Wendy is tied up preparing for her big annual medical conference, so Jack gets an extra turn –
I thought a description of a typical day in the Beck/Welch house might amuse y’all –
Wendy feeds the cats and the dog, including one cat recovering from surgery and another that intimidates all the rest. We have a discussion about how to handle the intimidatory one and decide she has to live outside and in our log cabin jail out back (the cat – not Wendy). That meant checking on possible heating and cat flap arrangements.
Then it was bringing all our instruments in from the car after our gig at the local bookstore last night.
On with the first of three loads of washing in between cracking walnuts. (We don’t use a dryer so sunny days are prime time for laundry.) Five mature black walnut trees came with this house and while Wendy does the collecting and hulling, I do the cracking and meat extraction.
Wendy leaves for work – –
Our friend Randy who runs the aforementioned bookstore comes over to look at three of our walnut trees which will shortly be felled and agrees to take some of the wood.
I crack more walnuts, put on the second wash and start the dishwasher.
Time for my customary soft boiled egg for lunch and then a break for a smoke in the front porch (aka ‘the catio’). As I’m relaxing I hear an explosive BANG! At the crossing just down from our house I see a white pick-up careening over the cross street on its side with smoke pouring out while a black SUV shudders to a halt behind it. The truck rights itself and stops off the street. Silence – then raised voices while the SUV driver starts picking up various pieces of his vehicle. After ten minutes the fire engine, ambulance and various police cars arrive. I wander down and see the ambulance folk walking two women from the truck into the ambulance. Another ten minutes and everything’s cleared and gone. Small town America – – –
I crack more walnuts.
Wendy gets home, empties the dishwasher and worries that the recovering cat may have leaked cat pee on a blanket. (I have no sense of smell). We do one unexpected load of laundry for the cats, because recovering kitty needs her blankie tonight.
I crack more walnuts.
The mailman arrives and we exchange pleasantries – he has brought a forwarded bank statement for the Big Stone Celtic festival. So I know what I’ll be doing this evening after we go out for supper.
More walnuts – – – –
Jack fails to make the deadline yet again – tsk, tsk!
Cats are weird!
We currently have five of them and most are FELV positive (which means that they could either live a long normal life – or not).
Tooth arrived over our backyard fence when we were away in Scotland a few years ago. Named because she was a feral kitten that looked like a smaller version of another feral cat we fostered and named Fang, Tooth became the friendliest cat imaginable. She took on the job of looking after our aging lab Zora and then, after Zora died, she took on the same role with our terrier Bert.
After Bert passed poor Tooth hasn’t had much to do, so she was delighted when we got our new dog, Bruce. Luckily big bulldog Bruce is very used to cats and lets them all play around him perfectly happily.
Bruce is undergoing treatment for heart-worm and probably gives off some kind of ‘sickly’ vibes, because Tooth has gone back into full nursing mode. When he started limping on Sunday Tooth would have fetched a crutch!
As for the others –
Kira likes to intimidate everyone and everything. But she loves a shoulder scratch from me!
Molly likes to stay away from Kira – mostly either on top of cupboards or outside for a week.
Hannah is everyone’s buddy and isn’t afraid of Kira.
Lorelei is the newbie – just arrived and getting the lie of the land. Particularly ‘cute’!
Bruce just ignores it all – – –
Jack’s Wednesday guest post just makes it in time – – –
When we first arrived in Big Stone Gap fourteen years ago we had been preceded just a few months earlier by Tony and Anne Palubicki. They were the couple pastoring the Presbyterian church just a block up from our bookstore. Here we are having just moved away and so are Tony and Anne now. It almost seems fated.
Those of you who know us or have read ‘The Little Bookstore’ will know that we tried out various Churches when we first arrived and finally settled on the Presbyterian. I attended a Presbyterian Church as a child and my dad and granddad were both elders, so I felt very much at home. Of course Wendy and I are Quakers so that may seem strange, but it’s not unusual for ‘Friends’ to visit other denominations between Meetings.
We quickly found that Tony was wonderfully open minded and ecumenical and truly believed in a God who loved people and wanted them to live in peace.
He supported everything we tried to do in and for the town, including running a monthly discussion group in the bookstore that brought together folk who would have never normally found themselves in the same company. We discussed concepts, theology, and the best way to make guacamole.
He also treated the bookstore as a ‘third place’ where he could come and unwind regularly and even once described it as a Church as he watched me ‘ministering’ to an obviously troubled customer.
His concern for personal friends from Scotland who had visited here was genuine, tangible and greatly appreciated.
Anne was the power behind Tony’s non-throne, a woman of not-altogether gentle spirit whose spitfire nature could be the most protective hug ever given. Anne would go to bat for anyone but herself, and she never let anyone get on Tony’s nerves when she could help it.
Now the couple get to go live with their beloved grandson up in Salem, not too far from us. We will continue to have them in our lives and be blessed by that.
We’re raising a glass of ‘coke’ to you Tony and Anne – slainte and thanks!
Jack gets back into the usual day late mode –
This is weird –
Everyone thinks I’ve just been on holiday/vacation in Scotland, whereas I was actually working most of the time. It was my annual small group tour and the culmination of much planning, checking and double checking. Despite all that I’m always aware that the paying customers expect a trouble free and enjoyable experience and for any particular preferences to be accommodated where possible. Add to that the inevitable unexpected emergencies and it all adds up to a fairly draining two weeks for me.
This year the unexpected hit quickly – one of the group had his case sent to London instead of Edinburgh by Aer Lingus and it took a week to finally get them re-united. Then I discovered I’d wrongly assumed that he and a female customer were a couple, so the hotel rooming lists had to be quickly adjusted. Luckily the agency we use for our hotel bookings were rapidly on the case and got things sorted at very short notice!
When I first started doing this twelve years ago I was very naïve and didn’t really consider that anything could go wrong. But as time has gone on, I have become more and more nervous ahead of each tour, partly because almost every year something does!
Despite all this it’s the weather that really makes the tour and we were very lucky this time, with little rain and increasingly sunny and warm conditions.
Everyone except Beth and Brandon celebrated the 4th together!
Now that I’ve been home for a few days and just about over the jet-lag, Wendy and I are finally on a real vacation and staying, along with our friends Barbara and Oliver from Scotland, with other friends David and Susan in NC. Tomorrow we head to the beach in SC to meet up with yet more friends – Beth and Brandon – for a much anticipated week.
Check back next week for more of my real vacation – – –
PS – David drove the bus in Scotland and we visited Barbara and Oliver at their house in Edinburgh just before the group tour started – small world!
Jack is in Scotland and Wendy is – – somewhere – – so Jack sent this by carrier pigeon.
Back more than twenty five years ago I helped my folksinger friend Ed Miller with his then new music tour of Scotland. Ed lives in Austin, Texas and started bringing over thirty five fans, touring them around Scotland and having them joined each day by a local musician with particular knowledge of the local history and culture. I performed that function when they were in Fife each year. That finished when Wendy and I moved to the US, but it gave me the idea for my annual small group tours.
On Ed’s tours he always worked with a tour guide called Charlie Hunter, who dressed in his kilt, herded his charges off and on the coach in a timely manner.
Imagine my surprise when my tour was in Melrose on the second day of our tour and I saw a familiar kilted figure standing beside a large coach parked next to our minivan.
As we exchanged greetings Ed appeared as well!
Thinking that this was a ‘one off’ coincidence we bade them farewell and continued on our way. A few days later we pulled into the parking lot behind the ‘Green Welly’ at Tyndrum and who should be there as well – – -! Much joking and then another farewell. We set off for Glencoe and, as usual pulled into the visitors’ center. An hour later so did Ed and Charlie in their now familiar coach! Once again it was farewell and we headed for Oban and the ferry to Mull.
The following day we headed down through beautiful Mull to the Iona ferry and I waited with our minivan while the rest of our group went across on the foot ferry. I eventually wandered up the line of parked coaches and saw a now very familiar one! It turned that they would be staying in the hotel next to ours in Oban that night, so the following morning we once again bade them farewell – only to meet them again at the Green Welly! With them for a couple of days was another old friend – Margaret Bennett!
Our next stop was at Killin at the start of Loch Tay on our way to see Europe’s oldest living tree at Fortingall. As I guarded our minivan at Killin a very familiar coach pulled up – – –
The Iona ferry on a beautiful day!
Jack gets comfortably under the wire for a change –
So, here I am working in the front yard regularly as we get into spring and summer and I keep seeing this odd circular grey cover of some kind in the ground. It looks like it might be over a valve or a meter for water or gas or maybe something electrical.
I look at it from time to time and puzzle over it. It has four small holes that might be for screws holding it down. But they’d be full of dirt so not much chance of unscrewing it. Maybe I could get a lever under the edge to see if it would come up? But what if it really is containing something important that I might break?
It sits right next to one of our inherited ‘Narnia’ style lampposts and I wondered if there was some kind of connection. But the power cable to the lamppost, which had run along the side of a now departed fence, completely bypassed the mysterious cover.
I continued to step gingerly round it over the weeks, puzzling and debating.
As I dug a trench to bury the lamppost cable I kept pondering but couldn’t confidently come to any conclusion.
Examining the object I was able to decipher a manufacturer’s name – time for Dr Google! All I could find was that they were best known for making garden pots, planters and hanging baskets. Now it was time to post pictures on Facebook to see if anyone else could help. The suggestions ranged from a pot stand to a cover for a water quality analyzer!
Still nervous I decided to see if I could gently raise it enough to see if there was anything underneath. Grabbing my trusty spade I set to! Yes – it did extend quite a few inches down into the ground. I was able to finally get a grip under the edge and lever it up and out. What emerged was a shallow dish that what I think must be a water receptacle in which to sit a planter. Why it had been turned upside down and pressed down into the ground I have no idea. There was nothing except the ground under it!
My takeaway from this?
Google and Facebook sure make life complicated at times –
But congratulations to our friend Annie Jane for getting it right!
Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch
Jack makes it across the line again –
Wendy and I decided we needed a fire pit in our back yard. So I surveyed the area and decided where it should be. The only trouble was that a pile of brush gathered by our predecessor was already there. So off to confer with Dr Google about the easiest way to build a fire pit and what do about that brush.
It turned out that there was a state-wide ordinance in place that between February and April you can’t burn garden stuff before 4 pm or after midnight. We were still in April at this point!
I wandered out again around 5 pm and looked at that pile of brush while aware of the lighter in my pocket. Could I? Should I? I wondered afterwards if that’s how arsonists feel. Are they overcome with the desire to just see flames? Something outside of me took over and I set the brush afire!
As I watched it my first thoughts were whether the neighbors would complain or even phone the police.
But then I was transported back to another place – my childhood.
I remembered sitting in front of our coal fireplace gazing into the flames and being sucked into another world, while listening to favorite programs on the radio – Dick Barton, Special Agent; The Goon Show; Around the Horne – – –
My Dad was an expert painter and decorator and specialized in faux wood-graining and marbling. He made his own crayons from simple ingredients and dried them beside the fireplace. Along with the smell of them drying came back the memory of the fish ‘n chip van outside sounding it’s horn and the smell of lard over that other open charcoal fire – – –
Do we have an old memory of the fire ceremonies that heralded the approach of spring and the new harvest? Is that why fire fascinates us so much?