Monday, April 30, 2007


Saw 3 Lowri Turners this afternoon as I walked through town. This is alarming, because it fears me that I will turn into one too if I hang around here long enough. Maybe it's just that there's a convention going on somewhere in the 'hood, and I haven't read about it anywhere because I threw the local papers straight into the recycling bin this week.

I saw Mrs Nosmiles. She did twist her left lip slightly last time I smiled at her in the street, which is progress. I will persevere, because she looks like fun, secretly.

A woman cello player strode down our street, smoking a cheroot. I must find out who she is. Imagine that! A cheroot smokin' cellist sawing away on stage next to me! Wow!

Apart from that, the streets are empty; everyone is in their back garden sipping chilled cherryade and eating Quavers. I know, because my cat told me.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Couple of Stories for Sunday (one's a Repeat, I think)

I had a friend from Slovakia, we were very good mates, and one day she asked me to go with her to see a concert by a Slovakian superstar called Elan. He had been in a very serious motorcycle accident, and was just piecing himself together again physically; he'd decided to play for the expats in London as a way back to performing in Slovakia. So we got dressed up in our finery and went down to Camden Town Hall. What an experience! I think I was the only English-speaking person there; every Slovakian person in London must have congregated there to see him! He looked absolutely delighted. I don't think I've ever seen a performer look so genuinely pleased to be on stage: he had the most radiant smile, and the rock star arrogance just fell to the floor and left a real, happy, middle-aged singer counting his blessings; the whole audience sang along in unison to every song, bellowing, carolling, dreaming of Slovakia, drunk on that lethal stuff that comes in big brown beer bottles. I was completely stunned, an alien in London. I really did feel like a fly on the wall, some sort of voyeur into a totally different culture: the bond between him and his audience was so strong you could almost reach out and touch it.
Thank you, Eva, for taking me to his concert. I don't know where you are now and you certainly don't read this because you don't know who Helen McCookerybook is.

Biology Teacher
This is the story that might be a repeat but I can't be bothered to look through all those postings to see if it is or not! It is Sunday morning after all, and I bet nobody else is up but me.
No, I think I have told you, actually, so I won't. You see, I'm worried in case I am becoming senile.

I was going to auction a vinyl single of Frank Ifield singing 'She Taught Me To Yodel' (or is it 'I Taught Her To Yodel'? It's upstairs and I'm downstairs) for Resonance.
Does anyone want to bid for it, and I'll give them the money? They didn't have time to do the auction on Resonating Sunday, and it's here propping up my dentures. If you want to, email me
Time for a cup of coffee, I think.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Good Name For A Cat


Film Music

Well, Joby called last night and he and Valex really like the film music I made, so I am very pleased. Pete is going to come and put some weird noises on it (he has lots of electronic sound toys) but I have to wait for a couple of weeks because there's a lot on at work. Valex says the music sounds very sixties which is pretty perceptive since the amps and guitars (Ampeg Reverb Rocket for guitar, vintage Fender precision Bass) I used are all from that era- it's got a real retro feel.

Tomorrow, I'm going to tell you about Elan, the Slovakian superstar. That will be very exciting for you, so make sure you check in.

Toodle pip!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Lost going; lost there; lost coming back.

Yesterday morning I went to Tom's to re-do the vocals on some of my tracks. What I did was better, but annoyingly, as I re-recorded January in Paris (it's a much better version) I asked Tom 'Is it one o'clock?'. The reason I knew is that at one o'clock on the dot, my voice changes from the voice of a strangled ferret to a normal singing voice, not just in sound but also in how it feels like to sing through the bloody voice box. So I've decided to do no more singing sessions in the morning, no matter how unprofessional that is (someone once told me proper singers can sing perfectly at any time of day, so I suppose now it's time to finally admit I'm nor proper).
Anyway... thats enough about me (ha ha ha ha!!)

Here's some more about me. I got really lost on the way to the venue in Tufnell Park. I got 'there' (you know, the general area) and drove past the street twice in one direction and once in the other direction, until I found it and did a u-turn in front of an angry bus. I was just parking when I realised I'd chosen a spot just next to a chip shop where about 5 teenage boys were having a chip'n'vinegar fight. I've got a courtesy car again (don't even ask why!) and would lose a hundred smackers if it got damaged so I got back in and drove off. But it was a one way street, and I got lost again trying to find the way back into it.
The pub was great, and Little Alison came (she's a seamstress and came with her sewing mates). Long time since we saw each other- she used to be in the strange productions we took to the Edinburgh Fringe, the Pantomime Titus Andronicus Musical and Dr Calamari. Rick Britt, the drummer from Joby and the Hooligans and the Smartees, came too. Incredible to see him again- he remembers different things to me, like our guitarist Steve not being able to remember lyrics or chords and having masses of little bits of paper with them on stage with him. There was an extra person on the bill (Ollie was frighetened of her so he let her play) but I'm afraid I can't review the other acts like I normally do because I was too busy yakking!
But people seemed to really like my songs, and I'll be playing there again.
I got lost on the way back too. It's very interesting getting lost, you see lots of bits of London you wouldn't otherwise see; but I do sometimes wonder if one day I'll get lost and never get found again, and just spend the rest of my life driving round in limbo, peering in bewilderment out of the windscreen of the car.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Easter Squirrel

Jenny had hidden loads of chocolate Easter Eggs in shiny foil around the garden for the children to hunt for, but everyone was eating their lunch first. Little Bruv and myself were sitting in the garden yakking and we became aware of a squirrel casing the joint. One of Jenny's mega-cats was aware of the squirrel too, and the squirrel was aware of the mega-cat, back. So there we all were, watching each other.
Suddenly, the squirrel made a dive for a massive Easter Egg, grabbing it between its teeth and bombing back up the fence, chucking the Egg into next door's garden for later and buggering off as fast as it could into the distance. Simultaneously, the mega-cat made a dive for the squirrel, completely missing it and creating the most enormous racket as it scarabbled up the fence and only just made it to the top.
Me and Little Bruv just sat there with our mouths open.

I'm exhausted after the excitement of telling you that. I re-lived it, you see.

What's happening today? Re-recording vocals of some old songs round at Tom's; I've got a feeling that the reason I don't like some of those songs is that I don't like the way I sing 'em. Just wish i could hoover the goo out of my lungs (hay fever) but we'll see how it goes.
Then this evening, down to Tufnell Park for the gig. Looking forward to seeing Ollie because I haven't seen him for ages.
I've had a funny postbag this week (that's what they have on children's TV programmes, don't they?)
A wound G turned up from Dan in Wolverhampton (must be a heavy metal string, coming from the Black Country) and an audio-letter from Stu in Brighton plus a very lively sounding Peel session copy.
Just bills today though.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Flickr pics and gig tomorrow

This is the link to Sean Kelly's pics

I'm playing at a pub called the Star tomorrow in Tufnell Park, North London- 47 Chester Road, Dartmouth Park. It's free to get in and I'm on at 10.25. Tube- Tufnell Park

Monday, April 23, 2007

What I meant to say

Big Bruv and little Bruv saw a mouse run across the back of the stage during my set at the 12 Bar last week

Been Recording Today

This morning I did some early-bird recording at Goldtop studios in Camden- it belongs to Neil Brockbank (who did the live sound for King Kurt and has Very Good Ears, as they say*) and Paul Laventhol ( who played guitar for them). It's a fantastic studio full of vintage instruments- there's a Hammond Organ there with a Leslie speaker to play it through (the sort that looks like a piece of 1960s furniture, with fans inside that waft the sound into amazing shapes) and loads of old amps and so on.
I went to put a bass line on to Joby's music, which came out fine after a cup of coffee and some M&Ms (peanut).
People popped in, very relaxed, and I came out in a good mood, vowing to see Paul in his Elvis tribute band at the 12 Bar this Saturday so long as they are not on too late (everybody know I turn into a pumpkin at midnight).
I had some curry on toast (that's what posh people have for lunch, you know)
I was sent some live pics from Resonating Sunday but have forgotten to copy the link so I'll have to do that tomorrow. They are on Flickr and were taken by a guy called Sean who I will namecheck properly tomorrow too.
A Smile and a Ribbon liked my Blogreview (hello if you are visiting again!)
In a minute, Jamie's coming round and I'll take him down to meet the staff at the school where I do Song Club. Dan's left and Jamie's taking over. We already have a gig for the children at the end of the workshop series, in a retirement home with a proper stage. If only gigs were so easy to come by for us oldsters!
Do you know, last night I spent ages sorting out masses of old Chefs photos and Helen and the Horns ones, but didn't get round to scanning them, as I just sat and pored over them till I fell asleeps.
I was going to pimp the Helen and the Horns Myspace but it only works on PCs so I'll have to wait, but I did put some different tracks up there, including my favourite H and H one, Two Strings to Your Bow.
I like to keep the McCookerybook one plain and simple like me (tee hee)

*the opposite of this is 'Ears of Cloff'.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Portobello Road

I'd forgotten what fun it could be to walk down Portobello Road on a sunny Saturday!
Tourists photographing wisteria and touching it as though it was an exotic silk curtain, easy listening record stalls, a stall with dozens of little silver sugar tongs all clutching at nothing with their little birdy claws, a stall with boxing gloves so huge and dark they looked like they were made of wood. On a fruit and vegetable stall, a stallholder's little girl with hair in plaits sat amongst the baskets of mushrooms and vine tomatoes, eating a massive strawberry, with strawberry juice all over her face, which wore an expression of utter happiness. On another stall with rows of delicate white patterned antique teacups, a massive pan of bacon and fried bread was cooking on a portable stove hidden by a little screen.
As I headed back home, two girl tourists were disentangling themselves from each other; their earrings had got tangled in each other's hair as they put their heads together to have their photograph taken.

Horse etc

THis is a wooden horse. It has no mane: the mane was made of hairy garden string (like the tail) and it got so dusty I had to take it off and throw it away. I made the horse for an Edinburgh Fringe show called Dr Calamari's Music Hall of the Macabre. About thirty of us went up to the fringe- a man who sawed people in half, a duo sketch about Marine Biologists, a seven-piece band called the Flavel Bambi Septet who later mutated into Transglobal Underground, the Twins Nick and Simon Smith in their massive paper crinolines and cartwheel hats (one had a beautiful glass swan on it and the other had glass lilies), about 8 different acts in all, with Lester Square as MC and a smoke machine that I had to crawl round behind the stage to operate. ( the list of people we didn't take was even better- a woman who sang Whipcrackaway with real pistols, a man who made omelettes on stage, and Eddie Tenpole, who I think wanted just to come along for the craic)
My act was a song called 'She's a Girl who likes to have a Horse Between her Legs'. I had gone to Putney to re-learn how to tap-dance, and Lester cut this horse shape out of plywood at the school he worked at. The front bit tied on to my front, the bum tied on to my back, and I could make the little legs move by pulling the red ribbons. I clopped around Edinburgh being photographed by Italians, and we did the show each night to an audience who we massively outnumbered, but boy was it a laugh. The twins slept in an old red post-ofice van and lots of the rest of us slept at McMum and McDad's, even in the garden shed.
Just wanted to ramble on about that for you.
Today? Oh yes: down to Rough Trade to re-stock their Helen and the Horns CDs, stamp on a few grapes and cabbage leaves, check out the clothes, and bump into a few people perhaps.

Friday, April 20, 2007

New live Chefs track on Myspace

There is a new live track on The Chefs myspace site, Boasting, which I think was the second song me and Carl wrote together.

Four Chairs

Chair one is an old pale blue Lloyd Loom chair, a bit greyed with age and battered where the cat has tried to use it as a scratching post before I shooed her away. It has an old pink cushion on it with a frayed bit in the middle because lots of people have sat on it. It used to be in McMum and McDad's bedroom in Wylam.
Chair two was a Christmas present. It looks French, because there's a painted rose on the back of it. It has a wicker seat and back, and an elegant curl to it. It is pale, because it's not very old. If you sit in it, the cats watch carefully though half-closed eyes, and as soon as you get up, they rush over and nick your place.
Chair three was probably really cheap, but it's the most comfortable chair in the world. It used to live in Scotland in a log cabin overlooking Loch Tummel in the Highlands, and sat by the window inviting people to relax and look at the mountains and sky.
Before that it belonged to my American grandmother. I don't know why it is so comfortable, it just is. The prongs for the arms and legs keep pinging out and having to be rammed back into place again. It's as light as a feather, and rather ugly, in a very appealing way.
Chair four is a really old nursing chair with a badly-carved top. It is very low and has low arms and a high back and is made of turned wood, and it's very dark, almost black. It has a wicker seat that has collapsed but it's still irresistible to sit on. There's a pale green cushion on it with some very torn patchwork in the middle that McMum started and didn't finish. I find bits of it all over the house.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Plus and Minus and Plus

take a look at this, that Rick Britt who used to play drums for Joby and the Hooligans and the Smartees has posted:
The Red Hedgehog gig is cancelled: apparently it was set up by someone who is nothing to do with the venue. Blast- I had arranged for Paul to come for a rehearsal.
Claire, who organises it, was very nice about it and is coming to the Songwriters Anonymous gig at King's Cross on May 1st, so she can make a proper booking later in the year.
Rough Trade has sold out of Helen and the Horns CDs and want some more.

The Chefs went to the 12 Bar

Strange sitting round a table with Carl and Bruv after all these years, which is something I never thought we'd do. Nick Greenwood came too, Russ's brother. You have such jumbled conversations with people you haven't seen for a long time, but nice all the same. I felt very nervous about performing to former bandmates especially sice I'd just posted Carl a CD of a live gig we did, where I possibly shine as the worst vocalist in the universe, too awful even to laugh about. I went red with shame at various points when I was listening to it. And Smeg turned up, the worse for wear, and heckled me about the old Gibson I used to have, a beautiful blonde 175 that I had to sell when things got tight. The Green Goddess got a little jealous but I reassured her that everythng was alright and gave Smeg back some backchat. I do like the 12 Bar, it's one of the best London venues but last night felt difficult at times. People still cam up and said they liked it though: I just felt that I played a blue set instead of a pink one as I had intended. It was all redeemed when Martin got up to play though because he's so funny. Carl's partner, Michelle, was laughing so much she kept whacking me on the leg and setting off that reflex thing that doctors thump you knee for- so periodically I was kicking the chair in front of me with quite a report! Even the man sitting next to me apparently snoozing through it all had little curls at the corners of his mouth by the end. At one point I was folded double with my head resting on the seat in front and had to fish about in my bag for a tissue to mop my eyes!
Oh dear. And there I was watching and hoping to steal his licks and be a better guitarist, but no chance with eyes full of tears of laughter.

I was glad to hear the Resonating Sunday gig made £300 for Resonance fm. Good.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Scaledown yesterday, 12 Bar tomorrow

What a boiling day in Soho. There was a remarkable old drunken character wandering down Old Compton Street, wearing bright yellow and holding a drink in his hand, in a sun hat, trying to make friends, but not in the same way that most of the men in Old Compton Street were making friends!

I found the Arts Theatre after being hopelessly lost for half an hour. It just kind of appeared in front of me, and I went down into the gloom and a bit of cool in both senses of the word. Nigel Burch was playing, what I think may have been a banjolele but I'm never sure about these hybrids. His songs were short, funny and very London. Then Sylvia Hallett and Wilfred Glenn got up playing Norwegian fiddles, which have an extra resonating string that makes their sound really sparkle- and the songs they played were really beautiful. Wilfred introduced them, and they all had funny stories- the best was about a man who fell out of an apple tree when he was scrumping apples and went off to the Blacksmith's to get himself some metal teeth made. The fiddles were patterned, with little white designs round their edges, like the gingerbread house I go on about occasionally.
I was in my party dress- it was a friend's party later- and I felt a bit silly till I started singing, and then I did not. I sang a new song, Poetry and Rhyme, which I'm hoping Paul Davey will come to play a sax solo on one day (rehearsing with him next weekend as he's doing an arrangement for the song I did fo Sara's birthday). And I sang January in Paris even though it's a winter song and it was hot outside. It was a really nice afternoon, playing tunes in the gloom, in that room with the vibe of a womb.

Today, I sat in the park looking at the sky through the cherry blossom, and looking at the grass through rose tinted spectacles. Bliss.

Tomorrow (that's Tuesday the 17th to the dateless and stateless), it's the 12 Bar supporting Martin Stephenson with his lightning fingerpickin'; I'm hoping some ex-Chefs will attend, I will be there singing my heart out for you punters for the measly price of 6 quid: what better way to spend an evening?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fish Head

I can't believe that Blogger hasn't eaten the fish head on the grass in the back garden. Normally he eats everything, even things that most creatures regard as inedible. He must be coming down with something.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


That's what this bloody blog was supposed to be for!
Yes, Resonating Sunday at the Soho Arts Theatre in Soho (I think it;s Dean Street) costs six quid to get in, you must come, it's in aid of Resonance fm, I'm on at 3.20, it starts at 12 and goes on till 11 in the evening, loads of acts including Ted Milton (who used to be Blurt I think), DJs and a cool atmosphere, I will be playing a new song (just re-strung my guitar TWOCE* becaiuse the strings with the wound G are so heavy I couldn't play it at all), it will be friendly because it's Mark braby organising it youmustcomeyoumustcomeyoumustcome. See for more details of who's on when.
If not, come to the 12 Bar on Tuesday to see me and Martin Stephenson play.
Who needs anything else in their diaries?

* this was a mis-spell but a pretty good one so I'm leaving it.

A message to you, Joby

Joby, you may remember attending a party in Brighton wearing no underpants and a strategic hole in your Levis.


Trotting past the window as I write, the Saturday joggers are out in force. When I lived in Camberwell, it used to be the religious double-decker, a red Routemaster with an open top driving down the New Road at a very early hour with Gospel singers joyfully roaring out the message at all the sinners who were lying in bed nursing their hangovers!
But here in tranquil Barnet, there are no saints and no sinners, just Folk Going About Their Business, Minding Their Own Business at the same time as Twitching Their Curtains (especially on the day when I went out in my fake leopardskin jacket looking tarty).
Had a very interesting day yeserday, high-speed, three slices of chocolate cake, singing songs and talking. We will do it again; it was very gentle and relaxed after we had got over our nerves.
Then Treacle and Charlotte came, friends from way back. We used to hang out so much together- the two of them, Little Claire, Ruth and myself. I could get us all in free to the Beat Route because I cut Stephen Mahoney's hair in a way that he liked ( he was going bald but I snipped his hair so he looked really good and he liked that). People used to say we looked like the mummy duck (me, tall) and the ducklings (them, small). We all dyed our hair black and used to scare away men by going round in a pack like that. We'd all get that night bus home that used to stop at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Kilburn High Road, and then drop you off at the end of your street. Sometimes when we got back, we'd cook up a massive Spaghetti and eat it and just stay up most of the night talking. The following day, we'd all wake up at about 5 p.m., phone the Sophia, and get a chicken curry (plus feathers) sent up to the house. What joyous slobs we were. Beats jogging any day.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Pologies about speling. Post too long to bother.

Make yourself a cup of tea, crack open a Wagon Wheel: this is going to be a long posting because I'm going to tell you what i did yesterday.
I was off to Denmark Street, wasn't I? Diana couldn't meet up even though she was there, as she's editing a big series for Resonance. But I bumped into Gary (Smeg from King Kurt) almost as soon as I got off the tube. He was doing the rigging for the Arctic Monkeys for their gig last night, a big deal as they's insited on having their own monitors installed, which were actually the same as the ones at the venue anyway. Anyway I asked him along to the 12 Bar on Tuesday.
I managed to get the strings I wanted for the geetar, had a quick look in Rare and Vintage- they had a Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean just like mine except mine has the f-holes cut out. the shop guy was on the phone so i couldn't get nerdy about it. Then I wandered through Chinatown and remembered that Dave Jago, who used to play trombone for me, had lived there for a while- we'd been round to see him a few times. Through Berwick Street, where I rmemebered buying a giant sloppy Brie for practically nothing and getting it home to find that it had become completely inedible just on the journey home. Not such a bargain after all, ha ha! Past where I think Dennis Cockell does his tattoos: Carl and myself both went to get tattoos because we liked the Stray Cats' tattoos so much. He said at the time he'd re-do the colours for nothing in the future but I calld up about a year ago and the person i spoke to denied all knowledge of such an undertaking. Bah. So I am one of those tattooed ladies with a plain blue tattoo, but I dinnae care, i think it's still funky anyway. Past Bang Bang, which has lovely secondhand clothes that are too expensive. Past the Berwick Street Cloth Shop, where I have bought some material with little goldfish on (reminds me of the kitchen curtains in the old house which I made of green net and stuck on orange felt goldfish). Into Top Shop, where I went down the escalator behind Caprice (what a beautiful woman, teeny and shiny like someone from a different planet altogether), to get a voucher for a freind's birthday.
Then I got on a bus to go to Gina's for a cup of coffee. I got off at the wrong stop but that meant I walked past a carpet shop that actually sol zebra-print carpet for people's houses!
Gina's children were in lively mode, and I brushed their hair for them and yakked with Gina- we haven't seen each other for ages so there was a lot of news to catch up on. She bought her eldest daughter (7) a guitar for her birthday, and she's learnt A and D, which means she can play Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman. What a fantastic song- I have that on vinyl and have just connected up the record-wheel again and I'll listen to it this avo. Ana came round to rehearse (they are doing The Raincoats at the Leeds Ladyfest this weekend) so i headed back home.

Then yesterday evening I went out to see A Smile and A Ribbon, who had contacted me over Myspace to say they liked the Chefs.
The support band was a group called Pocketbook who I really liked- they were slightly gauche, but the singer has a lovely clear singing voice and their songs are really good in spite of the keydoard player pushing nerdiness to the limits and beyond.
I thought i might miss A Smile and a Ribbon because I knew I was gonna have to leave early but I didn't. Funniest thing was that bid from the Monochrome Set was there because he plans to play in Finland. It was nice to see him because I haven't seen him for ages. He says he will send me deatils about doing gigs in Finland which I might ask Martin if he would like to do with me if I can organise it.
I loved a Smile and a Ribbon! They were like children. The keyboard/glckenspiel player wore what looked like a nurse's uniform from a children's fancy-dress set, adn one of the guitarists lined up his pedals before they played as though he was setting out the locomotives from a train set. The lead singer had Ruby Slipppers like Dorothy. And I was fascinated by their Swedish multiplug (don't laugh, these things are fascinating if you like gadgets). They spent a while looking for a lost glockenspiel beater, finally borrowning Pocketbook's, the nurse popped some earplugs into her ears and they launched into their first song, The Boy I Wish I'd Never Met. Great song! And the lead singer has a very good sense of humour, comparing her dress to the 'lovely soft toilet paper in England'. There was a real sense of tongue-in-cheek Butlins about them, with a strong line in appalling Melodica solos that made me burst out laughing! They did a cover of My Baby's Back with (oops) another Melodica solo. I think the best song was A Little Late to be Polite.
'We're just gonna drink a little water': the entire band drank a little water (that made me laugh too- I wonder if it was itemised on the set list?) then they did a cover of the Mekons' I Love to Play with Boys, which was absolutely brilliant.
What else- well I suppose they reminded me of the Chefs before we took ourselves too seriously. The drummer was a master of stiff-shouldered drumming (see, I watched that Aled Jones programme the other night where Stuart Copeland told him his shoulders were stiff, but he still managed to drum OK, Stuart).
I really, really enjoyed the evening- happy music, good songs, bloody twee but bloody refreshing!
then back home on the tube at musician's hour- double basses on trolleys, thoughtful guitarists sitting with their chins propped on their guitar cases, violin plyers with grey beard and anoraks looking weary.

Today... well I have made a chocolate cake. Paul the Girl, Rowen and Emerald are coming round to play songs- possibly more people. It's the first Salon des Chansons, and if the conversation or songs should happen to dry up, we can just stuff our faces with the humungously massive chocolate cake.
Yum yum!

Thursday, April 12, 2007


A richly-textured musicianly experience is in order for today. Down to Denmark Street and the 99% patronising experience (always worth a laugh although they stop once you start playing one of the guitars) to buy strings. Then this evening I think I'll go to see a Smile and a Ribbon, who say they are Chefs fans. They are on at the Horse and Groom on Curtain Road and I like their music.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Brighton parties and my cardigan

Oh Peter Chrisp I remember those Brighton parties (see comments below). When I can stomach it I'll write what I did to Joby once with half a jacket potato. But I remember walking up the road one morning with Mel, Smeg's girlfriend, following the trail of vomit that someone had left all the way up the road, someone who had clearly had a problem with an indigestible Spaghetti Bolognese plus alcohol the night before, finally deducing that that someone was me. O happy days....

Meanwhile, now I am an old lady, I have taken to knitting (actually, I always did it, much to the irritation of Bruv in the Chef's van). I have made a cardigan with very thick wool (grows quickly) that is unfortunately so thick it can stand up on its own, and I'm not sure I'll be able to bend my arms in it. Oh well, exercised the biceps I suppose, and possibly has delayed the onset of bingo wings for at least ten days.

My sister Mary's coming over for lunch at the noodle bar today. Luckily, I no longer consume stupid amounts of booze and I will leave no trail of noodles home afterwards for Hansel and Gretel to follow and eat my gingerbread house while I'm asleep.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chefs CD

I went round Carl's again this afternoon.
We have 20 tracks of stuff- from the early music with some unreleased tracks, 'You're So Nice' and 'Toby' (which was about my budgie) right through to an album demo we did for Graduate Records that they never released. I'm just going to listen to some live recordings (Carl has one from the LSE, I have one from ULU and Stuart Jones sent a much earlier tape with songs that I'd forgotten we even did, because we never recorded them). I found some old flyers, and actually at the bottom of a box I found some really ancient photos of us when we were making the transition from being the Smartees (with Joby, Steve and Rick from the Hooligans an Tracey from the Molesters), into being The Chefs. That's not even touching the BBC sessions as they are just too expensive. This is such a funny thing to do!
I think Carl and Bruv are both comng to the 12 Bar on Tuesday. I'm playing and Martin Stephenson is playing too. Fancy the 3 remaining Chefs all being under one roof. I think I might ask Nick Greenwood, Russell's brother, if he'd like to come too.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A story about Russell

I am a really bad speller, I know, so it's ironic that I've spent the past two days proofreading my book! I think I've finished (I hope I have finished) and I'l send it all off tomorrow to see if there's anything else I have to do.
Anyway, here's a story about Russell, The Chefs' drummer.
One morning, Russ woke up to hear two women laughing and talking about a bloke who had fallen asleep in a bush, with his feet in the air, and speculating about how he had got there.
It gradually dawned on him that they were talking about him.
He'd had too much to drink the night before and fallen asleep upside down in a bush while he was on his way home.
I think he waited until they'd gone before he got up.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Gilbert and George

Do you know, there are some really beautiful drawings at the Gilbert and George exhibition at the Tate Modern.
They are deliberately brutal with their paintings and prints to get up everybody's noses (actually, I feel like I know what they are on about a lot of the time). But I was really fascinated by these huge, life-size drawings in charcoal on yellowish paper- they looked as tho' G and G had wandered into one of those 1960s Ladybird Books that showed us what sort of ideal families we should belong to. I wanted to wander there with them and listen to what they were talking about; probably having corned beef and beetroot sandwiches for tea, I expect.
Later, a group of us walked along the South Bank. How busy it was!
I remember sitting there by myself on a bench by the river Thames one winter's night, just looking at the city lights and listening to the London rumble, the traffic and night-time activity; it was incredibly romantic and peaceful to exprience it alone like that.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Life is stranger than fiction. Perhaps life is fiction?

I'd had a call from Vi Subversa, from Spain. Oh, how I want her to come to the Lost Women Party! She more or less organised it so Joby and the Hooligans could do our first gig; Sue (the bass player from Poison Girls) lent me her bass guitar, which had belonged to the Buzzcocks, and Vi lent us her son, Danny, who was 14 and played drums for our first couple of gigs till we got Dub Duncan (wonder where he is now?) But Vi just expected us to get on with it. Boy, she took a lot of flak, being an older woman with all those punks. But she just did it anyway, and she got loads of respect in the end.
Anyway, I dailled the number I had in Spain and for some reason got Joby instead. Isn't that strange? Anyway, we yakked about the soundtrack I'm doing for his little movie, and I re-dialled Espanya, and had a nice chat with Vi, and I think she might come over!
In the evening, I travelled down to the Ship in Borough. Katy and Sharon were lighting lilttle candles and setting them out on tables.Paul Davey had said he wanted to come along (used to play sax in Helen and the Horns) and I suggested that he should bring his clarinet down. It was a unique evening- we all sat together (there was another singer/songwriter, Paul), took turns in playing songs most of the time, sang harmonies to each others songs, chatted. So informal, totally unplugged. There were a couple of Medeaval Babes there in the audience who also hummed along in places, and a Medaeval Babes' mum (well of course, babes have to have mums, don't they?) and a swirly-carpet-to-end-all-swirly-carpets. Very nan'n'grandad, but it all helped to add to the atmosphere. Eventually, things hotted up and Katy and a few others started dancing, at which point two Scottish girls disappeared very rapidly out of the door! Sharon sang a lovely song written by a friend of hers about a visit to Jerusalem; Katy sang Sharksville which is my favourite song of hers.Paul played along on clarinet, and the other Paul got everyone going with a PAtti Smith song.
When I played 'London', a very appropriate police siren started up outside, just towards the end of the song. I couldn't have orchestrated it better if I'd tried.
I'll post a picture of the audience later today when I am awake.

Friday, April 06, 2007

I almost became an HGV driver

After I left Art College I went to work in a printers in Lewes, Sussex that specialised in veterinary products- tablet envelopes, veterinary charts and that sort of thing. It was old-fashioned set-type, putting tiny spacing leads and letters into a frame and printing sometimes by hand and sometimes on an old letterpress machine. The guy I worked for was revolting, always snuggling up too close to me and calling me 'Honey'. at the same time as being proud of the fact that he had a drawerful of National Front logos.
He's done his back in romancing his mistress in the back of a Mini, and so i had to do most of the heavy lifting. I had to get up at 6 to get there but could only stand the job by staying up all night with Gary (Smeg from the Cheesey bits and later, King Kurt), and his then girlfriend Mel, playing Monopoly, and then I used to count the trains one by one from 5 a.m. when they started, because I lived next to the station.
One day, I printed a thousand tablet envelopes with the wrong postcode. It was easy to make mistakes like that. Once the bloke offered me fifty quid to draw a digger for his friend's leaflet, which I did, but I never got paid. I got really cross, because the job was badly-paid and I could have done with the money. I started seething, and resenting the fact that it was always me who had to make the tea, and then he would creep up beside me with his nasty teeth and murmer in my ears. Then a bottle of stuff called Euthanol turned up by the tea things and I became convinced that it was something to do with putting animals down (you know, euthanasia), which it probably wasn't, but I became completely paranoid that he was going to try to poison my tea, and therefore glad that I was the one who always made it! Oh how I hated that job! The punks in the pub, my friends, offered to come and beat him up, but I turned down their offer.
Sorry- got off the point a bit there! Anyway, one lunchtime I was walking to the shop and I saw a huge French lorry draw up by the public toilets. A tiny woman got out, dressed in a vest and jeans, went to the loo and drove off again. I remembered when I used to hitch-hike with a friend from Yorkshire that those huge lorries have 18 gears, and you need not be physically strong to drive one, as all the stuff to do with containers is handled by various depots.
Anyway, a couple of years later when I'd ditched the job and moved to London, I actually got offered training in HGV driving, with a job as a driver when I'd finished, for a wholefood company based in the Midlands. It was a close call- Helen and the Horns hadn't started up yet, The Chefs were over, and I was trying to decide what to be (I even did an audition to present The Tube). For some reason I decided not to do it. But on the cover of Leavin' You Baby, the EP I did with Dubulah, there's a drawing of me and him in the cab of a lorry. I had to draw it because the guy at the depot wouldn't turn the lorry round so Kim could do a good photograph (he was sulking that day), but that was where I would have worked, if I'd decided to do it.
But I didn't.
The end.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Toadflax and moss

I suppose because it's Spring, I woke thinking of plants.
When I was little I used to travel by train from Wylam to Newcastle to go to school. Newcastle was not a pretty place back then, grey and filthy, gritty, smokey. And the railway lines were ugly in a way I now remember as quite beautiful. Every summer, there used to be drifts of yellow toadflax sprouting out of the oily gravel along the railway, completely defiant, just everywhere. What beautiful plants to decide to grow there where nothing else would take root!

I was thinking of Lester Square's houseboat at Kingston, too. I went there when he'd been given the original demos of Freight Train and some of my other new songs by Cherry Red, when The Chefs finished. He'd just left the Monochrome Set and I was looking for a guitarist. Mike Alway suggested that we should meet. I was totally in awe of him, as the Monochrome Set had been one of my favourite bands. I didn't hear back from him and put my self-esteem back below stairs where it used to live. But then at the Notting Hill carnival, his then girlfriend came roaring up to me: 'We've been singing your songs all the time! They're great!'. So I went on down to Kingston (Surrey, not Jamaica, chaps) and the seeds of a cowboyish countryish westernish band were sewn over a cup of coffee and a paraffin stove. He gave me a lift to the station in his Mini Traveller, which had moss growing on the rubber strips that lined the windows inside the car. I have wanted to grow plants inside my car ever since.

(yesterday, I saw a man trip over a notice warning people not to trip over on the road works)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I'm off to Tom's studio today to record a new song called 'Poetry and Rhyme' and maybe re-do the vocals for some of the other songs I've recorded recently, because the late winter voice is not a good one. I am not a proper singer in spite of Jamie having taught me some great exercises. I know if I didn't have to do so much other stuff I could be much better at it, but those things can not change so I have to make the best with what I've got. You see, I really am a suburban housewife!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Happy Birthday Mike!

Happy Birthday Mike, 21 today again. Be very glad you are not one of the little Welsh people I saw today at Heathrow, about 50 of them, all small and round and Saga, with expensve beige and grey clothing and neat haircuts and trolleys with ample luggage, pruned and preened and tidier-than-thou.
I hope you have a good night, Mr Partyperson photographer, and send my love to Emerald!

Another thing I saw at Heathrow was a meeting-person who had forgotten to put away his notice with people's names in black felt pen on it, and was walking along to the car park with his passengers beside him, still holding his notice up in front of him!
Ha ha!

News extra: have you see The Chefs myspace? Carl has been doing it,
He has been cleaning up a bunch of our tracks which we are hoping to release shortly. I've found masses of old flyers, posters and photographs too, stashed away in all sorts of places I would never have thought to look. Bruv found an old diary too, and we did LOADS of gigs, which I had completely forgotten about (probably totally slaughtered at the time). I also found a thing about a gig we did with a group called The Underaged who were all actually underage, and the promoter went mad. We had to make sure they ddn't drink anything and get them all out by 11 o'clock.
Mmm, bands called what they are: there was the Simonics- Simon Walker on bass, Nick Smith on Keyboards, Nick something else on drums, Simon Smith on sax, Nick Page on Guitar. Recorded at Elephant Studio, Wapping with an engineer called Nick. An engineer called Simon also worked there (he recorded the Helen and the Horns album).

I'm going to the studio tomorrow to record a new track. For some reason I have got a very deep voice at the moment (am I turning into a man?) so we shall see what we shall see.