had come to sing and lead shanties themselves. Ideas and information were swapped and I learnt a new thing or two myself. The two hours allotted to the workshop flew by. In the evening I had the pleasure of working with Bill Jones the young female performer from Sunderland who is making such an impact on the folk scene. I can understand why too. It is imperative to get new and young blood into the scene and as far as I'm concerned Bill is the best upcoming hopeful I've seen in 15 years and I've seen a few of the so called 'wonder kids' too. If she comes your way (and she's touring America soon) make sure you go to see her. Uncomplicated accompaniment, strong clear powerful singing. A breath of fresh air and no fans whirling to keep the hair flowing.

There was one comment I heard repeated from one or two old hands at the festival however which was just a little disconcerting. According to them there were a lot less folkies around this year and the number is apparently decreasing each year. I'd not been for a couple of years but I noticed that I was able to walk down the high street this year without continually stopping to talk to people I had not seen in 5/10/15 years. The singarounds have been moved out of the pubs and into non-alcoholic premises. I understand this is a result of hard bargaining by the publicans who only want bands with loud PA's to attract the general public to spend their money. This was always a bumper weekend in Rochester but I guess the publicans want to see even more money coming over the bar! (It's called 'greed' by the way). The bands are folk bands - so the tradition is continuing, but it is continuing without the die hard folk person who goes along to the festival in order to enjoy a good pint and a good song that they can sing themselves. And two female regulars who have gone every year for the last 15 years were abused insofar as one was robbed of everything she had and the other knocked over in the street without a by your leave or an apology. This does not bode well for the future. I'm certain this is not the fault of Doug Hudson who books the performers. The council advise him of the locations and the type of music required therein. The council should take a careful look at the road they are going down. The route they are taking does not make sense.

I can't get much sense out of my local folk magazine Tykes News either.

For the last 16 years (maybe more) I have subscribed to TN. Which means I've bought at least the last 64 consecutive copies of the magazine. Now they've stopped sending them and, despite two polite e mail requests, they can't be bothered to tell me why. Ignoring one of your oldest customers does not seem to me to be good business acumen, especially when you are dealing with a contracting medium where every sale is important. A year or so ago the editor was encouraging readers to send them letters because they were getting so few. Strange old game I seem to get more letters these days than I can cope with, especially from America. But keep 'em coming.

Here's a few interesting examples.

Mark D Moss is the Editor of Sing Out which, along with Dirty Linen, must be the bible of American folk music. Mark has a very busy schedule.

However unlike the moguls at Tykes News Mark found the time to respond to a petition letter I had, with some reservations, sent to 600 or more recipients. I am sure Mark is right in what he says so let me make my apologies now if I previously wasted your time.



A cousin of the e-mail hoax is the e-mail petition. These should also ALWAYS be immediately deleted and NEVER forwarded. There is NO SUCH THING as a useful e-mail petition. This is because: 1. they generate tens of thousands of duplicates 2. the "signatures" are totally unverifiable 3. there's no way to stop them when they're done

TRUST ME on this and kill these things when they hit *your* inbox ... but even if you don't, at least delete me from the list of folks to whom you send this spam. For the record, there *are* ways of using the Internet to generate support for causes: 1. You can send a "opinion template" note which could be forwarded to, say, a congress person or business with *their* direct e-mail so that supporters can make their concerns heard directly. 2. You can use a web site to manage/register folks who want to sign a "petition." A brilliant site that does just that is < >. There you can set up a petition -- including selecting from a database of public officials the party will ultimately receive the names, setting forth your issues, and linking a web site for more info if you'd like. You end up with a URL that you can *then* e-mail to folks to enlist their support. After a submission date (which you set!), the link shuts down. _____________________________________

Mark D. Moss / Sing Out!

(Another very useful site for checking website hoaxes is




Thanks for the latest "Ramblings". Frankly, your emails do "ramble" a bit (I'm always accused of the same; never a two-pager when a dissertation would do as well is my motto) and I don't always have the patience to plough through but then I do find these nuggets. It's sort of like having a charming crotchety uncle off in the Cotswolds; one must take you on your own terms! And your political sentiments, as always, are dead on. It's at least reassuring to remember that most of the rest of the world has its head screwed on straight. Believe me, if George Bush was not both reflection as well as executor of top-to-bottom dysfunctional thinking in this country he wouldn't be in office. (No he didn't actually win the election; but he's our collective punishment for letting the election be close enough to steal...) I got married a month ago and your "snippet" was a rare treat and just the thing I needed to get our relationship off to the right start :-) I'll let you know the "dear little wifey's" reactions shortly. Then perhaps you will get the rude letter you, Cyrano-like, craved this time around... (But actually she's got a great sense of humor, or I wouldn't have married her) You should send your Pete Seeger song to the San Francisco Folk Music Club newsletter if you haven't already. I'm sure you have their contact info. I also really enjoyed your version of the Mexican fisherman joke. I've known the joke for years but the telling here is superb, the irony particularly crisp. In fact, I'd like to post it on my website at and would like to give credit to the authors of the actual text. If it was your friends Alex and Louise can you pass me their contact info? The joke was particularly timely for me. Ironically, the experience of being a high-tech entrepreneur struggling to keep my little company afloat during the great Internet market nuclear meltdown is every bit as politically consciousness-raising as being a be-pierced twenty-something sucking down the tear gas fumes in Quebec (but not nearly as brave).

Nothing could have driven home more clearly to me that in the eyes of the moneyed elite, the Campesinos are not just the farmers and migrant laborers and factory workers, but also the creators of actual intellectual property--not just artists and musicians, but those inventors and software developers who by dint of sheer beat-the-odds luck actually create something of value in the midst of the unmitigated smoke and mirrors shellgame bullshit that passes for "development" in this house of cards industry. (Attitude? Moi?) (And what about those mixed metaphors?)

Meanwhile, as a musician waiting to re-emerge when this madness is done, I think fondly on the village, the siesta, and playing the guitar after sunset in the cafe with mis amigos. Mark Simos (Devachan Music >



Greetings to you Joe. I am a sailor and just decided about a fortnight ago that I should enhance my collection of Sea Chanteys. So I discovered yours on or something like that. I just bought two other sea chanteys CD's. They bring tears to my eyes, and then there is yours.

I love the original, educational and unique quality of the CD. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the music, the words, history, cover art and liner notes. The words you speak just about sum the whole thing up. Our children will only partially be able to imagine the days of sail. But it will endure as history thanks to work like yours.

Thanks again for the great and wonderful CD, if you ever get to New Orleans I will get on the stage here at our Irish pub, O'Flahertys and sing to you "Bonnie ship the Diamond" and "Pleasant and Delightful". I would be glad to show you the boat in the box and other treats about town. I will eagerly await your next work. Once again thanks for brightening up my world. All the best, Keith Fawcett (New Orleans).



Hi Joe

Thanks for #8 of ol' Codger! Very enjoyable. Let it be known that many Americans here are questioning (but not surprised by) Bush's handling of the & pollution control & China situation. Like most presidents of recent history, Bush apparently is representing American business more so than the will of the people. I suspect we will see an isolationist approach to world conditions, unless it benefits one or more companies based in North America. How much of this is simply posturing, as opposed to policy will remain to be seen. But look for an American government that will be interventionist when it comes to oil, but not so for human rights and

"democratic" ideals. As a person with libertarian leanings, I'm not so

sure I believe the US should be the "traffic cops" for the world. And countries that invite this should be careful. But if we are to take a stand on issues, we should at least be somewhat consistent. After all, we were the country that stood before the UN in the summer preceding the Gulf War (which was always referred to in the US media at the time as the flamboyant "Operation Desert Storm") and stated that we weren't "interested in Arab border disputes". Then we mounted a huge military force for the restoration of a "democratic" state, although it was a monarchy. Small wonder the rest of the world looks at the US with great suspicion. And rightfully so. The policies of the Bush administration will certainly echo the Reagan years. Hopefully this will not end as miserably with a huge taxpayer bail out of a fraudulent banking system, which has been historically rewritten or buried here in the US media (the fact the Bush family was heavily involved in the failed savings and loan situation should not be overlooked). And more importantly, hopefully we will not be posturing as the dove with the olive branch in one claw, and an ICBM in the other. Will our foreign policy consist of scorched nuns, mined harbours,

or another red scare? I'm not overly optimistic. But again, posturing

and policy are two different things. Perhaps public sentiment will eventually force the government someday to take the initiative on policies in which we are in error at the present time. Perhaps when the Ozone window hits Key West Florida or Santa Barbara California, or a certain ranch in Texas.

Best wishes for the summer and the rest of the year from the idle tobacco fields of Connecticut. Chuck Dube

I got two very interesting items from Caryl P Weiss in America. The first was hopefully sent as a bad joke. Heaven forbid, perhaps it was originally not meant as a joke at all! Are their people in America who really believe that they were the innocent party, sinned against in the spy plane episode with China? This has to go down as the letter of the poorest taste that I have yet received. Here in clause 4 we see that there is a section of the population in the USA who can't wait to get another Vietnam War started.

Have they such short memories?

Dear China,

1. We're sorry that you don't train your fighter pilots better. As a token of our apology, here's a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000. 2. We're sorry that you're front-line fighter planes can't outmanoeuvre a 35 year old prop-driven airliner. Perhaps you'd like to consider purchasing some surplus 1950's era Lockheed Starfighters from Taiwan. (Who just replaced all theirs with shiny new F-16's) 3. We're sorry that you believe your territorial waters extend all the way to Australia. For future reference, here's an American 6th grade geography textbook. (Please take note of the Copyright information printed inside the


4. We're sorry that you can't seem to see your part of this incident. We know that it may seem easier to blame others than to take responsibility. Consider this while we build several new Aegis destroyers for our friends in the Republic of China (Taiwan). 5. We're especially sorry for treating you with such respect for the last 20 years. We'll definitely rethink this policy, and will probably go back to treating you like a common untrustworthy street gang very soon. 6. We're very sorry for ever granting you Most-Favoured-Nation trading status. This will be rectified at the soonest possible opportunity. Sincerely, The United States of America

I'm sure there are many people in America who would not want to be associated with this diatribe. Caryl redeems herself (although she never wrote the original) with this wonderful poem apparently made up entirely of actual quotes from George W. Bush. The quotes have been arranged for aesthetic purposes by Richard Thompson of The Washington Post. Too good not to share, especially during National Poetry Month in the US of A.


I think we all agree, the past is over.

This is still a dangerous world.

It's a world of madmen and uncertainty

and potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked

Is our children learning?

Will the highways of the internet become more few?

How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.

I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.

I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.

Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!

Knock down the tollbooth!

Vulcanize Society!

Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

And this man is the president of the most powerful nation on Earth!


Those of you who are musicians might seriously consider putting this to a tune. Caryl suggests "Send in the Clowns"


Meanwhile David L.Bickley sent Karl Dallas a plan to improve the English language. Karl kindly sent it onto me - probably hoping it might one day reach George W!


The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU rather than German which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5 year phase-in plan that would be known as "Euro-English".

In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of the "k". This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have 1 less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like "fotograf" 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be ekspekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent "e"s in the language is disgrasful, and they should go away.

By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v". During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi to understand ech ozer. Ze drem vil finali kum tru!

Karl Dallas.

And so to bed. Well not quite perhaps. We have June 7th to look forward to! Conservative? Labour? Liberal Democrat? AN Other? The general synopsis received from you before foot and mouth broke out was of the opinion all that all politicians are crooks feathering their own nest. So do we vote for the party where the fat lady never stops singing (regrettably out of tune in all respects), for the party in charge who want to keep up the good work (that they are yet to start), or for the party with a leadership as invigorating as a piece of dead cod on the fishmongers slab?

And we think the Americans have problems!

Good night Pete (I know you read this in bed)

Keep smiling and keep singing.

Joe Stead






For Ramblings 10


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


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