Sunday, April 23, 2017

Songs from the Kitchen: Temptation


Many thanks to Dexter Bentley for playing this track on his Resonance show yesterday. After 25 years in the suburban wilderness, I started writing songs again after Jamie McDermot (of the Irrepressibles, and one of the most talented students I've ever come across, plus one of the nicest people) encouraged me to start playing again. It was like floodgates opening- I wrote so many songs. Some of them ended up on the album Suburban Pastoral, which I released on my own just over ten years ago, and which is finally almost sold out.
Some of them didn't, and exploring the depths of the computer the other day I found this one. It was just a  bit too stark (and 5/4 time a bit of a stutter) to make it on to the album, whose track listing was chosen by a group of trusted friends.
The song harks back to childhood Sunday mornings spent in Jesmond Presbyterian Church, sitting in an uncomfortable wooden line with my family under the cavernous ceiling, and listening to the poetry of the Bible, where landscapes a million miles away from the grey bleakness of Newcastle (how the city has changed!) warmed my imagination.
I had never seen a bullrush, but I had seen pictures of them.
And the cruelty at the heart of the story: well, what has changed? All that has happened is that the cruelty inflicted by psycopathic rulers has become more sophisticated and more twisted. Gassing children! When the 'bible' of today's history is read by future humans, always supposing that we continue to exist as a life-form, nobody will believe it. I am so angry to have so little power to stop the cycle of arms sales and warfare, which is really just a demo-tape for the weapons industry.

And thank you Dexter, and I was thrilled to appear on the same bill as Poly Styrene singing Germ-Free Adolescents, which is my second favourite X-Ray Spex track after Oh Bondage, Up Yours!
Dexter's show is here:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

York Railway Museum

Maybe it was being brought up in Wylam, birthplace of George Stephenson (inventor of The Rocket), a tiny village with two stations (North and South), but I have loved trains since I was a bairn.
I'd seen York Railway Museum through the train window so many times but never visited, so before meeting the Whitfields for lunch I spent a couple of hours there completely absorbed by the wonderful trains and railway ephemera. There were so many beautiful locomotives they probably deserve a post of their own.
I loved the painted lettering, the practicality of everything, the kissing buffers, the enamelled signs, the samovars, the normal peculiarity. The only thing that I didn't like was the poor stuffed dog, who had been a charity dog in London and was rewarded by being taxidermied and put on display. What a terrible fate! I imagined charity ladies being treated in the same way, and it made my toes curl. I have taken billions of photographs of the insides of steam trains, copper pipes, steel pipes, rivets, signs, wheels and everything you could possibly imagine. Wow. And they knew that I lived in High Barnet!

Half Asleep

I fell half asleep on the train back from York. It would have been better to fall whole asleep, or not at all.
I realised that I needed milk.
In the shop the guy behind the counter looked rather absent-minded, I thought.
I focused on his air of ennui and fatigue.
Absent-mindedly, I left the milk in the shop.
(I think).

Spaceheads, Rucksack Cinema and Howie Last Night

I'm so glad I peeled my lazy butt off the sofa last night. I was going to stay in and be disappointed by the TV schedule again, but instead I went to a forested area in deepest Lambeth to Club Integral, and enjoyed an evening of music and visuals that was unexpectedly invigorating.
I left with my head buzzing with inspiration, feeling that I'd been let in on a great secret.
Howie Reeve plays an acoustic bass and sings. There is no band, apart from a plastic pig-player whose pigs sounded more like frogs:they said ribbit, not oink (I know pigs don't say oink but they definitely don't ribbit).
Bass and vocal is a great combo- Gail Ann Dorsey does it, but Howie couldn't have been more different. He sings wry lyrics, setting his life to music and alternately thrashing and plucking the bass, sounding sometimes medieval and at others, plain evil or rather, dark, as he would prefer. The songs were evocative of urban life, trees struggling to breathe in traffic fumes, litter, living above all the noise and confusion. I thought about the Spanish guitar videos that I've been making and felt that I needed to up my game.
Spaceheads were altogether different. The former pig-player, Richard Harrison, morphed into an ace drummer who skidded and skedaddled across the kit, blending timbale sounds with maracas and all sorts of other drummer stuff. Andy Diagram built textures, spiky, creamy, sometimes howling into the trumpet microphone, bending the sounds with electronics and playing with sounds of space and claustrophobia, all the time accompanied by the shifting images of Jaime Rory Lucy's projections. Such beautiful colours, and very Russian, very Metropolis and very 2017 at the same time.
I will see this again and it will be completely different next time, but just as enjoyable.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Lyrics Books

The test proofs for the lyrics books turned up in the post today. I almost cried, because I think they look beautiful. I stood at the bus stop trying to photograph them (I had to collect them from the sorting office because I was out at Katy's doing Song Circle) but it was fruitless.
The fruitlessness continued for much of the afternoon. I tried seven times to film Glasgow Train and got to almost the end of the best one, before collapsing in laughter for no real reason. Then I got the perfect take and uploaded it before realising that the iPad had run out on memory and only saved 6 seconds of it. So I had to work out how to delete the deleted videos, and got so knackered that I had to rest for half an hour. The knackered-ness is partly because I have chosen possibly the most knackering evening class anyone could do. I was so glad to go back though- there were new people, and I wasn't the worst person any more.
It was also brilliant at Katy's this morning, playing our songs and drinking tea. Katy does fantastic impressions of her relatives, who by all accounts thoroughly deserve to be done impressions of. I'm not sure if her stories are confidential so I might tell you some of them further down the line without letting on who they are about. They are impressively awful.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Breathing Space And The Street Racist

Off round to Gina's this morning (put the kettle on!) to have a break from marking and administration before this afternoon. I marked more than 30 Professional Practice websites yesterday and went out for a walk.
When I got back there was a hullaballoo in the street; a very aggressive man was charging down the road screaming racist abuse. I stood behind the curtain with my camera and he stopped right outside the house (he couldn't see me) and flung the recycling bin right into the middle of the road before charging off again. I went out to get a good photo and he had a scream at me before crossing the road to tell the new pharmacist and his mum, who were walking done the street, that they were 'F***ing Pakis'. I thought he was going to hit one of them so I phoned the police.
One of the neighbours filmed the whole thing; we managed to clear up the rubbish (thank you, new pharmacist and neighbour) dodging a few nasty cars in the process.
Strange thing to have happened, especially on a day when I was out doing my own direct action against racist newspapers.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Strange Goings-On

Suddenly in the middle of the night, a loud song sung by an enthusiastic man blasted into the quiet darkness. There was a rustling then it stopped. I patrolled the house with my jaw set in an aggressive thrust. Nobody there; it was the record player starting up all by itself.
A few nights later the smoke alarm went off at about 5 o'clock in the morning. I was convinced that Offsrog One had come in from a party, made some casual toast and burned it. But no, it was the smoke alarm going off on a whim.
And the bathroom extractor has started intermittently screaming like a panicking fox (we have those, too, in the garden).
We think that there are electrical surges that set all these things off; many years ago when the Offsprogs were mere sproglings, we had a strange blue octahedron-shaped toy that played electronic versions of things like Incy Wincy Spider and Humpty Dumpty. It would run through an electronic chromatic scale, settle on a note, and then a bored sounding woman's voice would sing the nursery rhyme deadpan, before the scale ran up or down again and the voice said 'Bye-bye'.
You'd hear it set off on its spooky journey in the wee small hours, a non-existent voice singing to a non-existent child, set off by the fridge switching on its internal refrigeration unit. Permanently insomniac, I would listen in a state of tension from the bedroom downstairs (it was an upside-down house), only relaxing when it said goodbye for the night.
Either that, or we have a ghost. I hope it's a friendly one.

Bad Day, from the Kitchen

Relentless Restlessness

Zip, zap. Fighting the virus so I can be relentlessly restless again; the audio files have been uploaded and sent to the CD manufacturer and the lyric book is on its way here after I gave the printer the wrong phone number last week (got out of bed to take it down there, perhaps unwisely).
I am making a tour diary of sorts, most of which is going to be on Facebook, but some of which I will put here too if I have time. It's those 52 websites which I have to mark and haven't started yet. You really do need your brain for that and mine is left behind last week somewhere.
The Offsprogs have
Gone to
and I miss them already although they have left their Easter chocolates (sadly, just ghosts of Easter chocolates now) and a light spreading of clothing draped on radiators, chairs, and of course, the floor. It would be cruel to leave the floor out, wouldn't it?
There are so many things that I wanted to do today but haven't done because my legs still feel like jelly. I am doing one thing really, really well: sitting down. I think I should have one of those rosettes for that, the ones you get for making nice jam in tent in Miss Marple programmes, and that actually used to be real when I was a nipper in Northumberland.
This were the days: School Nurse Terror, Mr Hazen with his cane and his mad, popping eyes, and Mrs Herdman with her vicious grasp and smacky hands scaring the living daylights out of classes with 40 children in them.
And look what we grew up to be!

In Support of Planned Parenthood

I have contributed a track to this fab album in support of Planned Parenthood.
One of the things Trump has done to disempower poorer people, in this case women, is the removal support from organisations that offer contraception and abortion services to those who need them.
It will happen here too if we allow the Conservatives free reign to do what they want.
Here it is: