Joe Stead - The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Fifteen - December 2001.
OK. So lets examine the points where we are in agreement.
1. It would be nice if we could have world peace.
2. September 11th was an outrageous act of inhumanity.
3. Those who perpetrated the criminal act on September 11th should be brought to justice. But this is impossible because they are dead. Those who believe in an afterlife can rest assured that justice is being meted out (be it good or bad) as we speak/read 4. Those who planned and financed September 11th should be sought and reasons examined why they planned such an outrageous act of inhumanity. 5. It's a relief to see the end of the Taliban government and its evil regime insofar as the Afghans can sing again, and whilst Muslim women will never gain a parity with their men folk it's still good to know that they are now to be given more freedom.
6. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani worked tirelessly in the aftermath of the disaster and deserves the highest recognition possible, as do all the countless rescue workers both living and dead. (I for one am delighted that the Queen of England offered him a knighthood. I'm delighted too that he accepted it, but I would have been more delighted if he had accepted the generous gift of $3,000,000 that he chose to throw back in the face of the kind Saudia Arabian ambassador who proffered it).
I watched President Bush's speech to the Atlanta Emergency Workers on November 8th. I wish I had recorded it on video as there were many salient points I would like to comment on, but as a little knowledge is a dangerous thing I will hold my tongue on a lot of them. One or two things however did strike me. President Bush said that America must teach the world 'Western Values'. Well I don't know if something has escaped me here, but I thought that was what September 11th was all about. He also said, to rapturous applause, that America must lead the way to stamp out terrorism and I have to wonder where all those cheering Americans were when their compatriots were financing the IRA over a period of thirty years. It's strange how realism hits you straight in the face when disaster strikes in your own backyard.
I don't think for one minute that the battle with these extremists is over. At least 1,000 immigrants enter this country illegally every year. The figure in reality might be closer and even exceed 5,000. A vast majority of these immigrants are Muslims, and there is bound to be a percentage amongst them who support Bin Laden and his fundamentalist ideals. The American borders are even more vulnerable than our own. We must all be on our guard.
Now I don't quite know if my comments over the last couple of months have caused a certain amount of indifference and anger from people in America whom I have always considered to be friends. Very possibly so. It is human nature to take offence to people who kick you when you are down. But a real friend is someone who comes forward to give advice, even when the advice is not something the listener wants to hear. Such advice can always be ignored. The fact that I have heard very little from most of my American acquaintances indicates to me that perhaps I have, in their opinion, overstepped the mark. Well sometimes friends do this and we have to be prepared to forgive them, especially when they believe their motives are sound. Don't sit there quietly being offended if you think I'm talking insulting twaddle, don't simply refuse to read my letters because they offer you an alternative way of thinking - that's simply wearing blinkers.
If I'm in the wrong and you have both the time and patience, then take a couple of minutes to tell me. I want to know how you think.
My last Ramblings did bring about conflicting letters of real interest from two Americans whom I have never met. Jennifer Pyron, objected to Ramblings Number 14 criticising President Bush and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, both of whom in her opinion were doing an excellent job. This is what Jennifer had to say….
Understand that I am not some close-minded, uneducated American who believes that ours is the right way and the only way. I am constantly listening to other people's opinions in order to form my own. My frustration lies in the fact that so many people outside of our country have this attitude that we, are isolationists and don't do for the rest of the world. When there is a need, the United States is the first one in line to help. Now, I don't necessarily agree with every move that our administration makes, but the only way that I can sleep at night is to trust that they have much more information than me and that they will make the right decisions, but unfortunately, there isn't one single thing that I can do about it.
We are lucky enough to live in a time when anyone can object to the government and rant and rave, but we also live in a time when our freedoms are being compromised by a handful of terrorists. Some of your readers are naive enough to think that this is just about America when in fact, it's about every free civilisation in the world. Thankfully, your leaders realise that this is freedom's fight, not just ours.
I believe it's very arrogant to criticise the men fighting this war (Bush, Blair, etc.). It's so easy to sit back, unaffected, and talk about what they've done wrong, what they should do, etc. Stop for a minute and think about the enormous pressure on these people knowing that every move they make directly affects our very existence. That's where my frustration comes from. Don't assume that I'm not informed or that I only hear what I want to hear. It's just that I'm not bold enough to assume that I could do a better job. Also, this is not a job that anyone wanted, but they're doing everything they can and to the best of their ability.
Now, I will concede that I should read your letters criticising our government for a different look at things and I will welcome them. You should just remember that you're vilifying the very men that are fighting for your freedom to do so. Thanks for listening, Jennifer Pyron
Well good on you Jennifer. You've spoken your mind and that is what we need to be doing at this time. Friends need to speak to each other, including friends who have never met! Without this dialogue we will never know how the other half is thinking.
In contrast to Jennifer's letter I also got a letter from an American folk singer called Debra Cowan.
Dear Joe Stead,
I haven't written until now. I am still not quite sure how you found me to send your "Ramblings", but I am very glad that you did. As for your statements about America, they are spot-on and I thank you for stating so eloquently what I have been thinking for quite a while now. I am enjoying your "Ramblings" very much. keep 'em coming. Best, Debra Cowan PO Box 1335, Westborough, MA 01581-6335http://www.DebraCowan.com
I've never met Steven R Sproger either. His letter from America was short but to the point.
I wonder what Tom Paxton is writing now? Keep up the good work. Steven R. Sproger, LCSW, PhD, Public Health Social Work Consultant,
Children's Medical Services, Sacramento, CA 94234-7320
Meanwhile in Britain David Arthur took a distinct objection to my comments regarding the slaying of Osama Bin Laden. I would expect this raised the hackles of quite a few of you, but I still maintain (despite the inhumanity
involved) that slaying Bin Laden immediately will be better than the alternative.
It was all going so well until you suggested that should Bin Laden be apprehended we/someone should just 'SLAY HIM'. Yeh, of course we should.
And we should slay that racist Israeli Tourist Minister, oh no, that's already been done. Or p'raps Kennedy, Luther King.. Oh, sorry, someone's already done that, too. Then how about 'slaying' a few dozen Irish men who once sang 'Rebel Songs', or why not good old Pete Seeger - he's been a thorn in the US side for years... Come off it, Joe, there is absolutely no
moral, or even legal, right to 'slay' anyone, without a trial. And as far
as Bin Laden is concerned, so far I've seen no evidence that he organised
the September 11th attacks. I've got no more time for the Taliban, from
what I've read, than most other Westerners, women etc., but I also have no time for posturing idiots like Blair, who I'm ashamed to have as my Prime Minister (luckily I didn't vote for him, along with most of the population), and that buffoon Bush. You're right about the Americans, of whom I have many dear friends, not knowing why they are so disliked in many parts of the world. They can thank their businessmen and politicians, with their cultural imperialism, and school-yard bully boy tactics, and until September 11th, a disregard for the rest of the world. Have we all forgotten that during his short reign, Bush had already reneged on military and climatic agreements. Until America became a target, the rest of us could stew in our own juices, and now we are all supposed to jump up and down and wave American flags and say how great America is? Come on, guys!
Most politicians, and I suspect all Governments are liars. It would be, or should be, unnecessary to point out the shameful things that the USA and Britain, and most other countries, have done to their own, and to other peoples, and denied it without batting an eye-lid. Don't believe our politicians, it's their job to tell us what they want us to think and do.
This whole affair (the terrorist attacks, the stupid, stupid, bombing of one of the poorest, and needy countries in the world) is shameful. There is no moral argument for doing it. And if you think we should sing, and march or whatever, I think we should raise our voices and tell Bush and Blair that WE DO NOT WANT THEIR BRAND OF FLAG-WAVING, GUNG-HO, OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT TERRORISM LAID ON OUR CONSCIENCES. And is it just me living in a dream world, or did Israel come into being through the same acts of 'terrorism' as those displayed by the Palestinians? Except that the Palestinians are fighting to throw another American backed 'bully-boy' off the land that is theirs by agreement and treaty. Didn't the Israelis learn anything about how to treat people from their experiences in the last World War? Do the Israelis, the Americans, the British, the Chinese (not much shouting going on from the Americans and British about Tibet et al..) and dozens of other regimes not realise that violence begets violence, and to respond in kind to 'terrorists' is to lose any moral high ground? And from where I'm looking our governments are talking from the bottom of a dark, sanctimonious, pit. And what about Claire Short? Changed her tune a bit hasn't she? I would suggest that everyone who reads this, if anyone does, should get a copy of the John Pilger article in yesterday's Daily Mirror. I'll send a copy to anyone that wants one, and once having read his assessment of the 'War Against Terrorism', I'll be surprised if you'll go along with Winston Blar and John Wayne Bush. Your's in frustration at our politicians, Dave Arthur
I'm sure a lot of you will agree wholeheartedly with Dave. I know that Tony Benn, whom I greatly admire, is horrified at the thought of someone simply slaying Osama bin Laden. However for those of you who think I am wrong I have three simple questions. 1. Where on planet Earth is bin Laden going to get a 'fair' trial? 2. When he is found guilty (because he will be) are we going to execute him or give him life imprisonment? 3. How many innocent people are going to die during the period he is in prison, either appealing against execution or serving his life sentence, whilst his supporters hijack planes and buildings and bomb nuclear plants?
Give me three sensible answers to those questions and I'll back you all the way.
Justice and peace for ordinary people will not come either through the blanket bombing of innocent and poverty stricken Afghans by the most powerful military machine on the planet nor by the espousal (and the liberal defence of the espousal) by the world's poor and oppressed of a misogynistic, brutal, medieval 'religious' ideology. More now than ever, we need a radical socialist alternative to the unbelievable nonsense being spouted on all sides! All the best to everyone from Robina and myself. ATTILA THE STOCKBROKERwww.attilathestockbroker.com
Thanks for this.
You are so right when you say Americans are starved of world news and don't realise what is going on outside of the good old US of A. We had client, who with 9 others, booked a big house in Florida for 2 weeks. Our client (who is a friend) every night at 6pm grabbed a beer and watched the news on the various channels...(big interest to him). When he came back he said he was an expert on the town they were in, the county they were in, the state they were in, the Northern, Southern. Western and Eastern States and Canada, but he didn't know anything about the rest of the world".
Doesn't that say something about the American Society?
Keep 'Rambling' its good for us all.
Bob Mortimore (Travel Agent).
Oscar Brand picked up on my point about Pete Seeger being kept off the airwaves during and just after the MacCarthy era and kindly corrects me.
His letter follows. Its sad to think that the terrorists destroyed a radio station in New York that would have offered alternative views and been sympathetic to the starving millions in this world.
Pete wasn't kept off all the radio shows. I had him on at least 10 times during those evil days. He was on four times this past year and he'd have been on last week except that a group, which shall remain nameless, bombed my radio station off the air. I don't care what stupidity caused the destruction. I'm against it.
Violence is no answer. It's not even the question.
So whilst the war in Afghanistan seems to be going in the direction that Messrs Bush and Blair had hoped I'm still not convinced that the western world has acted either in it's own best interest or in the interest of the planet as a whole. Some Americans may feel vindicated and will probably gain further satisfaction from the capture or extinction of Bin Laden. But frankly I don't think it will end there. There is talk now that we might turn our aggressive attentions upon Iraq and/or any other nation that is sympathetic or embraces terrorist views.
Humour is at last breaking through. I was pleased to see the female comedian at the Hollywood Awards Ceremony raise the point that it would be irksome to the Taliban to see a female lesbian dressed in trousers talking to a bunch of Jews. I was less amused however at our own British comedian Jonathan Ross making jokes about Anthrax on the BBC. If/when anthrax hits this country those laughs should certainly stick in the throats of those who found such pathetic humour funny. Frankly I was appalled. And what was I doing watching such a programme you might ask? Well I could say I was simply acting without blinkers, but the truth of the matter was I was running the video back from recording a previous programme.
I have to admit to being very amused (although perhaps I should have been
shocked) to read that Tony Blair three times in a hand written letter to one of his executives spelt tomorrow as 'toomorrow'. And we think the Americans have problems with Buffoon Bush as their President. (I use the term 'buffoon' somewhat loosely as it was from America this time last year that this column was saturated with letters from Americans who were knocking President Bush mercilessly). Amazing how views can change in 12 months.
But humour in the time of war is important, and humour at the expense of the opposition more so. There were countless anti nazi songs during the Second World War. Without them we would never have kept our hopes up.
Remember 'Hitler only had one ball'. And of course we even had a dig at our American colleagues (without whom we would probably have lost the war), who were better paid, better fed and incredibly more attractive to our women. Hence the saying "Overpaid, over-sexed and over here!"
About five years ago I suffered from a bout of clinical depression. I fell out with a number of people and my behaviour apart from being slightly weird was certainly out of character. This was a period in my life that was very unfunny. I had come back from an outstanding American tour. A very close friend had died unexpectedly from meningitis just before the tour had started. I didn't realise I was acting abnormally and I stayed in this sort of depressed state for a year or three. I was acting in a manner that seemed quite reasonable to me at the time, but which I now appreciate was not. Most people who perform in America have a wonderful time and coming back to Britain often leaves them with a deflated and sober feeling of emptiness. (Incidentally Peter Bellamy committed suicide after an American tour). Two 'friends' became targets of abuse. One, the brother of the guy who died, has and will never forgive me despite my apology for my very improper behaviour. To an extent I don't blame him. The other, a folk singer who at the time worked at BNFL, quite graciously has forgiven me. Now my opinion towards BNFL has not changed, I simply appreciate that my verbal attack on this employee was quite unwarranted. It is therefore interesting to me, now that I see things a little clearer, that the Irish Government has been putting pressure on Britain to close Sellafield. The Irish Sea is reportedly the most polluted sea in the world and the proximity of this nuclear power plant (a mere 80 miles from Ireland) is a deathly hazard to the inhabitants of the island, especially now the threat of terrorism hangs above the heads of us all.
Perhaps the only good thing to come out of this period in my life was a sudden output of songs. Some were ok, some less so. But I was writing about a song a month, when previously I had hardly written one song a year. With the depression over my song writing has dwindled again. Strange that isn't it? The first song I wrote was 'Sinister Deadly Load'. My sleeve notes at the time ran as follows
Twice a week British Nuclear Fuel transports nuclear waste up the Calder Valley to Sellafield. If I listen at night I can hear the train go by, although to be honest at about 4am I am seldom awake. BNF probably transport nuclear waste up a lot of other railway lines as well. There is no denying that medical care has improved as a result of studies carried out by BNF. However, I have a problem equating these advantages with the waste sites that are growing around this planet and the untold harm being done. Does one outweigh the other? Should our lives be at risk from the transportation of waste? Perhaps more to the point: what harm are we causing future generations?
Trucks rumble by in the mist, along my local railroad,
To Sellafield in the North, they all carry forth, a sinister and deadly load.
Sometimes they travel by night, sometimes the early morn,
I hear the clack of the wheels on the track, I hear that long lonesome horn.
British Nuclear Fuels, you brainwash so cleverly,
It's some paradox, your Pandora's box, of virtual reality.
But your trucks rumble by in the mist, along my local railroad, To Sellafield in the North, they all carry forth, a sinister and deadly load.
And deep in the earth there you dig, for millions of years it will stay, Active and well, a long living hell, to waste my poor planet away.
And what will our children do, will they curse us for what we have done, Will their cries of despair fill the radium air, beneath that last setting sun.
But you trucks rumble by in the mist, along my local railroad, To Sellafield in the North, they all carry forth, a sinister and deadly load.
And perhaps in time years to come, a being from space will relay, Creatures lived there on that planet so fair, but greed brought downfall and decay.
And maybe that being won't stop, why should it stop anyway,
All will be bare, there'll be just nothing there, except a memento to say.
That your trucks rumbled by in the mist, along my local railroad, To Sellafield in the North, they all carried forth, a sinister and deadly load. © Joe Stead - Fore Lane Music August 1995
Apparently a child dies every 8 seconds due to impure water. I'm told Thames Water has set up a website associated with Water Aid and if 2m people click on to it, they will donate £150,000 to provide safe drinking water for 10,000 people in Africa and Asia. Apparently there are only a few weeks left and approx 600,000 more clicks are required to meet the target. Please do it, it's really quick, only takes 3 seconds, honest.http://www.givewater.org.uk
I've been doing a bit of television recently. I was invited along with about 150 others to audition for the Captain Birdseye advertisement. To my astonishment I got down to the last 20 and a screen test in London. But I've heard no more since. Pity, that would have put me on to the 'Gravy Train' for life! In London I found myself going into the screen test after a couple of established TV actors. I understand the financial rewards are quite pleasant, the repeat fees more so. Just imagine some of my American, Australian, and New Zealand readers might suddenly have seen my face on their own televisions advertising fish fingers. But I think you've been spared that. I had a 'walk on three' part in Hollyoaks. (Channel 4 about 6pm every evening for those like myself who have never watched it). 'Walk on 3' means I had two lines to say and will be paid repeat fees. I understand the episode I was in will be shown sometime near to Christmas.
I will be equally astonished if I ever see a repeat fee. I cannot imagine another TV station wanting to show re-runs of Hollyoaks. Can you? They might however give a re-run to 'At home with the Braithwaites' where I appear as a drunken line dancer! The scene opens on my size 12 feet encased in those wicked boots you can purchase in Glastonbury. Tomorrow I start two days filming for Pheonix Nights.
I've been blessed with some very enjoyable gigs during November.
John Bromley and I went down to the village of Minsterly just south of Shrewsbury and gave the locals a rendition of 'Valparaiso round the Horn'.
That was a fun couple of days and I would like to thank John and Yvonne Hart for their wonderful hospitality. Martin Hugill (son of Stan) was in the audience. I'd not seen Martin in 16/17 years. Martin reminded me of the gig in the Foc'sle Folk Club in Southampton where Stan, he and family had turned up circa 1984ish. Stan started correcting me from the audience! Something Stan was always likely to do!
Sunday was Remembrance Day and we trouped off down to the local crossroads right there in the middle of the Shropshire country-side for a short service in the open air. Astonishing! After the two minute silence I sang 'Paul's Song. It was a vital moment. The sun was shining and it gave me an incredible feeling of pleasure and pride to hear this lovely song being sung by me of all people across the green green fields of England.
Then Kimber's Men got together to perform a concert locally here in Halifax. The concert was sold out 2 weeks prior to the event and everybody went home singing.
I would also like to mention Kingswinford just south of Wolverhampton. A club I tend to play every 2 years, they always make me very welcome and they bought an enormous amount of compact discs this year. It's always nice to sell a couple of CD's at gigs, but when the number approaches 20 in an English folk club of about 45 people it amounts to an extra-ordinary feeling of satisfaction and a job well done. I'm not gigging at all in December. Kimber's Men are going into the recording studio (back with Dave Anderson at the Foel - Hooray) to start our sea songs and sea shanty CD.
Early in the New Year I have the following venues in my diary……… Jan 17th. The Steamer Hotel, Fleetwood Jan 27th Doctor Browns Folk Club, Middlesbrough Jan 28th The Sun Inn, Stockton on Tees
Feb 1st The Dog and Partridge, Bollington
Feb 2nd The Railway Tavern, Hensall (Kimber's Men)
Feb 6th The Gorton Hotel, Rochester
Feb 7th The Crypt, Bishops Stortford.
I got a poem from a couple of old chums who showed up at the Kimber's Men concert. I'll leave you this month with these kind words from Tom and Margaret Mann.
About 30 years ago I met a chap called Joe,
He'd turn up and sing some songs in clubs where I would go
Me mates and me how we did laugh when we heard his funny songs We even liked the sad ones and joined in the sing-alongs
And then as often happens we all drifted apart
But I remembered all those songs deep within my heart
or rather forgetting how they ended but always how'd they start
From time to time my wife and I remembered our friend Joe
And wondered if he still did around the folk clubs go
Then one day in a country pub a paper we did spy
And on page three there was a sight that made us both go weak
A picture of the very man we'd tried so hard to
The very next day at the Barge and Barrel we once again did hear The voice from all those years ago, synonymous with beer
They say you never miss a thing until it goes away
but that is not the kind of thing I would want to say
The thing I'd say about all that is from another tack
You only ever a miss a thing until you get it back.
Tom and Margaret Mann
Keep smiling, keep singing.