Tag Archives: old friends

Old Friends are the Best

Jack’s weekly guest post falls on a Friday this year because Wendy is snowed under with some editing.

I’ve found that as I get to the age I am now and various old friends are passing on, you begin to really value the ones who are still around. One reason why I organize a tour of Scotland every year is so I can meet up with them and, in some cases, re-connect with folks I’d lost touch with.


Right now I’m sitting in the home of one old friend and chatting with him and two others. In the last few days I’ve met up with so many that I’m close to overwhelmed!


Starting with Derek Hutton who passed on to me historic recordings of the folk club in Dunfermline. Then to Jane Yolen in St. Andrews for afternoon tea in her wonderful arts and crafts house and excellent conversation. On to Linda in New Gilston, where Wendy and I lived for 5 years and a relaxed early evening of memories and village gossip. Finally to Sandy and Elma Stanage in Kilconquhar (pronounced Kinnyuchar) and more memories and catch up.


Yesterday evening was dinner in Edinburgh with another old friend. Barbara Dickson is my old singing partner from the 1960s and headlined Big Stone Celtic two years ago. She loved her time in Big Stone Gap and is coming back this year. So lots of laughs about her visit and much harking back to the old days as well.


Today my friend Colin and I drove over to Edinburgh for lunch with Dolina McLennan, who I first met in 1960 and the great surprise that she had also invited yet another old friend who has visited Big Stone – Bill Hill (most famous as the composer of a much loved song called ‘The Portree Kid’).


But I’m not finished yet because tomorrow, after the bus for my tour has been collected and checked out, I will be having supper with Mike Morris who was the guy who recruited me into college teaching. His son owns a used book store in England and Mike spends his time haunting estate sales and auctions as an agent for his son’s shop. We will be sharing lots of memories too.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch


Jack’s guest post this week – delayed by his ripping out an old closet in the bookstore

We’ve been entertaining friends both old and new recently and it has gotten me thinking.


Old friends like fiddler Pete Clark, who played, like me, in the Scottish folk band Heritage from the mid 1970s through the early 1990s and comes originally also like me, from Dunfermline, help connect me to my roots. But I also have old friends now here in Appalachia and they connect me to this community and make me feel I have started to establish roots here.


Just last weekend Pete was here staying with us and playing a house concert on Saturday night. Of course we spent time reminiscing and laughing about adventures we had touring around Europe with the band. But Pete was over with an accordionist – Gregor Lowrie. I’d never met Gregor before but we hit it off famously and so – a new friend.


In attendance on Saturday was an old local friend, Ron Short – also a highly regarded musician. Now, both Pete and Gregor are very keen anglers and wanted advice on where they might go on Sunday. It turned out that Ron is also a keen fisherman and he agreed to take them out on the local lake, turning up shortly after lunch complete with a small boat and spent the rest of the day with them.


Of course the folk who came to the concert included folk we knew well and others who were complete strangers. By the end no-one was a stranger, however.


I suppose I’m a fairly gregarious creature but I love both the company of old friends, the making of new ones, and even acting as the catalyst for bringing both together at times.


Finally, there’s another great thing about friendship. There’s something special about re-making friendships. We break relationships either through distance, career diversion and even long forgotten disputes. I consider myself very fortunate despite being guilty of all these to have reconnected closely with old friends over the last few years.


So value your friends and look after your relationships.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Wendy Welch

So Happy Together

Don’t forget the Author Humiliation contest ends Sunday, June 29. Send entries to jbeck69087@aol.com. Scroll back to Monday’s blog for the rules, and have fun!

I have arrived in Scotland, with many thanks to Kelly and Rachel Saderholm, the mother-daughter team minding our bookshop while Jack and I are making holiday.

First thing Jack and I did was make a bee-line for Jean and Davy’s place. Jean and Davy served as second parents to me during the seven years (and a day) we lived in Scotland, and I was so delighted to see her again.Digital Camera Jean is the woman who advised me, “Be yourself in Scotland. People here will be seeing ‘an American.’ Just be Wendy, and let them figure it out.”

Time has taken its payments; Jean is moving with difficulty and the aid of wheeled things. Her husband Davy has left behind this mortal coil in all but body; an artist whose paintings were exhibited internationally, Davy’s mind is now living in some of the abstract worlds he brought to canvas.

As Jean and I joked, talking to him now isn’t that different than talking to him then.

Skipping the part where one pontificates or waxes philosphical on the ravages of time, or the lasting bonds of friendship – it was just ever so lovely to see Jean again. I look forward to the rest of our holiday, but when your best day is the first, because it mattered most, well, icing on the cake is very sweet.Digital Camera


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Filed under Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

A Feast fit for Bibliophiles

The last stop on loop two of the book tour was Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Women’s National Book Association held a Bibliofeast in honor of Book Month.

I didn’t know much about the place before we got here, but Helen, a friend from college, is a member of the corporate culture and explained that Charlotte ranks only behind New York City and San Francisco as the leading financial district in America. Catching up with Helen—who in the intervening 20 years has risen in her field and raised two teenagers—was grand fun; we used to tease each other mercilessly, me the journalism major bent on “uncovering truth,” she the logistics and transport businesswoman who always won arguments by pointing out I could write all the truth I wanted, but if her trucks didn’t deliver it, it affected diddly. We agreed that the Internet had changed both our professions considerably since those earnest and robust exchanges.

(Helen also generously got us a hotel room with her “points” at Hampton Suites, where a flat screen TV embedded in the bathroom mirror faced a garden tub 3 feet around. Oh, that was fun. Thanks, Helen!)

But the bulk of the night was given to the Bibliofeast; eight writers, from mystery to memoir, gathered to spend 15 minutes per table with aspiring authors and bibliophiles from the region, talking about writing in general and our books specifically, then fielding questions.

One person asked, “When did you know you were going to be an author?” and I answered, “When my agent called me.” The women laughed, but it sparked a discussion that continued at the other tables. Most of the participants were shaping books in their minds. They wanted to know what had sparked mine, and I echoed Joan Didion, that we write to organize our thoughts, to find out what we know.

And we write because it’s fun. Musicians create music, sculptures fashion substances, cooks craft food. Everybody’s got a medium. If yours is writing, you write because it’s there. I’m not kidding, and I’m not waxing eloquent. To paraphrase a whole lot of authors over the years, the best way to tell if you’re a writer is to look down and see if you’re writing. Writers write the way runners run; it happens because you protect the time, give up other things to do it, without really thinking you’re making a decision. Even if you never publish, you write when you’re thinking the same the way you drink water when you’re thirsty or call a friend when you’re lonely. You write because you need to, want to, like to; it doesn’t feel so much like a choice as a way of life.

However, you publish because you want other people to read and like what you wrote—or because you can, or because you hope for money or recognition. (Oh, honey, let me buy you a cup of coffee and let’s chat about that last bit.) That’s different than writing; for one thing, there’s a helluva lotta marketing lurking below the surface, which most of us are not innately good at.

That was the biggest common theme at the tables of the Bibliofeast, an intimate night with lovely women–to a man, we were women, with the exception of one author who looked more and more uncomfortable as the night wore on–who had a lot of thoughts but not a lot of time to get them on paper: that the urge, the internal nudge to write is the biggest signal that one should, and its own justification.

Just write it down. Get started. Have fun. Go.

Jack and Wendy will be Malaprop’s in Asheville, NC this Sunday at 3 and in The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC Monday at 6, if you or your friends and relations would like to come say hi. Jack brought his homemade shortbread.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized