Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Singing To A Baby In North Carolina

This is one of Daniel Coston's shots of the tour we did last September- Jimmy Cole, Jim the Fiddle, Martin Stephenson and me. I was singing a nursery rhyme on Dolph and Dana's porch. It was  fantastic trip. Thank you for the photos Daniel.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Virgin Trains East Coast Last Night

I've just written and deleted a long rant about Virgin Trains East Coast service last night.
Terribly greedy of you, Mr Branson, to oversell a train so much, especially selling tickets for an oversold train minutes before it leaves in the knowledge that you're subjecting 'customers' to a dangerous and extremely uncomfortable journey. I did most of the journey standing on one foot because there was so much luggage. Hats off to the woman who tolerated the journey by sitting on the toilet seat!
They are only offering refunds to people who had reserved a seat. Funny, that.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

NHS Headscarf

I have been to see about printing the headscarf; because it prints on a roll, each one will have to be printed on a metre of silk twill, which is going to make them expensive. I am also finding out about making rolled edges; there is a place that does that in Poplar but I might try doing it myself if I am only going to do a very limited edition because of cost.
Meanwhile, Ive ordered some plain silk because I have a plan for printing some of my own manually- a different design, a different subject, but hey ho- let's go!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Misogyny is endless, endless, endless and so depressing and exhausting.
Everyone averts their eyes and nobody wants to deal with it. People only pay attention when a young and attractive woman is talking about it. Good on anybody who talks about it- but what if it's the  young and attractive bit that people are listening to, and not what is being said?
Because it is so ubiquitous, it is 'invisible'. But it's in the music we listen to, the films we watch, the clothes we wear.
Can I resign from being a female?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lyrics Books

I found a pile of lyrics books from when I started writing songs again just over ten years ago. they contain shopping lists, overheard conversations, reviews of gigs I went to, sketches of musicians and these doodles.


Every so often, it's noticeable that Russian viewers vanish from the statistics of readers of this blog. There are usually quite a lot; most readers are from the U.S., closely followed by Britain, and usually Russia is third. But you've all gone! What happened?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Design for NHS Headscarf

All being well, I should be taking this to be printed later this week. It will be a limited edition print with half the profits going to the British Heart Foundation in memory of our old upstairs neighbour in Camberwell, Molly.

Grass Art

On my daily perambulation, I saw this unexpected and rather extraordinary grass art.
How did it get there?
Who did it?
Why is it there?
What is life?
What is reality?

Big Up Jane Abernethy!

Jane used to be a student at the University of Westminster, and I supervised her thesis on Devendra Barnhart and Billy Childish, as well as her taking the songwriting module I ran (Jane has a lovely voice and writes great songs). She signed Grimes to 4AD as well as driving them bonkers by playing Ivor Cutler to them every Friday (as well as The Young Marble Giant, which didn't drive them bonkers). I am very proud of her- and this interview done by another ex-Westminster student, Emmy the Great, who has also developed a flourishing career since leaving:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Chocolate Easter Eggs: The Dilemma

Poor old Easter egg companies, frantically advertising their wares against a tide of 'sugar is bad for you'-ness. Those gigantic gold foil chocolate bunnies with bells, the cheap chocolate buttons, the Cadbury mini-eggs, the rainbow-coloured posholate eggs that cost 50 quid.
No, no, no, thou shalt not!
Shall you?

Lonely Bank Tellers

I went in to pay the water bill today and tumbleweed were rolling through the bank. Everyone is using machines and online banking, apparently, and the people at the counter were visibly excited that a human had walked in to pay a bill The Old Way.
The machines are boring and I know so many people who have been defrauded via their online banking accounts that I won't do it.
Maybe I will be the only customer in the bank one day; when they finally close it, I shall loll on the doorstep in my sad maroon coat with a smelly old shopping bag, and wait in vain for opening time, a redundant cheque flapping the the cold gritty wind.
This calls for a blues song...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Joe Corré: A Rich Man Burns His Things

Lucky old Joe Corre having £5 million quids-worth of punk memorabilia, and presumably another £5 million quid to buffer him after he's incinerated it all.
The KLF burned a million pounds years ago, so the gesture is second-hand anyway; and if your idea of punk begins and ends with the Sex Pistols, well ring-a-ding-ding!
Maybe he's cross that he hasn't been asked to take part in the 40 years celebrations, but he was actually a baby at the time, so what does he know? Perhaps he's stamping his little footy because his childhood was overshadowed by it all, which I suppose would be understandable. Burning those treasures might be a fight back against his parents, and a breaking of the umbilical cord at last.

He doesn't have to come along to the events that I'm taking part in (10th June, 10th July and one before then); that's OK. The Queen hasn't given them her seal of approval, either.
Back then I couldn't afford any of the Seditionaries stuff because I was unemployed at the time, and I decided that I would feel a bit silly wearing it anyway.
It was bloody expensive and you had to be mates with Viv and Malc to get a discount, and I wasn't because I lived in Brighton; and branding has always been branding, and I didn't want to walk round in clothes that said 'I'm a rich poseur', which got me into a physical fight back in the day.
Go Joe, go! I won't be there, but I might be able to inhale a little of the millionaire's fragrant smoke from my eyrie in High Barnet, just up the hill from Camden Town.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Skating Fail in the Olympic Park

It took ten minutes to put the skates on with cold fingers (bloody hell, the wind was cold today!) and then I discovered that it's an impossible surface to skate on: little-stoney with loose chippings on top. Loose chippings mean loose tripping if you're on roller skates so I had to take the things off.
Anyway- what park? Miles of pale tarmac stretched put as far as the eye could see and somewhere in the distance on the map there was a green bit. I had been expecting trees and things; maybe even a pond. Basically, a massive area of Stratford has been tarmacced over so that thousands of people could walk through the shopping centre and go to the Olympic events, and now blocks of flats are being built on it. So much for the green tomorrow; this is the future bleak.
How ironic that the estates in Southwark are being demolished, and tomorrow's equivalent are being constructed in a different part of London!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Song Writing and Skating

After deciding not to play my new song on Saturday's News Agents Resonance show with Jude and Kath (we were discussing songs with political lyrics and it is one of those), I've been playing guitar all week. I am spending a day in the studio on Saturday to see what my songs sound like. I have enough for an album, but are there enough good ones for an album? I was going to work out the BPMs for each one because it's so easy to play them too fast (nerves) or two slow (overcoming nerves) when you're recording. But the batteries have gone in my BPM machine and I went out to get more, forgot, and bought a box of cereal instead: the need was more immediate.
I am painfully close to finishing the chapter that I've been writing for about three months and which has taken roughly 40 hours so far to get right. I was stuck and couldn't find the key to it all then I read a book about the cross-dressing music hall artist Vesta Tilley, who only makes a very brief appearance but whose life shone a light on the whole thing. Female androgyny and cross dressing are not new: we were brought up on Peter Pan, and even in straight theatre there are 'breeches roles' for women.
Two more days (!) and I'll be there, ready to put it into house style.
You get paid nothing for writing academic articles, books and chapters but it sure as heck sharpens up your writing skills. One day I will write a detective novel (or two) but until then I have too much energy.
I have a plan to go roller skating tomorrow. In fact, I have had a plan to go roller skating ever since I bought a pair of yellow, red and blue skates for a tenner in a second-hand shop in November last year, but it's been too dismal and wet. There is a three-hour meeting at work in the afternoon and I reckon a bit of a whizz about will get rid of surplus energy and stop me from fidgeting too much!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Books On My Desk

On my desk: The Elements of Eloquence (Mark Forsyth) sits on top of Crap Lyrics (Johnny Sharp).

Sunday, March 13, 2016

120 B.P.M.

The clock in my living room has a really loud tick and forces all my songs into a tempo of 120 beats per minute.
I have to work against the clock, quite liderally, which is quite a challenge, and I am becoming adept at slowing new songs down despite the clock's attempt to impose its own speed on them.

The News Agents at Resonance FM

Last time I went to Resonance- a long time ago- it was to appear on Johny Brown's late-night show on a Friday. Yesterday, the whole area around London Bridge and Borough High Street was teeming with tourists; it had been deserted and spooky before.
Dexter Bentley was just finishing his show, and had been playing some fine African music. It was a quick changeover, and soon Jude, Kath and myself were lined up and ready to go. It was a very relaxing afternoon, like the old days when we used to do Desperado Housewives, and afterwards we went for a coffee in the only non-chain coffee shop which was also the only empty one. It was lovely coffee and lovely conversation, and I hope you enjoy the show:

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Hats and Boots

I had a striped pull-on hat that I wore every day. One of my cats had eaten a hole in the top of it which I eventually repaired.
It was the perfect hat; I think perhaps I had bought it in Scotland a long time ago and it was meant to be a fisherman's hat. It was my friend.
I left it on a DLR train on between Stratford and King George V stations when I was taking a student to introduce them to a placement provider, and I've had no luck with the TFL Lost Property Office so I guess it's gone.
Every time I wore it a stranger would say 'I like your hat'. The stranger rarely looked like the sort of person who would wear a pull-on stripy hat, but they liked it anyway so there must have been something about it.
I miss my hat.
I've still got my boots though. They are a pair of oxblood Dr Marten's monkey boots and they have a similar affect on people. I went to get my hair cut and the hairdresser who was hairdressing the man sitting next to me couldn't take his eyes off them. 'Where did you get those?' he wanted to know. I imagined him rushing home and doing an internet search as soon as he got back.
Some drunken builders fell in love with them on the tube on the way home yesterday. English was not their first language, but they managed to conjure up an admiring sentence and I stomped home with a smile on my face. Now if I could only get my hat back...

Sunday, March 06, 2016

For My Daughters and All Daughters


France Gall: Der Computer No. 3

Hair Talk

Two heads of hair were chatting to each other.
They had mislaid the heads and bodies that they belonged to, but in some respects that was a good thing; unfettered by time and place, they could chat amicably about the things that concerned them most: power and being the centre of attention.
Johnsonthatch was amiable (until crossed). He  spoke of his owner as being a bumbling fool but quite fun to be attached to; although apparently scruffy and haphazard, Johnsonthatch was actually carefully coiffed to look cute, so that journalists wrote about him in the same way as they would a favourite dog or long-haired kitten. Johnsonthatch's job was to cover up Johnson's real purpose, which was to be the Big Boss Of All, while seeming to be funny and friendly as the fool next door.
Trumpsweep was in a different arena; he was accused of letting his owner down and despite begging for mercy in the form of a decent haircut, Trump himself dogmatically refused his pleas. Trumpsweep did enjoy being blond, though, because he shone out in a crowd (and what crowds!) and he rather liked to compare himself to yellow sunshine and of course, gold.
Sitting on their red velvet cushions, the two heads of hair spoke animatedly about what they would do when they were In Charge Of Everything. Perhaps they could get the unsightly poor, elderly and disabled people to live in caves? That would get them out of the way. Render them all unable to reproduce and give them Sky TV all day and then they wouldn't notice anything that was going on around them.
Ho ho! They laughed in unison, their follicles trembling with glee.
As night drew in, the two heads of hair continued their banter. Each of them, however, was secretly thinking profoundly of ways to destroy the other, for there could only be one Big Boss Of All In Charge Of Everything, and that had to be him.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Oh Dear! Trouble's Brewing At St. Eton's Primary

From the Head's thought bubble:
'The problem is that Mr Dutch, the French teacher, really isn't One Of Us. At the staff meeting yesterday, he said that if we didn't join in with other schools more, he'd encourage the Oiks to start flooding into St Eton's. 
That would just be the Beginning of the End. I don't know where he gets these ideas from. I can only assume that he has some sort of psychological problem because he isn't very tall and he wears glasses. 
Memo to self: try to find a way of sacking him. That Mrs Patel's rather pretty, and I bet she could teach French if she put her mind to it and we gave her the languages department to run- and a pay rise!'.
End of thought bubble.


I thought I would have thrown away all my old punky press clippings years ago. But I have been rummaging through them again; I have just written an article for an academic journal about the way that female punk bands used reggae in their music, and I'm now working on an article about détournement for a book on identity theory.
I have been struck by just how unpleasant some of the reviews were; unpleasantly personal, as opposed to talking about the music. Step forward Tim Lott (in some ways unsurprising because he was once extremely unpleasant to me on the phone and quite clearly regarded me to be extremely unimportant and far below him in the evolutionary plan) and also Ian Penman, whose review of a Slits gig was so nasty that the band demanded, and got, right to reply.
I suppose I had forgotten about this. In general, most rock reviewers were destructive critics at the time and made money out of nasty copy (copying punk's 'nastiness' I suppose) but the way that they write about the female artists is particularly negative.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

A Lift from Ken Russell

I don't know why I have suddenly remembered this. When I was about 20, I hitchhiked to Yorkshire with a friend and one of our lifts was from an older and quite flamboyant chap in a Jaguar. He told us about the films he had made, and when we got out my pal told me that it was Ken Russell. He must have been bored and wanted company.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Pop Stars

I drew these singers when I was five. I used to draw lots of pop groups when I was little. Some had huge heads and tiny bodies. My favourites were girl groups; it was fascinating the way that they all managed to sing together at the same time. I think I sort of thought that they all shared one brain, or something. These ones are joined at the hips, but they have got enough legs and a ribbon each.

Photo of Helen and the Horns

This was taken by Patrick Gilbert, who was one of those guys who was everyone's friend, back in the 1980s. He was a really good photographer and took a lot of photos of bands back then, before moving to Spain. Patrick was killed in car crash over there; this has got to be the best photo of Helen and the Horns, with Paul, Mark and Dave standing on the steps of the London Musician's Collective in Camden. RIP Patrick.

White Paint

At art college, the first thing you used to do with your cohort of students was paint the walls of the the studio white. In Brighton in the 1970s about 30 of us shared a big room and we got out the rollers and slurped the paint on the the walls, covering the worn out white that had been there the previous year.
I have always loved this process and I've spent the past two days painting the walls and ceiling of one of the rooms where I live. It's not a big room but it seems to be absorbing a lot of 'one-coat' white. One wall has had three coats and still looks like it needs more. I have one more wall and half the ceiling to do, plus the 'more' that any of the walls needs. I learned how to size fresh plaster and I've even made my own pot of size.
It's taken hours to do, and I made it a rule to stop when I get clumsy; as soon as I put a foot in the paint roller tray, knock over a teetering box or trip on the dust sheets, that's it. The brushes get rinsed, the indestructible painter's trousers get chucked in the washing machine and I scrape the paint off my face.
Painting walls is wonderfully therapeutic and it has been a great antidote to a rainy and gloomy March 1st; I suspect that it will trigger inner artiness and I might even start drawing again.