Archive for January 2015

Rod McKuen – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment


I surprised myself yesterday at how upset I was when I heard the news of Rod McKuen’s passing, (I hate it when people talk about well known artists using the artist’s first name as if they know or knew them but have never met them or met them briefly when getting an autograph or something).

I never met him; I had a lovely email from him once about fifteen years ago but that was my sole contact with me, but, like many thousands of other people, I felt that I knew him, because his writing was so honest, personal and open.

I have a signed copy of his autobiography Finding My Father, which I’ve had for many years. I also have his books of course and records and CDs.

I got my love of old English sheepdogs from him.

I got my love of honest, open and raw poetry from him.

I got my love of spoken poetry backed by music from him.

Through his poetry and songs he taught me to be honest and open with my feelings and affections

He touched many people’s hearts and inspired so many people.

A sad day, you will be greatly missed, Mr McKuen.


Posted January 30, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Country trails, music – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

gas station

We love driving down the back roads of Tennessee (especially when gas is $1.65 a gallon!) and also going to the state parks in Tennessee and walking the country trails with Willow, our wolf dog.

She leads the way and always seems to know which direction to go in.

Today we went to Cedars of Lebanon state park, on highway 231, which is the highway our land is on but the state park is south of Lebanon, on the way to Lynchburg, home of Jack Daniels, and Alabama – we’re going to have to make that road trip one day, even though Lynchburg is actually dry, you can’t drink in the town.

The park had so many amenities and facilities, including cabins to rent, horses to ride, playgrounds, softball and a lot more.

It says a lot that on a cold but beautiful winter’s day, with snow from last night still on the ground there were people around, the toilets open, (with heating no less).

The walk took us an hour or so, two miles, through the woods. It was a bit damp but wonderful, recommend it to everyone.

On our way back we stopped at a convenience store where they hold the flea market we often go to on Sundays for fresh fruit. A lot of Mexicans run stores there and the fruit is fresh and cheaper than the grocery store. They also sell chickens, turkeys, goats.

Next to the convenience store was a used appliance and goods store which we’ve never seen before. It obviously used to be a cow shed, the smell lingering from its previous tenants but there were some bargains there.

I found a station on Sirius, Deep Tracks, which plays album tracks from the seventies – as we were leaving the park they played Bolan’s Life’s A Gas. Neil Young followed, Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs, the Pretty Things and more, it was like being back in the record store in Cardiff I used to work in after school and on Saturdays, Sound Advice.

Music is a great milestone marker in life’s soundtrack; a song can pinpoint where you were at a certain time, what you were going through, who you were with. The first time you heard it, or maybe it was playing at a pivotal time. It is such an important art, and an important part of life.

Posted January 24, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Weather – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

moonshine deck
The Moonshine Deck, outside the studio on a sunnier day

It’s been a crazy few days, weather wise.

It is said that Brits talk about the weather, that they are obsessed by it. Perhaps, but nothing compares to the Americans. The news programs here go to the weather every ten minutes in the morning, and it is often the opening segment in the news.

So they’ve had a great time these last few days as temperatures soared in the 60’s and yes, the legs came out, shoes on, legs not shaved yet though!!!

To be wearing shorts though in mid January says a lot, and for four days running. It will of course probably be snowing hard by the weekend, such is the weather now. I know snow is forecast in the UK and it surprises us how much the weather is reflected in Tennessee and the UK – a sunny day in Tennessee usually means sun in the UK, rain in the UK means rain here.

Is it global warming? Who knows, depends who you listen to it seems. Last year was the hottest on record apparently, it’s funny I don’t remember that many sunny days but it was warm, uncomfortably so.

I’m looking forward to sowing the seeds in March for our harvest – potatoes, onions, carrots, other veg and salad, also the chilis and peppers in the greenhouse. I’m also looking forward to it being warm enough to go into the studio to start recording. A long spring would be wonderful.

Posted January 20, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Indian Food in the USA – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment


Last night we were supposed to go to a wonderful Italian restaurant in Nashville, Maggianos with our friend Nick but its so wonderful there was a forty-five minute wait so being hungry we decided to go on an adventure and look down West End Avenue for something else. It transpired that Bombay Palace was literally the next block down so we decided on that, Nick never having Indian before.

It was busy but we got a table, or booth, the one by the window. It was like being back in Cardiff, the Himalaya on Wellfield Road. In the screenplay of Jackson Woods I wrote in a scene set in the Himalaya, and in the window seat that looks out to Wellfielde Road.

The food was the closest I’ve had here in the States to what we have in the UK – I had a Lamb Madras, very close, Cathy had the Lamb Passandra which was quite different, more like a curry, and Nick had the chicken Tikka Masala, again quite close. The menu included a lot of extra dishes that we have in the UK, onion bhaji were different, no popadoms, papads instead, naan bread same.

Chinese is different here too – chow mien for example, and the curries. I guess they cater for local taste? Ingredients too must be a factor although nowadays I doubt there are many you can’t get anywhere.

I shop at an Indian grocery store on Nolansville, and can get most ingredients there – you can also get Bounty chocolate bars there too! The Indian or international store at the Farmer’s Market has ginger beer too, real ginger beer, but it’s a bit pricey and you have to watch the best by date.

If you haven’t tried Indian I encourage you to do so, there is such a variety of choice in dishes and something for everyone – mild, medium and hot curries, rice dishes, dry chicken (Tikka), dishes with spaces, (rogan josh I quite like, Tikka Masala, Jalfrezi) – they spell dishes slightly differently here too.

The Indian I first went to as a kid was the Raj Dooth on Mackintosh Place in Cardiff. My dad used to go there every week day for their lunch special. He and his business partner David were addicted, and when David went on holiday to Spain he made them make up a huge pot of tikka masala to take with him in the car! This was in the early seventies. I remember though their cook telling me that it is the region of India or Pakistan that determines the actual recipe of each dish, which explains why the same dish can be so different in individual restaurants.

I can though highly recommend the Bombay Palace on West End Avenue if you’re in Nashville. (it’s next door to a shop called The Cutest Little Shoppe!).

Posted January 17, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Trailer Park Tales – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment


For one of the stories in Trailer Park Tales I revisited on old story, Child of Mine, which was actually the first stage play I wrote, never produced. It just seemed to compliment the story line for the new story, Lament, so by combining them it has come out so strong, and taken an identity all of itself.

I love people watching, and observe people’s mannerisms and behaviour. Many of the characters in the new book are ‘inspired’ by people who live on a trailer park in Tennessee – old and young, strong and weak, the lost and the found …..

In many ways trailer parks for me represent the epitome of live in America. It fascinates me, to be honest. People on the up, people on the move, people who have known better times, but they all have their stories, their reasons why they are where they are, sometimes fooling themselves, many times being open and honest, with themselves and others. Some come for a few months and stay for years.

There are points in all our lives when we look at where we are at that time and wonder how on earth we got there – broken relationships, personal issues or problems, success in work perhaps, there’s good and bad, most of it though in our control, although sometimes we don’t see that.

Trailer Park Tales features seven stories – funny, sad, thought-provoking hopefully and is being published in March this year.

Posted January 16, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Gun Control – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

As a Brit, gun control is an interesting issue and an on-going one. I understand about the right to bear arms and defend yourself but with all the sad incidents in the past where many people have been massacred here in the States surely a compromise can be reached? I’m not in favor of a total ban at all. I am aware also of the politics involved, lobbying and the NRA.

Many people here feel the need to have a handgun/revolver for personal protection at home. There are also the people who like hunting and have a rifle for this. What I don’t understand is the need for a semi-automatic, a machine gun, or indeed more than one handgun or more than one rifle. Why do people need an arsenal of guns?

My father had a handgun, I remember it as a kid. It was a light blue, steel gun, quite heavy I remember but that might have been due to me being a kid. This was in the UK, and he had it from the war and his time in the air force. I don’t know what happened to it, it might even still be in the loft in the house in Cardiff for all I know.

There’s a saying about barn doors and horses bolting which is pretty relevant. How on earth would you police it properly now with so many guns on the streets and in homes? Would you pay people to hand in their guns? Would you allow them to keep a handgun and a rifle or take them off the streets and from homes completely? That realistically could never happen, people simply wouldn’t do it, in fear of other people having guns. It is a vicious circle.

In the UK the problem is growing, as more and more guns are smuggled into the country from Eastern Europe, as the borders have opened. Guns are used more and more now on the streets with gangs and robberies, resulting in an increasing number of fatalities. I know I could get hold of one if I really needed to, know where to go and that’s not really a good thing. Of course the main difference is that the British police are not armed but again that is changing all the time, more and more police officers are now trained with guns.

I was always aware when I first came here, the difference say with an argument in a bar here. One guy can easily walk out to his car, return with a gun and shoot the other person. In Tennessee the law has been changed that you can actually take a gun into a bar! Alcohol and guns, that’s a bright idea!

There’s also the argument that it’s not the gun which kills people, it is the person who fires it. True, but if they didn’t have a gun in the first place ……..

My point though is more about an arsenal of guns – there is simply no argument surely for the need to own so many guns in one household. The massacres at schools and universities here, and in the UK – Dumblane, Hungerford, – nearly all those killers had a number of guns and not just rifles or handguns.

Two separate neighbors of ours in the UK had a couple of shotguns, which they both had licenses for. One was very responsible, used it for killing foxes that were killing his geese and chickens or shooting pheasants, (I remember enjoying one of his pheasants, except for the small balls of shot or pellets his wife had missed!).

The other person though ended up in prison, (for raping a young boy), and it was found that one of his shotguns he had he had actually ‘sawn off’ the barrel – why? not to kill pests or vermin.

The argument or debate will continue for a long time, through the next tragedy and the question does have to be asked – how many more people have to die until the gun laws are revised?

Posted January 14, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Support for Causes – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

I feel the need to support some of the causes that get to me more.

Animals is one, cruelty and protection and in particular wolves. There are a number of good organizations dedicated to protecting wolves so I’m going to do some research and pick one to support and get involved with.

Cruelty to children is another cause that gets to many people but I’m particularly concerned about the poverty factor, here and in the UK, and the fact that so many children apparently go without proper food every day, as their parents spend the benefits they receive on other things – cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.

The way injured former military people are treated by the governments again both here and in the UK also deeply concerns me. I have previously mentioned the two charities, Wounded Warrior Project in the US, and Help for Heroes in the UK, but I simply don’t understand how a government can send these brave people to protect us and our freedom and then when they return injured it appears bureaucracy takes over and they do not get the support they need and are not given the treatment they need and deserve quickly.

Finally the environment and the need to protect it for our children and their children.

These are all good causes that need support. I think the wolf one is an obviously one for me as I have a genuine wolf dog, Willow, who is 45% wolf, 55% labrador. She looks like a German Shepherd and many people think she’s a shepherd mix, but she had no shepherd in her at all.

willow july 4

She is loving, her temperament is amazing and she is very, very protective which is good. Wolf dogs are legal here in TN with this percentage but I was amazed to see last year at a flea market in East Tennessee Timber wolf cubs for sale, 100% timber wolf! At that same market another stall had wolf skins for sale, and coyote skins. Hunting wolves is legal and I think this has to be examined. It was the same in the UK with foxes. I understand farmers and if they are losing sheep or cattle etc., but hunting purely for sport and ‘fun’, that is not right. People hunt deer and I can see that, they can and do take the deer home, and eat it but you can’t eat wolf! It is purely for a trophy and I don’t agree with it. Selling the skin is another reason and another I don’t agree with.

I have a fairly strange outlook on this. I don’t agree really with killing wild animals; animals breed for the food chain is one thing and if you are going to kill a wild animal it should be for a legitimate reason, and yes, including for food, but not just for recreation.

Tennessee though is of course a proud hunting state. We have many deer on our land and they are lovely to see at dusk but we have also found many skulls and bones, deers obviously attacked and eaten by coyotes. Mother nature at work, but I guess she does need some help now and again.

Posted January 13, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized