Thursday, May 24, 2018

Recording With Tom Again

Tom and Lisa live out at Queens, and I probably chose the longest route there that it was possible to choose. I got the Subway to Flushing, which is a fascinating Korean suburb, and then caught a slow local bus from there to the area where they live.
There was a minor hiccup: Tom had arranged to borrow a Spanish guitar and a solid-body from a local music shop, but there was no-one to be seen when we went to pick them up. We hovered and hoped and peered through the shuttered window, but in the end Tom had to try to find someone else who would hire instruments to us- you'd think that would be easy in New York but it's not. After a lot of searching, we managed to find somewhere and we were just setting off, when the original guy phoned and said he'd opened up and was waiting there for us.
The first solid body had gravelly pots and sticky strings but the second one had a nice strong sound- Seymour Duncan pickups- and we went back and made a start. I'd decided to do electric and acoustic versions of each song, but the songs soon dictated what they wanted and two were recorded on the Spanish guitar and two on the electric. Tom has become so swift at editing and although he now works mainly as a mix engineer, he had put together a really great recording set-up for this session. We recorded the four songs on guitar, and  then because my voice was rough at the bottom end and I had no head-room (jet lag), we stopped for the day and chatted to his wife Lisa and their lovely little baby who was all smiles and who is a ball of fun and energy.
Next day was vocal day and it didn't take long to put the vocals on the songs.
I had realised the day before that coming to Queens to record with Tom again was a really good decision. Time has passed- almost ten years- and we have both got better at what we are doing, but it was as easy as anything to slot right back into working together again. If you have recorded two and a half albums with the same engineer (plus a Christmas EP with a scratch choir on it, which Lisa says they still play every year), at the end of that process you will either be great friends or great enemies, and thankfully we became the first of those.
I can't wait to hear how they sound.
Afterwards we went to a Japanese restaurant and ate ourselves silly.
It is extremely tempting to go back and do next year's album there too; let's see how the next lot of songs develop...
It felt as though no time had passed at all; I was so pleased to see him- and Lisa, who managed to survive the Harrow household where they all lived; and of course, to meet their baby. How often do we get to meet babies? Never! Everyone should have at least one baby in their life just to keep their feet on the ground; this trip, I met two: but more of that in another posting.
I have such fiendish headweirdnessfuckery because of the time zone thing that I can only manage one posting at a time. Can you imagine a night flight, a red-eye, then having to do marking? A whole day of it tomoz, then the fifth rewrite of an article that I'm trying to get published.
Oh, but New York: what a city.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

I couldn't get a ticket for the early show at eight but took the risk of the ten thirty.
It was a mistake to stop off in Times Square on the way there because I got seriously hustled and it was frightening. The idea of picking my way to and from Greenwich Village on my own suddenly lost its appeal.
However, food cures all ills and cures all fears too, apparently; although it took a while to locate the venue (going off in the wrong direction from the Subway didn't help), once I was there I joined the smug queue of people with tickets and clambered down the narrow stairs into the teensy club (no more than 123 people allowed in there, appaz) where the audience is so close to the band that they are practically in it.
What a band! Lots of greyhairs, a couple of nerdy whippersnappers, and a slick, breathing big band sound. They play as one: they are like a swarm of bees, leaning in one direction thn the other, rising and falling as they breathe together, reaching over to place microphones for the person doing a solo, the sax players putting their fingers in their ears in unison as the trombones blast behind them in a particularly loud section.
Tight, very New York tunes emanate from the cosy stage area; they explain life through music, looking blissful as they listen in between playing. One sax player even uses newsreaders 'explaining hands' during his solo. They are sure we understand their enthusiasm, and we do.
Sorry no photos- forbidden I'm afraid, although I may well try to draw them from memory at some point. They were fascinating.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

New York

New York is foggy tonight, and has been rainy all day. It was a nightmare getting here because the flight was delayed by more than four hours, and part of that time involved the Norwegian Airlines staff trying to reorganise all the seating for the whole enormous planeload so that we could fly in a jumbo jet run by a Spanish airline.
The good bit was that I got to sit in the lump on top, which was something I never in a million years imagined that I'd ever do. It was impossible to sleep though, partly because of turbulence- not enough to make you afraid but enough to wake you up if you nodded off, and partly because the huge seats had all sorts of mechanical gadgetry; you could slide them into a flat position bit by bit, lifting up the footrest and lowering the headrest, you had folding down little reading lights and a folding table in the arm rest, and so much legroom. But all night long the whirring of the mechanisms gently whined as people adjusted their positions; it was a unnerving as it was exciting.
Then at JFK (cheers, Norwegian), I ended up being the only person from the whole flight waiting for transport into town- at 11.30 at night. That was frightening, but the shuttle bus eventually turned up and lots of other late passengers crammed at another terminal.
So I got to the YMCA at 1.30 a.m. and checked into this Spartan room, which has a fabulous view across Central Park.
I can't upload photographs at the moment because this is an iPad and mostly doesn't work. It's horrible to type on too because your fingers feel like spider legs tippy tappying on it.
The recording part of the trip has been perfect. It was fantastic to work with Tom again, and meeting his little baby was amazing. We got four tracks down, and he's going to mix them.
Tomorrow, I have a long trip to visit Laura, who I haven't seen since she was twelve and I was fourteen. On the way, I'm going to get some work done: I printed out a very basic version of my book to read.
So this is a working visit, but at the same time I've walked the (Hi) Line, been to Williamsburg, visited the amazing Folk Museum and just generally wandered around using both my feet and the Metro Card.
Time for a shower- a competitive business because we share bathrooms at the YMCA, and there aren't enough to go around. I mistakenly allowed a soaking wet cyclist to go before me, this morning, which meant that I missed out on things. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Dear Gran

I am sorry not to be visiting your birthplace this time around, but I will come back another time.
I remember hanging out with you and your friends; you were so worried about what I would write about them in your diary that you tried to bribe me with a dollar, to show you what I'd written that day. But I hadn't written anything; I found them fascinating, just as you were.
You had so many adventures and there were so many layers to your personality. I understand how you always saw the good in everything and everybody and how important it was to you to do that, in order to keep the darkness away. You saw cruelty, and you experienced it too. But you were a fabulous grandmother and you never lost your ability to play or to understand the child in people, no matter how sophisticated they were. You also rather liked baddies because they were exciting, although you didn't want them around us, your grandchildren.
Whenever life kicks me in the teeth, I think about you and your survival strategy of always to be positive and always to be interested in other people and their stories.

Sending you love from Planet Earth,

Your granddaughter Helen xxx

Monday, May 14, 2018


Just bought a little compass- a metal adventure's compass- from the bookshop, so I can navigate around New York without getting my phone out, because it's a north/south/east/west city.
It says on the box that it's a metal adventurer's compass, so that must mean that I'm a metal adventurer.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Punks Wait For Their Guitars To Arrive

Alpacas from yesterday; more to come, after (another) graft day. Tina, their boss, is out of the picture. She has magnificent fluttery eyelashes, dark brown fur, and can spot a camera at a hundred yards.
These are therapeutic alpacas who belong to the organisation Animal Antiks, and they visit troubled children and autistic children who need something more than complicated human company to make them feel safe and comfortable.
Not only can these clever chaps play guitar, but they also spit at each other when they are annoyed like proper punk rockers. Llamas spit at humans more often, apparently, because they have nastier temperaments than alpacas; alpacas only have teeth on their lower jaw and have hard gums on the upper one.
You learn a lot at Literary Festivals.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Guitars Located!

I can't believe that next weekend I will be in New York recording with Tom Greenwood again. Tom recorded both Suburban Pastoral and Poetry and Rhyme, plus some of the tracks on Hamilton Square.
Norwegian Airlines don't carry fragile baggage and I've been worried about taking a guitar but Tom has found a friendly music shop to hire some at minimal rates.
This is so exciting!
The beginning of this year was terribly dark: a fog of painkillers, and the shock of realising how things can suddenly happen that make a huge impact on everything in your life.
Trying to edit an academic article with a curdled brain and an ability to type with only one finger.
Months of sleeplessness because of the relentless pain (never break an elbow- that funny bone feeling is with you constantly, 24/7 and painkillers wear off after a couple of hours).
Taking days to be able to bear to wear a guitar and stand up to play (they are heavy buggers).
An unbearable feeling, the feeling of being sorry for myself.
Sitting with my hand in the air for hours at a time to stop the swelling and bruising from becoming really frightening and dramatic.
Drawing a very painful, powerful drawing that summed up the feelings of being dumped two years ago which made a friend cry when they saw it.

What a wonderful NHS we have; they were proud of the work they did in fixing it up.
The surgeon smiled with delight at the mobility of the mended arm and relayed a message from the operating surgeon to ask if I'd managed to do my gigs (I only cancelled one, in the end).

Travelling light and light-hearted! What better thing is there in life?

The Bardaid Literary Festival

The Bardaid people continue their good work creating libraries in phone boxes and schools with this event today in Hertfordshire. I will be there as part of a panel in the afternoon at about 2 p.m. and will be selling copies of the Lost Women of Rock Music later on.

Friday, May 11, 2018


Up at eight for the builders, I started writing.
By eleven thirty, I was a spent force and they were finished.
The rest of the day has been occupied in answering University correspondence, shoving unfeasibly heavy furniture back into place, washing the floors, taking things upstairs, taking things downstairs, laundering dusty things and generally exhausting every muscle in my body.
Trying a siesta was fruitless; the goldfinch was trilling at maximum volume.
I looked for my black lyrics book.
It wasn't in the Usual Places.
I remembered leaving a book full of lyrics on the tube once and never getting it back.
Had I thrown the black lyrics book away in a fit of cleanliness when I was clearing the house so the builders could smash the damp plaster off the walls?
Had it been recycled this morning when the bin men came?
Are the dustmen singing their way through my songs right this minute in their deep dusty voices, accompanied by a battered guitar that a disinterested child has thrown away?
No! Here it is, midway through an unlikely pile!

Relieved, I sing every single song as a prayer of gratitude.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

'Summer Days' Mixed By Stuart Moxham


I've sent out more than 60 pieces of student work today. They have worked hard and done well and I feel proud of their achievements. Big thanks to David and Bridgette for helping out with the teaching and marking while I've been on sabbatical.
The book writing feels like a mountain to climb. All the information is there, but it's not in the right order yet. I have done so much research but the publisher wants integrated interviews, which has meant going back to the drawing-board. I'm not the world's most patient person: I just want people to be able to read it right now. Academic books don't work like that though, and I can't say I should have been a journalist, because I shouldn't have been. Being a writer happened as a different sort of accident and wasn't intentional.
After this, its strictly songs (and crime novels).

Wednesday, May 09, 2018


In a deep hole excavated in the piled up furniture, the microphone met the interface and the interface met the computer.
We were doing BVs and a unison vocal for a Stuart Moxham song called The Hill, which is exceptionally catchy.
It was one of those subtraction jobs. A few weeks ago I slathered the poor song with vocals; most of this session was spent taking them away.
On Sunday I will climb over some furniture and retrieve the guitar to put a bit of jangle on to the song.
Tomozza and the next day, they are Writing Days with Robert Dyas Orange Ear Protectors, as the builders smash the damp plaster off the walls downstairs.


The damp in my house has finally got to the point where it needs to be sorted out; cue much moving of hefty furniture, piles of paper that can't be thrown away yet because they belong to the book project, clothes, guitars and general stuff (actually, General Stuff commands a Dustball Army).
There were lots of photographs buried in the heaps, including this one that Jacob took for Myspace back in the day. I quite miss Myspace; it had an innocence about it. When it started, somebody told me about it and said you could make lots of friends.
'What's the point of that?', I thought, 'I have got friends anyway'.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Washing Machine

The old washing machine became increasingly independent, rather like an adolescent.
You had to press buttons again and again, and it would decide on a whim whether it would do the things the button were telling it to do.
The washing machine repair man is very nice and very patient, but when he moved his toolbox in I decided I'd had enough.
Now, the new washing machine (very cheap and with rather a large scary eye) works like a dream. It is quiet, reliable, efficient and when it has finished it plays a jolly little tootly tune.
As soon as it's legal, I'm going to marry the new washing machine, for all the above reasons.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Lewes, Last Night

Big thanks to Foz for last night's gig supporting Rory McLeod.
Rory is a true troubadour, spending most fo his life travelling; his music shows the influences of all of the different countries that he has travelled to, picking up flavours that add to his skills in playing the spoons (makes me want to pick up the knuckle bones again from the Dom Flemons workshop), tapping and most importantly playing guitar and singing.
These guys, they play the guitar as though it is part of their bodies. The audience was enraptured and he played for two and three quarter hours, as he sang and joked his way through a balmy summer evening. Iraq-na-phobia? Almost as bad as one of mine!
Lovely to see family members, Kim and a lone Asbo Derek sporting a very fine Sleaford Mods t-shirt.

Lewes, This Morning

At 9.15 a.m. the café was full of clog dancing ladies dressed in puritan garb- long pastel-coloured linen dresses, long white aprons and white linen bonnets, drinking cappuccinos before their event.
At the station, a young squirrel was trying to pluck up courage to cross from one platform to the other across the rails.
Up to the edge, paws down over the edge.... nope.
A bit further up the platform, it tried again:
Up to the edge, paws down over the edge... nope.
It tried a few times and finally made it down.
Arriving at the rails, it ran up and down before it regained its sense of direction, and tried to cross.
The poor little thing had touched the live rail and it shot into the air by at least half a metre, flipping and landing back in between the rails again.
It nursed its sore paw for a couple of minutes and was obviously having a think; when its paw had recovered, it scurried back up to the platform it had left from and headed off in another direction entirely.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Curious Robin

I'm standing at the window in the kitchen with an electric guitar slung over my shoulder, getting used to the weight before the gig tomorrow; I sing, and play with no amplifier (very quietly: pring, pring, pring).
There is a fluttery commotion at the back of the yard, where the peanuts slowly rot in a metal bird-feeder.
Suddenly, two robins appear on the dark concrete ground in front of the back door.
One springs up to the gutter just next to the window and peers in, curiously. It's beak is full, and eyeing the window to work out what is going on, it cocks its head from side to side.
The other bounces about measuring distances, and checking in on its pal from time to time.
The robin in the gutter starts to sing along out of the side of its beak, a worm hanging down incongruously.
Its shiny little eye is fixed on the strange coloured shadow on the other side of the glass that holds a long wooden device with six glittering strings emanating an odd pinging sound, with a calling human face above it.
I dare not stop playing until the robin has vanished back into next door's garden.

Friday, May 04, 2018

An Afternoon

What a lovely slow day.
Newly driving again, I drove slowly to St Albans and slowly got lost.
Normally when this happens I almost cry, but I didn't. I slowly fished the Satnav out from under the car seat, programmed in Ruth and Dave's address, drove to their house and slowly manoeuvred the car backwards and forwards on their hard drive (is that what it's called, the concrete bit outside the front of a house?) while an elderly man paused and slowly turned to watch.
I have missed going up there; the reggae, the coffee, the cat, and of course, Ruth and Dave.
While the coffee was brewing, I sang the verses of Rendezvous D'Automne with a more chilled approach (Cameron, moi?), had a relaxing chat, payed the electronic drum kit for ten minutes or so, drank some more coffee, sang a bit more, then sat on their back hard shoulder (patio?) admiring their stripy cat and eating a very nice lunch.
Vic and Mandy arrived on their way to Newmarket; Vic listened and I sang a line again. This is for an album that he will be releasing soon, and they played me another track, a mad electronica cover of an Asbo Derek song which is very rude (surprise surprise!) and very danceable.

The cat went down the garden and turned her back on us all.

Caroline Coon's Exhibition, Liverpool

Caroline has a solo exhibition at The Gallery, Liverpool that is well worth going to see if you can.
She has a distinctive style with something of the 1930s about it, although her subject matter is very much 21st Century.
Many of her paintings are erotic, twining the sexuality of flowers and plants together with the human body. Others are reflective of where she lives in Notting Hill- the real Notting Hill, not the film version once praised for its 'special effects' by Brinsley Forde of Aswad ("no black people at all"). As a painter, her attention to detail is incredible, and this close observation is what makes her commentary so powerful- and sometimes damning.
Caroline's independent voice is much to be appreciated in the current chaotic times, and so is her ability to place her intellect in equal placing with her appearance, which is a revolutionary act in itself.


Thursday, May 03, 2018

Oh And

Wash the kitchen floor.

Plans For the Day

Im off out to vote in a minute; living in Barnet, we have a very close call between the Tories and Labour, and it makes it seem particularly essential to vote.
The frantic eBAying is going to continue; it feels like an extra job, but although some things I expected to make a lot (a Cath Kidston tea dress sold for less than £20 which is really unusual), and some people don't seem to think they need to bother to pay for their stuff, I am more than mid way to paying for the accommodation in New York. Plus there is more space in the house, which can only be a good thing, because the builders are coming in next week to fix the damp around the doors and that's going to be a lot of mess, dust and upheaval.
Most of today is going to be spent marking; despite having a sabbatical, that only applies to one job and it's only a part sabbatical. It will have to be done in burst of concentration and focus, and rather meanly, I'm hoping for rain!
The documentary editing is going really well; it's bloody hard work, but the film is looking good. Mega, mega thanks to the wonderful women who have shared their stories with us over the last three years. What personalities, and what great experiences! As we look through the footage replacing bits and pieces, we can see what a pity it is to have to leave so much on the cutting room floor as sacrifices to the narrative; this is very similar to writing books and takes a lot of steely decision making.
About the book writing? Nothing has happened on that front this week. It has been good to have a few days away from it, and gather energy for the biggest task of all, which will be integrating the chapters with the interviews within the big academic section of the book.
I don't know what I am going to do with the sense of relief when these projects are finished; the book, since 2010 (eight bloody years!) and the documentary since 2015. Big journey to the centre of the Earth? Spiritual epiphany? Leave the country?
Later, I'll be doing bit of singing too; tomorrow we are re-recording Francoise Hardy's song Rendezvous D'Automne with Vic Godard, Saturday I'll be finishing the guitar and vocal overdubs on a song for Stuart Moxham and starting a singing session on another song for a chap in Sheffield, and Sunday it's this:

Monday, April 30, 2018

Sunday, April 29, 2018

From The Archive

Commander Lonely by The Chefs


Try folding up your clean laundry to this- it's perfect.

Hayfever Fog

Through the fog of hay fever (it's those lovely pretty pink cherry trees and their toxic blossom), I finally completed and submitted an article on gender ventriloquism in recording studios. I will publish it myself if they turn it down because I've sweated blood to write it.
Sometimes I feel that I am not clever enough for my clever job. I am going out for a walk, because you don't need to be clever to do that.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Walking On A Tightrope

This is the most difficult chapter of the book to put together; it describes the extraordinary lengths some blokes have gone to to stop female colleagues from being able to work in recording studios. Pranks are normal, I suspect, but this is making me feel like crying; part of it is in sympathy for what people have described and part of it is in recognition of things that have happened in my own life.
This is the strength of the #metoo movement because it reminds people that they are not alone in their experiences, and they don't deserve to be bullied and belittled. Looking sideways and recognising that there is a pattern of activity can be hugely helpful.
It's like with The Lost Women of Rock Music; you reach a cliff face and you can't jump. I'm not an investigative journalist and I have to respect people's careers. Books and presentations at academic conferences have to retain a level of politeness and formality that simply doesn't exist for you if you're a woman in the record industry. I know some men have experienced abuse too; there is a tremendous imbalance of power in the creative industries and it's possible for a person's career to be totally trashed by someone displeased by their unwillingness to be controlled.
Sometimes, I say to people that writing histories about forgotten or under-appreciated women acts as a sort of therapy, a slow unwinding of anger. This morning, however, I feel like going out and smashing something up; its almost impossible to sit quietly reading through these women's experiences and trying to make a narrative out of them. It hurts. Watch out world.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Tedium of eBay

Photograph, photograph, photograph.
Upload, upload, upload.
Answer questions, answer questions, answer questions.
Pack and post, pack and post, pack and post....
Nothing done today, though there's a lot of stuff up there already, all being sold to semi-finance the recording in New York.
Scary and exciting both at once; stop complaining about eBay!

Swedish Cinnamon Buns

It took the entire afternoon to make these ugly beauties. I ground up cardamom seeds with a pestle and mortar, then remembered that the Turkish shop across the road probably sold cardamom. It does.
Then I used ancient yeast powder left in the cupboard by an Offsprog and it didn't froth, so I had to go out to get some more, and throw away a bowlful of yeast, milk and sugar.
It took 20 minutes of backbreaking kneading to stop the dough from being sticky. 'Add flour' meant the kitchen was full of flour fog, and footprints in the fine white sand on the kitchen floor.
The first batch were too pale and tasteless, although they swirled in a very stylish fashion.
The second batch- yum yum! Half a ton of cinnamon and half a ton of sugar.
I have eaten so many that I feel sick.

Driving Again

After a flat battery and two flat tyres (bit like me in the past couple of months) I went out for a spin. Oh how I love driving! The silence and the sky, and the quiet gliding through traffic flow.
Peace, endorphins, and mobility. Yay!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Mad Moths and Peculiar People

I seem to be meeting a large number of new unpleasant people at the moment; liars, try-it-ons, and general fakes. Rather than letting this become upsetting, perhaps the best thing to do is to treat them as a specialist collection, and celebrate the fact that I have such an expanding collection of ne'er do wells. Mine is bigger than yours.
Same with moths. The house is full of them. They have been rebranded as a moth farm and zoo, and I'm putting some of them up for sale on eBay for people who want their clothes to have that genuine vintage look complete with holey areas and nibbled cuffs. You read it here first!
When visitors come, I'll wow them with room full of glittering, fluttering insects that disappear into a puff of dust at the clap of a hand. How jealous everyone will be.
There, that's life sorted out in a couple of paragraphs.


It's now nearly 12 and I've been editing since 8.30 this morning, first the writing until my head started buzzing, and now the documentary. I can hear the accordion player on the High Street. He has got more stamina than me!
The AA are coming to start my car up; I've not driven for four months and wanted to take it to get it's tyres checked out but it won't start, although I started it from time to time just to check that the battery was working.
Work, work, work, work, work.....

Saturday, April 21, 2018


Graft has stalled; a student video is being uploaded and it's taking its time. An unfeasible amount of housework is getting done (it's a long time since I cleaned behind the cooker's ears: yuk), the blues is on constantly, and I've even repotted Lily, who is entering a second phase as a garden plant.
The scaffolders-out-front are taking a day's rest, but they have been replaced by drillers and bangers out back, orchestrated with Bee Vees (joke) from a herd, not as big as a swarm, of bees who are humming and buzzing out there, rendered dizzy by the aromas of sudden spring.
I have to dodge them as I vainly try to persuade dried twigs of former plants to come back to life; oddly, some grumpy buggers are thriving. The gentians, the oxalis and a clematis formerly known as 'not worth it' are positively joyous, and a clutch of pansies that seemed to be rotting in their polystyrene box (it was too cold to plant them out) are raising their little faces to the sun with glee.
The upload... grr... has gone from 55 minutes to two hours. I shouldn't have interrupted it by writing this!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Grafting Friday

We are hard at work, me and the scaffolders. The heat has rendered them less vocal this morning although they did some fantastic sonic work this morning; almost electronica-like burbling, echoes and reverbs swirled around the back yard when I went out for the morning constitutional.
I've done an hour's writing and have another hour to go before the scholarly muscle is exhausted; then it's time to watch the documentary and do a bit of restructuring all ready for next week's re-edit.
And then...
... the Herculean task of putting stuff up on eBay, mostly clothes but also one guitar which it will be a wrench to say goodbye to, but I don't play it. It gave me one lovely song, and has spent the rest of its ten years with me wrapped up in its case just waiting to be played, which is not what a guitar should experience. With any luck I will make enough money to pay for a week's accommodation in New York.
Scary and exciting both at once, but I'm so glad to have planned ahead, because my arm has almost entirely healed up. Things could have been so much worse; health is precious, worth more than any amount of money.
I have also stopped being frightened of falling over and doing it again, which is a good thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Go Sunshine!

Back Yard Slapback

There is a fantastic slapback effect on the yelling and crashing from the street outside front, in the back yard. Wow. Now doesn't that sound like song title?

Procrastination Break

Oddly, the noisy scaffolders across the road are quite good companions. 'Yah! Hur hur hur', they larf at little jokes, instruct each other in loud cockney voices, drill in harsh bursts; thump and clang.
'Clip, clop, clip, clop', they mock a lady in high heels walking past, oblivious to me mocking them from behind the net curtain.
Humans are snobs, aren't we?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Logging Vids

It's been an early start; I'm logging Trash's interview this morning. With a borrowed camera, lots of the film is shaky because I couldn't manage a tripod and a guitar on the trip to Edinburgh. I swapped over to the iPhone in the end, partly because the sound wasn't synching with the image, but apparently that's normal and it's something to do with buffering, and it's come out fine (apart from the wobbling).
I'm not a cameraperson, that's for sure.
Logging is incredibly tedious; it takes hours. For the earlier parts of the film, I used to sit working all day in Corbridge, glancing out at the great outdoors and wishing I'd chosen to be a gardener; but then the sense of pride when we showed the in-progress version of the film at last at The British Library made it all worthwhile.
Numbers, notes, beginnings, endings, numbers, notes, beginnings, endings....
Alas, it's a gorgeous day out there. The back door is open and the birds are tweetling away. There are what seems to be hundreds of bees buzzing around the yellow tree-that-I-don't-know-what-it-is. There are a few sad twiggy things in pots that were decimated by the double winter that happened last month- one of them looked as though it was going to survive but it was like a fight where someone gets punched in the face, decked, and then given a good kicking for good measure. It's in a sunny spot with lots of water just in case it wants to have another try, but I think it's well and truly kaput.
I can't do much out there yet because I'm not strong enough to lift heavy pots about the place, so it's probably good to have this task to do. And of course, I'm procrastinating. Every time I write a blog posting like this which is essentially about nothing, it's because I should be doing something else.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Saturday Night With The London Set

Filmed by Jane Barnes at The Cluny 2 Newcastle on Friday 13th April. Dedicated to the shared past of gig goers who simply won't give up!


It's the social side of gigging that adds to the fun. Bid was thrilled that Pauline Murray and Rob from Penetration turned up on Friday, though he'd disappeared off for a fag when I took them backstage to meet him. Pauline is recording a new solo album which will be out in the autumn- that's great to hear.
It was fab to catch up with Mick, June and Laura and to go to the cat café with them and catch up on their news.
Lastly, I enjoyed the social interaction with a freshly baked cinnamon bun at the Swedish café Dala on Sunday morning; that was little short of bliss, and I'm going to learn how to make them, and get fat.

Monday, April 16, 2018

So Saturday....

Because I haven't driven for ten weeks (the second last thing to be reintroduced after cracking my elbow on the NHS march), I got the bus up to Newbiggin by the Sea to play The Argyle Rooms. Jason Thomson and Rebecca, his partner, host these monthly house concert in their living room, and they are convivial and warm-hearted hosts.
Beccy Owen was also playing and I had been intrigued to listen to her singing her songs; she runs pop-up choirs all over the north east and also writes songs for theatre groups. I was blown away by her voice, which is truly gorgeous. Her pitching is absolutely spot on and she has a sort of huskiness that lots of pop singers aspire to, but don't get anywhere near to. I have her album (we did a swap) and I'm really looking forward to hearing it. She is coming back into music after taking a break, and played some new material on Saturday which augurs well for her next gigs. I hope to get to see her again- especially if she forays down this way, which I have a feeling she might do in the not too distant future. Brilliant. And thank you Jason and Rebecca, and your lovely friends. The craic was a good as the music!

So Friday...

Start again.
Hello Cluny 2- I remember you!
The stage has moved to a better place and the Monochrome Set were checking when I got there.
Rupert and Phoebe from Big Pink Yacht were there already and it was really nice to see them again and yak with them in the dressing room.
Caryne and Dave had set up the merch stall; the Monochrome Set have a new album out, Maisieworld on the German label Tapete (home to Friedrich Sunlight and Louis Philippe, amongst others) and are touring to promote it.
Big Pink Yacht did a neat set of songs that somehow pulled in influences both from California and the Celtic world; they sing wonderful harmonies together. Their lead singer Imogen plays the fiddle and guitar, Rupert plays electric and acoustic, Phoebe plays bass and John plays drums.Their music is positive and joyful, and they opened the night with a set of catchy, well-arranged songs. I can't wait to hear their first album.
After regaining confidence at last night's gig, I was really looking forward to playing. The audience seemed to be in good spirits and I liked the heckled requests- I did play Let's Make Up, but I'm not ever going to play Thrush again, chaps! I felt very happy afterwards and played some new stuff. Thank you for the friendly reception, Newcastle Monochrome Set audience; it meant an awful lot to me to have a good gig in my home town.
The Monochrome Set took to the stage and roared through their set, mixing up older songs with brand new ones. They had leaping fans down the front who knew all the words and sang along with great dramatic gusto. I couldn't help singing along with The Monochrome Set (I have to, its automatic), and Love Goes Down The Drain sounded brilliant; Maisieworld sounded great too. Basically, Andy Warren is one of my all-time favourite bass players; I remember seeing them at The Moonlight Club in West Hampstead when I was in The Chefs and thinking 'When I grow up, I'm going to have an Ampeg bass stack like Andy Warren's'. I never did, but the bass playing is still up there with the gods. They have 'That bloke from the Blue Orchids' as Vic Godard calls him, on keyboards; he favours an organ sound and after Fay Fife's gig yesterday, what can I say? Organs are big this year.
Bid was in great voice in spite of having a cold (he refused a Fisherman's Friend) and they got a well-deserved encore.
The Monochrome Set gave Helen and the Horns one of our first gigs, at Kingston Polytechnic and Vanessa was there- hi Vanessa!- originally Mike their drummer was going to be in the band, and Lester Square too although rehearsing just with the horns ended up with playing just with the horns.
What an odd turnip for the books. I've just sung on Lester's album (another good 'un) and was sorry to miss the 40th anniversary gig at The Lexington when he returned to the band for the weekend.
Mega thanks to Michael Clunkie for inviting me to play on Friday. It was a really good night for everyone and I was so excited that I couldn't sleep a wink when I got back to the hotel in the armpit of the Tyne Bridge.

So Friday...

Friday night was Newcastle night. On the way from the station, the bumhole cab driver not only didn't put his meter on and double charged me, but he also subjected me to a rant riffing on the fact that "women shouldn't play the guitar" because of our small hands and bodies. I looked at my hands. they are big.
I mean.
In the morning I'd gone to buy some guitar strings in Edinburgh; I asked for a packet of Ernie Ball tens. ''For an electric guitar, yeah?'"
I mean.

So Thursday...

On Thursday afternoon, I had the opportunity to interview the fantastic Trash, of all-female Edinburgh punk band the Ettes. Trash had loads of great stories, and this gives Gina and me a chance to include her in the film.
Later we went on to The Depot in Leith for the Refugee Benefit organised by Liz Tainsh. Liz puts on these events every month and it was great to have the opportunity to support displaced people at a concert like this.
The headliners The Pitiful Few were sound checking when we got there; they play blues with a boogie-woogie feel, led by a keyboard player in a snazzy hat and sharp suit.
First on was Andy Gunn, playing solo (he normally plays with his band). He is a great solo artist too- his guitar playing is absolutely superb. He plays an acoustic guitar, and has a resonant and mellow voice that glides effortlessly through the blues scales in his self-penned songs, a lot of which came from his latest album. I think he will be playing there again with his full band some time in the near future.
I was on next and the audience was in good voice to sing along with The Sea. This was the first proper gig since the fractured elbow and I was actually shaking with relief when I finished. It was such a nice audience though- it couldn't have been a better place to return to it all.
Next was The Countess of Fife- that's Fay Fife to you and me. Boy, was she in good voice! She plays an keyboard with an organ sound and is accompanied by a guitarist who plays searing riffs on a Strat; the two instruments sound amazing together and Fay's 1960s-sounding voice fits into the sound perfectly. Her songs are dark and have a hint of The Cramps about them, all swampy swirls and snarly guitar.
The guitarist told me that his band had supported Helen and the Horns years ago in Dunfermline- yes! I remembered them: So You Think You're A Cowboy. They were really good, sort of rockabilly, and great fun too- they came over the Forth Bridge the next night to continue the festivities at the next gig we did at The Calton Centre;Muriel Gray came along and we drank many a vodka (that was in my drinking days).
I missed some of The Pitiful Few's set, but enjoyed what I saw. Liz is brilliant for organising these gigs and although it was absolutely miserable outside, enough loyal souls came out to make it a good night.
Boy was I glad that a taxi slid by when I left the venue- it was absolutely horrendous out there!

Barmcake Magazine

It's a great honour to appear in Barmcake Magazine this quarter:

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Mad Bicycle Song at The Cluny 2

Filmed by June Whitfield: stuff about The Leith Depot, more on this concert, and the Argyle Rooms tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

On The Road

Leith Depot tomorrow, a refugee benefit; Newcastle Cluny 2 on Friday supporting the Monochrome Set; Argyll Rooms on Saturday with Beccy Owen. First rufty-tufy gigs since broken elbow; a bit of  challenge! Keep your fingers crossed please!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Up Trumps

Songwriting students at the University of the East, thank you for a wonderful afternoon! Thanks also the Mike, Stuart and Bridgette. Lecturing can be tough stuff sometimes then you have an afternoon like this one, listening to the most sublime music, and the sun comes out.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The Band of Holy Joy at The Ivy House

The Ivy House is straight outta Time Bandits, just like Jamboree in East London. Quarterlight, a band from Gateshead, were on stage, two thirds of the band wearing large caps, and one third wielding drum sticks. Their weird instrumental soundscapes were intriguing; worth checking out again.
Richard Strange sat at the side of the stage and while Holy Joy set up, he tried to disentangle something- a lead perhaps?- from under one of the tall PA speakers. As he tipped the speaker, the fake potted plant on top of it tumbled straight on to the keyboard on the other side of the speaker. It was very funny to watch, especially because it appeared to happen in slow motion. Missing a branch or two, the plant was soon restored to its position. It gave credence to the saying 'A disaster waiting to happen'.
Who puts pot plants on top of PA speakers? Terry Gilliam does, actually.
The Band of Holy Joy are a modern-day beat group, and Johny Brown is a real on-the-edge pop star who flies around the margins on a magic carpet. He sings with passion and authenticity and looks like a Dionysian preacher, ploughing his way through moral wastelands (the list of baddies was very familiar; how horrible corporate-speak is, and those who speak, or usually email, it!) and directing a fierce gaze at truth through the clouds of daily crap that clog up life. Occasionally wielding a tinny red cowbell, and sometimes a lone drumstick with nothing to hit, in for instance Don't Stick Knives in Babbies Heads, he roared, crooned and pleaded his way through a set of emotionally powerful songs. The Band of Holy Joy inhabit a unique world conjured up out of an oblique take on indie music, which sounds pale and watery in comparison. The bass playing is powerful, the guitar cuts like a choppy knife, the keyboards add comments and textures and the drummer doubles on backing vocals. Inge's projections add a whole other dimension, sometimes inscribing random words across Johny's suit, and at one point what look like Turkish Freemasons spin around the screen. Bands with strong songs like this are a real treat to see. The Aspidistra House sounded great, as always, and Funambulist We Love You was a perfect encore, so they got another one.
This was a loving gem of a night; what a superb band they are.
[nice to see you Kim and Simon!]

Next Week's Gigs

The Dream That Stayed All Week

Some dreams nag at you for days.
Earlier in the week, I dreamt that the cat was on the floor rummaging about in the foil wrappers of Easter eggs, desperately gobbling up the chocolate. I felt really guilty because I had forgotten to feed it for weeks.
It was only when I woke up that I remembered that I haven't got a cat.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Coffee-break Musings

Odd: for a 7000-word article I'm having to continually edit down (it's 7,600 words at the moment so I have to lose at least 200 words), but for the book I'm having to edit up (31,000 words has to become 80,000).
You need an elastic brain for this lark.
I'm taking a break. Normally, I'd sing but I've got cold so it's just coffee and cracking open the Doritos which I've been trying to resist, but hell it's Friday!

Thursday, April 05, 2018


Tweenage crush, MJ!

The Other Man's Grass

Go, Petula!

French Footsteps

I would love to play in France!

The Sun Is Shining!

.... and I have finished the article! (Well, I have to cut 100 words but I can do that).
What an effing struggle against dyslexia (not always there but creeps up and gives the odd shocking thwack from time to time), arm injury (impossible to type for weeks) and cowering low self-esteem (definitely not a traditional type academic).
Now it just has to be submitted
... and then I have to finish the book.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Pursued by Writing

Tossing and turning last night, I gave up and came downstairs to do more writing. Just before two, sleep overcame me and I went back to bed.
I have almost finished; the ferocious referee may not be appeased by the re-write, but I've got an 'It's finished' feeling and I just have to check the style and the bibliography tomorrow and then it's off to the journal to be accepted or rejected as they see fit.
Despite the fog of lack of sleep, most of today has been spent recording vocals and guitar for a song of Stuart Moxham's which has been whizzing around my brain whenever I'm not actively working on it. He definitely has a way with a tune.
These are strange times, in a no-man's-land of emotions, buried under huge pit-heaps of work. I can't wait to get on the road again next week and nor can my guitar. Hello clouds, hello sky, hello Scotland, and hello Geordieland!

Monday, April 02, 2018

The Reggae Choir At The O2 Academy, Islington

Fola Philip, the choir director, leapt across to the floor to the front of the stage, the MC Amen Noir introduced their first song, ‘Enjoy Yourself’, and we were off on a journey of secular joy.
There is something wonderful about untrained voices; unlike the Brit School croon, they have not had the enthusiasm steamrollered out of them. That is not to say this choir sound like amateurs; they are extremely well-rehearsed and their harmonies are tight and very tuneful. These singers know how to blend like the best of them.
There were some great songs here, some that I was familiar with (and we were encouraged to sing along so I did, and so did everyone else), and some not so familiar.
Most enjoyable? ‘I'm In The Mood For Ska’, and also the almost-rude one, ‘Shaving Foam’.
Lovers of The Specials repertoire will love this lot; they sang ‘A Message to You Rudy’ (which was originally a Dandy Livingstone song) and ‘Too Much Too Young’ (a Lloyd Chalmers song re-worked by Jerry Dammers). They sang Horace Andy, they sang Bob Marley; they sang their hearts out with energy and authenticity. Finishing on an original song, Ska Fantasy, they bounced off the stage and left us all with huge grins on our faces.
I would really like to hear these songs recorded. There are some gorgeous voices in there, and the very variety of texture is what makes their sound so special; they know how to call-and-response, they now how to take it down, and I reckon they could melt a few hearts by going acoustic from time to time too.

I needed to smile, and I did. Thank you, flowers of East London, for brightening up a miserable rainy day!


I suppose they darned my elbow bone, didn't they? ('Vee sewed it up viff ropes', said one of the surgeons)
Suddenly, sewing changes its meaning.
The cheap trousers whose hems were sewn badly and unravelled completely as I walked across the kitchen, leaving my feet tangled in a thin nylon zig-zag web. Horrors!
I've also had an urge to darn my holey gloves, made more of hole than glove, rather than throw them away. What better music to darn to than Brazilian electronica?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Sandie Shaw

McDad used to buy the records in our house; he was a fan of everything from Leapy Lee to Melanie, by way of Herb Alpert, Gilbert O'Sullivan and the wonderful Sandie Shaw, who was a real fave- I've got quite a few of her singles for the fantastic jukebox I'm going to purchase when I live in an enormous house.

From The Album That The Chefs Never Released

Another Song From The Kitchen

Four and half hours' writing, and rewriting... it's time for a rest, and a song from the kitchen. Been listening to a lot of Northern Soul recently, and as my pals relate their heartbreak stories somehow they pour out of their heartstrings and on to my guitar strings. First kitchen song since the fractured elbow!


The church down the road is in good voice- they are roaring away, full throated congregational singing. It's beautiful.
Meanwhile, I've relocated and the writing carries on. It's sixty hours and counting... downstairs to pick up a potentially useful book, up again to realise it's not as useful as it pretended to be. Strangely, the whole disastrous thing has turned into a romp.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


I can't resist transcribing the latest producer interview, because she said something that was so relevant to the article. I don't seem to have stopped interviewing people and I suppose I might as well carry on until the well dries up. It's just so interesting to document people's stories, and because the editor of the book doesn't want the interviews published at the end, as was the original intention, he has suggested that I find another publisher just to publish the life stories in their through-written format.
How I wish I could type more quickly! I use to have an assistant who did a great job but she's now working full time so these clumsy fingers are stumbling through it all.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Roll On Summer

Doris Day On A Horse In Her Pyjamas

Ruth came round. I haven't written a word for two days; yesterday afternoon I fell asleep for ages, which is hardly surprising after six weeks of waking up for two hours every night and waiting for painkillers to kick in.
We talked about sound and music, and I told her about a new song that I'd written.
'What do you think about when you sing it?', she asked.
'Doris Day on a horse, wearing a pair of pyjamas'.
Ruth makes videos.

Ain't Going Nowhere

Dance wherever you are! Bishy bashy galloping drums and tinny production!

Paradise Lost

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Greeny by Pete Green

The first LP I bought was The World of Blues Power when I was about 13 years old because I could afford it. This was one of the tracks, and I love it.

'Here To Be Heard: The Story Of The Slits' at The Arthouse Cinema, Crouch End

This cinema is a lovely little gem on the road out to Tottenham from Crouch End. Last time I was there, it was the screening of Paul Sng's film about Sleaford Mods; this time Bill Badgley, the director, had invited me along to take part in a post-screening panel alongside him, Steve Beresford and Tessa Pollitt. Christine Robertson, one of their scores of managers, was there too.
I had seen the documentary online, but it's much better to watch it in a proper cinema. Using Tessa's ('the quiet one') scrapbook, of cuttings to create a narrative thread, the early years are revisited along with some amazing footage of the band's proper punky days, something I know that Ari wanted to have remembered; this was pre-Peel session, and they thrashed along like the punkiest of punk bands in films made by Don Letts in the early days.
I loved the clip of Ari simply taking her clothes off to wash them in the launderette; what guts she had! Like a tall, thin flower she stalks through the film, dreadlocks aloft, laughing, dancing, singing and shrieking. Viv Albertine has a growling-and-claws competition with a passer-by, who growls back, too. There is a lot of talk about them looking scary- but these were four exceptionally beautiful women throwing aside the desire to please, physical and mental cleanliness, and breaking the silence imposed on young women in the 1970s.
Later, Bill said he showed the film to his Mum. 'It's a film about freedom!', she said.
Steve described laughing until he wept at the first Slits gig he went to, and Tessa said she knew how funny they were. In the film, Palmolive describes the way they would sometimes discover that each of them was playing a different song. By some strange coincidence this morning on TV were was a little feature about the British Military Bands, and how they had had to centralise the music training college after a disastrous birthday parade for Queen Victoria where each band from around the country played a different arrangement of the same piece of music at the same time. Ho ho!
Rather bravely on all counts, Kate Korus appears to tell her story of being thrown out of the band. It always seemed to fall on Tessa to do the dirty work of sacking people, but she remained good-humoured throughout; the ways that she and Ari complemented each other's personalities was apparent all the way through. And Palmolive- what a raconteur- I know Ari really wanted to hear her Christian versions of Slits songs!
What come across very strongly is the sense of emptiness when it was all over for the original members of the band. Viv sits in the gloom of a book store signing a pile of her books; as she embarks on a new career you get a sense of how odd life continues to be for members of a ground-breaking punk and when all the 'noise' is over.
There is so much in this film, and so many people to please. Some people may only engage with the first punky part, whereas others will find the later years fascinating, when Holly, Dr No and Adele joined up and Ari mentored their song writing. It has been an amazing feat and a complete labour of love for Bill and Tessa to collect together such a diverse archive of material and present it as a whole like this. I am so glad they did, because this is a strong documentary that tells a truthful story of a bunch of young women's survival from dark and stimulating times right the way through to the 2000s when the world is a very different place.
I am still thinking about it all today, and I woke up this morning crying for Ari and her wonderful energy. What a character! She was a big fan of Patsy Cline, she told me; and she turned up with her son at my 50th birthday party in the north London suburbs, with a Dancehall CD as a present. She stayed the entire course of the party and had perfect manners, asking McSis for her recipe for rice and raisins, making no judgements about people (she was as happy to chat to completely straight-looking people as she was to converse with the weirdos), and believe it or not, blending in perfectly. She could do a middle aged birthday party just as well as a punky reggae party. God bless you Ari xxx

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Smoking Seal

There are moments of serenity amid the moments of insanity (I think that's going to be a song).
Drawing at Gina's house, while she paints her powerful new work, is one of the most peaceful gaps in the week. This is a seal with no whiskers yet and an unfinished tail.
That's life, isn't it? An unfinished tale.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Big Thanks Again to Gideon Coe

Gideon Coe, you are a gem for playing Women of the World again last night! Tucked in right next to Ivor Cutler's song of the same name, too, with Yo La Tengo hanging out a bit late on.
If you would like to support the documentary Stories from the She-Punks, here's the link to buy the tracks:

The Kitchen

Poor kitchen. It's a writing room, a recording studio, an office for Zoom meetings with postgraduate students, an art studio, and sometimes a place to sit and read. The amount of cooking that happens in here is next to zero, although the washing machine and the dishwasher occasionally get a look in.
I used to like cooking for the family, but then I think all the liking cooking got used up somehow. There always seem to be better things to do, although I do make hundreds of cups of tea, so I suppose that counts for something.

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.