Saturday, April 21, 2018


Graft has stalled; a student video is being uploaded and it's taking its time. An unfeasible amount of housework is getting done (it's a long time since I cleaned behind the cooker's ears: yuk), the blues is on constantly, and I've even repotted Lily, who is entering a second phase as a garden plant.
The scaffolders-out-front are taking a day's rest, but they have been replaced by drillers and bangers out back, orchestrated with Bee Vees (joke) from a herd, not as big as a swarm, of bees who are humming and buzzing out there, rendered dizzy by the aromas of sudden spring.
I have to dodge them as I vainly try to persuade dried twigs of former plants to come back to life; oddly, some grumpy buggers are thriving. The gentians, the oxalis and a clematis formerly known as 'not worth it' are positively joyous, and a clutch of pansies that seemed to be rotting in their polystyrene box (it was too cold to plant them out) are raising their little faces to the sun with glee.
The upload... grr... has gone from 55 minutes to two hours. I shouldn't have interrupted it by writing this!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Grafting Friday

We are hard at work, me and the scaffolders. The heat has rendered them less vocal this morning although they did some fantastic sonic work this morning; almost electronica-like burbling, echoes and reverbs swirled around the back yard when I went out for the morning constitutional.
I've done an hour's writing and have another hour to go before the scholarly muscle is exhausted; then it's time to watch the documentary and do a bit of restructuring all ready for next week's re-edit.
And then...
... the Herculean task of putting stuff up on eBay, mostly clothes but also one guitar which it will be a wrench to say goodbye to, but I don't play it. It gave me one lovely song, and has spent the rest of its ten years with me wrapped up in its case just waiting to be played, which is not what a guitar should experience. With any luck I will make enough money to pay for a week's accommodation in New York.
Scary and exciting both at once, but I'm so glad to have planned ahead, because my arm has almost entirely healed up. Things could have been so much worse; health is precious, worth more than any amount of money.
I have also stopped being frightened of falling over and doing it again, which is a good thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Go Sunshine!

Back Yard Slapback

There is a fantastic slapback effect on the yelling and crashing from the street outside front, in the back yard. Wow. Now doesn't that sound like song title?

Procrastination Break

Oddly, the noisy scaffolders across the road are quite good companions. 'Yah! Hur hur hur', they larf at little jokes, instruct each other in loud cockney voices, drill in harsh bursts; thump and clang.
'Clip, clop, clip, clop', they mock a lady in high heels walking past, oblivious to me mocking them from behind the net curtain.
Humans are snobs, aren't we?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Logging Vids

It's been an early start; I'm logging Trash's interview this morning. With a borrowed camera, lots of the film is shaky because I couldn't manage a tripod and a guitar on the trip to Edinburgh. I swapped over to the iPhone in the end, partly because the sound wasn't synching with the image, but apparently that's normal and it's something to do with buffering, and it's come out fine (apart from the wobbling).
I'm not a cameraperson, that's for sure.
Logging is incredibly tedious; it takes hours. For the earlier parts of the film, I used to sit working all day in Corbridge, glancing out at the great outdoors and wishing I'd chosen to be a gardener; but then the sense of pride when we showed the in-progress version of the film at last at The British Library made it all worthwhile.
Numbers, notes, beginnings, endings, numbers, notes, beginnings, endings....
Alas, it's a gorgeous day out there. The back door is open and the birds are tweetling away. There are what seems to be hundreds of bees buzzing around the yellow tree-that-I-don't-know-what-it-is. There are a few sad twiggy things in pots that were decimated by the double winter that happened last month- one of them looked as though it was going to survive but it was like a fight where someone gets punched in the face, decked, and then given a good kicking for good measure. It's in a sunny spot with lots of water just in case it wants to have another try, but I think it's well and truly kaput.
I can't do much out there yet because I'm not strong enough to lift heavy pots about the place, so it's probably good to have this task to do. And of course, I'm procrastinating. Every time I write a blog posting like this which is essentially about nothing, it's because I should be doing something else.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Saturday Night With The London Set

Filmed by Jane Barnes at The Cluny 2 Newcastle on Friday 13th April. Dedicated to the shared past of gig goers who simply won't give up!


It's the social side of gigging that adds to the fun. Bid was thrilled that Pauline Murray and Rob from Penetration turned up on Friday, though he'd disappeared off for a fag when I took them backstage to meet him. Pauline is recording a new solo album which will be out in the autumn- that's great to hear.
It was fab to catch up with Mick, June and Laura and to go to the cat café with them and catch up on their news.
Lastly, I enjoyed the social interaction with a freshly baked cinnamon bun at the Swedish café Dala on Sunday morning; that was little short of bliss, and I'm going to learn how to make them, and get fat.

Monday, April 16, 2018

So Saturday....

Because I haven't driven for ten weeks (the second last thing to be reintroduced after cracking my elbow on the NHS march), I got the bus up to Newbiggin by the Sea to play The Argyle Rooms. Jason Thomson and Rebecca, his partner, host these monthly house concert in their living room, and they are convivial and warm-hearted hosts.
Beccy Owen was also playing and I had been intrigued to listen to her singing her songs; she runs pop-up choirs all over the north east and also writes songs for theatre groups. I was blown away by her voice, which is truly gorgeous. Her pitching is absolutely spot on and she has a sort of huskiness that lots of pop singers aspire to, but don't get anywhere near to. I have her album (we did a swap) and I'm really looking forward to hearing it. She is coming back into music after taking a break, and played some new material on Saturday which augurs well for her next gigs. I hope to get to see her again- especially if she forays down this way, which I have a feeling she might do in the not too distant future. Brilliant. And thank you Jason and Rebecca, and your lovely friends. The craic was a good as the music!

So Friday...

Start again.
Hello Cluny 2- I remember you!
The stage has moved to a better place and the Monochrome Set were checking when I got there.
Rupert and Phoebe from Big Pink Yacht were there already and it was really nice to see them again and yak with them in the dressing room.
Caryne and Dave had set up the merch stall; the Monochrome Set have a new album out, Maisieworld on the German label Tapete (home to Friedrich Sunlight and Louis Philippe, amongst others) and are touring to promote it.
Big Pink Yacht did a neat set of songs that somehow pulled in influences both from California and the Celtic world; they sing wonderful harmonies together. Their lead singer Imogen plays the fiddle and guitar, Rupert plays electric and acoustic, Phoebe plays bass and John plays drums.Their music is positive and joyful, and they opened the night with a set of catchy, well-arranged songs. I can't wait to hear their first album.
After regaining confidence at last night's gig, I was really looking forward to playing. The audience seemed to be in good spirits and I liked the heckled requests- I did play Let's Make Up, but I'm not ever going to play Thrush again, chaps! I felt very happy afterwards and played some new stuff. Thank you for the friendly reception, Newcastle Monochrome Set audience; it meant an awful lot to me to have a good gig in my home town.
The Monochrome Set took to the stage and roared through their set, mixing up older songs with brand new ones. They had leaping fans down the front who knew all the words and sang along with great dramatic gusto. I couldn't help singing along with The Monochrome Set (I have to, its automatic), and Love Goes Down The Drain sounded brilliant; Maisieworld sounded great too. Basically, Andy Warren is one of my all-time favourite bass players; I remember seeing them at The Moonlight Club in West Hampstead when I was in The Chefs and thinking 'When I grow up, I'm going to have an Ampeg bass stack like Andy Warren's'. I never did, but the bass playing is still up there with the gods. They have 'That bloke from the Blue Orchids' as Vic Godard calls him, on keyboards; he favours an organ sound and after Fay Fife's gig yesterday, what can I say? Organs are big this year.
Bid was in great voice in spite of having a cold (he refused a Fisherman's Friend) and they got a well-deserved encore.
The Monochrome Set gave Helen and the Horns one of our first gigs, at Kingston Polytechnic and Vanessa was there- hi Vanessa!- originally Mike their drummer was going to be in the band, and Lester Square too although rehearsing just with the horns ended up with playing just with the horns.
What an odd turnip for the books. I've just sung on Lester's album (another good 'un) and was sorry to miss the 40th anniversary gig at The Lexington when he returned to the band for the weekend.
Mega thanks to Michael Clunkie for inviting me to play on Friday. It was a really good night for everyone and I was so excited that I couldn't sleep a wink when I got back to the hotel in the armpit of the Tyne Bridge.

So Friday...

Friday night was Newcastle night. On the way from the station, the bumhole cab driver not only didn't put his meter on and double charged me, but he also subjected me to a rant riffing on the fact that "women shouldn't play the guitar" because of our small hands and bodies. I looked at my hands. they are big.
I mean.
In the morning I'd gone to buy some guitar strings in Edinburgh; I asked for a packet of Ernie Ball tens. ''For an electric guitar, yeah?'"
I mean.

So Thursday...

On Thursday afternoon, I had the opportunity to interview the fantastic Trash, of all-female Edinburgh punk band the Ettes. Trash had loads of great stories, and this gives Gina and me a chance to include her in the film.
Later we went on to The Depot in Leith for the Refugee Benefit organised by Liz Tainsh. Liz puts on these events every month and it was great to have the opportunity to support displaced people at a concert like this.
The headliners The Pitiful Few were sound checking when we got there; they play blues with a boogie-woogie feel, led by a keyboard player in a snazzy hat and sharp suit.
First on was Andy Gunn, playing solo (he normally plays with his band). He is a great solo artist too- his guitar playing is absolutely superb. He plays an acoustic guitar, and has a resonant and mellow voice that glides effortlessly through the blues scales in his self-penned songs, a lot of which came from his latest album. I think he will be playing there again with his full band some time in the near future.
I was on next and the audience was in good voice to sing along with The Sea. This was the first proper gig since the fractured elbow and I was actually shaking with relief when I finished. It was such a nice audience though- it couldn't have been a better place to return to it all.
Next was The Countess of Fife- that's Fay Fife to you and me. Boy, was she in good voice! She plays an keyboard with an organ sound and is accompanied by a guitarist who plays searing riffs on a Strat; the two instruments sound amazing together and Fay's 1960s-sounding voice fits into the sound perfectly. Her songs are dark and have a hint of The Cramps about them, all swampy swirls and snarly guitar.
The guitarist told me that his band had supported Helen and the Horns years ago in Dunfermline- yes! I remembered them: So You Think You're A Cowboy. They were really good, sort of rockabilly, and great fun too- they came over the Forth Bridge the next night to continue the festivities at the next gig we did at The Calton Centre;Muriel Gray came along and we drank many a vodka (that was in my drinking days).
I missed some of The Pitiful Few's set, but enjoyed what I saw. Liz is brilliant for organising these gigs and although it was absolutely miserable outside, enough loyal souls came out to make it a good night.
Boy was I glad that a taxi slid by when I left the venue- it was absolutely horrendous out there!

Barmcake Magazine

It's a great honour to appear in Barmcake Magazine this quarter:

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Mad Bicycle Song at The Cluny 2

Filmed by June Whitfield: stuff about The Leith Depot, more on this concert, and the Argyle Rooms tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

On The Road

Leith Depot tomorrow, a refugee benefit; Newcastle Cluny 2 on Friday supporting the Monochrome Set; Argyll Rooms on Saturday with Beccy Owen. First rufty-tufy gigs since broken elbow; a bit of  challenge! Keep your fingers crossed please!