Category Archives: folklore and ethnography

The Best Laid Plans – – –

– sometimes go very well indeed

We had our annual Burns Supper on Friday evening, celebrating the life and works of Scotland’s national poet Robert (Rabbie) Burns. Everyone agreed it was one of the best we’d held over the 10 years we’ve been doing it. Well attended, excellent speakers, wonderful food and smoothly flowing throughout.

shuttle pipes

Randy Stanley – our resident piper

memory

Alex Long delivered ‘The Immortal Memory’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lassies

Sandy Huguenin proposed the Toast to the Lassies and Chef Kelley Pearson responded.

songs

Wendy and I sang some Burns songs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

haggis

Chef Kelley excelled with Cock-a-Leekie soup, haggis, tatties n’ neeps and shepherds pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dessert

The ‘piece de resistance’ – Scottish cheesecake on a shortbread base topped with cranachan and a raspberry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s to next year – y’all come – – –

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

New Tech Tricks for an Old Radio Dog?

In which Jack is pleased with himself for getting his home studio going

I’ve been presenting Celtic music radio shows for more than twenty years now, in Scotland as well as here in the US, but I’ve always had the luxury of someone else handling the technicalities. Back at Heartland FM in Pitlochry in Scotland (of blessed memory) it was the ever-patient Alan Brown who sat across from me, running cassettes and dropping the needle onto LPs.

Yes, it was a long time ago.

Later Alan and I tried to get to grips with those new-fangled CD thingamajigs. That show went out live and was often built around a guest who brought favorite pieces of music. I interviewed them about why they had chosen them while poor Alan cued up tracks and cut over to two mics, all the time knowing that we were going out live!

These shows went out monthly for ten plus years, and wound up being re-aired as part of a weekly series of Celtic music shows on WETS in Johnson City, Tennessee – first with Keltik Korner and then in Music from the Stone Circle. So the shows were recorded (again on to cassette) as they were broadcast and mailed to the States.

Alert readers will have worked out that these were now (at least) second generation cassettes; those were the days, my friends…..

Wendy and I moved to Big Stone Gap following the untimely death of Denise Cozad, who had presented Music from the Stone Circle, so WETS no longer had a ‘home-grown’ Celtic music show. So once the bookstore was up and running (or tilting or walking or crawling, those first years) I emailed Wayne, the station manager, and within a week I was back on air. That was eight years ago and throughout that time I have always had someone else handling the technical stuff – all I ever had to do was talk.

Remember last winter? The one that had us snowed in for two solid weeks, no one driving anywhere?

I began to explore recording my shows completely here at the bookstore instead the three hour round trip and the hassle of pre-recording CD tracks to another CD in preparation. I downloaded Audacity, but being a bit of a technophobe just couldn’t make head or tail of it, going back every few months to work through the instructions but always giving up. Renewed impetus came with the discovery of DropBox and motivation from my pal Fiona, who constructs Thistle and Shamrock on a kitchen table in Scotland. She told me she used Dropbox to upload a complete program to a filing cabinet in the sky!

I now salute the wonders of Google, carefully constructed search terms and Youtube, for their assistance in unlocking the mysteries of Dropbox. Last night I was able to make the break through and do everything that I need to do to finally (I hope) schedule my radio time completely to my choosing! Wendy says I came downstairs on Old Christmas night with my face beaming as if I’d seen the Epiphany!

Maybe not quite that, but I was happy, yes.

PS – Although delighted at my new self-sufficiency, I must give most grateful thanks to the glittering array of true professionals who have sat on the other side of the desk over the years keeping me teched up – Alan Brown, Wayne Bean, Denise Cozad, Nick Roosa, Bob Hoffman and Wayne Winkler.

If you want to hear Celtic Clanjamphry, visit their facebook page for times and playlists.

 

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch

Never Try to Recreate a Great Party….

Back in the mid 1990s when I was still working as a college HoD, I managed a number of European Union funded environmental education programs. They were all trans-national in nature, so we worked with a number of partners in other European countries. Each project lasted around four years and there were usually one or two conferences each year hosted by different partners.

building

On one occasion The Dublin Institute of Technology was the host and I found myself being taken to all sorts of interesting places including a visit to the ‘Green Building’ in the city center Temple area. The building had just been completed, was pristine and featured lots of cutting edge ideas focusing on energy conservation in particular but also on air quality and the use of re-cycled materials. I was so impressed with the place that I have often spoken about it to people over the years since first seeing it.

 

Finding myself in Dublin this week for the first time since that conference in the 90s, I was keen to go back and see the ‘Green Building’ again and show it to Wendy and our friends David and Susan (the friends we’re vacationing with here.)bldg 2

 

Trying to establish exactly where it was located was hard as there was hardly any reference to it on the internet – puzzling – – –building 3

 

We finally found that it was less than ten minutes walk from our hotel and we set off with high expectations this morning. Alas I was sadly disappointed!

 

The door was locked and the outside of the building was grimy and neglected. As we stood outside the door opened and a man came out who, it turned out, lived in one of the apartments on the upper floors. Once he knew what our interest was he said it would be fine to go in. Oh dear! The once magnificent full height atrium that had housed magnificent gigantic giant leaved rubber plants employed to convert Co2 into Oxygen was also grimy and neglected with just the stumps of the plants to be seen. The more we looked around the more this story was repeated. I expected at least a plaque somewhere obvious telling people the building’s history and all the innovative ideas incorporated within it’s design. The way everything was computer modeled ahead of time, the things that worked exactly as designed and – – maybe the things that didn’t! But there was nothing, nada, zilch, nary a scribbled note.stairs

 

I felt sad and depressed and I wonder what the team of architects, designers, artisans and artists that created such a glorious building must think of the way it’s been treated.

And I suppose I felt a twinge for us all – that every good intention ends, every great plan has a jumping off point, every “wave of the future” returns to shore someday. Sad, that this one ended so badly, when it held such promise. A warning to us all, perhaps, as the New Year brings promises to keep.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Scotland, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

etta-and-otto-and-russell-and-james-9781476755687_lgLet me start by saying: I don’t like magical realism. Never have, never will. By gosh and by golly, I want to know what’s REALLY happening in a book, and to whom.

So why did I like this book? Beats me.

Well, first of all, it had a good introduction: a dear friend loaned it to me. One sort of feels obligated to give things more chances than otherwise in that situation, doesn’t one? Because when I read the words “magical realism” on the back, I thought, Nah. But Teri loaned it to me. Teri has good taste.

And then I really kinda liked it. Regular readers know what a sucker I am for good characters. Etta and James are amazing. Etta is the 80+year-old heroine who starts walking east across Canada. On the way she meets up with a talking coyote named James (he only talks to her) who may or may not be there. As Etta’s fame grows by newspaper and radio account of the crazy woman walking across Canada, she and James talk more and more.

I was hooked.

Russell and Otto are Etta’s two loves, Otto her husband, Russell their mutual best friend. Except when you get to the end of the book, who is who kinda all meshes together in something that would be obscene in a French setting, but just takes a sharp dive away from reality in this Canadian one. The sparse, almost bleak writing and the sweet, sometimes sappy sentimental, sometimes bitter and scary story compliment one another.

The end is frustrating for people like me. WHO? WHAT? WHY? Ah, never mind, just enjoy the ride. Or in this case, walk. Two paws up for Etta and Otto and Russell and James, and the story they share between them.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Caption This

So you’ve all noticed by now that the blog times and lengths and subjects are sliding all over the place. That’s because I’m writing a book, deadline for delivery Feb. 29, 2016. (Leap Year brought me an extra day!)

The subject is adoption and foster care in Appalachia, and it is a strange writing process this time. I love going back to my journalistic roots, but I’ve never had to be self-protective in writing before. The material is darkness and light in unexpected blotches of both, and you never know when you’re going to hit which. You just listen to the people telling their stories, and refuse to bundle things into patterns where they don’t belong. No square pegs forced into round holes to make us feel better about ourselves as humans.

And you keep a sense of humor about you. Which is why, in lieu of a lengthy angst-ridden blog post about writing Fall or Fly (the working title of the book) I am offering the following.

CAPTION THIS – winner gets three hand-crocheted dishcloths. Second place gets a kitten. :]

Let’s say deadline is Dec. 1, since I think that’s Tuesday coming and a lot of people will also visit for the Monday Book. If I can manage to post it on Monday this week. I’ve got a good one. But not as good as this photo. Have fun!

caption this! 011

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Filed under animal rescue, between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing, YA fiction

The Other Side of the Microphone

Jack’s weekly guest blog

 

DSCN1013Both Wendy and I have some experience of radio broadcasting; in my case that covers BBC Radio Scotland,  ‘Scene Around’ on Heartland fm in Scotland, and ‘Celtic Clanjamphry’ on WETS fm out of Johnson City in Tennessee.

But when Wendy’s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap was published we suddenly found ourselves on the other side of the microphone. Some of these interviews were on local NPR stations ahead of book signing events, others nationally syndicated shows like ‘Weekend Edition’. It was fascinating to see how other presenters worked and the studios were set up, from very relaxed and laid back to pretty frenetic.

Interviews get repeated from time-to-time and we don’t always know that will happen; messages or emails or phone calls from someone say they heard us as they were driving through some remote part of the country. Which is fun.

Even more fun is that for once we do know ahead of time. The widely broadcast NPR program ‘With Good Reason’ interviewed us in 2013, and it was probably the one we remember most fondly. Very relaxed and long enough to cover our road trip to small towns across America, seeking out bookstores and talking about our experiences with Little Bookstore.

‘With Good Reason’ is broadcast in many states at different times. Find your local listening time and station here: Where and When to Listen

Or, if you’d like to listen to it any time during the week. the podcast link is – Little Bookstore Nov. 28 – Dec. 4

We hope you enjoy listening – we had a lot of fun making the program!

 

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You are Entering… the INDIE BOOKSTORE ZONE

A guest blog from Lyn Ford, Storyteller, who scared everybody out of their wits here on Friday night. It was a magnificent evening!

lynIn October, I often stand in candlelight and pumpkin light, moonlight and dimmed stage light, to tell frightening tales of experiences that never happened (well, most of them didn’t). I speak of love, death, relationships gone bad, strange children, the wrath of the undead—you know, your average, everyday topics of conversation. I am…wait for it…a storyteller.

I share stories in the twilight at the edges of graveyards, in haunted historic sites and moody park gazebos. But my favorite place to haunt is what the first-season monologue for the “Twilight Zone” television series calls “the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition…between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge…the dimension of imagination.” It is a place called…the independent bookstore.

Storytelling programs in independent bookstores hold a timeless, haunting energy, and the people who come to listen are ready for stories. The atmosphere can be greatly enhanced by the presence of a resident cat or two. And when the cat is named Edgar Alan Poe, well, that’s Haunt Heaven, honey.DSCN0999

I can now add to my résumé an evening spent as the guest storytelling spirit at Tales of The Lonesome Pine LLC Use Book Store. If you’re reading this blog, you may already know of the store and its owners, Wendy Welch and her husband/partner in music, story, and love, Jack Beck. But you might not know Edgar, the cat, or be aware of the occasional supper-and-stories events Wendy and Jack produce. At these special occasions, you enjoy good food and a friendly, conversational atmosphere in the café upstairs, after perusing the books and petting the lovely kitties ensconced in the bookstore downstairs.

If you’re in southwest Virginia, plan a visit. If you can’t get to Virginia, visit an independent bookstore in your area. Wandering through an independent book store is one of the best gifts you can offer yourself, especially in the season of “volumes of forgotten lore” (I’m quoting Poe the man, not Edgar the cat).   Creep through the titles among the shelves. Be shocked and amazed at the variety and value you will discover. In the crisp, cool air of October (or any other time of year), relish the warm and generous welcome of the store’s owners–they are truly happy to see you!

You’ll probably enter a different dimension of sight and sound, and stay a lot longer than you’d intended.

Lyn Ford, friedtales2@gmail.com

visit Lyn’s website and see her books Hot Wind, Boiling Rain, Affrilachian Tales, and Beyond the Briar Patch here.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, reading, small town USA, Wendy Welch, writing, YA fiction