Category Archives: VA

The Masked Super Heroes

Jack produces his Wednesday guest blog on Wednesday for a change –

Most of you may know that Wendy is the Director of a medical non-profit organization, and in the current emergency situation, she is working from home. In observing her, I’m amazed at how she has turned her job around into coordinating the supply of PPEs to all the folk she is connected to in hospitals and health centers around SW Virginia.

mask (2)

She has crafters making masks and is contacting suppliers around the world for more. From the minute she wakes up until we go to bed she is constantly on the phone handling all this. Lot’s of times she’s batting off the inevitable bureaucratic barriers (many swear words involved). But still she battles on! Getting the supplies to where they’re most needed.

This is a difficult time for everyone, but never more so than for health workers. They are in the front line of this and are taking enormous risks to keep the rest of us safe and treated professionally. But they, perhaps more than anyone, need to be protected.

Wendy has taken on this task and I couldn’t be prouder of her!

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Filed under between books, crafting, Life reflections, post-apocalypse fiction, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Time to Select Reverse

Jack finally gets a Wednesday blog post up on time – – –

Back in the 1990s I was working as a middle manager in a local Scottish community college. I was head of construction crafts, and that department was fairly low in the pecking order. So I decided to find a focus for us that would boost our profile.

I had been interested in environmental topics for a while and did some research. That resulted in a series of projects funded by the EU and with partners all over Europe. The college senior management supported me and I traveled regularly from Belgium to Denmark and Germany and Italy and even eventually to Romania and Vietnam.

earth image

But I worried continually that I wasn’t always producing the educational outcomes that I had promised. It was many years later that I discovered that these were never the expected outcomes in the first place. It was always just about getting people from different countries and cultures to interact and talk to each other!

This brings me to the real point –

I discovered a few weeks ago that my hard-won US Citizenship can be arbitrarily taken from me at the drop of a hat and the whim of a faceless bureaucrat. This seems to mirror what’s going on in Britain right now as well. Not just there but all over the world there seems to be a resurgence of the fear of ‘the other’.

Of course I don’t expect to be deported any time soon. I’m not black or Hispanic. Not Mexican or Muslim. Not Catholic or Italian. Not Irish or Chinese. I’m a white guy from Scotland – – –

So come on folks. It’s time to put all this nonsense behind us. We inhabit a tiny dot in the universe and we need to look after each other – and that tiny dot too!

“There are some oddities in the perspective with which we see the world. The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be, but we have done various things over intellectual history to slowly correct some of our misapprehensions.” – Douglas Adams

 

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes

This week’s Monday Book comes courtesy of Martha Wiley.

MoyesI received a copy of The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes for Christmas. I’m an Atlanta transplant, first having moved to Appalachia when I married – I’ve lived in southeast Kentucky and southwest Virginia, and it wasn’t hard to recognize both of these areas in the book.

Set in the 1930s in Lee County, Kentucky , in an area about equidistant from the two towns that I have called home for the past 22 years, The Giver of Stars tells the fictional story of members of a pack horse library. I’m very fond of fiction set in historical settings, especially when the history is well-researched, and Moyes has done an admirable job of grounding her story in a factual past.

The action centers around two women who make unlikely friends, Alice Wright Van Cleve and Margery O’Hare. Alice moved to Lee County from England after meeting and marrying Bennett Van Cleve, son of a prominent coal mining company owner. After finding out that marriage to Bennett isn’t all she had dreamed of, Alice joins up with Margery, one of the movers and shakers behind the Baileyville WPA Packhorse Library, and a loner who prefers the company of her horse and dog to that of people. As to be expected, both bring fears and preconceptions to the relationship, but manage a way to meet in the middle to form a strong friendship.

That sounds a little hokey, and at times the dialogue and human interactions in the book are a bit strained, but overall I enjoyed the book and learned some history in the bargain. The  pack horse librarians of Kentucky have been getting more attention in the past few years, due in part to articles in Smithsonian Magazine and National Public Radio, as well as a few non-fiction books written about them.

The precursor to today’s bookmobiles in Kentucky, the pack horse librarians fulfilled one of Eleanor Roosevelt’s priorities through the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, providing paid jobs to women and furthering literacy in the poverty-stricken mountains of southern Appalachia. Moyes weaves the facts of this history with the stories of Alice and Margery and other community members of the fictional town of Baileyville, capturing all the nuances of public and private feelings of both the supporters and detractors of the program.

I lived in Southeast Kentucky for more than 15 years, and was involved with the Reading Camp program there, a mission of the Episcopal Church, for many years. I can attest to the need for, and the success of, the promotion of literacy and the joys of reading to people living in the rural hollers of the region, as well as to the occasional resistance to, and fear of, outsiders seen to be interfering with an established way of life. Although the story takes place more than 60 years before my time there, The Giver of Stars reminded me of the joys and heartaches of such work, and the timelessness of both the beauty and harshness of Appalachia.

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A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Jack fails to make it in time – again – – –

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Well the latest big surprise yesterday was an email telling me that ‘Tales of the Lonesome Pine’ was voted one of the top three bookstores in SW Virginia by readers of a Virginia wide tourism magazine.

I thought to begin with that it was some kind of scam, but after exchanging a series of emails with a nice lady it became clear that it was genuine.

This immediately raised a few questions –

The bookstore closed over a year ago and the building is now a private dwelling again, and the new owners probably wouldn’t want hordes of folk knocking on the door or even just walking straight in.

There again – who voted and how did they not know we’d closed?

To be clear, we had the best time running that bookstore for fourteen years and made it into a real community hub. We made many friends along the way. The only reasons we sold up and moved was that Wendy’s job could be handled more easily from where we are now in Wytheville, it felt like time to move on and the building needed more TLC than a seventy-eight-year-old guy could contemplate.

I tried to find out whether we would have been first, second or third, but for understandable reasons we couldn’t be told. I also asked if our votes could be transferred to our good friends at Oracle Books in Wytheville but no dice there either.

 wendy-welch.com/2012/08/28/a-virtual-tour-of-tales-of-the-lonesome-pine-used-books/

Sometimes life is just weird – – –

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: THE BEST DOCTOR IN TOWN by Amelia Townsend

IMG_8952This is a local story for a southwest Virginia, about a doctor whose idea of a pain-free life is rather permanent. The only people onto him are themselves a bit tarnished of reputation: a junior doctor under suspicion of theft, a police officer with one too many “this is your last warning”s, and a reporter who got fired for manipulating the truth.

So you can see why no one really takes them seriously. As much as this book is about a bad man who sees himself as one of the good guys, it also has some funny bits. Observations about human nature, ways of seeing the world, and also some predictable “see it coming a mile off” bits that twist into humor.

Townsend is a playwright and musician who works with regional productions in DC and this area, promoting Appalachian and Coalfields culture. She’s got a good ear for how people talk and a fun way of seeing how we live.

If you are looking for a local story, this has plenty of ethnographic detail. One of the patients is raising his grandchildren because their mom is on drugs. Some of the patients are stretching paychecks and Medicare, unable to retire. And the language is rhythmic to the mountains.

The book is available from Jan-Carol Publishing and the usual suspects.

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Filed under book reviews, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, what's on your bedside table

Freewheelin’ Doon the Brae

Jack creakily creeps over the line to get his guest post in on a Wednesday – –

So I turned seventy eight years old today (Wednesday) although it may be Thursday before this appears!

weston

As far as I know the only two members of my immediate family to get beyond that are my Mum and my sister Margaret.

So I see eighty coming over the horizon and that’s quite a sobering thought. All the folk I know around my age are ‘old’, but that’s not how I feel at all. Despite smoking and drinking most of my life I seem to continue to be fairly healthy.

When I look back I’m surprised at how my life turned out and the twists and turns. When I was a house painter I never expected to become a lecturer in management studies or to gain an MBA from one of the most prestigious Scottish Universities. When I started singing in a skiffle group I never expected to make seven albums and contribute to three others.

Today I was equally surprised to see more than a hundred birthday greetings on facebook, which reminded me of how many friends all over the world I’ve made. Some are from way back and some not so far, and some only on line.

birthday

But the odd thing is that I’m very aware of friends and family who haven’t made it this far, and they’re actually the ones I’m thinking of today more then any. Among them are Margaret, Colin, Mike, Davy, Jim, Gordeanna, Anne and Maureen.

Since I do seem to be fairly healthy, though, I guess I should just get on with it and be lucky that I continue to make new friends and have a wife that despite twenty one years of sparring, somehow sticks by me –

Onwards and upwards!

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

Oh Death – – –

Another very sad post by Jack – –

colin

I first met Colin when he helped organize the folk-song concerts at the Music Hall in Aberdeen during the first Bon Accord Festival in 1965. At the time I was half of a duo with Barbara Dickson and we played every night for a week as top of the bill.

We kept in touch and by the early 1970s he was booking guests for Aberdeen folk club. This was when I was erroneously billed in the local newspaper as Jeff Beck (not his fault). Lots of disappointed punters but a profitable night for the club!

Shortly after that he moved down to Fife to take up the position as a teacher of English in a local high school, where he was able to introduce the study of Scots ballads to the curriculum. After that he was a regular at parties and ceilidhs at my house and those of other friends in the area.

He was a wonderful singer with a deep and rich repertoire of Doric song, but never had any real interest in either recording or getting gigs, which meant he never got the recognition he deserves.

More recently, after my move to the US, he helped me and Wendy with our small group tours of Scotland and Ireland. As an excellent driver he was the natural choice to drive the minivan, but he quickly turned into joint tour guide. His running commentaries along the way after I ran out of wind and stories endeared him to everyone and he stayed in touch with many folk over here.

I would usually fly over to Edinburgh a few days beforehand, rent a car, drive to Colin’s house where he’d feed me mince and tatties. Then use his place as my base for visiting friends and family, before we’d pick up the minivan at the end, just before the tour started. During these evenings we’d feed each other our favorite YouTube discoveries which always included this –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYwbpCm2apA

Back in the 1960s I bought a very early MGB Roadster and eventually sold it to Colin, who did lots of refurbishing. Eventually he sold it back to me and it crossed the Atlantic! Our mutual friend David bought it from me as a birthday gift for his wife Susan and it is currently being completely rebuilt in North Carolina – – – it’s in this video and so is Colin!

I was right in the middle of recording a radio show about his friend and mentor Arthur Argo when I got the message that Wendy needed to speak to me urgently!

I was stunned by her news that Colin had just died. I’m obviously of an age now when I’m bound to lose old friends (or them me), but this was a real jolt. I still can’t quite believe it.

Driving home this morning after recording the radio shows I remembered that my black funeral suit is hanging in his guest room closet – – -along with so many memories.

Rest in Peace Colin. No one deserves it more.

 

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