Pith & Wind - The loneliness of a long-distance plucker
I was in a vast cathedral. I was lugging my
too-heavy Hot-Rod amplifier when I came across an area that appeared
to be reserved for musicians. I was naked.
I put the amp down and seeing a microphone sought to explain to the
distant audience / congregation why I thought I needed an amplifier.
‘God hears all,’ (laughter) ‘but I am deaf.’(More
(This going well,’ I’m thinking to myself, ‘but
where am I getting this from?)
‘I’m going to go and get my guitar now’ I concluded
to general applause.
The public relations chat had gone well but I had a suspicion that
the actual getting of my guitar could be more problematic. It always
Now I'm scaling yet another ladder in the dusty upper realms of the
cathedral in search of my guitar, but I’m running out of space
and finding it difficult to move my arms and legs – which is
when I woke up.
I was relieved. Sometimes the search goes on endlessly. Occasionally
I do find my guitar, but then there’s the problem of finding
my way back. Sometimes I struggle back to the stage with my guitar
in hand, only to find the audience has gone home. These sorts of dreams
are typical when gigs are sparse. The variations on dismal failure
I was at my good friend Peter Lamont’s place recently. Peter
had visited us at Mt Evelyn and on seeing the parlous state of my
music PC had volunteered to update it for me. We were waiting for
the new program to download when Peter mentioned he had some vision
he’d recorded of Tommy Emmanuel running through a few tunes
at a sound check.
I gulped. Don’t get me wrong. I think Tommy is an astonishingly
accomplished guitar player whose ability transcends musical genres,
but he leaves me confused - not to mention dismayed at my own guitar-playing
Before I could demur however the video was up and Tommy was in the
frame and chomping at the bit to PLAY.
And so it began - a headlong rush of notes cascading and catapulting
in patterns that playfully appeared and dissolved before unexpectedly
coalescing again, Tommy nodding his head and grinding his teeth in
pleasure while casually referencing the improbable and gleefully flirting
with the impossible. I wanted Peter to stop the tape on numerous occasions
to try and work out what he’d just played but in the end I had
to simply suspend my disbelief and just let it wash over me.
The inevitable result of this gratuitous exposure was that on the
way home I was questioning my own involvement in music - how can you
not when confronted by such unbridled ability? While I’m not
a great technician on guitar, sometimes struggling even to be an average
technician, I’ve got a good ear, which unfortunately has encouraged
me to be lazy at crucial periods in my life. (For example, I don’t
read (music) although it was compulsory to read when I was a chorister
and I never learned to play piano despite two years of lessons. It
goes without saying that I would dearly love both those capabilities
I can sing a bit (although I’ll concede I’m an acquired
taste) but I don’t think I could justify being involved in the
music game at all without the added dimension of dabbling in song
writing, not to mention that early on in the course of which, I wrote
I didn’t set out to be a songwriter. I think I co-wrote a song
or two for my first band, the Chants and then a couple more for Ross
Wilson’s Party Machine (Hold on to My Heart and Little
Red Jeep), but it wasn’t until the inception of Spectrum
that I felt that I absolutely had to write. My initial song
writing MO wasn’t elaborate – I just brought the nucleus
of an idea to the band to flesh out and bring an arrangement to bear,
giving the other musicians in the band the opportunity to add their
musical input to the songs.
That’s the way it was in the ‘70s. The band and the character
of the band was the thing – in fact that’s what I still
enjoy most about being in a band - the mutual give and take and occasionally
developing songs on the run.
Most of my early songs, as heard on Spectrum Part One for
instance, developed this way and
performing some of these songs today as a solo artist has been an
exercise both in deconstruction and reinvention as most of them rely
so much on what the band contributed. Nevertheless it’s been
a fascinating process and I can identify certain characteristics in
the writing style that are dictated by the weaknesses in my guitar-playing
and that ironically help make it unique.
So, here I remain. Daunted but unbowed. Thanks to Peter Lamont the
music PC is (almost) back in business and ten years-worth of unfinished
songs stand a chance of being completed. About time too.
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Toolbox - Mrs Caroline Rudd
It’s humbling to know that the family
name isn’t always covered with glory.
‘In forgery and perjury owned such art,
She palmed the Gold, while others paid the smart.'
I was introduced to Mrs Caroline Rudd courtesy of Simon Schama’s
densely daunting book ‘Belonging – the Story of the Jews
1492 – 1900’ where on page 336, a point where you still
have around four hundred pages to go, there were a few cryptic sentences
the first fragment originally written by Meyer Schomberg in 1746 in
London. '…. they reject the kosher daughters of Israel who are
our own flesh and blood.' Schama continues ” '…He was
almost certainly thinking of Joseph Salvador, one of the leaders of
the Sephardi community, but notorious for patronising famous courtesans
like Kitty Fisher and Mrs Caroline Rudd.'*
You may have heard of Kitty Fisher and perhaps seen
one of the eleven portraits of her, the most famous being in the National
Portrait Gallery painted by Nathaniel Hone. She is features in the
' Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it;
But ne'er a penny was there in't
Except the binding round it.'
This may need some explaining. Apparently,
Lucy Locket sent her boyfriend away after he had spent all of his
money on her. Broke, but not broken hearted, he fell into the arms
of Kitty Fisher. Strangely enough the word locket was a euphemism
for the vagina, and boyfriends were the “pocket” or means
of cash. And of course you knew that prostitutes were known to tie
their pockets round their thighs with ribbon.
But back to Caroline, whom I have to state was only a Rudd by marriage,
and therefore not a stain on the escutcheon. Caroline was born Margaret
Caroline Youngson in 1745, in Northern Ireland. She was infatuated
with the idea of belonging to nobility and claimed Scottish ancestry
when she was young, and even acquired a certificate to prove it. An
only child, her parents both died when she was young. She was placed
under the care of her uncle, John Stewart, who raised her to be an
upstanding young woman – though this was one of the few moments
in her life that this could honestly be said.
She was expelled from boarding school, and her uncle refused to have
her back so she was sent to live with her grandmother who couldn't
control her wild behaviour. Young Margaret Caroline was had already
been involved with a number of young men from the age of fourteen.
She was not highly regarded in the town except as a means of local
Her chance to leave home happened when she met her future husband,
Valentine Rudd about whom we know little except that he was a Lieutenant
in the 62nd Regiment of Foot, of a reasonably wealthy family who had
bought his way from promotion to promotion. Which if he was only a
Lieutenant meant that not too much money had been spent.
They were engaged a mere ten days after he arrived and, after a year,
already considerably in debt. They moved to London where the debt
was enthusiastically increased by the now Mrs Rudd. Being a somewhat
fickle lass she soon she moved in with another man and increased young
Valentine’s debt even further by making use of his accounts.
This led to debtor’s prison. When he was released he sensibly
fled the country but not as far as we know to the Antipodes.
After this promising beginning she discovered that she was quite good,
at least some of the time , making a living in a horizontal position.
Boswell, the Scottish biographer and diarist wrote “her eyes
did not flash defiance, but attracted with sweetness, and there was
the reason of the difference of effect between these eyes and those
of more insolent or less experienced charmers. She was not a robber
but a thief".
At some stage young Margaret Caroline Rudd met the Perreaus, identical
twin brothers. Robert was an enterprising apothecary and businessman,
and was happily married with children. Daniel was more of a gambler
than a worker, and was also in great debt with little money and appropriately
he and Margaret Caroline met at a masquerade in April 1770. Margaret
moved in with him, started calling herself Mrs Perreau, and had three
children. Their relationship was serious, but they had never married;
she was still legally married to Valentine Rudd. Divorce was not an
easy legal option, but an annulment could be granted by the court.
A complicated process and most couples chose to just separate and
Margaret Caroline had tastes and social ambitions beyond her means
- as did Daniel. Quite why Robert got involved is not so clear since
he was an established apothecary with a flourishing business and a
wife and family. But houses were expensive - especially if you wished
to live on Harley Street - and it all seemed so easy: to forge a note
that secured you a loan with the promise that it would be paid back
by your (fictional) guarantors. But forgery was a capital offence,
and the trouble with threesomes is that they always fall apart - usually
They were caught out as a forged note for around $1,200,000 in today’s
money does attract attention
Margaret's trial attracted a large audience. She had an advantage
over the Perreaus; her skilful lawyers and the fact that she was a
woman. Her gender made her vulnerable in the eyes of the court, and
appear less capable of composing such a devious scheme. Her story
of being the victim was also deemed more plausible. The Perreaus didn't
gain much sympathy for their story; the idea that a mere woman had
outsmarted them only put them in a worse light.
Robert pleaded his innocence by saying 'his only mistake was believing
everything Daniel and Margaret had told him.' Daniel had done the
same, saying that "his love for Margret had led him to place
his entire trust in her."
In her own defence Mrs Rudd addressed the jury in a short, but sensible
speech, and concluded in these words, 'Gentlemen, ye are honest men,
and I am safe in your hands.'
The jury, after a short consultation, gave their verdict in the following
singular, and perhaps unprecedented, words: 'According to the evidence
before us, not guilty.'
Now I don’t want Margaret Caroline to appear in a bad light
but then she did a rather nasty thing.
With the Perreaus condemned to hanging she wrote to Viscount Weymouth,
the secretary of state who might have asked the king for a pardon.
Was this begging forgiveness for her ‘husband’ and his
brother? Exactly the opposite. She further incriminated them making
them appear as deeply indebted money hungry gamblers. Hers was the
only petition that argued for the execution and so there was no mercy
for the father of her three children.
The brothers died well on a freezing day in January 1776 - dressed
soberly in black, they stood poised on the cart, kissed and 'crossed
their hands, joining the four together, and in this manner were launched
After ruining the lives of many, she Margaret Caroline finally died
in obscurity on 4 February 1797.
William Combe, The Diablo-lady, 1777
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Trans-Tasman Tales -
Maybe next month
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