A Carrying Streamlet – –

Jack jumps in to rescue the Monday book post – –

The Folk River – Fraser Bruce

I should start by saying this is yet another book to which I had some input.

It started with a lengthy series of discussions instigated by Fraser Bruce on FaceBook where he challenged some of the accepted ‘myths’ surrounding the Scottish folk scene of the late 1950s and early 1960s. This led him to do some serious research, including interviewing those folk still around from these days, as well as previous publications – books and magazines.

He then set out on the mammoth task of pulling it all together and then enlisting our mutual friend Pete Heywood to proof, type set and insert lots of pictures.

Most other books covering this subject that I’ve seen tend to be written by observers rather than practitioners so this one is different and wherever Bruce’s experiences overlap mine I can attest that they are accurate. I can be reasonably sure, then, that where he overlaps with other folks’ experiences they are likely accurate as well.

Being married to a writer and published author I have some idea of the work that has gone into this and commend Bruce for taking on this formidable task.

Of course it will be of most interest to the diminishing band of like-minded folk who were around then, but I hope, like Bruce, that it might add to the existing small number of more academic publications about this fascinating time.

Finally – even if I hadn’t been involved I would still recommend this as an excellent window to a time that both mirrored and connected with the similar American folk revival.


Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, publishing, reading, Scotland, Wendy Welch, writing

Ai-eeeee/I mean chi

One reason I like Wytheville Community Center’s facilities so much is the pool. Reasons, one might say, because they have four. The regular lane swimming pool and the kiddy area are interconnected by a three foot wader access. These are kept about 84 degrees–according to the facility. Those of us plunging in for semi-weekly aerobic classes beg to differ.

Then there is a small therapy pool, kept around 94 and big enough for 6 people to social distance. The hot tub (limit 3) is around 104. One sees the emerging pattern. It is a great delight to emerge from the big pool after class and sit a happy five minutes in the hot tub with two other women, discussing the events of the class or the week.

In addition to the classes throwing me into cold water twice weekly, I decided to try Ai Chi. Tai chi in the water, yep. Problem: it is popular. The WCC has people sign up for their classes on the third Wednesday monthly. Your attendance for years (perhaps decades) is not protection; everyone applies again on that Wednesday. It’s not unlike working for state or county government and being suddenly required to reapply for your 25+ year position.

They do that so young whippersnappers like me have a chance to get in. I took advantage in December and arose at 6:03 am to call the front desk and secure an Ai chi spot. Even as they sent the confirming email, I felt a great disturbance in the force, the voice of someone somewhere crying out at being shoved from the therapy pool.

The first week I showed up, so did she. It is standard practice for wait-listers to hang out and take the spots of no-shows for that session. If someone hasn’t called in but misses three times, you get their spot. (Not much consolation in a monthly regimen, but there it is.)

Let’s call her Lydia. I took her spot. She had plans. So did her friends, already waiting in the pool. Why did my mind flash an image of crocodile eyes just above water in a still river?

They were all older women, and as a true Appalachian I have been raised to respect my elders. I gave them each a friendly nod, recognizing most from the deep water aerobics class immediately before. (I dropped that morning class in favor of a far less crowded evening class that turned out to have much greater age diversity.)

“Welcome to Ai chi, newbies.” Only I was new. I took a position near the steps. Thin stretched smiles, and “well look who’s joining us, welcome aboard dear” comments, ensued. I could feel hostility entering my body and accelerating my heartbeat.

Stretches began to soft synthesizer music. I felt something brush my thigh. Lydia was moving in. She had taken the position immediately before me at the steps, a little close but I wasn’t in a position to argue. As the class progressed, she moved closer with every stretch, always with her back toward me, until by the time we were doing the free float, I was scrunched in a corner, no place for my feet to reach surface.

I did briefly consider one good mule kick to clear space, but she is older and would bruise easily. Please see: Appalachian values. Also, by then I had ascertained the relationship of Ai chi to the two things I sought: relaxation, and stimulation.

Relaxing, not so much, as I cowered against the wall while the rest of them stretched into warrior poses. Stimulating, yes; it felt like fighting for survival up in here. One of them turned, and her warrior palm extended into something resembling a blade as she aimed at me. She smiled…..

Last Wednesday was the signup for next month. I dropped Ai chi in favor of a nice safe Zumba class. Nobody puts Lydia in a corner.

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Filed under humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch