Category Archives: Big Stone Gap

The Times they are – – –

Jack fails miserably again to get his Wednesday guest post up on time – –

Wendy and I have been ‘zooming’ with a few friends weekly ever since the pandemic closed things down. The group consists of David and Susan in North Carolina, Beth and Brandon in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, ourselves in Wytheville, Virginia, and Barbara and Oliver in Edinburgh, Scotland.

We meet on Sundays at 9 am but because of the five-hour time difference that’s 2 pm in Edinburgh. Except last Sunday was an exception because the clocks in the UK had changed on Saturday night. They don’t change here until this Saturday, so for just one week the time difference is four hours! Being half American and half Scots I was vaguely aware of the anomaly so I checked on line and – yes, this was the week of the lesser hours! A hasty last minute e-mail to Barbara saved the day – and the meeting.

But it got me curious about the whole business of changing the clocks twice a year – Spring forward and Fall back. So I did a bit of research and found some fascinating stuff. Some countries simply don’t do it at all and in many that do there’s a debate about whether to continue with it. That debate is no more heated than in the UK, and the problem is that most of the population is in south or central England where they would not see much difference in winter, whereas folk in Scotland definitely would. The European Union has a plan to stop changing the clocks in a couple of years’ time, so a strange result of ‘Brexit’ is that, if the UK sticks with clock changing, then for six months there will be an hour’s difference between Northern Ireland (in the UK) and the Irish Republic (in the EU).

By now I was well and truly hooked on the history of time-keeping and how the world arrived at any notion of ‘standard’ time. It turns out that the arrival of the railroad around the world had a lot to do with it. Prior to that local areas kept their own time, often just within the sound of church bells or a day’s travel on foot or by horse. It was the arrival of trains and reliable clocks and watches, not to mention the telegraph, that brought the need for standardized time. Since Britain owned most of the world then Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in London became the default standard with all other time zones and/or clock changes measured relative to GMT. Although wasn’t it Mussolini who made the trains run on time?

Of course the arrival of the internet and the ability to speak to and see people on the other side of the world brings me back to what kicked off my interest in the first place – this Sunday we’ll be back to the usual five-hour difference!

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

Surfing the Airwaves

Jack hits the mark and gets his guest post in on time – – –

My first stab at presenting a Celtic music show on radio was for the BBC in Glasgow and then I moved to a monthly program for Heartland FM in Pitlochry for a number of years. That live show ended up being recorded on air and sent to WETS FM in Tennessee as part of a reciprocal agreement. Finally, I moved to Big Stone Gap in VA and was fairly quickly invited to present a weekly show for them. That has been going for almost thirteen years and is also now carried by WEHC FM in Emory VA and Alive Radio in Scotland. It’s called Celtic Clanjamphry (ClanJam for short).

Here’s how it gets put together –

Because I can’t concentrate on working the desk and doing the links between music simultaneously I’ve always had a techy handle the former and had many fine people do that for me over the years. To begin with I’d do the hour and a half drive to the station in Johnson City to pre-record three or four shows at a time, carrying a collection of CDs with all the music arranged in order for each program. But that changed greatly when Wendy and I moved to Wytheville (a much longer drive).

Luckily we’d gotten friendly with Dirk Wiley in Wise and he’s just two hours away and has a very good home studio. He quickly tuned in to my way of working and we were able to move to four and eventually five at a time. Instead of carrying CDs to him I upload folders of music to DropBox and he downloads them ahead of my visit.

But Covid 19 has changed things a bit –

Dirk and I now work at a distance and while he still gets the music ahead of time, He checks and lets me know how many minutes of talk time I have. I do all the uploading of music at my workstation in a corner of our spare room which has my PC, an open reel tape recorder, a cassette recorder and a turntable.

Once I know how many minutes I have it’s time to move to the log cabin in the back yard that used to be the county jail in the 1800s to record the links, the mid show station ident and the short promos that are broadcast during the week ahead of each program. The cabin has thick walls and is well away from any traffic noise!

But it’s not the same as sitting across the desk from Dirk in his studio and blethering back and forward. That always adds a lot to the atmosphere of ClanJams. So now that we’ve all learned more about following the Covid 19 guidelines we think we can safely get back to our usual way of working and both Dirk and I will shortly be sitting, suitably distanced, in the same room – his studio (and the squirrels won’t have to stay quiet in the attic of the jail).

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