Tag Archives: friends

A Cat Tail of Two Lives – –

Oh dear it’s Thursday and Jack’s guest post is late again – –

The inimitable Owen Meanie, our bookstore greeter cat is rather unwell and in the animal hospital being cosseted by St Beth and her excellent staff.

While we wait for the results of his bloodwork the first indications are that he may have Feline Leukemia despite having been vaccinated against it as a kitten and receiving regular boosters. The good news is that after not eating for a few days and losing a pound in weight, he is now wolfing down everything offered to him and is much more engaged with his surroundings.

owen

And he’s home again and wondering what happened!

Of course he has been moonlighting as greeter cat at the next door tax office and they have been calling regularly for progress reports.

We discovered his two-timing by accident when I popped in to thank the tax office staff for a favor they had done for us. Lo and behold – they had a bed set up for him in their window and food and water bowls! He knows when his favorite arrives and what car she drives, waiting on the sidewalk and escorting her into his second place of work.

He used to range far and wide around downtown and I always worried about him crossing streets until I watched him a few times and was most impressed with his road-sense. However, now that his days are shared between us and next door he seems to have reduced his territory and is happy to simply observe the further reaches – either from his favorite chair on the bookstore porch or from the tax office window.

How he came by his name is another story involving Wendy’s NY editor, a book by a Mr Irving and a negotiated compromise.

 

 

 

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A Notable Occasion!

Jack’s Wednesday guest blog post appears on Wednesday again – amazing!
Wendy and I have been so busy with other stuff the last couple of years that we haven’t been running as many events in the bookstore as we used to. But we still do from time to time and usually at the instigation of someone else who just thinks it’s a cool place to stage something.
Which is how we ended up with an amazing and wonderful house-concert on Sunday evening.
But this story really starts about seven years ago when I was contacted by a woman in North Carolina, who’s daughter had just won the junior section of the US Scottish fiddling championships. She asked if I’d like to interview her on my weekly Celtic music radio show – so I did. The daughter, Maura Shawn Scanlin, was fifteen years old and quite shy, until she started playing!
A couple of years later her mother again contacted me as Maura Shawn had now won the senior championship. So, once again she was in the studios of WETS in Johnson City and was now a much more confident young woman. The next thing, she was invited to compete in the Glenfiddich World Championships in Scotland – which she won! Here’s a link: https://youtu.be/YL0GCNsuEJE
Finally, a couple of months ago Maura Shawn, who now lives and studies music in Boston, herself emailed me to say she’d be in the area and would we be able to host a concert in the bookstore. The only problem was that it would have to be on a Sunday, which isn’t a normal day for us to run events. But we decided to take a chance and I also decided to record the concert for a future radio show.
I now record my shows at the home studio of a very expert friend who lives close by, so Dirk was up for giving it a go. Except he was short of some essential mics and stands, which is where another couple of friends, Mark and Alan, stepped in.
Maura Shawn, like most professional musicians can only survive financially by playing in various bands and line-ups and for this she would be half of a duo with a guitarist called Connor Hearn, who I’d never heard or heard of. I was a little nervous but shouldn’t have been! I was also very nervous whether we’d get an audience at five o’clock on a Sunday afternoon!!
Maura Connor
I set out fifteen chairs, then added a couple more – and more, as they all started arriving until we were completely full.
The concert was wonderful, with a tremendous rapport between Maura Shawn and Connor, who’s guitar playing was magnificent. Everyone who attended was completely enthralled (including our dog Bert who was surprisingly well behaved). The next day Dirk sent me a recording of one of the music sets and it was also magnificent!
So maybe we should get back to doing more of this sort of thing! It felt very soul-restoring.

 

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Strollin’ down the Highway – –

It’s funny the dreams we have. One of my more colorful ones concerns hitch-hiking.

Back when I was a carefree and somewhat trusting teenager hitch-hiking was much more common than it is now and I did a lot of it.

My older sister was living in Yorkshire in the 1960s and I frequently thumbed a ride down there for a visit. Truck drivers were very accommodating and wanted company so I rarely had any problem getting rides.

There was the time I hitched to Lanark racecourse in the west of Scotland for a model plane competition, though. A truck stopped to pick me up and could take me all the way to my destination. I climbed aboard and slammed the door shut – on my thumb! There’s a good Scots word – beelin’ – (throbbing) which is what my thumb did all day long. I remember going to the family doctor a few days later when he drilled a hole in my thumbnail to relieve the pressure!

But the most memorable journey was all the way from my hometown of Dunfermline to the exotica of Paris. Yes – Paris, France. I traveled with a friend and my guitar, because we were determined to busk on the Champs Elysees. A very illustrious Scottish folksinger called Alex Campbell gave me a slip of paper with a name and phone number (which I found many years later to be completely false) that sealed the deal. He had blazed a trail all around Europe before anyone else did and was my hero!

My friend and I got down to the midlands of England fairly easily but then got stuck. As it was getting dark we pitched our wee tent beside a hedge in a field and settled down for the night. We were wakened early next morning by sounds of machinery and found we were in the middle of roadworks. We packed up, started thumbing and were picked up by a very elderly truck. It had no air-conditioning, the sun was bright and the engine was under our feet. Every time I dozed off the driver elbowed me in the ribs and demanded I talk to keep him awake, but somehow we got to Dover and the ferry to France.

When we arrived in Calais we got a ride from an English salesman heading to Paris in his ‘Deux Chevaux’ Citreon which almost rolled over on every corner. He finally got to the infamous roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe and we went round it in ever decreasing circles until he found a way out and dropped us off. From there we headed to the Boise de Boulogne and pitched our trusty tent again.

deux chevaux

Un Deux Chevaux avec deux chevaux! Quatre chevaux?

Next morning we walked to the Champs Elysees with my guitar and prepared to live our dream. Before I could hit the first chord a hand descended on my shoulder. “You can’t start here” our assailant said, “you start in the suburbs and work your way in to here”. So I never ever busked in Paris, although we did eat well and I learned a lot!

I have a friend who has lived all his life in a mining village in Fife and who restores motorbikes as well as writing hilarious poetry. One of his most famous poems is entitled ‘What’s a Laddie frae Kelty daein in a place like St Tropez?’, which is all about his memorable journey by motorbike to his particular dream.

Ah – dreams. Which takes me to the Everly Brothers, but that’s another story – – –

 

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Mea Culpa – – –

Well – I finally got back to doing a Wednesday post on a Wednesday – –

We all do bad things from time to time. Sometimes by accident and occasionally deliberately (because we have the light and the dark in all of us). We even do bad things for the best of intentions and that’s what I did on Monday!

We learn from these things of course and I’d hoped that, at the age of 76, I had maybe mostly sorted it out.

The story really starts with the death of our beloved black Lab Zora. I had to take her to be sent ‘over the rainbow bridge’ about six months ago which left our terrier Bert as our only dog. They had been best pals most of their lives and poor Bert has been very different since then. They used to run around the yard together all day long but he now spends most of his time in the bookstore at my feet.

bert in chair

But Bert is also getting on a bit (95 in human years) and is showing definite signs of arthritis in his back legs. Our Vet, the ‘Sainted Beth’, has him on a sensible regime of doggie painkillers and that mostly seems to work and we have hopes he can keep going for a bit yet.

But just last Sunday a medical doctor friend was here with his wife for our monthly Quaker meeting and we all saw Bert limping. A general discussion about arthritis resulted in him making a passing comment about Ibuprofen being effective. After everyone had gone I remembered that I had some left over from when I had a bout of sciatica earlier in the year and that’s when it all went wrong!

Of course our doctor friend hadn’t suggested Ibuprofen for Bert – that was just me adding two and two and getting five.

I think why I feel particularly bad about this is because our pets trust us and Bert is no exception. He happily scoffs down pills as long as they’re hidden in a spoonful of peanut butter and I’m sure he never imagines I’d do anything to hurt him. But I gave him an Ibuprofen yesterday morning and another one last evening. Around 11 pm as we were settling down to sleep with Bert between us he stood up, arched his back and spewed his supper all over the bed. We got up and removed the top sheet before anything soaked through and he went out through the dog flap. This went on for the rest of the night until we were reduced to the last couple of blankets and poor Bert was exhausted!

Wendy took him up for an emergency consultation this morning with St. Beth and it looks like he will survive, but I feel very guilty. So what have I learned? Well, obviously – never make any uninformed decisions about medications for your pet, and never assume that what works for humans will work for pets. NEVER give Ibuprofen to your pet!!

I will be going up to collect Bert at the end of the working day at Powell Valley Animal Hospital. The Sainted Beth is smaller than me but I’m scared stiff at what she’s going to do to me!

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Here, There and Everywhere

In time honored fashion Jack’s Wednesday guest blog post is a day late –

I continue to be somewhat amazed at how small the world has become, and it’s not just the number of people from far afield who visit our wee bookstore in rural Appalachia – even this week when it was snowing.

Just yesterday I had an email conversation with a gentleman in Rome, Italy called Massimo. It started first thing in the morning with a request for the words of a song I recorded with my old group Heritage on our second album back in the early 1980s. I was intrigued and in a subsequent message he explained he was a big fan and had spent years collecting all the available recordings that I and the group had made over the years. As of this morning there are two CDs he didn’t know about winging their way to him via the USPS and Poste Italiane!

A few weeks ago I was contacted by the presenter of a folk music show that airs on a radio station based in SW Scotland and we have begun to exchange programs. The ones I’m sending him are mostly digitized copies of cassettes that were made of a live show that I did back in the 1990s on a different (and now defunct) station in Scotland. But these cassettes were stored here at WETS which is the station where ‘Celtic Clanjamphry’ is based, because back then I sent them over to be re-broadcast here. So a show that originally went out live to rural Perthshire has gone through a series of different technologies, traveled the Atlantic twice and is being heard by listeners of Folk n’ Stuff over the internet in (among other places) Tallahassee where there are, apparently, a loyal group of fans!

Sticking with the radio theme, I had the great pleasure of interviewing a lovely Irishman called Liam at the WETS studios on Monday morning, who is a visiting professor at ETSU just now, and made a good friend in the process. We concentrated on two themes that are part of his research focus and will also be the subjects of presentations he will make here. One was the importance of the culture of small geographical areas and the other was the challenge of Brexit for Ireland (North and South).

On Tuesday Wendy and I had our guest blog post for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum published and that also has a transatlantic theme.

https://www.birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/follow-ballad-scotlands-lord-gregory-carter-familys-storms-ocean/

Meanwhile I continue to fine tune the arrangements for my annual small group tour of Scotland at the end of June, which also entails a fair amount of international communication.

It’s all a mad gay whirl I tell you – – –

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Just the Right Note – –

Jack doesn’t quite make it with his Wednesday guest post –

This was going to be a post about my birthday on Monday and I suppose it still can be.

Yes – it was yet another one and I had a great night in the local-ish Indian restaurant with a group of close friends. I was also amazed at how many folk felt connected enough to wish me the best via Facebook, which has its good and bad points but keeps us all in touch if we can ignore all the crazy stuff.

party

Good friends, good company and excellent curries on Monday evening

But my present to myself has been a year in the preparation. In a recent post I mentioned a guitar that was being repaired and put back in the condition (in fact better than) it was when I first bought it some years ago. So here’s the story –

I had been traveling back and forward between Scotland and the US and was very nervous about my big guitar having to travel in the hold of the planes, so I started researching ‘parlor guitars’ as they can fit in the overhead bins. I was searching online and found a guy in California who found parlor guitars at house clearances and had a whole lot for sale. I took a chance and bought one from him. A bit like folk buying a tour of Scotland from someone they’ve never met!

When it arrived it turned out to be a Lyon and Healy Lakeside. L&H still exist but haven’t made guitars for a long time. Based in Chicago they are known now for their pianos and harps. The Lakeside was their second top quality guitar – the top one was called the Washburn (the middle name of one of the partners). They sold the Washburn brand and that’s a whole other story.

DSCN4549

When my Lakeside arrived I was completely charmed and impressed. It is the only guitar I’ve seen with back and sides made from oak, and how anyone could have bent these sides is beyond me. It had a bright and punchy sound and was incredibly easy to play. These instruments were popular with mountain music groups of the 1920s and 30s because they were both cheap and could be heard alongside the banjo and fiddle. Sadly my guitar quickly began to deteriorate with a split on the top, a split in the heel of the neck and internal braces loosening.

Enter two new and good friends who made an introduction to an excellent guitar luthier in Nashville and organized transport of my beloved Lakeside to and from that wonderful craftsman. I really thought I’d get a quick response saying it was beyond help, but didn’t hear anything at all!

I had been told it would probably take a year as he had to fit it in between his own much sought after bespoke instruments and that’s exactly how long it took.

DSCN4551

This morning I finally got her back and I’m completely astonished. He deliberately didn’t try to make her look like new, but simply made everything just how it was when I first got her. But much, much better. She looks pretty much the same but sounds and plays like a dream. The big thing I found when I first got her was that the neck was narrow and had a distinct ‘D’ cross section which really suits my hand. When I sat down this afternoon to play her I knew all the trouble and expense was completely worth it!

So to all 400 of you who wished me happy birthday in various ways – I’m amazed I have that many folk who care. To those of you who made it to Sahib’s on Monday evening, I just finished my tandoori prawn tonight. To the love of my life who traveled down from WV to make sure I survived – hang on – we have a 20th anniversary approaching.

To Paul, Bill and especially Chris Bozung – thanks for giving me back the Lakeside (not to mention the anonymous original makers who’s instrument sold for the first time for $6 in 1906 in a Sears Roebuck catalogue).

 

 

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Bits and Pieces – –

Jack makes his deadline in time for once – –

Just some random stuff about my week –

I finally woke up on Friday morning to no pain in my hip, then Saturday morning as well – so far it’s been six days with no pain. Yesterday I was at my chiropractor Dr Teri and told her the good news, adding “the Ibuprofen seems to have really helped”. “Yes” she said “maybe my adjustments did too”. Sometimes it’s just too easy to offend people unthinkingly – write one hundred times – I must think before – – –

A good few years ago I wanted a ‘parlor guitar’ so, when I flew anywhere I could put it in the overhead bin (having heard of and witnessed terrible things with checked instruments). I found a guy on-line who was in California and specialized in finding them in auctions and house clearances. A few weeks later I was the proud owner of a 1906 Lyon and Healy Lakeside. It was gorgeous, with a real punchy sound and is the only guitar I’ve ever seen with an oak back and sides. Sadly it deteriorated rather quickly until it became just a decoration in the bookstore. But it’s just been completely rebuilt by an expert luthier in Nashville and I’ll have it back next week!

I have a Martin D35 I hardly ever play so that will be sold to pay for the work on the Lakeside – – –

I’ve always had a strange attitude to jobs and tasks and will throw myself into some while pushing others to the back of the line. This week sees two of the pushed back ones finally struggling to the front. I got four grant applications for our Celtic festival written and sent off and tomorrow will see the start of our long overdue bookstore deep-clean. That will involve boxing up lots of books, then removing bookshelves from the walls and stacking them (and the boxes of books) out of the way. Then removing the quarter beads round the edge of the floor. Finally, the actual deep clean right into all the corners before replacing everything again!

Regular readers of this blog will know that Wendy is away from home for three months and at a goodly distance from here. This will be the longest time we’ve been apart in the almost twenty years we’ve been married and it’s a very strange experience for me. Some couples, I’m sure, have this kind of separation regularly and we’ve had shorter spells apart in the past, but this is different. We talk every day on the phone and message back and forwards on emails and messages, but it’s not the same as her actually being here. On the other hand, our terrier Bert and our bookstore cat Owen are in seventh heaven as they spread out over the bed every night – – –

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