Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger – Volume 45 – June 2004

Spring is turning into summer and with it the festival season blossoms again in Great Britain. Many festivals are sponsored by the local council. Sensibly it is the only way to do it, so here’s hoping for more sensible councils. Kimber’s Men have kicked off the season in great style at the Sweep’s Festival in Rochester. (A council sponsored event). We were busy throughout making scheduled and unscheduled appearances at singarounds as well as folk clubs and concerts. Dougie Hudson is the musical director for the festival and he also makes a musical contribution with Hot Rats who feature the amazing Ian Cutler on fiddle and Mike Peters on a very tidy and exciting bass. I promise you I have now heard the definitive version of Orange Blossom Special!

The Sunday Folk Club was interesting for all the right and wrong reasons, and it is for these wrong reasons that folk clubs now find themselves in decline. So before becoming too pessimistic, let’s look first at the good things. We had a full house for most of the time, the club started on time, (that in itself is a miracle and should be acknowledged as such) and we had an array of very good floor singers which regrettably dissipated itself into a small string less so.

So it is only fair that all floorsingers should have an equal crack at the whip? Well if you do and there are too many of them, the headline act has a reduced spot at the end of the show. This of course is exactly what happened on Sunday when Kimber’s Men were featured at the folk club. So the wheat has to be extracted from the chaff. The untalented performer whilst still given a spot should simply do a shorter one. The classic example was the aging melodeon player who played three stirring folk ballads over a period of 18 minutes all of which were simply the first verse of a song multiplied by the number of verses in each song! It was an extremely painful experience for everyone in the room including his very understanding and I suspect much suffering wife. Upon completion, as the audience applauded not the music but the fact that he had actually finished, he announced how pleased he was because his own local folk club does not like the sound of melodeons! (A very sensible club, except they haven’t told him straight). He then departed the room with his wife to join the dance, regrettably after the 10 people who had walked out in protest whilst he was on stage.

But we had a great time, (didn’t really miss him), and so did the audience, all of whom were completely unaware that we had done less than we had been contracted to do. So does this matter? From a selfish point of view we were paid the same money for less work and on the premise that you always leave your audience screaming for more – well, we are well satisfied especially as CD sales were high and this always reinforces a successful reception. We would of course have liked to have sung for longer and you will already have deduced that the audience thought likewise.

The only way to avoid this problem is to severely cull these inadequacies. If you don’t you will lose your audience. Is it sensible to start a folk club at 8pm, not have an interval and leave it to10pm before you introduce your main act? The decision is yours dear emcee.

Of course it is always very easy to criticize if you can’t find a solution that the majority find an acceptable alternative. But to see people walking out of the room is depressing, when the alternative appears to be so simple.

But the Sweeps Festival is just wonderful. The above is simply a description of a folk malaise that can and unfortunately does happen anywhere. The town of Rochester is filled with herds of dance troops all whirling away in a vivid dash of colours. The streets smell of hot dogs and Chinese food and the bars are filled with great music all supplied free by The Medway Council, well all except the hot dogs and the Chinese food of course. I’ve been booked there countless times as a solo performer and it’s always a pleasure to get back, especially accompanied by the other lads. I give Mr Hudson 99.999 out of a hundred. Sorry Dougie I’ve gotta knock off 0.001% of a mark for letting that ruddy melodeon player slip through the system!

I have to say that I’m becoming increasingly concerned for The Ship’s Bosun and his missus, who have decided to head for Greece for a fortnight’s sailing during the Olympics. Neil and Roz, who have two sailing vessels, disappear to Greece quite frequently to sail them in the warm waters of the Mediterranean. Normally such a venture would not disturb me and I’m sure they will remain safe if they stick to the shore. But August is the month in which the Olympics are to be held in Greece and I am convinced, especially as Greece is so far behind in it’s preparation, that there will be suicide bombers lining up to kill themselves and anybody in their vicinity during this period. For patriotic Muslim extremists with a yearning for suicide it must be a Nirvana.

Kimber’s Men have been engaged to play the Bridgenorth Folk Festival over the w/e of August 28th and 29th and the bosun is flying back to arrive in Britain that weekend. If my suspicions prove to be founded we could easily find ourselves working as a trio that weekend with our bosun stuck in Greece without a flight. A major catastrophe at the Olympics, apart from killing thousands, will devastate travel arrangements.

Meanwhile the Americans have sentenced their infamous war photographer, (he of Iraqi prisoners in compromising or dead positions) to 12 months in jail. That should certainly convince Muslim extremists that we in the West are prepared to punish our war criminals. Pity we cannot imprison Blair and Bush! I only hope that those of you who supported the war are enjoying the hike in petrol (gas) prices as much as I am.

Of course things are going to get worse, and if you are beginning to wonder if it will ever end you will discover the answer to be never. I have said before and do not want to bore you, but we will never defeat an enemy that wants to die. The Vietnamese did not want to die, neither did the average German soldier in the great wars. But we have an enemy today that actually welcomes death, and by attacking Iraq we have played straight into the hands of the lunatic terrorists who see their number rising by the hundreds, if not by the thousands, each month.

On June 10th all responsible Britons will be voting in the local elections. So that rules me out! Well actually I won’t be voting this time because I’ve sent my ‘postal vote form’ back unfilled in protest. Here in Sowerby Bridge we’ve fallen into an experimental area where all votes have to be done by post. I object, because whilst I don’t mind telling my readers that I would have voted Lib Dem, I see no reason why the establishment should be informed. We don’t have a police state here in Britain yet, but as postal votes appear to show the origin of the voter I’m opting to withdraw my vote.

I do hope (but I fear I hope in vain) that the masses will be sensible enough to realize that there is absolutely no difference between Tory and Labour policies these days and that they remember that both these parties were hell bent in favour of attacking Iraq.

There is only one party any sensible voter can support and that has to be the Liberal Democrats. And as an ex loyal Labour man I find that hard to say.

I’m 63 in June. I have silver in my hair, gold in my teeth, stones in my kidneys and gas in my stomach. I am lucky to have many friends worldwide and I’ve added to that number recently. Will Power helps me get out of bed and after a meeting with Jimmy Riddle I go for a walk along the canal where I usually meet up with Arthur Itis. (He knows he’s not welcome but he comes along anyway). Sometimes Emma Royd shows up too, usually from behind with Gerry Atric. Al Zheimer, the local vicar, always telephones me each day to remind me that I should be thinking of the hereafter. Strangely that is something I do all the time these days. I find myself going into the kitchen and asking myself “Now what am I here after?” Ah well its better that the alternative – a lot better actually. Someone should tell the Muslims.

Finally – there have been some improvements made to the web page. If you have time please investigate

Jun 2nd (Joe) Sowerby Bridge Concert Hall - Life and Times of Paul Robeson 10am!
Jun 9th (Joe) Cock Hotel, Stony Stratford - Life and Times of Paul Robeson
Jun 12th (Joe) Laycock Village Hall, Nr Keighley – Valparaiso round the Horn 2pm
Jul 10th (KM) The Norwegian Church, Cardiff.
Aug 28th (KM) Bridgenorth Folk Festival
Aug 29th (KM) Bridgenorth Folk Festival
Sep 24th (Joe) Probus Steering Committee Lunch, The Cricket Club, Elland.
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.
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
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.


The U.S. Postal Service created a stamp earlier this year with a picture of President GW Bush to honor his achievements while in office. However, it was found that the stamp was not sticking to envelopes. A commission to determine the reason for the defect was formed. After thorough testing, the commission published the following findings: 1. The stamp was found to be in perfect order. 2. There was nothing wrong with the adhesive. 3. People were just spitting on the wrong side.
You'll be glad to know that this carries on an old folk tradition; it was told about Hitler, then Stalin, later Ceausescu. Old George W. is in some pretty appropriate company there.
<<Second Question: If you overtake the last person, then you are...? >>
A Republican. and, as usual, running around in circles.
Paul Stamler

Hi Joe,
Glad to her that you are walking. I think it is the greatest thing in the world for you. Other than playing football, of course, but some of us may be a little old for that.
The price of gas has skyrocketed here. We are now paying $1.90 a gal. That’s up from about $1.28 a year ago. The Democrats could put up Mickey Mouse and win. Why they picked Kerry, I just don’t know. He is probably the only person in the entire country who could possibly lose to Bush. Either way we end up with four more years of disaster. In case you hadn’t heard, we are planning on invading London next to bring democracy to England. Just a rumor.
All my best to Nora.
Walt Manning. (Florida)

Dear Joe,
Thanks for the Ramblings again. I must have missed the Mel Gibson comments. I thought the NPR review referring to it as the "Jesus Chainsaw Massacre" was appropriate. I, too, have not seen the movie. What frosts my cookies to no end are the religious right folks who decry too much sex and violence in movies that are sending busloads of children to see this. Maybe I'm too absolutist (as in if you're against violence in movies, you're against all violence in movies). Being a fan of the old spaghetti westerns and some of the usual guy movies (I also like artier movies, too) I don't think I'd have a problem with the realism. I am against the posturing going on with this movie. I have yet to watch a reality tv show either.
Hope all is well,
Phil Cooper

An open letter that I’ve received from a couple of readers.

Folks, got to be worth a shot.....nothing to lose and everything to gain..
We are going to hit close to 89p a litre by the summer.
Want petrol prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action that will make MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy petrol on a certain day" campaign that was going around last April or May! The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to hurt ourselves by refusing to buy petrol. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them.
Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a litre is CHEAP at 77p -80p, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace not sellers. With the price of petrol going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to seethe price of petrol come down is if we hit someone in the pocket by not purchasing their Petrol! And we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.

Here's the idea:

For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY petrol from the two biggest oil companies (which now are one), ESSO and BP. If they are not selling any petrol, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Esso and BP petrol buyers. It's really simple to do!!

I am sending this note to a lot of people. Just over 1,000 to be exact. If each of you copy this piece and send it to at least ten more and those send it to at least ten more it will reach 3 million by the sixth generation. If those three million get excited and pass it on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted!
If it goes one level further, you guessed it... .. THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Buy your petrol at Shell, Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons (75p), Jet etc


Just the one this month!
There has been a dearth of good ‘funnies’ lately. Either I’m getting too fussy in my old age, or there has simply been a shortage, but most of the stuff I’ve received since last month has either been too sexist, too racist, too religious, or simply too foolish to include.

However - Let's go Downunder!

Australian Tourism

The questions below about Australia are from potential visitors. They were posted on an Australian Tourism Website and the answers are the actual responses by the website officials, who obviously have a sense of humour. Enjoy!

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, so how do the plants grow? (UK).
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (USA)
A: Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? (USA)
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not... oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.

Q: Which direction is North in Australia? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 90 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia? (UK)
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia? (UK)
A: You are a British politician, right?

Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Australia, but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. (USA)
A: It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Keep smiling, keep singing.

Joe Stead