Tag Archives: retirement

Celtic Connections

Jack’s weekly guest blog ruminates on the connective threads of here, there, then, and now

Now that we’re back from Wisconsin, things are beginning to get busy around here. And they appear to be taking on a British Isles tinge, I might add.

Yesterday I started teaching a series of five weekly classes on Scottish ballads and folk songs at the Higher Ed Center in Abingdon. This is always enjoyable and I’ve been doing it semi-annually for a few years now.

At the same time I am gearing up for the annual small group tour that I conduct around Scotland every year at the end of June. Everything is pretty much in place as I write this. The tour is another ‘labor of love’ – something I enjoy doing that ends up introducing me to a most interesting and diverse group of people. Since I always go over a few days before the tour starts, I get to catch up with friends and family. This year Wendy will finally be joining me after it ends, something we’ve been hoping for since I started this crazy venture eight years ago.

On top of that, as one of the group that organizes Big Stone Celtic (Sept 26 and 27, so mark your calendars!) I’m beginning to put together the program. For the first time we have an internationally famous headliner, Barbara Dickson, making her debut this side of the Atlantic, so I’m in the throes of applying for her work visa – a steep learning curve! Who knew the American government would require so much paperwork?

Just in case that isn’t enough I continue to put together my weekly radio show Celtic Clanjamphry (known affectionately now as ‘ClanJam’). Now in its sixth year (whoda thunk it, as they say in Southwest Virginia) my ongoing quest is to cover as many of the Celtic Nations as possible via music ancient and modern.

And finally, of course there are our regular bookstore events. Irish storyteller (and our good friend) Liz Weir will be the centerpiece of our evening of Irish stories and food tonight. Second Story Cafe owner Kelley is preparing Beef and Guinness pie, Colcannon and Apple Crumble to complete the Irish feast.

Now, the great thing about all these happenings are the connections between them. Liz attended our wedding in Scotland, and she hosts my tour group every second year. Folk who listen to ClanJam come on the tour and folk who have been on the tour drop into the bookstore and come to our events. Others who attend my classes come to the bookstore, listen to the radio show and will be on this year’s tour. Big Stone Celtic fits right into all that and brings hundreds of visitors to our small town every year. It’s a nice circle, on a background of plaid and emerald green!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA


Jack’s weekly guest blog

One day, dashing into the grocery in Scotland, I met a college colleague who had retired a year earlier. I asked him how we was enjoying his retirement.

“Ah, Jack,” he said, “it was made for a younger man than me!”

I know what he meant, now.

We are approaching the end of the grand basement remodeling (and Wendy swears there will be pictures to follow). If I do say so myself, the place looks lovely and cozy and just like us. The construction work (my part) is done, and we are now in the process of moving stuff down there from our upstairs rooms (mostly Wendy’s job). The last job I had to do was to fit a dog/cat flap in the old door to the outside yard and show our animals how to use it. (I hope Wendy didn’t get a picture of me halfway through the flap, bum sticking out, saying, “See, Zora, see? It’s so easy, just come along there.”

I suppose in the back of my mind, I was thinking that now the building is done, I would relax and take it easy, read my favorite blogs (on Scottish Independence, Folk Musicians, and Reasons not to Care about the Royal Baby – hey, I’m Scottish.)

Not a chance on that relaxation thing….

Before the upstairs turns into the SECOND STORY EATERY we envision (read: Wendy wants) there are things to be done: among others, repainting the staircase and our  upstairs former bedroom, installing heat and air up there (that’ll be fun) and fitting in an extra sink in the kitchen (required by the health inspector).

Then there’s the approaching Big Stone Celtic annual festival (Sept 28; y’all come!) with all the attendant meetings and emailing and phone calling – – –

Meanwhile the bookstore still has to be looked after with all that entails (mostly box after box of trade credit books) and producing programs for my weekly radio show keeps nudging me as well. We won’t even talk about Wendy’s foster cats and their needs.

Retirement? Pshaw!! I’ve never been busier in my life!

For those following the story of Hazel the elderly foster cat, she now has her own Facebook page in  her new home. Keep up with her exploits by liking CLAN HAZEL.


Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized

Jack guest blogs on retirement

When I retired from my college professor career in 2002 I imagined a gentler and more relaxed way of life, maybe catching up on some reading and re-indulging in hobbies I hadn’t had time for in a while. Certainly, to begin with things seemed to be going in that direction, despite continuing involvement in education and training as a consultant and even visiting such romantic destinations as Vietnam and Romania in that capacity.

When Wendy and I first moved permanently to the US things continued in that fairly leisurely way. Everything changed, however, when we moved to Big Stone Gap and opened the bookstore! Ah- the bookstore!!

Most folk probably think that opening and running a bookstore is a dream come true and that is true to some extent – but for me there is a darker side. As the shop became established and our stock expanded so did the need to find space and fill the space with bookshelves. For the last few years I’ve fondly imagined that I’ve made my last set of bookshelves, but no, Wendy (my boss) somehow manages to continue to find ever more obscure corners just crying out for another lot.

And I don’t help myself, either. Just a few days ago I was down in our basement (currently only accessible from outside in the back yard) and realized that there was a covered over internal staircase. EUREKA! Well – ‘maybes aye and maybes naw’ (as we say in Scotland) – the trouble is that, although half the basement is a decent height, there’s only brick and concrete walls and no ceilings. There’s only very minimal lighting and no power outlets, and the hidden stairwell is full of later added cables and water pipes to the washing machine that’s going to have to find a new home.basement stair






Then there’s shelving all these pesky books that people will insist on bringing in – but hey, that’s another story – – –

What does all this add up to? As an old colleague of mine once said to me when I asked how he was enjoying retirement – “Jack – it was made for a younger man than me!”

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, humor, small town USA