Friday, November 27, 2020

More Airplay!

This time, Gideon Coe played 'I Fly My Balloon' from our EP.

We are planning a socially-distanced gig at The Spice of Life, organised by The Country Soul Sessions, on 20th December, which means learning the songs. Which means learning to sing the German lyrics and simultaneously playing chords that were fine to play in the studio, but which will be hand-manglers to play live. I'm not even good at learning English lyric so I've got my work cut out for me.

Luckily, I've learned a lot this year, even from the things that haven't happened. I learned guitar parts for an entire set of Johny Brown's songs for The Lexington gig that was cancelled, so that I could accompany him. 

When you learn someone's songs it's a bit like learning part of their brain: every songwriter puts together different chord voicings and sequences behind their melodies. We all write different moods according to our respective personalities. 

Co-writing is even more detailed: finishing each other's sentences, a relay race handing over a baton, whatever way you could describe it. It requires a certain amount of empathy, played out on a neutral pitch: a no-man's land, in fact. As I gradually learn the parts of the songs that Robert wrote, I can actually feel my hands beginning to understand what Robert's hands play automatically. 'Aha', they signal,'The next chord is a bar chord on the third fret'. Then there are the lyrics. It's been amazing working with someone who is such a poet, especially because I have been writing a lot of solo songs this year and I'm bored with myself. Give Robert a part of a song, and he takes it somewhere lyrically that I would never imagine travelling to. I hope the same in return. He seemed intrigued by the lyrics of D-ream.

All this while teaching is going on- emotionally intense teaching, often one to one with students who frequently find things difficult. I'm exhausted- and I feel for them so much! Where is the young, empathetic, green, socialist saviour who shuns corruption and smugness and reflects how they feel? This is the politician that I want to support. And a woman, please. The pandemic has shown up some of the men who I had thought were enlightened to be just as greedy, sexist and prejudiced as the ones who wear wolf's clothing. 

It's disappointing- and yet again, I'm ashamed... of them.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Remembering McMum

I woke up last night at 3 a.m. having had a dream in which some impostors had erected a wooden tombstone in her memory in the cemetery, with their own messages and instructions scribbled on it in blue felt pen. They owned her place of rest, and they owned the memories.

In my dream, I had been searching all day for the gravestone and the dream woke me up. There is no gravestone or cemetery; McMum's ashes were scattered at Loch Tummel in Perthshire a few years ago.

I had this dream because yesterday would have been her birthday. I can't remember the exact dates of either of our parents' deaths, but I remember them on their birthdays. After your parents die, you feel rootless for a while. You realise how much your family has been bound together by shared parents, upbringing and family stories, and how your relationship with your siblings has been constructed by your respective relationships with your parents, too. I have reflected on this a lot since McMum died, and on the complexities of my own relationship with her. In this respect, losing parents replaces their physical presence with a type of wisdom that is at the same time enlightening and incredibly sad.

McMum and McDad were particularly good at being grandparents, and I am glad that my Offsprogs had that unconditional love from them.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Gideon Coe Plays 'No Man's Land' Again

I was just feeling a trifle glum after a very hard day's work. I was going to give up on the day, and head to bed with a detective novel, and then Gideon Coe played our record again. It's a big deal to me, for such a lot of reasons, to have a record out and have it played on the radio. It never loses its thrill.

I remember listening to John Peel back in the day and doing a double take every time he played 24 Hours by The Chefs. I did a lot of double takes, because he played it a lot.

I think I have a permanent case of imposter syndrome!

Steve McQueen's 'Lovers Rock'

The BBC did itself proud last night with Steve McQueen's film, one of five commissioned from the director and artist and broadcast on Sunday evenings.

It was just like being there: so absorbing!

An entire section of the film is dedicated to the partygoers singing Silly Games a capella after the track has been played on the decks, not just part of the song but almost the whole thing. That high note! One woman gets it spot-on every time, and towards the end the crowd splits into perfect harmonies. Wow.

Now, of course, people are wondering whether there's going to be an upsurge in the genre. The usual thing is happening; the man-thing, especially from white men, is rearing it's head. How dare there be reggae that is soft and (ahem) feminine? (even though there are loads of male Lover's Rock artists too). 

A Facebook thread praising the music and McQueen's film suddenly swerves into the more macho section of the film as more chaps start posting their comments on it. And a review of the film in The Guardian by Lanre Bakare slides into their own interest in blues house parties by the end of the article, leaving the powerful impact of the Lovers Rock section of the film behind.

Lover's Rock prioritises the voices of women in the Black community, and puts their music right the centre of British reggae. That's where their voices belong, and that's why McQueen's film has such meaning. Maybe you don't get to wear the badge, but for its fans whether from the community or not, it is not only just gorgeous music, but also a unique sub-genre that deserves a whole lot more than simply  'hear I am' recognition: it needs 'I am fantastic music' recognition too. 

Rant finis.

Loud Women Home Concert

 Loud Women have just posted this concert on Youtube- thank you for inviting me to do my first online concert of the pandemic year!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Miracles of Lockdown

In the last lockdown, High Barnet High Street was miraculously resurfaced at night when nobody was around to see them. Wenzel's Bakery materialised out of thin air (behind paper screens) just in time to open when lockup was announced (is that the opposite of lockdown?), and so did several beauty shops. There are at least two new shops miraculously appearing this time around, with non-masked, non-socially-distanced workers hard at it. It's not them that I blame, but their greedy employers who must have pressurised them on the pain of losing their jobs into working when it's not safe. 

I wonder how many people have died in the construction industry because of unsafe practices this year?

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Up Early For Work

Funny, if we weren't locked down I'd be up at 6 a.m. to get to work, and something in my body-clock wakes me at 6 on work days just like normal. Although I know that lots of people are up and working already (good morning, cleaners and shift workers!), it still feels a bit like having the world to yourself.

Years ago I used to walk through central London really early, looking at all those magnificent old buildings that were worth millions of pounds to whoever owned them. Most of those buildings were there before their current owners were born, and would be there when they died. It made me ponder on the nature of wealth and ownership. Our idea that we own things isn't as straightforward as we think. Things own us, don't they? 

I was originally going to write about how boycotting Amazon (because they don't pay taxes honestly and because they mistreat their workforce to an abysmal degree) has undoubtedly saved me a small fortune during lockdown. The little things bought from online shopping own us just as much as big unshiftable buildings do. Transient things like kindness and compassion totally bypass ownership- you can't force someone to love you, even if you pay for them to care for you. I look at the huge houses on the walking routes that I take, and think about the staff that the owners need to keep them functioning. Imagine owning one of those massive properties and it containing loads of people who don't like you, under your roof. No thanks!

Morning musings, wandering all over the place. Just what I need to do, before the working day catches up with me. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


 There's the TV over there, watching with its big vacant eye. 'Turn me on!'

Not tonight, darling.

I can hear the wind rushing in the chimney and the clock ticking, tinnitus in my ears, my clothing rustling quietly, the occasional car hissing by my window (thanks Jim!) and the gentle clopping of the computer keys.

It's so lovely and quiet. Life at the moment seems like a jigsaw puzzle that I'm compelled to assemble but it's actually cobbled together from about 15 different jigsaw puzzles, and no matter how hard I try, the picture won't make any sense.

The lamps in the room glow patiently, just dim enough to prevent activity and anxiety. It's wet and drizzly out there, so there are no people hustling past the front door, no noisy lockdown-busting drinkers, no beaten-down leafletters to stuff pizza, curry and gardening services leaflets through the door.

The TV can manage without me. Jolly TV shows where everyone tries a bit too hard, dark cop shows where people with guns stand around corners under the streetlights waiting to shoot, the news with more lies and obfuscation from the government. None of that tonight. I know what they are all doing, you see: it's what they always do night after night. 

One viewer less won't do any harm.

Here's Our Video!


McCookerybook and Rotifer Video

We have a video for our song 'No Man's Land' which is going to be made public at 3 p.m. today.

It's a total Lockdown video, shot on our phones and iPads and edited together by Ian Button, who has performed a task akin to knitting with string, wire and cotton thread because none of our devices shoot at the same quality.

It was still fun to do it. 

Such terrible things have happened this year. Just as I start to feel normal again after hearing of the death of a friend, another friend tells me of their own grieving and loss. It's like some terrible relay race of sadness, with illness and sorrow haunting us all. This makes it seem all the more important to create things: there is nothing like the consciousness of a mayfly to force you to realise you have to do all this stuff right now and not wait until you're no longer walking the earth.

Lots of people I know have been pushed to finally do things they have only ever dreamed about- Laura Whitfield, who used to sell CDs for the singer songwriter Martin Stephenson alongside her parents, Mick and June, is now a fully fledged recording artist in her own right. This is wonderful to see!

I'm not going to dwell on the downside, the snakes and rats who are showing their true colours just because they can: I'm looking at you, Government, corporations, institutions and corrupt big business deals, and immoral and ferocious behaviour.

All we can do is fight back in our own way, making positive and powerful interventions whenever our voices are heard. Singing is shouting in tune, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Art Wall



The one thing that completely does my head in is gaslighting. I didn't even know there was a word for it until about six or seven years ago and as soon as I heard the definition of the word, I had something to explain several relationships that I've had in my life. Crystal clear.

Whenever you come across something in a person that you don't understand, you normally try to think yourself into their situation, see things from their perspective, and get some sort of idea about how they feel and why they behave in a certain way. Gaslighting, I can't understand at all: does the person know they are doing it, and they simply don't care? Is it deliberate? Or are they fooling themselves, as much as they are trying to convince other people?

Somewhat like Sherlock and his three-pipe problems, I try to sort things out in my head but by walking rather than smoking pipes. Since September there have been a number of five mile problems, at least one six-miler, and quite a lot of three-milers as I try to work it all out. I still can't fathom why people do it, although I have tried to stretch my mind to the sky and beyond. I had therapy once, and felt that I'd been taught to tidy difficult things on to shelves in my head. The most recent gaslighting episode is going to have to go into one of those cupboards, although it's monstrously large and it will be difficult to shut the cupboard door on it. I'm trying, though.