Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Thirty Six – September 2003.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling really down – like right now ‘cos I’ve just lost a bunch of bank notes somewhere between here and Tesco’s, (not sure how much probably 80 quid I would think) I stop to appreciate just how lucky I am not only to be alive, but to be living in what is probably the best time any human could live; at least in the western world. And I emphasise that last bit.

For a start if medical science had been fifty years behind its time I would have been dead by the age of seven from appendicitis. On top of that I’ve had a hernia operation, a cataract operation, survived a pulmonary embolism, had two cartilages removed from my knees, had a new knee fitted and had wisdom teeth removed as a major operation in hospital (they managed to break my jaw doing that). So you know I really should not complain. I’ve not only escaped the jaws of death twice but also escaped the agonies of in grown wisdom teeth, blindness, crippled legs and a bulging crutch. Imagine having all that on top of a stutter! I’ve lived in a country that has experienced unknown peace and wealth at home. I’ve got four kids (even if one doesn’t talk to me) four grandchildren (even if two of them don’t yet know I exist) a wonderful wife and I’m a lucky, lucky chap. So there – I’m feeling better already, and perhaps whoever finds that bunch of bank notes needs the money more than I do anyway. Let’s hope so. Of course I might have had my pockets picked, but I’m such a blithering idiot at times I assume it was the former.

But in that heartbreaking little true story is another underlying simple truth. There are just too many humans on this planet. Wars in the old days, certainly last century, cleaned out millions upon millions of humans. Just think how many more of us there would have been if WW1 and WW2 had not come along? Britain is over burdened with people right now, some of whom have arrived here illegally. Imagine what it would be like if there were another fifty million people living here. It does not bear thinking about. Of course this does not mean that I approve of wars, like most people on the folk scene I abhor them. However, as you will see if you read the letter pages, there are some folk who fully approve. Well everyone to their own!

In a recent Sing Out, Mark D Moss - the editor, has retold the plight of Max Ochs a 62 year old folk singer and former civil rights activist who for 8 years hosted a show in Annapolis. He’s just been sacked by the County Parks Director Dennis Callahan for singing the notorious “no trespassing” verse in Woody Guthrie’s “This land is your land”. Some people have a distinct lack of understanding that others might have an opinion different from their own and are so dreadfully bigoted that they are totally incapable of understanding that dialogue is distinctly better than censorship and dictatorial domination. I welcome open discussion and criticism, although some, even now, seem to think I’m only interested in my own opinion. I delight in getting letters telling me where I’ve gone wrong even when they tell me that I dismiss opinions different from my own.

Mark D Moss went on to remind his readers of the words spoken by Pastor Martin Niemoller in 1945.
“First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew
Then they came for the Catholics, but I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.”

By the way; did you know that in Brazil humans are cutting down rain forests the size of Belgium every year? How much longer can that go on for? I hate to even try to imagine what the world will be like in 100 years time, unless some of us stand up and say ‘No, enough is enough’. (Which of course is precisely what my first correspondent is doing in the letter section – only she has a different opinion of what is right). Be that as it may we cannot escape the simple fact that we are living in what is probably the best of times. Human’s have never had it so good and probably won’t in the future. We have made wonderful strides in medical care. In Britain we’ve lived in relative peace, we’ve had money in our pockets (unless visiting Tesco’s) and a welfare state that would have seemed the wildest of silly dreams 200 years ago. We’re able to change the appearance of our sex to suit our necessities, duplicate our bodies and fly ourselves to the moon. Had you told that to somebody living in Queen Victoria’s time that that would have been possible in less than 100 years you would probably have been thrown into an asylum. Three hundred years ago burnt to death as a witch just for saying it. But still we attack simple weaker nations on the basis of a lie and then hide behind the pretence that we’ve helped that nation escape a leadership it didn’t desire. Iraq turned out to be another ill-fated crusade. I wonder what the war mongers will be saying when the tide turns and the war comes to our shores. Probably not this ……

"Left alone I've been known to go
on this merry-go-round
till I'm dizzy and down
to my last wooden nickel
and my last free ride
I cross my fingers
and I close my eyes
Hoping it don't end,
and when it does,
there's someone at my side..." ~ Michael McNevin.

Aug 29th (KM) Hull Festival of the sea
Aug 30th (KM) Hull Festival of the sea
Aug 31st (KM) Hull Festival of the sea
Sep 6th (Joe) North York Moors Festival
Sep 7th (Joe) North York Moors Festival
Sep 8th (Joe) Hollyoaks (TV filmed in July)
Sep 9th (Joe) Hollyoaks (TV filmed in July)
Sep 10th (Joe) The Cross Keys, Uppermill, Manchester.
Oct 3rd (Joe) The Wellington, Seaford, Sussex.
Oct 4th (Joe) Tenterden Folk Festival, Kent.
Oct 5th (Joe) Tenterden Folk Festival, Kent.
Oct 10th (Joe) The Grove, Holbeck, Leeds
Oct 31st.(Joe) Fredericksburg Songwriters' Showcase. Virginia, USA
Nov 1st. (Joe) Fairmount Park, Philadelphia 3pm. Pa. USA
Nov 1st (Joe) Philadelphia Folk Song Soc – Valparaiso workshop 8pm. Pa. USA
Nov 2nd (Joe) The Point, Bryn Mawr. Philadelphia. 11am – 2pm. Pa. USA
Nov 5th (Joe) Montgomery College, Bluebell Hill, Pa (Noon)
Nov 7th (Joe) Mom and Pop’s Club, Levittown, North Philadelphia. Pa. USA
Nov 8th (Joe) First Reformed Church, New Brunswick. New Jersey. USA
Nov 9th (Joe) Sit 'n Bull Pub, Maynard, Boston MA. With Rick Lee . 4pm USA
Nov 10th (Joe) The Cantab Lounge, Central Square, Cambridge. Ma. USA
Nov 12th (Joe) The Marine Science Center in Nahant. Ma. USA
Nov 15th (Joe) Skylight Exchange, Chapel Hill. NC. USA
Nov 27th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Nov 28th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Nov 29th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Nov 30th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 1st (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 2nd (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 3rd (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 4th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 5th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 6th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 7th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Dec 8th (Joe) Chile – Venue to be arranged
Jan 23rd (Joe) General Ludd Folk Club, Huddersfield.
Jan 24th (KM) The Square Chapel Theatre Halifax with children from Holy Trinity Junior School
Jan 30th (Joe) Kingswinford Folk Club
May 1st (KM) Sweeps Festival – Rochester.
May 2nd (KM) Sweeps Festival – Rochester.


Lots of letters this month including a very disturbing letter from David Sampson of 81 Heath Lane, Brinklow, Rugby, Warwickshire. CV23 0NX. Telephone: 01788 832021. David can also be contacted at David needs help. His letter concerned the gang rape of his daughter by local yobs who are making his life hell. I have carefully considered and declined including his letter in the Ramblings as the story is too harrowing even for me. I have shown it to friends who think it is possibly a hoax letter. Frankly I’m not sure, I’ve known David for over30 years and he is a solid stalwart on the music scene; but be it a hoax or be it not a hoax David certainly needs help. If it is not a hoax then anyone with knowledge about this kind of offence please contact David to give him guidance. If it is a hoax then perhaps people who understand mental illness could contact David to help him, because if he’s dreamed up this story he sure needs help. So if you are experienced in this kind of care, or simply interested in such material, please do not hesitate to contact David. He wants as much publicity as possible so he will not be offended if you contact him. Indeed from what he has told me he will be delighted.

My comments on the war in issue 35 brought in quite a lot of letters, mainly from people who disagreed with me. I don’t like taking issue with people who have written as they cannot defend their comments if I criticize them. I find it slightly disturbing however when people fully admit that they may have been mislead by the government in one direction but cannot see that they might also have been mislead by the government in another direction. It’s like meeting someone you know is a liar but being prepared to accept that they are telling the truth when they say something you want to believe to be true. Anyway here come the best, I’m sure a lot of you will agree with the first one ……

Joe Stead
Dear Old Codger
Thank you so much for enlightening me with your aptly titled "Ramblings" on the subject of the recent Gulf War. I am however rather surprised that you do not spare a thought, amongst your carefully considered anti-Blair tirade, about the countless victims of the regime in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. I appreciate that the existence of weapons of mass destruction may be wishful thinking on the part of B&B, and I am certainly no apologist for all things American. Nevertheless, I have been moved by the evidence of genocide, torture and extreme political repression as reported by the Iraqi people themselves, many of whom are profoundly relieved that Hussein and his nasty henchmen are history. I accept that things are far from perfect in Iraq at the moment, but at least a small candle has been lit in the darkness Hussein's regime fostered, and Iraqis now (particularly the women) are daring to hope that they may have a future. Of course, my views will no doubt bring howls of outrage from those who would have preferred to do nothing and to allow the regime to continue untroubled by invasion or sanction of any description.
I also find your comments on our armed forces to be reprehensible - do they apply to anyone who fights for their country, or simply to American or English soldiers? Perhaps you might care to read "Tommy Atkins" by Rudyard Kipling, a poem which points out that we're all happy to criticise soldiers until we think the country needs them - then suddenly they become heroes.
Finally, it's all very well to criticise Tony Blair (and how fortunate we are to live under a system where we're allowed to express our opinions freely!), but what on earth is the political alternative to New Labour? Are you seriously suggesting we'd be better off under a Conservative Government, or the Liberal Democrats? Or perhaps you think that the British electorate (a notoriously conservative and fickle body) could be persuaded to vote for a party led by George Galloway (able and misrepresented as he probably is)?
Of course, as you dismiss all opinions which differ from yours as belonging to those "without a semblance of intelligence", I have no doubt that you'll fail to respond to my e-mail, but unlike you I do feel that there are two sides to every story, and just because you disagree with someone, that doesn't make them necessarily insincere or stupid.
Anne Todd

Hello Joe,
Thank you for adding me to your list, I must say I have enjoyed the 'Ramblings' I have seen. However there is one point I disagree with you this time, and that is not having any sympathy with the soldiers who join up to fight. Yes, they are well aware when they join up that they may come into conflicts, and they may come up against a problem which means kill or be killed. But there are quite a number of lads who join up, be it army, navy or air force because there are no jobs where they live, or if there are it is for minimal wage dead end jobs. Any lad or lass worth there mettle will not like this. I know because my grandson joined the army last November. He has done his training and is now joining his artillery unit and will be drafted to Iraq in the next few months. We tried all ways to persuade him not to join up, but he didn't want a job that drove him insane with boredom.
So please Joe, think of all those who had this reason for joining up. By the way, the Sea Shanty festival at Maryport was better than the blues.!!
Keep on Rambling
Marjorie Robertson

Good morning and thanks for your latest Ramblings.
It is quite interesting that I recently put forward exactly your comments to some American colleagues of mine (we own a business in South Carolina, a state not renowned for its liberal viewpoint!!) The scary part was that they, 'educated' individuals, were totally blinkered by the Bush/Blair syndrome and not the slightest bit open to any other point of view.
By the way have you read a book by Peter Preston, an ex Guardian journalist, called 'the 51st State'. Suffice to say the 'plot' surrounds the UK breaking away from Europe, joining the USA and sending representatives to Congress and the Senate with the PM becoming Vice President. Far fetched? Not by the standards of today's politics. Well worth a read.
Anyway, apart from not ordering any French wine at the restaurant, the menu had been physically reprinted to change French Fries to Liberty Fries. What a joke, I just had to remind them of the origin of the word Liberty and who supported them in the War of Independence, without whose help they would have probably lost the battle and who 'gave' them the Statue of Liberty.
Now to a happier subject. Last Saturday we attended the wedding of Bert Baker's daughter, just outside of Beccles. After the required celebrations we retired to the pub - The Toft Lion in Toft Moncks - around 12.30am. Not only was the pub still open, the landlord still serving drinks but a local folk group - Bric a Brac - were still there and playing for the landlord and their own enjoyment - there were no other patrons.
We were duly entertained for the next 2 hours or so until 3.00am in the morning when suitable laced with Adnams bitter and Jack Daniels whisky we somewhat unsteadily climbed the wooden hill to our room in the garret. A fantastic end to the day and great to see a group of minstrels, which included a 10 year old boy on the fiddle, playing for the sheer enjoyment of their music and for no other reason. Long live the folk scene.
Take care and I will look out for you in your starring roles in Hollyoaks!!
David Wickerson

Just for the record I fundamentally disagree with everything your correspondent had to say. Not sure what credibility can be given to someone who resigns from the Conservative Party and then says that he prefers "old Labour". It's a shame that he withheld his name and address or I cold have replied to him direct, but then I wouldn't expect anything else. I certainly don't withhold mine from something that I believe in and to be right.
Roger Hutchinson.

Hello Joe

The "Ramblings" have been getting increasingly more depressing over the last few months - OK, hardly surprising! I'm sure we would agree that there's been quite a few depressing things happening. However, I was greatly perked up by your list of "Extracts from actual letters sent to various Councils and Housing Associations throughout the UK". True or not, I found myself wiping away tears of mirth.
I was reminded of a dissatisfied council tenant who, in all seriousness, once complained (- and I promise that this is true!), "You should see the state of the pipe work in our toilet. Every time we flush the bog there's water and crap floods out all over the place. I've been phoning the council every day for a month but they still can't be arsed to send anyone round to fix it. It's not as though it's a difficult job! I could do it myself in ten minutes, and I ought to know - I'm a plumber."
Well you've got to laugh, haven't you?!!
Cheers Joe - Keep 'em comin'
Nigel Thornbory

Hi Joe,
First of all, thanks again and again for your Ramblings. I look forward to them each month and, even when I find myself annoyed, I also find myself challenged and provoked into thought. But I must say I COMPLETELY agree with you about Iraq. As your dear friend Pete Seeger wrote, "When will they ever learn?"
Charlie Reilley (Philadelphia)

I liked your musical terms. The following all occurred to me last night (some are better than others). Feel free to use any or all in any future Ramblings, but please credit either me or (preferably) the Topic.
John Waller - Topic Folk Club, Bradford

Maloderon - squeezebox player with bad breath
Tempus Fuggit - performer who can't keep time and doesn't care
Adageo - interminable traditional story
Contralto - a difficult high-voiced singer
Bossa Nova - new Italian Folk Club manager
Respighi - pasta in the shape of musical instruments
Friggo Letto - Italian condom
Castrate - what Equity pays (think about it)
Brasso profundo - deep cleaner for polishing your horn
Trouble Clef - musician locked out after all-night jamming session
Tonic Sulpher - strong hangover cure used after all-night jamming session
Tuber - brass instrument producing earthy sound
Con brie - with cheese
Aled Gro - what pre-pubescent singers do, eventually
Allegro - rusty car owned by impecunious musician
Fiddle - Impecunious musician's tax return
Tennor - what impecunious musician will perform for
Counter tennor - musician who checks his pay envelope before the MC leaves
Molto Trippo - music by a 60s pop band
Score - what most second-rate pop musicians are hoping to do later
Quattro Formaggio - cheesy Abba tribute band
Puzzicato - the score for the musical Cats
Glissandrew - sliding into bed with a member of an all-girl singing trio
Fandjango - one who appreciates Reinhardt's music
Reddibrek - performers desperate for the interval
Ban jostead - the cry that goes up across the land as yet another Old Codger's Ramblings hits the in-box


Posh and Becks are sitting in front of the television watching the six o'clock news. The main story is about a man threatening to jump off the Clifton Suspension Bridge on to the busy road below.
Posh turns to Becks and says: "David, I bet you 5,000 that he jumps!" to which Beckham replies "5,000? Done! I bet that he doesn't."
So they shake hands on the bet and continue watching. Sure enough, the man jumps and hits the road below with a loud thud.
Beckham takes 5,000 out of his back pocket and hands it to Posh.
But she refuses. "I can't take your money, David," she says. "The truth is, I was cheating. I saw the five o'clock news, so I knew he was going to jump."
"No, babe, fair's fair" says David. "That money is yours fair and square I was cheating just as you were. I saw the five o'clock news, too. I just didn't think he would do it again."

TRUE STORY AT DENVER AIRPORT by Pete Seeger from Sing Out. Pete apparently got the story from an old school mate of his who issues an occasional newsletter to about 200 friends and relatives.

A crowded United Airlines flight was cancelled. A single agent was booking a long line of inconvenienced travellers. Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk. He slapped his ticket on the desk and said, “I HAVE to be on this flight and it has to be FIRST CLASS”.
The agent replied “I’m sorry sir. I’ll be happy to try to help you but I’ve got to try to help these folks first, and I’m sure we will be able to help you out”.
The passenger was unimpressed. He asked loudly, so that the passengers behind him could hear, “Do you have any idea who I am”?
Without hesitating the agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone, “May I have your attention please”, her voice heard clearly throughout the terminal. “We have a passenger here at Gate 14 who does not know who he is. If anyone can help him find his identity please come to Gate 14”.
With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically the man glared at the United agent “Fuck you!” Without flinching she smiled and said “I’m sorry sir but you’ll have to get in line for that too”.

So that’s 36 issues of Ramblings.
Three solid years.
Anybody kept them all?
That must be the biggest laugh of the lot!

Keep smiling, keep singing.