Wednesday, March 21, 2018


I assume it's boring to read about a person writing. I put four hours of writing in today, and most days will be the same (apart from tomorrow and Friday, but I'll tell you about that tomorrow and Friday).
This evening I went to visit some students in their work placement. As usual I got lost, and Almost Cried (WHY do I always get lost? It's always a different reason; this time, the phone satnav got lost and then the entrance to the building was around the corner, and then....).
The students looked so happy! They are working for an internet radio station where they have their own shows, playing hip hop and drum'n'bass respectively. It's great to see them look so fulfilled doing something that they clearly love. Their mentor seems to be delighted with them too. It made my day. 😊

Recommended: Mark Dion at The Whitechapel Gallery

This is an excellent exhibition. It was a student outing with some MA students; they agreed they would love to have a tree-house. There are both specifically-created and curated comments on hunting, recycling, knowledge, spirituality and conservation. It was really inspiring, a series of Wunderkammers and Cabinets of Curiosities to investigate and pore over.
And look- finches! Not quite as cute as the bass-playing finches at The Barbican a few years ago, but still very sweet and busy. I told the students about Akiko Hada trying to hire a bumble bee for the Fall Of the Queen video, and being quoted £1000. Lester Square and me tried to make a sampled buzz-piano but neglected to realised that bees don't go round saying 'buzz'; when you slow them down their wings flap like a birds! So we ended up just bzzz-ing ourselves.

Fabricating A Serene World

Academics; we fabricate a serene world where the spite, jealousies and abuse that are normal practice in the music industry just don't rear their ugly heads.
As I'm trying to pick my way through the debris of what is real in order to enter the surreal world of putting it all into a scholarly context, I keep a file open next to the formal document where I dump the hair-raising experiences of not just me, but other women I've spoken to.
When I talk to them about the research I'm doing, there is always a story that is related back. Assumption of sexual favours, assault, bullying; it's more than #metoo.
What a humungous effort to put all this to one side and try to write an unbiased and unemotional account of studio practice.
I am absolutely certain that there are 'clean' spaces with 'clean' studio personnel working in them; in fact (does this remind you of anything?) some of my best friends are male producers, promoters and musicians who have the utmost respect for their female colleagues. I have know a lot of them for a long time, and I trust them.


Big congratulations to Paul Sng, whose film on the housing crisis and scandal in the UK is going to be shown on Channel 5 tonight at 10 p.m. in an edited form. Thank you Paul for lending the film so that the song writing students at the University of the East could use it as inspiration for their lovely songs.
This is a powerful, truthful and moving documentary that covers the cities of London, Nottingham and Glasgow in an exploration of what is going wrong and why. The strongest parts are the stories of the people who are being socially cleansed; they are articulate, dignified and respectable, completely unlike the faceless jargon-toting twats who are trying to brand council tenants as a troubled and troubling mob.
I wish I could force-feed this documentary to a chap on the train the other Sunday, who was talking about people from council estates as though they were vermin. It was tempting to give him an earful but the whole carriage was full of such people. Luckily, his girlfriend was completely ignoring him.


For the first time in the nine years that I've lived here, the bird-feeder has attracted little birds, who are tweetling and squabbling right now.
The yard is so dark most of the time, but I found a place where they can see it from the big tree in next door's garden where they hang out and sing all day. This is so exciting!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I bought smelly cheese from the cheese shop down the road to support it, because it was empty of customers.
Now I'm frightened to open the fridge; the pong is awful.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Dickensian Gig

Farringdon; the snow fell and Jude sang a song about a sighting of the devil in the area more than hundred years ago that turned out to be a drunken woman with a candle up her bum.
Outside, the sodium lights lit up the feathery snow and the occasional siren whisked past (OK, not Dickensian).
Inside, the brave and loyal souls who had defied the weather sat at candle-lit tables; Kath, Jude and I sat in a row and sang three sets of songs, one person after the other. As a performer, this is a really lovely immersive experience. You get to sit next to a song being sung and experience the lyrics almost as a conversation rather than as an audience member. It helps if you love the music.
Thank you for coming out to the gig, you troupers, and thank you Jude and Kath for being excellent songwriters.

Photos by Tonje Tainsh and Rowen Bridler

Saturday, March 17, 2018


What a great song, and what great singing, even though the showbiz is silly.

Betsey Trotwood Tonight

Tonight's the Desperado Housewives night at The Betsey Trotwood- we will be upstairs in the acoustic room. It starts at 8.30, entry by donation. See you there!

Friday, March 16, 2018


Got signed off by the hospital today! Wonderful NHS; they used a new technique where they sewed the bones together instead of using pins. It was odd to be an experiment, but they seemed pleased with their handiwork. I just hope nobody embroidered their initials....
Straight into grafting; I am checking the transcription of the latest producer's interview. She packed so much information into 29 minutes, you can tell she is a good audio editor. She worked as a grime producer for more than ten years. I am going to try to do one more interview, but that's basically it. The publisher wants the interviews integrated into the text, so I have to basically rewrite the whole book. Hard work ahead.
We also spent a lot of time on Wednesday editing the documentary, and on Monday I'll be interviewing our production assistant. Busy times. And Paul Scott Bates, your track is being mixed as we speak.

Writing About the Present Versus Writing About The Past

A book has been recommended in relation to the article I'm writing; one chapter, supposedly about gender and singing, concentrates wholly on Phallocentrism. By halfway through the chapter, it seemed that the author believes completely that all women want is a willy. I had the hilarious impression that he thought that when we conversed together out of male earshot, that one desire was the sole focus of our conversations.
There are two problems about writing about the present; one is my own experiences and the way they make me feel, and the other is that everyone is so convinced that the music industry, and society as a whole, have changed. All I can see is powerful people very cleverly covering up their prejudices, but still feeling exactly the same way underneath.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rethinking Difference

Although it's been tough working out how to rewrite the submission for an academic journal that I was moaning about the other day, I had an unexpected surprise this morning. The chapter in this book took a very long time to write, and took its toll on the relationship I was in at the time. Writing is not a sociable activity; the main reason I do it (this sort of writing isn't paid) is because it seems to be the best way of consolidating political change. Like lots of other people I march, sign things and rant occasionally on social media, but this type of writing is a slug-paced way of being a bulldozer and changing things in a different sphere of activity..

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Desperado Housewives at The Betsey Trotwood, Saturday

First gig post fractured elbow. Can it be done? I challenge you to come along to find out! With Kath Tait and Jude Cowan Montague, song circlin' and yakkin'.

Four Ay Em

So I woke very early, stressed by the multitude of changes I've been asked to make to an academic article that I've written.
'Just pull out of it; you're a shit writer!', said one voice in my head. 'You have had a traumatic accident and everything looks hard after something like that happens', said another.
I couldn't stand them arguing, so I got up to escape and set to work, not on the article itself, but on the many things that have to be cleared out of the way before my head is in the right place to start.
This is the first morning for five weeks where I've woken up feeling normal. At the weekend I took a mega-dose of Codeine and spoke in slurred speech all day on Saturday; a train journey on Sunday was so surreal I still can't work out how much of it was imagined, and how much real. I do know that a woman on the train deliberately flung her suitcase out of the rack on to what she thought was my broken arm; she had been being very aggressive to the woman sitting next to her during the journey. But she wasn't the weird one; it was the drunken toffs who over-shared details about their forthcoming grand wedding, guests, hen night, shooting arrangements and just about everything else very privileged people talk about. Oh yes, and they were homophobic, too.
The Codeine sent the pain away though, and the laundry is done and put away, newspaper articles sifted through, interviews three-quarters edited, and perhaps tomorrow the floors will be clean too.
And look at it out there- almost spring! The goldfinch has been tweeting since six, and outside the wagtail are waddling down the road. Two sets of soldiers in their uniforms on parade.
Almost time to go to Work Mk 2; no sabbatical there, but I'm not complaining. Not any more, anyway.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Wanting To Pass On News

Sometimes, you have an urge to phone a parent who is no longer around to tell them things. McDad would have loved to hear that Sandie Shaw MBE sent an email to say thank you for supporting her for the award of the honour. McDad loved Sandie and I still have the records of hers that he bought. I love her too. She also did a very short but very interesting interview for my research.

It Rained

It was constantly raining in Edinburgh at the weekend; ideal for going to multiple art galleries and eating enormous quantities of food (although the deep-fried Creme Egg was easy to resist, for some reason).
Surrealism is more than surreal sometimes. Could Tanguy have designed the ProTools colours?
Outside, a poor gentleman had got so wet that he'd sunk into the ground, and he was even going rusty. I tried to help.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

But Sometimes The End Of The Day Is Sweet

Thank you Gideon Coe, very much indeed.

Flying A Plane Near You, Sometime Soon


Ah blog. I have had to abandon my journey to the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall to see the film Play Your Gender. It was impossible to cope with the sheer ferocity of central London commuters and I had to turn round and come home. I do hope that I can get to see it some other time.

Happy International Women's Day!

Remixed, remastered and finally released- the full version of Women of the World with Zoe Howe, Ruth Tidmarsh, Jono Bell, Katy Bingham, Gina Birch, Shanne Bradley, Eva Eden, Kirsten Taylor
Guy Harries, Stephen Foster Pilkington, Sot Otter,Denise Stanley, Karina Townsend, Terry Tyldesley, Anne Wood, Karen Yarnell, Helen McCookerybook

Also as part of the same album, to raise funds for music copyrights for our Stories from the She Punks DIY documentary- I Play The Bass Loud by Gina Birch, featuring a myriad of bass players- that's there too- take  listen to both tracks and buy/donate if you like!
What a labour of love. Thank you so much to the musicians who have contributed to these songs.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018


Today Shola's coming in to do her vocals, and we may even have Karina Townsend on tenor sax.
Then we have to complete our She-Punks Bandcamp site and upload the fundraising tracks. Jane has put her bass line on Gina's song. All to be uploaded on International Women's Day, and Gideon Coe has an exclusive preview on Thursday on BBC6 Radio.
Later: we did it! Sounds great, lots of Yoruba call and response bits and now just waiting for tenor sax and maybe a bit of real live King's Cross ambience. And Gina has mixed her track so we're all ready to go tomorrow morning. Now it's tea time.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

What We Were Up To

We did Mum-Dancing around the kitchen while Gina cooked dinner. We ate Maltesers. Both Shanne Bradley and I have contributed bass lines to Gina's I Play The Bass song, and I think Jane Woodgate is there today doing one as well.
That, and Women of the World with the all-star cast (currently being remixed by Ruth Tidmarsh), should be going up on Bandcamp on International Women's Day so we can raise funds to buy music copyrights for Stories from the She-Punks. I've applied for funds for a student intern to help with the sound, and I've sorted out two replacement lecturers at work (big thanks to the University of East London for the mini-sabbatical).
It's always worth shoving the boulder up the hill, even with one hand (still). We will get this documentary finished despite the physical setbacks we have had. F*ck the Universe and it's shenanigans. Everything doesn't happen for a reason, karma doesn't exist, and shut up inner critic!

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Being Cross

It's unexpectedly good fun being constantly cross due to lack of sleep. I'm writing some furious songs, being mega-efficient and focused in getting stuff that I want, and generally just mentally stamping my little footy in a way that has hitherto been completely unfamiliar.
As Johnny Rotten said, anger is an energy. We will get our She-Punks songs up online on International Women's Day (bass playing on Gina's song today), Shola's vocal will go on to her song on Wednesday, Paul Scott Bates's project is booked in with two female engineers and me within the next two weeks and at the end of next week, I'll do the backing vocals and guitar on a song that Stuart Moxham sent over. Sleep? Pah! I don't give a monkey's auntie.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Recording Shola's Song

The studio somehow managed to superheat itself, which is odd given the sub zero temperature outside. Shanne came in on a last minute call to play bass; Serhan had volunteered for Rhodes keyboard duties and Javier just happened to be finishing his own project in the studio, so one of the best drummers on the course sat in and played some great buzzes and rolls. Michael, Course Leader for Music Tech, was on hand, Charlie from the first year drove the desk, and I played Spanish guitar and sang the guide vocals.
After three hours of setting up mics, running through and getting a good feel, we recorded a pretty good version of the song for Shola to sing over next week. Fuelled by Polos and jokes, the atmosphere was fun and I even managed to sing in Yoruba, which I've never done before. The track went off late last night to Shola by email, and she's happy. Phew!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Good Things

The University of the East has awarded me a mini sabbatical to finish the book and the documentary! This is a tremendous boost; the accident knocked everything back by 3 weeks but once I've organised the replacement lecturers, I can get me head down and work.
Yesterday, I interviewed a woman who is the penultimate engineer that I'll be talking to: a grime music producer who was brimming over with imaginative ideas that she actually puts into practice. I can't wait to transcribe her interview.
Today, fingers on both hands are crossed: this evening I'm hoping to record the backing track for a song writer that I've been working with. It's a house of cards situation because of having to cancel the previous sessions, but this morning I'm going to write out the scores and hope to nab a few student musicians to play on the track. It could actually be done electronically ad somewhere in the paperfest on the kitchen table there's a list of possible Apple Loops, but they do actually all resemble drum kit being pushed downstairs. Always good to have an emergency backup.
O the joys of creativity! i haven't slept thru the night for three weeks because my rm hurts so much and i'm still typing with one finger most of the time, preserving energy for guitar playing, but the musicians and artists that I meet, teach or work with are just incredible; it's not a case of glass half full, more a case of the cup runneth over.
Pip Pip!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Commuting With A Broken Elbow

I've been avoiding the rush hours but today there was no alternative.
Well, nobody gives up their seat to a person with a sling. And I never realised before how many enormous men suddenly start to walk backwards very quickly without looking, in ticket halls!
Crouched over in a corner of the train, I wedge my arm into a crevice where nobody can lose their balance and crash into me. I'm so worried about breaking it again.
Strangely, it was the man who kicked my foot who almost made me snap.
What a relief to be back home; I know everybody always says this, but permanently disabled people must have a completely shit time.

Cat Story

"Hello puss, and what's your name?"
"I think you'll find that's what most cats say they're called".

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Yamaha Twins

Scaledown was great fun last high, as always. The Yamaha Twins were particularly good. Like two fighting cocks, they strutted around each other with their identical guitars, challenging, riffing, guitarguing. They both got stuck on the same note for a while. The funniest bit was the detuning section. Just like The Chefs when the guitarists tuned to the bass, and then realised one of its strings was out of tune, so they tuned to each other and realised each other was out of tune, and so on, and so on. Pitch pipes were for poncy folk guitarists and we couldn't afford a guitar tuner at first; I ended up buying a tuning fork.
Andrew and Mark got a lot of funny noises out of those guitars last night: nice solid-body sounds. They traded licks, half-started one groove before ending on another, and generally had lots of sonic frolics. After 15 funny and stimulating minutes, they crossed guitar necks in a truce.

Algia Mae Hilton


When I went back to the fracture clinic, I was told not to lift anything or push anything in order not to damage the sewn-up elbow: not even lifting up a cup of tea. It was a bit late. I wanted to take sure that my arm still worked as soon as possible, but once you receive an instruction you have to obey it.
All sorts of things catch you out: I got an onion from the fridge and The World's Sharpest Knife to chop it with to make pasta sauce. Into the middle of the onion I plunged the knife, and then couldn't get it out again.
Automatically, I started to push the onion with the left hand and pull the knife with the right, before realising that this was forbidden.
I tried whacking the onion on the chopping board to try to dislodge the knife, then wedging it on the side of the board and yanking it.
I tried to wiggle the knife (it wouldn't wiggle).
I tried waving the onion around in the air, hoping that the momentum would loosen it. Nope.
Finally, I called on Almighty God of Pasta Sauces for superhuman strength in the right hand.
With the whole of the weight of my body, I charged a the onion/knife combo and managed to make a tiny bit of leeway.
Finally and under great protest, the onion caved in enough to be sawed into sections by The World's Sharpest Knife. Stupid thing to feel a sense of triumph about, but there you go.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Stories from the She-Punks: Update

The finishing post is within sight.
In order to purchase music rights, we will be posting two tracks on Bandcamp on International Women's Day: Women of the World, the full track with choir, Zoe Howe on drums, Andy Diagram on trumpet and more metadata to follow, and Gina's track I Play My Bass, which will feature bass playing from women in the film. Shanne is there recording today. We'll make a dedicated Bandcamp page and all proceeds will go towards finishing off the documentary.
More news soon.

Celebrating Colm's Life

The Boogaloo was packed last night. This is Colm's younger sister, with a lot of ex-students and staff looking on; there was music, laughter, talk and tears. What a lad.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

White Roses at the Brit Awards

Oh deary, deary me.
This doesn't stand a snowflake's chance in hell. The music industry is THE site of sexual abuse and coercive control. Rather than tweeting #MeToo, women (and young men) should be tweeting #NotMe in the rare instances when they haven't been propositioned, attacked or enticed into uncomfortable power-balance situations, or maybe #NotMeYet.
The industry is full of 'feminist men' who use the badge to get women to trust them, and then do the Harvey on them. Or procurer-type women working for the Harveys who persuade young women that it's really feminist to take off your clothes to appear in a pop video ostensibly because its a sign of freedom, but in reality because it shifts units and 'everybody is doing it'. Feminism used as a lure is particularly prevalent in the twenty-something generation, rather depressingly.

Years ago, I had a boss who spontaneously yelled at people when he got annoyed. He was quite public about it, and lots of people were terrified of him. He was actually one of the nicest people I've ever worked for or with, because what you saw was what you got. He never yelled at anyone in private; he was so incapable of controlling how he felt that he was also unable to be secretive, involve people in narcissistic plots or cabals, or make women feel sexually uncomfortable. The shouting could be undermining, but he cooled off pretty quickly. You felt that he was totally safe and trustworthy, and I had a lot of honest conversations with him. He was easy to respect, because he had no fake 'wokery' about him. That's not to say every man who shouts is honest, nor is every quiet man a fraud; feminism is a work in progress that everyone can contribute to, and there is no 'we've done it now' about it.

Not all women are the same, and neither are all men; wouldn't it be great in life if there was time out to reassess everything? Not just the abuse of women, but the abuse of little boys by sports coaches, and in boarding schools.

Whenever I've interviewed women in the music industry for research purposes, I get told the most blood-curdling stories. This almost stalled the PhD before its time, and nothing has changed. The women often don't want these stories to be heard, because then all they will be is victims. Jean Seaton, who was one of the supervisors on my PhD, gave good advice: the women are not victims, they are people who have survived despite the attempts to demean and derail them made by men in the music industry. In fact, they are professional people who are thriving.

So the white roses? Leave them in the fields, and let nature take its course with them. Human responsibility is the only solution, and the recognition that even the most charming and plausible people can fool people who think that they themselves are too intelligent to be taken for a ride.
Always believe.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

In Support of Mary Beard

Sending love and support to Mary Beard, a beautiful and learned woman who is an inspirational writer, broadcaster and communicator.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Delilah, Delilah

This new song was inspired by a visit to the hairdresser (it's hard, though not impossible, to wash long hair with only one hand), a chance sighting of the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons in the sweet shop, reading a particularly gory Jo Nesbo book while under the influence of powerful and mind-bending painkillers, and a desperate desire to make my fingers work. Ukulele is difficult to play if you're normally a guitarist- it feels as though you have too many fingers. This is played with two fingers on each hand. Posted yesterday morning, before the fracture clinic; no lifting, pulling or pushing for six weeks, but playing guitar has the green light. The operating surgeon sent a message to say she hoped that I'd managed to play the gig I was worried about. I didn't in the end, but what a nice thing to ask.

Monday, February 12, 2018


I'm thinking of re-branding my super-person alter-ego (didn't have one, but maybe should have), "Terrormadam".
The music shop guy in Brighton the other week called me a "Terror" when I knocked over a huge pile of slippery leaflets all over the floor, while I was in there buying emergency drumsticks for the Asbo Derek gig, even though I tried to pick them up.
The surgeon who fixed the fracture called me "Madam", in general conversation about elbows.
Slot the two together, and you get the sort of name that should be emblazoned across a tightly t-shirted chest in a lightning-flash of primary colours. By somebody else, perhaps.

Waiting for Spring!

Photo by Ruth Tidmarsh

Saturday, February 10, 2018


We all looked out for this man in our various ways. Barnet is not famed for its compassion (just look at Cllr Cornelius if you don't believe me) but touchingly, some mornings there was a cup of coffee waiting for him on his sitzplatz on the pavement in the High Street.
He busked sometimes, and got better at it. People stopped and chatted to him. It was better to give him food and drink than money.
He wasn't homeless, as Offsprog One found out. He felt sorry for homeless people, even though he spent every daylight hour outside, rain or shine, summer or winter. Sometimes he appeared to be remarkably ill. The police knew about him and I suppose all the local charities did too; he appeared to be living the life he wanted to. It is very sad that he has died; you always hope that there will be a happy ever after for a chap like this: articulate, funny, sociable, but just somehow not fitting into the shapes cut out for normal human beings. A lot of people will miss you, Anthony.

These Streets, filmed at The Union Chapel in January

Thank you again John Jervis, Daylight Music and Foliage Films

Friday, February 09, 2018

Napoleon@Elbow: Fracture Diary, Only Entry

Offsprog One made a weeks worth of chilli on Monday; what a gem. Offsprog Two went and got easy t-shirts; another gem! Colleagues at work have done a grand job at keeping things going as much as possible. Sorry for not replying to emails and phone calls- anything complex is beyond me at the moment especially if it requires finding physical or virtual information. Next week will be much better and I have read/listened to everything and know what has to be caught up on.
I'm a one-finger typist with short windows of time in which to do stuff- the bit of bone that broke off was the funny bone, and if you've ever hit yourself there, you'll know the feeling. My left hand is blossoming in colour to a fetching shade of purple but has now shrunk from the size of a cricket ball to the size of an orang-utan's paw. I'm uncharacteristically grumpy; a thousand baboons have been screaming in my head most of the week, but they are settling down now.
Yesterday, like a cross Napoleon, I went one-armed bandit shopping and bought Sliced Things to eat.
I'm too impatient for visitors and have been occupying the hours by revisiting, in my head, every fool I've ever met in my life and not suffering them gladly. This has been quite an indulgence, and better than chocolate for the spirits, which currently tastes just of brown paste.
No more for now. Fingers still working: frustrating for this to happen halfway thru working out a new guitar-picking' pattern, but motivating to have that as a target... for next week?

Monday, February 05, 2018

NHS March

We care about you, NHS staff who are so busy that they have no idea how much public support they have- and there is virtually no reporting of these marches.
Ironically, as I was noting on my phone the very funny quip that Offsprog One made about a particularly impassioned chap with a megaphone, I slipped on the road and broke my elbow. I didn't realise what had happened at the time.
This is how I know how little public appreciation gets through to the nurses, doctors, anaesthetists, cleaners, porters and everyone else who works in our hospitals and other National Health facilities.
I have wires in my elbow, and its hugely frustrating not to be able to play my guitars at the moment. But within the space of hours and with the utmost respect and courtesy I've been operated on, patched up and painkilled.
Staff at the hospital said thank you to the 60,000 people who marched in their support on Saturday. The government don't care, do they? It's been a Tory project ever since Thatcher to get rid of the NHS. The whole idea of completely egalitarian treatment for everyone from a street person to a duchess, regardless of status or income, just sticks in the Tory craw. We mustn't let this be taken from us!
It is actually a comical thing to have happened in the end, if a trifle painful and inconvenient!

Friday, February 02, 2018

Working and Sleeping

January was working and sleeping, and the first weekend of February is going to be the same.
It's Scaledown tonight, and that's a big thing to miss!
The editor from Equinox, Dave Laing, was in London today, and we met to have a bookish discussion. He recommended the book Under My Thumb: songs that hate women and the women who love them (edited by Rhian Jones and Eli Davies), so Chomsky is relegated to the waiting pile (bloody depressing, anyway), while I get stuck into reading about (some even more depressing) sexism.
Pots and pans and rock'n'roll: you do the housework, while I sit and write a song about how lovely you look while you're doing the housework, baby.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Celebrating Shanne

This is to celebrate Shanne Bradley, founder member of The Nipple Erectors, who auditioned Shane McGowan (who recently celebrated his 60th birthday) for the band she was forming. Shanne is now a multi-instrumentalist.
Like a lot of women musicians at the time, history seems to want to forget her. She appears in our documentary Stories from the She-punks: music with a different agenda and is a wonderful raconteur. Just putting her back where she belongs!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Shortest Gig Review Ever

That was a bonzer gig last night, for a trillion reasons.
Sending you love from Darn Sarf Brian, from everyone.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Latest Music Bar Tonight, Brighton

The weather is going to be perfect, the chops have been sharpened, the Horns have been assembled from far-flung and exotic places (Webridge, Southend and Watford). The set list is written, the French words learned and then forgotten, the Asbo Dereks preparing their provocations and searing pop. You must be mad not to come. I don't care if it feels like a long way from Hastings! I don't care if it feels like a long way from Pecehaven! I don't care if it feels like a long way from Rottingdean or Portslade! Or Firle, Hassocks or Lewes!
 It will be worth it, because you are worth it (apologies to hair shampoo and cosmetic manufacturers).

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

French Footsteps

Friday in Brighton

This is one of only two Helen and the Horns gigs this year, supporting the fabulously astringent Asbo Derek in Brighton! Horns on stage 9 p.m. and Asbo on stage 10 p.m.
There will be vinyl on sale (old stuff from us, new stuff from the Asbos) and I will also be selling old stock of a Helen and the Horns compilation CD for a mere fiver (this isn't the Damaged Goods compilation, it's a CD that was brought out about ten years ago). Come along and dance your January blues away. There is no better plan for Friday evening, believe me.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Daylight Music Today at the Union Chapel

What? Wake up and do a gig at rock'n'roll breakfast time? Who are you kidding?
You know what, this event was a lovely surprise for a billion different reasons. You have to go along to one of these!
Outside it was chilly and drizzly, but Daylight Music know how to treat their artists, and they had piled the dressing room full of tea, coffee, quiche and cake. They had warmed the chapel up (did they start that last night?). There were helpers aplenty, everyone knew what they were doing (including us, the artists, because the communication with us was exemplary), so from the outset the omens were great.
The first act was the Perfect English Weather, aka the Popguns, with the pop but minus the guns (that didn't quite work, did it? But this was Wendy and Simon on guitars, with bass and drums in the imagination). Their songs are really memorable, and Wendy's strong, beautiful voice carried them up to the rafters of the chapel and beyond. They have new material that is every bit as catchy as the songs that I was more familiar with, and the audience drifted along with their easy, positive vibe and their irresistible warmth. Rain? Grey skies? Forget it! Magic happens at gigs like this, right from the start. The applause at the end of their set said it all.
In between sets, Simon Fox played ambient music on an acoustic guitar, which prevented the intrusion of music that nobody wanted to listen to, from somebody's iPod. Regular gig-goers will know how often this happens, and it was a stroke of genius to have this instead. This allowed change-overs to happen quickly and the genial MC Ben to get the audience ready for the next performer.
My bit? I loved it. There were a lot of people there but I could tell the sound engineer was doing a really good job. Church buildings can have weird acoustics but what was bouncing back sounded good. It was particularly nice that there were children there, running around dressed as princesses or just dressed as themselves- and lots of elders, too; this was a proper all-ages gig.
Judy Dyble (formerly of Fairport Convention) and Andy Lewis were augmented by a group that included drums, keyboards and autoharp, with Robert Rotifer, who like Andy plays in Louis Philippe's band, on acoustic guitar, and a violin player called Alison who plays with a band called The Left Outsides. Judy's voice is clear and warm, and there were lush vocal harmonies in their music, which I scribbled down as being pastoral psychedelic in style. Just when you thought a song was going to come down to land in a particular spot, it landed somewhere else; for a muso this is like a puzzle that has to be solved, and I now need to listen to lots of their songs to work out what is happening. Judy took 35 years off, and I'm bloody glad she's back again. Their version of Nick Drake's Northern Sky was so lovely it made me cry. There was something in it that summed up the whole experience: us in our coats sitting listening, children running around, people smiling, a lovely chapel in the middle of London on a rainy day, people having bothered to turn out on a Saturday lunchtime (about 275 people, apparently), being part of something like this when life has sometimes been so harsh. Music is a healer, and transcends the musicians who play it. Big thanks to John Jervis for putting this bill together, and inviting me.
The dressing room bantz was pretty cool, too.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Walk Tall

At the risk of repeating myself, this has long been my mantra. It wasn't what my Momma told me, but what Val said.

Words from a Wise Man

About ten years ago a Wise Man told me that some people accuse other people of doing exactly what they do themselves, and criticise them for it. This was an very interesting observation, and can help with the understanding of incomprehensible situations. It's also a warning to be careful of complaining and accusing, without checking first to make sure you're not guilty of exactly the same thing yourself.
Slogan t-shirt on the way...

Thursday, January 18, 2018


The Last Line

Last line, last verse of the song. It took months with Heaven Avenue, and there's another one like that nagging away in my head. Just leave it on the shelf, get on with something else, and it will pop up like dawn on the horizon,

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

An Unusual Afternoon

Yesterday afternoon I took a group of MA students to The House of Commons to look around, and sit in the Visitors' Gallery. We were kindly invited by a chap who used to like The Chefs, and once we'd been through airport-style security, we had the opportunity to experience something that is a public right- entering the House of Parliament- shown round by someone who loves the place to bits.
It was incredibly impressive to stand in massive stone-flagged room that was built 1000 years ago, with a ceiling so high you felt that you'd need a helicopter to change the light bulbs. Everything in the building is beautifully crafted, from the mosaics on the floors to the wooden fretwork and panelling and the paintings that are hundreds of years old. I hadn't realised how badly bombed it had been in the second world war but much of it has been rebuilt, although some of the very old parts survived.
Our host was full of hilarious anecdotes- Michael Jackson trying to buy the gold throne in the House of Lords when he was given a tour, for instance.
In the visitors' gallery, we were prepared to be bored but there was a very interesting paper on Human Rights and the EU that involved some gracious interaction between the Labour and Tory MPs, with John Redwood sitting there and twitching with fury, trying to interject. It was a luxury to hear a well-researched and articulate discussion that was a million miles away from the irritating and publicity-seeking MPs who make sure they are splashed across the newspapers for saying practically nothing.
Going to witness government in action is an experience with much to recommend it, especially if you're feeling disillusioned with politics. It's not hot-headed and dramatic like Prime Minister's Questions, which is more of a furious showcase of party politics. This was the measured and well-argued presentation of facts.We could have sat there all afternoon, and I wish we had- apparently one of the Tories fell asleep later on during Ken Clarke's speech. But for a group of students, none of whom ticked the 'powerful British white man/woman' box, this was an oddly heartening experience.
Tip: make sure you haven't got a pair of scissors in the bottom of your bag!

Monday, January 15, 2018


Straight back into life today; I finished and submitted an academic article, which was a relief (What stress! Retrieving the password, putting the finishing touches into the style template, wondering if everything it said was true). There was marking to do and a massive list of administrative things which knocked me out just by looking at it.
There is a new song to put up on Youtube, but I only got about 3 hours sleep last night so it will have to wait until I look and sound like a human being rather than some sort of exotic roadkill that has been shocked back to life.
Half of me hates January, and the other half loves it. Being inside looking out at the midday gloom can feel quite snug, but the thought of that gloom lasting into the foreseeable future is a bit grim. I'm going to go to Edinburgh for a few days to stamp about on the frozen grey pavements thinking about McMum and McDad, who no longer live there because they have both passed away. Somehow I think their spirits are still around, drifting between there and Perthshire. It is almost ten years since McDad died; I still have his gardening hat, and the smell of woodsmoke from his shirt when I used to sit on his lap as a child on Sunday afternoons is as easy to recall as anything that happened yesterday. He was quiet a lot of the time, and it's nice to sit in the same room as a person like that: peaceful.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What You Been Doing This Avo?

Learnink my sonks, darlink.💚

Where All The Sparrows Went

A couple of years ago, people were lamenting the lost sparrows of London. I can confirm that they are all in Lausanne, outside the Lausanne Youth Hostel where a cacophony of chatter can be heard at seven o'clock in the morning in January. Some of them are at Lausanne Metro station too, eating crumbs on the platform.
Yesterday I got up early and had a wander around the city as it woke up. The mountains across the lake were invisible again, hidden by January lake mists, but the air in the city was clear and sharp. The streets of Lausanne are steep and cobbled, with a fresh fruit and vegetable market thriving just outside smart chocolate shops. This is French Switzerland, although it seemed like a miniature version of Vienna. In a large department store, posh ladies and gentlemen drank coffee and ate cakes at high benches in the quiet that only money can buy.
The aisles were full of every shape, colour, size and permutation of chocolate. I passed on the churn of chocolates that moos when you open it. Alas, there was no room in my bag, and anyway I still haven't opened the red plastic Christmas SFX device that I bought on a whim in the January sales.
One of the best things was that the train back to Geneva airport was a double decker one!
Through the distant mist, you could see skeletons of trees with no green summer flesh to soften them, layered and silhouetted against the water, with fields of vine stubs crouched over like rows of leaping stoats, next to the tracks. As on Thursday, there were odd juxtapositions: a crazy golf game being played right next to what looked like an enormous power-station, for example.
The plane landed like a feather on a lawn. Coming through Stansted was sad. There was a replacement bus service to Liverpool Street and it was more cheerful to travel with a coach load of people speaking French; it's amazing how easily you become used to another language being spoken around you, and if you don't strain to translate all the time, the music of the speech.

Insect home, UNIL; babbling brook with turquoise water; guitar shop (closed, alas); mooing churn; narnas; spuggy on the Metro; ceiling at Geneva airport (these babies grow to full-size planes in twenty years); shoe shop sign.

Friday, January 12, 2018

I miss...

... the guitar playing bit of the day, which usually lasts at least an hour, is like breathing out a gigantic sigh, and balances out all the other bits of the day in a calming and peaceful way.
No guitars here, alas.

A Day in Switzerland

I have come to a conference in Lausanne to present a paper- it would have been so nice to have spent longer here, but I thought that I would be paying for it myself (the University took a long time to approve funding and consented just before Christmas), so I'm doing it on a nano-budget.
I have seen things from the train (regrettably, not a double-decker, although they had those in Geneva).
It looks like a giant version of Northumberland.
There are huge pom-poms of mistletoe growing in lots of the trees.
There are chicken-yards next to robot factories.
The water in the streams and rivers is a beautiful shade of turquoise.
I have learned...
Swiss people are kind and considerate (a man leaned over to a stranger on the train and offered to lend her his iPhone battery charger when her iPod appeared to have run out of power).
Swiss Youth Hostels are like British hotels.
Quite a lot of French can come out of my mouth if I don't think too hard about it.
I can understand 25% of a French academic paper just with my school French, and because a lot of academic terms are very similar.
It's tiring working out what the remaining 75% means.

Last night I did an interview about my research for a Swiss radio station, so more about that when it its broadcast.

It's a bit cold and misty out there; the guy in the Youth Hostel recommended the beautiful views of the mountains if you walked to the University from the Youth Hostel, but nothing was visible today and a troupe of extremely hungry swans pursued me across the grass from the water's edge so I scooted up here pretty quickly. There's no snow in this part of Switzerland in spite of the avalanches in the Alps; its the same as January in London, minus the dirty drizzle and noise, although it's very much roads'n'rail.
Oh yes- there is some amazing graffiti here.

Countdown to presentation time....

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Dick, who used to drum for The Piranhas in Brighton, has passed away. This is terribly sad because he was quite young and he was such a live-wire as a young man; everybody liked him. He was like everyone's kid brother.
He worked at The Malling Press in Lewes for a while as a printer and left, because the Piranhas started doing really well. I got the job after him, and we both had the experience of being shown the bottom drawer where the National Front letter head was.
'I ain't printing that!', declared Dick, which was brave because he must have only been about 17, in probably his first job.
He was a really good drummer, and when he joined the band they had the line-up that made them successful, partly because of his energy and good time-keeping (metre-wise; I have no idea if he was a teenage whippersnapper and showed up late for gigs and rehearsals).
Even his friends were nice. His best buddy worked for British Rail in Lewes and was always full of smiles if we bumped into each other. Big love to you, Dick xxx

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Next Gig

Busy times- my next gig is Daylight Music at the Union Chapel, 12 noon till 2 p.m. with Judy Dyble, who sang with Fairport Convention, and the Perfect English Weather (that's The Popguns, acoustic).
An academic weekend for me this weekend though- my bag is stuffed with papers and my head is stuffed with thoughts. This is a short posting because I have a lot of travel to organise.

Monday, January 08, 2018


I bought a book of Punch cartoons from a charity shop but this one wasn't in it.
At art college we loved Les; I didn't realise he was a Daumier illustration. Still luv him.