Monday, December 05, 2016

An Afternoon At The University Of The East

It was cold outside. It was cold inside. We couldn't switch off the air conditioning, but our hearts were warmed by our visitor this afternoon.
Katy Carr told us about Polish resistance fighters, about the escape from Auschwitz in The Kommandant's Car, about Polish slaves in Siberia, about the Mexicans welcoming Polish refugees with flowers and cheers after their experience in US transit camps, and sang lovely songs with the uke, including the Polish Boy Scout's song that they sang quietly whenever it was safe in the forest where they were hiding. We listened to tracks from her albums; it was an afternoon of storytelling and songs and an emotional connection with other people seeking asylum in another era. We lost the walls around out feelings, and we shared yesterday's sorrow alongside today's music and lyrics.
What a year you've been, 2016.
I don't like you one bit and I am looking forward to you going away.

Edward Hopper In Copenhagen Train Station

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The 7.47 From Aalborg

I watch the flat land turn towards the dawn,
Pickled in grey frost.
Black bird shapes write frantic messages across the sky,
And skeletons of trees reach out their fingers for help.

Struggling and screaming
A new day is born.

Thursday, December 01, 2016


I've arrived but I couldn't work out the tap arrangement in the bathroom cubicle thing. I've just accidentally showered myself with my clothes on. I tried to stop it, but it squirted out even more water; the problem is that you turn the shower on with the sink taps. I'm sure it seemed like a great idea at the time to the architect.
I also feel really embarrassed because I realised that I only tipped the taxi driver 50 pence. I don't know the money here yet, and I was so busy apologising for the British invasion of Somalia that I didn't think it through. I will try to find him tomorrow (his taxi is more like a van so I might be able to) and give him more of a tip.
Not much of a travel adventure diary is it?
Aalborg does have beautiful Christmas lights though- just really, really simple but really, really twinkly.

Travelling Girl

I have been travelling since 8.15 this morning: walk, bus, train, bus, plane, walk, train, train....
In an hour and a half I will be in Aalborg in Denmark (I hope) ready for tomorrow's Art of Record Production Conference.
In the morning there will be a panel, with Katia Isakoff, Susan Schmidt Horning, Paula Woolf and me. In my bit I'll be showing a short and early version of Stories from the She-Punks and talking about recording and the women punk bands of the 1970s. In the afternoon, I will be presenting a paper on entrepreneurship and female producers, and listening to some very interesting people talking about their enthusiasms in great depth.
I'm not going to be at the whole conference and I'll miss Valgeir Sigurosson's keynote (he worked with Bjork), and also some other really interesting papers. I'd arranged to come home early to play a gig which I'm not playing now, but even part of the ARP conference is better than none at all and I'm bloody pleased to be going there. Thanks to the University of the East for paying for part of it, and to me for paying for the rest of it, and to my colleague Steve for covering my lecture today.
For now, I'm sitting in a good-natured scrum of noisy older Danish ladies who seem to have been shopping in Copenhagen, some rushing girls with plaits who hurry up and down the train carriage at regular intervals, and some serious gentlemen with all manner of trendy-looking backpacks.
Why am I blogging? Because I am too tired to do the work-on-the-train that I meant to do (how do people manage to do that?); I've read today's paper from cover to cover, read too much of the new Ian Rankin book (nearly 15 quid! I bought the giant version by accident); read the free copy of the Independent that I got at the airport; eaten a big fat cinnamon bun and drunk a cup of coffee; and I'm too afraid to go to sleep in case I  end up back in Copenhagen again after a four hour train journey in the other direction.
Danish people don't sound quite so like Geordies as Norwegians do, but they still have that twang.

Just got the fright of my life- the train is going back in the direction we came in, but the Danish ladies have explained that it goes in a circle. That doesn't quite make sense but I'm going to have to go with the flow- what else can I do?

Waiting For A Plane

I am at our airport, and you know how I feel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bird Talk By The Waterfall

Another drawing in progress for the new album artwork. Excuse the pencil scribblings and little bits of rubber; I'm so knackered after work today that I lack the strength to sweep them off the page!

Written in 2005

And the remix:

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Barnet to Portsmouth to Hackney Wick To Barnet

I deserved that Crunchie. Set off at 2 p.m. and arrived home at 9 p.m.
Met a Jug (Pug crossed with a Jack Russell) that humped cushions even though he hadn't got the correct equipment; knocked the same wing mirror (another embarrassing trip to the garage); watched a surly man fall over in the street, then suddenly he changed and became helpful and he carried Offsprog Two's box of books up the metal stairs. It felt good to be useful, and care for my daughter.
And yesterday made me feel nice.
I haven't felt like that for nine months.

Cultural Day

Off to Stratford with my guitar on my back yesterday morning, I stopped for a coffee.
'Play me a song and I'll give you a free coffee', said the barista. I laughed; but he gave me a free coffee anyway and reduced me to tears with that act of kindness. Coincidentally, when Jono got to the studio, he'd been given a free bottle of water at a pop-up caff on the way.
It must have been something in the air.
We collected singers in Gerry's cafe after setting up the microphones, and the session went like a dream. What amazing singers you all are, and thank you so much for your goodwill. It was easy, and it sounded beautiful and I'm sorry the studio got so hot. I felt like you turned my life-dial to a more positive setting, and the after-session craic in Gerry's was great too. It's fantastic that musicians and artists refuse to be daunted by negative world events and just carry on burrowing into new venues, working out new ways to share their ideas, owning their past, and accepting and celebrating music in all its diverse and fantastic forms. I will write more about this another time.
Afterwards, I went to The Royal Festival Hall to see The Last Poets. I remember inviting Linton Kwesi Johnson to speak to students once, and him citing their influence on his own way of being creative. It was a really interesting evening, hosted by Anthony Anaxagorou; they performed some of their very powerful material and were also interviewed by Anthony, and the audience. Ashley Walters was supposed to appear, but a young north London poet appeared instead and had some wise things to say about Gangsta Rap, comparing the mentality behind the lyrics to The Cat in the Hat as opposed to Tolkien. There was a bit of side-stepping around homosexuality, and too much circling round 'the n-word' although it was used to great effect to describe Trump, which I thought was the best description I've heard of him so far. Overall, the whole discussion was centred on self-respect, becoming a male role model, and the importance of remembering that it's the message that counts in political poetry, not the person delivering it. Wise words indeed.

Friday, November 25, 2016


I have just donated the proceeds of some online music sales to Crisis, the homelessness charity, because they deserve the money.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Here's tonight's drawing, for the song Feathers.
It's not finished; I started it at 5 and it's now 8.30 and I want some soup. The good thing about not finishing the drawings is that I can really savour doing the final touches on another day.
It's the same with songs, sometimes.
This is an anti-bullying song, inspired by someone who managed to bully an entire department in one go a few years ago.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Don't Be Silly, He Said

This is the next drawing in the sequence, complete with pencil scribble lines that I haven't rubbed out yet. The thumb print on this one is out of shot; the other drawing has a thumb print on it too. I just get inky fingers when I do these things.
There are at least ten tracks on the album, so that's lots more drawings to do. After a stressful day at work (but I did manage to get an ultra-serious student to smile the other day) getting into a drawing trance is a perfect way to spend an evening, with a pen gliding over the surface of perfect, smooth paper. This photograph looks tinted. The actual drawing is black on white.
I used to think the drawing was already in the paper and you pulled it out with the pen, and some sorts of drawing still feel like that. But these feel as though I'm skating, sweeping across frozen, hard white ice, the first skater of the day to slice marks into its surface. I feel confident on paper in ways that I don't in life; the characters are like friends who populate my imagination. I recognise them, as though they have always been here.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Wild Hare Club on Friday

Richard is a friendly and welcoming host who has been running the Wild Hare Club for a long time. I played at one of his other venues a few years ago with John Cooper Clark and Don Letts, but this was a very different night.
The venue was De Koffie Pot, a cafe in a complex by the river Wye; tables were covered in hessian and big windows looked out over the river: the view was beautiful, full of sparkling lights.
First up was Sea Legs Puppets, an autobiographical performance that featured intricate paper mach models of puppeteer Rob Ashman's parents and brothers, and authentic-sounding family dialogue. The story moved on to his being cheated out of a puppet head that he made at primary school by a dastardly classmate; he sang a song about it, and then produced a terrifying Little Jimmy Osmond puppet that performed Long Haired Lover From Liverpool. I was alarmed to discover that I knew almost all the words! This was a very entertaining show that Rob says is going to be developed into a full-length performance.
Next was Kate Doody, a poet and a blacksmith whose wry words and concise poetry defined women's  perspectives through her own stories in a funny and poignant way. There was so much there that I recognised- and so did everyone else. Brilliant.
It was a pleasure to be part of such an evening. I do hope to get invited back sometime, and thanks to the audience for joining in with The Sea again!