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Oh Death – – –

Another very sad post by Jack – –

colin

I first met Colin when he helped organize the folk-song concerts at the Music Hall in Aberdeen during the first Bon Accord Festival in 1965. At the time I was half of a duo with Barbara Dickson and we played every night for a week as top of the bill.

We kept in touch and by the early 1970s he was booking guests for Aberdeen folk club. This was when I was erroneously billed in the local newspaper as Jeff Beck (not his fault). Lots of disappointed punters but a profitable night for the club!

Shortly after that he moved down to Fife to take up the position as a teacher of English in a local high school, where he was able to introduce the study of Scots ballads to the curriculum. After that he was a regular at parties and ceilidhs at my house and those of other friends in the area.

He was a wonderful singer with a deep and rich repertoire of Doric song, but never had any real interest in either recording or getting gigs, which meant he never got the recognition he deserves.

More recently, after my move to the US, he helped me and Wendy with our small group tours of Scotland and Ireland. As an excellent driver he was the natural choice to drive the minivan, but he quickly turned into joint tour guide. His running commentaries along the way after I ran out of wind and stories endeared him to everyone and he stayed in touch with many folk over here.

I would usually fly over to Edinburgh a few days beforehand, rent a car, drive to Colin’s house where he’d feed me mince and tatties. Then use his place as my base for visiting friends and family, before we’d pick up the minivan at the end, just before the tour started. During these evenings we’d feed each other our favorite YouTube discoveries which always included this –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYwbpCm2apA

Back in the 1960s I bought a very early MGB Roadster and eventually sold it to Colin, who did lots of refurbishing. Eventually he sold it back to me and it crossed the Atlantic! Our mutual friend David bought it from me as a birthday gift for his wife Susan and it is currently being completely rebuilt in North Carolina – – – it’s in this video and so is Colin!

I was right in the middle of recording a radio show about his friend and mentor Arthur Argo when I got the message that Wendy needed to speak to me urgently!

I was stunned by her news that Colin had just died. I’m obviously of an age now when I’m bound to lose old friends (or them me), but this was a real jolt. I still can’t quite believe it.

Driving home this morning after recording the radio shows I remembered that my black funeral suit is hanging in his guest room closet – – -along with so many memories.

Rest in Peace Colin. No one deserves it more.

 

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

Up an’ Awa – – –

Jack misses the deadline again – – –

For the last twelve years I’ve been organizing small group tours of Scotland, and it’s been both good fun and an opportunity for me to visit new places.

map-of-scotland

But it’s gradually become more work and more worrying. Every time some emergency happens (and they do) I think about the other things that could happen. I work with an agency over there for hotel and ferry bookings, and they are very good when things go awry, but still – – –

It was always the intention that Wendy would also be along, but it’s hardly ever been possible because of her work schedule. So she’s usually been left to ‘hold the fort’. I’ve always regretted that because on the few occasions she has gone she added a dimension that I couldn’t!

This year will be the final one and because it is we have lots of previous folk making the sentimental last tour. Happily, Wendy will make it this time for sure (the flights are already booked). But we have twice as many going and two mini vans instead of just one  – – –

Of course this won’t be the last return to Scotland, but in future it will be different. Just with close friends and not traipsing from hotel to hotel.

The downside of all this is that most years Wendy and I have been separated for three weeks and that was brought home to me very forcefully just recently. She’s usually the one left alone. But her parents have needed support so she was the absent one recently, and I was the one left alone. What a salutary lesson!

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Branches – –

Jack actually makes it in time –

This week has been a bit strange, what with Wendy being away for two weeks helping her parents and me keeping an eye on the (very hard working) guys trimming back the tree overhanging our house.

tree

But then there was this –

My friend Dirk who engineers my radio show is also a video guy and he startled me a year ago with a proposal to make a documentary film of my life. As we worked on the radio shows he had become interested in all the things I mentioned, including why I moved the US, my various different careers and my musical life.

He started with a great number of videoed interviews with me and the original idea was to try to cover all of that. The first version I saw was an hour long and dived all over the place. Interesting to me but probably few others!

But once he decided to focus essentially on the musical side it all began to make more sense.

It was fascinating to see how he went about it, chasing after people who knew me and persuading them to share their observations then painstakingly transcribing their interviews. Busy folk in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and even in Scotland.

But then he had to turn it into a narrative that made sense, where one interview meshed with others and where various musical interludes contributed.

It finally went public a few days ago.

I think he did a wonderful job. I hate to use words like ‘humbled’ and ‘honored’ but this time I have to. I’m so grateful to him and to all my friends who took the time and trouble to contribute so thoughtfully.

I’ve been emailing today with my sister about an audio interview with our mother that Wendy helped me do twenty years ago and it reminded me how important a legacy these seemingly fleeting things can be.

The video can be seen here –

https://vimeo.com/382758864

 

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Auld Aquaintance – –

Jack has an excuse this time for being a tad late – again –

I started writing this on the last day of the year and then realized it was the last day of the decade. So I’m in reflective mode –

At the end of another year and another decade, and as I enter my seventy eighth year, I can’t help but think of the friends and family who’ve passed on. The quote below pretty much sums it up –

 

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (June 29, 1900–July 31, 1944)

“Bit by bit… it comes over us that we shall never again hear the laughter of our friend, that this one garden is forever locked against us. And at that moment begins our true mourning, which, though it may not be rending, is yet a little bitter. For nothing, in truth, can replace that companion. Old friends cannot be created out of hand. Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions. It is idle, having planted an acorn in the morning, to expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of the oak.

So life goes on. For years we plant the seed, we feel ourselves rich; and then come other years when time does its work and our plantation is made sparse and thin. One by one, our comrades slip away, deprive us of their shade.”

It’s true and it is the ones that you fell out with and then made up with, even family members that you had awkward relationships with. They’re the ones you end up holding most closely and remembering most dearly.

I’m missing Mum and Dad, Margaret, Roy, Philip, Mike, Davy, Jim, Dominique, Gordeanna, Anne, Maureen, John, Tony – so many.

But happy to have reconnected and newly connected with just as many others who used to hover but have come much closer.

As we enter the roaring twenties again – hang on – – –

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Power ain’t Necessarily – –

Jack gets way over his deadline but pleads Christmas recovery  –

I noticed that Christmas has become a very ‘on-line’ thing over the last few years and that got me thinking.

Random thoughts – – –

I got my first computer around 1998, just after the college where I worked began to introduce them. Prior to that I hand wrote memos, handed them to my secretary, who typed them, copied them and then sent them to the designated recipients. There was a whole protocol around memos including who was ‘CCd’ and how that could be used as a weapon! I learned – – –

Back then there was hardly an internet as we now know it. There was eventually an ‘intranet’ within the college, and on my personal computer at home (with great difficulty) I could eventually connect via ‘dial up’ with the college.

Ah – dial up! One of the guys at the college could imitate that sound perfectly

I joined ‘America on Line’ (AOL) and got an email address, which I still have. Back then, in Scotland, you connected to your email via dial up. They had three numbers for the whole of the UK and Ireland! So getting your emails was sometimes a frustrating experience. But that was just to get your mail and not to surf the internet. There wasn’t really any internet!

When I assumed the position of Head of Construction Trades, I found by accident that the Department had ten computers. The trouble was I couldn’t find them. After a search, I was told that the computer department had pauchled fifty by attributing them to other departments! So eventually ten Commodore Pets briefly were in my department as they were wheeled to the dumpster – – –

pet

The final story is much later. I had been promoted again, had gained my MBA and was teaching management classes. Like everyone else I had great difficulty getting any kind of urgent response from the IT team to fix any problem (check out ‘The IT Crowd’ on YouTube https://youtu.be/nn2FB1P_Mn8). Nicola was their manager and was in one of my evening class programs. That night we discussed the different forms of power within organizations – hierarchical, fiefdoms and expert. Expert was the one! As soon as I had explained expert power to Nicola I never had an IT problem again.

 

 

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Long to Reign Over Us?

Well – Jack’s a day late and a dollar short – again

I have been watching the Netflix series ‘The Crown’ over the last few nights (with strict instructions from Wendy to not spoil it by swearing!).

Queen-Nazi-Salute-Getty

I should explain that, although I have some admiration for the Queen I have no time at all for the rest of them. I hover somewhere between a Monarch and a President as the figurehead for a democracy and can see the arguments both ways.

But the series does show that the British monarch sits at the top of a privileged establishment pyramid that rules and controls from ‘behind the curtain’, and in my view that’s the problem – always has been and is still.

As for ‘The Crown’?

We’re only part way through, but the most interesting angle for me is the history played out in parallel. The actual domestic stuff is a mixture of truth, gossip, innuendo and guesswork. It’s played well by the actors but in many ways it replays decades of media manipulation by a very hard working establishment.

It’s the stuff around the edge that I find most interesting. The ‘non-political’ Queen connected to lots of political situations. Her weekly audiences with the Prime Minister of the day.

Of course I lived most of my life through all of this – the Suez crisis, the Profumo affair, Churchill, McMillan, Home and Wilson. But I only saw what I was allowed to see! This series is revealing a lot of stuff that was hidden at the time, such as Philip’s link to the Profumo affair and the Nazi connections.

There are some interesting conversations between Elizabeth and Philip around the question – “are you in, or out”. He opted to be in because there was no alternative. The Duke of Windsor tried to get back in, and Princess Margaret opted to stay in, for what seemed to be mostly about the money and the lifestyle.

I will be continuing to watch the series with a mixture of personal memories and a not-so-open mind!

 

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The Pies Have It!

Jack scrapes through – – –

People often ask me if I miss anything about Scotland. Well, of course. But when I go back every year the thing I really go straight for is the food.

Full Scottish breakfasts with bacon, eggs, black pudding, haggis and baked beans – great Indian curries – steak bridies (think calzone, but Scottish) – fish and chips – and Scotch pies.

I do my best over here to get close to all these. Recently I learned how to replicate Indian restaurant base curry sauce and make a big batch to freeze regularly. I can manage an occasional full Scottish breakfast. Fish and chips requires the secret batter and lard, but I can do that when the planets align.

A steak bridie would be the ultimate challenge though – imagine a savory turn-over with small chunks of steak in a delicious brown sauce, a bit of savory onion in the mix….mmmmm. The only folk I know who make them are Stephens of Dunfermline and they are rightly famous for their recipe. My next big challenge will be to try and replicate it.

What about the pies, I hear you ask?

Over here pies are usually sweet – in Scotland these would be called tarts. Over there a pie would have meat of some kind, and a ‘Scotch pie’ would have minced beef (ground beef) along with onion and a variety of (secret) herbs and spices.

Just recently my friend Trevor finished a year at St Andrews University and came home with the recipe. He made a batch while I was bunking at his place, and I was instantly back there. Of course I had to give it a try, and with some guidance from him I managed to do no’ bad.

It’s messy and time consuming, and there’s no guarantee of success, but I’ve made two lots now and they’re worth the effort.

The pastry is flour, frozen butter, ice water and egg. Freezing the butter is key. The filling is a secret. We will be having them along with haggis and other delicacies at the Burns Supper on January 25th at Oracle Books here in Wytheville.

pies

 

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