Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The UKIP Song

Strangely, I was talking to a group of students two weeks ago about how odd it was that UKIP hadn't got a band. Other political parties usually have cronies who support them with music and endorsements, but UKIP didn't.
I suppose I was using them as an example of a cultural desert personified, and I suppose that position hasn't really changed.
How can anyone take them seriously? A fake calypso song about keeping foreigners out?
They are surely a joke sent from outer space to parody humankind.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Toadstools

It was Sarah's birthday on Sunday and she and Little Bruv (who is bigger than me, but younger than Big Bruv, who is younger than me but older than him, and also bigger than me) came up for lunch.
Sarah liked the idea of a walk to look for toadstools as she makes lots of crafts, and crocheted toadstools are what she is working on at the moment. So we went hunting.
Most of all, Sarah wanted to find Fly Agarics, the red spotty toadstools that elves sit on, because she had never really seen proper ones. We hunted all over the place and found myriad different toadstools- plump white hair-covered ones, delicate pink baby-ear toadstools, purple velvety ones, fat beige ones, but no red spotties.
There were an incredible number of different varieties- and all completely different form the many different sorts that I'd found when I went up there last year.
I remembered finding a young Fly Agaric nestling behind some grass right beside the road back then so I suggested that we walk along parallel to the road to see if some had reappeared in the same place.
Bingo!
Big Bingo!
Huge great things, almost looking as though they had been deliberately planted there to celebrate Sarah's birthday.
Happy birthday Sarah! Sarah's blog is here http://circles-of-rain.blogspot.co.uk/



Monday, October 20, 2014

The East London Prairies

There are a lot of lost young men on bicycles, searching, searching.
With neatly-fluffed beards and checked shirts, they seek the prairies of East London; they look high and low and they are terribly busy.
I wish them luck but I think they are looking in the wrong place.

Thursday at Chalkwell House, Southend

On Thursday I will be taking part in a panel chaired by Zoe Howe (who wrote the fab book Typical Girls: the story of the Slits and many other titles) and with Enid Williams, who played bass with Girlschool, at Chalkwell House, Chalkwell Park, Southend. It's going to be great, I know. I'm really looking forward to it. We will be talking about guitars and girls playing, and all that. Always a 'now' subject, even now.

Friday, October 17, 2014

9 Hours

I'm looking down the day. It's going to be another nine hourser; I've done a few of these recently which is why I'm too tired to go out a lot of the time. It's mostly admin- booking seven lecturers for the University of the East, all with different but amazing expertise, for instance.
But I'm also writing and refreshing lectures and finishing a chapter on music business entrepreneurship which has a deadline of next week.
That's meant a lot of (very interesting) reading in a new area but my latest trashy detective novel has been splayed out waiting to be picked up on for two weeks, poor papery thing.
I've been hoisting all sorts of unsavoury messes from the back of the freezer. I'm not sure what they are but nothing's killed me yet although I've had a few dodgy comfort breaks and I'm wary of sprouting a pot belly after my posting a few days ago about middle-aged spread.
I'm seriously considering another ten mile walk just to remind my body that gravity exists, and my head should be way up there and my feet, way down there. My working position in front of the computer is becoming disturbingly foetal.
Time to get back to work and mine the pile of post-it notes. What have I forgotten to do?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Middle Aged Spread

I don't have middle aged spread around my middle; well, not much. But I do have middle aged spread  at the tips of my fingers, quite liderally.
For the past few days I have been suffering dreadfully from fat finger syndrome, mis-spelling texts to such a degree that I've been shooting off all sorts of obscenities completely unintentionally.
Luckily, I don't do online banking (because everyone I know who does it regularly loses money from their accounts) so I haven't accidentally paid thousands of pounds to an electricity company, for instance. The obscenity thing is worrying enough; what is more worrying is the fat fingers, though.
Just how fat will they get, and will I still be able to ease them on to the strings of my guitar?
Will I be pressing multiple doorbells when visiting pals who live in flats, or confusing the lift at work, which won't be able to tell which floor I'm aiming at?
Condemned to walk up the stairs forever nursing my chubby digits, the additional exercise will ensure that I'll remain free of middle-aged spread around my middle, but I have resigned myself to a destiny of constantly having my hands picked up in error at the supermarket as they are mistaken for a packet of Wall's Porkinson Bangers.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Martin Stephenson at The Blue Boar in Maldon

The extremely funny and talented Stephen Foster Pilkington and his wife Katy, the lovely opera singer, put on a very quirky gig last night. The Blue Boar is an old, timbered building in the centre of seaside Maldon in Essex, home to sailors one and all. The space is up in the eaves, with beams spanning the inside of the roof, and every wall covered with gilt-framed oil paintings of some very ill-looking men from previous centuries. An enormous carved wooden bureau stands against the back of the stage wall, its lions, maidens and grapes picked out in detail by the portable stage light.
The audience is a smiley, motley crew, who mostly came last time and who feel like friends.
Stephen is first on, and treats us to a set on complete other-worldly eccentricity, tricking even me, the audience introvert, into singing along. Wilko-Johnson-powered  (he loves him), this is a rocket fuelled performance that embeds the lovely and quite serious song Do My Eyes See Everything amongst comedy, farce and tragedy. As he finishes, Katy is invited to join him from the back of the room and she treats us to walkabout opera. You don't get that a a One Direction concert!
I play a quite laid back set apart from The Chefs Let's Make Up, and Martin joins me for Heaven Avenue and If You've Got The Blues. I enjoy singing; the feeling is there tonight. My fingers are obeying instructions, the Telecaster is jangling and I'm happy.
Martin is on form, treating us to a set that includes Morning Time and some of his more introspective songs before launching into Little Red Bottle, at which point the crowd leaps to their collective feet and dances the antiques off the floor. I witness some very tense but enthusiastic Dad dancing, lots of blonde hair swinging about, and enthusiastic laughter. Martin has The Bounce in his fingers, no doubt about that; he never ceases to amaze me with his ability to entertain and turn in a different show every night, bless 'im.

I worry that those ancient pictures lining the wall are somehow the captured and pressed souls of previous audience members, flattened and forced into picture frames and imprisoned forever at the end of the Ball.

Today, I've mostly been asleep. It's been a busy week of work and play. While sleeping, I dreamed that I was running a songwriting workshop which wa excruciatingly embarrassing because I couldn't get it off the ground; nobody had any ideas. Name of the song?
'Wake Up'.
Well, yes.
Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Vivien Goldman at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club

Vivien will be coming in to talk to some students at the University of the West next week and I was delighted to go along to her Punky Reggae Perty event on Wednesday. I sat next to Gina, who was filming the evening, and her partner Mike, near the front so we got a great view of Vivien herself and also the slides of some very stylish people from back in the day: Reggae and Punk people both from bands and not. Everyone looked good back then (or maybe that's the rose-tinted specs talking). There was even one of Darlajane Gilroy and her then partner Rick; she appeared on the cover of our Brighton zine Pick of the Poseurs.
It was a really warm-hearted evening with some technical glitches (a microphone that cut out from time to time, and the wrong track selected to play from time to time) but the talk was very powerful.
I welled up when Vivien paid tribute to Poly and Ari, and there was an utterly charming moment when she sang along to Launderette. What a catchy song: it is so much 'of the time'.
I took away with me a visual image of the child Vivien at family parties handing peanuts round to her parents' friends who had Nazi tattoos from the camps on their arms; and a lot of other food for thought.
What an generation of people! We all have different memories and different stakes in the past that are  all equally valuable and all equally subjective.
Without each person creating music, taking photographs, writing, making clothes and fanzines, or putting on events, the whole shebang couldn't have happened. Being punk, even the audiences were just as important as anyone else.
Hats off to Vivien for collecting together such a great bunch of people (Chrissie Hynde, Don Letts, Gina, Andrea Oliver and Neneh Cherry- whose music sadly I missed due to getting up at the crack of dawn to lecture next day- and many more). This was a fantastic evening that sold out very quickly and I'm glad I went; look out for more Punky Reggae Party events in future!
Below: Launderette, and Vivien looking good beside the slide-show at The Bethnal Green Working Men's Club

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

No More Mrs Nice Guy

Making up Powerpoints for my lectures sandwiches between reading assorted books on the music industry, production and trashy crime novels. Life stretches ahead into the future as a series of deadlines, some terrifying, some exciting.
I'm listening to Lover's Rock and eating food that's got an 'Eat By Today' sticker on it, and revelling in the world of ideas that swirls around me.
Through the rain, I run in a squashed-looking hat to the supermarket past swaggering men wielding demolition company umbrellas, shocking them by rounding on them as they snarl sarcastic comments at me.
I have zero tolerance for any sort of abuse or rudeness: no more Mrs Nice Guy!

One night a small team of drunken young men were throwing our bins into the middle of the road and I flung up the window and yelled at them. They were terrified. The police got 'em.
I used to be so timid. Where has this high self-esteem and determined self-defence come from?

Monday, October 06, 2014

A Good Hour

On Friday I sat in front of the computer for nine hours, planning this, juggling that, tidying up loose ends and creating more loose ends, tippity tap on the keyboard, eyes drooping, feet icy even though it was warm outside.....
Today I got to do one of my fave lectures, about voices in songwriting. I love talking about things I feel enthusiastic about. In songwriting workshops you do this in the vernacular but at a University it has to be academic but that's just as much fun. Finding the right scholars to articulate an idea that originated on the street, or something that everyone knows but nobody says: it's like being a detective. And next week I get to play them The Cocteau Twins, and some Kurt Weill, and maybe even Marlene Dietrich. And the Maddox Brothers and Rose, X Ray Spex, Cher and Space Lady.
Shall we have a disco afterwards and dance to Northern Soul, or shall we watch a film? Les Parapluies de Cherbourg?
My living room is wall to wall books and you can't sit on the kitchen chair because there's a pile there too. Post-it notes sprout out of them at regular intervals and there is a pile of frail newspaper cuttings on the floor that rises and falls with a gentle sigh every time I walk past it and disturb the air, settling back down on the rug in a slightly more disordered fashion every time.
Books, music, art... And a slice of chocolate cake, please, with the top icing taken off and thrown in the bin (too sticky).
One good hour's lecture, and I sit in the evening with a Cheshire Cat's grin on my face.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

He for She

I'm pondering about this. Feminism has become the new hipster fashion which is both a good and bad thing; great that it's being discussed a lot more than normal, but not so great because fashions come and go and I don't trust fashion to lead social change.
I also don't trust colonists: if feminism becomes a hipster commodity, then it won't belong to women any more and will start to be shaped by men.
I left an event the other night because the DJ, who had been listening to a lovely choir with the rest of the audience, commented during the interval: "I could really use them in my set!"
The idea of feminism being metaphorically used in the DJ set fills me with dread.

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.