Monday, 29 November 2010


The voluminous misinformation floating in the ether about various bands I have been in or have co-founded over the years never ceases to amuse me. I often prefer the mythological accounts to the actual happenings. However, I thought I would do a few brief real histories just for the record, starting with the above named and moving on to Cops n Robbers, Oatcake Billy’s Ideal Band, Boneshaker, et al in later postings.

Here we go then: Once upon a time me, Lynda and Jack moved into an old cottage by the Trent and Mersey canal at Church Lawton. Lynda and I had bought the place from Paul Atterbury – he of the Antiques Roadshow.

Up the dirt track from that little house and across the main road stands Red Bull, or ‘Bottom Bull’ as it was then known locally, there being another Red Bull higher up the same road. The Bottom Bull being the closest boozer to us became my local and I went across for a swift pint of Robinson’s most nights of the week.

In those days the Bull was run by an Irish guy called Colin Meany who provided it with a great juke box which was particularly well-fed on Friday nights by the perfumed and sharply-dressed hoards who were downing a few cheap uns priming themselves for their forays into the night clubs of Hanley and Sandbach. I first heard ‘Sultans of Swing’ on Colin’s juke box so I reckon that’d place these events circa 1979.

Soon after we arrived, The Bull was taken over by an ex-policeman from Manchester, John Higham. A right character and no mistake, enraged or chummy by turns of an inner switch that few understood the workings of. John, in a friendly mood, put a jazz band on in the upstairs function room on Friday nights and switched off the juke box.

Around this time, Lynda bought half a pony. No, no, no, she’s vegetarian. The pony was very alive and, unfortunately, very kicking. Its other half (which I preferred to think of as the back half) was owned for by our sister-in-law Marion.

No sooner had this palomino yearling with the golden body and white flashing mane been installed in the field we rented that ran alongside our garden, than Lynda discovered, to our great delight, that she was pregnant. But, this meant that I was now in charge of her half of the pony. Ooops.

You see, I have a cattle phobia. No really. This is to say that in snnnn pite of my first two jobs being labouring on farms, one of which was a dairy farm on which I helped with the daily milking, I have a cattle phobia.

Yeah, OK, I know horses aren’t much like cows in many ways, but sadly my cattle phobia was generous enough to embrace the family of the noble steed too. Needless to say embracing a horse was absolutely the last thing wanted to do however pretty our prancing little ‘Sunny’ might have happened to be. And deceptively cute he was too.

Oddly enough, me and Sunny got along all right. I learnt as much as I could about horses from books and from horse people and, of course, from Sunny. I broke him to the bit, lunged him, drove him in long reins around the field and along the road. We had a great time, man and horse. I could back him up for as long as I wished just by putting one finger on his nose and gently telling him, ‘Back up. Back up.’ I was no longer afraid of horses.

Then the cute little prancing b*****d broke my shoulder blade. But that’s another story.

In the evenings after tea, the extended family would share in the training and grooming of the pony. Finally, I’d put a hay net up in his stable for him and swan over to the Red Bull for my customary jar. I had my own pot behind the bar which the bar man would pull a pint into as soon as he saw me crossing the road.

Landlord John Higham was suspicious of me at first. Well, I did go over there very obviously having had recent dealings with a horse. I was told later that he asked Ken, one of his regulars, about me. Ken said, ‘Terry? He’s a bit of a gypo, but he’s all right.’ which is one of the best reviews I’ve ever had.

Not only did John allow me to carry on drinking in his pub, but he also picked me up most days from Kidsgrove station in his beautiful, royal blue, old-style Rolls Royce. OK, more accurately, he picked his daughter up at the end of her school day from Kidsgrove station and if I happened to be on the same train as her he’d give me a lift too.

On one such occasion we were purring along the Congleton Road when John asked me, ‘Know of any good folk bands?’
‘Why? What have you got in mind?’
‘That jazz band I’ve got is taking the piss, he said. ‘They’re turning up later and later and they keep asking for more money.’
‘What, exactly you looking for with a folk band then?’
‘I dunno, something like a four or five-piece group to knock out a few tunes and a few songs. I’ll give ‘em a fiver each and free beer.’

I told Lynda about John’s enquiry as soon as I got in. Should we put something together for him? Lynda was well up it and suggested we brought in Adrian and Sheila Crosbie, our mates from Oatcake Billy’s Ideal Band. A perfect choice. I’d been playing the fiddle for a few months and Adrian had been showing me how to go on with it.

The plan became this: Croz and me on fiddles – master and apprentice - Lynda doing her magic tambourine and percussion, Sheila playing sparkling hammered dulcimer. We would play tunes from the English fiddling tradition interspersed with traditional English folk songs for 3 x 30 min sets every Friday night upstairs at the Bull. Sorted.

We asked our Jack if was interested, but he was playing lead guitar in a punk band at the time and said, ‘Nah. Sorry.’ He did agree, though, to play with us until we could get a replacement rhythm player.

Having a juggling with countryside names and morris dancing terms, I came up with the name ‘Heymaker’. I went over the Bull and told John I’d found him just the right band for his job. We started there on the following Friday.

We had Jack turn the treble right up on his guitar to get it to sound more like an acoustic banjo and away we went. Lynda did most of the singing. I did a couple of songs and so did Sheila.

Talk about an instant success! Blimey, we ended up pulling such crowds that John thought he might have overdone it. We loved it. A hassle-free gig in our own locale. I have to say it’s the only gig I have ever had where I transported the gear to it and from it by wheelbarrow. Happy days, doods.

Things never stand still do they? In time we added a bass player and a drummer and got a bit louder and more electric. A predominance of bikers began showing up in our audiences – something about our particular take on music had caught their imagination. John Higham, however, wasn’t happy with this new clientele and would insist they took off their leather jackets if they wanted to come in to see us. Neither they nor we were happy with that.

One New Years Eve at the Red Bull, John hired Heymaker to play for their annual ticket-only Fancy Dress Party. The turn out was a-mazing. Everybody took the fancy dress theme seriously, including grumpy Old Harry next door who decided to come dressed as an angel complete with large wire-and-net-curtain wings. 1981 it was.

Our Amy had been born early on in the year before. I’m her dad and I’m bound to think this, I suppose, but she was the most wonderful little person ever to grace our planet and still is. She was barely two years old and sat there with her eyes wide open with wonder and a great big smile lighting up her face watching Micky Mouse dance with Lady Godiva; a cavemen dancing with a fairy princesses and Old Harry the angel lurching around with a pint in his hand and his halo slipping of his head.

Lynda was doing fewer vocals now as her time was monopolised by looking after our Amy who, for the first year of her life wanted only her mother and nothing but her mother. Lynda was terrific with her too. But it meant that the majority of the vocals were being done by me. Not my original intention. I’m no singer so I thought I’d better write a few songs that I could handle reasonably well: If Yer Working Class, Nellie, Justice For the Lads – that kind of thing.

Heymaker rapidly went all-electric. Our previous New Orleans-style and superb drummer, Cyrano Slater, left because he didn’t want the burden of having to remember the arrangements we were now dreaming up and we replaced him at Jack’s suggestion with the equally wonderful rock drummer Kevin Thompkinson. We brought in Tufty, one of my workmates at Simon-Hartley’s on bass guitar.

Croz and Sheila had bowed out during these changes preferring to continue along their acoustic path. Our Jack had opted to stay with us now that Kev was on the drummer’s stool and we were playing rockier material.

Jack and I set about writing some new material together. Our first writing collaboration was Sunshade Smiling Friday. I wrote the lyric and Jack come up with an appropriate chord sequence and Heymaker collectively hammered out an arrangement.

I hate doing recordings. I’m too erratic to be able to play though a whole piece without one error or another, but I do have an old tape recording of an early version of this song and Jack’s lead playing on it is awesome.

Anyway, back to the New Years Eve gig: I joined in with the fancy dress taking the easiest way out by going as tramp (being half way there already in those days). I stuck an old top hat on my head to complete my ‘Gentleman of the Road’ image and went across the Bull to front the band. When our mate Pete Carter saw me, he gave me some instant advice, ‘You should wear that top hat all the time, Terry. People’ll know not to take you seriously when you're wearing that.’ (!) I took his advice and my top hat became a Heymaker trademark.

Heymaker and John Higham had a amicable parting of the ways. Me and Lynda continued to do a bit of acoustic stuff for him and we brought in Eoghan O’Riley to play melodeon and tin whistle with us, but Heymaker was now homeless.

I called in to the Bridge Arts Centre in Newcastle under Lyme one evening - then run by a big friend of the local folk scene: Cyril Lawton. I asked Cytil, ‘Got any spare nights?’
‘You can have Mondays,’ he said. Simple as that, doods. And thus Heymaker found a new home at the Bridge Street Arts Centre. Monday nights, Heymaker nights, became Bridge Street’s biggest night of the week. More happy days.

Soon after moving to Bridge Street we had that little bit of luck that all bands need: Two biker friends from the Red Bull, Jackie and Bill, were getting married and called round to our cottage to ask if Heymaker would play for their nuptial celebs.

On their wedding day it turned out that the girlfriend of Bill’s best man was a journalist for the biker mag Back Street Heroes. She raved about Heymaker and wrote a short review bigging us along with a photo and published it in the mag.

Before you could say, 'flog my hard-tailed hog', Bridge Street was awash with bikers and Heymaker became bike rally favourites along with Chrome Molly, Engine, Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts and other such distinguished biker bands. Happy happy days.

In honour of our new friends I wrote the song Back Street Heroes:

Knights of the MyWay code,
Famous in the back rows
Back Street Heroes

Lords of the high roads
Kings of the gypoes
Back Street Heroes

Doctors of Philosophy
Wizards of metallurgy
Back Street Heroes

Defy the law of gravity
Ride the wheels of destiny
Back Street Heroes

Back street hero and heroine
May your wheels forever spin
May you ride ever free
May you live this life righteously

Who is there who would not be
Among such nobility?

Do you know, apart from the DangerMouse RC John Clucas Memorial Gig we played in 2007 after a long period of inactivity, I can’t remember how Heymaker ended?

Heymaker just slowly disintegrated, I suppose, having served its time. That happens with bands sometimes. Everybody gradually drifts off into other things.

Heymaker’s line-up for the John Clucas gig was:

Me, vocals, electric fiddle
Neil Hulse, telecaster
Phil Johnson, bass guitar, backing vocals
Mickey Gibson, drums, backing vocals

Heymaker’s most-gigging and most-enduring line-up was:

Me – vocals, electric fiddle, tin whistle
Lynda Fox – vocals, keyboards, tambourine, bodhran
Jack Fox – rhythm/lead guitar, backing vocals
Phil Johnson – bass guitar, backing vocals
Micky Gibson – drums, backing vocals

We were best when aided and abetted by Winky who provided us with great off-stage sound mixing and awesome lighting.

Heymaker’s drummers have been:

Cyrano Slater
Reg Banks
Avron White
Kevin Thompkinson
Pete Coppard
John Carol
Micky Gibson

Our bass guitarists have been:

Tufty from Simon-Hartley
Trevor Pinson
Phil Johnson
Steve West
Steve from Stone
Jack Fox
Sam Mawby

Other regulars have been:

Eoghan O’Riley – melodeon, tin whistle
Adam Fenn - electric mandolin, tin whistle
Geoff Walton - electric bouzouki, electric guitar

Backing vocalists (dubbed "the Heyettes" by fans) have been:

Jane Woolley
Eve Woolley
Lisa Nicklass
Sue Shepherd

Biker Simon Billings (R.I.P) joined us on keyboards for a series of gigs when Lynda was not able to be with us.


So that’s how it was folks: Heymaker was co-founded by Lynda and me way back in 1979 and lasted – with short and long gaps – until 2007.

Our most requested and best-remembered songs have proved to be Jack’s and my collaborations: Rhythmic Habits, and Sunshade Smiling Friday and my songs You’ve Got It All, Be My Violin and Back Street Heroes.

The story is told, o readers, the story is told.

We got the sad news today of the passing away of our one-time bass player and backing vocalist Steve West. Steve went on to find success as solo singer/comedian Steve Chicane. Rest in peace, mate.

Here's thanks to all Heymaker friends and fans throughout its history. It was righteous, wasn't it? The band is gone, but the songs live on in StringFing.

Travel safe,


Saturday, 9 October 2010


One of my students has just sent me a message:

Look who's coming to the MMU. Caryl Phillips
22 October, 2010, MMU, Geoff Manton Building, Manchester
Novelist and Yale University professor Caryl Phillips. Talk and questions.


Having gratuitously decreed (in spite of protests from more forward-thinking minds than theirs) that I'm too old to any longer be a member of their teaching staff, the MMU have added insult to injury by following this up with the hiring Prof. C. Phillips to come to the MMU in Manchester as a special celebrity writer and academic.

For those of you new to this blog, Caryl Phillips is the bloke who (shall we say) leaned so heavily – without acknowledgement - on my book Battling Jack for the text to the Made in Wales section of his book Foreigners that I thought his publishers, Random House, would be as shocked and disgusted as I was when the similarities were pointed out to them.

I truly thought that they might panic when they concluded that if Caryl Phillips had done produced his writing in this way on this occasion, then perhaps this was the way he had always worked. ‘Wow!’ I thought they would think, ‘This puts the whole canon of Phillips’s work into question!’

NOT A BIT OF IT, me old chinas. NOT A BIT OF IT

In the course of my protestations, Phillips’s legal representative at Random House actually warned me that I was making statements ‘injurious to Mr. Phillips’. 'Hmmm,' I thought at the time, 'that ain’t quite the same as saying the statements I'm making are untrue though, is it?

The upcoming MMU event is so close on the heels of dear old Jack Turpin’s funeral that it is especially upsetting to his family just as it is to me.

FOR THE PURPOSE OF ACADEMIC ENQUIRY ONLY I’ll give you an example of the textual similarities which have caused the upset.

Please note that BlogSpot though perfectly fine for blogging has certain limitations of presentation which prevent me from laying out the following text in the precise positions they hold in their publications. The statue inscriptions, for instance, are centred in the books. You would be advised to look at the published books to get the full weight of similarity.

Here is my text, in Jack’s voice, from Battling Jack published in 2005:

“. . . There was me brother, middleweight champion of the world, the man who’d brought about the twentieth century’s biggest upset in boxing, in his moment of triumph, standing 8 ft 6 in. tall, on a 5-ft stone plinth. On the bronze plaque below his feet:

In Palace, Pub, And Parlour,
The Whole Of Britain Held Its Breath

I thought to meself, ‘You’ve done a marvellous job there, Terry. That’s just right.’
Underneath that it’s got:

Celer Et Audax.

Latin for ‘Swift and Bold’ – the motto of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps who me dad fought with for the freedom of all British people, . . .”


Here is Phillips’s text in the Made in Wales section of his book Foreigners published two years later in 2007:

“. . . In 2001, exactly fifty years after Turpin shocked the world and defeated Sugar Ray Robinson, an imposing 8’6” statue of Randolph Turpin in boxing pose, on a five feet high stone plinth, was unveiled in the centre of Warwick. On the bronze plaque below his feet are inscribed the words:

In Palace, Pub, And Parlour The Whole of (sic) Britain
Held Its Breath.

And beneath this ‘Celer Et Audax’ – Latin for ‘Swift and Bold’ – the motto of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps with whom Turpin’s father served during the First World War . . .’


To me, that not only sounds similar, it looks similar too.

This posting by someone called Dave appeared on the Leamington Guide website on 19th October 2008, 12:37 am:

‘. . . i (sic) went to my local library to see what this "Battling Jack" was about... where in this book does it state that it's "non-fiction"? there is a book by Caryl Phillips titled "Foreigners" that she (the ‘she’ Dave refers here to is Jack’s granddaughter Lydia) should read as there are passages identical to that in Batttling Jack so who copied who? . . .”

I think you’ve got your answer, Dave.

Now then, I wrote Battling Jack in Jack’s voice because not only are Jack’s life and Jack’s life stories his own intellectual property, but my aim and intention was to recreate for the reader what it was like, in my experience, to spend time with Jack as his audience, friend and confidante.

Here's something for Mr. Phillips, his researcher, his Random House editor and his Random House legal team:

When I asked Jack what he thought were the proportions of Randolph’s statue, his estimate was that the bronze figure was 20-ft high and stood on a ten foot plinth.

It was clear to me that his perceived exaggeration of the size of the tribute to the brother he loved was a psychological measure of the huge love and esteem he held his brother in.

Jack straightway realised his own fairly wild over-estimate of Carl Payne’s creation and modified it to, ‘Well, no, I should say it’s about 8’ 6” for Randolph and 5 foot for the plinth.’

I left it at that.

My belief is that a reader of Battling Jack with any empathy and intelligence at all will quickly catch on to Jack’s vibe and instinctively know when Jack is exaggerating and when he is not. Just like you would do if you had actually met up with him for a chat (which Prof. Phillips has not).

Mr. Phillips is apparently not such a reader as Mr. Phillips is repeating Jack’s exaggerations as if they are fact and is repeating them in his own voice - the voice of a sober academic, a now Professor of Yale University. Doh!

The real measurement of Carl Payne’s bronze stature is: 6' 7" from the top of the stone plinth to the top of Randolph’s head. The plinth is 4-ft high at the front and 4 ft 2" at the back.

These proportions have long been known to me. Carl is a family friend. I was in at the beginning of his statue commission and followed it all the way through. It is through my involvement with Carl's commission that I met Jackie Turpin.

Adrian Bush, President of the Randolph Turpin Memorial Fund, decent fellow that he is, climbed up on the Warwick statue on a rainy day recently to verify these measurements, so: Doh! again Professor.

Ah, but there are many other examples of similarity between the two texts that I will not bore you with here.

During the course of my written exchange with Prof. Phillips, he claimed that Randolph’s two elder daughters are happy with his Made in Wales section of Foreigners.

I spoke to them both at Jack’s funeral – and wonderful women they are too, Randolph would have been really proud of them – and told them I had been in communication with a friend of theirs, Caryl Phillips.

‘He is no friend of ours,’ I was quickly told by the first daughter in tones that left me in absolutely no doubt of her sincerity. The second daughter came in with, ‘In fact we are very cross with Mr. Phillips.’

They went on to describe how Caryl Phillips had published things they had told him only in confidence and did so even after they had secured a promise from him that he would remove them from his final text. Doh! yet again Prof.

So, Prof., if you are reading this, and I hope you are, have a good gig at the MMU on the 22nd. You will easily recognise the Geoff Manton Building: It’s 4,078’ 9 ½” high standing on some 867-foot stone steps. Mind how you go.


The inscription on Carl Payne’s statue of Randolph, by the way, is a line taken from my song, Champion of the World, my personal tribute to Randolph’s great achievement in 1951. Come along to a StringFing gig. We often include that one.


Got to shoot off now. I promise a happier posting next time about an old mate of Lynda's and mine showing up at my National Poetry Day gig.

Tra a bit,


Sunday, 3 October 2010


Hooray! I’ve finally been cured of my need to watch X-Factor! Hooray, hoorah, and hooray again!

I had been compelled by its magnetic ugliness for far too long.

X-Factor is staged with the sole aim of producing a TV show with money-makingly high ratings and hugely profitable spin-off merchandising opportunities.

Its participants are pawns in a giant game of chess. On one side of the table are the ever-hungry Mr. Cowell and his cohorts, and on the other side is the ever-hungry British TV-viewing public.

As every chess player knows, you have to sacrifice a few pawns in the pursuit of every win (and occasionally a queen, Lynda suggested when she read this).

Some of those taking part in X-Factor Chess might happen to receive benefit – even great benefit - from occupying the board, but, make no mistake, that is NOT the point of play. The point is, of course, the cheque, mate.

Embarrassingly, a couple of X-Factor victims have been students of mine from the MMU (you know who you are, M and D. Well no, sadly, you don’t, do you? You wouldn’t have done the X-Factor in the first place if you did).

But, ha!! No more shall I succumb to its guilt-inducing shows that have had me chuckling at its exploitation of the mentally ill.

No longer shall I have to hang my head in shame after finding myself laughing along with the bullyboy’s gang as the spotlight is turned on the next deluded one to be shoved out to croak and squirm under the hot, panting breath of the judges, and the cold, unforgiving eye of TV cameras.

Never again shall I have to witness the false bonhomie of the X-Factor's unenviable pontificating panel to whom fame and money are never enough; to whom the prospect of getting old is so terrifying they have themselves surgically disguised as younger people.

CUE: StringFing playing the intro to Somewhere in the Night

ENTER: The GRIM REAPER. He speaks from deep within his hood.

“Ah, but inside yourselves, my starry-starry doods, inside yourselves you are older than ever before, and so it goes on and on and on and on like that until you are mine.”

Curtains close as the skeletons in the cupboards of past X-Factor contestants sing: ‘Somewhere in the night violins are playing / The melody lingers, but it won’t be staying’.

If you can’t live with death, you can’t live with life, I say (Oooops! There wasn’t a faintly pleading quality to my voice just then, was there?).

How has this cure of mine been so dramatically accomplished?

How have I, apparently magically, been released from enslavement to my hideous and boorish tippex-toothed master?

I’ll tell you how:

he has brought Sharon Osbourne back in,

that’s how.

Once glimpse of her, one note of her voice was the combined emetic and enema this patient needed. A single moment of chain-shattering (yes, the resonance is intentional), unutterable horror, then: CURED! Wonderful!

Now then, I wonder if there are any crane flies handy that need their legs pulling off?



Friday, 1 October 2010

Jo Bell. Have a Go Jo, Come and Have a Go . . .

Hey ho doods, turns out that they have finally given the Year 1 poetry strand of my old MMU job to Jo Bell. It’s Jo’s first venture into higher ed tutoring, apparently, so all good wishes to her from me. I’ve met Jo a few times and she looks young enough not to have to tread in fear of the MMUC's ageist policy – for a year or two anyway :-)


People have been asking for the lyric to this song of mine about the Sneyd Colliery Explosion in 1942.

This event, although belonging to what feels like an entirely different world, is still in living memory. I recently met a fella who was a 17-year-old lad at the time of it and remembers it well as well he might. He escaped the tragedy as he worked a different shift to the victims.

I know I told the story of the Sneyd disaster in an earlier blog, but did not (in so far as I can remember and I'm feeling far too idle right now to check it out) actually post the words, so here they are:


He who dares cut the coal, old pitmen say,
On a New Years Day
Has a wife make his snappin’, a widow take his pay
On a New Years Day

Bomber planes are flying, back to work it is
On a New Years Day
Sally stop your crying, give me one more kiss
On a New Years Day

The winding wheel is turning, the cage at the drift
On a New Years Day
Collier lads and Bevin Boys start their morning shift
On a New Years Day

At the Banbury Crut jig a rope begins to fray
On a New Years Day
The air is choked with powdered coal, the coal tubs runaway
On a New Years Day

The first down-coming tub scrapes up a spark
On a New Years Day
A coal dust blast rips apart the dark
On a New Years Day

At the pithead wives are waiting in sorrow and in grief
On a New Years Day
Their silence only broken by words of disbelief
On a New Years Day

Collier wives and Bevin Boys and boys in soldier suits
On a New Years Day
When bells ring out for war, we are all recruits
On a New Years Day

When the names are numbered, the roll of honour called
On a New Years Day
To the spoil heaps of the battlefields add fifty-seven more
On a New Years Day

© W. Terry Fox

If you want to actually hear this song sung, come to see StringFing at the New Inn, Derby Street, Hanley, on the evening of Thursday, October 21st. I have promised to put OANYD into our programme. Come down anyway even if you don’t want to hear it sung. You’ll be among some of the finest people walking this whole round earth – excluding the band of course.

May your steps be light and lead you along the road to happiness,


Monday, 27 September 2010


Hey, like I said before, on NATIONAL POETRY DAYThursday October 7th 2010 – I will be giving a reading at NANTWICH LIBRARY on this year’s theme of HOME.

This means I will be reading poems of my nearest and dearest, and reading from Village Verse my collection of poems about my beloved Mow Cop.

The event will begin at 2pm and extend for about an hour.

You will be made most welcome and I am looking forward to a good time there.

I just wanted to remind you to come along.

Each year for the past five years, on the Friday of Fresher’s Week, along with my Writing colleagues at MMU Cheshire, I have had the joy of taking the new intake of Writing undergraduates to Mow Cop and Mount Pleasant Village Hall to give a short talk on the history Mow Cop and to read them some of my Mow Cop poems.

We then all troop up to the top of Mow to have a look at the places the poems have been about. The students take notes and then we all pile off back to the village hall for them to do some writing of their own.

It’s all to do with having a larf, facilitating them getting to know each other, and to remind all us writers of the importance of a sense of place in our writing. It is always a pleasure and good fun to boot and this year's do (Friday 24th September) was no exception.

It was a particularly poignant occasion for me seeing as ‘ow I’ve been forbidden any teaching on campus any more. This year’s students are a great bunch – more of them than usual too – and I really really envy my colleagues teaching them.

Only me and Julie could make it up there this year. I managed to seriously mis-direct the coach driver by taking him up the wrong road for a coach and getting us stuck. The driver was a top human being – stoic and patient – and with great skill, managed to bale us out of the predicament I had placed us in with a 1,000 point turn and a bit of pavement scraping.

The photo was taken on an earlier Mow Cop expedition by my friend and colleague Heather. One of the figures is known locally as: The Old Man of Mow.

So get along to Nantwich Library on National Poetry Day if you possibly can.

In the meantime, may all your roads be smooth, well-lit, safe and wide enough; may all your loads be light.


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Replies to Messages

This is a first: 2 days blogging on the trot! Told you it was becoming an obsession. Soon I'll only have time for writing my blog which will, of course, consequently be mainly about writing my blog. Just wanted to say:

Angie from Neston: Thanks, mate, I'm glad you like StringFing.

Paddy: Email me about your poetry evening. I'll make it if I can.

Robert from Stoke: Thanks Robert. I'm really pleased you like StringFing. May your lum reek too me old sunshine.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Tortoise and the Twizzlebird

You know that old story about the tortoise who was mugged by a gang of slugs? When the police interviewed him afterwards they asked him to describe exactly what had happened. The tortoise said, ‘It’s difficult to say, really. It all happened so fast.’ Well, that’s me and this blog. It’s difficult to say what’s been going on in my life as it all happens so fast.

I told the above joke when StringFing went to Neston Library up on the Wirral near Parkgate. Some jokes come to my mind and I hear myself telling them over and over. It must be cuz I'm a dad - comes with the territory. I love the people on the Wirral and I'm particularly fond of Neston Library and its staff.

Parkgate is the scene of what must be the biggest heist in history: One dark night, some Welsh geezers tip-toed over to Parkgate and nicked the River Dee. If you don't believe me go to Parkgate and have a look.


Way back to my last entry, the world had just lost my mate Jackie Turpin. I promised to post what I said at his funeral:


He was not a boastful man, John Matthew Turpin Senior, Battling Jack. When he spoke to me of his professional boxing career it was to tell me how good his brothers Dick and Randolph were, or to tell me something to make me laugh.

When he told me about his service with the Royal Navy in the Second World War, on a destroyer ploughing through the Arctic seas guarding the Russian convoys, it was to tell me how brave he had NOT felt in the face of the horror of it all . . . and to tell me something to make me laugh.

When he spoke of his post-professional boxing career it was to tell me how good his son John Matthew Turpin Junior was; how good the amateurs were he selflessly trained; how proud he was of his wife, Bet, his daughter Georgina, his granddaughter, Lydia, and, of course, to tell me a tale that would make me laugh.

I met Jack in 1998 through my involvement with Randolph Turpin’s Memorial statue as a friend of the sculptor Carl Payne. For me it was as if someone had opened a door and let in a small whirlwind. Me and Jack got on instantly.

The influences that shaped him go way beyond his mother Beatrice’s stately Leamington Spa and Warwick back streets, far across the sea to that land of his father Lionel – three generations out of slavery – in the then ‘British Guyana’ in South America and from there to the golden sands and talking drums of West Africa. I was so affected by Jackie Turpin I wrote a book about him.

He was a better boxer than he ever said he was. He was a better trainer than he ever gave himself credit for. He was a better brother, husband, father and grandfather than he ever measured himself to be. He was a better friend than he ever imagined he was.

He once told me I was like another brother to him - a feeling that was reciprocated for Jack became like the older brother I never had.

John Matthew Turpin Senior, the little featherweight with the heart of a giant, Battling Jack, was, is, and will always be a hero to me.

As I explain in my last blog the MMUC HR TWATS have flatly refused to employ me as a lecturer anymore (lets hope they think me also too old to be sued). I’m glad to be free of the yoke in some ways – it allows me to refer to them as TWATS for a start - but I have to say, though, it’s coming up for the new academic year and I’m feeling the pull of the campus. There is something utterly brilliant about teaching poetry, creative writing, writing for performance and journalism that is out there on its own.

StringFing is my big fing now, with Adam and Emily. I call our music Folk Beat. It’s a synthesis of all the music I have ever put my mind and fingers to from the 60s beat scene through skiffle, blues, N.O. Jazz and traditional Anglo-Celtic music. It’s folky electro-acoustic stuff with an edge. It ain’t no faux-pure bollix, it struts its influences.

We have started a new residency at The New Inn, Derby Street, Hanley, Stoke on Trent on the 3rd Thursday of the month. It’s a big, warm, comfortable pub with well-kept beer and friendly hosts. We had a great time there last week. We’re there next on Thursday 21st October. Come along and join the merry throng. People will only talk about you if you don’t.


Our Amy and her partner Dave have launched their own web design business:

They have created a brill website for my Woodlanders Country Dance Band. Have a gander at it:

They are busy helping companies in the North West make the best use of the internet with their Twizzlebird Creative hot designs.


I had a nice surprise tonight in the form of a phone call from my old mucker Henri Harrison. I love Henri. We go back a long, long way. The Cops n Robbers was Henri’s band and we did a lot of well-documented cool stuff with that outfit, but we played music together before that – New Orleans jazz.

Henri was gigging in Watford the other evening and bumped into an erstwhile great mate of Lynda’s and mine: the inimitable Johnny Johnson. Johnny is a great singer. When Lynda and Johnny and me were knocking around together Johnny played 12-string guitar and sang solo. He can switch from a soul number to a music hall song in a flick of his plectrum and do them brilliantly.

Johnny’s got a six-piece band now, Henri says. Johnny always had a big repertoire of jokes, guaranteed to make you laugh. Oh yeah, I remember his paintings too – wonderful! Of all the geezers I know, Johnny is the more comfortable in his skin. I wrote a song about him once called, ‘Johnny Walks Easy Down the Street’. I’ve no idea now how the song went anymore. I just recall writing it and what the title was. I wonder if he remembers it?


National Poetry Day is on Thursday 7th October. I’m doing a gig at Nantwich Library starting at 2pm. The theme this year is ‘Home’ so I’ll be doing some of my Mow Cop poetry and some poems about my nearest and dearest. It would be triffik to see you there. Please come along if you possibly can.

Hey that wasn’t bad for me: only a matter of weeks since my last posting rather than the more-usual months. I’m getting almost obsessive with it, aren’t I?

Yours truthfully truly,


Friday, 2 July 2010

Hey Doods

I'm just no good at regular stuff, innit? - 5 months since I posted anything on this site. Thing is, too much happens all the time for me to be able to separate anything out for special attention. The passing away of me dear old mate Jackie Turpin, he of Battling Jack fame, has got to be one exception, of course. The nature of Jack's illness meant that anyone beyond the periphery of his absolutely nearest and dearest faded from his vision, so he was lost to me a while before he died, but all deaths are sudden and each death of a loved person is a shock. I spoke at his funeral and I will post (at a later date) what I said in his honour.

Another couple of exceptions are: The MMU Cheshire has finally binned me on age grounds


I was touched by the reaction of the staff and students towards the refusal of the management to renew my contract and I shall miss the Creative Writing team and the students shed loads. Our Amy and Dave are moving and will soon be a lot nearer to me and Lynda - YAY! As the result of a triffick collection of writing the staff and students did for me as a leaving gift, I am back in email contact with my old friend and teaching colleague, Heather. She is a top person and an awesome writer with great clarity of thought and expression. She is also humourous and kind.
Anyway, I'm off out. Here's a new song:


On Poison Farm the crops are in
The fields are stripped; the yields are slim
Let the Harvest Home begin
Down on Poison Farm

The cock won’t crow at the break of day
The five-bar gate is crumbling away
The scarecrow has been scared away
Down on Poison Farm

Slates are falling from the roof
The horse has gone and cracked his hoof
The milkmaid’s in love with Beowulf
Down on Poison Farm

The wind blows cold over the hill
On the ploughboy strung from the window sill
Time is all there is they will not kill
Down on Poison Farm

Once there was . . . on a May morning - g . . .
Once there was . . . when small birds sing - g . . .
Once there was . . . in the grrreen rrrushes o . . .
Once there was . . . in the long, long ago - oh . . .

The milk’s going sour in the can
Peter Pan said to The Elephant Man
There’ll be no more bread – the mill’s got jammed
Down on Poison Farm

The cornfield crows are ready to fly
Mr B is keeping his powder dry
With an odd look in his one good eye
Down on Poison Farm

Farmer Brown went to town
Looked the pretty girls up and down
Got caught with his trousers
Down on Poison Farm

Trouble an’ strife, the farmer’s wife
Cut off his tail with her carving knife
You can see such things every day of your life
Down on Poison Farm

Once there was . . . on a May morning - g . . .
Once there was . . . when small birds sing - g . . .
Once there was . . . in the grrreen rrrushes o . . .
Once there was . . . in the long, long ago - oh . . .

The setting sun is sinking fast
Your silhouette’s sharp in the shadows cast
If they had a flag it’d hang half mast
Down on Poison Farm.

© W. Terry Fox

Keep having a larf. See you later.


Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Coincidences of Geography and Time

A young singer-guitarist got in touch with me, via my landline, a few months ago: ‘Are you the Terry Fox who played Vox Continental with the Cops n’ Robbers in the sixties?’ The fella who made the call was Adam Coxon and, as that particular co-incidence of geography and time has had it, we live in the same area.

I imagine Adam, who is a big fan of 60s music, must have initially been prompted by simple curiosity perhaps just wondering if any of us had actually survived. The ‘Cops n’ Robbers’ (named after a Bo Diddley song as many rhythm and blues bands were then) enjoyed more excess than success – in terms, that is, of the gauges that are commonly used to measure success which are, I suppose, celebrity and money. Truth is the whole experience ended up permanently bending my brain somewhat, but I had a hell of a laugh along the way.

The ‘Cops’ did some of those young-dood things rock songs are made of and made and spent a whack of money, compared with factory wages, in the process. We recorded a couple of half-decent tracks, wrote a couple of half-decent songs, played some fantastic gigs, made a couple of lame TV appearances, hung out with, jammed with, supported, partied with, topped the bill with some now-legendary people and were the UK backing band for two of the greatest blues singers in the world: Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. We also launched the career of a then skinny little folk singer called Donovan.

Back to the present. The long and the short of that initial phone call is that Adam started coming along to StringFing gigs. So, last Sunday night, Lynda and I thought it was time we returned the compliment and went to one of Adam’s gigs. He was playing at Blakey’s CafĂ© Bar in Newcastle. And what a nice surprise, all-round, it proved to be. It happened it was St. Valentine’s night and the music was suitably lerv themed and could have been dodgy and sentimental, but oooooh nooooo, give the young man a big hand, every song was good and edgy and made his own through the strength of his performance.

Adam’s got a proper voice, you see. He’s one of those people fortunate enough to have been born with a good voice and has developed it further - utterly unlike me, of course: born with an ideal voice for a mime artist and a face for radio - and he’s a neat guitar player too.

He opened with Sam and Dave’s, Cupid (and hey, if you’re not acquainted with these two soul men, then be getting on to it. They were the model for the Blues Brothers, don’t you know?). Adam did Ella Fitzgerald’s Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, a fabulous version of Willie Nelson’s Crazy (my favourite song of the night), Arthur Alexander’s Baby It’s You, and a stack of other good stuff. Terrific night. Nice venue too. We’re going to see him there again.

I’ve been feeling sad for Woody Guthrie lately. I have just read Joe Klein’s book about him. Woody got us all playing guitars and blowing mouth harps fixed to neck harnesses (I made mine from a wire coat hanger. Some doods had proper ones). I’m talking long about long before there was any awareness of Bob Dylan over here. He was such a brave man, Guthrie was. He suffered a cruel illness, Huntington’s Disease, that made him old too young and killed him at 55. He left a unique legacy to the world.

I have reworked the chorus to one of his most famous songs to make it more appropriate to us Brit. islanders:

This land is your land and this land is my land,
From Scotland’s high land to Cornwall’s low land;
From Milford Haven to the Norfolk waters;
This land was made for you and me.

I’m working on a couple of verses to go with it. I will be singing it next time out. Woody understood people and knew what they were going through and told it like it was.

Take it easy, but take it.


Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Jackie's Jacksy

I’ve got to tell you this: me and Lynda have got a friend called Jackie. That’s not it. There’s more: Jackie is a little unusual. Some might call her ‘eccentric’, ‘weird’, ‘off the wall’, ‘barmy’, ‘loopy’, ‘howling at the moon’, etc. Not me though, I hasten to add. I wouldn’t be so bloody rude.

Jackie is texting-mad and writes multitudinous texts with inventive txtspk abbreviations, as senders of copious txts tnd 2 do. Jackie is also obsessed with her health and insists upon keeping her friends up to date with the latest manifestations of her extensive and exponentially-increasing range of afflictions with detailed and highly descriptive lists of their symptoms - omg gr8 swt smlz of amonia bld in we hosp 2moz. The many recipients of her messages – and believe me, that example is a mild one - quickly learn to avoid reading them at mealtimes.

Most of us have put a bit of weight on over Christmas, haven’t we? I know I have. Nearly a stone, in fact, and all I did was slob around for three weeks eating ten platefuls a day more than a sty-full of Wessex Saddlebacks. As a result of my sustained gluttony, when lying on my back on the couch, I have the body profile of Mow Cop.

I have long been an admirer of John Betjeman’s verse. With the paunch I’ve got at the moment, stick a straw boater on my head and I could go out as a convincing tribute act. ‘Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, I can hear from the car-park the dance has begun . . .’

Back to Jackie: She put on some w8 ovr xms 2 and texted details as to where the extra poundage had distributed itself, including, w8 4 it: ‘2lb on my rs’. Two-pounds is an extraordinarily precise amount of gained weight. So precise in fact that it could only be arrived at by careful measurement.

Which begs the question: How the hell did she weigh her arse?!! And, no, I’m not asking her. I have neither the required courage nor strength to bear the consequent images.



Saturday, 23 January 2010

Of Teddy the Cat and Caryl the Professor

Anybody who knows my lovely wife Lynda will know that she loves animals dearly, especially cats. She used to breed cats at one time. No, you’re right, clearly she didn’t, they used to breed themselves, but she governed the genetic engineering side of things.

A sad occasion was visited upon us when we lost Teddy, a beautiful Sealpoint Persian tom (Did you know cat people refer to cat genders as ‘girls’ and ‘boys’. How surreal is that?). Poor Teddy was hit by a car as he was running back home across Congleton Road South by the Red Bull Pub.

Tom cats that are left ‘entire’ do have a tendency to wander further from home than neutered toms and Teddy was no exception. Even though we had a 5-acre field alongside our house for him to cruise about in, he preferred to go a-courting miles away.

As you might imagine, Lynda was deeply upset by Teddy’s demise. Later that day, she paid a routine visit to her mum in Goldenhill. As soon as her mother opened the door she noticed her daughter’s stricken face and tear-reddened eyes. ‘What on earth’s the matter, duck,’ she asked with great concern, holding out her arms.
‘Teddy’s been killed,’ Lynda told her. Her mother nearly fainted on the spot, but managed to stagger inside and collapse on the sofa.
‘How did it happen?’ she asked in a feeble voice.
Lynda was surprised by her mother’s reaction as her mother had never seemed all that fond of cats, but she went on to explain: ‘A car hit him as he was running across the road.’
‘Oh, no! Oh, no,’ her mother wailed.
‘I suppose it’s my fault,’ Lynda reflected after a while.
‘Your fault?!!’ asked her mother, absolutely aghast.
‘Yes,’ said Lynda, miserably. ‘I should have had his balls cut off.’

It was at this point that Lynda’s mother realised that Lynda must be talking about Teddy the cat and not Lynda’s marathon-running older brother Edward.


You remember that author, Caryl Phillips, I mentioned in my last blogging, the one who people keep telling me has ripped off chunks of my book Battling Jack for Part II of his book Foreigners published two years later (he is currently denying this and claiming that although Battling Jack was an ‘important and useful source’ which was regrettably omitted from the acknowledgements, anything more than this is co-incidental!!)? It turns out Mr Phillips is a professor at Yale University. Tut, tut, tut, professor.

I’ll keep you informed of any progress in my challenge of Prof. Caryl Phillips’ use of my work.

Are there any other authors out there, I wonder, who believe that Prof. Phillips has made similar appropriations of their work? If so, please let me know.

In the meantime have a keentime one and all.



Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Caryl Phillips Plagiarist?

There's this geezer called Caryl Phillips. According to the cover of a book of his that I have in front of me right now, he was born in the West Indies and brought up over here. Mr Phillips is a writer who enjoys great standing in the literary world - a Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship - that kind of thing. The fella is a fellow too, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

There is a picture of him. He's a good-looking dood, 40-ish, clean-shaven all over his face and head, well, apart from his eyebrows. The photo is a head and shoulders shot. Phillips is posed sideways-on to the camera, but with his head turned towards it. He is currently looking straight at me. Straight into my eyes. I have to say I see no guilt there. No haunted look. Nothing shifty. In fact, he does not look in the least bit like a charlatan or shameless word thief.

In 2007 Mr Phillips had yet another book published (he has many to his name), a book called Foreigners. It is divided into three parts. Part II of the book is called: Made in Wales and is about Randolph Turpin, famous fighter, brother of my dear buddy Jackie Turpin for whom I wrote the book Battling Jack: You Gotta Fight Back. Battling Jack was published in 2005, two years before Mr Phillips book was issued. Remember that and pass it on: two years before.

A while ago I was alerted to a posting on the internet written by a guy who had read the two books mentioned above and asking the question: 'Who has copied who?' One by one the telephone calls and the emails came: 'Hey Terry, man, some bloke's ripping you off' . . .' etc, etc.

My friend Kenny Jervis who has made an ace, as yet unpublished, documentary about Randolph phoned: 'Terry, I just bought a book called Foreigners by a bloke called Caryl Phillips. Have you had a hand in writing this? No? Kin ell! You'll be bloody furious! I'll send it to you when I've finished reading it.' He very kindly did. And, yes, I was and am 'bloody furious'. Mr Phillips, his researcher and his publisher have denied plagiarism - denied that Caryl Phillips has taken my work and passed it off as his own.

Why not see what you think? Find a library with Foreigners on its shelves. Sit in there with your purchased copy of Battling Jack. Have a look at, say, page 156 and 157 of Foreigners and compare it with page 266 of Battling Jack. Plagiarism? You decide. Let me know.

Mr Phillips' book has cast a shadow on my integrity as a person and as a writer. Hardly anybody bothers to look at the publishing dates of books and because yer Mr Phillips is such a literary giant, guess who people think is a copyist?

An irony is that I spent three years talking to Jack, travelling down to Warwick every week to record interviews with him, and researching and writing his story mainly because he and his brothers have been exploited for years by people making money out of their names and fame and I wanted to give something back.

I had not, prior to meeting Jackie, any intention of writing an extended work. I am a poet. I write in short bursts and then have a think about it. A single sentence can keep me occupied for weeks. I am very glad I had the opportunity to write a biography, of course, and in the light of the way Part II of Foreigners has been written and Mr Phillips walking so tall and admired through Bookland, and all that, I should have to consider myself a natural at the genre.

Jackie Turpin and I are co-authors. His stories, my writing. The writer and the fighter - the poet and the pugilist. I did the writing, Jack led the life. When I consider that a lot of Jackie's life consisted of exchanging gut-thumping blows with strangers in the boxing ring, I am happy with the arrangement.

I love Jack. He once told me we are brothers and that feeling is reciprocated. Kindred spirits. Same angst. Same sense of the absurd. All this stuff with Caryl Phillips is being kept away from Jack at the moment as he gets more upset by these things than I do (which is saying something). But his family and close ones are distressed by it, insulted by it. We want justice. I am going to take it all the way.

I had a phone call last night from an old co-conspiritor of mine from uni, Dave Woods. Back in the day we were both Writing students on the same course. These years on, Dave is not only a writer but an actor and radio presenter too. We used to have some bloody laughs. I remember him inventing a character called Muriel Muriel. It killed me for weeks that name. He lives up in Scotland now. Great to hear from you Dave.

Well, I got work to do.

Tra-ra. Go steady. Say hello to Muriel Muriel. Whoa, a last minute thought occurs: My Lynda suffers from insomnia, a legacy from a past illness. Insomnia is debilitating and distressing. It might help her out, perhaps, if Mr Phillips lets us know how he sleeps at night.


Thursday, 7 January 2010

On Ice With Strings

Jack Frost is having a right laugh, isn't he? Ain't he just. The cold-hearted, light-fingered old git has gorn and spangled everything. Above (and below) is a faux toe Lynda took of our summer house a couple of days ago. Since then, the jolly Mr Frost has danced all over the snowfall in his white-spangled pointy shoes and dressed it in diamonds. It now looks like summat Queen E would wear on her head at one of her balls (I use the word advisedly).

As you can see above (and above), StringFing made it to the Coachmakers last night and played to a much-depleted but absolute quality audience. We did Please Don't Drop Your Bombs On Me as promised, but the guy who requested it was another dood kept under house arrest house by the treacherous insurgents Ice and Snow. We'll be keeping the song in the set for a while so, liberated from his incarceration by the prophesied soon-upcoming army of sun beams, he will hear it next time round.
Oh, I have had to go back to sticking the W. in front of my name. There is simply too many references to the Canadian hopping hero to conveniently find the far far fewer references to the British shuffling non-heroic me. So it's the plus the W. for everything I do, but I won't be prefixing StringFing with my name as it's listed in the personnel in all publicity.
In the fotie of StringFing are two stalwart geezers who like real ale and real music too much to be kept away by a mere bit of weather. The camera flash has lit the room up more than it really was and the sustainable pine forest Jason has created on the joanna ain't usually there. Other than that, and a few dozen people, that's how it mostly is. Come along. Go on. You'll feel all the better for it duck.
May you become horizontal only when it's your own idea.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Chilling Out

All of Mow Hill is white and fluffy. What's been going on? A downfall of our downfall, that's what. I had to cancel our StringFing practice. The slippy slidy snowy drifts gave me no choice. Ain't it pretty, though? he asked from the haven of his big comfy chair by the radiator in his writing corner.

Actually, this particular radiator is not all that efficient and my toes are bloody freezing. So thanks natural forces for the pretty pretty snow, but it can go away now. I want the roads clear for our gig at the Coachmakers tomorrow night.

I have a poetry competition to judge and a load of marking to do for uni. The cancelled rehearsal has given me time to start doing it. Oh joy.

The photo is StringFing at the Coachmakers last year. Last year . . . Doesn't time whizz along? It only seems like a couple or four weeks ago.

Don't forget to feed the little bird doods. They're struggling.

Be safe,


Friday, 1 January 2010

Turning Over A New Year

Well here it is: New Years Day.

Ruth said to me, ‘Will you be saying two-thousand-and-ten or ‘twenty-ten’?’
‘Oh, two-thousand-and-ten. It’s a number, after all,’ I said
‘Yes, and ‘twenty-ten’ sounds so American,’ she said. I agreed. Then she said, ‘Ah, but we do say, the Battle of Hastings was in ‘ten-sixty-six’ don’t we?’ Call it what you will, this day milestones a new year for us islanders. Let make it a good one.

Under its new banner (Literally. I sewed and painted it myself), StringFing will be doing On A New Years Day at the Coachmakers, in Hanley, this Wednesday evening. It is 68 years since the explosion at Sneyd Colliery that took 57 lives. It was deemed unlucky to cut coal on a New Years Day. The miners broke their rule cuz in 1942, most of the world was involved in war for which coal was essential.

We will also be doing Please Don’t Drop Your Bombs on Me – a personal plea to the owner of any finger hovering over a big red button primed to trigger a nuclear bomb. Of course, I use it as a plea of restraint that includes anybody who has any bad intentions towards anybody else.

Seen from my window, Mow Hill is coated with a heavy frost right now. It is a misty morning. The sun has lit up all the east-facing windows. I can just pick out the castle in the deep greyness of what looks like a range of distant and brooding mountains.

Now I ain’t the Cheshire Poet Laureate any more I'll have a bit more time to get on with organising the completion and delivery of my Village Verse collection. I have set my sights on the middle of the year. We'll see. I've been trying to get it off the ground for yonks. If it ain't one thing holding it up it's another. Usually me not being able to raise the printing costs.

The night before last, just as me and Lynda were about to unscrew the top off a bottle, we had a call from Sheila to say Jim Eldon was over for a few days and asking about us and would we come over to the Swan, in Acton, for a session. It was great to see Jim and Lynette again. He was in his usual engaging form: his warm and gravelly voice over a scraped fiddle; quirky, individual, and right on target in. A proper ‘now’ version of the tradition.

Jim's music is part of a homely, home-spun, make-and-do tradition that I pay into. Nothing to do with academies and museums and dusty archives and intense and privileged education and training. It’s the result of a people after a long day’s work, taking their fiddles down from the hooks on the wall and grabbing a melody from the air and raising their voices to life. Wonderful. A lot of playing and singing was done, years ago, during the long, dark agricultural winters when the work was less. I was pressganged by a captain of industry when I was a kid and, consequently, spent most of my working life in factories. But it was an urban version of the same thing. As I think I have posted earlier, my first job was weeding kale fields (a line of kids working their way through an endless crop) but, the farm was doomed for redevelopment and the job was concreted over and factories grown where the pastures and crop fields were.

A wake of controversy always follows Jim. A lot of people can’t get a handle on his range of material: He’ll do a sea shanty followed by a song he wrote last week followed by Rockin’ All Over the World. Wake up you people! that’s exactly what the tradition is, does, and always will. EG, those Morris tunes that are often held up to be the epitome of the tradition – Jockey to the Fair, Constant Billy, etc – were all popular songs. Wake up, wake up! Or at least pipe down and listen.

Me and Croz recorded an album with Jim in . . . Croz, I google, thinks it was around 1979, but I am pretty sure it was a few years later. Yeah it was. I remember Amy, then a little girl, running out to give me a hello cuddle when I got back from one of the recording sessions. It must have been at least the middle of the 1980s. Jim and me were on fiddles and Croz was on the cello. I remember when we were trying to decide which version of Soldiers Joy we’d play. There was the more widely-known version, a cool, very different take on it that Jim had discovered and a version I had invented. We decided in the end to string them all together. Check it out if it’s still around. The album is Jim Eldon and the Sharpshooters.

At the Swan the session was in full swing by the time we arrived. Some of the musos I knew, some I didn’t: Jim fiddle and voice; Croz fiddle and melodeon; Sheila English concertina; Bryn (?), guitar and great songs; a guy from the Boat band on melodeon (sorry, dood, don’t know your name. Ace player, though); an older guy with a good voice; a younger singer and box player with a good voice; Lynette, tambourine and dancing feet.

Me and Lynda made our contribution on tambourine and guitar. Ee, it were gradely. Yeah, and we did the lot: trad tunes and songs, some not-so-old songs, and some with the ink still wet on their pages.

‘Trad’ singers have always done the songs of their forbears along with the songs they have written themselves and the new songs of others. Some of the early folksong collectors used to complain that the singers whose repertoires they were archiving kept wasting their precious recording time on non-traditional material. The tradition ain’t one solidified, frozen thing. It’s ever-changing and circling around. What's new today is traditional tomorrow. The tradition is what Jim does and what StringFing does.

I’m off the have my first breakfast of the decade. Look out for yourselves and for everybody else you can give a helping hand to.