Category Archives: Life reflections

Lang Syne isnae sae Lang

Jack gets over the line in time with his Wednesday guest post –

There is such a thing as time travel – and part of the journey involves sound waves captured on coated fragile plastic tape.

Every time I’ve moved house within Scotland, then to England and finally to the US, a treasured box of open reel tapes has gone with me. Only rarely over the years have I had a compatible tape recorder to play them or the time to sit and listen to them. But a good friend recently provided the means and Covid 19 provided the time.

Most of the tapes are big nine inch reels but there are some smaller ones and a good few cassettes as well. The biggest problem is that some have lost their labels or ended up in the wrong box. Just to make things even more complicated the tapes were recorded in mono on either the right or left channel in both directions, so each tape has two full mono tracks in one direction and another two in the other direction!

That’s why this has been a voyage of discovery and a discovery of forgotten delights.

Many of the recordings are of live performances either by me and Barbara Dickson from the 1960s or my band ‘Heritage’ in the 1970s and the quality is very variable. Sometimes the problems are to do with the circumstances of the original recording and sometimes with deterioration of the tape over time.

It’s the ability to actually picture the place and the people around me that is most amazing. One of the surprises was a recording of the very first public performance of ‘Heritage’ in a small village hall. Another was a recording I made of the great Irish band ‘Planxty’ at Inverness folk festival when for only that tour Paul Brady replaced Christy Moore. They never made a commercial recording with that line-up!

Of course this all makes extra work for my good friend and excellent audio engineer Dirk who turns my radio shows into easier listening. I use a Roxio suite to capture the tapes as digital files to my computer, then upload them to Dropbox and copy in Dirk. That’s when he gets to work and we then agree what is of potential radio quality. The historical importance of the recordings is usually uppermost in my mind and some of the earliest ones have already gone to the Library of Congress and the Scottish National Library.

So, although this is an enjoyable journey back in time for me I’m also aware that I’m preserving history and that may be the most important thing in the end – – –

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Filed under folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book – The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

The Monday Book: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

This charming little book (it can be read in about two hours) was on the shelf at the cabin where I’m holed up getting some writing done. I took it down because it had a pretty drawing on the cover, and read it because it contained the enticing phrase “Viruses are a part of life.”

Well, yes…..

The premise of the book makes good reading during a pandemic: the author is ill with an unusual condition that started with a virus and progressed to a dysfunctional autonomic nerve system. In essence, she couldn’t sit up because gravity did things to her it didn’t do to the rest of the world. Lying flat with minimal movement was hard for a formerly active and healthy gardener, so when a friend brought her some wild violets in a pot, she picked up a woodland snail for good measure. Why she thought the snail would interest her friend, neither woman could ever say.

But the snail did. At first as confused by its new surroundings as Elisabeth was by hers, stuck in care, dependent on friends to do almost everything for her, the snail began to explore at night, eating pieces of paper and flowers brought by friends of the invalid.

Slowly the author came to understand the snail as she did her own illness; move slower through the world, take time for one’s needs, and appreciate the small miracles. But the book is not so much sentimental as descriptive. Learning how a snail’s foot allows these miraculous little creatures to travel over even razor-thin edges without harm is surprisingly fascinating. Likewise discovering that they can seal themselves into their own shells with a special foot slime, or repair their shells with a different kind of slime.

And then there is snail sex…. did you know they literally sling love darts at one another? They do.

Sometimes the right book comes into our lives at the right time. I’m holed up in an unwired cabin to get some writing done, trying to slow down in a world that has had some strangely enforced slowdowns of late, and yet still wanting to undulate along. Like the snail that Elisabeth found she could actually hear eating, so quiet was her life, I am becoming aware of many new things around me. We all are in this strange new world. So take some time to read about the small things in life – the snails and the viruses – that make up this beautiful, peaceful memoir.


Filed under animal rescue, between books, book reviews, humor, Life reflections, reading, Wendy Welch, writing