Not Quite a Diva

So the Celtic Festival is upon us, which explains why neither Jack nor Wendy can get a blog post out between getting the flags and signs to each venue, handing out towels to musicians overflowing the bookstore – I don’t even know the names of the guys sleeping in the Science Fiction section – and feeding the foster cats. dickson

Actually, herding the cats and herding the musicians is much of a muchness……

It’s all bedlam and bagpipes right now, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, but the cat rescue¬† still needs to be looked after. Appalachian Feline Friends is primarily a foster organization, but has a small place where we hold cats between leaving the local shelter and entering foster or forever families. AFF had an unexpected and urgent opportunity to empty four cages from the shelter, so in the midst of all the musical mayhem, when a fellow cat lover was able to pull them, I needed to figure out how to get the kitties into the holding tank by myself, since Jack was up to his eyebrows in parade plans.

Enter Barbara Dickson, singer-guitarist extraordinaire and this year’s festival headliner. She and Jack are old friends, from their shared hometown of Dunfermline, Fife. When I called the bookstore from the vet’s office to see if anyone had ten minutes to spare, I was told “Barbara will meet you out front.” She marched herself into the car, settled one of the carriers on her lap, and said, “Right, we’re off.”

At the holding tank, I warned her that there might be a certain catishness to the place, and she waved a hand. When I opened the door, she took a sniff and said, “Right. Where’s the broom and the mop bucket?”

For the next hour and a half, as I fed and watered and cuddled kitties, Barbara swept, mopped, and cleaned up suspicious stains. We had a blast. When I thanked her profusely, she said, “Pff. I love cats.”

And the next day, Barbara put on a dress, put up her hair, and delivered a standing ovation concert to open the Big Stone Celtic Festival.

She’s a woman like that.

You can hear one of Barbara’s Friday night songs here: Big Stone Celtic Day.

“I Met Ernest Hemingway Once”

hemingwayJack’s weekly guest blog

When you live in a bookstore you are continually passing by loads and loads of book spines with titles, and every so often one that evokes a memory from a far off time. Just the other day I noticed a Hemingway and was transported back – – –

One of my close friends back in Scotland (sadly now deceased) was John Watt, a fine and knowledgeable singer of traditional Scots songs and writer of many fine songs–so fine, in fact, that they were repeatedly mistaken for traditional numbers.

In the 1980s John got a grant to work with some retired Fife coalminers who had gone off to fight in the Spanish Civil War, recording their experiences and memories of the time. One of them was a colorful local character named Hugh Sloan; Hugh tended to mumble, so John almost missed it one day when he said, “…and I met Ernest Hemingway.” John knew, of course, that Hemingway had been a war correspondent in Spain at that time, so he asked Hugh to back up and give him more details.

Here is Hugh Sloan’s story as recounted by John Watt to me (with some translation from Scots to English where necessary) –

I was up in Burgos in the north, with the international brigade fighting for the Republicans against Franco’s fascists. We came under heavy attack and the order was given “tae get oot the wummin and bairns” (evacuate the women and children). I was sent to the square “tae get them oan the lorries” (assist them onto the trucks). When I got there the first lorry was loading and I saw a young guy sitting on the tailgate.

“So a said tae him – ‘get aff.’ An’ tha’ was Hemingway.”

Realizing that, from Hugh’s point of view, the story was over, John then asked if Hugh had had any further conversation with Hemingway.

“Oh aye” (why, yes) – I said “Ah’ve telt ye wance – get aff the f***in’ lorry” (I’ve already asked you once – please descend from the f***ing truck).

Again, a pause. John asked, “What happened?”

“He wudnae get aff.”

John: (sighing) So you left him there?

Oh aye, nae – Ah had this revolver in a holster at ma hip, so ah undid the clasp, took oot the gun, held it against his heid and said “see you – if ye dinna get aff this f***in’ lorry ah’ll blaw yir f***in’ brains oot!” (translation probably no longer necessary).

John: So, did he get off?

Oh aye – he got aff.

Just in case, John asked Hugh if he’d had any other words with Hemingway, but apparently that was all of it. So now you know.