Monday, September 29, 2014

Excuse Me While I.....

It was a long rambling drive back from Brighton last night through the foggy wilds of Sussex, diverted off and then back on to the M23. Petrol was getting low; there was no moon and no stars. It was scary.
Then today a lecture on Authenticity at the University of the West, followed by Songwriting at the University of the East.
I ate my lunch at 6.30 p.m. and then came home and I've been doing admin for an hour.
The gig was great, but I'm too tired to write about it.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Food

I've spent most of today cooking and the rest eating.
And practicing the songs or tomorrow night!
Work starts big time on Monday and I had a lecture to write and course materials to prepare. It's a full on day after driving back from Brighton and I imagine that I'll be too tired to cook that night.
I made a plum cake too for the Offsprogs and me, if I manage not to eat it all this evening.
I had some of those plums that go straight from unripe to over-ripe and I just sliced them in half, put them on the bottom af a tin and made a sponge cake mixture with loads of vanilla. Because I was cooking lots of other things I managed not to keep opening the oven door to peep in so the cake cooked beautifully and it's so delicious I've had to hide it.
That reminds me of McMum's American friend Inky who tried to see if the light in the fridge really did go off when she shut the door, and who ended up shutting her nose in it!
I'm all ready for tomorrow: dress ironed, boots polished, songs sung, just the set lists to do tomorrow morning.
Watch out Brighton, the Horns are on their way!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Interview on Juice FM 107.2 Tonight

Kelly Westlake interviewed me for Brighton radio station Juice FM  and it will be broadcast tonight at some time between 11 and 11.30.
You can listen online as well as over the waves, here: juicebrighton.com

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hat

And back in the day I used to wear a hat when I sang and played in Helen and the Horns.
Unforchly during the plague of moths in my flat last year, I lifted one felt hat off the top of the other and found a ghastly mess of tufty gnawed wool, glittering moth wings, seething grubs and disappointment.
Both hats had to be thrown out, so it's going to have to be Big Hair, ultimate Marge Simpson at the gig on Sunday (but not blue hair).

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Spooky Coincidence

Two things happened today that have never happened before: one a thought, and one an incident. That they happened on the same day, that was weird.
I was heading up the escalator at Euston in an anarchic frame of mind for some reason. Looking for trouble.
As we ascended, I spotted an Emergency Stop button halfway up the staircase. Ho ho! Wouldn't it be fun to press it! Would anyone know it was me? Of course they would: CCTV.  I imagined hiding a stick under a voluminous coat to poke it with, but the thread of anarchic thought snapped when I imagined the sudden stop of the moving staircase an people tumbling about all over the place.
The moment passed as soon as it arrived.

On the way back home, I was descending a steep escalator at another tube station, daydreaming about something else entirely. Suddenly, the escalator snapped to a halt and nearly threw us all forward. We had to stumble down the rest of the way holding the momentum at bay; I saw that a woman had fallen down and someone had pressed the emergency stop button.
I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering if I'd had some strange sort of karma-premonition or something like that.

Then I put the kettle on and had a cup of tea.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Big Bardaid Birthday Bash

If you want to reserve a seat at this please email me helen_mccookerybook@yahoo.co.uk

The Chefs and Helen and the Horns Releases on Damaged Goods

If you are a new visitor to this blog, you might not know about the releases of the Peel sessions (plus more music) that Damaged Goods has released.
The Chefs here: http://damagedgoods.co.uk/bands/the-chefs
Helen and the Horns here: http://damagedgoods.co.uk/bands/helen-and-the-horns

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Lantern Theatre, Sheffield

The Lantern Theatre is a little gem in the suburbs of Sheffield. Mini-rows of red velveteen seats perch expectantly facing the stage, and all the features you associate with big theatres: wings, flies, the brick back wall, are all here in pint-sized portions.
I couldn't escape the writing tasks in hand but I read on the train and scribbled notes in pencil on my ration of one sheet of A4 as I travelled somewhat stressfully with other passengers from our cancelled train, changing at Doncaster for another train that was late because of points failure at Meadowhall, or 'Meadowhell' as the conductor called it.
Strangely, I got there at exactly the time I was supposed to; that's just one of those things you can't figure out.
Jim Hornsby was accompanying Martin on guitar, he of the steely Eastwood-like glare and the heart of gold. The sound was great; they have an excellent sound engineer at The Lantern and I think he recorded the gig. I pulled out some old songs- Summer Days, for instance, which I thought would echo the Indian Summer temperatures outside. They weren't there: it was cool and misty and I kind of yearned for a jumper. But it was nice to play again. I've had a bit of a break after losing McMum. It was nice to smile and feel happy.
That all increased when Martin and Jim played, too. Martin also played some songs that rarely get an airing- Nairn Beach, Synergy (two of my favourites) and a song called Daffodils that he played after describing Anth's idea of throwing Morrissey's daffs into the Regent's Canal when they were sharing a dressing room with The Smiths at Dingwalls in the 1980s. They had stopped at a golf course on the long way down from Newcastle to pick magic mushrooms, and after eating them, floating the flowers in the canal seemed like a good idea at the time.
Apparently Morrissey had to make do with tulips that night.

Friday, September 19, 2014

O Stratford, How Fabulous Thou Art

I've had a writing day; I needed books. I went to Stratford, to the library. It was muggy and thundery. I got the books (some of them). I took a picture!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Listening to Song Selfies from the Past

I'm heading through old recordings when I'm meant to be looking at and learning the Helen and the Horns song structures for the rehearsal on Tuesday.
Here, I find the songs that I wrote when I very first picked up a guitar to play solo without a band in around 2005 and the invitation of Jamie McDermot from the Irrepressibles, to whom I will always be grateful.
Clumsily, my fingers trip over the impossible chords that I had invented. My voice sings at a higher pitch than it's meant to and poor cello players valiantly try to play along with me.
The songs are weird, but the lyrics say quite a lot- some of them overtly political.
I'm going to try to work out the chords (which will be an uphill struggle: what the heck was I playing?)and once work has settled down for the new term, I'm going to revive these songs and have some poptastic fun with them.
Wouldn't it be lovely to go to New York in search of Tom Greenwood, who recorded them in the first place! I failed to win the lottery this Saturday (and last Saturday), but I'll keep on tryin'.

Flowers

Look at these beautiful flowers! They arrived early this morning with a huge bag of apples and vegetables, from Adrian in Stockport, who grew them on his allotment. They are so gorgeous that they seem edible; and I did almost eat the cactus, which in the gloaming I thought was a strange form of okra that I hadn't come across before. Good roughage, I suppose.
Thank you Adrian. I will never forget the Allotment gig that Martin and myself played at. These flowers have brought back some very happy memories!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Grumble

Alas, today I have to moan. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I worked 12-hour days trying to write the material for the University new year. One University has changed from semesters to whole-year teaching. The merging of different modules and cross-referencing to make sure it all does what it says on the tin is extremely time-consuming. I spent a large part of yesterday afternoon doing this too and I'm still far from finished.
It's my job, and so I don't mind, but my body does. My shoulders feel as though they are raging on fire because I've spent so long hunched in front of the computer. No matter how many breaks you take, shoulders don't want to be doing this. They want to be walking ten miles on the NHS march.
They liked that, even though my feet didn't.
Yesterday was rescued by a visit to Gina's; we are writing a song about nuisance neighbours, something we both have recent experience of.
Before she moved, hers did so much building work that they cracked the walls of her living room and there was constant noise. Mine won't repair their chimney, which is leaking into my loft, and they have bought a dog which barks very loudly whenever they go out (burglars, take note: it's the opposite of a watch dog). This is usually three to four hours every day.
Gina and I work in three-hour slots, and we are remarkably productive.
I remember writing my PHD in even shorter bursts, during the double-bill Simpsons on a Friday night which kept the girls busy, and writing most of the songs for Suburban Pastoral between 8.15 when I took Offsprog Two to school, and 9.45 when I left for work. Mumalicious!