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Fall is advertised as having begun, a change of season, although the sun shines brightly enough throughout the day. Too soon really to be sitting at a computer tapping away. As though that mattered anyway. My brain had been overly busy throughout the night, the traditional fall fair of the previous day down in Olsen’s field filling me full. Flutterings of sadness tugs at the heartstrings knowing that Arne has passed into the spirit world, lingering, pleasant moments popping in and out. Then there is the parade band, a raggedy unlikely bunch with two accordionists, a frame drummer rapping along the march and two saxophonists – one meself, having dug out the ancient battered curved soprano, suitably an Italian circus instrument. A bit of a joke really, playing it again after it had been lying in its case for these past ten or more years, unattended. Wandering among the booths, chatting with not often seen friends; the local vendors – farmers, artists, potters, lotsa food and juice, baskets, ring the bell with a good whack from the wooden mallet, a memory left over from carnivals of years past; a hello here, a nod there, some not recognising my current appearance with me sporting a droopy moustache and shaven head, both of which have to be kept for five years as it’s now the picture on my current passport. And the folksy music on the stage, steadily persistent. All filling up me head all these hours later, laying here in the dark. 5:23 the clock by the bed shows. Nearly time to rise and shine.

vengeance-benjamin-blackJust like you, most likely, when sleep wont come, I turn to a book, obliterate the clamour with words. A story by another. The book I’m reading is the latest Benjamin Black (http://www.benjaminblackbooks.com/). Vengeance it’s called. The paragraph, with the the pathologist and the police inspector sat at the bar in a pub, one sipping whisky (the pathologist Quirke) and the other, on duty, a glass of cloudy water (the police inspector Hackett), has caught my fancy…

Hackett too looked about him now. He was interested in the lighting. His wife had been pestering him for months to put up new fixtures in the living room and he was on the look-out for new ideas. Lights were awkward.

The difficulty with wall space in our house is that they’re filled with windows, nowhere to hang anything, and then there’s the lighting, too much natural light, too many cornered cubby holes, lamps that never seemed to quite work out, casting shadows, a circular glare, the plug not in the most convenient location, and the standing lamps, ornamental decoration for sure, but mostly useless; portable though, could be dragged to a suitable location.

Wall space has always been found for the two calendars that arrive every year; one a delightful set of photographs of my daughters and grandchildren, a year earlier in their lives, but for me perfect, each turn of the page revealing another, becoming unrecognisable as they sprout. A daily usefulness, keeping records of our appointments, birthdays especially, who’s coming to dinner on Tuesday, art shows, a trip off island… It hangs on the kitchen wall just to the left of Jerry Pethick’s Beaver Calender (http://catrionajeffries.com/artists/jerry-pethick): no way to tell which day is what with that one.

Hornby is an island of blues fans, well at least every May. The yearly extravaganza simply called The Blues Workshop (http://www.hornby-blues.bc.ca/) is now in its 14th year, presenting quite a range of musicians; Rick Fines, Carlos del Junco, Ron Casat, Chris Whitely and Keith Bennett among my personal favourites. One of the traditions is the opening night art show, a boisterous affair where once again we mingle with the regular visitors, stomp a step or two with whichever band gets up to boogie, quaff a libation, and peruse the walls where local artists show off work in some way related to the description blue. A broken guitar reworked into sculpture, paintings using only the colour, reconstructed found objects and photographs of the legendary from my own collection, taken mostly in the vibrant sixties. Those images (http://vancouverjazz.com/billsmith/photo/) sometimes the only link to an illustrious past.

2013_blues_calendarThis year, the 10th anniversary issue of the Classic Blues Calendar (http://www.bluesimages.com/), has arrived early and is easily recognisable – even before unpacking – shipped as it is in a not often-seen cardboard corrugated box originally used for mailing vinyl long-playing record albums. 12½” square and ½” thick. Back in fashion again so I’ve read. LP’s that its.

It hangs on the wall of my study – such a grand description of this room – partially obscured by the door jamb and not clearly seen from where I sit typing, encouraging me to often take it down off the wall and peruse what that month reveals. For example: Last Wednesday, September 26th, was Yom Kippur and on that date in 1937 Bessie Smith died in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The accompanying illustration for that month is No. 13101, an advertisement for a 78rpm shellac recording of “Evil Woman Spell”, the flip-side “Georgia Mule Blues”_____ 50c. Vocal by Charlie Spand (who’s picture appears in the bottom left-hand corner) with Piano Acc.

The images and photographs that illustrate every month are rare examples of the artwork of the 1920’s, promotional material, most never seen publicly since their inception more than ninety years ago. Wonderful period pieces from Columbia Records – Made the New Way – Electrically, Paramount – The Popular Race Record, Vocalion – Race Records and Victor with the ever attentive dog. And such great tune titles: “Diddie Wa Diddie” Played & Sung by Blind Blake; “Mother Called Her Child to Her Dying Bed” – Sacred Selections by Lil McClintlock; “Peach Orchard Mama” by Blind Lemon Jefferson; “Police Dog Blues” – Vocal with Guitar acc. Played & Sung by Blind Blake; “Pig Meat Blues”, “Harum Scarum” and the title piece from this year’s cover “The Devil & God Meet at Church”.

And then there’s the bonus of being able to actually hear what this amazing music sounded like, the old scratchy 78’s featuring the masters of the idiom cleaned up, a CD allowing a peek into a history that was for many years hidden from the general public, thought to be harmful to white people, earning these recordings the epithet “Race Records”.

From the Website: We understand that some African Americans in today’s society may be offended at some of the images represented here. However, we feel it is important to remember that this artwork was aimed at the African American record buyers of the time. They gladly paid their extremely hard-earned dollars to purchase the 78 rpm records advertised in these images.

These records were not marketed to whites. While the drawings may have a bit of an “Amos ’n’ Andy” look to them, they indeed reflect a period in American history that cannot be denied. They can now be seen as an indicator of the torrent of abuse of the Black man that led to the creation of the art form called The Blues.