Tag Archives: big stone gap, bookstores, Wendy Welch, Jack Beck, roadtrip, wildlife,

Dae ye need yer old lobby washed down?

Jack’s guest post is a wee bit late this week, but here’s why –

I started my working life by serving a five-year apprenticeship as a painter and decorator in my Dad’s firm, and then eventually took it over and ran it. Finally, I started teaching apprentices in the local college and ended up as Head of the construction Dept.

Nowadays as I redecorate around the bookstore I often reflect on the things I learned along the way that help reduce the time each takes. What I’m talking about is, of course, after emptying the room and before refilling it.

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On Tuesday I emptied out my office/studio and on Thursday I put everything back, so I had one day to paint the ceiling, walls and woodwork (two windows, two doors and the baseboard). Being a 1903 house the doors were paneled and with moldings, while the baseboards were deep.

What I noticed as I worked were a number of things –

1 – how much time had been spent learning brush skills; how to work equally well right or left handed; how to load just enough paint on the brush; how to cut in neatly between different colors on walls and ceiling and baseboards.

2 – That I knew how to load and use a roller without spraying paint around.

3 – that I knew the order in which to paint a four paneled door – moldings, panels, rails and stiles.

4 – that I knew how to apply paint evenly enough to maximize the chances of covering in one coat.

Wendy was impressed that I didn’t have any paint spots on my clothes or shoes, or on the floor. She asked if I’d enjoyed it, and I had to think about it. That’s when all these thoughts came to me – had I enjoyed it? Not especially, but it was very satisfying.

The worst thing was clearing out the room, because I kept discovering long forgotten things and just had to sit and read or look at them. Just as bad was deciding what should go back, what should go the attic and what should get dumped.

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Lest this sound as though I’m back in the game, however, anyone needs a room painted I suggest you consult yellow pages!

 

 

 

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Stop the World – –

 Jack’s Wednesday guest post finally gets back to Wednesday – –

My goodness, this has been a real roller-coaster!

I mean the last few weeks when we’ve been juggling our annual festival, my radio show, the upcoming concert at the beautiful Lincoln Theater in Marion VA, and Wendy’s annual ‘Head for the Hills’ medical conference, plus her dad’s recent heart scare.

Having our good friend Barbara staying with us has not added to the stress however. She and her husband Oliver have ‘mucked in’ in the most amazing and helpful ways. Strictly speaking they are working here, fulfilling singing engagements. They might even have been treating it as a vacation, or staying in our guest room as simply part of the ‘deal’.

But, no! They make porridge for everyone each morning, they cleaned the cafe kitchen when successive festival events reduced it to a shambles, Barbara helped Wendy clean the ‘cat haven’ and Oliver put out festival yard-signs and gathered them in again, and they both ran to the store for emergency supplies whenever they were needed. After their first visit two years ago they opined that they had felt a real part of the community here and they said last night that this visit had only confirmed that.

Yesterday was Barbara’s birthday and tonight we will celebrate that when our cafe owner, chef Kelley will prepare a family meal. I know that Barbara and Oliver feel part of our extended family now and we all know that this is just one of many visits.

Of course there are many people here, now, who also consider themselves part of the bookstore family and who also see Barbara and Oliver as part of their circle of friends – including Josh, who moved to the town recently, wandered in and immediately volunteered and joined up along with his friend Dawn – that’s something that makes Wendy and me very happy indeed.

Finally – last night was one of these occasions when old friends sit around a table and discuss the happenings of the day. For us, of course, that inevitably centered on Wendy’s forward plans following a recent job interview. It’s a sure sign for me that Barbara and Oliver are confident of their membership of this family that they could offer thoughtful and sincere insights.

 

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What do you do?

 Jack’s weekly post –

 

In a previous post I spoke about my visit to the Buffalo Bill museum in Cody, Wyoming a few weeks ago.

I felt I needed to put that into much more of a personal context, so here goes –

As I said previously my Grandad went to see the Wild West Show in Dunfermline in 1904, which was part of the last European tour by Buffalo Bill’s show and was augmented by additional subcontracted acts such as Zulu warriors as well as Cossack and Japanese horsemen.

I had always been intrigued by the notion of the cobbled streets of my historic old hometown being clattered by Native Americans and the Deadwood Stage, not to mention Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley!

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Buffalo Bill Cody himself!

But back in the early 2000s I was roped into collaborating on a CD featuring my friend and folk music mentor, the late John Watt. John was a wonderful and very individual songwriter and most of his songs were written from a very ‘Fife’ point of view. The CD was titled ‘Heroes’ and one of these accorded this honor was Buffalo Bill. I discovered that John’s father had also witnessed that 1904 performance in my (and his) hometown.

We talked about this shared family history and it turned out that John had written a number of songs about that occasion, and two of them were to be on the album. One was a quirky and very funny one called ‘The day that Billy Cody played the auld grey toon*’ while the other was much more thoughtful – ‘The Wild West Show’.

The ‘Wild West Show’ describes the mix of acts, but also points out that the massacre of Wounded Knee had happened just a few years earlier and suggests that the answer to the ‘Indian Problem’ was to turn them into cheap entertainment, playing a parody of themselves in front of European heads of state.

John very rarely wrote ‘message’ songs, but this one, with a great tune and a very sing-able chorus has been covered by many other performers and is one my own favorites.

Shortly after we left Cody we deliberately drove to the site of the Wounded Knee massacre where we met a number of descendents of the survivors staffing tables by the side of the road. They weren’t selling trinkets or souvenirs; nor were they asking for money; they were just there to tell their story.

I felt very guilty that many of the Scots that were ‘cleared’ from the highlands and survived the coffin ships to reach America, then proceeded to ‘clear’ the indigenous folk they found there in turn.

The irony is that because this was the last tour, some of the Indians decided to stay on in Glasgow. A ‘ghost shirt’ they had brought with them ended up in a local museum and was finally returned to the US five years ago – quite a circular tale!

“The red man rides for the white man’s fee,
Better than a grave at Wounded Knee,
I better he never thought he’d see,
The spires of the auld grey toon*.

“Buffalo Bill, Buffalo Bill, my daddy saw you comin’ down the hill.

A big success for soldier blue, with the last brave dead in the snow,

What do you do with the Cheyenne and the Sioux?

You put them in a wild west show”

 

*The auld grey toon is an affectionate nickname for Dunfermline.

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Unexpected pleasures

Jack’s Wednesday guest post –

We continue to stumble across delightful jewels on each day of this road-trip. Today we re-visited Galesburg on our meandering way back home from Wyoming and South Dakota. This was the place where we stayed on the way out and where we visited Carl Sandburg’s birthplace.

This time we stayed in the same rather seedy downtown hotel and it was even seedier –cue dead cockroach in the bath. We vowed never to return!

However, Wendy had done some research and had discovered that there was a bakery nearby that opened early for breakfast (the seedy hotel didn’t offer breakfast at all). To our delight and surprise it was situated in a really lovely historic downtown and was attached to a wonderful grocery and health-food store.

Not only that but we were greeted by a couple of lovely old local geezers who were obviously regular members of the ‘breakfast club’ and were un-threateningly curious about us and where we had come from.

For a small main street store it had an amazing inventory of goods and when I say ‘goods’ I also mean very high quality. And the prices were equally amazing! We spent a happy hour and about a hundred bucks there before tearing off down the road to Cincinnati, our final stop. Wendy wanted to see the famous book fountain in front of the public library.

It’s much smaller in person, but we also ate Lebanese food (which is hard to come by in Southwest Virginia) and indulged in the hotels’ elegant outdoor pool.

In actual fact, everywhere we’ve stayed (including the tent) has been absolutely fine, with that one exception. We are determined to repeat this adventure, with friends next time, and we’ll have no hesitation in including Galesburg in the itinerary again – just a different hotel!

 

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A Story within a Story within a Signature

Wendy is on a tight writing deadline before holidays next week, so Jack takes up the keyboard and presents this guest blog.

We often have folk come in to ‘Tales of the Lonesome Pine’ bookstore carrying a copy of ‘The Little Bookstore’ and hoping to meet Wendy. They come from all over the country and even from other countries. Their personal tales frequently carry on a theme of the book, that the customers’ stories are as important as those in the books we sell.

One of the other conversations in Wendy’s book was about the fact that some products that are sold on from one owner to another only benefit the creator the first time they’re sold – houses, books etc. The result of the exchange was that there wasn’t much to be done about it, nor should there be. Another question was how long  ‘The Little Bookstore’ would circulate in used book stores.

To our great amusement we received a lovely card from a fan in New York a couple of months after the first publication, saying how much he’d enjoyed the book and that he’d bought it for $10 in a used book store. He enclosed a $10 bill just to prove that the author was wrong!

But today topped that. (Drum roll, please….)

Three couples had been through the store today looking for Wendy, so when I looked out the window and saw a woman holding a copy of the book and the husband taking pictures, I knew what they were about. Sure enough, Carol and Paul were on a trip back to Cary, NC and came the long way through Big Stone Gap to see the bookstore because they loved the book and follow Wendy’s blog.

However, their story had a twist. Carol loved Wendy’s book, which she’d paid $5.99 for in a used book store, already signed to someone called Laura. And she’d come to get Wendy to sign it again, having read the conversations about second hand books in Little Bookstore.

We had a lovely chat (they are also cat lovers) and then I signed her copy and so did Wendy – but check out the picture to see how she did it.

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May the circle be unbroken, Laura – wherever you are!

 

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Unexpected Delights

Jack’s guest post is a bit late this week –

It’s always a particular pleasure when something unexpected and enjoyable happens along, and such was our experience on Sunday evening.

A local friend who is a fine performer of the mountain music of this region messaged us last Thursday to ask if he could bring a group of folk to meet us. He explained that they included some Scots and they were interested in the migration of Scots and Scottish culture to this part of the US.

That’s about all we knew so we didn’t have much idea what to expect, how long they intended to stay or really what they wanted to know.

Even when the group of eight arrived we still weren’t clear what was expected of us and I don’t they did either. But as we went round the room and introduced ourselves it became clearer. They were a joint project involving actors from a New York company and members of the National Theatre of Scotland and were working on a piece to be performed at this year’s Edinburgh Festival.

Once the introductions were past and some fortifying drinks doled out the evening turned into a good old fashioned house ceilidh with everyone in turn contributing a story, joke or song as well as more insights to the piece they were working on.

Half way through it turned out that they hadn’t anything else planned for that night so food was hastily organized and more fortifying beverages produced; and on we continued with more excellent entertainment.

One of the Scots turned out to be a first class singer and guitarist with a wide ranging repertoire all the way from Billie Holliday to Jeannie Robertson and one of the New Yorkers, an African-American lass, was an equally exceptional singer and fiddle player.

To be honest this was the third late night in a row for us after a Friday night St Patrick’s Day dance and Saturday night dinner with friends, so we could have been forgiven for being somewhat ‘switched off’! However the company was such that all tiredness was completely forgotten.

Here’s a small taste of our unexpected enjoyment –

Davey Anderson with the Scottish ballad ‘The Forester’

As our old friend Duncan Williamson used to say on these occasions “Tell us a story or sing us a sang, show us yer bum or oot ye gang” – this time no bums were shown or needed to be!

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Moind me Harp

It’s the morning after the night before – some footage of what we were up to:

In which Jack demonstrates how not to dance!

Here’s our intrepid band ‘Sigean’ and our long suffering dance leader Cynthia West.

Nine years ago we started our annual St Pat’s community ceilidh dance here in the bookstore, but it soon outgrew the available space. Up stepped our good friends at the next door Presbyterian Church who kindly offered their fellowship hall, so that’s where it’s been ever since. Sigean have provided the music at every one of them and Cynthia West and her country dancers have kept a straight face as we did our best to follow their dance instruction.

Slainte Mhath – –

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